Lawrason’s Take on Vintages Nov. 24th Release

Wines that Keep on Giving

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The flood of holiday releases crests this week with dozens of big names, and many very good,  less well-known wines. There are no specific regional or varietal themes – it’s all about impressing and being impressed. So this newsletter is a straightforward gift list, presented by price. No matter what your budget I want you to feel comfortable that you are actually giving wines that will please, and even over-deliver, rather than just impress on price and reputation alone.

Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet SauvignonFar Niente Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009Best over $100

It’s very hard to find value at this price point, but I sure do want to be very impressed by quality. In my books any wine over $100 should be rating 95 points +, but very often they don’t. They are merely excellent. There are a couple of beauties here however that I would be very tempted to buy.  Far Niente Estate 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley clocks in at a cool $139.95, but I have rated it 95 points for its sense of power and structure. Many Napa cabs shoot for seamless refinement and suppleness, which sometimes I interpret as laziness, but this stands up and says it is proud to be cabernet.

And so does Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon at $99.95. In fact, this is almost too manly – a brooding, deep, gruff wine that will take years of TLC in the cellar before it shows any emotion. But you can tell it does have layers of character. Hey ladies, want to send a message to anyone on your list?

And finally, although I am not actually recommending Ornellaia 2009 at $189.95, I do want to point out its very impressive, seductive textural presence – the richest honking merlot I think I have ever experienced, even if the ripeness of the vintage makes it taste more like an amarone (but hey, it’s at least Italian). Any collector would love this, especially without having to pay for it.

Elderton Command Single Vineyard ShirazChâteau De Beaucastel Châteauneuf Du PapeBest over $80

Elderton Command 2008 Single Vineyard Shiraz from the Barossa in South Australia is among my top scoring wines of the release, and fair value at $89.95. I was not expecting to be as impressed, but the sense of marbling and its endless length caught my attention. It keeps on giving indeed! It also offers immediate pleasure so put it on your list for the person who just loves to rip open their presents.

Château de Beaucastel 2010 Châteauneuf du Pape ($89.95) is another wine collectors love to own, but give this to those who have the patience and perspicacity to appreciate a work of art in progress. It is so finely tuned and effortless and reserved that it would be easy to overlook its flirtation with perfection, especially in terms of its ripeness.

Kilikanoon Green's Vineyard Shiraz 2009Cliff Lede Stags Leap District Cabernet SauvignonBest over $60

Philippe Colin 2008 Chassagne-Montrachet Les Chaumées 1er Cru ($69.95) is a masterful chardonnay of terrific complexity and tension that will age a very long time, if you can keep your hands off it. Founded only in 2004, with about 27 acres focused in Chassagne, Philippe Colin’s mineral-driven wines have rapidly risen through the ranks. So give it to a white Burgundy fan who will appreciate something new.

Cliff Lede 2009 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley ($74.95) is a sturdy yet refined and dense cabernet for the cellar, more impressive than most of the pricier, big-gun California cabs on this release. This would make an ideal gift for the corporate titan who dreams of chucking it all to become a vintner, and goodness knows there are many of them around. Canadian Cliff Lede has made a great success of himself by doing just that.

And for the Australian red fan on your list also consider the voluminous, powerful but young Kilikanoon 2009 Green’s Vineyard Shiraz ($74.95) from the Barossa Valley.  James Halliday, the most pro-Aussie writer in Australia has named Kilikanoon his Winery of the Year in 2013, and even if I find Halliday almost too generous as a critic, I have to admit that Kilikanoon keeps on delivering for me too. I especially like that there is a semblance of finesse amid all the power of this old-vine single-vineyard wine from the heart of Barossa.

Best over $40

Stratus White 2009Dow's Quinta Do Bomfim Vintage PortHere the field becomes a bit more crowded, the choices more difficult, and the value quotient higher. You can start to think about buying multiple bottles in this price range, if the budgetary shoe fits. Stratus White ($44.20) from Niagara-on-the-Lake remains one of the most intriguing whites grown in Canada, a barrel blend dominated by semillon and sauvignon blanc in this cool, terrific 2009 white wine vintage.

Among reds I was very intrigued by the unique flavour profile and energy level of Massena 2006 The Eleventh Hour Shiraz ($48.95) again from the Barossa Valley. From Italy, Brigaldara 2008 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico ($49.95) is a riveting piece of work with amazing ripeness, sweetness, silk and sensuality. Your giftee may want to try this right away, and then another bottle too. Consider bundling a three-pack if your budget allows.

Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim 1999 Vintage Port ($54.95) is a great opportunity to introduce the new wine lover on your list to a mature port at a very affordable price. Lovely harmonies here.

Best Over $20

Villa Ponciago La Réserve FleurieVolpaia Chianti Classico 2009At this price you might want to consider a mixed case of these terrific Euro reds. Descendientes de J. Palacios 2010 Pétalos is way underpriced at $23.95. Regular readers may remember our WineAlign event with winemaker Alvaro Palacios last spring and my general gushing over his elegant, nuanced and powerful reds made from the native mencia grape in the remote Bierzo region of northwestern Spain. His next vintage of Petalos does not disappoint, but I would age this a couple of years.

Still in Europe Volpaia 2009 Chianti Classico ($23.95) is a wonderfully sensual sangiovese from a classic estate perched in a medieval hilltop village. Give this to the romantic on your list, especially if you include two tickets to Tuscany in the stocking as well. And still in Italy, I was shocked by the fragrance, charm and complexity of Socré 2008 Barbaresco, a great buy at $34.95.

And from France, Villa Ponciago 2011 La Réserve Fleurie ($21.95) is the perfect gift for your favourite wine writer. I have always been a huge fan of Fleurie, the most charming gamay of all the cru villages of Beaujolais, and this serious new “haut-couture” plot-by-plot effort to re-establish the lustre, elegance and terroir of gamay is spot-on.

Best under $20

Musella Vigne Nuove Valpolicella SuperioreChâteau Tour Saint Vincent 2009And finally there are some stocking stuffers that will make a real impression. Musella Vigne Nuove 2009 Valpolicella Superiore is surprising complex, smooth and long on the finish. An utterly charming, and classic, Valpolicella for a mere $15.95.

Château Tour Saint-Vincent 2009 Médoc is delicious and great value at $19.95, a testament to how a great vintage can uplift an unknown property.

And from Chile don’t miss Santa Carolina 2009 Specialties Dry Farming Carignan from the Cauquenes Valley – a quite profound and energetic wine for $15.95 that may signal an exciting new direction for Chilean viticulture.

And that is it for this time – more to come just prior to the huge last release of the year on December 8. See all my featured wines and all the November 24 release reviews below.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From the November 24th, 2012 Vintages release:

David’s Featured Wines
All Reviews


Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Rosehill Wine Cellars