For most who have been enjoying wine for a few years, the names of Mondavi, Gallo, Rothschild, and Torres, among others would be fairly well known. Still, there are thousands of producers, many of whose wines appear in the LCBO both in Vintages and on the regular lists.
Here are a few worth paying attention to, each having its own story behind the label.
Michael David wines hail from the Lodi region of California. The name is actually a combination of the first two names of the Phillips brothers, 6th generation grape growers. The operation is dedicated to sustainable farming practices, and since 2011 the entire crush has been certified as such by independent third party assessors.
The Phillips have a sense of humour, which surfaces often in their labels and the names for their wines. 7 Deadly Zins is a popular Vintages Essential with the latest vintage released in early April. It is $26.95 here, though at the winery it is $16 U.S. While called “full and rich” by the winery, Sommelier Jon Steeves, whose reviews can appear on the Natalie MacLean site, suggests it is a “baconpalooza” identifying maple-drenched bacon along with red and black berry fruit.
On the May 13 release you will find their Petite Petit 2014, a blend of Petite Sirah and Petit Verdot, $26.95. The Wine Enthusiast remarked on aromas of vanilla, chocolate and black pepper and flavours of blackberry jam, espresso and dark chocolate. On the label is a cartoon image of two not so “petite” circus elephants, cleverly indicating that there will be nothing tiny about the flavours that await you in the bottle.
In 2003, May de Lencquesang who owned the great Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande in France, purchased property and established the Glenelly Estate in South Africa. She was 78 at the time, and her family has been making wine in France since 1783.
A few weeks ago I opened a bottle of her Grand Vin de Glenelly Red and was blown away by the flawless integration and smoothness it displayed. On May13, you can check this out for yourself with the release of the 2010 vintage, $19.95.Obviously a Bordeaux-style red, it has plum and cherry, cedar and tobacco leaf all in great harmony.
Madame de Lenquesang also collects glass, and the winery has a museum-quality display of her collection. Amusingly, the labels in South Africa bear the pen-and-ink image of a Victorian lady holding up a wine glass and riding side-saddle… on the back of a rhinoceros! Curiously, the “Grand Vin” doesn’t appear on their website, and there is no rhino-riding lady on the ‘Canadian’ label.
Another Frenchman and Bordeaux ex-pat, Hervé Joyaux Fabre, moved to Argentina in the early 1990’s. His wines, too, cycle through Vintages, with theFabre Montmayouu Reserva Cabernet Franc 2014, $.17.95, being the latest destined for our shelves on May 13 – you may need to speak with your consultant to order this one in. British Master of Wine, Tim Atkin gives this one a 94, advising us that it is un-oaked, leafy and voluptuous.
Hervé is the master in the vineyard and cellar, while his wife, Diane, handles all aspects of shipping and customer service. A couple of months ago Vintagesindicated that Fabre’s style is “defined by an Old World elegance that emphasizes “terroir”– that is, the character of the land and climate that produces the wine.
Meanwhile, back in South Africa, we find Jordan Wine Estate…but any Jordan wines you find here in Ontario won’t be theirs. Because there is a Napa Valley winery of the same name, the South African wines are marketed here as “Jardin”.
Gary Jordan’s parents bought a 300 year old farm in Stellenbosch in 1982, and Gary along with his wife, Kathy, Have been making wine there since 1993 in a Mediterranean climate with vineyards sloping uniquely in all four directions. While current production emphasizes classic French varietals, new plantings will even include the Greek grape Assyrtiko in a part of a new vineyard with a climate that will suit this grape.
Two of their wines are on the May 13 release, but check with your consultant to see what is coming to your stores. Jardin Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2015, $21.95, has a full 5 stars from John Platter’s South African Wine Guide –the “masterly 2015 expresses purity of fruit interwoven with intricate nuances of beeswax and almonds.”
Jardin Black Magic Merlot 2013, $19.95 has undergone malo-lactic fermentation to soften the impact and has been matured in French oak to highlight the flavours and soft tannins. Aromas of plum and dark chocolate can be anticipated. One of the top South African merlots, it has won many top-notch awards.
We see oodles of California wines, but what we rarely see are wines from the Baja region of California. That region is, in fact, in Mexico. L.A. Cetto began operation in 1928, with modernization taking place under Don Luis Agustin Cetto in 1963. His son, Luis Alberto has embraced the tradition, and we often see his Petite Sirah on the Vntages shelves.
On May 13, look for the L.A. Cetto Private Reserve Nebbiolo 2012, $19.95. This is made from the Italian grape which produces Barolo and Barbaresco. According to Vintages, we can expect “pretty aromas of cedar, spice, wild berries and cherry” in a wine that is balanced and structured and “seems to proudly embrace its rusticity.”
Lest you think it is “all Vintages”, a Portuguese house is making some yummy wines under $9!
Bacalhoa Wines of Portugal has over 1200 hectares of vines under production in 7 different regions, with 3 centres of production. According to their website, they are a family-controlled company dating back to the 1920’s, and they write “The Memory of our origins is a matter of Honour.”
The 2015 JPAzeitão Red, $8.95, a blend of Syrah, Castelão and Aragonez(Tempranillo!), is smooth and savoury, with a core of plum fruit that is quietly at play. Medium in weight, soft tannins rise to the surface in the finish, giving us a wine well- suited for lighter meats, and enjoyable on its own.
The companion JPAzeitão Shiraz Rosé Bacalhoa, $8.55, is delicious. A blend of Syrah, Muscatel, and the obscure “Galego Roxo”, the wine is fresh and tart with a flutter of sweet fruit lifting up on the finish. It will serve nicely all through the summer, and leave you feeling virtuous because of the money you’ve saved!
May 13 Vintages Release
In addition to the wines mentioned above, there are other worthy choices coming to the stores next weekend.
Montes Spring Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2016, $14.95. From Chile, this inexpensive SB carries a Wine Spectator 89 –“effusive flavours of apple tart, peach, and nectarine,” and the “caressing finish is richly spiced.”
The same grape is featured in two French wines, both $13.95. Domaine de Poix Touraine 2015 is fresh and vibrant, showing lemon and passion fruit along with some minerality. Domaine Du Tariquet 2015 also has bright citrus and melon and is suggested to accompany seafood and salads.
Tom Gore Chardonnay 2014, $19.95, hails from the Central Coast and North Coast regions of California, both influenced by warm days and cool nights. Balance is a clear characteristic, with good orchard fruit carrying a touch of sweetness. The gentle influence of oak brings a subtle spiciness, and the flavours linger on the satisfying finish.
Canti Estate Barbera D’Asti Superiore 2011, $12.95, should be a “no-brainer”. We rarely see Barberas with their lifted acidity, and this one may do nicely. Some have found it overly dry and a touch bitter, but others have noted fruit on the nose, with tart cherry and tobacco on the palate.
Rede Reserva 2010, $13.95, has “juicy plum flavors…dense tannins…and concentrated texture – a stylish wine” – 91 – Wine Enthusiast.
Chateau Haut-Mazières 2014, $15.95, scored 95 at last year’s Decanter World Wine Awards, which described it as “beautiful, complex, and satisfying” with loads of jammy cassis and plum fruit… Superb.”
Tessellae Old Vines Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre Côtes Du Roussillon 2014, $18.95 – Domaine Lafage is another producer worth paying attention to, whose wines are often praised by the robertparker.com reviewers. In this case the fruit comes from 70 year-old vines. “Uncomplicated but rich, fleshy and very well balanced”, it sports “red and
black cherries, earth spice, pepper…and garrigue.”
Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, $29.95, is a dense but oh-so-smooth red wine from the Napa Valley. Considering an acre of Cabernet Vineyard in the Valley can cost a ga-zillion dollars and your first born son, finding a wine of this calibre at this price is a bit astounding. The balance is impeccable and the blackcurrant and plum fruit is off-set by a distinctly savoury element on the finish – a touch of coffee? This should work beautifully with grilled lamb chops!
Still in many of the stores is Simi Sonoma County Merlot 2014, $22.95. In the movie, Sideways, the character Myles gave Merlot a bad rap. It was ironic, in that while Pinot Noir was celebrated, Myles is shown in one scene in a fast food restaurant consoling himself with wine in a plastic cup poured from a bottle concealed in a paper bag.
What was it? The magnificent Chateau Cheval Blanc 1961… a Merlot! The movie did have a negative impact on the sales – and enjoyment- of Merlot, but try the Simi and you will find a wine of energy and flavour, with an impact of berry fruit and spice balanced by smooth tannins and herbal notes. Try it. You’ll like it.
From the regular list
Fleur du Cap Chardonnay Bergkelder Selection 2015, $13.10 is a decent, fairly simple chardonnay that still delivers good pear-like fruit over a citrus backbone with satisfying length. At this price-point, it is well made and definitely worth drinking.
Save the Date!
A Stratus Tasting at Stokely
On July 21/22, Marketing Director for Stratus Vineyards, Charles Baker, will lead guests through a tasting of Stratus Wines, with the tasting followed by a dinner where each course will be paired with a specific wine from Stratus, one of the premier producers in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Guests will over-night at Stokely Creek Lodge, and will be served a Brunch with wines on Saturday morning.
Further details will follow, and you can expect an exceptional experience.