Too good to be true
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This September's Vintages release is the biggest ever with 275 items - so
Getting down to brass tacks, here is my list of noteworthy reds. When I first received my catalogue, my eyes nearly fell out of their sockets when I saw a Gallo Sonoma Pinot Noir (463810) listed at $12.95. Even more amazing was the announcement that there was a $2 LTO (limited time offer) discount on this tasty red, which would bring the price down to an amazing $10.95.
Gallo's local rep, I was told that the price should be $21.95 (or $19.95 with the LTO). As LCBO prices are subject to change without notice, this typo will be addressed in your local store. Also note that the vintage is actually 2002, not 2001 as appears in the catalogue.
The good news it that there are 500 cases of this tasty effort and anybody who enjoys juicy, ripe, black cherry flavours is going to love this fine Pinot Noir, which is at its peak. While 2002 is reputably a great vintage, this well-priced red leans on the mature side with surprisingly soft tannins and without great depth of colour. In other words, a crowd-pleaser, which will fly off the shelves.
There are a number of other Pinot Noir to look out for. Of the four from New Zealand, the least expensive, Coopers Creek 2003 Pinot Noir (599969) at $22.95 hit the spot. Although the winery is just a grape's throw from Auckland in the North Island, the grapes come from the Marlborough region in the South Island. Deep purple colour, the nose show good intensity with ripe cherry and spicy vanilla notes. Dry, medium bodied and nicely structured, the juicy ripe cherry purée flavours show just the right level of refreshing acidity on the lingering finish. Perfect for drinking now.
From Ontario, Henry of Pelham 2002 Unfiltered Pinot Noir (268391) does offers decent value at $19.95. It is the most successful since 1998, which fetched $25. Deep purple red in colour, it has a sandalwood, plummy, dried cherry nose with some hints of pepper and earth. It is still fairly firm on the palate with dry, herb-tinged, fresh black pepper and spicy dried red cherry flavours. It can still evolve for another year or so.
Two other Canadian reds are worth watching. One is going to be hard pressed to find a better Canadian Bordeaux-styled value than Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate 2001 Proprietors' Reserve Meritage (643502) at $17.95. This Osoyoos blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc has an extremely deep dark purple colour. The nose shows lots of sweet American oak and milk chocolate with dried cranberry notes. It is quite full bodied, dry and smooth with chocolate, bourbon, plumy, spicy, cherry flavours with a lingering tangy, cedary finish. Its creator, Bruce Nicholson, was recently named Winemaker of the Year at the 2004 San Francisco International Wine Competition.
While many Ontario wineries had difficulties in 2001, there is one Ontario red that deserves to be treated with the utmost of respect. Magnotta 2001 Enotrium Gran Reserva VQA Niagara Penisula (589705) is definitely a one of a kind. It is made with grape clusters which were permitted to dry out dry Amarone-style after being harvested. Each bottle required 1.5 kilos of grapes 50% more than the norm.
This Meritage blend of 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Cabernet Franc was aged for 26 months in new oak. It is priced at $39.95 and has a very deep intense dark purple colour. The nose is complex with cedar, cassis and ripe cherry fruit. It is very well structured and intense with slightly spicy, gently smoky, ripe plum and black cherry purée flavours. An outstanding effort that can age for at least another decade.
Moving on to my best buy red of the release, Cantine due Palme 2002 'Canonico' (643247) $13.95 is made exclusively from Negroamaro grapes grown in the Salento region of Puglia (Italy's heel). Deep purple colour, the juicy, ripe Damson plum and black cherry fruit flavours are most appealing. A versatile, crowd pleaser, it is perfect for the restaurant by-the-glass list.
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