Michael Vaughan 2005
Vintages launches the year with a January focus on Chile featuring eleven wines (plus two “In Store Discoveries”), which apparently “astounded” LCBO buyers. While I am happy to see greater emphasis on the more reasonably priced wines of Chile, I an compelled to caution the thirsty throngs to be selective.
the whites, today’s best buy comes from the Maipo Valley. Viña
Carmen 2003 Nativa Chardonnay
(975219) $17.95, which is an organic effort with only 15 ppm of free
sulphur. The nose is quite stylish with toasty, warm key lime pie notes.
Dry but not austere, rich and harmonious on the palate with toasty, ripe
pear and lemon meringue flavours and a lingering, vanilla-lime finish. It
is made from vines have been organically grown since 1994. The grapes were
harvested by hand and half of the juice was racked to new French barrels
and aged for 7 months with the traditional batonage. The balance was
fermented in stainless steel tanks. It is then
blended, bottled and permitted to age for another 4 months before being
Vintages Catalogue two-page spread extolling Chile’s vinous virtues has
two wines, which are not supposed to appear today, but on January 22
as part of the B release. This really doesn’t make much
sense because they are not mentioned in that section. As there seems to be
plenty of the white already in the store system and at only $11.95 is a
best buy, I will mention it today. Be on the lookout for Chilensis
2003 Sauvignon Blanc Reserva
from Chile’s Casablanca Valley. This is the perfect wine for those who
don’t like the stark, herbal, green bean character found in most
Sauvingon Blanc. What we have here is a very bright, ripe honeydew nose
with some Anjou pear notes. It is dry and crisp on the palate but shows
lots of attractive, honeydew-melon flavours - delicious and ready to drink
of Pelham 2003 Off-Dry Reserve Riesling
(57165) at $14.95 makes its second appearance in five months.
This VQA Niagara Peninsula effort is starting to open up and shows nicely
with just a hint of sweetness (14 g/L residual sugar or 1.4%) combined
with refreshingly high acidity (9.1 on the Richter scale). The honeyed,
baked ripe red apple nose is followed up by very tangy, faintly off dry,
slightly lemony, warm ripe red apple flavours with a lingering finish. Try
with poultry, Thai or just about anything!
has some very strong whites in this release. First from Burgundy, we have
two strong contenders both Chardonnay-focused, but reflecting the vastly
different styles related to terroir and microclimate. Actually they both
come from specific, well known, but somewhat distant sub regions and are
not part of the northerly Cote d’Or proper. First, from the southern
Maconnais region is a fine, ready to drink, estate Pouilly Vinzelles Louis
Jadot 2001 Château de Loché (650986) an
instore discovery priced at $34.95. It is medium deep yellow in colour and
has a lovely, albeit mature, baked ripe grapefruit nose. Rich and
expressive, the gently toasty, ripe lemon meringue flavours show good
length. Located just southwest of Macon, Vinzelles rarely appears in
Vintages and is a neighbour of the better known Pouilly Fuisse.
second white is from Chablis, a satellite of Burgundy, which is like a
small island of vineyards dotting the hills and valleys along the Serein
River about 100 km northwest of north west of the Cote d’Or. Always
tricky to drink at its prime, today’s release provides us with exactly
that window. Domaine
Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis 1er Cru Montmains
(983882) at $31.95 has a
light straw colour and lovely, key lime pie nose. This well
structured beauty shows harmonious, ripe lemon and key lime pie flavours
with great length. While it drinks wonderfully at this moment, Chablis is
known to suddenly close down, often taking on some nutty notes that are
not always very attractive. Then, at some point it will usually blossom
again - sometimes after 2 or even up to 6 years of sleep.
of the sleepers is from the Costières de Nîmes
des Bressades 2003 Cuvée Tradition
(701094) at $12.95 is apparently classified as a Rhone,
although it spills over into the Languedoc region just east of
Montpellier. This best buy blend of Grenache Blanc and Roussanne has a
honeyed, slightly spicy, floral, ripe apricot nose with hints of beeswax.
It is dry, bright and medium bodied with lingering ripe apple, apricot and
pear flavours that show versatile. Best yet, it is ready to enjoy today.
on to reds, I got a chance to retaste the Chilean selection last Tuesday.
The winner was Baron
Philippe de Rothschild 2002 Escudo Rojo
(590331) at $18.95. This Vintages “wine of the month” is a blend of
Maipo Valley Cabernet
Sauvignon, Rapel Carmenère and Cabernet Franc, all vinified separately,
blended and then aged for 12 months in French oak. The price has been cut
to the bone – down from $24.95 when it first appeared 19 months ago
This is a
big red with 14% alcohol and will benefit from another 2 years of aging
and certainly a couple of hours of decanting if opened today. It has a
very deep intense purple colour and a spicy, herb-tinged, plumy, black
cherry nose. On the palate it shows rich, cedar-tinged, plumy, ripe cherry
flavours along with a lingering finish.
money is no object, you will not be short changed by this Cote de Beaune
de la Pousse d’Or 2001 Santenay 1er Cru Les Gravières
(651117) at $52.95 shows lots of class. It has a complex nose focused on
wild strawberries and ripe black cherries with hints of vanilla and
garrigue. Complex, medium-full bodied and yet quite rounded with lingering
ripe plum and black cherry flavours with fine length. Showing nicely now
but should evolve nicely.
for those on a budget, my release highlight is a tasty treat from
Italy’s Veneto region. It is so good (and inexpensive) that Vintage
buyers flipped when they tasted it and so will you. Corte
Zovo 2001 Valpolicella, Ripasso Campo Solin
(650713) is a mere $11.95. Beneath the deep dark purple colour lurks an
attractive, very gently earthy, sweet ripe plum nose with juicy cherry
notes. While only medium bodied, the harmonious, bright, plumy, ripe
cherry flavours show fine accessibility.
generation owner, Diego
to come up with a Ripasso (meaning that it was fermented on unpressed
grape skins used in the production of Amarone) at this price, is a
mystery. He owns the vineyards and, up until recently, was selling all the
wines in bulk, apparently to various very well-known producers. He
personally vinified this DOC Valpolicella in his own new winery. It
represents excellent value and thankfully there is a lot of it – 1,800
cases – meaning you don’t have to squirrel it away. Better yet,
another 1,800 cases will be arriving in a few months down the road.
Finally, the Vintages list of 124 Classic wines going on sale next Monday, January 10, was mailed to Classics customers earlier this week. The only place you can find the list is on my website where every item is linked (just click on the name) to the LCBO website. While customers are told to call their orders in, a sizable quantity of some wines is in the store system meaning you can pick up whatever is available on Monday morning (call first).
this extensive list I was surprised to discover a wine I had purchased was
now on sale – discounted by $4.05 a bottle from $24.00 to $19.95 – the
2001 Saint Joseph Deschants
(972299). On one hand, I was not surprised to discover that this little
gem was still kicking around. It was one of those special wines made
available only at the Ottawa tasting and didn’t appear in the Classics
Catalogue – a fact that didn’t make anyone – from the supplier and
Ontario agent down to possible LCBO customers very happy! Instead of being
sold immediately, it is now being dumped along with three other Fall
Classics Tasting selections.
will also find ten items that are “Rapid Store
items that magically appeared in December without any fanfare
whatsoever. They are now being discounted and cleared out less than a
month later, again much to the chagrin of all concerned. I wish that I
could have had a chance to assess and recommend some of these items.
will repeat my standing suggestion that the LCBO designate a Toronto store
where all Classics can be purchased and possibly tasted. This would enable
readers to track down my various Classics recommendations immediately
without delay. It is disheartening to see my von
bite the dust, even though they would have sold through had the LCBO
placed them in stores after the run on the Classics Spring release! To see
the article click
The bottom line is that the market cannot absorb the number of wines being released. Indeed, there isn’t even enough room on the LCBO shelves to display all the wines coming out. This will be a serious problem in February where a huge number of French wines is being released. I understand that only a fraction of them have been ordered by many stores with a Vintages section! What we need is not simply more wines, but a better selection of wines that are truly worth buying.
On the sale list you will see 14 pricey Barolos bite the dust. This isn’t too surprising. After all, who wants to spend that kind of money on unreviewed wines, which are not available for assessment? Sadly, Vintages doesn’t appear to be interested in providing a wider tasting platform and keeps them in locked in the warehouse - when they could, for instance, be tasted at the Tasting Tower at the Summerhill store.To see the list of 124 Classic wines going on sale next Monday, January 10 click here.
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