Fall Back on an Old Favourite or Find a New One…

As we head into fall, we swap those light and fruity whites for the heavier, warming appeal of reds. I like to give you the latest releases available, but it’s always good to step back a few weeks to see if certain faves are still kicking around the LCBO.

We’re used to the hot grape of the day, Malbec, coming from Argentina, but you might want to check out what the Chileans are doing with their rival’s signature grape: Valdivieso 2009 Single Vineyard Old Vines Malbec ($19.95 – #273987). This is hearty and as warming as a red can get with lovely spiced black fruit, a hint of leather along with plum and black cherry, plus there’s some vanilla-mint on the finish. It’s the mint that makes it a signature Chilean wine (****+). Another winner from the August 4 release was the Filon 2010 Garnacha ($14.95 – #280602), a real bargain wine from a consistently good, reliable and tasty wine country, Spain. Some of the best values coming into Vintages over the past few releases have been Spanish and this wine is no exception with its ripe cherry, plum and sweet spice (**** ½).

Here are two more wines that will warm the cockles of your heart, one white and one red. The red is a perennial favourite from Wakefield, out of Australia, another consistent producer that doesn’t over-reach. They know their Cab is a pleasure to drink and they don’t mess around with the formula. Wakefield 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ($17.95 – #744235) is a beauty with juicy dark fruit and eucalyptus notes. It’s perfect for a fall BBQ. Don’t shelve your whites away just yet. The E. Guigal 2011 Côtes du Rhône Blanc ($15.95 – #290296) out of the Rhône Valley has some heft and prettiness to make it fall-hearty and quite sippable on its own.  Notes of honeysuckle, pineapple and apricot   give it delicacy with its heft. Plus it’s good value. Speaking of value, go out and spend 18 bucks on the Buil & Gine Gine Gine 2009 ($17.95 – #67843) and then tell me Spain doesn’t offer great value for taste. Good fruit to spice ratio and juicy as all get-out.

Now on with the newer wines from the September 15 release which was  Ontario-focused. There are plenty of home-grown wines to be had here including Jackson-Triggs’ new-look 2011 Delaine Chardonnay ($24.95 – #623454 –***½+); Featherstone’s amazing value 2010 Cabernet Franc ($16.95 – #64618 – **** ½) and Norman Hardie’s 2010 County unfiltered Pinot Noir ($35 – #125310 – ***½). The LCBO saved some of its best releases for other countries’ wines (no surprise here), especially Italy, the Rhone Valley (France) and Washington State (USA).

A simple yet satisfying Chardonnay comes from California, 2010 Sabastiani ($17.95 – #30791). It is juicy and toasty with plenty of melon and peach notes (****).  Another white of note is from the Loire Valley in France, where Sauvignon Blanc is king.  Domaine Jacky Marteau 2011 Sauvignon Touraine ($12.95-#745349) has citrus peel and grapefruit pith with a touch of Sauvignon Blanc’s signature grassiness on the finish (***½).

Moving onto those reds, I highly recommend Columbia Crest’s 2009 H3 Les Chevaux ($20.95 – #287425). It’s a blend of four of the five main Meritage varieties plus Syrah. Dark fruit and mocha are just a couple of highlights (****½). Staying in the US, Pinot Noir lovers will get a kick from the Cristom Sommers Reserve Pinot Noir 2008 ($43) – #942490). It might be a bit pricey but a great wine to serve over Thanksgiving with the spice-box-and-sandalwood-wrapped black fruit. It’s a sheer palatial treat (****+).

Two from France will get your mouth a-humming. The Domaine de la Channaise 2010 Morgan ($18.95 – #288068) is a Beaujolais you can really get behind with its lush dark cherry, along with mineral undertones. You’ll never look at simple Beaujolais the same way again (****+). There’s also the outstanding La Font Des Grières 2009 Gigondas ($19.95 – #175129) from the Rhone Valley. Intensity of red fruit is amazing here, it also has well-integrated wood, spice and 15 per cent alcohol. It’s a real humdinger (****½).

Finally, there are some amazing values out of Italy starting in Sicily with the Morgante 2010 Nero d’Avola ($14.95 – #40816) with sweet blackberry, chocolate, plum and cherry – all for under 15 bucks (****+). There’s also the Le Fonti 2009 Chianti Classico ($19.95 – #295162) with coffee and licorice taking charge on the nose, while black cherry, floral and mineral ride the mid-palate to the spiced finish. This one has better stuffing than the simple Chianti your grandpa drank – modern style meets classic wine (****+).

Head back to America’s heartland of wine, California, for that last-ditch BBQ bruiser: Rutherford Ranch 2008 Zinfandel (~$20 – #279828). This spicy Zin with menthol, vanilla-cola and cherry will keep you wishing that summer would stay forever – or that you could BBQ forever in this cool climate we live in. With this wine by your side, maybe you can (****).

Next time up, it’s holiday gift-giving and receiving … so get your wish list and gift list ready.