May 23, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: May 23

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KWV The Legend of Big Bill Cabernet Sauvignon (Western Cape, South Africa)

Sale $10.95, Regular $12.95
Discount (until May 27): $2.00
LCBO #457119 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Plum with a little spice and pepper, black berries, black olive and toasty oak, with some chocolate on the finish.
Pairs with: Big ol’ steak on a grill. Burgers, platters of meaty things.
Good for: Discussing the Ontario election, worrying about the Ontario election, forgetting about the Ontario election. Or, on a lighter note: a wedding.
Alcohol: 13.5%
Drink: Now.

Why we're drinking this
This is a new-ish wine to the market. And though the cartoony label promises an outrageously huge wine — in homage to “Big” Bill Millar from the KWV co-operative in South Africa — it is in fact rather elegant. Big Bill was the first general manager at the co-op, which started up in 1921. He was also a boxer, rugby star and war hero. You’d expect a massive wine with that kind of narrative. But there’s restraint here. This is a stunning value, even at regular price. It should be your summer barbecue or wedding wine, given that you can get a case for under $135.

Tasting note
Pretty nose, with good ripe fruit and lots of classic Cabernet elements: plum, blackberry, cassis, chocolate and toasty oak. It’s got a spicy kick in the mouth (that’s Big Bill talking!) with a nice round feel. Tannins are fairly soft, with a somewhat rustic presence. The fruit is perfect: ripe, bright, juicy. Very nice balance in a fairly bold Cab that’s drinking perfectly right now. Everyone should love this.

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May 16, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: May 16

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Santa Rita Reserva 2017 Sauvignon Blanc (Casablanca Valley, Chile)

Sale $12.95, Regular $14.95
Discount (until May 27): $2.00
LCBO #275677 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Green apple, citrus, green pepper, basil, lemongrass, mint and white pepper. (Yep, that’s a pretty nice salad right there!)
Pairs with: Salad, asparagus, onion tart, sweet pepper omelette, asparagus risotto, chicken sandwich.
Good for: Mowing the lawn… seriously. Why do you think there’s a cup holder on that thing?
Alcohol: 13.5%
Drink: Now.

Why we're drinking this
Spring is for Sauvignon Blanc. The asparagus is up, and really this is the only wine you can pair with asparagus. Because it pretty much tastes like asparagus drizzled in olive oil and lemon and sprinkled with basil, mint and pepper. Hailing from Chile’s Casablanca Valley, this is a pure, ripe and quite complex Sauvignon Blanc. It’s just the thing for summer — as the temperature outside starts to heat up, you can chill this down. Waaaaaaay down. It’ll warm up anyway, so either drink it fast or keep it on ice. (We favour the former.)

Tasting note
Prepare thy nose! Huge aromas of green apple, grapefruit, basil and green pepper, with some undercurrent of apricot and pineapple. Bone dry and bracing with acidity, this is nonetheless a nice creamy wine in the mouth. It’s not austere like some SBs. Complex flavours of apple, citrus, herbs and white pepper — which is why this is one of the few white wines that pairs nicely with salads. It can handle the vinaigrettes and fresh-cut veggies. But the creaminess goes nicely with proteins too, like grilled chicken or pork, frittatas or omelettes, and creamy risottos.

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May 09, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: May 9

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Luccarelli 2016 Primitivo (Puglia, Italy)

Sale $9.50, Regular $11.00
Discount (until May 27): $1.50
LCBO #253856 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Blue and black fruit, plum, tea, black licorice, smoke and vanilla. Rich but on the lean side, quite refreshing.
Pairs with: Barbecue, grilled meats, roast quail, burgers, pizza, lasagna, chili.
Good for: Vintage cars, motorcycle racing, basketball playoffs, downloading e-books.
Alcohol: 13.5%
Drink: Now.

Why we're drinking this
This is nice, tidy little wine. Little bruiser, really. Primitivo is the original Zinfandel, and while they are the same grape variety, the style of this Italian Primitivo is quite different from the average Californian Zinfandel. For one, the alcohol is more restrained in the Primitivo. This makes for a lighter, more nimble wine, where the fruit shines through. This wine is fresher than many Zins, which can verge into almost sweet jammy-ness. For less than $10 — yes, you can still get a wine for under $10! — this is quite a good wine, and perfect for barbecue season.

Tasting note
Lots of aromas and flavours of dark fruit, blackcurrant/blackberries, plum and black licorice, with brambly notes of tree bark and twig, plus tea, smoke and vanilla. Flavours of cinnamon and cake spice too. This is a dry wine, but it has a little sweetness. It’s rich but not cloying, rather refreshing really. Medium body with very soft tannins and good length. Pair with traditional barbecue or other grilled meats, roast quail, meat-lover’s pizza, Philadelphia cheese steak, burgers, lasagna, chili.

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May 02, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: May 2

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Louis Latour 2016 Bourgogne Chardonnay (Burgundy, France)

Sale $19.55, Regular $21.55
Discount (until May 27): $2.00
LCBO #55533 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Citrus, apple, peach, apricot and herbals like Thai basil and gooseberry. Interesting, fruity and fresh. Complex, with a hint of vanilla and butter.
Pairs with: White meats, scallops, creamy cheeses.
Good for: Splashing out for under twenty bucks on a couch-and-movie night. Also good for lunch of leftover pesto pizza after calling in sick.
Alcohol: 13.5%
Drink: Now to 2020.

Why we're drinking this
It’s Latour!… And the label is killer. You put this on the table, and most people will think you spent $30 or more. Scripty text on a label gets that kind of response. That, and a hefty bottle, a real cork, and some major foil. Nice. Seriously though, when you’re buying Bourgogne, you go Latour and you’re not disappointed. This is Chardonnay, full on. And I don’t want to hear any “I don’t like Chardonnay” whining out there. You might not like all the crappy Chardonnays you’ve had over the years, but here’s one worth a shot. So don’t make me come over there and give you a live demonstration (though you will enjoy it). Drop a twenty on this, get your change, go home, chill the heck out of it… and boom. If you’ve got a scallop or two handy, all the better.

Tasting note
Nose: Citrus, green apple, Thai basil, gooseberry, apricot, peach, cashew, vanilla. Palate: Apple, lime/grapefruit, peach, pineapple, almond. Finish: fruit and butter/butterscotch. This wine is lean, focused and savoury. 2016 was a crap vintage but this wine pulls it out and does a wicked job. It’s balanced, lively, refreshing, delicious, and more complex than one would expect from 2016, especially at this price. Amazing: there’s no oak in this wine. And yet, there’s lovely vanilla creaminess. That’s the malolactic fermentation speaking. More on that another time. Serve very cold and let it warm as you sip. Drink with white meats, simple snacks (popcorn, nuts, cheese), scallops (diver; not cheap) and sautéed shrimp.

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April 25, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: April 25

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Long Weekend Wine Co. 2016 Chardonnay Pinot Grigio (Niagara, Ontario)

Sale $13.95, Regular $14.95
Discount (until April 29): $1.00
LCBO #427310 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Tasty melon, pear, apple and lemon/grapefruit. Dry and refreshing, with a nice savoury quality (a little herbal touch).
Pairs with: Light appetizers, cold cuts and cheeses, chicken skewers, sun choke soup (for the advanced school…), ceviche and seafood. Perfect with guacamole and chips!
Good for: It’s all in the name… Stock up for May 24. But you only have a few more days to get it on sale!
Alcohol: 12.5%
Drink: Now (and regularly).

Why we're drinking this
Sometimes you just want a wine with a camper van on the label, right? This wine has the right vibe, from name to label to contents. It’s fun and easy, but intriguing and satisfying — just as any long weekend should be. This refreshing blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio is made by Fielding Estate Winery in Niagara, a lovely property (worth a visit!) making small-batch VQA wines.

Tasting note
Very pretty nose of pear, citrus, apple and white flowers. Juicy and punchy, with lots of flavour. Just enough acidity to keep things lively. The finish is fruity, with a touch of herbal notes that really make this an interesting and tasty wine. It has quite a lot going on. Great on its own or with light snacks, appetizers and pretty much any chicken or seafood. A fun wine that’s a cut above many other fun wines!

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April 18, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: April 18

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Château Fongaban 2016 Castillon (Bordeaux, France)

Sale $14.95, Regular $16.95
Discount (until April 29): $2.00
LCBO #479832 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Pretty and pure blue and red berries, a touch of sweet spice and Bordeaux-esque minerality (sort of a pencil lead kind of thing). Mid-weight, complex, with a long finish.
Pairs with: Grilled and braised meats. Duck or lamb. A Philly cheese steak would go nicely.
Good for: Pretending you paid twice as much. (It’s that good!)
Alcohol: 14.5%
Drink: Now.

Why we're drinking this
A good deal in good Bordeaux is hard to find. Here’s one we really, really like. It’s organic, from the Côtes de Castillon AOC of Bordeaux. This is north of the Dordogne River that defines the Bordeaux region and bisects it into what are commonly known as the “left” and “right” banks. Castillon is adjacent to the famous right-bank region of St. Émillion. Merlot is the star player here on the right bank, with some supporting role played by Cabernet Sauvignon. Castillon is seeing a lot of investment and is definitely one to watch for value.

Tasting note
A very nice, pure and easy-to-drink wine. Generous, in a modern style that emphasizes the lovely blue and red fruit from the Merlot. It has that Merlot-activated silky quality too. Pretty, perfumed and with complex fruits and mineral notes, with very restrained oak. The wine is fresh, delicious and drinking beautifully right now. No need to save it for later. Mid-weight, with juicy acidity and a long finish. Surprising complexity for a wine under $20. And it’s organic too. It’s a great wine to take to the patio for the first grilling days of spring, and pair with juicy burgers, steaks, lamb, etc. It would love some duck too.

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April 11, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: April 11

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Thorn-Clarke Barossa Grenache Shiraz 2016 (Barossa, Australia)

Sale $14.95, Regular $17.95
Discount (until April 29): $3.00
LCBO #499616 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Velvety red and blue berries, plum and nice soft spice. Full-bodied and weighty, but well balanced, fruity and easy to like. Complex and lively.
Pairs with: Steak and burgers on the grill, mushroom tagliatelle, wild boar ragu, grilled portobellos.
Good for: When you want to balance heft and finesse — kind of like doing yoga with a barbell. It’s fun and you look good doing it!
Alcohol: 14.5%
Drink: Now to 2020.

Why we're drinking this
Grenache and Shiraz combine in this hefty and fruity wine. It’s very much an Aussie profile, with classic Shiraz spice and heft, along with nice red-fruit qualities from the Grenache. Both grapes are capable of much richness and high alcohol, and this wine does weigh in at 14.5% alcohol, which makes it a bit hot. But it is well balanced and you don’t really notice. This is a very well-made wine from Australia’s Barossa, which is famous for its Shiraz.

Tasting note
This is a powerful wine with lots of fruit and spice. It’s easy to like, as that velvety richness is quite seducing. So be careful… at 14.5% alcohol, it can sneak up on you. But there’s lots of fresh berry fruit, lovely sweet spice and a little oak toast, making for a complex and eminently sippable wine. It’s delicious on its own or with food. Try big juicy steaks, roast beef and other fatty things. Go for big rich flavours to match the wine’s heft. Mushroom tagliatelle, roast portobellos, wild boar ragu, huge drippy burgers… that sort of thing. It’s not a shy wine, so your food will need matching personality.

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April 04, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: April 4

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Pessoa Da Vinha Reserva Douro (Douro, Portugal)

Sale $13.40, Regular $14.90
Discount (until April 29): $1.50
LCBO #370411 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Spiced and peppery red berries, plum, black currant and raisin, with a leafy edge, a touch of violets, and a hint of vanilla and clove. Intensely flavoured, rustic and kind of wild.
Pairs with: Roast meats and game (venison, wild boar), meaty lasagna, pasta and pizza, hard cheese.
Good for: Gardening and yard work. Heck, might as well get your land ready for spring. Even if all you have is a pot with a succulent in it.
Alcohol: 13.5%
Drink: Now through 2021.

Why we're drinking this
You ever get even just a teeny bit tired of the same old Cab Sauv, Merlot, Sangiovese… Pinot Noir… (wait, we take that back; no one gets tired of Pinot…)? Noble grapes, to be sure, but it’s nice to mix it up. Welcome to your Touriga Nacional years. This is the grape better known for its use in Port wine, where it’s peppery attack and deep plum and red berry qualities are mellowed over time and a heck of a lot of wood aging and a healthy dose of spirit. In a still wine like this one, the grape is pleasantly rustic and wild, with a leafy and purple flower quality that is quite charming and unique. It ain’t no Merlot, that’s for sure! And that’s a good thing. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Merlot.)

Tasting note
Perfumed with plum, cinnamon and spiced pear, with loads of black currant and blackberry. Some raisin notes developing. The attack is a bit coarse, but the fruit is generous and delicious, so it takes the edge off. Big flavours of red berries and sweet spice, and even some cran-cherry cola. This is a dry, rustic wine with a heck of a lot of charm. It could age a few years and do interesting things. For drinking now, give it some big meaty flavours, especially some meat and tomato pastas or bold stews.

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March 28, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: March 28

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Château Saint-Germain 2016 Bordeaux Supérieur (Bordeaux, France)

Sale $13.45, Regular $16.45
Discount (until April 3): $3.00
LCBO #152587 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Black cherries, plum, blackberries, tobacco, leather with a little vanilla and dried leaf. An earthy wine — seriously “Old World” — but super sexy.
Pairs with: Steaks, grilled stuff, mushroom sautée, lamb (rack or stew), boar… anything big and scary that you can throw onto a grill (though you must kill it yourself).
Good for: Reading the New York Times while your meat marinates. Better have a few more bottles for dinner though.
Alcohol: 14%
Drink: Now to 2020.

Why we're drinking this
Good Bordeaux for under 15 bucks? Yeah. No brainer. The French just do it right, and to your peril do you write them off. New World wines be damned. Here’s a solid cheap Bordeaux that does everything right: it’s heavy on the Merlot, which is what you want, because it means you’ll get some nice texture and red berry fruit. But it’s got that austere “eff you” Bordeaux/French sensibility in spades. It’s not all soft and “easy to drink”… it’s a seriously deep and complex wine. For the price, you can’t get much better. For context: This wine at $20 would still be a good deal. Take that to the bank.

Tasting note
Cedar, eucalyptus and plum/blackberries… that’s the nose. It’s bold, and might in fact clear your blocked airways. Lots of plum and black berries here, along with generous dark cherries and a fair amount of cedar/oak/pine. It’s woody, but with concentrated fruit and substantial alcohol (14%) that adds texture and kick. Cheap Bordeaux (and I don’t mean that pejoratively) is often thin and nasty, but this wine is friendly, generous and, still, kind of obtuse and dismissive. Like the French, I suppose. Sweeping statement alert! Yeah, but kind of right… right? Get this wine. It’s good.

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March 21, 2018

LCBO Sale Wine of the Week: March 21

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OPI 2017 Chardonnay (Mendoza, Argentina)

Sale $9.95, Regular $10.95
Discount (until April 3): $1.00
LCBO #406934 | 750 mL bottle

Tastes like: Chardonnay in all its glory: apple, citrus, tropical fruits and vanilla. 'Nuff said.
Pairs with: White meats, salmon, lighter flavours like sautéed shrimp in butter, white pizza, creamy soups.
Good for: At $10? Who needs a reason?
Alcohol: 13.5%
Drink: Immediately.

Why we're drinking this
You know how it’s kind of “the thing” these days to say confidently “oh, I don’t like Chardonnay?” Which is weird, because Chardonnay is quite the chameleon. It’s not like saying “I hate Coca-Cola,” which you gotta respect because Coke is Coke. You don’t like it? Cool. But Chardonnay isn’t any one thing. It might be all apple and tangerine; it might be all lemon and buttered popcorn; it might be all flabby nutty blech; it might be a laser light show of mineral godliness. You don’t like any of those? Cool. Move on and try another. If you truly hate all Chardonnay, god(s) help you. There’s not much more joy to be found. Ergo, this little beauty from far-away Argentina. It’s all of the above, minus the Coke and the blech. You dig?

Tasting note
Pretty nose of fresh cut apple, some tropical fruits (mango, banana), a kick of lime, stewed apricot, a hint of vanilla and some wild flowers to maintain you in thrall. Seductive, yes. The attack is dry with bright acidity, delivering clean and crisp apple and all the good stuff your nose titillated you about. Plus some clove and orange creamsicle. There’s even a little nuttiness, for you nut lovers. A really nice clean and fresh medium-bodied wine (it’s 2017 after all) but with remarkable character and complexity at this price. The finish is a bit short, but who are we to quibble? It’s a good frickin’ wine. Serve it with salmon, trout, chicken, tacos, pizza or creamy veg soup – aim for medium flavours, nothing too rich or too fatty. But it’s no push over, as it does have some heft.

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