So on a particularly stressful day recently when I wanted to transport myself into the closest LCBO to buy and fly, I decided to cosy up to the tasting bar at Queen’s Quay – one of my favourite 10-minute adventures. A tasting bar is basically a wall of opportunity. You can taste wines that you can’t afford, and even in that one ounce sip – you can recognize greatness. But the more practical reason, you can avoid post-corking disappointment when you try before you buy.
This week’s list featured some of the finest Super Tuscans, some of BC’s best offerings and French wines that are in a stratosphere way beyond my pay scale. There were six that fit my under $20 criteria. You can taste 4 x 1/2oz or 2 x 1 oz.
For this week’s wine picks I included two wines not on the tasting menu that I highly recommend: one under $20 and one splurge that curled my toes.
The LCBO description describes this wine as a juicy and ripe with notes of vanilla, blackberry and woodsmoke. One slurp and I didn’t need more convincing. Now, I will admit that I have not been a big fan of most Chilean- but if this Cab at this price is an example of what is coming out of the Maipo Valley today – I will go back for more. LCBO $19.95
Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2010 Spain
Full-bodied, black cherries and spice with strong vanilla notes – the rich dark ruby colour has been compared with wines from Northern Rhone. Uber critic Robert Parker went a step further and called it the winery’s “interpretation of Chateauneuf du Pape” but at a non-Chateau price. LCBO $19.95
Pinotage The Grinder 2011 WO, Swartland, South Africa
Pinotage is South Africa’s signature grape – a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault (my Wines 2 teacher would be so proud). In can be the best or worst of wines – at worst it has an overiding scent of burnt rubber, at best rich coffee and dark chocolate. Enter The Grinder. It is a good example of a quality Pinotage – meaty and mocha – perfect to pair with a rich stew. And at $13.95 a bottle at the LCBO, you can’t go wrong.
I mentioned this last week when I tried it at the tasting bar, but now that I have had a full bottle, I am giving it another shout out. This juicy wine from DO Carinena – just south of Rioja region is a blend of 40% Garnacha, 30% Syrah and 30% Cabernet SauvignonLCBO $18.95.
Bonus Tracks: Vinaceous! Raconteur Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Barossa Valley South Australia
This Barossa Valley Cab is one for the road – get it out of the store and into your glass. It’s big and fruity and lush with black cherry and cassis notes. I love the Aussie labels. The web site is absolutely stunning and while it says you can hold on to it for 10 years. I don’t know how or why you would wait that long. It is rich and smooth, very well-balanced. LCBO $19.95
The Big Splurge: Mastrojanni San Pio 2008 IGT Tuscany, Italy
Some of the best wine discoveries I have ever made are completely random. In this case I was reading a Globe and Mail article by Eric Reguly about the head of the Illy Coffee dynasty and how they shared a glass of wine (who says you can’t mix business and pleasure?). The wine came from Mastrojanni – a winery owned by the Illy family. Later that day in the LCBO I see a bottle of Mastrojanni San Pio 2008 and thought I deserved a splurge. I decanted. I sniffed. I savoured. I loved. It is a blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Sangiovese Grosso – the grape that creates the magic that is Brunello. It is 14% alcohol but so balanced, so smooth, it is simply superb. LCBO $30.95
Enjoy the picks for next weekend and if you have tasted something that has you going back for more, let us know!