February 21, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: February 21

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Bolla 2016 Valpolicella Classico (Veneto, Italy)

Sale $11.95, Regular $13.95
Discount (until February 25): $2.00
LCBO #16840 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Bright and pretty cherry, red berries and plum, with some nuttiness and coffee. Medium-bodied, juicy and fresh. Quite lovely.
Pairs with: Pizza, pasta, assorted meat cuts and cheeses, curries, vindaloo.
Good for: Everyday in every way… house wine alert!
Alcohol: 12.5%
Drink: Now.

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Why we're drinking this
A good Valpolicella is a delightful red that’s easy to love, easy to drink and, most importantly, easy on the wallet. These are fruity and soft wines, lively in acidity and moderate in alcohol. They are not the kind of complex wines that wine snobs rave on about, which is ok with us. We’re not about wine snobbery. These wines hail from the north of Italy, near Verona. The region puts out a tremendous amount of wine, and not all of it is good. But with pretty much any Valpolicella produced for export — and particularly the ones we get at the LCBO — you’re pretty much guaranteed a wine that’s at least drinkable. This particular wine, from venerable producer Bolla, is over and above its peers. And the price can’t be beat.

Tasting note
Pretty pale ruby colour. Medium plum and red berries and black cherry. Toasted almond and a hint of coffee and earth, which adds some nice complexity. Medium-bodied, supple, with juicy acidity and a medium fresh fruity finish. An easygoing wine that’ll keep everyone happy. Very fun and easy to drink. Lip-smacking!

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February 14, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: February 14

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Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (Maipo Valley, Chile)

Sale $19.95, Regular $22.95
Discount (until February 25): $3.00
Vintages #337238 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: A delicious and formidable (read: firm) offering of plum, chocolate, black berries, coffee and mocha, with some earthiness. Oak is restrained. Balanced, elegant.
Pairs with: Everything that Cabernet loves: big meats, game, wood fires, rich earthy tones. A juicy burger will do. But lamb may be the way to go.
Good for: Wooing your amour with an indulgent, romantic meal.
Alcohol: 13.5%
Drink: Now to 2025.

Why we're drinking this
You know, honestly, Cabernet Sauvignon may be the noblest grape, but it’s not always a heck of a lot of fun. Its gravitas invites much pontificating. But we like wine for good times too. And this big bruiser of a wine brand is really starting to come round to our way of playing. It’s got the stuffing of a super-ripe big Chilean Cab, but it’s more restrained in oak, alcohol and requisite Chilean “pow.” Kudos to the winemaker — here’s a wine that can go toe to toe with any global “Big Cab” worth twice the price or more. We like it like that. The wine is delicious, approachable, serious and… it’s still fun.

Tasting note
A generous wine on the nose with pretty fruit and florals and lots of bright red berries, blackberry and plum. Some nice earth and dry leaves, making for a complex profile. Balanced with restrained alcohol and juicy acidity. It’s a bit astringent on the finish, but that’s ok given the supple texture and richness overall. An elegant and interesting wine that’s priced well enough for weekday drinking. And, as noted above, fun enough for a cocktail party (with platters of meat).

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February 07, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: February 7

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Two Hands 2016 Gnarly Dudes Shiraz (South Australia)

Sale $21.95, Regular $24.95
Discount (until February 25): $3.00
Vintages #660043 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Sweet and spicy strawberry, blueberry and plum. Licorice, cassis, blackcurrant and pomegranate juice. Herbal. Quite pretty for a big Aussie Shiraz.
Pairs with: Anything grilled: steak, bison, wild boar, lamb, etc. And burgers done to the nines.
Good for: Sipping or grilling.
Alcohol: 14.5%
Drink: Now to 2020.

Why we're drinking this
Australian Shiraz is such a stereotypical “big and bold” wine that, honestly, we’ve come to be a bit fatigued by its predictable profile. But maybe that’s as much our fault. At “peak Shiraz” a few years back, the wines were everywhere. Now, not so much. So it’s with great delight that we recommend this very pretty Shiraz. It surely is big and brutish as is its wont, but there’s finesse and style here. It’s a pretty, elegant take on the style, more fruit forward and less spice and meat. The grapes for this wine come from mature vines from the western ranges of South Australia. The wine was matured in French oak for 12 months, only 15% new oak so those flavours are nicely integrated.

Tasting note
It’s deeply coloured and smells like purple popsicle. More aromas of strawberry, blueberry and plum, with licorice and blackcurrant. It’s a juicy, voluptuous wine, with sweet spice and pomegranate and an herbal/menthol finish. Despite very high alcohol at 14.5%, all is integrated and harmonious: the ripe fruit more than matches the high alcohol, and keeps the tannins (soft, ripe) in check too. Juicy acidity keeps the finish going. A very nice wine, good for sipping or taking down wild game and beefy beef.

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January 31, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: January 31

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Bonterra 2016 Chardonnay (Mendocino, California)

Sale $17.95, Regular $19.95
Discount (until February 25): $2.00
Vintages #342436 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Fresh and baked apple, white flower, grapefruit, pineapple, pear, peach and honeysuckle.
Pairs with: White fish, shrimp, roast chicken, vegetable risotto, chicken pot pie.
Good for: Giving thanks to Mother Earth.
Alcohol: 13.6%
Drink: Now to 2020.

Why we're drinking this
This wine is made by Fetzer, the California winemaking juggernaut that has taken a leading position in the burgeoning trade of organic wines, having blazed the trail of sustainability since the 1980s (long before this became a popular platform). Bonterra was named 2016 American Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine, the first time the award has gone to an organic winery. All that aside, the wines are top notch. So you can feel good while you imbibe. Yes, you are doing your part.

Tasting note
Clean and fresh aromas of fresh apple, pear and peach, citrus, and tropical fruits like pineapple and banana. The palate delivers fresh and baked apple, some sweet vanilla oak spice and more of those nice tree fruit elements. The acidity is nice and crisp, and the alcohol is restrained (the bottle says 13.3%, but the LCBO marks it as 13.6%). Overall, a very pleasant, delicious and spot-on California Chardonnay. Nice and creamy, but not overbearing. You shall have no complaints. And the Earth thanks you.

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January 24, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: January 24

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Rocca delle Macìe Riserva 2014 Chianti DOCG (Tuscany, Italy)

Sale $13.95, Regular $15.95
Discount (until January 28): $2.00
Vintages #111641 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Red and black berries, plum, wood spice, balsam/cedar and dusty earth. Nice texture, dry, easy drinking.
Pairs with: Red-sauces, pizza, meatballs, bavette, steak pie, hard cheese, Philly cheese steak, mushrooms in any form.
Good for: Geeking out on music videos, shopping online, or pondering a renovation. (That pretty much sums up my week so far.)
Alcohol: 13.5%
Drink: Now to 2020.

Why we're drinking this
The question is: can you get a good wine for under $15? And yes, indeed you can. We did a tasting session with the folks from Rocca last summer and worked through many wines in their lineup. They were all very good. And when a winery can make a solid wine like this one at this price you feel more confident investing twenty or thirty bucks (or more) in their premium wines. But you’ll do well enough with this wine, a nice little Sangiovese-led blend which has a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot added to round it out. Good Chianti is all you really need. Here’s your house wine for January-February 2018.

Tasting note
Pretty and pretty hefty nose of plum, red and black berries, forest floor, oak spice and coffee-chocolate. A lot of complexity for the price. It’s a very dry wine, but generous with fruit and spice. It’s a nice textbook Chianti with that dusty, leafy quality that we Chianti-lovers are so in love with. Packed with fruit and nice texture, it’s a good sipper. The tannins are present but smooth, with just enough heft to take on a cheesy or fatty dish or a big steak. But it’s best with easygoing foods like pizza, pasta, charcuterie, etc.

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January 17, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: January 17

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Buried Hope 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (North Coast, California)

Sale $16.95, Regular $19.95
Discount (until January 28): $3.00
LCBO #356113 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Pretty nice Cab Sauv—plum, cassis, vanilla, spicy black fruit, blackberry… it’s good juice. Nice soft texture.
Pairs with: What Cab Sauv likes best—juicy steaks, prime rib and gravy, burgers, lamb chops, chile con carne, roast lamb, anything on charcoal, soft and semi-soft cheese.
Good for: Impeachment.
Alcohol: 14.5%
Drink: Now.

Why we're drinking this
It’s cold outside and a big wine just makes sense, especially one called Buried Hope, which hits a bit close given the political situation south of the border. But chin up! Trump too shall pass (like a kidney stone). Meantime, you can enjoy this quite lovely wine. Though it is turbo-charged to 14.5% — which is way too much alcohol under normal circumstance, but makes sense in Trump’s America — there’s a lot of fruit and structure here to keep things in balance. Buried Hope is a big new wine brand owned by the massive Pernaud Ricard conglomerate. It’s more about brand than authenticity, but it’s pretty good stuff and a good price ('til Jan. 28).

Tasting note
Pretty and perfumed (lots of alcohol) nose of blackberries, vanilla, smoke and plum/cassis. Soft texture, soft tannins, lots of heft and flavours of plum and black fruit, with nice choco-vanilla spice and lingering sweetness. Easy drinking Cab, to be sure. Complex enough to keep things interesting at this price, but not quite worth anything over $20. Chill it a bit and enjoy. It’ll serve weekday quick dinners more than adequately, and it’ll keep Cali Cab lovers happy.

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January 10, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: January 10

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Santa Carolina 2016 Merlot Reserva (Colchagua Valley, Chile)

Sale $11.10, Regular $13.10
Discount (until January 28): $2.00
LCBO #324590 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Sweet and supple plum, a little sweet spice, along with cherries, strawberries, plum and chocolate. Nice wine!
Pairs with: Anything you like, really. This doesn’t need complex food, but it won’t shy away from it. Best with easy pizzas, meatloaf, steak, something with a red sauce.
Good for: We love good Merlot for its appropriateness for everyday. It’s your wine for today.
Alcohol: 13.5%
Drink: Now to 2020.

Why we're drinking this
Honestly, we can’t remember a time that Santa Carolina let us down. These Chilean wines are solid. And if ever you’re stuck in a remote LCBO outpost along some dark highway and all you can buy is something from Santa Carolina, just count your blessings. The wines are good to great every time.

Tasting note
This is all you could ever ask for an $11 Merlot. It’s fruity, smooth and delicious. Go with that. Don’t get too intellectual about it! Get a Big Mac…

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January 03, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: January 3

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Domaine Lafage 2015 Cadireta Blanc (Roussillon, France)

Sale $14.95, Regular $16.95
Discount (until January 28): $2.00
Vintages #448472 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Pretty wild flowers, honeysuckle, melon, lime, apple and peach. Rich texture but nicely balanced.
Pairs with: Scallops, fondue, salmon, mussels and frites.
Good for: Countering the cold with a weighty white paired to richly sauced seafood.
Alcohol: 13%
Drink: Now through 2021.

Why we're drinking this
Here’s a bit of sunshine to warm up your cold-snap affected climes — a wine that has some substantial body and texture, making it a nice sipper for times like this when you’re most likely not in the mood for the leaner-meaner whites. This wine comes from the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the south of France. It’s an interesting combination of stainless steel and oak fermented. Thirty percent of the wine was fermented in new Burgundy barrels, the rest in stainless. As well, the Chardonnay (representing about 95% of the blend) was fermented on the lees of the Viognier, which adds texture and nutty-honey notes, as well as helping to stabilize the wine for ageing. This wine is worth grabbing by the case and putting some away for drinking over the next few years.

Tasting note
Quite aromatic and pretty, with wild flowers and honeysuckle. Dry and crisp, with lovely texture (creamy) and body. Medium acidity and medium weight, with lots of floral, lime and apple tones, along with some stone fruit and melon. Lovely for sipping, but nice with scallops, mussels and frites, salmon, croque-madame and fondue.

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December 27, 2017

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: December 27

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Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut Cava (Penedès, Spain)

Sale $13.25, Regular $14.75
Discount (until December 31): $1.50
LCBO #216945 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Delicate citrus, pear and apple. Clean, crisp, creamy and great!
Pairs with: Pretty much anything but artichokes, and even then, this is not a bad match. But go wild with salty snacks, cheese, charcuterie, raw seafood, canapés, salad, soups and meats of all kinds. Just about the only thing that will wipe this out would be heavy red meats and sauces. But you knew that already.
Good for: Ringing in the New Year, feasting or just getting out of bed on January 1. You deserve it!
Alcohol: 12%
Drink: Now.

Why we're drinking this
This was on sale back in April, and the LCBO has hiked the price 50 cents since then. But what’s a little loose change among friends? This is good solid Cava, and the bottle is heavy as hell to boot. So it’s got that impressive “none more black” kind of feel going on—pace Spinal Tap—which certainly makes a statement on any festive table. Cava is Spain’s main sparkling wine product, and it’s pretty much always a good deal in a superior sparkler. You should always have some on hand, not just for celebrations but for everyday enjoyment and matching with just about any kind of food. You can go red or white meat with this, or fish, poultry, canapés, etc. It’s refreshing, delicious, cheap, bubbly and black (well, the bottle). Really, it’s all you need. Happy holidays!

Tasting note
This Cava is as much about texture and fizz as it is about flavour. It has a lovely creaminess and quite supple mousse (that’s the fizz). Delicate citrus and pear and a nice edgy minerality. Serve it well chilled, but not ice cold. Put it in the coldest (lowest) part of the fridge, or move it to the freezer for 10 minutes before serving. Trust us: Buy at least two bottles, because when you finish the first one you will want more. And there’s nothing more depressing than running out of Cava. Truly. Happy New Year!

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December 20, 2017

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: December 20

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Santa Rita 2016 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon (Maipo, Chile)

Sale $12.95, Regular $14.95
Discount (until December 31): $2.00
LCBO #253872 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Exactly what you’d expect from Maipo Cab Sauv: blackberry, plum, mint and assorted herbs, plus a dose of chocolate and oak spice.
Pairs with: Big meats, steak especially, but will go nice with a prime rib or lamb roast, heavy on the jus.
Good for: Christmas Eve drop-ins with a plate of charcuterie, assorted meats, or some tourtière.
Alcohol: 13.5%
Drink: Now through 2020.

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Why we're drinking this
Cabernet Sauvignon from the Maipo Valley in Chile is one of those specific taste profiles you can easily identify with a bit of practice. It’s lean but generous, focused on the fruit but with lots of interesting herbal character, usually led by a mint-menthol angle. It’s one of the easiest Cab Sauv styles to like, particularly because there’s usually a fair amount of chocolate-vanilla and oak spice. Santa Rita does it right, and does it right year after year. This 2016 vintage is particularly good.

Tasting note
Generous nose of plum, blackberry and mint, with pretty floral tones. Very dry but a fairly easy attack on the palate, melding into a soft and pleasurable blend of blackberries and plum, with nice backup by those herbal tones. Tannins are present but ripe and quite easygoing, with vibrant acidity that gets you tingling just a little bit. A very nice wine for every segment of your evening. And a great wine to have on hand in quantity, should you need to deal with Christmas drop-ins or lingering guests. Great with all kinds of meaty dishes but a fine sipper too.

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