Thursday, November 10, 2011

My Picks: Vintages Release ─ November 12 2011

I am back, at least from time to time. But what a time to come back.

The theme of this week’s release is “Holiday Magic”. Really? Even Vintages has the gall to start the Christmas season too early. It’s still 6 weeks to go but there Vintages is in this week’s release catalogue, “The festive season is off and running…” Oh no, it’s not. I don’t want to hear “Christmas” or “holiday season” or “festive season” for another couple of weeks, thank you. Prostituting the Christmas season by stretching it out from the day after Halloween dilutes a wonderful experience, like putting water into your Chateau Lafite-Rothschild. Is there no one in the retailing world with any imagination? They can only think to make the Christmas season longer. A pox on all your retail houses!

And so, in their spirit of Christmas, the release is packed full of expensive (over-priced?) bottles. But if you step carefully, you can find some hidden goodies. Here are 8 (yes, I only found 8) bottles that made the cut for My Picks.

Nothing organic.

Off the Beaten Track


VINUM AFRICA CHENIN BLANC 2009, WO Western Cape (South Africa); #739995; Price: $14.95; 13.5% ABV
100% Chenin Blanc, South Africa's signature white. Handpicked. 80% fermented in stainless steel tanks, 20% in small oak barrels (a mix of new, one-year, 2-year, 3-year and 4-year barrels). Left on its lees for 12 months, then blended and bottled 2 months later. Look for citrus and floral aromas and good minerality. Great with seafood.


FLAT ROCK GRAVITY PINOT NOIR 2009, VQA Twenty Mile Bench (Niagara Peninsula); #1560; Price: $29.95; 12.9% ABV
100% Pinot Noir. Handpicked. Whole grapes were gravity fed into open top fermentation tanks and left to macerate for 3 days. Fermented with both wild yeasts and cultured yeasts. After fermentation, the wine was again gravity fed into 100% French oak barrels (30% new). Pinot Noir is a prima donna, so gentle, gravity-fed winemaking treats her as she demands. Unfined. Try it with veal tenderloin in a morel cream sauce.

We’re on the tipping point of the winter season, where red meats that are stewed, roasted, and braised take centre stage. Whether beef or lamb, any of the following wines will serve you well.

MONTES ALPHA SYRAH 2009, Colchagua Valley (Chile); #612; Price: $19.95; 14.5% ABV
A blend of Syrah (90%), Cabernet Sauvignon (7%), and Viognier (3%). Aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. Filtered.

CLAIRAULT CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007, Margaret River (Australia) #246876; Price: $24.95; 14.5% ABV
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (88%), Merlot (6%), and Petit Verdot (6%). From 6 different sites in the “Mediterranean climate” of the Margaret River region on the west coast of Oz. Fermented in small open vats, macerated for 10 days. Aged in French oak (30% new) for 18 months. You can leave it the cellar for a few years.

E. GUIGAL 2007, AC Gigondas (France); #331900; Price: $29.95; 13.5% ABV
A blend of Grenache (65%), Mourvèdre (25%), and Syrah (5%) from the southern Rhone. Long maceration, aged in French oak barrels (50% new) for 2 years. From Guigal, the King of Rhone.

FERRATON PÈRE & FILS LA MATINIÈRE 2009, AC Crozes-Hermitage (France); #127712; Price: $20.95; 13.0% ABV
100% Syrah from the northern Rhone. Macerated for 20 days. Aged in a combination of oak barrels and vats for 12 months.

PEIQUE RAMON VALLE 2008, DO Bierzo (Spain); #236943; Price: $18.95; 14.5% ABV
100% Mencía from Bierzo in northwest Spain. A variety and region that have come out of nowhere. Handpicked. Cold maceration for 3 days, followed by 6 days of fermentation, then 7 more days of maceration and 5 days of Malolactic fermentation. Aged 7 months in French, Russian, and American oak barrels. Bottled and aged 5 months more before release. For me, this is the pick of the release. You have to try it.

SEÑORÍO DE P. PECIÑA RESERVA 2001, DOCa Rioja (Spain); #82156; Price: $29.95; 13.4% ABV
A blend of Tempranillo (95%), Graciano (3%), and Garnacha (2%). Aged 3 years in oak barrels, then another 2 years after bottling. A real treat, it’s ready to drink now.

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