Wines Worth the Splurge

two glasses

Do you ever hear a song that sends you spinning back on your timeline? Music, like the sense of smell, is a powerful memory tool.  I am finding the same thing about a great wine. I remember my first Super Tuscan, a Tignanello. I sipped it so slowly because I wanted it to last forever.

Some events are worth celebrating with a truly memorable bottle of wine. You know, the kind you write about in a journal, or try to scrape off the label or hold on to the cork. Here are a few fantastic splurges that will have you savouring every sip, but will  YUOU cost no more than a bottle from the lower end of  a restaurant wine list.

Big, Bold Brunello
Big, Bold Brunello

Pietranera 2007 Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy $37.95 LCBO

If you have a special occasion to celebrate, it’s hard to go wrong with a Brunello. This  was a gift and on a Friday night worthy of a fine wine, it was absolutely perfect. This wine is beautifully balanced with a long velvety finish. This one has earned  the top scores it received from  the cork dorks (which, for the record, I only checked AFTER I licked the top of the bottle to get every drop.)

 

The Pride of the Okanagan
The Pride of the Okanagan

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2009, Okanagan, B.C. $44.95 SAQ

This Bordeaux blend goes down just right. It is big and bold and become the pride of B.C. A classic blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, this wine is all about red and blackberries, spice with a hint of chocolate. You can open and savour right away, or leave it for another special occasion between now and 2021. Alcohol 13.8%

 

Lighting Up The Night
Lighting Up The Night

La Vite Lucente 2011, IGT, Tuscany, Italy $34.95 LCBO, $35.00 SAQ

This is full-bodied and elegant, a truly gorgeous wine – resplendent with aromas of blackberries, cherry and vanilla. It’s produced by Frescobaldi, a family that has been producing wine since 1308 – they actually  traded wine with Michelangelo. This is their so-called second wine to big brother Super Tuscan Luce della Vite, but every bit as worthy at this price.

So look for a special occasion, or maybe just the end of a long week.

Uncork, decant and enjoy!

 

Giving Thanks for Weekend Wines

montepulcianoSome friends of ours just got back from Tuscany with that look in their eyes. You know, that look that says for at least a few moments, a few days, a few weeks – all was right with the world. There was no rush, no anxiety, no reason to consider anything except the perfection of where you are sitting, and equally  important, what you are drinking.

Their tales of joy sent me straight to the Italian aisle for this week’s red wine picks.  A couple of VQA’s round them out.

fielding estate 2012 chardonnay
Fielding Estate

 

Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2012, Fielding Estate Winery Beamsville Bench, $21.95  Gold in the glass with citrus aromas,  pear and peach. Rich and lovely over dinner or just a warm conversation at twilight.

 

burrowing owl 2009

 

Burrowing Owl, Merlot 2009 VQA Okanagan, $41.95  An award-winning wine that is wracking up the hardware. Full-bodied and plum juicy with a strong finish – this winery looks worth visiting as much as the wine was worth tasting.14%

 

The Noble One

 

Palazzo Vecchio Vino Nobile de Montepulciano 2007 DOCG $23.95 Some refer to this wine, aged two years in oak, as a Baby Brunello. While the price is friendlier than a Brunello – this baby can easily  stand on its own long and luscious legs. This doesn’t just feel like home to a lover of Italian reds … it feels like Christmas. 14%

Il Grigio
Il Grigio

San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva 2009 LCBO $26.95 SAQ $27.00 It’s easy to splurge in the tasting room but it is a double-edged sword. You get to taste a great wine for a buck, but after you taste it, you really, really want to take it home. This is one of those. Blackberries, black cherries, and spice are dominant in this wine. Riserva’s must be aged at least 24 months, and it should even improve with age, if, unlike me, you can wait. Worth splurging for yourself or a really good friend. 13%

Finally, what to drink with your Thanksgiving turkey, white wine lovers can do well with a Riesling or Pinot Grigio, but if you are like me, a lazy long turkey dinner with a glass of Pinot Noir or Chianti is the idea of holiday perfection.

Happy Thanksgiving! To family, friends and good music and great wine!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekend Wine Picks and Award-winning Wines

mission hill winery Mission Hill Family Estate Winery  in  BC’s Okanagan Valley received  top honours this week. Wine Align, the online wine rating service awarded it  Winery of the Year, snatching it from Ontario’s Tawse, which  has won for the past three years.

The award of distinction is based on five of its wines that received gold and platinum medals at this year’s National Wine Awards.  They are:

Mission Hill Riesling Reserve 2011 – Platinum 100% Riesling – This was the first wine in the flight of award winners. This wine would turn me into a regular Riesling drinker. The nose sent me to a peach and honey heaven.  It was perfectly balanced, with a deliciously long finish.

Mission Hill  Chardonnay Reserve 2011  100% Chardonnay . Citrus meets a hint of coconut. Aged in oak for eight months, it is very subtle.

Mission Hill Perpetua Osooyos Vinyard Estate 2010 Chardonnay    100% Chardonnay This is part of the winery’s  Legacy series of Premium wines.

Mission Hill   Compendium  2009 – Platinum – This is a Bordeaux-inspired blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 5% Petit Verdot. Also part of the Legacy Series, it is wine-making at its finest. Complex, full-bodied and elegant.

Mission Hill  Riesling Icewine 2011 – Admission – I know it is very unpatriotic to say I am not a fan of icewine because we produce some of the best in the world……but there are no absolutes. This was simply outstanding. Exceptionally balanced so the sweetness was perfect and not overwhelming, which is why they are often not my favourites. If you get the chance, try this one.

Sadly not all of these wines are available across the country unless by special order. Why we can’t order our own wines directly from the winery as they do in the US continues to be a mystery.  But here are a few wine picks that are available for your sampling this weekend.

cave springCave Spring 2011 Riesling Estate VQA Beamsville Bench ($17.95) There  was a cornucopia of Ontario releases at the LCBO this week. I am on a mission to get reacquainted with Riesling especially because there are such fine examples from BC and ON. If you like citrus with a touch of honey and pear – you will like this wine. It is fresh and appealing. Perfect with Sushi.

 

riojaDomeco de Jarauta Lar de Sotomayor Vendemia Rioja 2010 ($17.95) Spanish wines are often overlooked in the showy presence of their neighbouring spotlight hoggers in Italy and France. This Rioja has some punch to it. It is full-bodied with notes of black and red fruit. 90% Tempranillo, 5% Mazuelo and 5% Graciano grapes. Great value.

 

mcmanis syrah 2011McManis Syrah 2011 ($19.95) Speaking of big and luscious, this Californian delivers in every way. This wine will keep you warm sitting on a patio with a blanket because you are not ready to move indoors just yet. Red fruit jammy with a touch of pepper. I highly recommend it.

 

 

Enjoy your wine-shopping this weekend. The women of wine are heading to the Big Apple and some highly recommended wine bars and we will report back next week.

Cheers!

Cheers to Chardonnay; Celebrating A Day In Your Honour

With 400,000 acres of this vinifera varietal planted around the globe there’s a world of Chardonnay to choose from.  For a time consumers shied away from this once popular wine because many felt it was being over-oaked and people’s palates were craving something a little more crisp and cool.

Ontario Chardonnay_2But over the last few years Chardonnay has made a big comeback especially those from cooler climates. As Ontario’s (and the world’s) most popular grape from unoaked to Chablis style there’s a wide range of styles to suit everyone’s taste.

It’s so popular again, that today, winemakers, cellar masters, sommeliers, and wine lovers around the world will celebrate International Chardonnay Day.  There are lots of ways to join in the celebration online Twitter is @coolchardonnay with hashtags #chardday and #14c2013. Facebook is /CoolChardonnayCelebration, and Pinterest is pinterest.com/i4c.  Many wineries will have special offerings today but if you can’t make it out to one, just chill a bottle, crack it open and toast this new trend that everyone seems to be enjoying and join in the online party.

Ontario ChardonnayHere in Ontario, today marks the kickoff to the Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration taking place July 19-21 in Niagara.  Sixty-two winemakers from 11 countries will offer up a taste of the world’s best chardonnay to wine enthusiasts at events ranging from intimate vineyard lunches to the main event “The Cool Chardonnay Wine Tour”.

If you’re looking for information on Chardonnay Day activities and the i4c (International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration) you’ll find it here www.coolchardonnay.org

How will you celebrate today?

 

 

Wine Crimes: Counterfeits, Heists and Prison

I live in a world where finding a great bottle under $20 is my mission, but when it comes to the rich and famous the cool darkness that cloaks their cellars often hides a world of thieves and villains.  You may not care some rich guy just got duped into paying thirty thousand dollars for wine that turned out to be fake but like any great novel, counterfeiting, heists and prison definitely make for great intrigue.

Recently a court case seven years in the making finally saw billionaire Bill Koch sue California entrepreneur Eric Greenberg over 24 rare bottles of wine he says are fake. Koch bought the bottles at auction along with a number of others spending a total of $3.7 million.  Koch alleges Greenberg knew or should have known the bottles were counterfeit thereby making this fraud.  Greenberg denies this and in the years leading up to the trial both men have already spent somewhere in the amount of $13 million on legal fees.  Mr. Koch feels it’s his duty to blow the whistle on the counterfeit problem in the wine world and while I may not be in the same league as these collectors I to would be upset to learn my bottle of single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was really just a mix of varietals from a bunch of different vineyards.  Should Koch win he is seeking both monetary and punitive damages but in the next case prison was the end result.

SolderaLOGOLast December someone entered the cellar of Gianfranco Soldera’s winery, Azienda Agricola Case Basse in Montalcino, opened almost all his casks of aging wine and caused the lost of more than 16,500 gallons.  This amounted to about 80,000 bottles worth of Brunello di Montalcino from the past six vintages and left the owner with almost nothing left to sell.  The man convicted of the crime, Andrea di Gisi was once employed at the winery and had told witnesses he was angry Soldera had not provided him with a place to live.  Recently the courts in Siene ruled that if you spill the wine you do the time and sentenced Andrea to four years in prison.

blackwood Lane wineryOften referred to a liquid gold wine heists are not unheard of and in recent years there have been some noted ones.  Last July 5,200 bottles of wine were stolen in what was considered the largest heist in B.C history. Stolen from Blackwood Lane Vineyards and Winery in Langley B.C.  While insurance may cover the $200,000 lost for the owners it can’t replace the wine.

StumpyMerlotIn January 60,000 bottles of South Australian Stumpy Merlot, worth around $500,000, was stolen from two tractor trailers leaving police puzzled about where it went.  And most recently thieves stole over three and half thousand bottles of champagne worth about 300,000 pounds from French producer Jacques Seloss.  Authorities have no clue as to who the culprits are but say the theft was well-organized.  More worrying than the loss of the champagne is the additional theft of thousands of labels and neck labels, that could lead to the production of counterfeit bottles.

And so it seems we have come full circle back to the question of how do counterfeit wines end up in the cellars of experience buyers and collectors.  Well I say “gentlemen stick to a good bottle of something under $20 and you’ll never go wrong”.

OK be honest, what’s the most you would spend on a bottle of wine?

 

 

Wednesday Wine Picks

 

The holiday season may be over but the crop of new wines that hit the LCBO last week are worth celebrating.   They include some promising Spanish wines worthy of exploration aWeekend Pickslong with  a great selection of BC wines. While I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting either place, I can say I am a big fan of their wines.

Chardonnay’s from the  Mission Hill estate, the awesome Pinot Noir from Burrowing Owl, or the Bordeaux Blends of Osoyoos Larose, there is gold in them thar BC vineyards and finally they are available in the east.

I sampled the Burrowing Owl  Pinot Noir 2010 VGA from the Okanagan Valley – it is a splurge to doubt at $41.95. It is supremely balanced with strong notes of cherry and other red fruit.

There is rarely a Rioja that has brought me disappointment in my wine tasting life. It could be luck, or it could be great wine-making – I like them big and bold and plan to get better acquainted with my friends from Rioja, Navarra, and my pick for the weekend : Virgen Del Aguila Artigazo 2007 from DO Carinena – just south of Rioja  region $18.95.

I admit I did try a couple of the other new releases that are absolutely worth the splurge. 

A Bolgheri Beauty from ItalyI Greppi Greppicante Bolgheri 2009 DOC  from the west coast of Tuscany – which is super Tuscan territory. This is  beautifully smooth, complex, fruit forward with rich tannins and a lovely finish. It is $23.95 and worth the splurge.

The Maitre D' by MollydookerMy other splurge-worthy suggestion is by a favourite Australian wine maker that has never disappointed, Mollydooker The Maitre D’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 from South Australia. The deep purple colour and black cherry jammy flavour characterizes the  full-bodied and luscious wine. The finish is long, fruity and entirely worth the price. Buy two, one to drink now and one to save for later.  Oh and their labels are delightful. $29.95

 

Finally if you can still find it, Three Rivers  River’s Red from Columbia Valley, Washington – I may have mentioned it before because it was one of my favourite wines from my wine class. But if you haven’t tried it yet, hurry while there are still bottles left. At $19.95, it is a real bargain.

Give them a try or explore the LCBO’s new bounty and let us know If you have sampled a wine worth sharing.

Cheers

 

How Sweet It Is

I’m not much of an Icewine lover but for some reason I always seem to wind up with a bunch in my cellar (I’ll bet they were re-gifted to me because the other people didn’t want them either).  But since its Icewine season and Canada is known for making some of the best in the world I figured I’d give it another try. While we’re not the only Icewine-producing country in the world, thanks to our cold Canadian winters we’re pretty much guaranteed to produce a big batch annually.

This premium product is highly regulated in Canada by the  Vintners Quality Alliance Ontario and the Vintners Quality Alliance BC with sugar levels, temperature, grape varietal and production all needing to meet strict standards.  Producers in those regions may not use the term “Icewine” on their label unless it’s VQA certified or risk a hefty fine.  This level of quality control also means a hefty price tag ranging anywhere from forty to a few hundred dollars.

0Having invited friends over for an intense night of gaming (no not video but old school board games) I grabbed one of those tall thin bottles and stuck it in the fridge. The one I chose had a beautiful label and I soon realised it wasn’t Icewine at all but a Sauvignon Blanc made in the Recioto style of sweet Italian wines called Profondo Fumoso Bianco from Colaneri Estate Winery.

Different from Icewine it’s sometimes referred to as a straw or raisin wine where the grapes have been dried to concentrate their juice.  The result is similar to the Icewine process but also works in warmer climates.

As I mentioned I’m not really a lover of sweet wines so I figured I’d serve it over fruit and ice cream to add a little zing. Well everyone enjoyed it so much we quickly pulled out some glasses and finished off the bottle.  Not available at the LCBO I remembered I had received this bottle as a gift from the lovely Betty Colaneri. So if you’d like to try some you’ll have to pay Betty a visit down in Niagara at the Colaneri Estate Winery and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Along with a range of lovely wines all sporting artisan labels, Betty and the staff are gracious hosts that make the trip well worth while. At $29.95 it’s well below the cost of a traditional Icewine and definitely delicious.

After enjoying this wine I may have to re-evaluate my opinion of ice/sweet wines and enjoy them more often.  Also since Valentine’s day is quickly approaching the one thing I always did enjoy using Icewine for was to inject strawberries and then dip them in chocolate – basically can’t go wrong there and your hopefully your Valentine will reward you with a sweet kiss of thanks.

Love it or leave it – how do you feel about Icewine?