This is the best value wine in the LCBO
I luvs me a deal. I can craft my grocery shopping to maximize my PC Optimum points with the stealthy precision of Jason Bourne, I’ve practically created a new Olympic sport for online bargain hunting, and I can sniff out a sale the way an airport basset hound can sniff out a smuggled sausage lurking beneath a week’s worth of dirty clothes in some poor foodie’s luggage.
Some have called my deal quest a neurotic obsession. I call it winning.
A taste with the winemaker
So you can only imagine my excitement when I got the wine tip of the century from Robert Mondavi winemaker, Megan Schofield. Earlier this month I sat down with the St. Catharine’s native to taste through eight of the California winery’s latest vintages. I’ve always loved Mondavi wines (as well as the captivating story of both the man and his eponymous winery), so I would have been there with bells on regardless, but as a recovering journalist I do feel an obligation to find an angle, to “get the story” so-to-speak. But what would it be? Great Reds for BBQ..? White Wines for the Red Lover …? Yawn.
Then, Megan casually dropped this gem:
The Robert Mondavi To Kalon Vineyard Reserve Cabernet, which sells for $169 USD at the Napa winery, sells for $149 CDN at the LCBO! (Insert 1,000 high-five emojis here).
I get what some of you are saying right now: $150??? That is not a deal. A deal is finding a pair of knock-off Cons for $10 Euro in San Sebastián, Spain (which I’ve also done and they’re super cute.)
But let me point out, that at the time of this writing $169 USD equals $215 CDN… so essentially you are getting $66 off your wine. And this isn’t just any wine. Collectors and show-offs, lean in: this is To Kalon Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.
The world’s top vineyard
To Kalon is considered by wine experts to be one of the premier vineyards in the world. Originally planted in 1868, To Kalon (which stems from the Greek words for “highest beauty”) has gained legendary status for producing refined, elegant and age-worthy Cabs. Its the terroir, or the special alluvial soil that was washed down from the nearby Mayacamas mountains, that is credited for creating these unique and distinguished wines. Deep and gravelly, the soil has excellent drainage, meaning the vine roots must dig deep to find water. That actually stresses the vines a bit, and unlike humans, stressed out vines make for excellent results.
Today, Robert Mondavi owns the lion’s share of To Kalon, and grapes grown in this prestigious vineyard can command more than $30,000 a ton (a ton of grapes makes about 60 cases, or 720 bottles of wine). In addition to Cabernet, Mondavi has also planted Sauvignon Blanc grapes in to Kalon, used for the classic Fumé Blanc.
Tasting notes for the wines:
Robert Mondavi Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2014
To Kalon Vineyard, Napa Valley, California
$149 Vintages 670463
Elegance and power blend here for a refined and sophisticated Cab nearly reminiscent of Bordeaux. An intriguing savoury note of sage or rosemary, fresh asphalt and tobacco leaves comes through on both the nose and palate which also shows rich dark cherry, blackberry and vanilla bean. I’ve had the pleasure of trying To Kalon Cabs at the winery that were past their 40th birthdays and there’s no reason to believe this couldn’t also go for decades with proper cellaring. 95 points
Robert Mondavi Winery Fumé Blanc 2016
Napa Valley, California
$22.95 Vintages 221887
There’s a splash of Semillon added to this Sauvignon Blanc, and all juice was barrel fermented and then barrel aged for that classic texture and complexity. A gorgeous, creamy weight is immediately appealing on the palate which balances flavours of lemon meringue, fresh orange peel, and stone fruit with a flinty-mineral note. a terrific summer sipper by the pool or on the dock with grilled white fish or turkey burgers. 91 points
Robert Mondavi Winery Chardonnay Reserve 2015
Carneros, Napa Valley, California
About $45 (not currently available in Ontario)
Decadent and luxurious, the creamy, waxy texture is so intriguing on this Chard which shows obvious oak, but judiciously done. Look for roasted flavours of hazelnut, brown butter, poached pear and fresh lemon. A bright seam of acidity winds through giving a terrific vibrancy. 90 points
Robert Mondavi Winery “Maestro” 2014
Napa Valley, California
$59.95, Vintages 459933
Maestro is a Cab Sauv dominated Bordeaux blend that was first created as a specialty bottle for last year’s 50th anniversary of the winery. It was received with such acclaim that they decided to do it again. Named for Robert Mondavi’s love of the arts and music, winery staff report Mondavi brought in an orchestra to celebrate the grand opening of the To Kalon cellar. He became so excited, he grabbed the conductor’s baton and began leading the symphony himself. Powerful and rich with a hefty 15% alcohol, there’s a joyousness to this wine with expected notes of ripe black berry fruit, but also graphite and bitter chocolate. 90 points