Wine of the WeekPlantatree 2006 Chardonnay, California ($14.95, 87 points, 64824)A newsmaker on a couple of levels, not least of which is finally having decent wine in an alternative, eco-friendly package. It is being touted as the world’s first carbon-positive wine by creator Steven Campbell of Toronto-based Lifford Agencies. Two dollars and fifty cents from every bottle sold will go to planting trees near Sudbury, replacing the carbon emitted in the production and shipping of the wine. It is grown in California and bottled in lighter, recyclable plastic (PET) in Niagara. There are three wines in the series, with the barely oaked 2006 chardonnay being the best in my view—very fresh, balanced and clean—so lively, in fact, I thought it was a ripe sauvignon blanc when I was handed a glass at the launch reception at Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar last week. The 2005 merlot ($14.95, 65151) is very good as well—nicely supple, smooth and clean with typical jammy berry and woodsy flavours. The 2005 cabernet sauvignon ($14.95, 65102) is less appealing with some green, rhubarb flavours but no different than many other inexpensive cabernets grown at higher yields in warm climates. LCBO: wide distribution.
In case you are starting to think about Christmas shopping (yoiks, I’m not), here are some highlights in from last Saturday’s big release at Vintages stores. There is a range of prices from $13.95 to $149.95, in many styles, from regions around the world. In case you haven’t noticed, no country can claim it is has a monopoly on good wine any longer. Use the Wine Search at www.lcbo.com to find current stocks at your nearest Vintages store. Cut and paste the LCBO product number into Wine Search for the most swift and accurate results. Quantities quoted below are as of Nov. 11.
Under $15Altos Las Hormigas 2006 Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($13.95, 89 points, 640490)Great colour depth and brightness, with a wonderfully generous, richly fruited nose—a compote of mulberry, blackberry, plum with some oak tucked in the background. Quite full bodied, dense, rounded and even with some heat, but massive fruit is the lasting impression. Vintages. Largest stock (over 600 bottles) at Bayview and Sheppard.
Rose Garden 2003 Pinotage, Paarl, South Africa ($14.95, 87 points, 37382)Pinotage, a grape developed in South Africa, is falling out of favour due to an oft-found pungent meatiness and iodine note. But such things are always a matter of degree and the trace you will find here, I think, adds character. Otherwise, it has loads of ripe wild-berry jam, dried herbs and mocha complexity. It’s fairly dense, sweet and firm with considerable drying tannin. Best 2009 to 2012. Largest stock (84 bottles) at Queens Quay.
$15 to $25Sa’ Solin 2004 Ripasso della Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy ($15.95, 87, 650713)Ripasso is a highly successful style that delivers some of the richness and ripeness of amarone at less than half the price, appealing to New World red wine drinkers looking for old world flavours like leather and marzipan. Soft, ripe nose includes plummy, jammy fruit as well. Medium-full, open, quite smooth and soft with a warm, spicy finish. Very good length. Largest stock (over 600) bottles at Avenue and Lawrence.
Pfeiffer 2004 Pinot Noir, Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia ($19.95, 88, 961219)Australia’s hot, interior Rutherglen region is about the last place I’d expect to see successful pinot noir, but young winemaker Jen Pfeiffer has crafted some elegance and immediate appeal. Very ripe and jammy with raspberry notes plus some typical Aussie mint, with fine dried herb and leathery complexity. Mid-weight, fairly soft and a touch sweet, but flows nicely, with mild tannin. Very good length. Largest stock (127 bottles) at Queens Quay.
Tawse 2006 Riesling, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario ($20.20, 90 points, 55103)Quite opposite in style to the German riesling listed next, this is powerful and dry—made very much in the Alsatian style from old vines in Niagara. Classy aromas with floral prettiness, ripe peach fruit accented with lemon and lime, plus riesling’s classic petrol and mineral aromas. It’s medium-full bodied, well balanced and vibrant with some sweetness. Very good to excellent length. Largest stock (about 50 bottles) at Bayview and Sheppard.
Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt 2005 Riesling Kabinett Ockfener Bockstein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany ($20.95, 92 points, 606202)From a magnificent estate clinging to steep green hills above the tiny Ruwer River comes an amazingly delicate, vital, classic riesling that will brighten any day. Lovely green apple, grapefruit, lime and fresh dill aromas stay on course through the zesty, off-dry palate, finishing with a twist of orange. Beautifully made with excellent length and superb value. Largest stock (over 80) bottles at Yonge and Summerhill.
Calera 2005 Chardonnay 30th Anniversary Edition, Central Coast, California ($22.95, 91 points, 713313)An amazing value for a full-blown, well-structured, serious chardonnay that handily competes with the much more expensive white Burgundies I tasted alongside. Quite mature aromas of baked pear and pineapple fruit with almonds, lime and candle wax. Real story is the creamy rich texture that firms and dries on the finish, with flavours powering to quite amazing length. Largest stocks (about 100 bottles) at Queens Quay and at Laird and Eglinton.
$25 to $50Casa Lapostolle 2005 Cuvée Alexandre Merlot, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($32.95, 91 points, 459206)The Apalta Vineyard that is emerging has one of the truly important viticultural enclaves in Chile. This is very stylish, rich yet reserved, as might be expected from winemakers with French backgrounds. Deeply coloured with complex ripe blackberry-cassis fruit, juniper and chocolate. Quite full bodied, dense, supple and rich with some drying, chewy tannin. Best 2009 to 2013, Largest stock (of 112 bottles) at Queens Quay.
Château Le Carillon 2005 Pomerol, Bordeaux, France ($34.95, 92 points, 51417)It’s always fun to find really good Bordeaux from an unknown property, in the case likely the result of the excellent vintage. With 85 per cent merlot and 15 per cent cabernet franc, it’s supple, elegant and fine-boned, with a very lifted nose of ripe cherry, plum, leather, mocha and anise. Medium-full bodied, sweet, elegant and poised, with excellent length. Best 2008 to 2013. Largest stock (160 bottles) at Bayview and Sheppard.
Over $50Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils 2005 Meursault Genevrières 1er Cru, Burgundy, France ($89.95, 94 points, 705970)The Genevrières vineyard is one of the best chardonnay sites in the world. This is a masterpiece of sensuality and structure. Classic nose of poached pear, lime, butterscotch and peat smoke. Full bodied yet surprisingly slender and elegant. Real finesse, almost never-ending flavours. Best 2010 to 2020 and beyond. Largest stock (90 bottles) at Yonge and Summerhill.
Antinori 2003 Solaia, Tuscany, Italy ($149.95, 94 points 987586)Antinori’s famous cabernet blend contains 20 per cent sangiovese—and in this ripe vintage it’s a lavish, finely appointed, perfectly balanced wine. Lovely, sweet ripe cherry and blackcurrant fruit is nestled amid creamy mocha, leather and olive. Excellent to outstanding length, with a touch of the piquant sangiovese currant on the finish. Best 2010 to 2020. Largest stock (232 bottles) at Weston and Hwy. 401.