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Weekend Wine: All for the best

This week, Vin gives us the inside scoop about what's where and when
Vin Greco, Wine All The Time

Last column, I wrote about the Media’s Best Value wines available to us through our stores. In addition the magazines also publish lists of what they considered to be the Best Wines for the year, though the criteria used often preclude the most expensive and arguably very best wines produced on the planet, including First Growth Bordeaux, top echelon Burgundies, etc.

They try to include wines that people ought to be able to find, but being under the jurisdiction of the LCBO will throw a few wrinkles into that, if not the occasional monkey wrench.

For example, most of the wines, if we have them at all, likely appear through Vintages, which means that they cycle through the stores, available for a time, and then disappear until the next edition is put on the market – so some wines on the lists may already be gone from our shelves.

Argentina’s Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec 2012, $24.95, was released last May and is virtually sold out. The 2013, which made the Best of 2016, may show up sometime in 2017; however, their Barrel Selection Malbec 2014, $18.95 is on the January 21 release and took the International Trophy in the 2015 Decanter World Wine Awards.  Other wines from great producers obviously have a chance to excel as well. Talk to your product consultant by Tuesday morning, in case you have to submit a customer order.

Conversely, some wines of a particular vintage have not yet appeared, but are likely to come. The LCBO as the biggest wine buyer in the world, often releases wines a bit later than you might find with private retailers in the States, all part of the process of managing its huge inventory.  Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2015 from Washington State ranked #47 with the Wine Spectator, but the vintage I’ve seen is 2014 ($18.95) – and still very good. The 2015, aged on its lees for two months for added character, is described as “lively and fruit-centred.” It is on the LCBO’s general list.

Argentina’s Bodegas Norton Malbec Reserva is another example.  The 2013 was released for $18.95 back in June. We will keep our eyes peeled later this year for the 2014, the WS #74: “a rich and intense red with a pleasant velvety mouthfeel.” (90)

As well, not all stores receive the same wines, and the further away one finds oneself from a major centre, the slimmer the pickings. Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2014, $33.95, number 67 on the Wine Enthusiast’s list , described as “svelte, buttery, and flat-out yummy” is no longer available in the north, but does appear in places like Barrie and Guelph.

Z. Alexander Brown 2014 Uncaged Cabernet Sauvignon, $21.95, from the December 10 release is included in the best of 2016 for the Wine Enthusiast, with a score of 92. Withmouth-filling dark fruit and dark-chocolate flavors” and a “creamy texture”, it is everywhere in the reading regions…except Sault Ste. Marie.

Sault Ste. Marie and Guelph, however, still have bottles of the 2013 edition of one of the first super-Tuscans, Antinori’s Tignanello, $104.95, the WS #8 with a score of 94. Mostly Sangiovese, it also contains both Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.  Aged 14 months in large one and two-year-old oak barrels, there is an emphasis on fruit and silky tannins.

Available everywhere is the Wine Spectator’s #39, Spain’s Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2014, $19.95.  Aged in new French oak for 5 months, it is “deeply flavoured and plushly textured” with dark berry, mint, and mineral notes.

A couple of wines on the recent January 7 Vintages release are widely available, both recommended by WE reviewers.  McManis Zinfandel 2015, $19.95, “smells like fresh cherries and raspberries, tastes ripe, and has a fine-grained texture.” (88). Matchbook Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, $22.95, comes across with pepper and cherry notes and is medium textured.

Coming on the January 21st release is Viña Cobos Felino Chardonnay 2015, $19.95, from Chile. Coming in at #81 for the Wine Spectator, it has “focused well-structured flavours of dried apple, ripe citrus, and guava.”

When we pause to consider how much good and affordable wine comes our way each and every month, the lunacy of trying to track down each year’s “Best” may quickly seem apparent; however, like everything else there is the thrill of the hunt, not to mention getting a chance to learn for ourselves what all the fuss is about.  Welcome to the chase.

If you’re looking for the kind of Sauvignon Blanc that aggressively slaps you in the face with its gooseberry and musky flavour, Durbanville Hills Atlantic View 2016, $11.95, is not for you. Here, the grapefruit notes come through almost on the aftertaste, subdued, but present.  The emphasis is more on minerality and good acidity on the finish.

Jim Clarke, in explaining South African Sauvignon Blanc, wrote,” the core and most appealing aspect of South Africa’s Sauvignon Blancs as a whole is their balance between the exuberant fruit of New Zealand and the stony minerality of Sancerre. Fruit notes tend toward fig and tropical touches rather than grapefruit; grassiness makes an appearance occasionally, but rarely dominates, with a wild herb character being more common. The wines are fresh, but not too in-your-face, preferring elegance and poise.”

This describes the Durbanville Hills SB precisely.

At the Wine Rack stores, Inniskillin Baco Noir 2015 is currently $1 off at $14.95.   Inniskillin was the first Estate Winery in Ontario, and this Baco is a smooth, easy-drinking and versatile red, with ample dark fruit, and nicely tightening tannins on the finish.

LCBO Mini-Sales

Now through Wednesday, January 18

Trapiche Reserve Malbec, regularly $12.45, now $9.45 is a great buy, showing deep dark fruit and spice, good structure, and a long satisfying finish.

Frescobaldi Castiglioni Chianti 2015, now $11.95, is a savings of $3.  Expect a warm, smooth wine with red and black berry fruit balanced by good acidity.

Wolf Blass Red Label Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, $2 off at $13. Juicy dark plum and blueberry fruit flavours accompany smooth tannins, along with anise and mint herbal notes.

January 19-25

Cathedral Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon, regularly $15.95, will be on sale for $12.95. A popular Vintages Essential, this South African red presents dark berry and plum flavours, along with hints of coffee, chocolate and herbs.

Casillero del Diablo Reserva Devil’s Collection Red – A blend of Carmenère, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, this fruity red is $4 off at $10.95.  Soft and round, with plum and cherry fruit, the wine also bears just the whisper of oak and spice.

January 21 Vintages Release


Would you trust a wine from a family that has been making wine for over a thousand years? Records for the Guicciardini Strozzi clan date back to 994, and their 2015 Villa Cusona Vernaccia di San Gimignano, $14.95, promises “impressive floral tones with ripe peach, pear and apple,” according to the Vintages panel. Put an order in if interested.

The 2015 version of the popular Loosen Bros. Dr. L Riesling, $13.95, pairs sweetness and minerality in the typical Mosel fashion, and will accompany Asian dishes admirably.

Le Grand Ballon Sauvignon Blanc 2014, $13.95 comes from the fifth generation of a Loire wine-making family, and is said to rival pricier wines of this type.


In addition to the wines already mentioned, the release has a mini- Portuguese emphasis, with 6 wines ranging from only $12.95 to $14.95 in price.  One of the best may be the Casa de Cambres Reserva Red 2009, $13.95 from the Douro.  Roger Voss of the Wine Enthusiast calls it “structured with a core of big black fruits…a solid ripe wine.” (90).

From the Spanish winery with the Top 100 “Tres Picos”, Borsao Crianza 2013, $15.95, is an interesting blend of Garnacha, Merlot, and Tempranillo, described by Vintages as being “juicy with lots of fruit and a perfectly pitched touch of earthiness.”  Bring on the roasts and stews!

The price is creeping up, but The Black Chook Shiraz Viognier from Australia’s McLaren Vale has been popular for years. The 2015, $18.95, is big, bold, rich and ripe, with dark fruit from the Shiraz augmented by a stone fruit element supplied by the Viognier.

Susana Balbo is an extremely reliable producer of Argentinian wines, and her Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, $19.95, is ”pure and delicious,” with ”beautiful dark fruit and raspberry character”. (93).

Stokely Creek Wine Tasting, Saturday February 18, 2017, 5:00 P.M.

Come to Stokely Creek Lodge for a tasting of some excellent wines which will be served along with hors-d’oeuvres for $45 plus tax.  Better yet, stay for dinner and the whole evening will be just $65, plus tax.  For those who stay overnight – which includes your dinner, the wine-tasting itself is just $30 plus tax.  Call Stokely at 705-649-3421 to reserve.

If you live away from Sault Ste. Marie, you might not know that Stokely Creek, about 45 minutes north of the city, is one of the premier Cross-Country destinations in North America, and conditions this year are fabulous. Its toll-free number is 1-886-786-5359.