Ten New Wines To Put Spring in Your Step; by David Lawrason
It’s been on a long trudge through winter for most Canadians, but spring is officially here, and you may be in the mood for some lighter fare at the table. Even better if the wines are moderately priced when it comes to entertaining larger groups of family and friends for Easter festivities.
While Steve Thurlow continues a respite from his monthly column on Top 50 Values, and begins working on organizing WineAlign’s new National Wine Awards, I would like to present some interesting new brands and new vintages on the LCBO’s general list. Some are also available where indicated in B.C. Liquor Stores.
There is a tilt to California as we are in the midst of a nationwide promotion that sees new wines arriving and some prices temporarily reduced in Ontario, until April 1. Any little summery boost is welcome. For ratings and other comments click on the links to reviews in WineAlign.com
Lucky Penny 2011 White from Southeast Australia (ON $16.95) is a new brand by John Casella of Yellowtail. It’s a fresh, smooth, sweetish white that blends several varieties, offering quite pure, clean apricot-peach fruit, honey aromas and flavours, set in a sleek texture. A great sipper that will also work with Easter ham. Chill well.
Robert Mondavi 2010 Chardonnay from California’s Napa Valley (BC $29.99, ON $23.95) brings some class to the LCBO’s California section. It packs in virtually every element you might want in Napa chardonnay, in a very measured way. If you want ripe stone fruit (peach/apricot) fruit – check. Gentle smoky oak, caramel complexity – check. Spice and tobacco – check. And they are all wrapped in a fairly full, creamy yet still refreshing palate with fine acidity. A bit warm on the finish, but there is enough fruit, complexity and even a hint of minerality. Check.
Santa Barbara 2010 Collection Chardonnay (ON $16.95) delivers the lush, semi-tropical and good acid balance I look for from the Santa Barbara region. This shows ripe peach, honey, nougat and butterscotch aromas, as well as generous oak smoke. It’s medium-full bodied, polished smooth, a touch sweet and a bit coarse and hot. But it delivers some California opulence at a fair price.
Hess 2010 Select Chardonnay (BC $19.99, ON $16.00) from Monterey County south of San Francisco has a cooler feel. It is a smooth, shiny chardonnay with apple fruit, vanillin, coconut and a touch of interesting lemongrass on the nose. It’s mid-weight, a notably sweeter than some, with some lemony acidity, warmth and coarseness on the finish. Chill well.
Matua Valley 2012 Sauvignon Blanc (BC $16.99, ON $15.95). Hails from warmer Hawke’s Bay region of New Zealand, not cooler Marlborough. So it is a bit riper than NZ savvy fans might expect, with peach/apricot yellow fruit plus the typical nettle and peppery notes. A bit floral as well. It’s medium-weight with some creamy viscosity and sweetness, then a nicely bitter lemon-grapefruit finish. Quite spicy as well. The length is very good. Keep it well chilled.
Chateau St. Jean 2011 Pinot Noir (On $17.95) is a new California appellation pinot from this Sonoma-based winery. In other words, the grapes come from more than one region within California. It’s supple, smooth and slightly soft with a generous nose of smoke, chocolate, cran-raspberry fruit and dried herbs. It’s a bit warm (13.8% abv) but not too hot; the tannins are supple; the length is very good with more pinot tension, woodsy and earthy character on the finish than on the nose. Good to very good length. Best over the next two years.
Beringer Founders Estate 2011 Zinfandel ($15.95) is a great choice for all round easy sipping of a lighter, fruit red. It is a floral, plummy, berry scented zinfandel – a bit confected but catching decent fruit essence without resorting to over-oaking and turning it into a Starbucks red like so many cheap zin peers. It’s medium weight, fresh and well balanced with very fine tannin, and a pleasantly dry, vaguely earthy finish.
Clos Du Bois 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.95) from California’s broad North Coast appellation is very good value in a well-made, mid-weight California cabernet. There is a touch of mocha confection but cabernet’s blackcurrant fruit and slightly minty/herbaceous notes shine through. It’s medium weight, fresh, fairly supple and well balanced with good acidity, slightly gritty cabernet tannin and currant fruit streaming nicely on the finish. Easter leg of lamb?
L’Evidence 2011 Bordeaux ($16.95) is surprisingly smooth, fairly dense and well composed young Bordeaux dominated by merlot. Oak is well in the background allowing floral, plummy/berry fruit and vague tobacco and a touch of wet woodsy character to show through. It’s medium weight, quite supple with slightly green tannin that is acceptable given it is such a young Bordeaux. You could enjoy it now while the fruit is in full bloom, or age it a year to soften it even more. Very good length.
Cave De Rasteau 2010 Les Peyrieres from Cotes du Rhone-Villages in the south of France offers good character and complexity for $12.60. Although labelled Cotes du Rhone-Villages the grenache, syrah, mourvedre and cinsault fruit is from vineyards near the village of Rasteau. Hailing from an excellent vintage this offers good heft and structure with ripe plum, black olive, peppery and woodsy aromas and flavours. It is however rather coarse and tannic and gritty on the finish, so not a wine to offer for easy sipping. Give it a year, or decant, let breathe and serve with rich meals.
Watch this space next week for our picks of some of the best wineries pouring at the upcoming California Wine Fairs. And looking past Easter weekend and into the real days of spring, join WineAlign at the Good Food & Drink Festival April 5 to 7 at the Direct Energy Centre.
David Lawrason, VP of Wine