Notable wines now in Vintages and others coming soon
Wines already in Vintages
Clarendelle Blanc 2014
AOC Bordeaux, France $23.95
You can sniff this wine but you can’t sniff at its pedigree, as it comes from the people at Château Haut-Brion. Clarendelle is the name of a range of wines intended to show the quality of Bordeaux at affordable prices. This white is 70% sauvignon blanc, 25% semillon, and 5% muscadelle, and it’s a real beauty. There’s plenty of complexity and richness in the flavours, and the acid is broad and clean and perfectly calibrated. But it’s the texture that adds the value. It’s fleshy and full of interest without a hint of viscosity, and it contributes to the smooth texture of the wine – an achievement in a wine with fresh acidity. Drink it now and over the next year or so.
Keint-He ‘Portage’ Pinot Noir 2014
VQA Prince Edward County $30.00
Drawn from four vineyards, this is “a true expression of County pinot,” says winemaker Lee Baker. It’s certainly made in a style that you recognize after tasting a dozen or so pinots from the area: light to medium in weight, with bright acidity and vibrant, fairly complex fruit flavours. In this example they show very well and they’re nicely integrated. It’s dry, with some tannic astringency at the end, and overall it’s a very stylish effort.
Jean-Max Roger ‘Cuvée C.M.’ Sancerre 2014
AOC Sancerre, France $27.95 (196667)
A regular in Vintages, this sauvignon blanc from France’s premier region for the variety delivers finesse across the board. Look for well-focused, nicely layered fruit that’s backed by bright and clean acidity. There’s some juiciness to the texture, and the components are harmoniously integrated. It’s drinking very well now and I suggest opening it in the next year or two.
Lavau Vacqueyras 2014
AOC Vacqueyras, France $25.95 (104927)
Making a return appearance in Vintages, this is a lovely classic GSM (grenache, syrah, mourvèdre) blend. The flavours are concentrated, well-defined, and impressively complex, and they hold solid right through the palate and into a good finish. The acidity is clean and balanced, and the tannins are well integrated. This is ready to drink now and over the next four or five years if you want to catch its freshness.
Bolla Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2014
DOC Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso, Italy $19.95 (475574)
This is a very drinkable wine that’s juicy-textured, full of fresh fruit, and animated by lively acidity. A blend of corvina, corvinone, and rondinella grapes, it shows the fruit concentration that comes from the ripasso process and here the fruit is not only concentrated but complex and well structured and effectively balanced by the well-calibrated acid. The tannins are fine and drying, and well enough integrated that you can drink this now. Or hold it to the end of the decade, before it starts to lose its freshness.
Columbia Crest ‘H3’ Merlot 2014
Horse Heaven Hills, Washington $25.95 (209874)
We’re seeing a lot more Washington wines in the LCBO and Vintages these days, and that’s a good thing. California produces most of America’s wine, but other states deserve better representation. Merlot is one of Washington’s strengths, and this is a fine example from Columbia Crest, a major producer. The fruit is ripe, fruit-sweet at the core, and well layered, and it’s supported by clean acidity that adds a little nip to the texture which is otherwise velvet smooth. The tannins are gripping a little, but they’re easily manageable now, and I suggest drinking it through to about 2020 to catch the freshness of the fruit.
Coming to Vintages soon
Arriving on 18 February 2017
Domaine J. Laurens ‘Le Moulin’ Blanquette de Limoux Brut
AOC Blanquette de Limoux, France $19.95 (180323) 12% alc.
Blanquette de Limoux is a sparkling wine from Limoux, in southwest France, thought by many people to have been the place where the first French sparkling wine was made (in the 1530s). Blanquette de Limoux must be at least 90% made from the regional mauzac variety, and this one has that, with the rest being chardonnay. It’s made by the ‘Traditional Method’ and this example was aged on lees nine months before disgorgement. The flavours are precisely defined and nicely focused with a good level of complexity, and the fruit is supported by clean, bright acid. There’s plenty of bubble activity in bottle and glass. Enjoy it now and in the next year or two.
Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2012
VQA Short Hills Bench, Ontario $24.95 (268391)
This is a pinot that shows the character of the warm 2012 vintage in the ripeness and quality of the fruit, which is concentrated and nicely layered. It’s supported by clean, fresh acidity, and the tannins are drying and slightly grippy. All the components are well harmonized, and you can drink this now or hold it another year or so, then drink it through to 2022.
Henry of Pelham ‘Speck Family Reserve’ Baco Noir 2014
VQA Ontario, Ontario $24.95 (461699) 13.5% alc.
Baco noir used to be made in a funky style that had its own fan club, but in recent years the off-beat flavours have given way to mainstream. This is a lovely wine, but it lacks the distinctive character of bacos from earlier this century, and whether that’s a function of aging vines or winemaking, I don’t know. Either way, you’ll find plenty of concentrated and complex fruit here, good depth, and some edgy, clean acidity. The tannins are drying and well integrated. Drink it now to 2020.
Clarendelle Rouge 2012
AOC Bordeaux, France $23.95
This is a very attractive blend of merlot (57%), cabernet sauvignon (30%), and cabernet franc (13%). Aged in used and new French oak, it delivers lovely layered flavours and some intensity in the fruit, all supported by the clean, fresh acidity that helped me deal with a dish of cassoulet. The tannins have just a little nip – you couldn’t call it grip, but there was something – and the texture is smooth and mouth-filling. It’s a really lovely Bordeaux red that shows its merlot dominance, and it’s ready to drink now through to 2020, while the fruit is fresh.
Gérard Bertrand ‘Grand Terroir’ Les Aspres 2013
AOP Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres, France $18.95 (413245)
A blend of syrah, mourvèdre, and grenache, this delivers solid fruit right through the palate. It’s characterized by complexity and structure, and is supported by a seam of well-calibrated acidity. The tannins are drying and well integrated, and you can drink it now though to 2020.
Arriving on 4 March 2017
Tom Gore Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
California $19.99 13.5% alc.
This blend of cabernet sauvignon (90%) with small contributions from malbec, merlot, petit verdot, and petite sirah, was sourced from California’s North and Central Coasts. It was aged 16 months in French and American barrels. The fruit is richly flavoured with ripe sweetness at the core and very good layering that makes for a complex profile. The fruit-acid balance is very good and the tannins are easy-going, making this suitable for drinking now. Enjoy it over the next four or five years.
Luigi Bosca ‘Single Vineyard’ Malbec 2013
DOC Luján de Cuyo, Argentina $21.95 (74922) 14.0% alc.
This is a rich and robust malbec that’s surprising light on its feet. It was aged 14 months in new French barrels, then had another 18 months bottle-age before being released for sale. The flavours are concentrated, focused, and well defined, with good complexity that sets this off from too many one-dimenional malbecs. There’s some interesting edginess to the acid that gives the wine some tangy juiciness. Overall, it well balanced and the relaxed tannins make it very drinkable now. Enjoy its freshness in the next year or two.
Henry of Pelham ‘Estate’ Cabernet-Merlot 2012
VQA Short Hills Bench, Ontario $24.95 (395855) 13.5% alc.
This blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, and merlot was sourced from the oldest vines in Henry of Pelham’s estate vineyards. From one of Niagara’s warmest recent years, it was aged 18 month in French and American barrels (40% new). What all this produces is richly flavoured, with plenty of complexity and structure. The acid is clean and well balanced with the fruit, and the slightly grainy tannins are drying and well integrated. Drinking well now, it will hold its freshness to the end of the decade.
Casillero del Diablo Reserva Privada Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
DO Maipo Valley, Chile $17.95
[Tasted October 2016] Winemaker Marcelo Papa is moving to earlier picking within the harvest window as Concha y Toro moves away from the very ripe flavours that have dominated until recently, and towards wines that show “more precise” fruit character, are less sweet, and have lower alcohol. This cabernet, from Chile’s best region for the variety, is juicy and lively, but retains the depth and complexity of fruit you expect of cabernet. It has much less of the mint/eucalyptus character often found in Maipo cabernet – something Marcelo Papa also attributes to earlier harvesting. This is a young cabernet that needs a little longer to integrate. Drink it 2018-21.
Arriving on 18 March 2017
Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2015
Napa Valley, California $22.95 14.5% alc.
A perennial favourite, this 96% sauvignon and 4% semillon blend was sourced from three vineyards, including Mondavi’s famed To Kalon Vineyard. The sauvignon was aged on lees for five months in 60-gallon French oak barrels (barriques) to give the fumé character. The semillon does its part, adding complexity and texture, and the result is a wine I look forward to every vintage.
Gérard Bertrand Gris Blanc 2015
IGP Pays d’Oc $16.95 (409870) 12.5% alc.
The first thing that strikes you about this wine – which is made from grenache gris and grenache sourced from an area north of Perpignan – is the lightness of its colour. It makes some oeil de perdrix wines (the pale pink pervasive in Provence) look intense. But lightness of colour doesn’t lead to lightness of being in this case. The flavours are focused, defined and pretty, kept fresh by the cool fermentation temperatures, the acid is bright and clean, while several weeks on fine lees gives the texture a little weight and interest. It’s a really lovely wine and a great pick-me-up if you’re suffering the winter blahs.
Fess Parker Pinot Noir 2013
Santa Rita Hills, California $33.95 (382333) 14.2% alc.
This terrific pinot, which has a small contribution from Santa Maria Valley, delivers right across the board. It’s fruit-driven but the fruit has very good structure, and the flavours show very good breadth and depth. The fruit sits in balance with the well-tuned acid, and the tannins are fine, ripe, drying and well integrated. It’s aged 12 months in French barrels (33% new) and that treatment has been managed sensitively. At over 14%, the alcohol looks high, but it’s imperceptible on nose and palate.
Gérard Bertrand Syrah-Grenache 2013
AOP Languedoc $16.95 (413237)
This is a very easy-drinking blend, aged 10 months in barriques, that comes with plenty of rich flavours. There’s ripe-sweetness at the core, but plenty of layering that covers a wide spectrum. The acidity is clean and gentle, and the texture is generous and full- bodied. The tannins are present and integrated, quite drying, and giving a slightly astringent quality to the fruity finish. Drink it now and over the next two or three years.
Ravenswood ‘Dickerson Single Vineyard’ Zinfandel 2013
Napa Valley, California $39.95 (599183) 14.9% alc.
This opulent and polished zinfandel stands out from many zinfandels which are dominated by intense sweet fruit and lack the structure and balance to go well with many foods. This one is extremely well balanced and structured. The fruit is multi-dimensional, with impressive complexity and it’s supported by clean, fresh acidity. The tannins are drying but not intrusive and the alcohol is very well integrated and imperceptible. It’s a very harmonious wine that’s drinking beautifully now and that will easily hold its freshness to 2020.
Arriving on 1 April 2017
Kim Crawford Rosé 2016
Hawkes Bay, New Zealand $17.95 (650325) 13% alc.
Made 100% from merlot, this is a fruity, easy-drinking rosé dressed in fairly deep pink. It’s medium-plus in weight, with solid flavours and decent complexity right through the palate. The acidity is soft but positive, and good choice to greet the early days of spring.
Arriving on 15 April 2017
Henry of Pelham ‘Family Tree’ Red 2014
VQA Ontario, Canada $18.95 (247882)
This blend of syrah (33%), merlot (29%), cabernet franc (19%), cabernet sauvignon (14%), and baco noir (5%) was barrel-aged for 17 months in French (65%) and American (35%) oak. The syrah stakes its claim on the flavours at the outset, but the other varietal components make their mark as the palate evolves. This complexity is underwritten by a very good acidity that’s clean and fresh and adds some attractive juiciness to the texture. The texture itself verges on generous, while the moderate tannins tighten it up slightly. The overall effect is attractive, serious, and very drinkable. Drink now through to 2020 to enjoy its freshness.
Arriving soon, the date TBA
Henry of Pelham ‘Family Tree’ White 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario $17.95 (251116) 13% alc.
A blend of viognier (35%), chardonnay (25%), gewürztraminer (25%) and chardonnay musqué (15%), this was 40% barrel-fermented then barrel-aged for eight months, and 60% made in stainless steel. It’s a remarkably easy-drinking blend in the best sense of easy-drinking – easy to drink a glass and easy to pour the next. It shows generous fruit, nice complexity, decent structure, and excellent fruit-acid balance, with the clean, fresh acidity giving some juiciness to the texture. It’s ready to drink now and in the next couple of years.