Trophy Wines Sell Out

Trophy Wines Sell Out

My Drink column in current issue of Toronto Life reviews ten very expensive, gifting wines released Saturday (December 8th) at Vintages, complete with a warning that you need to “step lively” to actually acquire them. I should have said set your alarm clock for 5 a.m. Within an hour or two of doors opening many of the trophy bottles were sold out.

It’s difficult to muster mass political sympathy for those who have to line-up to spend hundreds of dollars on wine, but I do feel sorry for those who missed out on buying a single treasured bottle. The problem, of course, is squarely rooted in the fact we have only one retailer of fine wine, which must parse out meager supply of such wines over a huge population base. And the only fair way to do that is to release all the wines at the same time, often with “per person” maximums that are sometimes as high and low as one bottle. It’s a fair system, except for all those who can’t be in the line-up due to other obligations, like taking their kids to the rink on Saturday morning. By way of consolation, most of the trophy wines, although certainly outstanding in quality, are overpriced. And there is far better value, if less thrill, in owning and gifting lesser known wines. So here are ten to look for this week as you shop Vintages. I have provided the largest stock location as a general guide to how much is in the system. Copy and paste the LCBO number into Wine Search at to find stocks at stores nearest you.

$15 to $25

Aramis 2004 Shiraz McLaren Vale, South Australia ($24.95, 90 points, 41202)
A ripe, deep, lush and surprisingly elegant Shiraz for its size. Very ripe, floral, sweet blackberry/blueberry fruit on the nose with oak vanillin and spice deep in the background. Full bodied, thick and concentrated with mid palate finesse typical of McLaren Vale until considerable alcohol heat piles up on the finish. Approachable now will hold to 2015. Largest stock of 214 bottles at Bayview and Sheppard

Rodney Strong 2005 Chalk Hill ChardonnaySonoma County, California ($24.95, 92 points, 27555)
A classy example of prime Sonoma chardonnay, with the region’s cooler climate sensibility and soil complexity sewing in good firmness and finesse. But not too lean; indeed, it offers opulent butterscotch, buttered toast, pear and peach notes set in a creamy mid-palate. Excellent length; very stylish. Now to 2011. Largest stock of an incredible 524 bottles at Yonge/Summerhill.

$25 to $50

Flat Rock 2005 Gravity Pinot Noir, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario ($29.95, 90 points, 56838)
Took top pinot at the Ontario Wine Awards this year. The nose is a balsamic-like blast of raspberry, spice and wood smoke, with the earthy, fresh-dug beet nuance typical of Ontario pinot. Rich, smooth yet vibrant on the palate with excellent length. When matched with an early fall squab and turnip plate by Tony de Luca in Niagara-on-the-Lake it found a perfect home. GTA stocks limited although Bayview and Sheppard shows 60 bottles. (DL)

Hidden Bench 2005 Terroir Cachet, Niagara Peninsula ($35.00, 91 points, 505610) In its very first year Hidden Bench has captured runner-up position as Canada’s Winery of the Year at the Canadian Wine Awards. What’s setting them apart so far is seamless, elegant structure, as evident in this youthful Bordeaux-styled cabernet, merlot blend. Some may find it a touch green but Bordeaux fans who like tobacco, cedar and lead pencil notes will appreciate just how close this comes. Generous raspberry fruit as well. It’s mid-weight, smooth and warm with excellent length. Best 2010 to 2105+. GTA stocks are dwindling; largest stock of 24 bottles at Bayview and Sheppard.

Alvaro Palacios 2004 Les TerrassesPriorat, Spain ($38.95, 93 points, 977843)
One of the great values of the December 8 release—and stocks will go fast (largest stock of 27bottles at Dupont/Spadina). It’s a powerful, racy very concentrated red from a brilliant young Spaniard working in the rugged, remote hills of Priorato with grapes like carignan, grenache and cabernet. Deeply coloured, full of verve and ripe blackberry/blueberry fruit, spice and minerality. Will age long; best 2010 to 2020.

Domaine Grand Veneur 2004 Chateauneuf Du PapeRhone Valley, France ($38.95, 89 points, 41954)
There are two Grand Veneur wines on shelf, this one is the less expensive “regular” edition. Very ripe, intense and aggressive, similar to California zinfandel with huge blackberry/boysenberry fruit, youthful leesy character, a touch of peppery spice, and very little oak. Full bodied, dense, hot and tannic; and loaded with fruit. Very good length. Best 2010 to 2015. Largest stock of 186 bottles at Yonge & Summerhill

Over $50

Chateau Bel-Air Ouy 2005 St. Emilion Grand CruBordeaux, France ($52.95, 90 points, 46557)
Lovely aromatics with very ripe, generous appealing black cherry-fig fruit nicely framed by mocha, leather and spice, with a touch of leathery/gamy character. Medium-full bodied, ripe, smooth and rich on the palate, with a bit too much alcohol heat on the finish. Fine tannin; very good to excellent length. Best 2009 to 2013. Largest stock of 96 bottles at Yonge/Summerhill

La Serre Nuove dell Ornellaia 2005Tuscany, Italy ($58.95, 91 points, 606194)
In the excellent 2005 vintage Ornellaia’s second wine is virtually as high in quality as the 2004 Ornellaia, which has sold out at three times the price. This blend of merlot, cabernets and petit verdot is full of charm and richness, with generous, sweet aromas of ripe berry, mocha/vanilla sweetness, with herb, tobacco and cedar nuances. Medium-full bodied, graceful and supple yet braced by firm young tannin. Excellent length. Best 2009 to 2013. Largest stock of 78 bottles at Queens Quay

Bollinger Special Cuvee BrutChampagne, France ($67.95, 92 points, 384529)
The bubbly I would most like to drink New Years Eve, or anytime during the Holidays. Not quite as fine as its sister La Grande Année 1999 at $148, but a grand Champagne with nerve and intensity. Very lifted bouquet is packed with toasted almond, lemon custard, apple and smokiness. It’s medium weight, firm and racy with great focus and length of finish. Delicious, and good value, at least within the rarefied world of Champagne. Largest stock of 54 bottles at Yonge & Davisville

Antinori 2003 Guado Al Tasso Bolgheri, Tuscany, ($81.95, 94 points, 986380)
This beauty blends cabernet sauvignon, merlot and a dash of syrah from the warm coastal region that has bred legendary wines like Sassicaia and Ornellaia. As you marvel at its ease smoothness and richness you may overlook just how complex it is, with jammy berry fruit so well nestled amid chocolate, herbs and spices that the flavours defy separation. Really quite perfect, supple, charming with excellent to outstanding length—to enjoy now although it will live a decade. Largest stock of 200 bottles at Weston Rd/401