Holiday Shopping at Vintages

Holiday Shopping at Vintages

As much as I personally like to drag my heels on the issue of Christmas shopping, it was clearly evident from the throngs in the LCBO’s Bloor and Royal York store last Saturday afternoon that the season has been flung upon us. (I hear Royal York sold out of their 132-bottle allotment of Le Clos Jordanne—see Nov. 23 blog—by noon.) The upcoming January edition of Toronto Life has some great tips (and I hope inspiration) about buying fine wine at Christmas and offers suggestions from Vintages’ impressive Dec. 8 release. For those driven to finish their shopping this weekend, here are 10 worthy gifts already on the shelf, with largest stock allocations shown as of Nov. 26. To find stock at the store nearest you plug the LCBO product number shown into the Product Search function at

Wine of the Week

Freiherr Heyl zu Herrnsheim 2004 Riesling Spätlese Neirstein, Rheinhessen, Germany ($23.95, 93 points, 721985)Unbelievable value and ideal for re-introducing the glory of fine German riesling to a friend or associate. There is some sweetness, but it is incredibly creamy, silky yet fine-boned with lacy acidity. Aromas and flavours are a fruit custard of pineapple, peach, honey, ginger and evergreen. Excellent length; wonderful poise. Best now to 2012. Largest stocks (95 bottles) at Yonge/Summerhill and Bayview/Sheppard.

$25 to $60

Gonzales Byass Noe Pedro Ximénez Muy Viejo, Jerez, Spain ($25.95 for 375ml, 95 points, 721159)If not for the sweet-toothed fanatic on your list, at least buy one bottle to serve over the holidays. A great buy for a truly remarkable and exotic sherry. From the Pedro Ximénez grape and over-ripened to raisin perfection, this pours as brown and thick as molasses. The nose is raisin pie, mocha fudge, clove and lime. Incredibly sweet, thick and rich, yet it’s surprisingly delicate when you get over the sugar shock. One of the world’s most unusual wines, beautifully rendered. Largest stock (39 bottles) at Yonge and Summerhill.

Domaine Santa Duc 2004 Gigondas, Rhône Valley, France ($33.95, 90 points, 11601)For years this has been one of my favourite little “unknown” southern Rhône producers. Such a lovely perfume in this vintage with lifted spicy, Christmas cake, plum, blueberry and peppery complexity. I suspect from the fragrance there is considerable mourvèdre here, and the firm, bitter tannin seem to confirm this. But the mid-palate is open, fleshy and fruity. Overall, there is terrific lift and flavour, and an exuberance that expresses the southern Rhône. Very good to excellent length. Largest stock (126 bottles) at Bayview and Sheppard.

Lungarotti 2000 Rubesco Rosso Riserva Vigna Monticchio, Torgiano, Umbria, Italy ($38.95, 91 points, 51771)This is the flagship single-vineyard, sangiovese-based red from this important Umbrian producer and the first vintage produced entirely by daughter Chiara since Giorgio Lungarotti’s recent passing. Befitting its age and the ripe vintage, it is wonderfully smooth and ready to drink. The nose is quite forward with currant-strawberry jam fruit wrapped in licorice, caraway and leather complexity. Quite supple yet deep with a dry, mineral-driven finish. Excellent length. Drink now to 2013. Largest stock (115 bottles) at Weston and Hwy. 401.

D’Arenberg 2003 The Ironstone Pressings GSM, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($49.95, 93 points, 974816)This grenache-shiraz-mourvèdre blend is a real piece of work, holding together very well despite exaggerated density and richness. Very deep colour and a very ripe, sweet nose of dried fig and date, chocolate and clove, with a refreshing spruce needle and balsamic edge. Full bodied, dense and sweet yet shows great acidity and excellent length. Very impressive. Best now to 2013. Largest stock (41 bottles) at Queens Quay.

Lamborghini 2003 Campoleone, Umbria, Italy ($49.95, 91 points, 716043)For the person on your list who loves fast cars and racy wines. It is excellent, with a classic New World nose of very ripe blackberry, mocha, cedar and a hint of leather and meat. A great nose! It’s medium-full bodied, elegant, sleek, warm and intense. Fairly substantial but soft tannin. Excellent length. Best now to 2012. Largest stock (48 bottles) at Queens Quay.

Château de Pez 2003 Saint-Estèphe, Bordeaux, France ($51.95, 91 points, 717389)A great Bordeaux cellar starter for the friend who’s just beginning to collect. From a hot vintage, it is both excellent and typical but not outrageously priced. Classic Bordeaux aromas of cedar bough, leather, lead pencil, tobacco and blackcurrant. Full bodied, fairly dense and elegant, with young tannin drying the finish. Will be even smoother in five years. Largest stock (95 bottles) at Yonge and Summerhill.

Castello della Sala 2005 Cervaro, Umbria, Italy ($53.25, 92 points, 512376)Ideal for those just starting down the yellow brick wine road and who prefer rich, luxurious chardonnay. This is chardonnay based but blends a local Umbrian variety called grechetto, which brings extra dimension. Grown high in the hills near Orvieto, it has wonderful finesse and power, with exotic marmalade, cashew, peach pie and honey flavours and a polished yet delicate texture. Excellent length. Enjoy now to 2012. Largest stock (156 bottles) at Weston and Hwy. 401.

Laird 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California ($53.95, 92 points, 50096)There are some excellent $100+ Napa cabernets coming on Dec. 8, and this is every much their equal at half the price. The reason: it’s from a less well-known grower-turned-winemaker who first planted in Napa in 1970. But in every way it is a very fine, classic Napa cab that’s hitting peak maturity. Lifted, generous nose of currants, mint, coffee and a touch of gaminess. Medium-full bodied, dense yet driven by firm acidity. Very focused with lovely fruit and very together on the palate. Excellent length. Largest stock (174 bottles) at Bayview and Sheppard.

Paolo Conterno 2003 Ginestra Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($59.95, 92 points, 734293)From one of the classic producers in a highly regarded hot vintage, this wine bridges “old world” aromas of caraway, leather, salami and parmesan, while showing some jammy berry fruit that will appeal to New World wine drinkers. Full bodied, intense, tannic and gutsy. Lots of flavour. Will age 10 years but tannin will always be present here. Largest stock (105 bottles) at Weston and Hwy. 401.