Having extracted what they could from us over the holidays, the folks at the LCBO, as is their custom, now shift gears to draw us in with what they call 'smart buys'.
To give the devil its due, there are some very fine values on the Jan. 8 Vintages release. Of the 95 items in all, 62 are $20 or less, 18 are between $17 and $15, and 13 are below $14. One is just $11.95!
Price is one thing, but quality is another; many of these wines have very positive independent reviews.
While we are getting around 60 of these wines sent to the Great Northern Road store, enough certainly to satisfy most of our interests, there are some tempting wines that have missed the cut for the Soo.
This could be a good time to start getting used to ordering online from the LCBO. Word has it that changes will be coming in the second half of the year, with the number of releases potentially dropping to one per month.
Apparently, the LCBO will be encouraging us to shop online – Ontario’s own Amazon of booze? How successful – or to flip things over, how frustrating – this will be, remains to be seen. I have noticed in the past that often the most attractive products available online disappear quickly, even on the day of release.
Nevertheless, this could be a good time to start setting up an account. You can have orders shipped to your home or to your favourite store. To ship to your home you will have to spend more to reach the free shipping threshold. You also have to be home to receive orders, or you will have to pick them up, likely at a post office.
The easiest way to retrieve orders is from a store, and you don’t have to buy as much to qualify for free shipping – currently, it's $50. Once you have an account, you sign in as you do with any online orders. The LCBO explains that orders can take a week or two to arrive, but generally, they are here in a reasonable time.
If you go to the LCBO or Vintages site, key in the product you are seeking, and you will notice that to the right, you will see boxes for home delivery, delivery to store, and availability at the store you have selected as your favourite.
If it is unavailable, there will be a red X, if available, there will be a green checkmark if it is plentiful, or an orange one if it is in short supply. Click on either of the latter two, and you will learn exactly how many bottles are available for shipping.
On the Jan. 8 release, for example, there are a couple of Portuguese reds, a Spanish Rioja Reserva, a sparkling wine and a Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa, and a California Cab, none of which are in our store. Of these, here are some reviews.
The Fledge & Co Jikken Bareru Experimental Barrels Sauvignon Blanc 2019, $15.95, is in “a racy, saline, white pepper and elderflower style with a mouth-watering finish. timatkin.com – 90.
Puelles Reserva 2014 Rioja, $18.95 “is velvety on the palate with delicious flavours of dark cherry, blackberry, dry dill and crushed black peppercorn heating up the long, savoury and delicious chalky finish… exceptional value.” – 93 - winecurrent.com.
Beyra Vinhos de Altitude Red 2019, $13.95, is a fresh and succulent blend of Tempranillo and Touriga Nacional grown at high altitudes. A European site suggests that “it is like biting into a juicy and sun-ripened cherry – only better!”
Long Barn Cabernet Sauvignon 2020, $16.95, from California - “As a pure California-born Cabernet Sauvignon should be, this wine is anything but shy with bold, ripe, fruit-filled aromas. A medium to full-bodied wine, it boasts luscious flavours of blackberry, rhubarb, and dried cherry with distinctive oak and cedar notes. You’ll discover great complexity with defined tannins and a lingering finish.” – Newfoundland Liquor Store (There it retails for $22.98!)
Tempting aren’t they.
Of the wines we are receiving, here are some suggestions.
Joseph Cattin Pinot Gris 2019, $14.95, from Alsace, is described by Vintages as a wine that “flaunts its fragrance and flavour. This one is spicy and smoky with suggestions of apricot, honey and gingerbread.” It balances on the point between dry and off-dry and will be delicious. (Gold at the Concours International de Lyon 2020.)
Laaurent Miquel Nord Sud Viognier 2020, $15.95, is a dry but rich white from the Languedoc. It has a lovely perfumed nose and a dry finish but one which suggests a wisp of sweetness with its richness. Pear, apricot peach and vanilla spice are some of the flavours it seems to carry.
Kung Fu Girl Riesling, $16.95, is a delicious, well-made wine. It used to be on the regular list, but I can’t help thinking that the name, which is kind of out-there, might have put people off. It is made by Washington winemaker Charles Smith – who is kind of out-there himself… but makes great affordable wines. It goes well with Asian dishes (hence the name?) and has classic flavours of citrus and spice. Vintages explains that “it’s fresh and vibrant, with a pure seam of cleansing acidity that keeps it perfectly balanced.
Piekenierskloof Six Hats Shiraz 2019, $13.95, from South Africa, “blankets the palate with a fully textured, nicely balanced surge of brambleberry and juicy black Bing cherry interlaced with tangy red fruit - currant and pie cherry - with notions of peppery spice and plenty of mouth-watering tang and pizzazz.” – winecurrent.com – 92.
Domaine Fond Croze Confidence Côtes du Rhône 2019, $11.95. “Black cherries lead the way, backed by hints of dark chocolate and raspberries, while the full-bodied palate is round and ripe, yet brought into savoury focus by mouthwatering acids and silky tannins.” – An exceptional value – robertparker.com 89-91.
Marquis de Bern 2018 Bordeaux, $13.95, is a “rich, full-bodied wine. Generous textures are still developing while the spicy black fruit is full of young tannins and bright acidity. Ripe and concentrated – Wine Enthusiast - 91.
Fortant Grands Terroirs 2018, $15.95, from France’s Languedoc region, is an “elegant and savoury Syrah …with black plum, a hint of liquorice and a beautiful long finish. A delicious wine with a serious profile and intensity that lingers. Delicious and very serious.” International Wine & Spirit Competition – 97.
Hacienda Lópex de Hara Crianza 2018, $15.95, from Spain, is crisp with gentle ripe dark fruit and a touch of light sweetness. Decanter identifies grace notes of pepper, and vanilla. – 91.
Also from Spain, El Angosto La Tribuna 2018, $13.95, “opens with fresh strawberries, blueberries…and violets. Delightful, firm tannin bite on the palate, which is medium in body but very solid in its delivery of refreshing acidity.” – jamessuckling.com – 92.
Folklore Cabernet/Merlot 2018, $17.95, from Western Australia. Wine Align’s John Szabo MS, who does not give praise lightly, says this: ”Fruit is ripe and black, like classic black currant, along with those black currant buds, while oak is a minor backdrop feature. Tannins are soft and creamy, acids balanced-fresh, and length and overall depth are good. While not a monument of complexity, there is certainly a great deal of pleasure on offer - a well-made, pure wine. Score - 91.
There are many more wines, particularly red ones, which you would also appreciate. For some, after the celebrating, a New Year’s resolution might be a “Dry January”. These wines will last in your cellar until February, certainly, but they might not last on the LCBO shelves. Have someone hide your corkscrew for the month, and pick up some of these now.