Lawrason’s Take on Vintages October 26 Release

Cabernet’s World, Bordeaux 2010, White Dabbler, Pinot Watch, The Closer

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

I have posted 117 reviews from VINTAGES October 26 release to WineAlign this week, a global smorgasbord the likes of which few in the world ever have an opportunity to experience at one sitting (actually three sittings). Even though one might wish Ontario has even more wines available (as most large markets do), there is no doubting the diversity that VINTAGES offers through its selection process.  Speaking of great selections, WineAlign announced the results of the World Wine Awards of Canada this week. You can see the best list of value wines in the country right here. Onward to some highlights of this Saturday’s release (most stores have products in stock now, Queens Quay in Toronto was stocking on Tuesday).

Cabernet World

It’s a cabernet world after all. I have tasted and will be tasting dozens of great and often very expensive cabernets in October. There were plenty on the last VINTAGES release, then an inundation of fine Napa cabernets for sale at VINTAGES-sponsored Napa Rocks on October 21, where I moderated a winemaker panel tasting that included killers like the 2001 Heitz Martha’s Vineyard and 2010 La Jota Vineyard. On October 28 I will be in Montreal with several WineAlign colleagues for the Wolf Blass Master Blend Classification of 18 of the world’s best cabernets. The following day, October 29, I am moderating a VINTAGES Cabernet Masterclass. A Structured Tasting and Dinner at Mistura in Toronto that explores this grape from leading producers on three continents – Chateau Rauzan-Segla in Bordeaux, Beringer in California and Wynns in Australia. Eighteen great cabernets are on the docket! Tickets are still available at

In the wake of the Napa Rocks event I was able, for the first time in my career, to sit down with the much heralded and very expensive wines of California winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett (, who local scribes have dubbed “The First Lady of Napa”.  I will deal off the top with the price issue – no wine in my books is intrinsically worth over $400. But I am not the one spending the money and there are other reasons one might want to own them. The Amuse Bouche 2011 Red ($419) and the Au Sommet Atlas 2010 Peak Cabernet Sauvignon ($429) are available to order through VINTAGES via the Napa Rocks event, while others are available via private order through agent Bernard Stramwasser at Le Sommelier Inc. The Amuse Bouche 2011 is a very finely nuanced, Pomerol-inspired merlot with surprising restraint and elegance for a California wine, whereas the Au Sommet is a more typical Napa (mountain) red with power, sturdy bones and a drenching of ripe blackcurrant. Both have extraordinary length. Personally I just loved the name and the sublimely elegant and rich PharoahMoans 2011 Syrah from Paso Robles.

Here are some notable cabernets from elsewhere on the October 26 release:

Dunn Cabernet Sauvignon 2009Sassicaia 2010Ernie Els Cabernet Sauvignon 2011Ernie Els 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa  ($23.95) is from the Cape’s foremost professional golfer. The winery is thoroughly modern and dead serious about making fine Stellenbosch cabernet.  This is a very good value in a quite lush yet still mineral driven Cape example.

Sassicaia 2010 Bolgheri, Tuscany ($184.95) is of course the most collected cabernet of Italy. Every time I taste Sassicaia I am underwhelmed thanks to a certain leanness and austerity. Some might view it is a Bordeaux classicism – and I totally get that Sassicaia is intentionally molded thus – but in this instance I was not happy with a streak of volatility that makes it even more angular and sharp-edged.

Dunn 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($109.95). This power-packed muscular cabernet is only available at VINTAGES flagship stores. Randy Dunn is famous for pioneering viticulture in the steep, volcanic based soils of Howell Mountain, part of the Vaca Range on the east side of the Valley.

Bordeaux 2010

VINTAGES magazine gives an accurate account of this excellent Bordeaux vintage so I won’t repeat, except to say that I have been raving about France’s 2010s since tasting the first whites about 18 months ago in Alsace. And along come the Bordeaux’s packing the same sense of balance, firmness, tension and depth, while being almost perfectly ripe. To me it is most reminiscent of 2005 – my favourite vintage of that decade. The selection of 2010s hitting the shelves now are the so-called “petits chateaux”, wines that are sanely priced and affordable, giving Bordeaux newcomers a great opportunity to explore. Only two hit 90 points or better in my books, but that is not a problem. Most scored 88-89, which at prices of $25 or less is totally reasonable.

Château Rahoul 2010Château Les Tours De Peyrat Vieilles Vignes 2010Château Rahoul 2010 Graves ($29.95) is my favourite of the lot, with terrific precision and depth. It is a small property that was upgraded in the 80s and admitted to the Union des Grands Crus. I have been following its arrivals at VINTAGES over the years as an affordable bellwether.

Château Les Tours De Peyrat 2010 Vieilles Vignes, Côtes de Bordeaux – Blaye ($18.95) is great value, a modern merlot based wine from an organic 16 ha property overseen by winemaker Christelle Souboua.  This Château belongs to an association of small properties called Châteaux Solidaires.

Château Brandeau 2010Château La Vieille Forge 2010Château Le Vieille Forge 2010 Lalande de Pomerol ($23.95) is from an important region adjacent to Pomerol, separated only by a small river called the Barbanne. Like Pomerol its wines are based on merlot, and with Pomerol prices now stratospheric this gentle neighbourhood has seen much upgrading and gentrification. One of the great value hunting grounds of Bordeaux.

Château Brandeau 2010, Côtes de Bordeaux Castillon $16.95. Owned by a British family since 1973 and now in the hands of a second generation, this organically tended ten hectare vineyard is 80% merlot and 20% cabernet franc. Castillon is one of the best value regions in Bordeaux for classic, supple, fruit driven merlots.

A 90 Point White Wine Dabbler

Lest some very fine white wines be forgotten amid the red rumblings on this release; here is a diverse selection that surprised and pleased.

Elk Cove Pinot Gris 2012Castello Della Sala Bramìto Del Cervo Chardonnay 2012Elk Cove 2012 Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley ($24.95). Oregon anointed pinot gris as its signature white about 25 years ago – largely as an anti-chardonnay statement – and some of its older vine sites are now proving it was more than just a good marketing decision. Hand harvested from low-yielding, sustainably farmed hillside sites, this pinot gris surprised me with its evenness and depth.

Castello Della Sala 2012 Bramìto Del Cervo Chardonnay, Italy ($21.95). This is great value – a second wine from Antinori’s impressive estate in limestone clay soils high in the hills of Umbria, not too far from Orvieto. It is not nearly as concentrated as big sister Cervaro della Sala, but just as bright and well made (with some barrel fermentation), and more likely to fit as an aperitif and with lighter meals. Very classy.

Jean Marc Brocard Chablis Montmains 1er CruJoseph Cattin Hatschbourg Gewürztraminer 2010Joseph Cattin Hatschbourg 2010 Gewürztraminer, Alsace Grand Cru, France  ($19.95). I find it amazing that Grand Cru Alsatian wines are landing here at $20. We’ll take it as consumers I guess, but I bet the producers are none to chipper about this state of affairs. Anyway, here is a powerhouse from a single vineyard with marl and limestone soils. Batten down the hatches – this is a big blowsy and windy gewurz.

Jean-Marc Brocard 2011 Chablis 1er Cru, Montmains Burgundy, France ($29.95) – I am delighted to see a fairly steady flow of Brocard Chablis through VINTAGES. They are authentic Chablis with all the right flavours but they have just a bit more elan than many of the firm, mineral editions from some smaller houses. A great intro to the region.

Pinot Watch

One mustn’t let cabernet blind one to great pinots on this release.

Hartley-Ostini 2010 Hitching Post Hometown Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County, California ($26.95) offers excellent value, indeed I am surprised this is not $10 more. The Hitching Post restaurant and its wine starred in the movie Sideways back in 2005, and since then pals Gray Hartley and chef/owner Frank Ostini have moved production into a new “ultra premium” facility at Terravant Winery.

Hitching Post Hometown Pinot Noir 2010Yabby Lake Single Vineyard Pinot NoirDomaine Antonin Guyon Corton Bressandes Grand Cru 2010Yabby Lake Vineyard 2010 Pinot Noir,  Mornington Peninsula, Australia ($51.95). Like Hitching Post Yabby Lake is something of local hero. The winery was founded by the Kirby family of Mornington in 1992, but it has since expanded to holdings in other parts of Victoria as well. Pinot remains the focus however, and other locals are involved in the winemaking. Quality is consistently high across their range of pinots.

Domaine Antonin Guyon 2010 Corton Bressandes Grand Cru ($85.00). This mid-sized domaine based in Savigny-les-Beaune with holdings spread across 19 appellations. Their vineyard in Corton Bressandes, the source of this gorgeous, ethereal pinot is a mere .85ha. This wine is only in VINTAGES “flagship” stores.

The Closer

Ramos Pinto RP30 Years Old Tawny PortIn the last edition I left you with a pair of great sherries; here I will end with a sublime tawny port. Tawny by definition and colour is aged in barrel much longer than other wines. But to find a wine that has been in barrel an average of 30 years is rare indeed – and a great lesson in maturity. Ramos Pinto RP30 Years Old Tawny Port,  Douro Valley, Portugal  ($103.95) is simply sensational, and one to consider for the sideboard over the Holiday Season.

That’s a wrap for this edition. I will be back with much, much more prior to the Nov 9 release. Meantime, I hope to see you at what promises to be a raucous and memorable evening with the iconoclastic Jane Ferrari who is coming to town to present the Australian wines of Yalumba.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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From the Oct 26, 2013 Vintages release:

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Penfolds Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

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