Posted by SusanThursday, May 10th, 2012
Premium wines from some of California’s historic producers are showcased in the May 12 LCBO Vintages release. While California is home to almost every known vitis vinifera the focus is on 3 classics: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel. Historical records suggest that the vine was introduced to California as early as the late 1700s by Franciscan missionaries. The climate was extremely favourable to viticulture and as the missions moved north, so did the vine. Phylloxera and mildew took their toll in the late 1800s, and the industry was almost completely obliterated by Prohibition through the 1920s and 30s.
But wine has staged a comeback since the 1980s, with certain California wines commanding over $100, such as the Far Niente ‘Estate’ Cabernet Sauvignon in this release. Zinfandel, related to Primitivo and thought to be descended from an obscure Croatian varietal, was introduced to California some time during the Gold Rush and became one of the leading grapes in the state, as it adapted well to the soils and climates. There are many long-established vineyards in the states, thus it is quite common to find outstanding old-vine wines from producers such as Ravenswood.
The 1976 Judgement of Paris established California’s pedigree for Cabernet Sauvignon, when a Stag’s Leap Cab beat out the classified Bordeaux estates. Generally known for producing rich, fruity full-bodied wines, California’s mountain vineyards also produce more intense Bordeaux-style wines. Chardonnay is California’s most planted varietal and was made famous by Château Montelena, which won the 1973 Judgement of Paris with its Alexander Valley Chardonnay. The journey of the family and this wine to the competition in Paris is immortalized in the film ‘Bottleshock’ – if you haven’t seen it, give it a whirl, while you sip a glass of the opulent and well-priced Kendall-Jackson ‘Vintner’s Reserve’ Chardonnay.
The secondary release highlights rosés from around the world. The most common method of producing rosé is called saignée, where red grapes are crushed and left in contact with the skin for a short period, usually less than 24 hours, to impart color and flavour. That first juice is then fermented separately to produce rosé. For a benchmark dry rosé, consider Château d`Aquèria Tavel Rosé. Should you prefer an organic wine, try the Natura Rosé from Chile, or stay close to home with the just off-dry rosé from Featherstone, or the dry yet fruity Fielding Estate Rosé.
The Israeli wine feature offers a cross-section of white and red wines, from Sauvignon Blanc to Cabernet Sauvignon. Argentina strikes again in this release, with some great values, such as the Finca Flichman Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon blend and the Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon included in this selection. One of my favorite sparkling wines is available in the release, Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore Brut Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne. In addition to the two Canadian rosés, both the Angels Gate Mountainview Chardonnay and the Fielding Estate Sauvignon Blanc shine among the Local Talent.
Cheers and Enjoy,
If only I had $100, I would buy . . .
St-Nicolas Rosé Crackling Cider
$19.95 (Vintages #275362) 7.0% alcohol
Here’s a lovely combination of local summer and autumn fruit in a lightly alcoholic lipsmackingly tasty sparkler. The subtle aromas of strawberries and raspberries macerated with the apple cider tantalize the nose. A mouth-filling, palate-cleansing mousse explodes on the palate. Dry yet fruity, this beverage has a vibrant texture and would be a fine match for a rustic paté or fine Ontario cheddar.
Featherstone Rosé VQA 2011
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$14.95 (Vintages #117861) 12.0% alcohol
The vibrant candy-apple pink tone appeals, as do the sweet floral, red fruit and candy apple aromas of this fruity, mid-weight rosé. There’s a tantalizing whiff of herbs and grilled peppers, tasty red berry flavours, a tangy fresh texture, and a nice clean, juicy finish. Sip on the patio or the porch, pair with almost any appetizer, pizza or light grilled meat!
Finca Flichman ‘Expresiones Reserve’ Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
$15.95 (Vintages #507707) 14.5% alcohol
Inky purple, aged 8 months in French and American oak, this dry full-bodied red blend is loaded with luscious ripe black fruit. The aromas include hints of mint and smoke twining around the fruit, the flavours offering hints of dried fruit, spice, chocolate and vanilla. There’s good structure and complexity in this wine, concentrated fruit framed by ripe tannins and fresh acidity, and a finish that dry, warm and fruity. Great value and a good choice for barbequed red meats.
Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
$14.95 (Vintages #261891) 14.5% alcohol
Here’s another great value, a classic Cabernet displaying aromas and flavours of cedar, black berries, vanilla and charry toast. Dry, full bodied, the palate offers concentrated fruit, a subtle structure and a fresh yet fruity texture. Deftly crafted, nicely balanced, it finishes with a warm fruity flare. A natural match for grilled meats.
Domaine Boisson Côtes du Rhône-Villages Cairanne 2009
AOC Côtes du Rhône-Villages, France
$19.95 (Vintages #264630) 15.0% alcohol
A blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mouvèdre and Carignan, this wine offers alluring aromas—spicy floral perfume, dried herbs, sweet ripe berries and dried cherries. Dry, medium-full bodied, spicy peppery notes garnish a dense core of rich ripe fruit. The underlying structure is clean and firm, the finish dry yet fruity. Savour it now or cellar medium term.
Juan Gil ‘White Label de Cepas Viejas’ Monastrell 2010
DO Jumilla, Spain
$12.95 (Vintages #13656) 14.5% alcohol
The grapes from this hot windy region often grow sparingly on gnarly bush vines that are often decades old, thus providing dense concentrated flavours. This wine offers aromas of black cherries, berries, vanilla and sweet spice. Dry, medium-full bodied, there’s a firm structure underlying the dark berry fruit, the light oak aging bringing subtle hints of tobacco, cedar and toast. This is a great value—load up the wagon!
Grand Total: $98.70
Worth the Splurge . . .
Gallo Family ‘Frei Ranch Vineyard’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Dry Creek Valley, California
$34.95 (Vintages #555607) 15.0% alcohol
Opaque, ruby purple, the aromas of this big powerful wine roll from the glass—ripe dark fruit, warm baking spice, vanilla, cedar and sweet herbs. Dry, full bodied, offering great depth and concentration, there’s subtle structure and beautiful balance. The texture is velvety, the fruit generous and the lasting finish palate coating, almost viscous. Drinking well now, it’s designed for long-term cellaring.