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Harry's Blog

  • Keg Tapping Time

    September 16 to October 3 are the dates of this year’s Munich Oktoberfest, the world’s most famous beer festival, held annually in Germany’s state of Bavaria.

    The opening ceremonies include the tradition of having the current serving Lord Mayor tap the first keg. Sounds rather simple. Spank the spigot, wear a large leather apron to protect oneself and those in close proximity from suds that may randomly wish to fly about, and fill the first stein. Not always! The record for the least number of whacks required to get the tap into the keg is held by Lord Mayor Christian Ude. In 2005 he did it with two whacks. At the end of the accuracy scale, Lord Mayor Thomas Wimmer, in 1950, required nineteen attempts.

    While it’s the bucket list destination of many a beer lover to visit the Hofbräu tent in Munich, holding 10,000 revellers, we are fortunate to have the same Hofbräu Oktoberfest beer that is served in Germany available for a limited time at your local LCBO outlet. Did you know that in Munich, only breweries located within the city limits are allowed to sell their seasonal brews for Oktoberfest. Not like breweries around the world that have hijacked the term Oktoberfest for whatever style of beer they wish to produce and market.

    Hofbräu’s classic Märzen style brew is bright gold in colour with rich aromas of bread, medium-to-full bodied with a long citrus and dried hay finish. The independent Beverage Testing Institute gave it 93 points with an “Exceptional” rating. And don’t forget to pick up some sausages, buns and sauerkraut from your local grocery retailer to help create your own DYI Oktoberfest.

    Bring out the lederhosen, rinse out your stein, and get in line for a good time.

    Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier 500 mL, LCBO #84889, $4.15

  • We Must Wait for Must Weight

    As the grapes hang on the vine into late summer and fall, the natural sugars continue to build up. The sugar can be fermented into alcohol or, in the case of dessert wines, provide the wine lover with a rich, sweet nectar to be savored on its own or with rich desserts. These “stickies” are also the perfect foil for very rich foods other than desserts such as fois gras.

    The measure of sugar in the unfermented grapes is called “must weight” by winemakers. You’ve probably seen pictures of a winemaker squeezing the juice of a grape into what looks like a small telescope and then looking into it with one eye closed. This instrument is called a refractometer. Light passing through a drop of juice held between two prisms bends the light at a different angle according to its sugar content. A scale, seen through the eyepiece, gives a reading of the percentage of sugar. Every country has its own system for measuring must weight. Three scales are primarily used: Brix (New World), Oechsle (Germany), Beaumé (France). Richness and flavour are the winemaker’s reward. Of course, as the quantity of juice decreases on the vine as the grapes ripen, the richness and final retail price increase directly in proportion.

    This Special Select Late Harvest is produced from the Vidal grape, a favourite for producing dessert wines in the Niagara Peninsula. Despite the concentration of taste, it remains vibrant with a counter-balancing, refreshing, acidity. Savour on its own as a liquid dessert. Or pair with Dutch apple pie, crème brulée, butter tarts, or fois gras.

    2019 Henry of Pelham Special Select Late Harvest Vidal 375 ml LCBO #395228, $19.95.

  • No Beating Around The Bush

    Let’s get right to it. Although the Grenache grape has its origins in Spain, it’s the second most planted grape variety in France with over 80,000 hectares and no region has more than the southern Rhône. Typically, it is planted as bush vines. The vines are trained on a short trunk, free standing and pruned to a few spurs where the grapes grow. But let’s hop over to Down Under where Grenache has also made its mark, primarily in Australia’s Barossa Valley.

    The family-owned Yalumba winery is an Aussie benchmark for this variety. Named in honour of founder Samuel Smith, this old vines Grenache comes from their home block vineyards with some plantings going as far back as the 1920’s. Aged up to 10 months in previously filled oak barrels, it’s garnet in colour with purple and red hues with dark fruit and floral aromas. Medium bodied and demonstrating a nice balance between fruit, spice and tannins, it’s underpinned by a pleasant crispness.

    Respected New Zealand journalist Sam Kim rated it 93 points. And how about matching this exciting Grenache with shaved ham topped with stone ground Dijon mustard and served on Kaiser bun.

    2021 Yalumba Samuel’s Collection Bush Vine Grenache LCBO Vintages #531228, $26.95.

  • Back to School Special

    The first hints of the impending arrival of fall are starting to show up. A few leaves are turning colour. Morning dew is leaving our lawns wet and covering the windshields of vehicles left outside overnight. And it’s back to school for the kids once the Labour Day weekend is over.

    Parents have been busy organizing the transition from summer holidays to the structured classroom environment. And then there is a plethora of classroom materials needed such as pens, pencils, markers, binders, paper, glue sticks, post-it notes, calculators and more. Just look at the retail store offerings in those clear plastic bags bursting with flyers deposited at the end of your driveway. We won’t delve into the area of laptops, notebooks, printers, etc. for the more senior students. Or the bittersweet feelings of becoming empty nesters or leaving home as universities and colleges welcome first year post secondary students especially. All are anxious, but it’s a right of passage that befalls us all. After all is said and done, mom and dad deserve a bit of a break, put up their feet and enjoy a glass of wine.

    Luigi Bosca is one of Argentina’s oldest and respected wineries located in the premium, high altitude region of Mendoza. And Malbec is the affordable signature red varietal that has captured the attention and pocket books of the wine consumers around the world. With Luigi Bosca’s price-friendly La Linda line, we encounter typical aromas of smoke, dark fruits, and dark chocolate, with a long smooth finish on the palate. Enjoy on its own or pair with medium rare flank steak tacos. They are perfect for those nights when you want to enjoy a flavourful, protein-packed meal without a lot of fuss.

    Until Sept.10, you will save $2 per bottle on your purchase of this continuously listed LCBO item, down from the regular retail price of $14.00. 

    2022 Luigi Bosca La Linda Malbec #11927, $12.00

  • We're Over the Moon with this California Cab

    Jack London was the famous 19th century novelist, journalist and international celebrity. Best known for his adventure novels, especially

    The Call of the Wild, he also penned a novel called Valley of the Moon.  He took the title from the translation of the local Native American Miwok word, Sonoma.  Local legend had it that from certain sacred places, the moon appeared to rise and set seven times behind the peaks of

    Mayacamas Range. Of course, Sonoma Valley, known by wine lovers everywhere, is steeped in history and is the birthplace of Californian viticulture. Originally founded in1863 and re-opened again in 1941, the winery that bears the same name, Valley of The Moon, carries on viticultural traditions as rich and as deep as the soils where their grapes are grown. Reflecting the local terroir in the rolling hills of Sonoma County, the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon is pure California! Since you probably won’t be able to visit the historic Valley of the Moon tasting room at 134 Church Street in beautiful downtown Sonoma, with its Spanish charm, LCBO retail stores with Vintages sections are waiting for you to pick up a bottle or two. The bouquet reveals a palette of black fruits with pleasant hints of vanilla. Full bodied with a smooth texture, it’s great for a wide range of meat dishes. If vacationing this summer at your favourite campground, why not read some excerpts from one of Jack London’s adventure novels around the camp fire. Sip away as you listen to the fire’s crackling sounds and watch the night shadows of the flames dance about.

    2019 Valley of the Moon Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon #10042, $29.95

  • Grab a Grooner this Summer

    Grüner Veltliner, pronounced Grooner Velt-Leaner, is Austria’s signature white grape variety. In fact, it accounts for one-third of  Austria’s vineyards and is hardly planted elsewhere. Always dry, with a bright acidity and medium body, the bouquet gives us subtle notes of grapefruit and signature white pepper when swirled. It’s a great summer sipper that is drunk in copious quantities in restaurants, café’s and Weinstuben (wine bars) all over Austria. Drink on its own, pair with lighter dishes including seafoods. But the real match made im Himmel (heaven) is Wiener Schnitzel. We are not talking about the standard schnitzels available everywhere. No more than a pounded non-descript breaded cutlet made of pork and pan fried – ho-hum! Real Wiener (Viennese) Schnitzel is only allowed to be made with veal. Ever so thinly pounded and dredged in egg and bread crumbs, it is deep fried and will be light, tender and delicate. And then to pair with Grüner Veltliner!!! Lenz Moser is truly an ambassador of  Austria’s wine culture, established in 1905. Their premium, limited production Prestige line of wines is meant for upscale retailers, such as LCBO Vintages and restaurants. Also, Prestige Grüner garnered a Gold Medal at the Mundus Vini European Wine Competition.


    2022 Lenz Moser Prestige Grüner Veltliner #71233, $19.95

  • Best’s Buy: Victoria’s Best Kept Secret

    Located in the west of Australia’s State of Victoria, Best’s Wines Great Western is one of Australia’s ‘best kept’ winery secrets in the heart of its premium higher elevation Grampians wine region. Founded in 1866, Best’s is a family-owned and operated winery with some of the oldest and rarest vines on earth with plantings going back to 1868. This includes Shiraz, for which their Bin No.1 bottlings are an Australian benchmark. Made from Best’s own vineyards as well as trusted local growers, this wine is meticulously crafted with the same attention to detail as its premium flagship wines. It’s a classic, cool-climate, aromatic Shiraz, made in a style that's floral, spicy and peppery yet retains generous fruit characteristics and intensity. Well-balanced, alcohol does not dominate this elegant wine and is crafted to be drunk now. It makes a great accompaniment to food, especially for summer grilling. We would recommend using an aerator or decanting the 2020 vintage before drinking. Also, laying down the wine for up to five years will reward the purchaser with a cornucopia of greater complexity. Stuart Pigott of scored the wine 95 points.

    2020 Best’s Great Western Bin No. 1 Shiraz, LCBO VINTAGES# 223323, $21.95

  • Making the Most of Moscato

    While most wines hailing from northeastern Italy’s Piemonte Region are dry, there is one notable exception that is a classic. It’s Moscato d’Asti. Coming from the hillsides around the sub region of Asti, the Moscato grape thrives there. Fragrant. lightly sweet and slightly frothy, the alcohol level is low at only 5.9% by volume. The pressure is low, only about a quarter of regular sparkling wines. While not a classic dessert wine, its signature characteristic with its freshness, delicacy and intensely floral aromas makes it the perfect brunch wine. If not drunk on its own, it’s great to pair with fruit and fruit-based desserts. We are fortunate to have the local Ontario peach season upon us as this blog is being written, so let’s quickly take advantage of this tasty gift of nature before its over. Vinitaly’s wine competition gave it 91 points, so proceed to your local LCBO Vintages section to pick up some bottles. The producer, Manfredi, is a long established local Moscato specialist.

     2021 Manfredi Moscato d’Asti, LCBO #31164, $16.95

  • Go 2 Joe 4 Enjoyment

    Joe Dobbes is one of Oregon’s most experienced winemakers and largest vineyard owners. In fact, a secret we are sworn to, is that in addition to his own wines, he is a large custom crusher (producer) for many other well-known producers with virtual brands. He is also a pioneer in custom mobile bottling taking his truck-mounted bottling line wherever wine bottling is required. It makes economic sense for smaller producers to engage his services, especially when bottling is a short term activity only during select times of the year. Joe produces a range of top Pinot Noirs from single vineyard sites with prices to match. But for every day drinking he offer consumers the Wine by Joe range. This popular entry level brand consistently punches quality- wise way about its weight. We are fortunate to have the 2018 vintage Pinot Noir now available in the Vintages sections of LCBO retail stores. Aromas of black cherry, plum and bittersweet cocoa provide a segue to complex tannins, balanced beautifully with a silky texture and nice acidity. A medium bodied mouthful is rounded out with complex flavours of dark cherry, plums and delicate hints of soft toasty oak. This crisp Pinot Noir is sure to win you over with a breezy complexity making it a smart pick for food pairing. BBQ’d tuna steaks would be our recommendation for a perfect summer match. Tastings Panel Magazine gave it 91 points. 

    2018 Wine By Joe Oregon Pinot Noir #60467, $24.95

  • Super Tuscans: Bolgheri Emboldened

    Super Tuscan is a consumer term, not an official designation. Wines from Italy’s Tuscany region have been produced with traditional grape varieties, primarily Sangiovese. But a number of well-established, yet enterprising estate producers started planting international grape varieties in the 70’s along Tuscany’s Mediterranean coastline. These included Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Syrah. Now considered the super stars of Italy, with prices to match, they are international in style yet have a distinct  “Italianess.” about them. Powerful, highly structured and flamboyant, they are wrapped up with vanilla notes that come from aging in a combination of new and previously filled oak barriques. The Macchiole estate, a key Super Tuscan producer, is located in the Bolgheri appellation which has proven itself to be the epicenter for this type of wine. Beautifully balanced with dark fruit and spices, it is fresh and polished. While it may be aged for several years, it’s showing beautifully now. It wouldn’t harm to decant the wine and let it breath for half an hour before serving. It’s excellent value when compared to most of the icon Super Tuscans. Any BBQ’d cuts of meat would be a great match. But we would go with a traditional Italian meat dish of Ossobuco, veal shanks braised with vegetables, wine and broth. This wine was scored 93 points by Robert Parker.       

    2020 Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso #483412, $42.95

  • Côte Des Roses By Another Colour

    Gérard Bertrand has made the Languedoc region, along the French Mediterranean coast, world famous with his Côte des Roses line of rosé wines. But he has not neglected to offer consumers additional white and red varietal wines that celebrate the Mediterranean lifestyle. He produces a Sauvignon Blanc from plantings in vineyards at higher elevations with limestone, schist and gravel soils that will bring out the crisp freshness of this grape. Harvesting at night, the cool temperature of the grapes help preserve the freshness of the fruit. About 10% of the Sauvignon Blanc harvest is vinified in neutral French oak barrels. The remainder is fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks at low temperatures in order to preserve the fresh aromas and character of the fruit. Very pale gold in colour with fresh passion fruit in the body, citrus notes highlight freshness and a pleasant dry minerality in the finish. A classic Mediterranean dish to pair with this wine that can easily be prepared during Canadian summers is bouillabaisse (boo-ya-bays). It’s a soup prepared with fish, shellfish, olive oil, onions, tomatoes, garlic, parsley, saffron, fennel, thyme, bay leaf and orange peel. The internet hosts lots of recipes with these ingredients.     


    2022 Gérard Betrand Côte des Roses Sauvignon Blanc #23906, $21.95.

  • Potente Shows Montsant Potential

    Priorat is a rugged, tiny mountainous Spanish wine region just inland from the Mediterranean coast. Its distinctive stony black slate soil produces very low yielding, dense, inky red wines. They are some of the most powerful, and extremely expensive Spanish wines. But, there is a wine region called Montsant, translated “holy mountain”, that completely surrounds Priorat with similar characteristics at every day prices. Our associate Eva López, from Cuvée International, met growers in the town of Capçanes, the most important centre of wine production in Montsant and from the beginning she knew she had found people who produce wines really true to their origins using indigenous grape varieties. Capçanes, located 100 miles southwest of Barcelona, 20 miles inland from the Mediterranean sea, is the heart of a long wine growing history dating back to the middle ages. Eva made the decision to develop the POTENTE project in this incredible area in Catalonia making a blend of Garnacha (Grenache), Merlot, Cariñena and Syrah. They show the typicity and elegance of this terroir characterized by small plots, steep inclines and sustainable agriculture in typical terraced plantings. Internationally acclaimed wine writer Neal Martin once said “If Priorat is Pauillac then Montsant is Margaux”. The vines are up to 50 years old, grown at an altitude of 150-450 meters. An impressive, pure wine that reveals liveliness and depth! Wild red and black berry flavours, cherry, spices and crushed rocks dominate this serious wine at an extremely friendly price. Food Pairings? Take your choice: chili con carne, BBQ’d beef with dry marinade, duck salad with strawberries, filet mignon with peppercorn sauce, mixed grill of beef, sausage and chicken, rib-eye steak, or moussaka. This 2019 vintage received 92 points from James Suckling. Available at a variety of LCBO Vintages locations.


    2019 POTENTE DO MONTSANT #10682, $19.95