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Vin Greco's weekend wine: Ho, ho holiday spirits

Friday, December 13, 2013   by: Staff

Vin Greco is well known locally for his wine expertise.

His interest in wine has been life-long.

Currently he conducts tastings, formal or informal, upon request, and twice a year partners in a tasting with Chef Ian Thomlinson Upstairs at Rome’s.

Holiday Spirits

With less than two weeks to Christmas, the Liquor stores will be getting busier and busier as we try to sort out what to serve, what to give, and what to use to celebrate.
Having browsed the shelves, I can tell you that there is no shortage of options, and while I will offer some suggestions, one of the smartest things you can do, is to discuss your needs with the consultants, as they are the ones who know exactly what they have available in every category.
There are a number of gift packages in the stores, though few offer anything that isn’t also available on the shelves.
If they don’t immediately sing to you, you might use them as a starting point and ask a consultant to suggest something in the same category or style, picking a price point that suits you, and then having either the LCBO assemble a gift package, or put your own creative talent to work.
This is the perfect time for anything cranberry, and the Great Northern Road store is getting in just two cases of the Stoney Ridge Cranberry Wine, $16.95
Like cranberry sauce, this will have some upfront sweetness, but will show its refreshingly sour fruit on the finish – if you want some, get in early.
From the Muskoka Lakes Winery outside Bala, which specializes in Cranberry products, there’s the Red Maple 2012, a dessert wine with oodles of sweetness provided by our iconic maple syrup which is ultimately reined in nicely by the tartness of the cranberry - $23.95 for 375 ml.
Beer loyalists can also get in on the cranberry kick with Muskoka Winter Beard Double Chocolate Cranberry Stout, $13.95 for 750 ml. – cranberries and 70% dark chocolate figure in this unusual brew.
There are many other seasonal beer choices currently, including Bah Humbug Christmas Cheer Ale, $3.50, from England’s Wychwood Brewery - its descriptors suggest Christmas pudding flavours in an amber ale.
One gift pack featuring beers not normally found is the Samuel Adams Barrel Room Collection, $35.20, with three distinctive brews; only 3 packages remain at the Great Northern road Store, with three 750 ml. bottles per package.
There are many other beers now in stock that are not normally found, including examples from Denmark and Sweden, so it shouldn’t be difficult to find something distinctive and enjoyable.
If cranberry doesn’t evoke Christmas for you, perhaps Gingerbread works, and the LCBO has both a Ginger Beer and Ginger Liqueur (or Liquor in this case) that should appeal.
While there may be a Freudian overtone here to go along with the “Bah Humbug”, the Great Northern road store has Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4%), $3.65 for 500 ml.  described by the LCBO as having fairly intense ginger aromas and flavours of “sweet ginger, spice and citrus”.
The Ginger Liquor from Alsace, $27.50 for 500 ml. is impressive in that it has a very pleasant ginger bouquet, but it resolves nicely at first sip; it would accompany Christmas pudding and vanilla ice cream perfectly, and would also play very well along with a cup of coffee.
There are many attractive wines in the stores to either enjoy or to give as gifts.
Belle Glos Meiomi Pinot Noir 2012, $24.95, sourced from 3 different areas in California, has received very good reviews, with the Wine Spectator scoring it 88 and calling it “deliciously complex”; it is $22 at the winery, so the LCBO price is certainly reasonable.
Argentina’s Trapiche Finca Las Palmas Gran Reserva Chardonnay, $16.95, is a “long and very elegant” bargain, taking 4 out of 5 stars in the Decanter World Wine Awards last year as well as gold in a Canadian competition.
Also from Argentina, the Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2010, $19.95, is praised by the Wine Enthusiast for “offering a lush collection of black fruit aromas on what amounts to a deep, dense bouquet.
Layered and displaying excellent size and texture, it has saturated, meaty black-fruit flavors along with toasty, integrated oak. A powerhouse Malbec and maybe the best Ultra to date."
Domaine Beau Mistral Vieilles Vignes Rasteau Cotes du Rhone Villages 2010, $22.95 is another beautiful red wine from the south of France which Robert Parker Jr. calls impressive, saying it will drink well over the next 8 to 10 years.
For Ripasso fans, there’s Tedeschi’s Capitel Nicalo Appassimento Valpolicella Superiore 2009, $15.95, which the Globe and Mail’s Beppi Crosariol noted for its “ideal ripeness” and “delicious infusion of food-friendly bitterness.”  
In the same family you’ll find the Michele Castellani Cinque Stelle Amarone Classico 2008, $53.95: in all, a bargain for a wine of this calibre, whose creamy ripe flavours and long rich finish earned a 93 from the Wine Spectator.
Rioja Bordón Gran Reserva 2004, $24.95, is an outstanding Spanish Tempranillo which the Globe’s Crosariol judges to have enough age to reveal its complexity, but is still young enough for a Rioja to display its freshness, and he suggests paring it with lamb.
A younger, but very attractive red from the same region is the Martinez Corta Cepas Antigua Selección Privada 2004, $16.95, which earned a 90 from the Parker group, which identified it as a great value for drinking over the next 4-5 years.
Zinfatuation Zinfandel, $17.10, on the regular list is a tasty, intriguing middle-weight, with decent fruitiness and good balance; it would actually pair very well with roast chicken, as it’s not too intense, but delicious.
Whether one is celebrating with a Christmas Brunch or ringing in the New Year, there are dozens of sparkling wines to tempt us, from Champagnes costing $40 and more, to light Italian proseccos, to others made all over the world in the Champagne style, but usually for a fraction of the cost.
In the Vintages corner there are many different choices, but there are only a few bottles of each, and so I would suggest seeking the help of a consultant.
On the regular shelves, Henry of Pelham’s Cuvée Catharine Brut and its Brut Rosé, each $29.95, have perennially led the way for Ontario’s Sparkling wines.  They are good value and have been the recipients of many awards.
A Best Value year in and year out is Spain’s Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, $14.25, with its toasty nose, and pleasant mouth feel.
For organics, try Argentina’s Santa Julia Brut Sparkling bubbly, $14.95, a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with a perfectly persistent mousse (That’s bubbles again!)
Again, there’s lots to choose from, so think of what you like, and don’t be afraid to ask for help – but shop early, as some of these wines won’t last long. 
Read more wine articles by Vin Greco:


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