Luccarelli Primitivo Puglia

Luccarelli Primitivo 2010, $9.80. LCBO#253856.

Luccarelli Primitivo 2011, $9.80. LCBO#253856.

The new year calls for a return to wonderful $10 wines and I have a good one to share. Primitivo is a favourite varietal of mine, and I love that you can get a great Italian bottle for a good deal.

This one does not disappoint and is very typically fruity and ripe, full bodied, dry but not too dry, and just generally fun to drink. We had it with steak but it was delicious solo too. I think it might also be good with chocolate but it didn’t last long enough to find out.

This vintage is sold out in most major Ontario cities but there are still quite a few bottles in rural Ontario areas. Maybe you’ll luck out and find a few bottles (or maybe you live elsewhere and your wine shop has lots of this gem). And trust me, you’ll want more than one.

Overall, I give this wine 9/10 for taste and 5/5 for value.

Cono Sur Bicycle Viognier

2010 Cono Sur Bicycle Viognier, $9.95. LCBO#64287.

We are making good progress on the “All in a Day” summer wine list, having polished off 4 of the 6 bottles so far. We tested bottle number 4 out at a BBQ hosted by white wine loving friends. The wine was served well chilled while we nibbled on some Fifth Town goat cheese, with crackers and olive tapenade from Tuscany. Not too shabby if I do say so myself!

The wine went wonderfully with the cheese, and was also great on its own.  A medium golden colour with plenty of ripe fruit on the nose, some peach and melon for sure. The taste is full of orchard fruit as well as something a bit tropical, with a nice citrus acidity. It is a 1 in sugar content, but is well balanced and not overly sweet.

It’s a really fresh and fruity wine that is optimally consumed with bare toes touching the grass, and one’s bottom cushioned by a comfy deck chair. It’s backyard gathering wine for sure. I don’t know if I would pick it up in the winter, it probably would not be as fun to drink.

This wine went well with goat cheese, both sharp and mild, and would also be a great pair to some spicy asian takeout, seafood or fried chicken. At the $10 price tag, you can’t go wrong.

Overall, I give this wine 8.5/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Antonin Rodet Cotes-du-Rhone

Antonin Rodet Cotes-du-Rhone, $12.95. LCBO#8979.

This wine is the third we’ve tried from “All in a Day’s” 6 summer wines, and the first that I would buy again. It was exciting to turn to Kevin and say “I really like this one!” It started out well from the pour, a beautiful deep ruby colour, the kind that promises flavours just as rich.

There was some oak and cherry on the nose, with cherry on the palate. It is dry, yet balanced, and medium to full bodied. It is great for steak or burgers, but isn’t overwhelmingly big and fruity.

I definitely agree with this as a summer pick, as I sometimes find full bodied reds just too much in the heat. This bottle hits the right balance of body and fruit, without going overboard.

Overall, I give this wine 8.5/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc

2010 Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc, $9.00. LCBO#275909.

I think I have the recipe to recovery after a very disheartening day at the office: Have your significant other make you dinner, drink some cheap wine, eat a Cadbury cream egg and watch Law & Order. The wine will relax you, the dinner & chocolate will cheer you up, and Law & Order will reassure you that your life is really not that bad. You could be on trial for murder, after all. Even the worst of work days must be better than a day in the courts.

I grabbed this wine yesterday in the LCBO, it was right beside my favourite affordable Sauvignon Blanc, Cocha y Toro, which recently moved from $10 to $11. I was curious if this $9 Chilean bottle could live up to my reliable cooking and drinking white wine.

The wine is a pale straw colour, with lots of tropical fruit and herbs on the nose. Those same notes show up in the taste, with some papaya and pineapple coming through. I find it slightly lacking in zip, with a need for more citus punch. It’s a teensy bit light, flat or watery…hard to pinpoint which.

With all that said, it is still highly drinkable, just not as special as my go-to white wine. I am sad to report that I’ll need to keep paying a few bucks more to get the exact balance and flavour I’m looking for.

Overall, I give this bottle 7.5/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.


La Puerta Shiraz

2010 La Puerta Shiraz, $9.15. LCBO#614636.

I was first introduced to this bottle at my favourite Calgary restaurant, Aida’s Mediterranean Bistro, as it was the house wine for a long time. Perhaps it still is, I sadly have not been there for a few years. One of the downfalls of moving across the country, of course. I always enjoyed this wine, especially with Aida’s garlicky hummus and baba ghanoush, and other appetizer sized treats, but could never find it at the Kingston LCBO. Last month, as I was browsing the Argentina aisle, this very distinctive and memorable label jumped out at me. I was shocked to see that it fit my $10 price point, and immediately added a bottle to my basket.

We drank this wine with friends during a games night, and I have to say it went well on its own, and with some simple veggies and dip and chips. Sadly the spread was nothing like Aida’s delights, but the wine is versatile. Medium to full-bodied, deep plum in colour, with a bit of cellar-like funk on the nose that quickly dissipates. It has ripe berry flavours, but also some depth and peppery spice, with a pleasingly dry finish. I am happy to add this bottle to my $10 list.

Overall, I give this bottle 8.5/10 for taste and 4.5/5 for value. And bonus points for a fun, graphic label.

Fetzer Merlot

2008 Fetzer Merlot, $14.95. LCBO#341131.

Last week, we hosted a lovely little dinner party, and tried this new bottle. I am a big fan of Fetzer Zinfandel, and was hopeful that the merlot would also be delicious. I don’t tend to buy merlot, as I’m always worried it will be a bit boring, but it seemed a safe choice with guests.

I was impressed with this bottle. It is very smooth, medium to full bodied, smoky with oak and ripe with berries. It has a bit of a sweet-tart quality, which I love in a fruity wine. It went well with roasted chicken and tomato-basil pasta, but also was great on its own, and with dessert. A keeper for dinner parties! It really hits all my favourite wine notes, and definitely matches the tastiness of their zinfandel. I’m going to have trouble choosing a bottle when standing in the California aisle at the LCBO. Which is really nothing to complain about.

Overall, I give this wine 9/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Aquila Estate Shiraz

2005 Aquila Estate Shiraz, $21-$25.

I thought I was finished blogging for 2010, but then this lovely bottle of wine crossed my path this week. It was purchased in Calgary, and is sadly not carried by the LCBO, so this will probably be my one and only taste. Those of you who live in a less fascist wine state than Ontario should hurry out and buy yourselves a bottle!

This shiraz is everything I would expect in an Australian bottle. Full bodied, ripe with berries and a touch of oak. It is very well balanced, with a bit of zip and a smooth finish.

I’ve searched all over the net for more information on this bottle and the Aquila Estate winery, and have not come up with much. All I can say is that it delivers for the price, and captures everything that is great about Aussie shiraz.

Overall, I give this wine 9/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Holiday $10 Wine Tasting

The bottles, after the big reveal, in the order we tasted them.

Our $10 wine tasting was such a hit this spring, we decided to throw a repeat for the holidays. The details from the first party and the logistics can be found here. In a nutshell, a $10 wine party involves each guest bringing 2 bottles of $10 wine, one gets tasted and the duplicate bottle goes in as a prize for whoever brings the best bottle, as voted by the guests.

This time was as fun as the last, and the appetizers disappeared just as fast. The fan favourites continue to be home made sausage rolls and baked brie topped with fresh raspberies. I was quite proud of the spread, but am sad to report that I have no pictures of it. My camera man had too much fun socializing and neglected his duties! I suppose this means I will have to host another party and manage to document all the tasty treats.

This time we had seven bottles of wine to taste, and ended up with 2 whites and 5 reds. We covered the bottles in paper bags for a blind tasting and randomly tried them, starting with the whites and moving to the reds. I don’t know how much research there is on wine tasting bias, but the first 3 bottles we tasted got the top scores. Perhaps they were indeed the tastiest, or perhaps we got harsher as the night went on. I also liked the first three bottles the best, so I really can’t comment on tasting psychology!

There was a 2-way tie for first between the 2 white wines. It was great to see that both bottles were Ontario VQA. Third place went to a California red. The final 4 reds were very close in scores, so I won’t rank them. The tasting crowd was similar to the spring party, and it was easy to see that people like what they like. At the last party, off-dry whites and easy-drinking reds were a hit, and we saw a repeat of that this time.

Our winners were:

1. 2008 Eco Trail Chardonnay Auxerrois, VQA, $8.95. LCBO#591719. Pelee Island Winery, Ontario. Crisp, fresh, slightly sweet with apple and citrus flavours.

1. 2009 Strewn Gewurztraminer-Riesling, VQA, $10.95. LCBO#467662. Strewn Winery, Ontario. Off-dry with peach and floral flavours.

3. 2008 Barefoot Merlot, $9.95. LCBO#53991. E & J Gallo, California. Medium bodied with hints of toasty oak and vanilla. Very smooth and easy to drink.

The runners up:

  • 2008 Barefoot Cabernet Sauvignon, $9.95.
  • 2009 Mommessin Beaujolais, $9.85.
  • 2009 McGuigan Shiraz, $9.95.
  • 2009 Fuzion Shiraz Malbec, $7.75.

Our entry, the McGuigan Shiraz, was my second choice for a red in the blind taste. I still enjoy its spiciness and complexity, but I don’t think our guests enjoy a bold red very much. For our next party……perhaps I’ll have to bend to the will of the crowd and pick an off-dry white!

Casillero del Diablo Reserva Sauvignon Blanc

2010 Casillero del Diablo Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, $9.95. LCBO#578641.

I am always on the hunt for an affordable, yet crisp and zippy, sauvignon blanc. Ever since discovering Kim Crawford’s Marlborough, New Zealand sauvignon blanc perfection, I’ve been out to beat it’s $19 price tag. Which reminds me- I’ve never blogged about that bottle, and should very soon. I almost always have one in my fridge, it’s that good.

But back on the topic of a cheaper cousin. I’ve been let down in the past. But I think I may have found my new go-to sauvignon blanc, and it hails from Chile. Concha y Toro is a pretty reliable winery, so when I saw a Casillero del Diablo sauvignon blanc on Wine Align’s top 50 buys list, I thought I’d give it a try. The fact that it is currently on sale for $1 off at the LCBO helped my decision making as well.

The wine is a nice pale straw colour, and the nose is bursting with tropical fruit. This made me a bit worried that the wine would be sweet, but it didn’t let me down. The taste is crisp and fresh with lots of citrus flavours. The tropical fruit is in there too- definitely some pineapple. The finish is zippy- just enough tartness without being sour. It certainly doesn’t beat my favourite Kim Crawford. But, for half the price, I think this bottle may find itself next to Kim more often in the door of my fridge.

Overall, I give this wine 9/10 for taste and 4/5 for value.

Cusumano Nero D’Avola

2009 CUSUMANO NERO D'AVOLA, $10. LCBO#143164.

Italian table wine is always welcome in my house. Some of my $10 or less favourites are produced by Farnese, Ogio and Mezzomondo, who all make reds that don’t disappoint. The Italian section of my wine journal is definitely the fullest, which means two things: First, Italian wine is very affordable and I try a lot of bottles, and second, that not every bottle can be a winner.

I had high hopes for this one. I’ll admit to watching Rachael Ray very occasionally, and she mentioned that this winery is a staple in her house. Although she is sometimes a bit much to take, she does make tasty food and I’m guessing has decent taste in wine- or at least what goes well with pasta. I’m not sure if she recommended the Nero D’Avola, but this was what the LCBO had and also one that Wine Align recommended in their top 50 value wines list. The bottle has a lovely label, and also a nice seal that handily hides the fact that it is a twist cap. Very smart.

We paired it with a simple but delicious bowl of spaghetti. The wine went okay with food, but I have to say it was far too rough to drink alone. It was no good for after dinner sipping, and didn’t even mellow out after an hour or two. It has a lot of flavour, I will give it that. Lots of cherry fruitiness and toasty oak. But the problem with cherries is that sometimes they are tart, and this bottle was just unbalanced. The finish was sour-bitter and not smooth at all. We planned to stretch it from dinner into movie night, and I actually still have half the bottle left, that’s how much we did not like it.

It’s interesting, because this wine has lots of great reviews. It’s just too rough of a wine for me. The three red table wines I previously mentioned are just as flavourful, but considerably smoother, and $2 cheaper. It’s a definite no for me on this wine.

Overall, I give this bottle 7/10 for taste and 3/5 for value.