Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Dec 12, Part One
Holiday Gifting and Gathering
By David Lawrason, with notes by John Szabo and Sara d’Amato
The last Vintages release of 2015 is as big or bigger than any this year, designed to bulk up the shelves down the holiday home stretch – the most intense shopping period of the year. For starters, there is a large selection of sparkling wine. John Szabo and Sara tease with three dandies below but John will be publishing his comprehensive fizz report in the days ahead. The other Vintages ‘theme’ is Holiday Gatherings, which contains a smorgasbord of styles and prices. Many of the high-priced and highly prized collectibles were released in November, and some are already off the shelves.
So without much ado we have chosen to divide the selection by price point – wines over $25 in this edition in the expectation that you may want to be thinking ahead and budgeting for more expensive gifts. Next week we turn the focus onto less expensive wines under $25, which can be grabbed up with less pre-meditation as stocking stuffers or last minute going-to-a-party wines. But as always our selections are value-based within their price tier.
Hidden Bench 2013 Fumé Blanc, Rosomel Vineyard, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($27.95)
David Lawrason Since launching his highly successful estate winery with the 2005 vintage, owner Harald Thiel has been setting a benchmark for Bordeaux-style, barrel whites thanks to old semillon and sauvignon vines in the Rosomel Vineyard. No one else in Niagara has touched their quality. Nuits Blanche is the top expression, but this Fume Blanc comes close. Something different for the turkey table.
Sara d’Amato – A lightly smoky sauvignon blanc with more richness and viscosity than is traditional. A classy offering on a festive occasion.
Jermann 2014 Chardonnay, Venezia Giulia, Italy ($34.95)
David Lawrason – From one of the great white wine producers of Italy, this is a chardonnay that will restore the faith of those who have left the chardonnay fold. It’s taut, fresh and elegant with a bouquet of fruit and flowers well ahead of the well-fitted oak. Delicious and classy.
La Follette 2012 Sangiacomo Vineyard Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California ($50.00)
David Lawrason – Here’s a situation where the vineyard – planted in 1927 in lower Sonoma/Carneros – is more well-known than the winery. That’s because La Folette is a fairly new winery name (formerly Tandem) with veteran chardonnay-pinot noir specialist Greg La Folette (ex Flowers, Kendall-Jackson, Beaulieu) at the helm. It’s a powerful, complex, reductive Burgundian style chardonnay with great complexity and length.
Punset 2010 Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy ($55.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a gorgeous, floral-fragrant, potpourri and faded red berry scented Barbaresco in an absolutely classic mould that will surely impress. Be sure to forewarn your giftee that it’s still several years away from prime, another 3-5 years in the cellar. Best 2018-2025.
Sara d’Amato – A Barbaresco with the firmness and depth of a Barolo. Cherry, leather and dried herbs are wonderfully harmonious and sing in the glass. Still requires time to open up so decant in the morning or afternoon before serving.
David Lawrason – Here is a rugged, powerful and rustic Barbaresco to add to an Italian cellar. The irony is that it is one of very few Barbarescos or Barolos made by a woman (Marina Macarino), and made organically. It was a great vintage that will age long. It’s medium-bodied, very firm, dry and very tannic but the flavours pour through the sieve.
Burgess 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California ($56.95)
David Lawrason – Many of the big name Napa cabernets were released last month (except for the $200 Caymus Special Selection coming Dec 12). This much better value Burgess is a cab lovers cab, with great aromatics of lifted blackcurrant, fresh mint/evergreen, nicely inlaid with cedar, pepper and lavender. It’s medium-full bodied, fairly dense, warm and engaging.
Stonestreet 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California ($52.95)
John Szabo – A terrific option for fans of bold, impressive reds, with some regional name brand recognition, Stonestreet’s exceptional Alexander Mountain property delivers wines of exceptional class. This is densely knit and tightly woven, offering a fine range of ripe, fleshy dark fruit, integrated barrel spice, and excellent length, and would compete handily with many mountain Napa cabernets at twice the price. Best 2015-2028.
Beringer 2011 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California ($164.95)
Sara d’Amato – A special occasion bottle best enjoyed in good company. The cooler 2011 vintage is wildly expressive and refreshingly less heavy and bold than in previous incarnations.
Penfolds Bin 389 2012 Cabernet/Shiraz, South Australia ($59.95)
David Lawrason – Long vaunted as the ‘Baby Grange’ this wine has always struck me as more than that – certainly value – now that Grange as attained unreachable prices. This is such a classic – very deep, dense and ripe Aussie red that is all about restraint (believe it or not). It’s full bodied, sinewy, warm and dense. Powerpacked, and structured to live for decades, although you or your giftee will enjoy it whenever the urge strikes.
Barossa Valley Estate 2008 Ebenezer Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($39.95)
David Lawrason – If you missed the sensational E&E Black Pepper Shiraz last month, the junior Ebenezer is a great comparative value at less than half the price. It’s full bodied, dense, rich and firm. Very dry, inky and intense – a dry, Barossa classic. Great depth, length and extension.
Domaine Gagey 2013 Clos Du Roy Marsannay, Burgundy, France ($44.95)
David Lawrason – For that someone on your list who fancies fine pinot noir – or finer things in general – this Burgundy is light to medium bodied, firm, fresh and even with an engaging, almost haunting nose of pink flowers, pomegranate-cherry fruit and very fine oak smoke and spice. Give it a year to soften just a bit.
Château L’Hermitage 2003 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France ($39.95)
Sara d’Amato – This tiny four hectare property produces lush merlot and their blend is usually made up of at least 90% of the varietal. Behind the wine’s plush nature, there is a great vibrancy offering balance. You’ll have to go to the big store to find this Flagship Store Exclusive.
Sparklers and Sweets
Henry Of Pelham 2010 Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche, Estate Blanc De Blanc, Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($44.95)
John Szabo – An excellent bubbly, in the top class of Canadian sparkling, Henry of Pelham’s premium bottling of pure chardonnay finds a very elegant expression in the 2010 vintage. It would make for a fine and smart gift for both proud locavores and demanding wine lovers, drinking now, or hold for 2-3 years for additional toasty complexity.
Tarlant Brut Rosé, Champagne, France ($62.95)
Sara d’Amato – This low-dosage Champagne from the house of Tarlant is refreshing and festive with a chic, pale colour. A tingling peppery palate and a fresh mineral component add extra sparkle.
Ca’ Del Bosco Cuvée Prestige Brut, DOCG Franciacorta, Lombardy, Italy ($39.95)
John Szabo – Impress with your breadth and depth of wine knowledge by gifting this excellent bottle from Italy’s premier sparkling wine region. Leader Ca’ del Bosco’s prestige cuvée is intensely biscuity and toasty, full flavoured and impressively complex, in an elegant yet powerful style.
Château Dereszla 2008 5 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszú, Hungary ($45.95)
John Szabo – For something different and exotic from one of the world’s legendary regions, choose this tokaji aszú; you can be sure plenty of Hungarian-Canadians will be sharing it over the holidays. It’s crafted in the mature, more old school style, which is to say highly savoury-spicy and replete with dried apricot and dried peach fruit, ginger and Sichuan pepper spice. 5 puttonyos means considerable residual sugar (c. 150grams/liter), but this is balanced on a firm frame of acids, and the finish lingers admirably. Best 2015-2028.
Thanks for taking the time to read this far during your busy holiday season, and if you are still thinking about how best to share your interest in wine with friends and family consider purchasing a subscription to WineAlign, which will give them a thirty-day head start to purchase our most highly recommended wines. Or have a look at The National Wine Awards Wine of the Month Club to bring you direct delivery of Canadian wines that have taken top honours at the National Wine Awards of Canada.
Until next week…
VP of Wine
From VINTAGES December 12, 2015
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