Liberty School Zinfandel 2006

When I tried their 2005 Cabernet I made a mental note to remember the name Liberty School.   I’m glad I did.
Their label sums it up nicely: “fruit-driven, soft and approachable”.  The tannins are present but not overpowering which lets the drinker enjoy it on it’s own or paired with food.
Tip: Released on Jan 17, 2009
At a Glance
Taste dark ripe berry, warm spice, vanilla
Smell dark ripe berry, warm spice, cherry
Food beef, steak, sausage
Sweetness dry
Price $17.95
LCBO# 41095
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Two Oceans Pinot Noir 2007

This value pinot from Two Oceans from South Africa is a pretty good find as far as value pinots go.  The medium to light body is a nice change from the typical big reds we often find ourselves drinking by default.
You may taste some subtle spice such as cinnamon/clove.
Tip: tulip glass, chilled
At a Glance
Taste smoky, cedar, ripe red berry
Smell strawberry, smoky, cherry
Food pasta primavera, hamburgers
Sweetness dry
Price $9.95
LCBO# 61598
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Fontanafredda Barbera Briccotondo 2006

This value barbera coming from Piedmont, Italy is a medium bodied acidic red that proves the time tested fact that Italian wine always matches Italian food. I had this wine with a plate of pasta and meatballs and the wine’s acidity matched the acidity in the tomato sauce perfectly. On that note, if you don’t usually like Italian reds, this isn’t for you.  There was also a hint of eucalyptus in on the palate.
The 2006 vintage was on Wine Spectator’s Top 100 in 2007 with a score of 90 points
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste sour cherry, raspberry, oak
Smell cherry, tea, oak
Food pasta with tomato sauce and meatballs
Sweetness extra dry
Price $15.95
LCBO# 72348
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Gray Fox Merlot 2007

Seems like we’re having a bit of trouble finding a good house merlot. For such a popular varietal, you’d think we’d have more luck…maybe this varietal is suffering from market saturation.
This particular budget merlot has a light-medium body with medium-light fruit content. It didn’t seem very refined and felt rushed out the door.
I much prefer their Gray Fox Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
Tip: balloon glass
At a Glance
Taste cherry, sour berry
Smell cherry, alcohol, geranium
Food club sandwich
Sweetness dry
Price $7.95
LCBO# 527507
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Corte Zovo Sa’ Solin Ripasso Della Valpolicella 2004

This DOC bottle comes all the way from the birthplace of ripasso, Veneto, Italy.  It’s a tannic, medium to full bodied wine that would go very well with heavy beef dishes.
Hats off any winemaker that can achieve such smoothness while having an alcohol content of 14.5%, learn from my experience…drink slowly.  The price jump of 2 dollars from the 2003 vintage was sad to see, in Ontario: c’est la vie.
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste rasin, cherry, black licorice
Smell blackberry, cherry, coffee
Food beef dishes, sheppards pie
Sweetness extra dry
Price $17.95
LCBO# 650713
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Ascheri Barbera D’Alba Fontanelle 2005

This medium bodied, single-vineyard barbera is a great value and a nice stray from the day-to-day varietals. For those of you trying barbera for the first time, Ascheri is a great doorway to one of the most planted grapes in Italy.
Benchmarks of a good barbera are: medium-low tannins, high acidity with notes of sour cherries, plums and herbs. Barbera is a great wine to pair with food, especially a saucy italian dish (thanks to the wine’s acidity)
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste sour cherry, plum, spice
Smell cherry, vanilla, plum
Food cheese and spinach ravioli in tomato sauce
Sweetness extra dry
Price $17.80
LCBO# 982462
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Casal Thaulero Sangiovese 2007

Cruising the isles looking for another IGT overachiever, I bought this bottle. While I wouldn’t make it a favourite, it was worth the $7.10 I paid for it. It was a medium wine all the way from mouthfeel to tannins.
This wine is good, but if you’re looking for sangiovese; be sure to try the nosnob favourite by: Farnese
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste sour cherry, red berries,
Smell cherry, berry, espresso
Food hard cheeses
Sweetness dry
Price $7.10
LCBO# 588996
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Gray Fox Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

The LCBO has promoted this wine as part of their ‘Taste California’ release (on the value end of the scale).
Take note that this is NOT a ‘Big California Cab’. It is a light-medium bodied red that could pull up a chair at the lunch table.
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste cherry, light-sweet cassis, smoky
Smell cherry, berry
Food meatball sub
Sweetness dry
Price $7.90
LCBO# 527515
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The Little Penguin Merlot 2007

This wine has it’s place, picnic barbecues. It also has it’s place with the many other merlots from companies who choose to name their product after animals or something cutesy. If you’re a buyer of these wines and enjoy them, give this one a shot, I found it much more enjoyable than the merlot by yellow tail, and it’s a whole nickel cheaper – I’m probably paying for the name 😉
To watch for: how this wine is sweet on the attack but finishes with a slight bitter note.
Tip: balloon glass
At a Glance
Taste cherry, raspberry, vanilla
Smell cherry, berry
Food picnic food
Sweetness off dry
Price $12.15
LCBO# 598912
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Peller Estates Heritage Series Baco Noir 2006

Here’s a sub ten dollar VQA that I was going to mark as being off-dry but then changed it to medium-sweet just because the sugars and tartness kept lingering on in the finish.
If you’re a fan of Niagara’s baco and have found one you like, buy a few bottles because in my tastings I have yet to find two vintages that even remotely resemble each other. Nevertheless, it keeps you on your toes!
Tip: if you want to drive the ‘wine guy or girl’ at the party nuts, have them blind taste a baco noir 🙂
At a Glance
Taste currant, sweet raisin anise
Smell cherry, sweet oak, plum
Food grilled vegetables
Sweetness medium sweet
Price $9.95
LCBO# 582841
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Botalcura Reserve El Delirio Syrah Malbec 2005

This bottle was picked up on a whim while looking for something cheap and cheerful while cruising through the liquor store on Tuesday evening after work. The blend of Syrah and Malbec was immediately interesting as both these grapes have some very specific characteristics. Syrah of course with it’s bold and mouth filling spice and Malbec with its tannins and forward fruit. A match made in heaven?
The first sniff of the glass told me I was in for a treat. Right away the earthy Malbec was apparent followed by the raspberry and dark cherry of the Syrah. For the price, this is a very pleasing, mouth filling, lip smacking bottle of wine under $15.00!
Tip: Try it on it’s own then with food, it softens so well. Going back to buy a few bottles.
At a Glance
Taste black cherry, raspberry, earth
Smell earth, cherry, plum
Food chicken souvlaki with tzatziki
Sweetness dry
Price $12.95
LCBO# 18630
Score
Botalcura

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Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Here we have a nice California cab which the LCBO has dubbed as a ‘Vintages Essential’. Best of all, this bottle has an affordable price tag.
Overall this wine is a winner. It strikes a nice balance between fruit, acidity and tannins. The wine is quite dry, but works surprisingly well on it’s own.
Tip: saying it comes from ‘Paso Robles’ is catchy
At a Glance
Taste blackberry, dark cherry, spice
Smell ripe red fruit, cherry, vanilla
Food grilled, braised or roasted meats
Sweetness extra dry
Price $16.85
LCBO# 738823
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Château des Charmes Gamay Noir 2006

I’m betting the extra 5 dollars to get out of Chateau des Charmes’ entry level gamay would have paid off.
Gamay is a light red to begin with, but I would have liked to taste some more prominent flavors in this vintage.
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste cherry, raspberry
Smell raspberry, cherry, berries
Food grilled chicken
Sweetness dry
Price $12.45
LCBO# 57349
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Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2005

A nosnob.com favorite for sure. We first found this wine a couple of years ago in a Vintages release and it was love at first drop. We have been recommending it and buying it ever since. I got to meet the wine maker back in November. I might have made an “I’m an obsessed scary stalker fan” first impression. More on that another time. Now to the wine…
This is a big bold gutsy wine and it’s proud of it. Deep aromas and flavors of blackberry, chocolate, cherry. Just enough alcohol to warm the mouth and throat without being offensive. Get your butcher to cut you a perfect piece of moo and fire up the BBQ. Perez Cruz is coming to dinner.
 
At a Glance
Taste currants, chocolate, ripe berry
Smell toasted oak, ripe berry, cherry
Food bbq steak, pasta with meat sauce
Sweetness dry
Price $14.85
LCBO# 694208]
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Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Bottle

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Hillebrand Collectors’ Choice Cabernet Merlot 2004

With this meritage of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes, Hillebrand has created an easy going, medium bodied and very very smooth red blend. Coming from some of Niagara’s warmest vineyards and aged in oak barrels for a year, this vintage is very compatible with a wide array of food.
 
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste strawberry, cherry, very mild oak
Smell strawberry, roasted red bell pepper, cherry
Food italian
Price $16.45
LCBO#  
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