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Weekend wine: 'Tis the Season

Saturday, December 13, 2014   by: Vin Greco
Last Sunday I arrived at the LCBO on Great Northern Road very shortly after they opened at noon, and the parking lot was already full – everyone is shopping in earnest for their celebratory beverages, and of course, they are checking off items on their gift-giving lists.
The LCBO always has plenty of gift packages – beer, wine, or spirits – at this time of year, and while many are decent, you can always put your own creation together.
The store itself will be more than happy to create a basket for you, and there are also many seasonal gift bags both at the LCBO and at various shops around town so that you can customize your gifts as you wish.
Canadian distiller Hiram Walker has two yummy liqueurs on the shelves at all stores, the Criollo ‘Chocolate Raspberry’ and the Criollo ‘Chocolate Sea Salted Caramel’, both $19.95 for a 375 ml. bottle: they are probably selling quickly.
It is suggested that you try them on their own, use them in a cocktail, or drizzle them over vanilla ice cream – they are also available in a twin pack – two miniature 50 ml. bottles for $9.95 – so you can test drive them first before purchasing the larger bottles!
Often the gift packs combine a beverage with an appropriate glass, and such is the case with Spains’ Freixenet Cordon Negro Cava Gift Pack which includes two Champagne flutes with a bottle of this decent sparkler made in the traditional method – the wine alone is usually $13.95, so this nicely boxed set for $18.25 is pleasing in more ways than one.
If you think of sweet things as a treat, then Ontario’s Lakeview Cellars has a perfect gift, a 200ml bottle of Vidal Ice Wine paired with a 250 ml bottle of Maple Syrup for $27.95 – lots of lusciousness here.
At $29.95, Kittling Ridge has packaged a 375 ml. bottle of their Ice Wine and Brandy along with 4 attractive long stemmed liqueur glasses – the brandy tones down the sweetness slightly, but the flavours remain rich, and the impact is smooth.
Zuccardi, the family that brought us the well made bargain Fuzion wines, has more upscale offerings, and this Christmas they are combining a bottle each of their Zuccardi Q Malbec 2012 and their Cabernet  Sauvignon 2011, along with a bottle their estate extra virgin olive oil for $49.95 – when available through vintages, the wines themselves are typically $20 a bottle, so this is  a well-priced quality gift.
Masi is one of the top producers in the Veneto, and their gift pack includes a bottle of Campofiorin, their excellent full-flavoured Ripasso, and a bottle of Masianco, a white blend of Pinot Grigio and Verduzzo, a crisp white with some almond/hazelnut notes on the finish – a neoprene bottle bag (it will keep a chilled bottle cold) is included, for $36.95.
Other worthy choices include the Jacob’s Creek offering from Australia which includes a Moscato, a Shiraz and a Cabernet Sauvignon for $29.95 and another Veneto selection, this from Farina, which pairs an Amarone 2011 and a Ripasso 2012 in a presentation wooden box for $62.95.
If your are a devotee of Grappa, the spirit distilled from the must of wines in Italy, you will want to consider the Alexander Grappa Amarone, cristal clear in a clear gift box for just $34.95 – this is a bargain, as many Grappas are much more expensive, usually a factor of the packaging.
Here, the producers claim you will notice many of the qualities associated with Amarone wines, though I have trouble understanding that myself- suffice to say I would be very happy just to enjoy its dry smooth texture and herbal notes – drink it like an after dinner brandy or “correct” your coffee with it…you can’t lose.
Should you decide to create your own gifts, the following wines should be well received by any recipient.
The Marchese di Barolo Barolo 2009 is exceptionally well priced for a wine of this character and age at $32.95 – here is a wine that demands decanting, experience with air, bringing intense aromas of spice and tobacco and full dry, nuanced flavours.
We have enjoyed Mexico’s inexpensive.L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah for years, and now this producer from the Baja California region presents a Bordeaux blend for  $19.95, the Don Luis Selecion Reserveda Terra 2010, an interesting take on a universal blend at a very respectable price.
From California, we have couple of Limited Time Offers until early January, Louis Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, $5 of at $24.95, a rich and lingering red with dark fruit, oak influence and cedary tinges, and the Rodney Strong Estate Pinot Noir 2012, $2.50 off at $22.45, promising some cinnamon and vanilla spice, good fruit, and ready for current enjoyment.
Australia’s Pirramimma Petit Verdot, either 2011 or 2012, $2 off at $22.95, is made from a grape usually found only in a Bordeaux blend, but southern climates seem to allow this grape to shine on its own – it is suggested that this will be perfect with lamb, presenting chocolate/mocha flavours.
From $16 to $17 there are host of wines worthy of gifting – the Santa Carolina Gran Reserva Petit Verdot 2011 might offer its Aussie counterpart a run for its money, and the Vina Chocolan Reserva Syrah 2012 is on point with dark berry fruit and great depth.
Les Halos de Jupiter  Costières de Nimes 2012 hits way above its weight class with a 92 from the International Wine Cellar which lavishes praise on it for marvelous herbal flavours, great depth, and fine structure.
For Riesling fans, consider either the Tawse Sketches of Niagara 2010 $19.95 a wonderful, fruity organic example, or the Kew Vineyards Old Vine Riesling 2012, $18.95 an upscale spin-off from the Angels Gate people, respected for their varietal-perfect interpretations – this is an excellent expression of the grape, with depth, elegance, good fruit, minerality and the characteristic petrol notes for which the best Rieslings are known – compare it with the Angels Gate Mountainview Riesling 2009, a more mature example for only $16.95.
Three California Chardonnays offer you three significantly different price points, and all should find favour with those who are open to what chardonnay has to offer.
The Show 2012, $14.75, could be considered an inexpensive entry level, given typical California prices, it is creamy and oaky at once with decent fruit, while the Sonoma Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay 2012, $21.95 ($5 off) is far more classic, long on structure and balance, and presenting elegant spice and citrus notes – pay attention, enjoy it.
At $34.95, the Mer Soleil Santa Lucia Highlands 2011 Chardonnay brings to whole orchestra to the concert, providing a symphony of heady aromas and with the entire string section soaring with rich sweet tropical fruit flavours – and like many overtures, the finish goes on and on and on… never mind the fruit cake, give them a bottle of this.
There are many, many great wines at all price levels in the stores – the Vintages consultants will be happy to help you make satisfying decisions – go for it!
And have a Merry Christmas!
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