July 19, 2016 Newsletter

Newsletter highlights include:

Mission HillSusan Desjardins recently had the pleasure of tasting a flight of Mission Hill wines with newly minted Chief Winemaker, Darryl Brooker, at the über-popular Social Restaurant and Bar, 537 Sussex Drive, Ottawa. Her detailed tasting notes are published here.

  • Exceptional-value wine Exceptional Value! – it’s a bonanza with 14 of 76 wines reviewed meeting strict quality-price guidelines; they’re found throughout the newsletter. What strict quality-price guidelines? Click here.
  • 5-star Wine – no wine rang the 5-star bell.
  • Susan Selects – Ghost Pines ‘Winemaker’s Blend’ Merlot 2013 @ $19.95 with 4 stars and Mission Hill ‘Five Vineyards’ Pinot Blanc 2013 @ $15.95 with 4 stars both under New in the LCBO; Mission Hill ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay 2013 21.95 with 4½ stars found under New in Vintages Essentials.
  • Vic Picks – Fielding ‘White Conception’ 2013 @ $18.95 with 4 stars found under Ontario: White Wines; St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 @ $29.95 with 4½ stars under California: Red Wine; William Fèvre ‘Champs Royaux’ Chablis 2014 @ $24.95 with 4½ stars found under France: White Wine; 

Access the LCBO store nearest you with stock of any wine with an LCBO product number by clicking on the number shown in brackets in wine reviews then clicking on select stores and entering your postal code. The number of bottles available in each store near you is displayed. For Vintages Release wines, stock should be displayed the Friday before a Saturday release, updated every 24 hours, some stores post earlier. LCBO Portfolio wines (not Vintages) should always closely reflect stock in stores, updated every 24 hours. However, it’s always best to phone first.

July 23, 2016 Vintages Release

Feature: Spain

**** drink or cellar
Bodegas Atalaya ‘Laya’ 2014
DOP Almansa $15.95 (132605) 14.5% alcohol
There’s good value here. Aromas of peppery spice, tar and smoke set up this medium-full bodied red blend—70% Garnacha Tintorera, aka Grenache / 30% Monastrell, aka Mourvèdre. It’s full bodied and fully fruited dishing up a wash of luscious, dark berry fruit robed in espresso roast and fennel on the palate and dry, mouth-watering finish. Pour with pasta puttanesca. (Vic Harradine)

• The following four-grape blend—Monastrell, Tempranillo, Garnacha Tintorera, Syrah—was sourced from +55-year-old vines and aged 12-15 months in French oak barrel and another 24 months in bottle before release.

**** drink or cellar
Bodegas Piqueras ‘Castillo De Almansa - Old Vines Selección’ 2010
DO Almansa $16.95 (586719) 14.5% alcohol
Smoky notes and exotic incense herald a juicy, lively stream of red and black berry fruit and racy pie cherry bathing the palate persisting through the finish and aftertaste. This is medium weight with good texture and deft balance throughout. Drinking well now, give it a go with lasagna or prawn and chorizo paella. (Vic Harradine)

• winecurrent subscribers may be familiar with the Mencia grape and the Bierzo DO as they’ve been featured and recommended in reviews since 2009. Recent DNA profiling has concluded that Mencia, grown primarily in NE Spain, is the same as the Portuguese grape, Jaen. It was the re-discovery and work in reclaiming very old, some abandoned, Mencia vines in Beirzo that this resurgence was born as it’s the +50-year-old vines and high-profile Spanish winemakers working their magic with this fruit that produce the quality of wine gaining the attention of wine lovers.

**** drink now
Bodegas del Abad ‘Abad Dom Bueno’ Mencía 2008
DO Bierzo $15.95 (291989) 13.5% alcohol
This is 100% Mencia fruit sourced from stony vineyards and vines averaging 35 years of age. Piquant spice, rose petals and a red and black currant bouquet introduce a juicy stream of tang-laden, red berry fruit—currant, cranberry and wisps of raspberry. It’s mid-full weight with decent mouthfeel and a lingering, quite dry, mouth-watering finish. It’s well-priced and interesting in that it has some age, but drink up soon. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Spanish red was sourced from 100% Mencia vines averaging +80 years fermented in stainless steel then aged in seasoned French and American oak barrel for 9 months on its lees and bottled unfined.

**** drink or cellar
Merayo ‘Las Tres Filas’ Mencía 2014
DO Bierzo $19.95 (462788) 14.0% alcohol
Cedar, tobacco and grilled herb aromas on the nose, this delivers a medium-bodied, bracing, tang-infused streak of red currant, raspberry and passion fruit bathing the palate with adornments of bittersweet chocolate and baking spice. It’s nicely textured with a dry, lip-smacking finish and aftertaste. Pour with pasta in tomato sauce or red pizza. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Menguante ‘Selección’ Garnacha 2012
DOP Cariñena $16.95 (313833) 14.0% alcohol
You’ll be hard-pressed to find better value than this gem; back up the van. Sourced from 80-year-old Grenache bush vines, this jumps from the glass with aromas of exotic spice, incense and sweet vanilla. It blankets the palate with a surge of deftly balanced black brambleberry fruit and juicy black cherry enhanced by charry notes and soft, fine-grained tannin. It’s medium-plus bodied with a lingering, balanced and beautiful aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Gonzales Byass ‘Finca Constancia - Selección’ 2013
Vino de la Tierra de Castilla $16.95 (376384) 14.0% alcohol
Here’s yet another delectable red blend—Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Graciano and Tempranillo—at an exceptional price; pick up an armful. Full bodied, velvety smooth and oozing charm, it coats the palate with an enormous wave of black plum compote and black Bing cherry robed in oaky bits and balanced beautifully by tangy pie cherry flavour. It was tough to spit. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Sueño Tempranillo 2013
DO Ribera del Júcar $17.95 (397133) 14.0% alcohol
This is a silky smooth, full-bodied, full-fruited Tempranillo that’s deftly balanced sporting a lingering, lip-smacking aftertaste. There’s good depth of concentration and persistent fruit—black currant and ripe mulberry—along with racy, red currant tang and wisps of toast and fine-grained tannin—it spent 6 months in French and American oak barrel. Aerate/decant three hours pouring with grilled-rare, well-seasoned flank steak. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Paco & Lola Albariño 2014
DO Rías Baixas $17.95 (350041) 12.5 % alcohol
Spice and floral note aromas reveal a sleek and tasty, light-on-its-feet white that opens up with a delicious river of citrus tang with Meyer lemon and white grapefruit to the fore. It fleshes out on the mid-palate with adornments of white peach and grilled pineapple; all nicely balanced, the finish and aftertaste are clean, crisp and refreshing. (Vic Harradine)

• The following wine is from iconic producer/winemaker, Alejandro Fernández, who first made his fame with the label, ‘Tinto Pesquera’. The ‘Dehesa La Granja’ was sourced from 100% Tempranillo grapes from Pesquera clones that were planted in 1998.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Alejandro Fernández ‘Dehesa La Granja’ 2008
Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León $19.95 (192476) 14.0% alcohol
Aromas of campfire smoke, cedar and dark coffee provide segue for a rich, luscious stream of dark berry fruit and ripe black plum interwoven with piquant spice and mocha. This has good depth and concentration with persistent purity of fruit, balance and lengthy dry finish. It’s ready to drink now and pours well with beef Stroganoff or boeuf Bourguignon. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar 
Entresuelos Tempranillo 2013
Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León $16.95 (462440) 14.0% alcohol
This is medium-full bodied with creamy texture, oodles of fruit and a lingering finish. Dark, ripe berry fruit, peppery spice and roasted herbs precede a luscious flow of black raspberry and dark plum robed in dark roast coffee and excellent acidity. It’s nicely balanced, well paced and well priced, seeing brief time in new and seasoned French oak barrel. (Vic Harradine)

The Main Release

Ice Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Reif Vidal Icewine 2013

VQA Niagara River, Niagara Peninsula $24.95 200 mL (544791) 10.0% alcohol

Apricot, truffles and honeyed pear on the nose, this coats the palate with a glorious wash of peel marmalade, apricot and piquant spice along with notions of lemon curd and a fruit bowl of honey-dipped tropical fruit. It cleans up nicely on the back palate and aftertaste with good, balancing acidity and tang to the rescue allowing following sips to be as enjoyable as the previous. Pour with aged Gouda or pan-seared foie gras. (Vic Harradine)

Sparkling Wine

***1/2 drink now
Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvée Rosé Non-Vintage

New Zealand $21.95 (280172) 12.0% alcohol

This attractive pink-hued sparkler, fashioned from 20% hand-harvested Pinot Noir and 80% low-yielding Chardonnay, was fermented in the Charmat, a.k.a. Cuve Close, method. It hustles from the bottle with an energetic mousse and aromas of red berry fruit and spice with hints of brioche. It delivers spirited and lively flavours of citrus and red currant interwoven with sweeter and riper cherry on the lip-smacking aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
La Marca Prosecco Non-Vintage 

DOC Veneto $17.95 (287987) 11.7% alcohol 

Here’s a light and lively sparkling wine that shouldn’t be missed. It has wonderful aromas, oodles of fruit flavour and a crisp finish. Floral, lime and orchard fruit aromas introduce a painter’s palette of flavour with lemon chiffon pie, orange sherbet and ripe, sweet apple and pear to the fore. It’s light on its feet and the perfect welcoming wine or party starter. Drinks well on its own or paired with lighter-styled appetizers. The price-quality ratio skews well in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: White Wine

**** drink now Oh Canada! 
Fielding Estate ‘White Conception’ 2013 

VQA Niagara Peninsula $18.95 (203737) 12.5% alcohol

This unique blend of 34% Chardonnay/32% Pinot Gris/32% Viognier dishes up alluring aromas of tropical fruit—pineapple and mango—interwoven with honey and citrus. It bathes the palate with a balanced and beautiful stream of honey-drizzled guava and lemon curd with grapefruit pith and peach skin. It’s medium weight with good mouth feel and a lingering, lip-smacking, tangy finish. This really sings with pan-seared fish or sea food; tried mine with pan-seared salmon alongside par-boiled, pan-grilled broccoli and cauliflower - delicious. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
Jackson-Triggs ‘Grand Reserve’ Sauvignon Blanc 2013
VQA Niagara Peninsula $19.95 (367797) 13.0% alcohol
The quiet nose of herbal notes and minerality erupts into a tang-infused riot of flavour on the palate—lemon-lime yoghurt, racy gooseberry and ripe grilled pineapple interlaced with savory herbs. It’s medium weight with long, mouth-watering finish. Pour with pan-seared tilapia or mussels steamed in white wine, this white wine. This is good value. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Redstone ‘Limestone Vineyard South’ Riesling 2012

VQA Twenty Mile Bench $19.20 (381251) 9.5% alcohol

Aromas of smoke, minerality and slate dominate the nose. This off-dry beauty showcases a tang-laden surge of lime cordial and blood orange with great sense of purpose. Key lime and orange marmalade flavours bathe the palate persisting through the mouth-watering, sweet and tang finish. Wisps of sugared, ruby red grapefruit are introduced on the aftertaste. Pour with spicy Asian cuisine or sip on its own. Winemaker Rene Van Ede deserves a hearty doff of the cap for this value-packed gem. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada! Exceptional Value!
The Organized Crime Fumé Blanc 2012
VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment $16.95 (465013) 13.4% alcohol
This is nicely balanced with sweet fruit and racy tang. The oaky/nutty aromas on the nose reflect the 9 months aging in French oak barrel. It bathes the palate with a medium-bodied, nicely textured wash of crisp, green apple, flinty minerality, ripe pear and lime cordial balanced on the back palate and finish by über-ripe apple and yellow peach. Pour alongside lemon sole or pan-seared tuna. (Vic Harradine)

Okanagan Valley: White Wine

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada! Exceptional Value!
Quail’s Gate Gewürztraminer 2014
VQA Okanagan Valley, BC $17.95 (354480) 12.0% alcohol
Here’s a slightly off-dry treat that begins with aromas of rosewater, exotic spice and floral notes. A stunning, palate-bathing, tapestry of flavour interweaves with peel marmalade, racy citrus notes and sweet Turkish delight. It’s light-medium bodied with decent texture and a delightful sweet and tang finish. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: Red Wine

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
13th Street Cabernet/Merlot 2012

VQA Creek Shores $19.95 (56598) 13.5% alcohol

Dense and inky, this blend offers lovely aromas of ripe dark fruit, earthy notes and hints of lavender and dried herbs. Dry, medium-full bodied, it’s polished tannin and tangy texture harmonize with dark berry and plum. There’s depth and intensity here, spice and smoky toast complementing the fruit on the extended finish. Enjoy with grilled red meats. (Susan Desjardins)

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Château des Charmes ‘St. David’s Bench Vineyard’ Cabernet Franc 2012
VQA St. David’s Bench $27.95 (453415) 13.5% alcohol
A quiet nose of roasted herbs and spice usher in a well-balanced, smooth and mellow mouthful of red and dark berry fruit enhanced with mocha, toasty and earthy notes. This is medium bodied with good mouthfeel and a mid-length finish and aftertaste. Pour with grilled steak, gourmet sausage or rack of lamb. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Le Clos Jordanne ‘Village Reserve’ Pinot Noir 2012
VQA Niagara Peninsula $30.00 (33894) 13.5% alcohol
This is medium bodied, sleek and taut with savory herbs, pie cherry and red currant streaking across the palate with bracing acidity and flinty/mineral notes. There’s persistent red fruit and racy tang on the finish and dry, mouth-watering aftertaste. Pour alongside penne pasta with fresh oregano and tomato sauce. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 cellar Oh Canada!
Megalomania ‘Almost Grounded’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
VQA Niagara Peninsula $18.95 (428458) 13.0% alcohol
Smoky/toasty oak and grilled herb aromas introduce an herb-infused river of cedar, sour cherry and cranberry with a solid lick of still-evolving tannin. This is mid weight with decent texture and lengthy, chewy finish. Pop corks 2018-2021 poured with well-seasoned, rare-grilled steak. (Vic Harradine)

Okanagan Valley: Red Wine

• The Wyse Family, founders of Burrowing Owl, are the principals involved in the following Calliope wine and winery. All grapes for this red blend—55% Merlot/35% Cab Franc and 10% Cab Sauv—were sourced from vineyards in Oliver and Osoyoos. They were handpicked, hand sorted and fermented in tank before undergoing malolactic conversion and 12 months aging in French oak then gently fined before bottling.

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Calliope ‘Figure 8’ Cabernet/Merlot 2014
VQA Okanagan Valley, BC $19.95 (324582) 14.0% alcohol
Charred toast, tobacco and baking spice set the table for a smorgasbord of flavour from this medium-bodied, velvet-smooth beauty. It’s full fruited—red and black currant with hints of cherry clafoutie—with balance, wisps of soft tannin and savory herbs. It finishes with replays and a persistent aftertaste. It offers good value. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: Rosé Wine

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada! Exceptional Value!
Pondview Cabernet Franc Rosé 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula $14.95 (241802) 12.7% alcohol
Not for the faint of palate. There are hi-toned aromas of Turkish delight, a bouquet of roses and a crate of freshly picked strawberry aromas on the nose. A gusher of strawberry/rhubarb pie and red cherry coat the palate replaying on the long, tang-infused aftertaste. A substantial drink on its own, it has the stuffing to nestle up to roast chicken or roast pork with red pepper jelly on the side. Delicious. (Vic Harradine)

California: White Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Markham Chardonnay 2014
Napa Valley $23.95 (418277) 13.8% alcohol
This is a well-balanced Napa Chardonnay with oodles of flavour and charm, seamlessly integrated oak and long delectable finish at a very attractive price. Baking spice, buttery notes and nutty aromas abound. It bathes the palate with good weight, creamy smooth texture and an embarrassment of riches—baked apple, poached pear and hints of tropical fruit mingle with spice and buttered toast. It finishes with replays, smooth as silk. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Silver Oak Cellars ‘Twomey’ Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Napa County/Sonoma County $44.95 (458695) 13.7% alcohol
This is at the top end of price points for this varietal, but it has a number of things going its way. There’s laser-like tang, persistent flavour and a finish that’s clean as a whistle. Herbal notes and sharp-scented spice aromas set up a bracing, tang-laced stream of lemon lime, passion fruit and white grapefruit acidity from cork pop to last drop. It’s dry and mouthwatering on the lingering finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

California: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Beringer Merlot 2014
Napa Valley $39.95 (919647) 14.3% alcohol
This is a mid-full bodied, structured California Cab opening with aromas of dark berry fruit, baking spice and hints of mint. It provides good balance overall via a palate-coating flow of black plum compote, cassis and tangy red cherry. It finishes with more of the same and pours well with burgers, gourmet sausage or grilled steak. (Vic Harradine)

• The following St. Francis Cab is made up of 94% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Malbec, 3% Petit Verdot. It was aged in 100% French oak barrel, 18% new. Begun in 1971, St Francis is still family owned and family run. They own more than 400 acres of certified, sustainably farmed vineyards.

****1/2 drink or cellar 
St. Francis Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Sonoma County $29.95 (671164) 14.8% alcohol
This is a gorgeous California Cab—full-bodied, full fruited and full of delicious flavour—at a reasonable, even attractive price. An alluring nose of dark black cherry, black plum and exotic spice herald a rich, luscious and concentrated wave of kirsch liqueur, ripe bramble berry and wisps of sweet vanilla. There’s persistent purity of fruit with deft balance and dry, lip-smacking finish. (Vic Harradine)

Argentina: Red Wine

***1/2 drink or cellar
Crios Malbec 2014

Mendoza $14.95 (162529) 14% alcohol

Deep reddish purple in the glass; green pepper and earthy aromas dance with the red and dark cherry notes. Some time spent in oak barrel offers toasty notes while tight tannin leads to a little toasty spice on the dry finish. This is a great pizza or burger wine. (Julie Stock)

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Domaine Bousquet ‘Reserve’ Malbec 2012

Tupungato Valley, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina $15.95 (55244) 15.0% alcohol

Well paced and quite delicious—stock up. Fermented and aged six months in French and American oak barrels, this hi-altitude gem struts its stuff throughout. Tobacco, savory herbs and mixed field berry fruit aromas abound. It’s full bodied and generously textured with red cherry and black currant mingling with blueberry, espresso roast and excellent moderating acidity. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Zuccardi Q Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Mendoza $19.95 (140855) 15.4% alcohol
Piquant spice and vanilla aromas introduce a fruit-forward, hi-octane burst of sweet, ripe fruit flavour—raspberry jam, kirsch liqueur and cherry clafoutie entwined with sweet vanilla and just enough tangy acidity to provide an enjoyable finish and aftertaste. It’s medium-full weight with velvety texture and whiffs of spice and chocolate on the aftertaste. Pour with grilled back ribs mopped with hot, spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Zuccardi ‘Serie A’ Malbec 2014
Uco Valley, Mendoza $16.95 (167619) 14.0% alcohol
Smoke, toast and savory herb aromas on the nose set the table for a wide swath of ripe fruit flavour with black cherry, dark plum and briary berry to the fore. It’s good value, medium-full bodied with decent texture, a mid-length finish and aftertaste with enough acidity to allow the each sip to be as enjoyable as the previous. (Vic Harradine)

Chile: White Wine

***1/2 drink now
Boya Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Leyda Valley $15.95 (389726) 12.5% alcohol
Aromas of grass/nettles and citrus usher in a sweet-edged river of ripe pear, red apple and tropical fruit along with somewhat balancing Key lime and lemon pie filling. It’s light-on-its-feet with a lingering finish and aftertaste. Pour alongside pan-seared, freshwater perch or pickerel. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: White Wine

***1/2 drink now
Hesketh ‘Bright Young Things’ Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Adelaide Hills, South Australia $14.95 (447086) 13.0% alcohol
This a light and friendly Sauvignon Blanc without the piercing acidity that some seek out, that others avoid. If you’re in the latter camp, you might want to give this a try. Granny Smith apple and grassy notes pave the way for a medium-bodied mouthful of ripe pineapple, mango and yellow peach that’s balanced on the finish with notions of lime cordial. Great for sipping. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: Red Wine

• A word to the wise… The following d’Arenberg red blend is a former Vintages Essentials product, best to pick up a few on release day. When this allotment is gone, you may be waiting until next year’s release of the 2014 if you don’t get some now while the getting’s good.

****1/2 drink or cellar
d’Arenberg ‘d’Arry’s Original’ Shiraz/Grenache 2013
Mclaren Vale, South Australia $19.95 (942904) 14.5% alcohol
A perennial favourite that seldom disappoints, this 2013 is a dandy. It’s rich, ripe and delicious with the required tangy acidity providing balance and charm along with soft tannin for structure. A full-bodied, creamy smooth wash of spiced black plum and black juicy cherry entwined with red raspberry tang coats the palate persisting through the lip-smacking finish. It’s good value, as well. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
St. Hallett ‘Gamekeeper’s’ Shiraz 2014
Barossa Valley, South Australia $17.95 (166991) 14.0% alcohol
St. Hallet’s a trusted producer that’s right on the money with this dazzling, entry-level, Barossa Shiraz. Spice, herbs and toasty note aromas lay the foundation for a luscious stream of black currant and ripe mulberry interwoven with baking spice and savory herbs—the oak aging has been seamlessly integrated. This has depth and sense of purpose with purity of fruit throughout. The dry, tangy finish is icing on the cake. Pick up a few, this is a steal and good for a few more years. (Vic Harradine)

**** cellar
Wakefield Merlot 2015
Clare Valley, South Australia $18.95 (683201) 14.0% alcohol
This cellar-dweller has it all—it’s medium bodied, well balanced, structured and concentrated with velvety texture; it’s chockful of fruit, excellent tang, a lengthy finish and time on its side via a solid whack of still-evolving tannin. Pick up three or more popping corks annually beginning in 2019. Patience and careful cellaring should be handsomely rewarded. (Vic Harradine)

New Zealand: White Wine

**** drink now
Kim Crawford ‘Small Parcels - Spitfire’ Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Marlborough, South Island $24.95 (38240) 14.0% alcohol
Herbal and vegetal aromas reveal a bracing line of gooseberry jelly, lime zest and passion fruit streaking across the palate, infusing the crisp refreshing finish. This is quintessential Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and pours well with mussels steamed in white wine, freshly shucked oysters or pan-seared trout under a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now
Stoneleigh ‘Latitude’ Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Marlborough, South Island $21.95 (324228) 13.5% alcohol

This Wine of the Month delivers a concentrated, nicely balanced, full palette of rich flavours and lip-smacking acidity. Floral notes and pit fruit aromas provide segue for a gusher of honeydew melon, white peach and pineapple robed in excellent citrus acidity on the palate and through the lengthy, refreshing, mouth-watering finish. Very fresh and lively, pour with all manner of fish, seafood or a green salad under crumbled chèvre. (Vic Harradine)

South Africa: White Wine

***1/2 drink now
Thelema Mountain Vineyards ‘Sutherland’ Sauvignon Blanc 2014
WO Elgin $14.95 (203877) 13.0% alcohol
Piquant spice and sharp lemon-lime zest aromas introduce this light-medium bodied Sauvignon Blanc. It bathes the front and middle palate with ripe tropical fruit flavours adding excellent tang on the back palate and finish with balancing lemon curd and pineapple. Pour with a salad of olive-oiled arugula decorated with crumbled chèvre and pan-seared tilapia. (Vic Harradine)

France: White Wine

• The following wine carries an ‘AOC Chablis’ designation—it’s in the northernmost part of Burgundy. Before Chablis became serious about protecting their name by negotiating agreements with various wine countries and regions, many, many white wines carried the name ‘White Burgundy’ or ‘Chablis’ regardless of the grape, or grapes, or the origin of the wine. Although there are ten additional grapes grown in Chablis, only wine that are 100% Chardonnay may be labeled ‘Chablis’. Traditionally it was vinified without any oak. However, you now may see some oak ageing. If there is, it’s often brief ageing for only a portion of the wine with seasoned barrels and a very small percentage of them new. The wine below, for instance, barrel aged only 5% of the total wine and none of the barrels were new. Ninety-five percent of this wine saw only stainless steel.

****1/2 drink or cellar
William Fèvre ‘Champs Royaux’ Chablis 2014
AOC Chablis $24.95 (461640) 12.5% alcohol
Flinty/mineral aromas meld with herbal notes on the nose of this well-priced Chablis. It’s sleek and replete with nerve and verve as it streaks across the palate with bracing acidity—lemon zest, softer Key lime and white grapefruit. Pour on its own for summer-time sipping or alongside a mound of oysters on the half shell with hot sauce and fresh lemon for squeezing. (Vic Harradine)

• AOC Quincy is in the Loire Valley on the Cher River near Reuilly. It was the 2nd AOC in France to be granted this status after Châteuneuf-du-Pape. Only Sauvignon grapes are grown here with 90% Sauvignon Blanc and the other 10%, Sauvignon Gris.

**** drink now
Domaine de la Commanderie Quincy 2014
AOC Quincy $19.95 (205450) 12.5% alcohol
Nettles, savory herbs and canned pea aromas are precursors to a balanced and beautiful flow of ripe honeydew melon, racy lemon-lime and mint-infused crisp green apple. It’s medium weight with decent mouthfeel and a dry, clean and refreshing finish. Pour with olive-oiled, mesclun salad under grilled and crumbled chèvre. (Vic Harradine)

• AOC Sancerre is in the Loire Valley, a close neighbour to Pouilly Fumé and like their close neighbour the only white grape allowed is Sauvignon Blanc. Sancerre also allows the planting of the red grape, Pinot Noir, with about 20% of total production being attributable to red and Rosé wine. There are districts/villages that are often mentioned as producing the most highly regarded Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc - Chavignol, Bue and Verdigny among them. The following wine is from the Verdigny district of Sancerre.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre 2014
AOC Sancerre $26.95 (82255) 12.5% alcohol
Lime, green apple and flinty minerality aromas abound before dishing up a fruit-filled and racy river of pineapple, Key lime and lemon curd. It’s medium bodied and well textured with a long finish of lip-smacking tang. A bit pricey, but certainly worth the little extra for this top Sancerre. (Vic Harradine)

France: Red Wine

***1/2 cellar
Prieuré de Cénac ‘Mission’ Malbec/Merlot 2011
AOC Cahors $15.95 (459214) 13.0% alcohol
The cedar and smoke aromas replay though the palate and aftertaste along with grainy tannin. A mid-full bodied, fully textured, chewy gusher of the above along with red and black fruit coat the palate and the lengthy aftertaste. Another 12 months in bottle and a three-hour aeration/decant should ameliorate most of the tannin when poured with hearty fare like osso bucco or beef stew. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Hecht & Bannier Bandol Rosé 2015
AOC Bandol $24.95 (450767) 13.5% alcohol
Aromas of strawberry, rose petals and mixed herbs open this light-pink-hued Rosé. It’s light-medium bodied with flavours of red currant, blood orange and wisps of watermelon. The finish offers replays and the feeling of soft-grained tannin. This is Mourvèdre-predominant and pours well with roast chicken or pan-seared salmon. An unusual Rosé in that it could be cellared for a couple of years without losing freshness. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: Red Wine

****1/2 drink now
Beni Di Batasiolo ‘Riserva’ Barolo 2006
DOCG Barolo $39.95 (330704) 14.0% alcohol
A powerful bouquet of floral notes, cedar and exotic incense abound. A racy, tangy surge of cranberry and passionfruit slide over the palate and infuse the lengthy, dry refreshing finish. It’s medium-plus bodied with good texture and lengthy, refreshing aftertaste. This is good to go now and the next three years after a two-hour aeration/decant and pours well with rare-grilled skirt steak. (Vic Harradine)

• The following wine is labeled, ‘Rubesco’, a proprietary name of Lungarotti and their best-selling wine, world-wide – approximately one-half million bottles per annum. This was aged in large, seasoned casks for 12 months and spent another year in bottle before release. It’s a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino. You may have guessed Colorino is used (in small quantities) to add colour to wine as Sangiovese is not particularly dark red on its own. You’ll find Colorino planted primarily in Tuscany but used in small quantities so legally escapes being claimed on the label. The quality-price ratio make this particular wine, from Umbria, an extremely attractive purchase, especially, if this is your first Rubesco.

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Lungarotti ‘Rubesco’ Sangiovese/Colorino 2012
DOC Rosso di Torgiano $17.95 (368548) 13.5% alcohol
A quiet nose of peppery spice, red berry fruit and pipe tobacco open the floodgates for a tang-infused stream of bright red fruit—cranberry cherry and plum—bathing the palate and persisting through the lingering, dry, mouth-watering finish. This has good acidity throughout begging for Italian fare like pasta in tomato sauce—pasta puttanesca, pasta arrabiata, spaghetti Bolognese and meat balls or lasagna, red pizza. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Amarone is from Luigi Righetti, a family-owned winery, 5th generation winemakers. This wine is unusual in that that it’s listed on the importing agent’s site with Corvina being the single grape. One usually finds Amarone produced from at least two of the region’s Holy Trinity—Corvina, Rondinella, Molinera, or the lesser known, Oseleta.

**** drink or cellar
Le Arche Amarone Della Valpolicella 2012
DOCG Valpolicella $34.95 (95836) 15.0% alcohol
Espresso roast and sandalwood aromas express themselves delicately before a medium-full bodied, generously textured wash of chocolate-dipped red cherry and red currant bathes the palate infusing the dry, finish and aftertaste. There’s good acidity in this lighter-styled, value-laden Amarone along with plenty of red fruit that’ll pair well with penne in tomato sauce sprinkled with fresh basil, oregano and Parmigiana-Reggiano. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: Rosé

• The following Masi Rosé wine is unique in that it was produced with a portion of the fruit undergoing Masi’s specialty Appassimento technique. This is sourced from 100% indigenous, Refosco grapes which were left to partially dry before fermentation thereby concentrating fruit flavours and in this case, softening the austere character of the Refosco grape.

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Masi ‘Rosa Dei Masi’ 2015
IGT Rosato delle Venezie $15.95 (377267) 12.5% alcohol
Aromas of strawberry and cherry make way for a tang-laden swath of racy red cherry and tangy red currant coating the palate with generous mouthfeel and structure. It’s a delectable match for supermarket, rotisserie chicken and has the heft to pour alongside grilled, smoked chicken breast, leg or thighs with a savory herb rub. (Vic Harradine)

Spain: Red Wine

**** drink now
Yaso ‘Tinto de Toro’ 2012

DO Toro $21.95 (377499) 14.0% alcohol

Tinto de Toro translates to Tempranillo in the Toro region and this grape is generally thought to be indigenous to northern Spain. Baking spice, stewed prune and black plum on the nose, this bursts onto the palate with a hedonistic surge of ripe and über-ripe black fruit—cherry, plum and bramble berry jam. It’s full bodied and fully textured, a fruit bomb for certain, and will find many fans. Fruit and wisps of kirsch liqueur persist through the finish and aftertaste. Pour with grilled back ribs mopped with spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

Spain: Rosé Wine

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Barón de Ley ‘Rosado’ 2015
DOCa Rioja $14.95 (117283) 13.0% alcohol
This is very attractive on the palate while the price-quality balance tips well in your favour. Watermelon and strawberry aromas on the nose provide segue for a full-flavoured river of ripe, red fruit with raspberry, strawberry and grilled, sugared, ruby-red grapefruit. It’s medium weight with good texture and lengthy, clean and refreshing finish. (Vic Harradine)

Upstream in winecurrent

Vintages Release: August 6, 2016

**** drink or cellar
Mitolo ‘The Nessus’ Shiraz 2013
McLaren Vale, Australia $16.95 (457291) 14.5% alcohol
Cedar, wet stone and exotic spice roll easily from this medium-full bodied, full-fruited, Aussie Shiraz. It coats the palate with a well-textured, nicely structured river of red and black cherry interwoven with espresso roast and sour cherry. It finishes with good tang and wisps of mocha and pours beautifully with grilled lamb chops. (Vic Harradine)

Vintages Release: August 20, 2016

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Mission Hill ‘Reserve’ Pinot Gris 2014
VQA Okanagan Valley $21.95 13.5% alcohol
Offering alluring floral aromas integrated with notes of melon and stone fruit, the slightly pink hue is evidence of extended skin contact during fermentation. Medium-bodied, the wine shows a round, creamy texture—a portion was aged in seasoned French barrels—that’s in fine counterpoint to the backbone of lively acidity. Flavours of stone fruit and melon replay with notes of pear and a dash of tangy spice shining through on the lengthy finish. Pour with prosciutto and melon. (Susan Desjardins)

Vintages Release: September 17, 2016

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham ‘Speck Family - Reserve’ Baco Noir 2014
VQA Ontario $24.95 (461699) 13.5% alcohol
Here’s another gem from a series of fabulous, recent Baco Noir releases by this premium producer. Pipe tobacco, roasted herbs and exotic incense aromas abound. It bathes the palate with a full-fruited, beautifully textured stream of boysenberry jam, sweet black plum compote and oodles of spice. This is medium-plus bodied with a lingering finish. Poured perfectly with grilled, smoked back ribs slathered in spicy barbecue sauce. This was aged +18 months in premium American oak – now fully integrated. (Vic Harradine)

New in Vintages

***1/2 drink or cellar
Arpa Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
IGT Toscana, Italy $20.95 (455527) 14.0% alcohol
Charred toast, mixed spice and pencil shaving aromas waft from this medium-plus weight racy red. Peppery spice, red currant and tapenade interweave with gamy notes and black cherry on the palate while austere, still-evolving tannin infuses the back palate, finish and aftertaste. Aerate/decant a couple of hours pouring with savory, herb-laced tomato sauce and pasta. (Vic Harradine)

• From Mission Hill’s Legacy series, this next wine is from select, south Okanagan fruit, aged two years in barrel plus two years in bottle prior to release. Drones sweep across vineyards photographing vines, from which only certain parcels of Syrah, Merlot and the Cabernets are selected. Twice the required grapes are harvested, each parcel separately fermented and aged with only the best barrels selected.

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Mission Hill ‘Quatrain’ 2011
VQA Okanagan Valley $59.95 (218636) 13.5% alcohol
This is vibrant, well-defined in structure, offering aromas and flavours of dark fruits—blueberry, blackberry and plum—spicy floral notes and traces of vanilla, earth and dark chocolate. Dry, full bodied and long through the textured finish, you’ll enjoy tasting this on its own or with roast lamb. (Susan Desjardins)

**** drink now
Waterkloof ‘Circle of Life’ 2012
WO Stellenbosch, South Africa $ (284588) 13.5% alcohol
This stellar white—Sauvignon Blanc/Chenin Blanc/Semillon—is a co-fermented blend offering complex aromas of flowers and herbs, honey and smoke, citrus and pear. There’s a mineral quality on the palate, harmonized with notes of tropical fruit, honeydew melon and lemon-lime. Hints of smoke arise on the dry, fresh and lasting finish. Serve with seafood or grilled fish. (Susan Desjardins)

• There’s more to Western Australia than magnificent Margaret River and one of the burgeoning wine regions is Geographe. Only a couple of hours south of Perth, it pretty much hugs the coast of Geographe Bay basking in the cool, afternoon sea breezes. The landscape is now dotted with family-owned and managed vineyards and wineries. The following Geographe Shiraz is a wonderful way to get acquainted with a region about which you’ll be hearing more. Here’s a brief video about and by Willow Bridge Estate and their hillside vineyards.

**** drink or cellar
Willow Bridge Estate ‘Dragonfly’ Shiraz 2014
Geographe, Western Australia $18.95 (289249) 14.5% alcohol
Aromas of smoke, cedar and mocha set the table for a fruit bowl of tangy flavour with pie cherry and black currant intertwined with savory herbs and wisps of minerality. It’s medium bodied and deftly balanced with a lovely finish and aftertaste, dry and mouth-watering good. (Vic Harradine)

New in Vintages Essentials - A Vintages Essentials wine is always available in select LCBO stores.

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Mission Hill ‘Reserve’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
VQA Okanagan Valley $27.95 (553321) 14.0% alcohol
Elusive notes of dried herbs tantalize the nose, entwined with aromas of cedar, cinnamon toast, vanilla and sun-ripened black berries. Dry, full bodied, this wine shows well-orchestrated harmony of ripe yet firm tannins, a juicy texture and clean, pure flavours of cassis and black berry, enhanced with notes of mint and dark chocolate. There’s intensity and depth of flavour through the extended finish. A great wine to serve with grilled beef tenderloin. (Susan Desjardins)

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Mission Hill ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay 2013
VQA Okanagan Valley $21.95 (545004) 13.5% alcohol
Displaying aromas of tropical and tree fruit, custard and spice, this is beautifully crafted showing exemplary balance. Dry, on the full side of medium-bodied, there’s intensity to the flavours of grilled pear and pineapple. The warmth of spiced nuances, nutty toasty notes of well-integrated oak and the subtle yet refreshing acidity bringing poise to the wine and length to the finish. (Susan Desjardins)

New in the LCBO

***1/2 drink now
Argento Chardonnay 2015
Mendoza, Argentina $9.95 (597701) 13.0% alcohol
Ripe red apple and hints of honeydew melon aromas open this value-packed, medium-bodied, balanced and charming Chardonnay. It bathes the palate with a wash of tropical fruit, peach and pear flavours garnished with citrusy notes and it finishes dry, refreshing and tangy. Pour with green salads topped with grilled chicken or pan-seared fish and other seafood. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Argento Malbec ‘Reserva’ 2014
Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina $13.95 (363192) 14.0% alcohol
Smoke, espresso roast and hints of dark berry fruit on the nose, this classy red coats the palate with juicy red and dark fruit—black Bing cherry, black plum and tangy red currant. This is well balanced with depth, purity of fruit and oodles of charm. It finishes lengthy and dry with plenty of flavour and pleasurable tang. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink now
Enigma Chardonnay 2015
California $13.95 (428854) 13.5% alcohol
This will find its fair share of fans. There’s toasty oak and caramel aromas on the nose of this creamy-smooth, crowd-friendly California Chardonnay. The toasty oak and caramel replay on the palate garnished with sweet ripe tropical fruit, peach and pear with hints of soft citrus notes. It’s medium weight finishing with ripe, sweet fruit and good texture; it pours well with pasta in white sauce or chicken à la King. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Con Sur ‘Bicicleta’ Pinot Noir 2015
Valle del Bio Bio, Chile $11.10 (341602) 13.0% alcohol
Aromas of cherry and strawberry open the door to a dry, fruity wash of red cherry/berry flavour decorated with spice, savory notes and excellent tang. This is light-medium bodied with a lovely finish and aftertaste—sweet, ripe fruit meets up with tangy sour cherry and the partnership is a successful match. The price-quality ratio skews well in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now
Ghost Pines ‘Winemaker’s Blend’ Chardonnay 2014
Monterey/Napa/Sonoma Counties $19.95 (308122) 13.8% alcohol
Multi-County fruit was whole-bunch pressed and fermented in stainless steel before settling and aged sur lie in French and American oak. A gorgeous array of baking spice, vanilla and orchard fruit aromas set the table for a smorgasbord of flavours—tropical fruit, sweet, ripe pear and hints of citrus and spice. It’s mid-weight and good value with generous texture, depth and complexity. It finishes balanced and mouth-watering. Pour with roast chicken, pork or veal. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Ghost Pines ‘Winemaker’s Blend’ Merlot 2013
Sonoma County/Napa County $19.15 (454876) 14.4% alcohol
Plum and spicy notes of cedar and tobacco interweave with an earthy quality on the nose. The spice tickles and warms the palate, accenting lush flavours of black cherry, berry and plum while 15 months in French and American oak barrel offers smoky notes of toast and coffee bean. There’s good structure here, ripe tannin, a velvety texture and freshness offering balance to the ripe fruit of this ideal vintage. Finishing dry and fruity, it pairs well with grilled meats. (Susan Desjardins)

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Mission Hill ‘Five Vineyards’ Pinot Blanc 2013
VQA Okanagan Valley $15.95 (145094) 14.0% alcohol
Produced in a warm vintage, with fruit harvested from estate vines, some planted three decades ago, this wine offers lovely aromas of tree fruit, mineral and sweet citrus. Dry, it combines great presence and silkiness on the palate with light texture. Vibrant underpinnings of clean acidity lift the flavours of pear, quince and grapefruit, a slight pithy note persisting through the refreshing finish. A great value and an ideal summer sipping wine. (Susan Desjardins)

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Mission Hill ‘Five Vineyards’ Pinot Noir 2014
VQA Okanagan Valley $17.95 (145128) 13.5% alcohol
From another warm Okanagan vintage, this Pinot Noir showcases ripe cherry/berry fruit on the nose, a dash of spice and dried herbs with lovely lingering aromas of vanilla. Dry, mid-weight, the cherry and mouth-watering red berry flavours pour in a wave across the palate, mingling with earthy notes of beet and the lovely flavour of spiced vanilla. The acidity is well-defined, the tannins light and supple, the notes of well-integrated toast lingering on the finish. Enjoy with grilled salmon and spinach salad with sliced beetroot. (Susan Desjardins)

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Megalomaniac ‘Pompous – Red’ 2013
VQA Ontario $16.15 (341610) 13.0% alcohol
Smoke, spice and red cherry/berry aromas roll from this medium-weight, nicely balanced red blend—Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc. Red and dark cherry, black plum and spice bathe the palate while the lengthy finish dishes up lively tang. Sips well on its own and pours perfectly with penne arrabiata or lasagna. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink now
Porta 6 ‘Red Wine’ 2013
Vinho Regional Lisboa, Portugal $12.60 (427377) 13.5% alcohol
Aromas of dark berry fruit, spice and earthy notes make way for a palate-coating river of black berry and mulberry jam nicely juxtaposed with oodles of lively, balancing, mouth-watering tang. This is a blend of grapes often used to make Port. It’s medium bodied and lip-smacking good with texture and a dry, racy aftertaste. Pour alongside burgers, red pizza or roasted bell peppers stuffed with hamburger, rice, onion and tomato sauce. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Rodney Strong ‘Charlotte’s Home’ Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Northern Sonoma, Sonoma County $19.05 (449207) 13.5% alcohol
Lemon yoghurt, cantaloupe and pear aromas provide segue for a nicely balanced, palate-bathing flow of ripe mango and nectarine along with racy lemon tang replaying through the medium-length finish and aftertaste. This has good weight and texture and provides good flavour and balance throughout. A warm-weather Sauvignon Blanc pouring well with chicken or pork as well pan-seared fish or seafood. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Southbrook ‘Seriously Cool’ Chardonnay 2015
VQA Ontario $15.95 (457481) 12.0% alcohol
An aromatic burst of pear, apple and citrus notes open this medium-bodied, deftly balanced Chardonnay. It makes its way across the palate with pronounced sweet and tang—ripe melon, pear and red apple melding with tangy lemon-lime and racy grapefruit. It finishes with more of the same, balanced and beautiful. Pour with pan-seared seafood or roast chicken. Good value here. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink now
Tarquino Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Wine of Argentina $9.95 (447052) 13.0% alcohol
Herbal and citrus aromas introduce this tangy gem—the price-quality balance tips well in your favour. This is finely tuned with a laser-like stream of white grapefruit and tangy lemon curd streaking over the palate infusing the crisp clean finish. This pours well as a warm-weather sipper or served with white pizza, ceviche or pasta in cream sauce. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Tini Romagna Sangiovese 2013

DOC Romagna, Italy $7.75 (179432) 12.0% alcohol
Wow, a nicely balanced, tangy Italian red for under eight dollars—who knew? Fresh red cherry and cranberry roll over the palate garnished with spice and excellent tang. It’s lively and juicy throughout the dry, lip-smacking finish. Pour with pasta in tomato sauce, lasagna or pasta puttanesca. Some stores may still have the 2013 on shelves, no worries as it too scored as an exceptional-value wine. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Miguel Torres ‘Las Mulas – Reserva’ Merlot 2015
Central Valley, Chile $12.95 (454868) 14.0% alcohol
This certified-organic Merlot is full of dark fruit and excellent lip-smacking tang. It saw a brief six months of French oak. Aromas of dark toast, coffee bean and spice herald a palate-coating stream of black plum and dark cherry infused with good acidity persisting through the finish and aftertaste. Pour with grilled meats, burgers and gourmet sausage. There’s exceptional value here. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Trius Rosé 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula $15.95 (341743) 12.0% alcohol
Alluring aromas of strawberry, watermelon and spice introduce and light-on-its-feet, dry, tart stream of red berry tang—currant and cranberry—infused with piquant spice and hints of passionfruit. The mid-length finish layers on more of the same. Pour with pan-seared salmon for a gastronomical and visually pleasing match. (Vic Harradine)

Cheers, Vic and Susan