Our Top 20 Picks from the January 23 Vintages Release

Posted by: samy January 23, 2016 No Comments

This week the LCBO goes south, focusing on Chile and Argentina as the highlight of the Vintages’ release. Both regions seem to be favourites with consumers – especially given Malbec’s popularity for its rich and plush, easy drinking appeal. Not to mention both countries can offer decent wines at bargain prices, which no doubt soothes a wine lover’s soul – especially when it comes to post-holiday empty cellars and full credit cards.

One in particular that we think is worth picking up is a terrific Carignan made from 80 year old vines. A red grape that’s returning to popularity in Chile for its bright fruit flavours and bold structure.

There’s also a red blend (Merlot/Syrah) from Idaho sneaking its way into the release this week. It’s a fine wine, with spice, smoke, raspberry and pepper notes. We gave it an 87, but it didn’t score high enough to make the Top 20. Still, at $17.95 it’s an affordable wine adventure for those interested in trying out new wine regions. St. Chapelle Gem State Red, product number 441931 is what to keep an eye out for if you have a burning desire to sample Idaho’s finest.


Rabl “Langenlois” Gruner Veltliner, Kamptal 2013
$14.95 Vintages 377457
A crisp and bright white wine that shows pretty aromatics of ripe tree fruit and flint on the nose, the palate is focused with fresh acid, and steely flavours of mineral, crushed pepper, raw fennel and ripe stone fruit. An enjoyable sipper at a great price. 88 points.


IMG_3118Concha Y Toro “Marques de Casa Concha” Carmenere, Cachapoal Valley 2013
$19.95 Vintages 169862
We think Carmenere is an underrated red grape, that when done well can offer exceptional quality for price. A savoury mix of fresh earth, coffee bean, ripe, dark cherry and vague herbal notes fill the nose while the full bodied palate is smooth and silky with fine-firm tannin and appealing spice and black fruit flavours. 90 points.

IMG_3117Santa Carolina “Specialities” Dry Farming Carignan, Cauquenes Valley 2011
$17.95 Vintages 213520
More and more Chilean wineries are adopting dry farming in their viticulture practices as the country’s wine growing regions doesn’t get any rain from September to May – the growing and harvesting seasons. Dry farming is exactly what it sounds like: farming without the use of water or irrigation, and the idea is that it stresses vines, forcing the roots to dig deep in the soil for water and produce a better product. Carignan is back on the popularity train in Chile, and this example is made from 80 year old vines for a big and bold red with chewy tannins and bright, fresh acid. There’s some serious power and depth to the dark fruit and rosemary-herbal notes that have impressive length, though the hot finish may not be for the faint of heart. 89 points.


Blue Mountain Chardonnay, VQA Okanagan Valley, BC 2014
$24.95 Vintages 350108
A wine of serious substance, 50% was fermented and aged in stainless steel while to other 50% was fermented and aged in a mixture of new to three year old French oak for 10 months. What results is a wine built for the long term with rich, spicy flavours of poached apple, raw pie dough and an earthy mineral note. It’s quite bold right now but will mellow into something truly spectacular if you have the patience to wait it out a few years. 90 points.


IMG_3106Delouvin-Bagnost Brut Champagne NV
$44.95 Vintages 385369
Tinned apple juice, wildflowers, ginger cookie and bitter lemon pith all come through on this rich and complex bubbly. Fine bubbles reveal an elegance to this otherwise powerful wine which showcases focused, mouth watering acid and an excellent length. 90 points.

IMG_3105Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore Brut Rose, Cremant de Bourgogne
$19.95 Vintages 48793
Pinky-orange with delicately frothy bubbles this Pinot Noir-Gamay blend is full and rich with flavours of ripe red berries and chalky earth with a slightly bitter finish. Moderate acid keeps things buoyant enough, though there could be a bit more crispness to raise the score. Still, this is simple and easy drinking and there ain’t nothin wrong with that. 88 points.

IMG_3107Chateau de Maligny “Fourchaume” Chablis 1er Cru, Burgundy 2014
$39.95 Vintages 718288
A classic Chablis that shows a flinty nose with apple and peach notes. Crisp but with a creamy weight on the palate and flavours of citrus, stone fruit and a slightly peppery note. 89 points.

IMG_3112Jean-Baptiste Béjot Pommard, Burgundy 2013
$49.95 Vintages 438010
Powerful and rich with lots of spice on both the nose and palate, Pommard is a commune that we find offers richer, denser versions of Pinot Noir. This also shows grippy tannins and ripe, fleshy notes of black cherry and baking spices with a tart cranberry finish and considerable length. Try with duck confit or croque-monsieur.

IMG_3108Domaine Chatelain les Vignes de Saint-Laurent-L’Abbaye Pouilly Fume, Loire 2014
$19.95 Vintages 958801
There’s lots of interest on this well-priced Sauvignon Blanc. Citrus, wet stone and herbal notes show through on the nose and palate with an extra little bit of flinty minerality on the palate. Fresh acid makes for a light and crisp quaffer that brilliant with fresh seafood, herbal salads or simple cheese plates. 89 points.

IMG_3115Chateau La Garricq, Moulis-en-Medoc 2010
$37.95 Vintages 435164
There’s a green herbal note to the nose that not everyone will enjoy, but we find quite appealing, along with aromas of blackberry and chocolate. Full, with chewy tannins on the palate and flavours of juicy cassis and dark mocha that underlying herbal quality gives a little freshness to the power and ripeness of the wine. 90 points.

IMG_3116Chateau LaRose-Trintaudon, Haut-Medoc 2012
$24.95 Vintages 297945
Ripe, rich, powerful and dense look for flavours and aromas of black cherry, spice and sweet oaky notes. We suspect this wine could have impressive longevity easily going 10 years and we noted it as a Best Buy of the release. 89 points.

IMG_3110Marchand-Tawse Cotes de Nuits-Villages 2011
$31.95 Vintages 440263
Marchand-Tawse is a partnership between Burgundy-based Pascal Marchand and Niagara-based Maury Tawse. Red fruits, cherry Halls and crushed peppercorn make up the pretty nose. Medium bodied with fine tannin on the palate and flavours of black pepper, cedar, spice and woodsy notes with a tart, cranberry finish, there’s lovely poise to this Pinot. 90 points.

IMG_3111Vincent Girardin Villes Vignes Santenay 2013
$37.95 Vintages 435552
Santenay is a village in the south of the Cotes du Beaune, known for producing red wines of power and substance. Alluring aromas blend savoury notes of smoke , forest and black pepper with sweet red berries and licorice. The palate shows fine, but slightly grippy tannin with sweet red raspberry and cherry that have terrific persistence. 89 points.


IMG_3104Michele Chiarlo “Le Marne” Gavi, Piedmont 2014
$17.95 Vintages 228528
We always look forward to the release of this easy drinking, crisp white wine, and we always buy to little. This year that will be remedied, as this is an affordable and delicious wine that perfect for parties all year long. Aromatics are neutral with some chalky and faint tropical fruit and citrus notes, but the light palate is nearly creamy in texture with steely flavours of canned peaches and stoney mineral. 88 points.

Tenuta Carretta Cascina Ferrero Barolo, Piedmont 2009
$45.95 Vintages 429779
A muted nose with faint notes of black pepper, fresh mushroom and red berries. Grippy on the palate with intense tannins and flavours of red fruit and spice. A nice wine but seriously fierce, so perhaps lay this down for a few years and try after 2019. 88 points.

IMG_3114Fattoria dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany 2010
$49.95 Vintages 928028
A fabulously powerful red from this perennial favourite producer. Tar, dusty earth, prune and Christmas cake all mix on the deep and brooding nose. The density continues to the palate where brandied fruit, licorice and maraschino cherry join the dark mix along with sticky, chewy, tannin. Yes this is a powerful beauty, but so powerful we’d let it unwind for a few years in the cellar. 90 points.

IMG_3113Toscolo Chianti Classico, Tuscany 2013
$18.95 Vintages 19521
This is an approachable, modern style of Sangiovese, which shows sweet oak notes of clove, sarsaparilla, baking spice and black berry candies. Rich, ripe and moderately grippy on the palate with notes of spice box and ripe black fruit. Pie this with braised red meats or even seared duck breast. 88 points.


Pomares Tinto, Douro 2011
$16.95 Vintages 214007
An approachable and easy drinking red that still has good character and interest, look for smoke, earth and red cherry aromas and flavours. Full and rich on the palate with plush tannins and good depth, this is terrific value. 88 points.


IMG_3109Martin Ray Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California 2013
$28.95 Vintages 57067
2013 was a perfect vintage in Sonoma with long, warm days and cool evenings to create a great balance between sugar and acid. There’s an intriguing nose here with crunchy white fruits and faint butterscotch that underscores, and doesn’t dominate aromas in the glass. Creamy, ripe and round on the palate with focused, fresh acid and flavours of ripe apple and pear along with sweet citrus. Quite elegant, actually. 89 points.

IMG_3103Duck Pond Cellars Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon 2014
$19.95 Vintages 333286
One of our favourite picks of the release, this pours water-white with a barely there, baby kiss pink tinge. Floral, stone fruit and yellow apple aromas on the nose, the palate is medium bodied and shows pure tree fruit and clean floral flavours with a slightly tangy grapefruit finish. Bright and fresh, this would be terrific with spicy prawns or mango chicken. 88 points.

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