Our first attempts at foodie-oenophileness in Ottawa were not auspicious. A kinda boring Italian wine with a middling pizza, a non-VQA Ontario Merlot that I accidentally bought with a downright bad pizza, and then, worst of all, a highly-rated Austrialian Bordeaux Blend (Parker 89 etc.) that we travelled all over to Ottawa to find and buy (almost) the last *two* bottles of, which turned out to taste exactly like the Western Australia white we had with Christmas dinner last year that none of us liked. (We cooked that with “fresh” Pacific sole purchased late Sunday afternoon at a semi-local Loblaws that had clearly been sitting there since the fish delivery on maybe Thursday morning.) We returned the second bottle of the Aussie white, but we couldn’t do anything with the fish except feed it to the racoons (not deliberately, but as a foreseeable consequence) and make a mental note about trusting our instincts when buying fish.

(Actually I must have made up the bit about the non-VQA Merlot going with the really bad pizza because I now remember we bought the really bad pizza after throwing out the fish, and I don’t think we made our way through two bottles of bad wine that night.)

Anyway, I am pleased to report that slowly, our wine experiences are improving. Most worthy of mention is an LCBO general list Primitivo, Lapaccio Primitivo Salento 2005 (IGT Puglia), at $12.05 (with deposit) and 13.5%. Outgoing, vivacious nose: starting with plum, dark fruits, oak and becoming warm, baked goods, raisiny, earthy, cocunut richness even inky. Medium minus acid, lots of body, enough tannin to keep it interesting. A nice crowd wine or for pizza or pasta with tomato-Italian sausage sauce, which is what we drank it with.

Also interesting if a bit odd is a white Rioja in the August 4 Vintages release, Leza Garcia Rioja 2006 at 12.5% and $14.95. Some of us probably remember those oaked “Riojas” that we used to make with the able assistance of the Wine Druid at Quality Plonk (dba Wine Not). This is actually surprisingly reminiscent one of those wines, only far more subtle and with the benefit of actual aging. Generous oaky-tropical nose: coconut, lemon-meringue, burnt sugar, tropical melon. Rather confected with a hint of plastici-ness. Barely dry, medium body, not much acid. Sort of thing you might drink with a Paella, I think. Also goes well with Balsamic vinegar (!!). J., who doesn’t much like oaky whites, calls it a classier Little Penguin (referring to the oak-chipped Aussie chard, not to the birds).

Random additional notes. As of this release Tio Pepe is back at Vintages, much to J.’s delight. There is also an excellent Lustau dry Amontillado available here and there, about $17-18 for a normal 750mL or so which is pretty good for what you get. We also bought an Oloroso from the same producer, $14.95 for 375mL. We are saving that for a special occasion.