One of the great pleasures in visiting Montreal is prowling through the SAQ, Quebec’s version of the LCBO. There are many treasures you find in these airy outlets. I usually drop by an outlet closest to my stomping grounds and hightail it to the Selection section, comparable to Vintages. I typically end up with yet another SAQ carry bag because they too have done away with plastic bags. They have a plentiful selection of French wines, for obvious reasons, followed by a respectable array of Italians.
So where do I start? How do I pick the one – who am I kidding – the 6, I usually take home? I head to the regions I know and love. So Tuscany of course, and anything new from southern Italy, which is more affordable. It could be a place I have traveled to that has a reputation or a fond memory. Because the sun is shining, I will check out a white or two. From there, I head west to France and Bordeaux – on the off-chance I will pick something that will support my dream that all good Bordeauxs do not have to cost a mortgage payment. I have been lucky with a few from St-Emilion or Pomerol. Then I venture over to Rhone where, this time, I found a SPECTACULAR wine – that tied for first place of the weekend.
Here are a few of my finds.
Il Bruciato Tenuta Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri 2010
There are certain producers that make me take a second look. Antinori is one of them. The family has been producing for 27 GENERATIONS, surpassed only by the house of Frescobaldi. Head of the family, Piero Antinori is considered a visionary in the industry. I had the pleasure of sampling some wines with the Great One himself which is so worthy of a future entry on its own. This wine is from the Antinori’s Guado al Tasso estate on the Tuscan coast which is home to such greats at Sassicaia and Ornellaia. This blend of Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah is on the Super Tuscan path without the super Tuscan price. Ruby colored, full-bodied, with cherry notes, soft spices and a lovely finish. 14% alcohol.
Chateau des Nages Joseph Torres Costieres de Nimes 2009 $21.95 LCBO $20.95 SAQ
This Cote de Rhone find started as a recommendation from the remarkable Lily Shatsky. I regard Lily as one of the perks of my job as a journalist. I found her when I was working in Montreal and assigned to find a bagel expert. I looked up an organization called Jewish Support Services for the Elderly. i thought where better to find a bagel expert. Not only did I get a great story, I met an inspirational dynamo. Incredibly, the wine turned up again the next day at the table of the Certosini’s, dear friends who have long been my partners in wine. Chateau des Nages proved to be as remarkable as Lily with the staying power of an old friend. Deep purply red with a blend of 95% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre. Lots of body, spicy, dark fruit – it is delicious enough to make your toes curl with pleasure.
Il Chiuso Castelle di Ama Toscana IGT 2010 $25.55 SAQ
Full disclosure – the first time I visited Tuscany,we rented a place in Gaiole in Chianti, right in the heart of the famous Chianti region. Since I was having lunch with the same friends I toured Chianti with several years ago, it seemed highly appropriate to choose a wine from the region that held so many happy memories. And I am very pleased to say this lighter medium-bodied blend of Sangiovese and Pinot Noir did not disappoint.
Velenosi di Verdicchio Castelli dei Jesi Classico 2010 $13.30 SAQ
This one totally caught my interest because I will be heading to Le Marche where it is produced, in a couple of weeks. While it didn’t knock my socks off, it had more body than a Pinot Grigio, and it wasn’t oaky like many Chardonnays. So even though it may not take home many awards, it was an absolute pleasure for an afternoon, enjoying-a- glass-with-my-brother-while-we-are-catching-up kind of wine. It could have been the company, it might have been the weather, or because I had absolutely nothing to do but have a nice chat with someone I don’t see often enough. But it was a wine I would buy again…maybe next time in Le Marche or when I am discussing life with my brother.
Final word, if you do end up at the SAQ, check out their publication Cellier. It is available in English and is chock full of information. While the LCBO’s fabulous Food and Drink focuses on the food, Cellier is mostly about the wine, and there has not been an issue that I have not devoured cover to cover.