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FROM THE PRINT ISSUE: Ottawa Wine Challenge winners

HOLIDAY WINES
The experts have sipped and spoken. Just in time for the entertaining (and gift-giving) season, David Lawrason showcases the medal winners from November’s Ottawa Wine and Food Show

Illustration by Jeff Kulak

As the holidays approach, it’s time to consider wines for entertaining and gift-giving. This year avoid shopping piecemeal as each dinner invitation and gift idea pops up. Instead, shop in bulk for some of the classiest wines at the LCBO. This selection consists of some very fine wines — none priced to break the bank, but not bargain-basement either. The selection is also diverse, providing styles for every occasion as well as a few bottles perfect for drinking now and others that make thoughtful cellaring gifts. This selection does not consist of just my personal favourites. The ratings and tasting notes are mine, but the bottles were selected because all were gold- or silver-medal winners at the 2010 Ottawa Wine Challenge, wines that rose to the top in blind tastings among top Ottawa sommeliers and wine critics from Ottawa, Montreal, and Toronto. The challenge was held in Ottawa in early October, with the results announced and the wines poured at the Ottawa Wine and Food Show. Enjoy giving them and drinking them!

RED

Liberty School 2007 Syrah
$18.95 • California • 91 points
Gold Medal. My pick for best red of show. This is a wine of richness and girth that shouts syrah. It pours almost black, with a super-ripe, rich nose of chocolate, molasses, raisins, kelp, black olive, and wood smoke. It’s full-bodied, thick, and dense, yet, remarkably, it is also braced by lively acidity and fine tannin. Excellent length. No need to age it. LCBO 942383.

Yering Station Little Yering 2007 Cabernet Shiraz Merlot
$14.95 • Australia • 88 points
Gold Medal and Best Red of Show. I was very impressed by its richness, charm, and length but personally think it lacks gold-medal structure. Cabernet-dominated aromas of lead pencil, green bean, blackcurrant jam, and peppery spice have very good focus and length. It’s spicy and earthy, combining Aussie approachability and some Euro restraint. To find that it is priced under $15 is a shock. LCBO 145326.

Mission Hill 2008 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
$22.95 • British Columbia • 89 points
Gold Medal. This vintage has improved thanks to the arrival of Bordeaux consultant Michel Rolland. It is poised and vibrant, with ripened, fragrant blackcurrant fruit interlaced with tea, licorice, and smoky notes. Medium-to-full-bodied, firm, youthfully tannic, and a touch green on the finish. A cellar gift. Best 2013 to 2017. LCBO 553321.

Penfolds Thomas Hyland 2008 Shiraz
$19.95 • South Australia • 90 points
Silver Medal. Penfolds continues to craft some of Australia’s classiest wines. A well-balanced, dense, and stylish shiraz with black cherry/plummy fruit nicely inlaid with well-proportioned vanilla, cedar, rye bread, and earthy nuances. Really quite sumptuous, yet restrained at the same time. Best 2012 to 2017. Vintages Essentials 611210.

Masi 2007 Serego Alighieri Poderi Del Bello Ovile
$16.45 • Italy • 89 points
Silver Medal. Made from sangiovese and other local varieties at Masi’s Tuscan property, this is a very smooth, warm, and rich red with ripe sour cherry-raspberry fruit, some foresty greenness, and leather. It’s medium-weight and texturally polished, with sour red cran-raspberry on the finish. Break out with fine Italian cuisine. Best 2011 to 2016. LCBO 73106.

2007 Castello di Nippozzano Chianti Ruffino
$21.75 • Italy • 88 points
Gold Medal. The 2007 vintage of this very popular estate-grown wine is 90 percent sangiovese with other local varieties and a smidge of merlot and cabernet. It captures authentic chianti character with herbs, sour red fruits, earthy minerality, and leather, plus new oak vanillin. It’s mid-weight, fairly dense, sinewy, and tannic, needing two to three years to shake out the grit. Very good length. LCBO 107276.

Masi Tupungato 2008 Passo Doble Malbec Corvina
$13.95 • Argentina • 90 points
Silver Medal. There is a long Italian heritage in Argentine winemaking, so Masi of Italy has fertile ground for this clever ripasso-style blend. This wine combines the sour plum/tomato Italian piquancy of the corvina grape with malbec’s rich blackberry notes, then adds coffee, clove, and cedar on the nose by oak aging. It’s mid-weight, vibrant, and engaging, with great acidity and verve. Drink now with stews, or cellar through 2014. LCBO 620880.

WHITE

Marqués de Riscal 2009 Rueda
$10.80 • Spain • 90 points
Gold Medal. A lovely wine and an astounding value! From a small white-wine appellation northwest of Madrid that grows the verdejo grape, this white shows an exotic citrus salad nose of star fruit, kiwi, lemongrass, and licorice. It’s mid-weight and fresh, yet rich, with quenching acidity, spritz, and warmth. Most resembles sauvignon blanc. LCBO 36822.

Trout Valley 2008 Riesling Kahurangi Estate
$14.95 • New Zealand • 90 points
Gold Medal and Best White of Show. When I first tasted this, I mistook it for a Niagara riesling worth twice the price. From the cool maritime Nelson region, it is slim, taut, and juicy, with steely minerality and lemon-orange citrus notes bracing fresh apple and subtle green mint/evergreen notes. Excellent to outstanding length, especially at the price. LCBO 177790.

Louis Jadot 2008 Bourgogne Chardonnay
$18.95 • France • 89 points
Silver Medal. Good value in a classic white burgundy, with pronounced smoky, toasted almond and lanolin notes from lengthy barrel aging. With pear, lemon, and slightly herbal complexity, it’s mid-weight, fresh, and powerful. Best 2010 to 2013. Vintages Essentials. LCBO 933077.

SPARKLING

Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut
$29.95 • Niagara Peninsula • 89 points
Silver Medal. One of the classiest pink bubblies from Ontario shows a subtle nose of fresh raspberry, icing sugar, and fresh bread — altogether like a delicate raspberry pastry. It’s light-to-mid-weight and vaguely sweet, with a fine, racy effervescence and a dry, bracing finish. Very good length. LCBO 4051.

Piper-Heidsieck Brut
$50.85 • Champagne • 92 points
Silver Medal. I rated this as a gold. It is among the slimmest, raciest, most refreshing sparklers on the shelf. The nose is almost piercing, with flinty minerality, dried apple, lemon loaf, and light smokiness. It’s light-bodied and refined, with lemony and almond flavours hitting excellent length. The price has dropped $9 since last year. LCBO 462432.

PORT

Graham’s Twenty Year Old Tawny
$36.95/500 mL • Portugal • 94 points
Silver Medal. What a gorgeous wine! So silky, sweet, and refined. Intense, pure aromas of apricot, honey, cedar, and orange. Warm, elegant, and powerful. Excellent to outstanding length. Graham’s has always had a warm, sweet, sumptuous style, and this delivers in spades. The only port you need beside the dessert tray and fireside this winter. LCBO 620641.

All David Lawrason’s wine reviews can be found at www.winealign.com.

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