Even cooler Cali pinot
Terrific deluxe meritage from Two Sisters
A cool California chardonnay
Pinot grigio beats chardonnay!
Frame-up: The Beer Store, beer tax and beer prices


Vintages Release Includes *Scandal*

The wine geek world was rocked by a shocking scandal - but the combined fury of the twitterverse forced a retail monolith to backtrack. The incident overshadowed the release of plenty of other wines, but read first about what happened to a certain chardonnay.

Thomas Bachelder
The founding winemaker of Le Clos Jordanne has gone his own way in a big way. He left Vincor a couple of years ago and is now a bit of an itenerant winemaker - only it's all in his name. Bachelder has been focused on the two main Burgundian varieties, chardonnay and pinot noir, for many years now and has honed his skills well. He has put his money where his mouth is on "terroir" and, in an unprecedented move, produced three chardonnays in three different places in the same year. So for under a hundred bucks, you can try three chardonnays made by the same guy, the same way, and determine for yourself which chardonnay terroir speaks to you best: Burgundy, Oregon or Niagara.

On the weekend the wines were released, the LCBO suddenly announced that it was pulling the Bachelder Oregon chardonnay off the shelves due to the discovery of excessive tartrates in some bottles. This cause my "twitterverse" to light up with indignation and rage... how could the LCBO not understand that tartrates are both perfectly natural and perfectly harmless? I was in agreement: they're just a bit odd to look at - crystalline clumps that look a bit like rock salt, but I happen to know they are completely natural and don't alter the flavour. The first time I saw them on an older white Burgundy I just thought "oh that's tartrates", and drank (and enjoyed) the wine. 

It's perhaps true that an unschooled wine drinker might be alarmed, but then, chances are the buyer of a $35 white wine is pretty serious about wine and would know - or know how to find out - about tartrates. Rick Vansickle posted a story about the Bachelder trio and added a note at the end about the tartrates issue and the LCBO's response. Read it here.

Sensibly, the LCBO relented by the Tuesday after the long weekend and put all the bottles back on the shelves.

The Bachelder Chardonnays
I though all three were very good but I was pleasantly surprised by my choice when I did side-by-side tastings of all three. Imagining I could only take one of them home and retasting carefully, I chose... Niagara. This, even though I was biased to like Burgundy better to prove my worldly sophisication in these matters. A very real reminder that Niagara can turn out first-rate chardonnay.

Bachelder Bourgogne Chardonnay 2009
The nicest nose of the three, this one has lovely honeysuckle and light apple fruit. Dry and fresh on the palate, there's plenty of ripe white fruit, but it leans ever so slightly to overripe. 2009 was hot in Burgundy and though the acidity is good, the heat shows a bit here. 272005 | $34.95

Bachelder Oregon Chardonnay 2009
The Willamette Valley had a pretty typical year, on the cooler side until a "heat spike" at the end of September, but no over-ripeness in Bachelder's. His Oregon effort has an unusual nose with anise, apple and a spicy note. Smooth palate, with smoky notes, marshmallow and toast. Lovely long finish. 273334 | $36.95

Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2009
Rich nose with woody notes, anise and some citrus. Fresh and zesty on the palate, which has spicy wood, good lemon fruit and a sweetish vanilla note, nicely balanced. Good acidity and minerality here and a good clean finish. 271841 | $31.95


The rest of the February 18th release is a mixed bag of "terroir", kosher and "customer favourite" wines... so, all over the map.

Louis Bouillot Perle d'Ivoire Brut Blanc de Blancs
Bold nose with a bit of anise and green apple fruit. Also some yeasty notes. On the palate the acidity is sharp, the bubbles are tiny and the feel is austere, with lemon notes and a great mineral finish. An elegant and sophisticated sparkler. 48801 | $18.95

Tawse Sketches of Niagara Chardonnay 2009
Oaky nose with cedar notes, some minerality, lemon and apple. Fresh and dry on the palate, with crisp acidity, more lemon and apple, and a nice saline note followed by a hint of marshmallow. A lovely chard from one of Ontario's most reliable producers. 89037 | $19.95

Mike Weir Riesling 2008
Minerally nose with honey, floral and pink grapefruit. Quite full on the palate. Acidity is good, which balances the slight off-dry sweetness and there's lots of fresh citrus. 229286 | $14.95

Domane Wachau Terrassen Federspiel Gruner Veltliner 2010.
Good example of Austria's leading white here. Muted nose of lime and a slight floral note. It’s lighter bodied on the palate, which is dry and minerally and has nice white fruit notes. Bracing. With a good, clean fresh finish.  31534 | $17.95

Perrin & Fils Reserve Cotes Du Rhone Blanc 2010
This blend of grenach blanc, viognier, marsanne and roussane has a lovely muted nose with aromatic hints - a bit of floral and white fruit. Medium bodied on the palate, it's got a great mineral note. It's also dry and fresh with some lemon on the finish. 499509 | $14.95

Dalton Safsufa Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay KPM 2010
If you need to go kosher, this would do the trick. Tropical fruity nose with some grassiness. From hot Israel, the wine offers only moderate acidity and is somewhat round, but there is lovely tropical fruit that carries through to the finish. 157008 | $16.95

Valminor Albarino 2010
Spain's finest white wine, albarino is from the north-west of the country. Lovely nose with lemon and floral notes as well as ripe pear. Fresh and dry on the palate, with good acidity. There's a nice peachy note, an unusual (but pleasant) hint of anise and a lovely mineral/saline note, reaffirming albarino's affinity with seafood. This is a great price for a wine that usually retails closer to $20. 266924 | $15.95

Duckhorn Merlot 2009
If you're feeling flush and wanted to correct negative impressions of California merlot (that it's soft, easy, boring) then splash out for this one. Duckhorn's an established top tier Napa winery and can be counted on to deliver. Expect a lovely nose of cherry, raspberry and darker notes of wood and smoke. Acidity is good and it is smooth, but has good body and tannins. Nice smoke notes, some vanilla and a good finish. 992529 | $56.95

Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
These big producers range from the mid-teens to near a hundred bucks for their Sonoma wines. This one has a very approachable and fruity nose of ripe cherry and sweet licorice. Fresh and smoky on the palate, it's got woody notes, more licorice and good acidity. Tannins are moderate, there are some tobacco notes and lots of nice ripe fruit. A fine Cali cab. 331603 | $22.95

Tierra Secreta Malbec 2008
Dark nose of burnt wood, spice and ripe berry fruit. Super smooth on the palate, and there's good acidity. It's a little simple, but reasonably full bodied and would match well with pizza or burgers. 247114 | $15.95

Xumek Single Vineyard Malbec 2009
For a bigger, bolder malbec experience, this one offers more of everything. Super rich nose of darker fruit - plum, cherry and berry - plus bigger burnt wood notes. Acidity is pretty good, it's very full bodied, ripe and juicy on the palate, with lots of dark fruit. Good finish. 265215 | $15.95

Hacienda Araucan Reserva Syrah 2009
Dark nose on this Chilean syrah, which does indeed deliver a syrah (rather than shiraz) profile. There's good red berry fruit and a peppery note. It's pretty smooth and full on the plate, which has more red fruit and pepper, and the finish takes a turn to sweeter berries. 269209 | $14.95

Chateau de Fontenelles Cuvee Notre Dame Corbieres 2008
Here's a great value syrah-grenache blend from the south of France. Dark and spicy nose with jammy berry fruit and earthiness under. Fresher than expected on the palate, which has mainly berry and plum fruit. It's well structured, with good tannin and acidity balance. Nice finish. 269522 | $15.95

Rabbit Ranch Pinot Noir 2009
A rare well-priced pinot from the Central Otago region of New Zealand - my new favourite pinot spot. They've taken a very New World approach: super fruity nose with lots of strawberries and bing cherries. Smooth, clean and almost sweet fruit, but there are some silky tannins and a nice hint of spice too. 55228 | $24.95

Champy Signature Pinot Noir Bourgogne 2009
Back to the original home of pinot noir, the reliable producers of Maison Champy deliver. Muted nose of ripe cherry fruit with a floral/perfumed hint. Smooth and reserved on the palate, there's good fruit, with the profile edging towards sour cherry. Tannins are on the higher side and there are some woody notes, but quite elegant overall and a great price for the real Burgundy deal. 1149 | $20.95

Lua Nova em Vinhas Velhas 2009
Fresh but big nose with dark fruit - blackberry and black cherry - as well as a woody note. Smooth and ripe on the palate, which has mainly blackberry fruit. Good acidity and great freshness. 266882 | $15.95

Coppi Peucetico Primitivo 2006
Rich nose with ripe dark red berry fruit and a hint of spice. Sweet and juicy fruit on the palate, with a spicy oak note and a hint of smoke. Smooth and medium bodied, well priced. 724674 | $13.95

Budureasca Origini Feteasca Negra 2007
Well here's a mouthful, both on the label and in the bottle. Feteasca Negra is a Romanian variety also found in Moldova. This Romanian version has a muted nose with pepper and wood notes over darker red fruit. On the palate it's somewhat tannic but there's nice red fruit - mainly raspberry - and an OK finish. 263913 | $13.95

Bodegas Lan Crianza 2007
Lovely nose of ripe red fruit over earthy/woody notes.Super smooth and even elegant on the palate. Dry, good acidity and tannins, nice finish with a bit of spice over the fruit. 166538 | $15.95






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