Real Class in the Glass!

The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) has released its May 12 line-up. I would have to say that although we are entering the hot weather months – which usually means white wine season – there was a rather unimpressive selection of whites to choose from. In this release there were also many rosé wines that hit store shelves. These were a little better, and I will let you in on my favourite two. As the hot weather hits, we all start thinking of firing up the grill and inviting friends over to sit on the deck to drink wine and eat grilled meats. There are a few really good reds that fit the bill nicely.

But before I start telling you what just hit shelves, I would like to mention one of the best reds that came out in late April, Borsao 2009 Tres Picos Garnacha ($19.95 – #273748). Its layers of fruit (black cherry, blackberry and boysenberry), backed by spice and a hint of chalky mineral. This wine tastes more Aussie in style than some Oz wines I have tried lately and the real surprise is that it comes from Spain. This one won’t disappoint, even if you don’t get to drink it for a few summers. (**** ½).

Okay, back to this past release (May 12). Starting with those pink wines, and because we mentioned Australian, try the Mitolo 2011 Jester Giacomo Sangiovese Rosé ($18.95 – #278101). It is an interesting rosé because it’s not your typical fruit bowl. It has some spice and bite with a touch of smokiness, more like a light red than a pink wine. Serve in one of those black glasses and nobody will know you’ve gone over to the lighter side (***½). Another pale red (rosé) you might enjoy is the more traditional Megalomaniac 2011 Pink Slip Pinot Noir Rosé ($17.95 – #0085126) from Ontario. It has nice strawberry and raspberry notes that have a slight floral nuance and hint of mineral. This one’s very quaffable. (*** ½+).

Because I’m never one to miss a good segue, I’ll recommend a mineral-driven white from France’s Loire Valley. Now in truth, I don’t know many people who like chugging a glassful of rocks, that’s why this Monmousseau 2010 Vouvray ($14.95 – #0271940) has wrapped the rocks in lovely fruit and a hint of something sweet – perfect for patio sipping (****+). Although the white selections of this release left me kind of cold, one worth crowing about is the Talbott 2009 Logan Estate Sleepy Hollow Vineyard Chardonnay ($26.95 – #716290) from California. This one is brazenly Chardonnay with lots of barrel spice and vanilla, but there’s also some amazingly rich fruit here with good biting acidity on the finish. It’s also a food-friendly choice and could even stand up to some heartier meats. It’s a white wine for those non-red drinkers who want to pair something with steak.

This brings us to the red wines for the start of grilling season: two from California, two from Australia, one from Italy and one from Spain. For BBQ fans,  nothing beats a nice red Zinfandel. The Peachy Canyon 2008 Westside Zinfandel ($25.95 – #930644) really fits the bill with its cherry-cola and mocha notes, along with plum and blackberry (****). Speaking of mocha, nothing beats the mocha sensation of the Gallo Family 2008 Frei Ranch Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon ($38.95 – #0555607). This is mocha-wrapped dark fruits that satisfy on every level. They may have to wrestle the glass out of my cold dead hand which is a definite possibility considering the 15 per cent alcohol content in this drink. Delicious! (****½).

Those looking for their big Aussie fix should check out the Thorn-Clarke 2008 Shotfire Quartage ($22.95 – #0024091). Shiraz is added to the standard five-grape Bordeaux blend to kick it up a notch: dark fruit, white pepper, bitter sweet cocoa and spiced plum (****+). Another favourite, the 2009 Wallace by Ben Glaetzer Shiraz/Grenache ($28.95 – #0047605) is coming back to the board and it’s as delicious as ever: blackberry, tobacco, chocolate, plum and pepper plus so many more surprises to tantalize the taste buds, and both wines here agree with a big hunk of charred protein (**** ½).

After wrapping your palate around these high alcohol bruisers, you might be craving something with a little finesse, the Arduini 2009 Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore ($18.95 – #267898) will do the trick nicely. It’s one of the better Ripassos to come through Vintages in quite some time, this one delivers black cherry, plum, dark chocolate and dried spices – and best of all, it’s BBQ ready (****).

One of my favourite Spanish producers, Juan Gil, has a delicious fruit-driven number that has real class in the glass… 2010 White Label de Cepas Viejas Monastrell ($12.95 – #0013656). The only way you get a better deal on a great bottle like this is if the LCBO pays you to take it off their hands – and we all know that ain’t gonna happen. Pick up a case and enjoy it all summer long (****).

Now, get out there and grill. Till next time … stay thirsty, my friends.