Some people would call this an addiction. I call it homework.
Having never been to a Vintages release yet, and with a fistful of LCBO gift cards burning a hole in my wallet, I decided it was high time to tick that off my "to do" list.
9:20 am: With cotton-hemp wine bags and Rod Phillips' latest Winepointer in hand, I head over to the Bank Street LCBO. A cluster of men in their 40s hover around the entrance, and I wonder if they're here for the release ... or if they're just really hard core.
9:30 am: Staff unlock the sliding double doors and everyone makes a beeline for the Vintages corner. (I guess it was the former.) Bottles start flying off the shelves and into carts; there are a few grumbles from a woman who claims her "usual spot" for her cart is taken. These are serious wine drinkers. They're stocking up like it's Armageddon, furrowed brows knitted over points ratings and tasting notes. I thought I was going to look like an amateur with my list in hand, but almost everyone has a reference of some sort on them. But there is none of the shirt-tearing, week-before-Christmas-toy-store madness I expected. Not sure whether I am relieved or disappointed.
9:45 am: Some of the shelves, including the one for Uruguay's Ysern Blend of Regions Tannat 2004, are already looking bare. (Don't worry, I got a bottle. Wondering if I should have bought two.) Cart is now loaded with nine wines (!!), a record for yours truly. Shopping on someone else's dime is a LOT of fun. I wonder if I could be a personal wine shopper? I could get the hang of that ... until then, LCBO gift cards will be featured on all my letters to Santa.
9:52 am: Pick up a few extras: some of that Riscal '07, a Daniel Lenko unoaked Chardonnay, and a six of Mill Street Brewery's Belgian Wit Beer, on the advice of one of my "fans" (thanks, Mac!) Feeling exhilarated by the rush of a spree gone well, I start unloading my purchases at the cash, thinking myself now "in the club" with all these bottles. Just about choke on the final tally; I guess membership to said club is restricted to those with the bucks to support such an expensive hobby (did I hear someone say habit?)
Mill Street Belgian Wit Beer: If you like a spicy, flavourful brew, this is the one for you. Heavy on the coriander, even more pronounced than Hoegaarden. It started out a tad overwhelming, but after it had warmed up slightly, the richer flavours of the yeast and orange peel came through. All while staying very clean and refreshing on the palate. Definitely something that would be better off with food than sipped on its own. Mill Street's site recommends scallops, salads and mild cheeses for pairing.