January 16, 2009




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Best Buys from Argentina
Plus other upcoming gems
January 17th Vintages Release

The January 17th Vintages Release, which hits the Vintages shelves on Friday, January 16, has an Argentina wine thematic featuring 18 selections – 3 whites and 15 reds. Of all LCBO country releases, Argentina has been offering the best values in terms of quality-price ratios.

Let’s start with a real kick-ass white - J&F Lurton 2008 Reserva Chardonnay (591743) at $14.95 with an updated ** (out of ***+ stars). It has a bright very pale straw colour and fairly intense, spicy, slightly toasty, complex, baked lemon-pear nose. On the palate it’s smooth, dry and mouthfilling with ripe lemon-melon-pear flavours followed up by a lingering, very faintly toasty finish. Ready to enjoy today, it comes with a convenient screwcap closure.

This wine has been a pretty consistent winner. Naturally I liked the Chard even more when the 2005 was priced at $12.95 (released just over two years ago). I had the great pleasure/privilege of visiting the winery with the Lurton family to celebrate its10th anniversary in the Uco Valley (to see the original feature click here).

I am disheartened to report that Lurton’s Ontario agent has pretty much disappeared from my radar. It means that for more than a year now, I haven’t tasted any of the recent vintages on the general list.  The resulting lack of exposure might explain why both the Lurton Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon have now been delisted. Only the untasted Pinot Grigio still remains.  In the who-knows-how-it-rates department, there is still ample stock of the August 1, 2008 In-Store Discovery (ISD)  2006 Gran Lurton Corte Friulano (66829) at $19.95. With 199 cases hitting the shelves, one has to wonder why Vintages refuses to give wine writers permission to taste this release. Unfortunately, the Ontario agent didn’t lift a finger either. So without a review, the wine still languishes on the shelves. Here is the Lurton list of what’s available at the LCBO (click here). To see the 2008 Lurton vintage report click here.

A specialty from Argentina is the fragrant, honeyed, Torrontes grape, which produces delightful whites that go well with spicy Indian and Thai cuisine. It’s hard to be indifferent to this grape – some love it, others don’t like it. If you are in the former camp with me, then I can heartily recommend J&F Lurton 2007 Flor De Torrontés Reserva (55475) at $13.95. It rated *+/**. Pale straw in colour, the nose has an abundance of faintly sweetish, honeyed, lychee fruit. Dry, bright and medium bodied on the palate, the spicy, tangy, honeyed, lychee flavours go on and on. It too comes with a screwcap closure and is a fine match with spicy Thai/Chinese cuisine.

Turning to the 16 Argentina reds being released, seven are recommended with at least four best buys. Where does one begin? Perhaps Catena Zapata 2006 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon (985002) at $19.95. It rated **/**+. Extremely deep intense purple in colour it has a lightly cedary, ripe plum nose with baked cherry notes. On the palate it’s solid, dry, medium to medium-full bodied and fairly extracty with plummy, dried ripe cherry flavours and a lingering, harmonious, mocha-tinged finish. Ready now, it will still hold for a year or so.

Another great buy is Salentein 2006 Reserve Malbec (640854) at $17.95, which also rated **/**+. Extremely intense purple in colour, the nose has fine, fragrant, juicy, ripe, Damson plums and some mocha-chocolate notes. On the palate it is refined, slightly spicy and medium bodied with juicy ripe plum and black cherry purée flavours and a lingering, slightly cedary, chocolate-tinged finish. Plan to drink this a bit sooner than the Zapata above.

In the cheap and very cheerful department, we have Trumpeter 2006 Malbec (711705) at only $13.95, which scored a very respectable *+/**. Very deep purple in colour, it has an intense, slightly smoky, spicy, ripe plum nose with some mocha-chocolate notes. Dry, medium bodied, spicy, juicy, ripe plum and mocha flavours with a lingering, lifted, gently cedary finish. This versatile, well priced, crowd-pleaser is ready to drink and best consumed over the next 12 month.

If you are looking for a Bordeaux lay-away style, then your choice would be 2007 Clos de Los Siete 2007 (622571). This youthful **+ bargain at $23.95 is a blend of 50% Malbec, 30% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Syrah. It has an extremely deep intense purple colour and a complex, ripe plum nose with some cedary, crancherry notes. It’s very dry and medium-full bodied on the palate with dried ripe plum flavours with a lingering, slightly cedary, herb-tinged finish. It’s still youthful and goes best with a steak.

A Dry Austrian White
Other worthwhile whites in this release include a tasty gem from Austria’s Niederösterreich region: Laurenz V 2007 Laurenz Und Sophie Singing Grüner Veltliner (87627) at $18.95. It rated **. Bright light yellow in colour, it has a classy, ripe lemon nose with some schisty, mineral notes - almost Chablis-esque. It has dry, bright, medium to medium-light bodied, refined, ripe lemon flavours with a clean, lingering, crisp, unoaked finish. It comes with a screwcap closure. Laurenz V (or L5) is a new Austrian project from Lenz Moser, whose family has been in the wine business for generations. Sophie (the sixth generation) is Lenz's daughter. Try with seafood, perhaps an outstanding fillet of fresh haddock available at Sobey’s this week.

An Effervescent Italian Fruit Bomb
Not to be missed is a tasty winter pick-me-up: Patrizi  2007 Moscato d'Asti (101766) at $14.95. In two words: YUMMY & DELISH. It rated **/**+. Pale straw colour. Sweet, bright, intense, floral, juicy, Muscat aromas. Sweet but balanced, honeyed, ripe, Muscat-melon flavours with a lingering, effervescent finish. From Italy's Piedmonte this gently sparkling wine is a great sipper with a modest 5.5% alcohol.

Stunning Red Values from the Rhone
From the Rhone, Domaine de la Croze 2006 Granier Cuvée Réserve (736371) is a must try/must buy at only $15.95 with a **/**+ rating. Extremely deep intense purple colour, the nose is slightly spicy, complex and faintly smoky with baked ripe plum and mocha chocolate notes. On te palate, it’s dry, medium to medium-full bodied and quite well structured with plummy, slightly juicy, dried black cherry flavours with a lingering, mocha-chocolate finish.

Also don’t miss trying Marcellin Vaucourt  2007 Domaine de l'Oiselet Vacqueyras (101550). A bit more expensive at $21.95, it rated **/**+. This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault has an extremely deep intense purple colour and an intense, slightly spicy, fresh, plummy, mocha-chocolate nose. On the palate it is dry, well balanced and medium-full bodied with gently juicy, plummy, cherry purée flavours followed up by a lingering, mocha-tinged finish. This organic wine contains 13 mg/L of free sulphur and is ready to enjoy.


January 10, 2009 Vintages Release
Sales at the LCBO
Upcoming Events

Welcome to the New Year. I was curious to see how many wines in last year's first Vintages release were under $14. The answer: 18 of the 85 items on release (excluding the 9 ISDs) or 21% of the first January Vintages release of 2008.  For tomorrow's release designated as the Vintages Smart Buys release there are 113 items on release. Only 13 are below $14 or just 11.5% of the first January Vintages release of 2009 - just half of what it was last year. In spite of the recession, it would seem that Vintages still believes that it can try and increase profits by up-selling customers. In addition, there are more ISDs than last year - 13 to be exact. This is something that Vintages executives claimed would be reduced/phased out last year.

Unfortunately, most of the least expensive Vintages wines are not cheap, at least when quality enters into the equation. There are, in fact, much better, widely-available values on the LCBO "general list". For bargain hunter's let me recommend three white that actually represent great value:

From Argentina, Cristobal 2008 1492 Verdelho (81182) at $12.95 from Mendoza. It rated *+ (out of ***+ stars). It has a pale straw colour and attractive, youthful (still slightly leesy) ripe lemon nose. On the palate, it's dry, crisp, youthful, medium-light bodied, ripe lemon-melon flavours with a surprisingly intense, lingering, hazelnut-tinged finish. Unoaked and great for seafood. Made from Verdelho, a grape originally grown in Portugal (mainly Madeira and the Douro Valley) and now also found in Australia and Argentina. Ready to drink – try with seafood.

Also from Mendoza is a real best buy: Catena 2007 Alamos Chardonnay (801571) at $13.95, which rated a very respectable ** (very few wines at this price level achieve two stars). Very light yellow in colour, the nose is lovely, complex and intense with slightly smoky, vanilla-tinged, ripe lemon-lime purée fruit. On the palate it is fairly dry, quite well structured, creamy and medium bodied with caramelized pear flavours that show good length. It's a wide-appeal, ready-to-drink sipper with fine versatility.

From German, there's delicious sipper: Moselland 2005 Insignum Riesling Kabinett (72355) at $13.95. It rated *+/**. Light straw in colour, the nose is sweet and honeyed with fairly intense, ripe yellow plum notes. On the palate it is sweet, spicy, medium-light bodied, rounded, ripe melon-lemon flavours with a lingering, crisp finish. An easy to drink crowd pleaser that is perfect for Sunday brunch.

If you enjoy Burgundy, don't miss Henri de Villamont 2006 Bourgogne Chardonnay (525121) at $19.95. It rated **. Very light yellow in colour the bouquet shows fine complexity with slightly spicy, ripe lemon and buttered toast. On the palate it is dry, medium bodied and harmonious with gently toasty, pear and ripe lemon flavours with a lingering, slightly buttery finish. This is much better than the 2004 released on September 30, 2006 at $16.95.

Moving on to the reds, it's challenging in the under $14 cheap and cheerful department. The best bet might be Chateau Ksara 2006 Reserve du Couvent (443721) at $12.95, which rated *+. This blend of 40% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Franc and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon has a very deep intense purple colour and has a spicy, sweetish, plummy, ripe strawberry nose. On the palate it's fairly dry, well balanced and very slightly sweetish with spicy, juicy, ripe black cherry and slightly smoky, sandalwood flavours followed up by a lingering, cedar-clove finish.

If you are willing to pay a bit more, there are some really terrific buys.  From Italy, Poggio Bertaio 2005 Stucchio Sangiovese (95166) at $17.95 rated **. This 100% Sangiovese was aged in French oak for 12 months and has a deep intense purple colour. The nose is quite classic with intense, ripe, plummy, Sangiovese nose with some sandalwood notes. On the palate it is dry, quite intense, and mouthfilling with plummy, dried red cherry and sandalwood flavours and a long lingering finish. This is what fine Sangiovese is all about - don't miss it.

Gems from Australia include Pillar Box Red 2006 (685941) at $17.95, which rated **/**+. This blend of 50% Shiraz, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8% Merlot has a very deep intense purple colour. The nose is very spicy with intense, ripe plum nose and baked cherry notes. On the palate it's dry and nicely structured with spicy, juicy plum and ripe cherry flavours followed up by a lingering, vanilla-cedar finish. It's drinking nicely and represents excellent value.

My best buy of the release is Watershed 2004 Shiraz (73767) at $19.95, which rated a remarkable **+/***. It has a very deep intense purple colour and seductive, intense, cedary, spicy, ripe, plummy, black cherry nose. On the palate it is dry, well-structured and medium-full bodied with delicious, very faintly smoky, plummy, ripe black cherry flavours with a lingering, cedary, high acid, mocha-coffee finish. A terrific ready-to-drink value.

Current LCBO Sales
Unfortunately the Vintages Holiday Sale: 71 items (December 8 - January 3) Vintages Holiday Fizz Sale: 18 items (December 15 - January 3) are now over. The following sales, however, are still in force:

Current January 2009 LTO & Bonus AirMiles Offers
Click here to see the combined list of 252 items
Click here to see the list of 129 LTO items
Click here to see the list of 123 Bonus AirMiles items
(Offers valid until February 1, 2009)

Vintages Insiders Direct Sale
To see the list of 160 Vintages items on sale click here
(through Vintages V-Mail only)

January 5th General List Sale
To see the list of 54 General List items being delisted click here

January 5th Final Delist Sale
To see the list of 77 General List items being delisted click here

Coming Up
Henry of Pelham Winemaker's Dinner
On January 14th, the Globe Bistro and the Henry of Pelham Winery well present this five-course dinner with matching Henry of Pelham wines including their Riesling Icewine and a feature from the Speck Family Reserve To see the menu click here. Held at Globe Bistro - 124 Danforth Ave., starting at 6:30 pm. Tickets are $125 per person. For reservations call 416-466-2000 or email info@globebistro.com for more information.