Dan Kislenko from The Record recommends Liberty School

Doubles are not uncommon when new products arrive in the LCBO Vintages system. Two wines from the same producer, that is. But triplets are pretty rare — especially ones that are eminently affordable.

But that does happen today with three wines from what I consider to be one of the most reliable and consistent labels out of California — Liberty School.

Although the winery itself is in central California — in Paso Robles to be exact — its philosophy is to blend grapes from across regions to achieve the style and flavours they want, and deliver good wine at a good price.


Liberty School 2009 Chardonnay ($18.95, code 960120). The fruit in this wine is drawn from the cool Monterey area and the warm Santa Barbara region of California, so you get a nice play of crisp and full character. The flavours lean to fresh fruit — pears, red apples, quince, and citrus — with a flinty/mineral finish.

Liberty School 2011 Rosé ($16.95, code 276667). While we see a fair bit of Liberty School in Ontario, this one is new. It’s a pretty summer quaffer made of Grenache and Syrah, it has an orange blush to the pink colour, and it is styled dry. The smell is floral, in the mouth it offers strawberry and white peach flavours with a touch of spice.

Liberty School 2008 Syrah ($18.95, code 942383). A hearty and reliable BBQ wine. The wine has a firm structure but is very accessible, with a meaty build and spice notes all round, and forward flavours of cherry, blueberry jam, dark chocolate and a touch of licorice about it.


Elsewhere in the release:

Chateau Vignol Blanc 2010 ($13.95, code 108522). The price alone makes this a great prospect for summer drinking. The wine is from Entre-Deux-Mers (Bordeaux white) so it’s based on Sauvignon Blanc. It’s crisp, dry, fresh and has an impression of sea salt, jasmine, grapefruit and gooseberry.

Lingenfelder 2010 Freinsheimer Musikantenbuckel Riesling Kabinett ($17.95, code 87593). Don’t worry about the long name (it’s telling you exactly where the wine was grown). This is a delicious German “reserve” wine, made of Riesling and styled off-dry with some natural residual sweetness. There’s a refreshing balanced of pear, apricot and spice flavours against a lime-zest acidity that keeps the mouth watering.

Momo 2010 Chardonnay ($17.95, code 247247). Say Marlborough and people think of Sauvignon Blanc, but they make some great Chardonnay in that part of New Zealand as well. The fruit dominates here with little noticeable wood influence; the flavours come across as nectarine, kumquat, peach and green pear with a nice supporting, juicy acid backbone.

MacMurray Ranch 2010 Pinot Gris ($19.95, code 47787). The winery is based on an estate once owned by the 1950s actor Fred MacMurray (and the homestead is still decorated in the period). Do not think “pinot grigio” in style, as this wine is much fleshier and has lots of flavour, showing fresh peaches, almonds, persimmons and orange melons, with an intense floral aura.

Baglio Di Pianetto 2009 Nero d’Avola ($14.95, code 207423). I am a big fan of well-made Nero d’Avola, an indigenous grape of Sicily that can produce intriguing wines at affordable prices. There’s a brightness and simplicity to the structure and flavour, the fruit emerging as blueberries, dried cherries, dark chocolate and cracked pepper.

Cabriz 2008 Reserva ($15.95, code 21410). A terrific wine for the money. If it came from a better-known region like California or Australia you’d expect to pay a lot more, but Portuguese table wines do not command those prices here. It’s out of the Dao area in north-central Portugal and is beautifully balanced, floral and is packed with black fruit flavours and a coffee bean finish.

Penfolds 2010 Bin 2 Shiraz Mourvedre ($21.95, code 468629). Penfolds has a reputation for reds that stand the test of time. This blend is young a muscular and really deserves some age. Right now it’s dense and jammy, the tannin is pronounced, but overall there’s a seductive ripeness and intense flavours of plum, black berry and black cherry.

Henry of Pelham 2007 Reserve Pinot Noir ($24.95, code 268391). This Niagara Pinot is showing beautiful maturity and great focus. It has the pure ripe cherry character of the variety in its prime, the tannin is nicely rounded and balanced with fruit and acidity, and there’s a vague gamey/earthy edge to the finish.

Louis M. Martini 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($29.95, code 232371). Here’s a Napa valley wine that is already pushing five years old, yet it is still an infant. You need to let it breathe for a full two hours if you’re drinking it now or anytime soon, but the wine will easily develop for another decade at least; if you can wait that long, you’ll think the $30 is a steal. The wine is opulent and silky in the mouth, the tannin ripe but still strong, the fruit is dark — black currants dominate — and smoky.

May 25, 2012

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