VINTAGES Holiday Gift Guide
Wines we would Happily Give or Receive
By David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel
Part of giving is sharing what you like, no? So with that in mind, Sara, Michael and I have each contributed four to five wines each that we would be happy to give or receive.
I really like my five wines below, for different reasons as explained. None are bombastic, big reds and all are excellent quality (91+ points) in a technical sense. They are also an affordable way to show some generosity. I have set a cap of $50, because I feel that gifting wines over $50 can sometimes become more about the price than what’s in the bottle. With this selection I know any wine lover will be happy with the wines, and a non-wine lover will not feel intimidated, and probably enjoy them too. And oh yes, all were showing decent stock at the LCBO VINTAGES stores as of December 19. Use the Find This Wine feature to locate bottles nearest you.
Reds Under $50 I would Happily Give or Receive
La Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza Reserva 2007, Spain ($44.95)
This year I spent a lot of time in the Wines of Spain LCBO destination store at Bloor West and Royal York in Etobicoke, where this wine now resides among over 100 others. La Rioja Alta is simply one of the great producers of Spain and this is a classic from Spain’s most important region. It somehow borrows the structure of Bordeaux and flavours of great aged Burgundy, but it is very much a warm-hearted Spaniard. It really is among the very best mature “ready” wines on the shelf, and over 1,000 bottles remained as of Dec 19.
Castello di Ama San Lorenzo 2011, Tuscany, Italy ($48.95)
Castello di Ama is a legendary producer, and this is a gorgeous, modern Chianti. I was surprised to find that over 500 bottles are still in the LCBO, but perhaps most Chianti lovers just found it a bit too expensive. I encourage you to go for it. There is ballast and elegance and complexity. It could be aged for a couple of years, but an hour or two in a decanter will also do the job if you want to get at it right away.
Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage 2012, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($38.00)
In hotter vintages Niagara cabernet-merlot based reds can be very good indeed, in a Bordeaux construct not Napa. And when made with the customary care that puts Hidden Bench atop my charts in Niagara, the quality becomes very exciting. This as fine a Bordeaux red as yet produced in Ontario aromatics that reminded me of the florality in Margaux. This should be cellared another three years and should live a decade. 939 bottles remained as December 19.
Auntsfield Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand ($25.95)
New Zealand’s every-three-years pinot festival comes up at the end of January, and our Sara d’Amato is on her way. Every since experiencing it 2014 I have become a huge fan of NZ pinot noir – with its sense of New World fruit generosity yet solid terroir driven backbone. This is a prime example from the clay soils of Marlborough’s Southern Valleys. What a lovely, pure and generous pinot! Stocks are slimming but 291 bottles remain as of December 19.
Domaine Theulot Juillot Mercurey Premier Cru La Cailloute 2014, Burgundy, France ($39.95)
With prices of even basic village pinot noir from Brugundy’s Cote d’Or heading north of $50, I am always looking to Mercurey and neighbouring villages in the Chalonnais for authenticity and value. This quite deeply coloured, ruby shaded youngster is from 35 year old vines on upper slopes. It is really engaging and energetic if a bit roughshod for now. I might have placed this somewhere on the Cote de Nuits in a blind tasting. Age it three to five years. 780 bottles remaining as of December 19.
Mercat Brut Nature Cava, Traditional Method, Spain ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – Bubbles are an almost essential part of holiday entertaining and here a traditional method style that delivers a great deal of pizzazz and intrigue for the price. Crisp and quite dry with a notable mineral flavour, citrus and sea salt along with a light toastiness due to an 18 month lees ageing process. The lively, eye-catching label was inspired by a traditional Catalan market experience – full of activity, tradition and a communal spirit.
Château Andron Blanquet 2010, Saint Estèphe, Bordeaux, France ($39.95)
Unintentionally, my gift giving picks this year are focused on classic wine regions and the northern Bordelaise left bank appellation of Saint Estèphe is one which I have always favored. The wines here tend to be approachable in nature, often with higher acidity than the rest of the Haut-Médoc and offer sweetly spiced aromatics. Saint Estèphe’s clay based soils are quite different from those of the surrounding regions making this a merlot driven area much like Pomerol. This 2010 stunner of a vintage from Andron Blanquet is nearly ready to drink offering an gratifying experience with great dimension of flavour and harmony.
Shea Wine Cellars 2012 Estate Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA ($74.95)
Sara d’Amato – An absolutely luxurious pinot noir, distinctively Shea with a wild aromatic, exotically spiced profile and a lush but silky texture. Sophisticated but not overly refined allowing the slightly feral, untamable character of pinot noir to shine through. A very small-lot production available only as a flagship store exclusive.
E. Guigal 2010 Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France ($63.93)
Sara d’Amato – Over the feasting season, a complex red wine that won’t fill you up is a notable find. Guigal’s reliably charming Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a mid-weight blend offering a seductive mesh of jammy red fruit, dusty earth, lavender, rosemary and anise. It is supple enough now for immediate enjoyment but has the stuffing to cellar into the next decade.
Señorío de P. Peciña Reserva 2009, Doca Rioja, Spain ($29.95)
This is Rioja with a funky, handsome and charming old-school stride, of creamy volatility and a full-fledged aromatic field of sweet lavender. Old wood has melted and softened into the texture of the tempranillo though there is this persistent and balancing peppery bite. Nice length too. Will live to 15 with ease.
Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Montmains Chablis 1er Cru 2014, Burgundy, France ($34.95)
First tasted at the domain with Romain Collet. From 40 year-old vines on mostly white calcaire stony soil and how can you not taste it?! Chablis the way it has to be, leaning back in traditional time but rendered with 21st century clean purity. No surprises and zero waver from the proper and the norm. Well-priced and every Chablis lover should try this at least once.
Burrowing Owl Meritage 2013, BC VQA Okanagan Valley ($58.95)
An interesting vintage is 2013 especially for the Owl’s big amelioration, a meritage with acidity and tannin to drive this deep into the next decade. Extraction is all about what works on the palate but what is astounding in 2013 is the lack of barrel influence. This is not a chocolate bomb nor java nether. It is certainly built on extraction but it does not cloy and it certainly speaks with clarity. It has improved with time in the bottle too. Give it some love.
Two Hands Bella’s Garden Shiraz 2014, Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia ($64.95)
By my count this is the 15th Bella’s Garden shiraz, a wine of great poise and extraction. There is always this prescience and admirable level of restraint in the Bella, from press to presence in bottle. A seductive syrah for mild-mannered human beings.
Wishing you all very happy holidays with plenty of good wine to share.
VP of Wine