Gifts ~ Buy Carefully
As the night before Christmas rapidly approaches, it is the final call for Christmas shoppers. Many might be tempted to pick up some last minute gift items at the LCBO. Unfortunately, a number of this year's wine gift packs verge on being "pretty awful" - meaning looking pretty, but tasting awful. A good example is the Ancient Coast twin pack from Ontario at $19.95, which might only be sent to someone with a serious cold and disabled nose. If you happen to be on the receiving end, remember that the LCBO allows you to exchange any item without an invoice.
Looking for something local? Try the Henry of Pelham Gift Pack (661033) at $29.95. It consists of two Vintages essentials: first, a very dry, gently grassy, crisp 2004 Sauvignon Blanc; second, a light bodied, fruity, plum and ruby grapefruit flavoured Henry of Pelham 2003 Gamay, which happens to be a perfect match for your turkey. You could buy them individually for $14.95 and $13.95 respectively and save $1.05. Unfortunately, the stand-alone Gamay comes from 2004 and just isn't as accessible as the tasty 2003 in the gift pack.
Another set worth considering is RH Phillips 2003 Toasted Head Chardonnay & Estate Olive Oil (643544) also at $29.95 price. This newly arrived pack consists of the rather toasty 2003 vintage, along with an excellent, cold press olive oil. Be careful, I spotted some of last year's 2002 packs on the shelves at the regular price - surprising as it was supposed to be discounted to $19.95. The LCBO website adds to the confusion by displaying the old discounted 2002 gift pack. I you happened to get the 2002; you are entitled to a $10 credit!
Those searching for a sparkling rosé might be tempted by the surprisingly tasty Colio Estates 2002 CEV 'Lily' Blanc de Noirs (618512) at $17.95 in the Vintages section. Attractive light pink in colour, the nose shows lots of ripe plum aromas with a hint of strawberry. It is very moussy, dry and bright on the palate with crisp, slightly lemony, plumy, strawberry flavours. This VQA blend of 86% Pinot Noir and 14% Riesling is versatile - perfect with appetizers and even your turkey dinner.
Of course, fans of Champagne are going to stock up on another one of my favourites, the outstanding Charles Heidsieck Champagne Brut Réserve Mise en Cave (590430) at $99.95 per magnum in Vintages. It is gently toasty, well structured, dry and bright with fine effervescence and a lingering lemon finish. Terrific as a starter, it can be enjoyed throughout the meal.
Moving on, in an effort to unearth the best general list releases to go with turkey, I purchased some two-dozen big bird contenders for a comparative blind tasting with a Swiss Chalet chicken. They all had performed well when initially tasted in the lab. After digging in, I started to wonder what was I thinking? The extremely dry French Chardonnay, in this case Bouchard Pere & Fils 2004 Macon-Lugny Saint Pierre, which is fine with oysters, was way too austere for the bird.
I discovered that whites, which have some fruit and zestiness worked well. This also included some just off-dry Rieslings and even spicy Gewurztraminers. A rather toasty Lindemans 2005 Bin 65 Chardonnay (142117) at $10.60 seemed to work better with the dark meat with its bright, very slightly sweetish, juicy pear and vanilla flavours and lingering finish.
On the red front, it seemed that anything with juicy, tangy, fruity, cranberry-cherry flavours worked very well. I initially thought that this would rule out old world styles that often have dusty tannins and high extract. Imagine my surprise when tasting a recently released general list effort from Sicily. Montalto 2003 Nero D'avola Cabernet Sauvignon (621151) at only $8.95 was the definitive turkey wine of the tasting. This IGT blend of 60% traditional Nero d'Avola and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon comes in a modern screwcap bottle. Aged for three months in one-year old French and American oak, the focus is on fruit and freshness. Deep purple colour, the nose is very bright and attractive with ripe, plumy, strawberry fruit. It is dry, crisp and medium-light bodied with tangy, plums, cranberry and cherry flavours with a crisp refreshing finish. Easy to drink and on the refreshing side, it works perfectly with either light or dark meat.
Meanwhile, I toiled away at a couple of Bordeaux without much success. Their restrained style simply didn't work - they were more appropriate with steak and/or roast beef. Sadly, none of the less expensive bottles of Pinot Noir and Gamay (both traditional turkey companions) cut the mustard. In this instance, cheap was not synonymous with cheerful.
Just squeaking into the top five was 2003 Chateau Canet (320598) at $12.95. This very deep intense purple coloured effort from the Minervois region in the south of France had a pleasant, ripe plum nose with ripe red cherry notes. Dry and fairly light light-bodied, the juicy, bright, black cherry-cranberry flavours did do justice to the bird.
As predicted, the new world tended to dominate, especially the hotter climates. Of the three Aussi Shiraz tasted, Rosemount Estate Diamond Label 2004 Shiraz (302349) was the highest rated at $15.95. It had the best structure with harmonious, juicy, ripe cherry flavours and a lingering, fresh plum finish. A very good turkey match.
Just one point lower was a lively South African blend Robert's Rock 2004 Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon (523456), which is only $9.00. With 13% alcohol, the fresh, clean, spicy, ripe plum nose was followed up with a dry, very slightly smoky, medium-light bodied, ripe cherry-cranberry flavours. This versatile, crowd-pleasing effort has enough acidity to work with either dark or light meat.
Tasting Note Database
use our Tasting
Notes Database: click
Copyright Food & Beverage Testing Institute of Canada