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.
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
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
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
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 jamessuckling.com scored the wine 95 points.
2020 Best’s Great Western Bin No. 1 Shiraz, LCBO VINTAGES# 223323, $21.95
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
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 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
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.
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
For this Canada Day weekend, let’s for once try to get away a bit from the standard oversubscribed selection of BBQ-ed items. Poutine is one of those dishes that is an all-Canadian classic. Its origins are in the French-speaking province of Quebec. But it’s easy to prepare at home or at the cottage too. French fries are covered with cheese curds that are supposed to soften up, melt and fill the crevasses between the fries. Then, ladle over with a meat-based ooey, gooey gravy of your choice. What we’ve got here is a Canadian cornucopia of textures and flavors all coming together to party on one’s palate before swallowing. Potatoes with their starch, cheese curds with proteins that are obliged to squeak when bitten into, and gravy with a seductive viscosity coming from animal juices, do their tasty thing. An overall pleasant mouthfeel with all these components creates the concept of flavour, even umami. While carbonated drinks are a popular accompanying beverage, wine will pair quite nicely. But what wine? We recommend a medium-bodied wine with berry notes, a pleasant acidity and just a teeny tad of sweetness. 2021 Henry of Pelham VQA Rosé from the Niagara Peninsula, featured in the Summer Edition of LCBO’s popular Food and Drink Magazine, ticks off all the boxes. And please enjoy poutine as a side dish and carb component with any of your favourite BBQ items. HAPPY CANADA DAY!!!!!!
2021 Henry of Pelham VQA Niagara Peninsula Rosé #613471, $12.95. (regularly $14.95, now $2.00 off LCBO until July 16th)
All the major Port producers have vineyard holdings called quintas, especially in the upper reaches of the Douro River, about 125 km inland from the Atlantic Ocean. Not only is Real Companhia Velha Portugal’s oldest and largest port producer, they also produce table wines from their extensive holdings of prime vineyard land along the steep and winding slopes of the Douro. This gives them a phenomenal choice of the very best parcels to allocate for their red table wine production. Many of them, quite old, are planted with the “usual suspects” of grapes, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (a.k.a. Tempranillo), Touriga Franca and Tinta Barroca. Hot, hot, hot is the climate with stifling temperatures in summer. Steep, steep, steep are the rugged slopes where most of the vines are planted on neat terraces. Some of the old stone-walled terraces have actually been preserved in order for the region to keep its UNESCO World Heritage Site designation. Soil is almost non-existent on the steep hillsides which is why walls were built. Newer terraces can now be worked by tractor as a result of vineyard rationalization that took place in the 1970’s and 1980’s due to the dwindling labor force. The reduction of Port wine output has proven to be a benefit to the production of dry red table wines using the very same high quality grape varieties. One of the region’s best quintas is the Quinta dos Aciprestes. It extends for over 2 kilometres on the left bank of the Douro river facing the tributary Tua river. The Quinta is easily identified by the large cypress trees, located around the estate’s mansion. The quinta is characterized by the planting of vines in vertical rows highlighting the absence of the traditional terraces, the result of the recent reconversion that took place in the vineyard. A rich wine, dense with young tannins plus barrique aging in quality oak has given the wine a smooth, approachable texture balancing the fruit and structure. At almost six years of age, it’s very approachable, but a few more years rest wouldn’t harm it. Wine Enthusiast Magazine gave it 92 points. Enjoy with lamb chops grilled on the BBQ. Pick up a bottle or two (or more) this weekend, as you browse your local LCBO Vintages section.
2017 Quinta dos Aciprestes Douro #703561, $19.95.