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A New Year’s Bounty

Friday, December 27, 2013   by: Vin Greco

In December, wine publications roll out lists of the best wines and the best buys for the past year, and so I went through them to determine which of them were available to us. 

At the same time, Vintages has published its Smart Buys Issue for the January 4th release, and it is over-flowing with high quality wines, including at least half a dozen from the lists above. 

Some of these all-stars are already in our stores.

Starting with a Rosé, our Great Northern store has 8 bottles of Miraval 2012, $24.95, #84 on the Wine Spectator’s Best Wines of the year, with the added attraction of being produced by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

It has some sweetness and berry flavour up front, and follows it up with some density and acidic firmness – you could buy now and enjoy it with tuna or save it for your first patio day next May.

There are just 6 bottles of Vina Zaco Tempranillo, only $11.45, a WS best value (90) that is being discontinued from the LCBO’s regular list – it has a lovely spice nose and carries through with rich fruit, gentle tannins and good length.

Same publication, same score for Australia’s Red Knot Shiraz, just $15.95 until January 5, when it reverts to $17.95: an opulent and delicious red that has taken 19 medals, 4 of them gold, including a silver from the reliable Decanter World Wine Awards – and it’s on the LCBO’s regular list.

Though the price mentioned in Wines & Spirits magazine was just $10, their best buy red, Snoqualmie Whistle Stop Red is $16.95 here – not an unusual difference for American wines in Ontario -  but we have 8 bottles, and it is said to have “impressive complexity” “dark plum flavours” and a “line of tobacco leaf”.

At both the great Northern Road Store and the Station Mall look for Concha Y Toro Syrah Marques de Casa Concha 2010, $19.95 -$2 less than the Wine Spectator quoted for its #62 on the Best Wine list where it called it full-bodied, smoky, and fruit-filled.

Now to the January 4 release.

First, there’s an interesting dessert wine from Quebec, the Pomme de Coeur Cider, just $9.95 for the half bottle: it’s a sweetie, but it will pop at the end with lots of apple acid.

In whites, Australia’s Robert Oatley Signature Series Chardonnay 2012, $17.95 is a WS Best Buy and has consistently earned high praise for its elegance, balance and stone fruit character.

California’s Lincourt Steet 2011 Chardonnay, $24.95, is unoaked and crisp, but will drink well for years, earning a 92 from Wines and Spirits magazine – though they price it at $18.

I am attracted to Cline Viognier 2012, $17.95, from a consistently good Sonoma Valley producer, and this the classic white grape of Condrieu in the Rhone – it should show ample delicious fruit and significant density, and would pair admirably with a roasted pork loin.

Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc & Pinot Grigio 2011, $15.95, intrigues me in that it originates in Slovenia – whose wines we rarely see - and is an unusual pairing of grapes with the Pinot Grigio softening the pungent sharpness of the Sauvignon Blanc: it is, perhaps a little pricey, but it earned a bronze from Decanter, and British author, Jancis Robinson, admired their straight Sauvignon Blanc.

The reds on this release represent some tremendous values from $13.95 to $24.95.

From Australia, Wakefield Shiraz 2010, $17, is a WS Best Buy, noted for “depth”, “finesse” and ample red fruit flavours.

Australia’s Domaine Tournon Mathilda Shiraz 2011, $19.95, earned an amazing 94 from Robert Parker Jr. -  produced by the renowned Chapoutier house from France’s Rhone region, it will offer dark fruit, excellent length and smooth tannins.

Washington State’s Seven Falls Wahluke Slope Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, $18.95, made two best buy lists and is said to display intense fruit and will work with full-flavoured dishes.

From South Africa, The Ruins Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, $13.95 is a sure bet with 4 stars in South Africa’s John Platter Review; mostly Syrah, it is said to resemble a good Rhone red.

France’s wine bible, the Guide Hachette uses just a three star system in which just one star indicates a well made wine, and so with Chateau la Bastide 2010 receiving 3 stars and selling for just $13.95, you’re in for a treat with this full and tasty Bordeaux blend.

Further south in the Languedoc, Domaine Les Verrières Les Sept Fontaines 2009, $16.95 earned 2 stars for its “gluttonous bouquet of red and black fruit” and “nice roundness and silkiness” – it is suggested you pair it with roast duck!

It’s less common to see an Italian wine rated by the Guide Hachette, but Geografico Montegiachi Chianti Classcio Riserva 2009, $24.95, was also awarded 3 stars – only lightly tannic, it carries the traditional ripe plum flavours with a hint of vanilla spice and is ready for current drinking.

Italy’s Gamberro Rosso uses a “3 glass” system, just as stingily applied, and so the ‘Wine of the Month” Sicily’s Cusumano Noà, $19.95 hits it out of the park with its full and robust blend of traditional Nero d’ Avola and French varietals Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.

2 glasses go to another Tuscan, Valiano Chianti Clasico 2008, $17 - last February the Globe and Mail scored it 89, remarked on its concentration, and suggested it be cellared for a couple of years. 

One South American gem, Zorzal Terroir Unico Malbec 2011, $17.95, garnered a 92 from the Wine Spectator and a 93 from the Robert Parker stable which described it as “just downright, unapologetically delicious.”

Chile’s Santa Alicia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, $14.95, is a double gold medalist with a 91 from Wines & Spirits, which praised its ripe berry flavours and soft finish, suggesting it would pair well with smoked ham.

From the Iberian Peninsula, there are three standouts.

Portugal is represented by the mature Azul Portugal 2008, $14.95, #16 on the Wine Enthusiast Best Buy list with a 92 – let it breathe to release its herbal notes and full dark fruit flavours.

Spain’s Rio Madre 2011, $14.95 is made from Graciano, a grape we seldom see, and Robert Parker Jr. acknowledged its interesting mix of flavours and gave it a 91.

For the same price, there’s a lushly fruity Garnacha-based blend, San José de Aguarón Monasterio de Las Viñas Reserva 2006 which, even at this age will continue to drink well over the next 5 years.

If you can decide which wines appeal the most – which isn’t easy this time around – be sure to call the Great Northern Store by Monday evening to ensure you’ll get what’s on your list.

It’s an exceptional release, so be sure to seek some out.


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