Monday, October 21, 2013

LCBO OnLine Search

Auckland, NZ from Kelly Tarlton's, '03
Have you ever heard me complain about the LCBO website's  Search option? You must have. Every time I have to use it. In fact, I often go to the Outlet to browse shelves as it takes less time. I don't end up following my plan for the month but it avoids much of the keyboard exercise, lost time and agonizing frustration.

And a search is only as useful as the data being searched which in the case of the LCBO is often 'No store has stock of the item'. Even if stock is shown a call to the Outlet - if I search Online I seldom go directly to the Outlet without phoning - in many cases their inventory differs from that Online and for single/few bottles they're mysteriously not found.

Fig. 1 LCBO Search Results for 'merlot'
On the other hand the British Columbia Liquor Board website is much more flexible. Too numerous, it's not possible to 'count the ways'. In fact, it's fantastic! But I don't buy from a BCLB search so can't attest to in-store inventory, etc.

The example I'll use is one I intended in planning the November blog entry, ie. find the wines based on merlot, which countries are represented, size of bottle and if and where each wine is in stock in the Province.  (Click on figures to enlarge)

Fig. 1  shows the search result for the LCBO. Five hundred and fifteen wines including blended and varietal, all prices, all countries, all sizes, in stock or not and sequenced often by irrelevant label names. I don't want it but I got it!

Fig. 1a BCLB Search Results for 'merlot'
Fig. 1a shows the result for the BCLB, in this case it's not the quantity of wines but the options available for performing a search that's important.

A single search shows all merlots found. I now have the option of limiting the search by unblended or not, price, country, region, sub region, bottle size, etc.  The number of bottles in stock is shown along with the number of stores with stock and a 5 Star ranking.

Of course not everyone needs this much flexibility but the options are there and show a healthy respect for consumers in finding choices within available inventory. With 515 'merlots' to search I, as an Ontario consumer, couldn't start to sort then find them at an Outlet. Who cares? I do!
The LCBO budget is larger than the 3 elderly elephants (now in California). And, compared with the LCBO website, the LCBO/Vintages' Marketing glossies are amazingly polished, complete in every sense and delivered with my morning newspaper.
I don't want them but I get them! They go unread into recycle with the rest of the bulk ads. Why isn't some of the budget spent implementing a professional search system? I'd guess the difficulty of shaping a huge database and designing a user friendly interface is many magnitudes more challenging - even given an excellence model to follow - than taking some photos of yourself posing with colourful bottles and making up some exaggerated descriptions. If marketers were hired as city planners Toronto would be flooded with gawdy billboards.

Another example:

Fig. 3 LCBO Search for Yalumba 'Y Series'

Fig . 3a BCLB
Reviewing the Annual 2013/2014 Vines magazine (pg. 20) there's two wines belonging to the the Yalumba 'Y Series' advertised. Reviews for past vintages can be viewed at 'Y Series' Viognier 2011 and 'Y Series' Shiraz Viognier 2009

A search for 'Yalumba Y Series' resulted in Fig. 3 and 3a. A search of LCBO inventory (dated October 22nd) for 'All Cities' revealed limited stock for the Viognier (#624502) and the red blend is discontinued. Fig. 3a shows the result from the British Columbia Liquor Board for the same search. (click to enlarge)

Fig. 4 LCBO Search for 'yalumba'
Fig. 4a BCLB
A broader search for 'yalumba' showed 23 wines - Fig. 4 shows the ridiculous first page from the LCBO.  Fig. 4a shows the same search from the BCLB.

Both LCBO and BCLB are monopolies so what's the difference between the two? I'd guess there's an imbalance at the executive level in one organization  favoring marketing, the things that go into the recycle bin, over technical, the things that find wines to buy.


Tuesday, October 01, 2013

October 2013 Wines - 20 Tasted of 20

Light in the Piazza - a Tuscan romance

With the limited number(1) of inventoried labels offered by the LCBO over ninety percent of the reviews I read are for wines unavailable at Ontario outlets - which is disappointing as it cuts down most of a possible interaction with the wine community at large as well as limiting my inquisitive nature. It's also depressing knowing that local and international critics(2, 3) are recommending so many new-to-me wines and I'm limited to the 'same-o same-o' locally. I'm sure if wines were retailed privately the variety of wines imported by the numerous agencies would expand availability to all consumers exponentially.

During this my Birth month we will be attending the musical The Light in the Piazza - based on a book by Craig Lucas with music and lyrics by Adam Guettel and playing at the Court House Theatre in Niagara-On-The-Lake. A story of romance set in the Tuscan countryside.  Following the performance we'll visit the Stone Road Grill well known for its cuisine and informal ambiance.

PS: Some photos from our trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake on October 9th:

A refreshing stop for a tray of flatbreads, bowls of red pepper soup and crab cakes... mmmmm!

A warm wood-fired Oven
The Old Winery Restaurant

...enough time for a walkabout NotL including ice creams... mmmmm!
Romantic Carriage Rides

Tourist Shops galore

...then Light in the Piazza at the Courthouse before heading to the Stone Road Grill for mussels in a tomato sauce

--from Row K (and there's no Row L)

The Courthouse Theatre

  1. A search of the LCBO Online inventory for Sémillons found 48 including blends. Twelve of these were 100% Sémillon of which inventory shows 2 are Vintages Exclusives and over my budget, leaving ten. LCBO's Online inventory claimed seven were in stock but only four were available. A Burge Family Olive Hill Barossa and a Rosewood were tasted last month and a Mt. Boucherie, in May this year. The Mt. Boucherie and the fourth, a Stratus, are added to the Lineup.
  2. John Szabo published a list of "Best Wines for Fall, Hand Picked by our Experts". Of the six wines three were available and are included below (JS). 
  3. Of eleven wines listed by 1winedude in September, a Petit Chenin Blanc from Ken Forrester was found.  Although not listed a second Ken Forrester, a Reserve Old Vines Chenin Blanc, looked interesting so added to the list.
  4. To close out my October selections once again I searched LCBO inventory this time for wines based on the Aglianico grape. Jancis Robinson, MW says of this grape " of Italy's finest even if the potential has so far been realized only in limited quantities." My search found twelve labels and of these there were five in Ontario of which I've included four.  


THE LINEUP: (Reds, Whites then Bubblies)
  • Vesevo Benevinetano Aglianico 2010, 92-3  --  V, Forino, Italy, #120907 $14.95
  • Villa Raiano Taurasi 2008, 91a-2C  --  V, Campania, Italy, #344234 $23.95 
  • Ferraton Père & Fils Plan de Cieu Côtes du Rhône-Villages, 90-2  --  V, Rhône, France, #074229 $15.95
  • (JS)Château des Charmes St. David's Bench Vineyards Gamay Noir Droit 2010 VQA St. David's Bench, 88-1  --  V,  NotL, Ontario, #346742 $16.95
  • Monte Zovo Sa' Solin Valpolicella Ripasso 2011, 88-1  --  V,  Veneto, Italy, #650713 $17.95
  • Tenute Girolamo di Gallo Aglianico 2011, 88a-1 --  V, Puglia, Italy, #268367 $18.95 
  • Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 86  --  G, South Australia, #251876 $14.95*
  • Hahn Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, 86  --  V, Soledad, California, #057877 $18.95
  • Rodney Strong Estate Vineyards Pinot Noir 2011, 85  --  V, Russian River, California, #954834 $22.95*  
  • (JS)Eau Vivre Pinot Noir 2008, 84a  --  V,  Simalkeen Valley, BC, #308353 $20.75
  • Selvanova Vigna Antica Aglianico 2009, 82 --  V, Campania, Italy, #313494 $15.95 
  • Little Yering Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2011, 80a  --  V, Victoria, Australia, #188094 $19.95

  • Mt. Boucherie Estate Collection Sémillon 2008, 90-2  --  V, Kelowna, BC,  #279364  $16.50
  • Stratus Sémillon 2009 VQA Niagara on the Lake, 90a-1  -- V,  NotL, Ontario, #306027 $24.25
  • (JS)Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2012 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, 88-1  --  V,  Jordan, Ontario, #068015 $16.95 
  • Wither Hills Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2012, 88-1  --  V, Marlborough, NZ, #919514  $17.95  
  • Hahn Winery Chardonnay Monterey 2011, 85  --  G, Soledad, California, #234393 $16.95
  • Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2011, 82  --  G, Stellenbosch, South Africa,  #266106 $12.95 
  • Flat Rock Good Kharma Chardonnay 2010 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, 82  --  V,  Jordan, Ontario, #356873 $16.95 
  • Ken Forrester Vineyards Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2011, NR  --  V,  Stellenbosch, South Africa, #231282 $17.95

(V - Vintages, G - General, O - Other, r-v  - Rating-Value, a - aerated, C - Cellar, NR - Not Rated)


RODNEY STRONG ESTATE VINEYARDS PINOT NOIR 2011, Russian River, California, 14.5%  XD 6g/L, #954834  $22.95*   (Tasted October 21, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on April 18, 2013. Alcohol level shown is from the label and price reduced by $2 until October 13, 2013.  My notes:  There's a tawny hue to a mid ruby as if in an evening candle glow and the nose is a subdued scent of tangy cherries and beets. The thin film fragments quickly on the glass receding as a sheet then slow tears to the meniscus. A sip is bright with more spices coming forward along with crushed cherry stones then a dry limestone ending. Medium-bodied and an interesting process oriented style. Not quite a match but held its own with bbq'd pork tenderloin (160oC internal) and French beans in a mild curry sauce.  Could mellow with a few years in the cellar but not significantly. The empty bottle is a non eco-friendly 1.5lbs.  85

FLAT ROCK GOOD KHARMA CHARDONNAY 2010 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Jordan, Ontario, 13.4%  XD  2g/L, #356873  $16.95  (Tasted October 16, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on September 14, 2013 with a portion of the price going to the Ontario Association of Food Banks.  My notes:  A rich gold colour leaving a firm film and finely laced rim with long moderately fast legs. Poured at 15oC the nose has a soft melon scent with a piecrust taint, hardly 'packed with aromas'. Flavours of apple, lemon, melon blend into a grassy medley without an identifiable fruit - finishes long, full and dry. Let warm to 18oC for a softer texture. For me, not a sipper but having sufficient acid to complement a cheese tray or seafood dish. A drink now or keep a year. 82

HAHN WINERY CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012, Soledad, California, 14.5%  D  9g/L,  #057877   $18.95  (Tasted October 21, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on September 14, 2013.  My notes: A purple edge ruby, dense with a film that exudes columns of tears then lazy legs. There's a modest scent of blackberries soft and supple. A sip reveals a pleasing tang with earthy blackberry ending quickly with a warm and woody dryness.  Pair with anything beefy with a rich wine sauce or just plain juicy - would be great with lamb. Cellaring for several years may smooth the tannins a tad for an approachable dryness but still OK.  86

LITTLE YERING YARRA VALLEY PINOT NOIR 2011, Victoria, Australia, 12.5%  D  4g/L,  #188094  $19.95  (ReTasted October 8, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on July 20, 2013.  My notes: A coquettish strawberry in candlelight with a raw strawberry, red beet scent edged with a light tar - an interesting light-bodied pinot from first glance. A smooth film leaves a solid rim to build a ring of slow tears. Decanting an hour or aerating mellows the earthy/tar background letting a respectable tang and red currant/beet flavours come forward. Beet flavours continue into a long dry finish. Pair with grilled and sliced chicken breast or traditional antipasto.  A drink now with limited flexibility, in this case, the rest of the bottle was discarded. 80a

TENUTE GIROLAMO CAPA DI GALLO AGLIANICO 2011, Puglia, Italy,  13.5%  XD  5g/L,  #268367  $18.95  (Tasted October 16, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on August 17, 2013.  My notes:  A soft cork pulled apart on opening leaving some fragments behind. The colour is a deep ruby and there's a rich plum aroma tainted by an earthy tang. A full-bodied, softly textured, dark fruit flavour coats the tongue with fine tannins, a touch of sweet and moderate acid. The finish carries the dark fruit profile adding the brightness of red currant. A slow sipper pushing the process ahead of fruit. Have with rich tomato sauces or bbq'd beef portions. Aerating reduces the tang for a more palatable sipper and is recommended, otherwise, it's a meal red.  Cellar for five years plus. The empty bottle is an eco unfriendly 1.5 lbs.   88a

VILLA RAIANO TAURASI 2008, Campania, Italy, 14.0%  XD  4g/L,  #344234  $23.95  (Tasted October 13, 2013)  CS
Released by Vintages on August 17, 2013. Rated 91 by Nathan Wesley (December 31, 2012) saying 'Best from 2015 thru' 2025.  My notes: This was aerated and is recommended - or decant an hour. This has an inky ruby colour with a rim that mounds up before shedding several slow tears. The nose has an intense tangy scent of blackberry and ageing pine forest. As full as extra fine olive oil with firm tannins that build through a long finish, silk then velvet, and a red currant brightness. Not quite ready for sipping but is ready for spicy pasta dishes, panzerotti or thin-crust, covered with pepperoni or chorizo sausage. Needs cellaring several years to mellow and merge. The empty bottle is an eco-unfriendly 2 lbs.  91a Cellar

FERRATON PÈRE & FILS PLAN DE DIEU CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2010, Rhône, France, 14.0%  XD  5g/L, #074229  $15.95  (Tasted October 2, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on September 14, 2013 rated 89 by Robert Parker Jr. (December 2012).  My notes: Well described by Robert Parker Jr. as quoted in the Vintages note: 'licorice, garrigue, pepper, strawberries and black cherries". For sipping the aromas are an interesting blend combining savoury spices, soft floral and the winemaker's art. The colour is a charcoal tinted opaque ruby and the film is firm quickly fragmenting and shedding long legs. Full-bodied with mouth drying tannins, a prominent acid and flavours that reflect the nose and continue through a long finish. A flexible red to pair with grilled, roasted or bbq'd beef. Cellaring several years could mellow spices a tad - drinking well now. 90

STRATUS SÉMILLON 2009 VQA Niagara on the Lake,  NotL, Ontario, 13.5%  D  4g/L, #306027  $24.25  (Tasted October 18, 2013)  CS

Release by Vintages on October 13, 2012 and rated 91 by Rick VanSickle  (April 25, 2012)  My notes:  A stunning golden colour worth pouring for the view. The film sticks firmly and patiently reveals a finely laced rim that sheds slow tears. The texture is viscous smooth with an oak presence mindful of decades past California style or the profile of a sauterne. Those acquiring the taste would say this is exemplary of the grape but I'd say is balanced to the winemaker's preference. My preference is a fruitier sipper lighter on the finish. Airing thirty minutes changes intensity nicely then serve with a curry entrée: mussels w/dry breads, chicken on basmati or tuna and penne with a creamy sauce. Likely could cellar for several years gaining depth with oak influence. The empty bottle is a non eco-friendly 1.375 lbs.  90a

MT. BOUCHERIE ESTATE COLLECTION SEMILLON 2008, Kelowna, BC,  13.0%  D  xg/L,  #279364   $16.50  (Tasted October 18, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on July 7, 2012 and rated 91 by David Lawrason  (June 2012).  My notes: Previously purchased in BC, tasted  and rated 87. Purchased locally this bottle is a mellow yellow in the glass with a soft orange zest nose allowing thirty minutes to air and the chill to leave. A swirl lines the glass with a finely laced rim flowing fast legs. A swallow brings a refreshing tartness, medium-bodied, a silky layer of cool lemon continuing into a finish that leaves the palate dry with a mineral edge. A pleasing sipper as well as having the flexibility to pair with Asian fare: sweet and sour, ginger or mild curry. Cellaring another year is feasible but not longer. 90

EAU VIVRE PINOT NOIR 2008,  Simalkeen Valley, BC, 13.3%  D  4g/L, #308353  $20.75  (Tasted October 10, 2013)  CS

Release by Vintages on January 19, 2013 and rated 88 by Tony Aspler  (May 9, 2011).  My notes: Although Vintages claims this to be a VQA wine there is no indication on the bottle. Grapes from Kelowna were used for this Pinot Noir (JZ). I aerated on first pouring for a nose of cranberries, red cherries and a touch of shellac. The colour is a see through ruby with a charcoal tint. The film sticks firmly then sheds a few long legs. An intense tang dries the palate providing a platform  for warm red currant flavours. The finish has a steely texture continuing and gradually fading leaving pleasing fruit and mineral remnants. Have with bbq'd rubbed T-steaks or ribs. Cellaring a few years should be OK - a drink now. 84a

CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES ST. DAVID'S BENCH VINEYARD GAMAY NOIR DROIT 2010 VQA St. David's Bench, NotL, Ontario, 13.0%  XD  5g/L, #346742  $16.95  (Tasted October 7, 2013)  CS

Release by Vintages on July 6, 2013.  My notes:  A charcoal tinted ruby with a noticeable firm film forming a rounded rim that quickly sheds slow legs. The aroma is of blackberry scented with an earthy bramble and a mild tang against a soft background. Fullish medium-bodied with a smooth texture then next a fuzzy coating with dark fruit and earth notes - makes for a reserved taste. The finish is long, same flavour but moderate ending with a touch of mineral for a dry ending. Goes nicely with dark chocolate for a lift at the end. Have with strips of marinated flank steak and buttered carrots. 88

KEN FORRESTER PETIT CHENIN BLANC  2011, Stellenbosch, South Africa,  13.5%  XD  5g/L,  #266106  $12.95  (Tasted October 12, 2013)  CS

A General listing.  My notes: A pale yellow with a hint of green. A lemon-lime-melon nose, tangy and a touch of mown hay.  The film leaves a rim with an etched edge and flows a few shallow tears. Eucalyptus sets the base for tropical fruit flavours, not one distinct but a medley of papaya, pineapple and melon leading into a long finish, full, ending with a layer of dry tang. Interesting as a sipper having a unique terroir and the winemaker's touch. More appropriate with seafood - filets of halibut, red snapper... even grilled chicken wings or sliced chicken on brown rice. Cellaring could replace natural fruit leaving a grassy fullness so a drink now. 82

KEN FORRESTER VINEYARDS OLD VINE RESERVE CHENIN BLANC 2011,  Stellenbosch, South Africa, 14.0%  XD  4g/L, #231282  $17.95  (Tasted October 11, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on August 3, 2013 and rate 4 of 5 by Christian Eedes Platter's South African Wine Guide, (2013).  My notes: A light lemon colour and on pouring the nose was an acrid citrus. A portion of the objectionable odours lessened after airing for thirty minutes and aerating - the  flavours settled to rancid melon. The  Wine was returned to the LCBO. Not Rated. 

FLAT ROCK UNPLUGGED CHARDONNAY 2012 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Jordan, Ontario, 13.5%  D 4g/L,  #068015   $16.95  (Tasted October 20, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on June 22, 2013.  My notes: A bright mid yellow colour, crystal clear and aromas of beeswax, floral lime, fresh pear mellowed by Granny Smith apple. Serve chilled or slightly off-. A silky smooth sip flushes out the aromas nicely ending with a long flavourful finish revealing a mild acid and dry mineral. A swirl lines the glass with a smooth film showing fast legs from a lacy rim. An interesting chardonnay with a subtle sweetness feigning its presence among the blend of flavours. Pair with Thai foods, a Bento Box or sushi/sashimi, seafood with rice or angel hair pasta in a white wine broth. Keep a few on hand for guests preferring a clean chardonnay. 88

WOLF BLASS YELLOW LABEL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012, South Australia, 13.5%  XD  4g/L, #251876  $14.95*  (Tasted October 4, 2013)  CS

A General listing reduced to $14.95 from $16.95 until October 13, 2013. My notes:  A deep ruby dark cast and a swirl brings a thick film forming a full rim to shed long slow tears.  There's a full aroma of black figs mellowed by dark plums intense on the nose and providing a first interest. The first sip brings a mouthful of intense tang and a long hot finish, drying at the end with remnants of fruit and a light liquorice. A bold (some would say brash) sipper to be served to the hockey crowd or have with grilled, broiled, bbq'd beef.  A drink now but could keep for several years. 86

HAHN WINERY CHARDONNAY MONTEREY 2011, Soledad, California, 14.0%  XD  5g/L, #234393  $16.95  (Tasted October 6, 2013)  CS

A General listing.  My notes: A pale golden needing time and some warmth to release a subdued nose of straw, faint apple and pear. A thin film wraps nicely under a full rim that sheds fast legs. The first sip is balanced, acid and fruit with a drying texture and flavours reflecting the nose. The finish has a dry mineral leading to a touch of chalk on the lips. Not quite as fruity as expected - a quiet sipper, a mild oak still refreshing to the palate - pair with any mild fish: halibut, tilapia, mackerel with mixed vegs. Should be able to cellar for several years hopefully revealing more of the fruit blend. 85

VESEVO BENEVENTANO AGLIANICO 2010, Forino, Italy, 13.0%  D  8g/L, #120907  $14.95  (Tasted October 11, 2013) 

 A Vintages release on July 6, 2013 and rated 89 by Antonio Galloni (February 2013).  My notes:  A deep purple tinted ruby with a soft warm scent of prunes, black plums and a hint of vanilla. A swirl leaves a moderate film with a full rim eventually running slow tears. This has a well developed texture with fine tannins, polite acid, a velvet fullness plus a balanced flavour following the nose. A long finish leaves a powdery layer and begs a followup sip. Having a broad profile makes for a very interesting sipper and would complement an assortment of Italian sauces: mushroom, tomato and herbal. Would cellar for several years but drinking well now. Aerating not needed but does soften the approach a tad. 92
SELVANOVA VIGNA ANTICA AGLIANICO 2009, Campania, Italy, 14.0%  D  5g/L, #313494  $15.95  (Tasted October 19, 2013) 

Released by Vintages on March 2, 2013 and rated 16 of 20 by Jancis Robinson, MW (July 20, 2011).  My notes:  A dense ruby colour leaving a smooth film with a rounded rim that sheds columns of slow tears. Full-bodied, a blend of red currant and cedar with overwhelming drying tannins and subtle acid form the first sip and continuing through a long finish. Not a sipper unless there's a preference for chewing suede - aerating softens a tad. Have with spicy pizzas or bbq'd T-bone where the beef juices wash the palate. Cellaring several years could soften current woodiness. Use for rich sauces. 82

MONTE ZOVO SA' SOLIN VALPOLICELLA RIPASSO 2011,  Veneto, Italy, 14.5%  D  11g/L,  #650713  $17.95  (Tasted October 25, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on August 3, 2013.  My notes:  Sa' Solin has been consistent from the 2003 vintage tasted in June 2006 - only the price has changed. A deep purple tinged ruby leaving a viscous film, a full rim then eventually columns of slow tears. The first sip has a noticeable bite, the texture is smooth with plums and cherries gradually fading into a warm background of tannins, earth and pepper. Preferably a match with anything beefy, Italian meat lovers pizza, spaghetti & meatballs or chorizo slices - heavy on the cheeses. Should keep four years or so.  Depending on sipping preference decant or aerate for a tad softer bite. 88

WITHER HILLS WAIRAU VALLEY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0%  XD  6g/L, #919514   $17.95  (Tasted October 24, 2013)  CS

Released by Vintages on September 28, 2013. Winner of a Pure Gold at the 2012 NZ Wine Awards and rated 91 by Natalie MacLean  (September 28, 2012).  My notes: Served at 9oC there's a hard nose of young gooseberries accented by a metallic lemon zest. A pale yellow in the glass and a gentle swirl leaves a thin film with a lacy rim that builds then slowly recedes. The nose softens as the temp rises to 14oC for sipping. The flavour is a blend of lanolin, lemon and lime drying to the palate and with a strong refreshing mineral tang. Better with seafood entrées or fresh oysters. An in-your-face savvy depending the level of tang and flavour blend you prefer may not be a sipper. Cellaring short term could retain fruit while smoothing acid - go year by year.  88