Buyers Guide to VINTAGES – Oct 13th, 2018

All the Expensive Wines!
By David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

So here we go. Thanksgiving is upon us, the pivot point that sends us barrelling toward the holidays way out there in December. So in this release, VINTAGES is revving up with several more expensive wines – packaging them as bucket list wines – a term now mired in cliché. Which may be why VINTAGES catalogue is tweaking them as “Bouquet List” wines.

Anyway!! During my first visit to VINTAGES tasting Lab for this release I made it my mission to step up to the plate, sacrifice my palate to the greater good, and confine my tasting to wines that are – well – expensive. I define expensive roughly as wines over $40. And I am so pleased to report that most have scored 90+ (as they should).

Long time readers will know I have a problem with overvalued wines. Stardom, sanctity, scarcity and trendiness tend to trump intrinsic quality when it comes to pricing in the upper echelons.

Oddly, high prices actually tend to drive consumer thirst to experience such wines, not dissuade them. That’s because we homo sapiens are hard-wired to constantly crave better and more. If you don’t believe me read the brilliant “Homo Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind” by Yuval Noah.

So my job is to be a kind of cravings cop. To point out the expensive wines that are actually good value too. Below are some of the standouts from the October 13 release.

Austrian Masterclass

But I also add results from a major tasting from the Mark Anthony Brands portfolio held this week.

This has become the most prestigious wine company in Canada in my view – with a B.C. centred domestic portfolio that includes Mission Hill Family Estate, the reliable CedarCreek, as well as Martins Lane and Checkmate that are now making some of Canada’s most expensive wines. Mark Anthony is also an important importer – now representing, in Canada, iconic brands like Louis Latour of Burgundy, Penfolds of Australia, Beringer of California and dozens of others that were paraded for the trade at a packed, elbows-in, portfolio tasting in Toronto earlier this week.

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES Oct 13th, 2018

Greywacke 2017 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Priced well below expensive, but it doesn’t taste like it. There is something so fine and poised and delicate. The nose is generous but not aggressive with nicely metered and complex aromas of grapefruit, lime, cucumber, gooseberry and herbal notes. It is medium weight, fairly crisp yet still gentle, with excellent flavour intensity and length. One of the classiest sauvignons coming out of NZ.

Domaine Gaston & Pierre Ravaut 2015 Ladoix, Burgundy, France ($40.95)
Sara d’Amato – Ladoix is located on the cusp of the Côtes de Beaune and is characterised by pinot noirs exhibiting freshness and concentration of fruit.  This example from Domaine Gaston & Pierre offers a considerable degree of that acidity and finesse. A delicate layering of freshness like a mille-feuille supports and lifts the fruit, highlighting its juicy nature in a compelling fashion. Dried crunchy leaves and a collection of exotic spices are highly memorable on the finish.

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2017Domaine Gaston & Pierre Ravaut Ladoix 2015Brigaldara Cavolo Amarone della Valpolicella 2013

Brigaldara Cavolo 2013 Amarone della Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy ($46.95)
David Lawrason – I have always liked the authentic ring of the wines of Brigaldara. This is a fairly pale Amarone but nothing lightweight on the palate. It has a lifted nose of candied/marzipan cherry/strawberry fruit, rosemary, leather, and a note that oddly reminded me of honey (rare for red wines). It is full-bodied with considerable alcohol, but it is not out of tune with the fine. Tannins are fine and firm, acidity is very good. There is good energy here.

Masi Costasera 2012 Riserva Amarone della Valpolicella Classico, Veneto, Italy ($69.95)
David Lawrason – This is a rich, sublime Amarone with very complex dried fig, chocolate, beef jerky/chorizo, dried herbs/mint and vanilla. Compelling aromatics. It is full-bodied, dense, still fairly tannic but overall that helps because it brings a sense of dryness and restraint where so many Amarones can gush sweetness. Very classy.

Réva 2013 Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($59.95)
Sara d’Amato – A riveting Barolo made with minimal intervention. Very traditional in style with appreciable transparency of place and vintage. A long, spontaneous ferment is followed by maturation in large Austrian oak casks and used, neutral oak. The tannic presence is grippy and the freshness is notable which is typical of the 2013.  The fruit is clean and pure offering a multitude of layered flavours. Hold another 2-3 years for optimal expression.

Masi Costasera Riserva Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012Réva Barolo 2013Archimedes Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Archimedes 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley, California ($79.95)
David Lawrason – This is lovely, delicious and almost delicate, words not often strung together to describe California cab. It seems less dense than many, which is a good thing. It has a precise nose or red and black currant fruit, fresh herbs (thyme), spice, vanilla and graphite. Not quite as ripe as the average Napa cab but again, welcome. It is fairly firm with moderate acidity and some gritty tannin. Two more years. The length is excellent to outstanding.

Montes 2015 Purple Angel, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($62.95)
David Lawrason – One of my highest scoring wines of the release delivers an impeccable sense of purity, with vibrant aromas of blackcurrant, violets, evergreen and crushed black pepper. Oak is nicely background. It is full-bodied, fairly dense and almost creamy yet buoyed by good acidity, firm slightly green tannin. The focus and length are excellent. I would age this another two or three years. Anyone who says they don’t like carmenere needs to give this wine a chance.

Domaine Drouhin 2015 Roserock Pinot Noir, Eola-Amity Hills, Oregon ($41.95)
David Lawrason – Roserock is a newish label from Drouhin of Oregon, the fruit of a single vineyard in the cooler Eola-Amity Hills sub-region of the Willamette Valley that catches a bit more Pacific influence funnelled through a gap in the coastal hills. So expect cool clime cranberry-strawberry fruit, nicely accented with herbal/ever greenness, floral notes and oak that’s very much in the background. It is medium weight, fairly intense, fleshy yet compact with some alcohol heat. The length is excellent.

Montes Purple Angel 2015Domaine Drouhin Roserock Pinot Noir 2015Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2015

Cloudy Bay 2015 Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand, ($46.95)
Sara d’Amato – Here is a truly New Zealand style of pinot noir with juicy cherry, dried violet and even an intriguing note of kiwi fruit on the palate. Juicy, with a touch of the herbaceous, aloe and pine, with a playful sensation of tart and sweet. Notable tension with acidic buildup and fine tannic structure. Offering an impressive degree of complexity and finesse.

Elderton 2014 Command Single Vineyard Shiraz, Barossa, South Australia ($99.95)
David Lawrason – The price is a stretch, but this is a whopper that shows some refinement within its hugeness. It has a billowing and very complex nose of baked berry pie, all kinds of wood smoke, Barossa moss/dried eucalyptus leaf and some coconutty oak vanilla. It is full-bodied, almost satiny-soft, very warm and rich on the palate – with chocolate and dried fruit on the finish. So much going on here with outstanding length.

Two Hands 2016 Lily’s Garden Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($59.95)
David Lawrason – Two Hands Garden series shiraz are consistently among my favourite for full-on modern yet nuanced expression of Aussie shiraz. This has a complex, layered and well integrated nose of black cherry, toast, graphite, herbs and black pepper. It is full-bodied, fairly dense and more firmly structured than anticipated, but not gruff or austere. It will benefit from further ageing. The length and depth are excellent.

Elderton Command Single Vineyard Shiraz 2014Two Hands Lily's Garden Shiraz 2016Henschke Henry's Seven 2015

Henschke 2015 Henry’s Seven, South Australia ($49.95)
David Lawrason – This is named for Henry Evans who planted the first vineyards in remote Keyneton region in 1853 – yes that is 1853, i.e. 19th Century.  New World eh?  It is a blend of shiraz, grenache, mataro (mourvedre) and viognier, with a very pretty, lifted nose of red rose, red plum/cherry, pepper, light menthol and peppery spice. It is mid-weight, soft, warm and easy, but not egregiously sweet. There is an almost pinot noir-like honesty here, with an earthy/woodsy finish. The length is excellent.
Sara d’Amato – A meaty blend of shiraz, grenache, mataro and viognier that is a nod to the pioneering wine history of the Barossa Valley. The name refers to the first 7 acres of vineyard planted by Henry Evans in 1853 at Keyneton which uprooted by his wife Sarah following his death due to her temperance sensibilities. This compelling wine sourced from mature vines boasts an abundance of fresh cassis and blueberry, full of zest, pep and freshness. Offering a prodigious degree of volume and breadth of flavour.

More Expensive Selections from The Mark Anthony Portfolio Tasting

It’s always complicated reviewing wines available on the LCBO’s consignment program, so to make it simple I present one phone number for you to call to inquire about purchasing of the following more expensive wines from Mark Anthony. Call Joey Krueger at (613) 297-6155 or by Email: [email protected]

Schloss Johannisberg 2016 Grünlack Spatlese, Rheingau, Germany ($45.95)
David Lawrason – From the emblematic estate of the Rheingau, this tidy, so-refined riesling has a lovely floral, apricot, honey and flinty nose with lime blossom and subtle spice. It is medium weight and medium sweet with a precise line of acidity and minerality. Great focus and excellent to outstanding length. This has an LCBO number of #523332, but I could not find LCBO availability on publication.

Attems 2016 Cicinis Sauvignon Blanc, Collio, Italy ($35.00)
David Lawrason – The Collio appellation on the northeastern frontier with Slovenia is one of my favourite white wine regions in the world. From one the fine houses owned by Frescobaldi, this single vineyard sauvignon is fermented 50-50 in stainless steel and barrel. It has subtle but complex nose of elderflower, green pear, fresh herbs and gooseberry with just a hint of wood spice. It is medium weight, fleshy, a touch warm and very refined, with excellent length. Classy.

Louis Latour 2016 Corton Grancey Grand Cru, Burgundy, France ($196)
David Lawrason – This is the signature pinot of the venerable Louis Latour, founded in 1834. The 2016 vintage is impressing watchers, the third hottest year in a decade, but it started slow and cool, preserving acidity. This is five years away from table readiness but it shows great finesse and power within a fine frame, with classic, very pretty aromas of sweet cherry, vanilla, nutmeg and toast. It is patented Burgundy svelteness yet is youthfully quite firm with minerality to spare. Excellent length. Give it time.

Mission Hill 2014 Oculus, Okanagan Valley, B.C.  ($135)
David Lawrason – “This is my idea of the future classic style of Oculus” says winemaker Darryl Brooker. Two factors affect his outlook – a reduction of new oak to 25% and an increase of the cabernet franc quotient to 24%. In any case, it has a beautiful, quite generous nose of currant/plummy fruit, notable florals, fine herbs and gentle spice. It is full bodied, fairly open knit, supple and rounder in texture than previous editions. Tannin is well integrated, the whole textural approach is very even-handed and lively.

Etude 2015 Pinot Noir Grace Benoist Ranch, Carneros, California  ($65.00)
David Lawrason – This is a very finely composed California pinot that offers warmth and ripe cherry-berry fruit yet stays restrained (unlike most). It’s very smooth and charming with subtle woodsy, spicy and vanilla notes – the complete pinot aromatics kit. It is quite supple and glossy, with just right acidity and tannin. Excellent to outstanding length.

Luce 2015, Tuscany, Italy ($114)
David Lawrason – Founded a generation ago in a now defunct joint venture between Mondavi and Frescobaldi Luce endures as a pricy statement of modernity and finesse. It is a blend of merlot and sangiovese. From a great vintage, this has a lovely, elegant, lightly floral nose with perfectly stitched oak spice, cedar and vanillin and fine berry fruit. It is mid-weight, supple, smooth with grainy tannin, some warmth. Excellent focus and length.

Penfolds 2015 Bin 407 Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia, ($99)
David Lawrason – The price of this wine has soared, but in context, it a very fine expression of Australian cabernet. It is bold, dense, and compacted with a very complex, detailed nose of red and blackcurrant, cedar bough, menthol, graphite and fine oak spice. It is full bodied, dense, well balanced and firm. Such great structure. The finish is dusty and gritty, the length is excellent.

And that’s a wrap for this week. We return next week with a less lofty selection for those who do like to keep their sights focused more on finding value for $20 or less.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections

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