At this time of year, it is difficult not to be thinking about choosing wines either for gifting or for enjoying throughout the season as we celebrate with our families and friends.
The LCBO is certainly putting the pressure on.
In the last few releases before Christmas it is rolling out innumerable attractive potables at almost every price range – you won’t find anything in Vintages that is exciting for less than $15, but you can find plenty beyond that right up to several hundred dollars per bottle.
The “sweet spot” in prices now seems to hover in the $20 to $35 range – for most of us, that may start to be getting a bit steep, but then, it is Christmas, after all.
At the more rarified end of the spectrum, the December 12th release – the only one this month – it appears that the Great Northern Road store is trying to bring in 36 bottles of Caymus Special Selection Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 from the Napa Valley.
winespectator.com raves about the ”up-front core of juicy, dark berry, blackberry, black licorice and creamy, toasty vanilla scented oak” and claims you can drink it now or cellar it up to 10 years The score: 94. The price? $199.95.
No, I didn’t throw in an extra “9”.
I don’t know whether or not this was a special order for a customer, but we can all dream.
Only six bottles of the Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 are coming in.
Robert Parker Jr. lavishes this wine with words like “beautiful” and "gorgeous” and calls it “a lovely soft, round, juicy wine to drink over the next decade.”
It’s just $164.95 and was rated 91.
From Chile, we have 36 bottles of Montes Purple Angel, the company’s top Carmenère.
James Suckling wrote, “Full-bodied, yet so fine and gorgeous. It’s so drinkable and refined now, but complex and fascinating.” 95 is the score, and $59.95 is the price.
So much for the “I won the lottery wines.”
There are several attractive options is the far more affordable range.
The Toronto Star writer, Gord Stimmell, is very high on South Africa’s Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay 2013, $15.95, with its “seductive flavours of coconut, toasty and yeasty golden apple layered with vanillin”. He considers it a steal and rates it 91+.
From Alsace, Domaine Zinck Pinot Blanc 2014, $19.95, is considered extra-dry, but has some creamy notes along with orchard fruit such as pear and apple.
I could see it working well with turkey or ham.
If you prefer a richer, medium-sweet option, there’s Pierre Sparr Mambourg Gewurztraminer 2013, $24.95, which took gold at the International Wine Challenge, with the lychee accents typical of this grape – It is said to have the acidity to balance its sweetness, along with a nervy minerality.
There is a special release of Kim Crawford Small Parcels Spitfire Sauvignon Blanc 2014, $24.95, which carries a Wine Enthusiast 90, for its grassy and grapefruit nose, peach notes on the palate, and a chalky minerality on the follow-through.
The regular Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc is well – stocked in all our stores, and is $3 off until January at $16.95.
Concha Y Toro Trio Blend Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2014, $14.95 coming from one of Chile’s most reliable producers, actually took a gold medal in New Zealand of all places.
Vibrant grapefruit acidity is balanced with a slightly chalky or creamy texture.
I have long enjoyed Zenato’s San Benedetto Lugana, and the 2014, $16.95, made from Trebbiano di Lugana in vineyards on the southern shores of Lake Garda is a perfect sipping white, with flavours suggestive of pear and peach, good depth, and a smooth satisfying finish set off with a touch of bitter almond.
The people at Angels Gate in Niagara recently opened a second winery, Kew Vineyards Estate Winery, and its Kew Soldier’s Grant 2011 CabSauv/Cab Franc blend, $18.95 includes an eighth part of grapes dried in the appassimento style of Amarone,
Expect a nicely structured wine with fruity ripeness and spice.
Grab what you can of Spain’s Monasterio De Las Viñas Gran Reserva 2005, a blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Carinena. It is beautifully aged with “great density and grip” and “layers of ripe, sweet fruit” according to erobertparker.com.
At $16.95, it is probably the best value on the Release.
Argentina’s Salentein Reserve Malbec 2013, $17.95, impressed the folks at winesandspiritsmagazine.com for excelling in “its purity, the focus on fruit, delicate and multihued.” – 92.
From Chile, Viña Tarapaca Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, 2012, $17.95, has multiple ratings in the 90’s and has significant depth and is rich and smooth.
Winealign’s David Lawrason considers it a great value.
Small Gully Mr. Black’s Little Book Shiraz 2012, $18.95 – with a name like that it has to be from Australia – is always immensely popular with oodles of ripe dark fruit and smooth lengthy finish. Its companion wine, The Formula Robert’s Shiraz, is in Vintages for $17.95, a savings of $2 until January.
At almost 16 percent alcohol it is also laden with dark fruit, along with a chocolate note.
These wines are both lavishly flavoured, not to mention ‘heady’.
Moving back up the price range, La Vita Lucente 2013, $34.95 is the second wine of Luce. ($115), made in Tuscany’s Montalcino region in a partnership between Mondavi and Frescobaldi. James Suckling describes this Merlot/Sangiovese blend as a “silky and soft-textured red …fresh and bright. Needs a year or two to soften.” – 92.
If you haven’t yet heard, Crown Royal’s Northern Harvest Rye was recently declared “World Whisky of the Year” by Jim Murray in his 2016 Whisky Bible.
While reaction is mixed, depending on the style of whisky one prefers, the rye nevertheless has been flying off the shelves.
Ironically, it is on sale for $30.60, this month, a savings of $2.
A pretty good deal…if you can find it.
This could be a good Christmas gift for the whisky drinkers, just so they can see what all the fuss is about.
So much for my suggestions.
If you would like further help in choosing, be sure to speak with Jeanie Fremlin at the Great Northern Road store.
After rigorous testing, both in tasting and product knowledge, Jeanie has just earned the position of Product Consultant for Vintages here in the Sault.
Jeanie follows Elaine Maiholt- Montgrain who served us nobly for many years.
I am very happy with the appointment, and I know we are once again in good hands.
Good luck, Jeanie!