Constellation Brands’ Eugene Mlynczyk suggests wines for the holidays at LCBO Vintages stores.

There may be no better time than to shop with the stars than the Holiday season. Here are several stellar wine choices from the Constellation Brands portfolio.

VINTAGES 353201 $47.95

Still available but only in very limited quantity of about 100 cases across the province. Riserva Ducale Oro is Ruffino’s top wine and once again bears the designation “Gran Selezione” in the current 2011 vintage. This top-tier designation from the Chianti Classico DOCG of Tuscany, Italy requires longer aging before release and must also be produced exclusively from estate vineyards (though not necessarily a single vineyard). Representing less than 10% of the DOCG region’s production, there is no higher quality level in Tuscany level than Gran Selezione.

The grapes for Riserva Ducale Oro come exclusively from two Ruffino Estates, Santedame and Gretole, located in the prestigious Castellina subregion of Chianti Classico, which is known for its overall balance, fragrance and force. The composition is 80% Sangiovese, the traditional leading grape of the region, augmented by a further 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Trust your own palate, but always use a good guide. Here are just a couple expert views on this fabulous Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro 2011:

  • 91 points James Suckling ~ AUGUST 2015: “Lots of dried berry, orange peel and ginger aromas follow through to a full body with chewy tannins. Tangy finish. Rich and delicious.”
  • 90 points Wine Spectator ~ APRIL 2016: “A complex red, evoking cherry, strawberry, tobacco, tar and underbrush aromas and flavors. Harmonious and detailed, this lingers with an aftertaste of fruit, earth and woodsy notes.”

I’d says those words warrant a big “Bravo!” for chief winemaker Gabriele Tacconi.

VINTAGES 234161 $24.95

Next up, when talking stars, bubbles should figure prominently. Let’s go local with Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Entourage sparkling wine. This long-aged, almost three years on the lees, traditional method fizz is made by our winemaker Marco Piccoli, who originally hails from the Friuli region of Italy.

Produced exclusively from Niagara Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, here’s my own tasting note: “Pale lemon, with fine active mousse. Autolytic, bready intensity on the nose with refreshingly high acidity. Grapefruit, lemon peel and green apple blossom notes follow on the dry, mid-bodied palate. Long, satisfying finish. Very good.”

Sparkling wine isn’t just for New Year’s: match this with mid-bodied main courses including the Holiday ham or fish dishes. Available at Vintages, Wine Rack and from the winery online at GreatEstatesNiagara.Com.

VINTAGES 221887 $22.95

Next up, two sunny California wines to beat the winter blues. A solid white wine suited to take the edge off winter takes form in Robert Mondavi’s Napa Valley Fumé Blanc. 2014 is the third top vintage in a row for California, and is regarded as an excellent year for both whites and reds. The term Fumé Blanc was coined by Robert Mondavi for his inaugural 1966 vintage of barrel fermented, dry Sauvignon Blanc. A blend of mostly Sauvignon with a small percentage of Semillon, this wine is inspired by Bordeaux both in style and through the guiding hand of long-time Director of Winemaking, Genevieve Janssens, an original native of the region.

Wine quality and complexity are high, as are the critics’ assessments. Buy a few bottles and learn why Anthony Gismondi called this wine, “easily the best value sauvignon in the country” (2012 vintage).

The current 2014 vintage was scored 90 points by MaryAnn Worobiec, Wine Spectator: “Juicy and crisp, with green papaya and lemon flavors that are bright and refreshing, highlighting fresh lemon thyme notes on the finish. Shows a good balance of intensity and restraint. Drink now. Smart Buy.”

VINTAGES 942599 $21.95

For our final stellar selection, I’ve chosen a real winter warmer with Ravenswood’s Lodi County Series Zinfandel. Here we see the flip side of the excellent 2014 vintage, this time showcasing black grape intensity. Joel Peterson, widely regarded as the Godfather of Zin, and one of the modern pioneers of this classic but lesser-known grape, is the man behind the wine. Sourced from what I call the “premium interior” in the sandy soils of the Sacramento River delta just inland from the San Francisco Bay, this wine displays tons of concentration and typicity, true to the variety.

Here’s my note: “Very deep ruby hue. Expressive, dark raspberry and wild blueberry scents. Balanced notes of smoky oak, with good concentration overall. Supple and round tannins. A perfect choice for ribs, braised beef and mushroom fare. Performing well.”

Local Ontario critic Vic Harradine at liked this as well, assigning a 4.5 (out of 5) stars rating: “Sage and thyme aromas meld with dark berry fruit on the nose of this gorgeous, fruit- and spice-laden Zin. A fully textured wash of crowd-friendly, luscious dark fruit — bramble berry, plum and cherry — garnished with baking and peppery spice coat the palate infusing the balanced, juicy aftertaste. There’s a fine-grained tannin underpinning that’s easily ameliorated with a three-hour aeration/decant. Pour alongside barbecued back ribs mopped with spicy red sauce.” That sounds like “yum” to me!

Wishing everyone all the best for the Holidays. Trusting that you can spend some quality time with friends and family.

Eugene Mlynczyk MW
Luxury Portfolio Manager, Constellation Brands Canada

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