August 2, 2016 Newsletter

Susan DesjardinsSusan Desjardins has been an integral part of’s ongoing success since she joined as a guest wine reviewer in November 2009. She quickly became a popular and valuable contributor to thousands of subscribers. Susan attended most Vintages Releases during this time and has, while Vic was out of country, handled many Vintages Releases on her own. Although no longer tasting Vintages Releases for winecurrrent, Susan will contribute periodically as a guest wine reviewer. A sincere thank you to Susan, especially from Vic, and all winecurrent subscribers for her many fine contributions.

Newsletter highlights include:

  • Exceptional-value wine Exceptional Value! – 5 of 51 wines reviewed meet strict quality-price guidelines; they’re found throughout the newsletter. What strict quality-price guidelines? Click here.
  • 5-star Wine – two wines rang the 5-star bell - Featherstone ‘Black Sheep’ Riesling 2015 @ $16.95 found under Ontario: White Wine and Torres ‘Cos Perpetual’ 2013 @ $49.95 found in New in Vintages Flagship Stores.
  • Vic Picks – Labouré-Gontard ‘Brut’ Crémant de Bourgogne with 4½ stars @ $19.95 found under Sparkling Wine; Featherstone ‘Black Sheep’ Riesling 2015 with 5 stars @ $16.95 found under Ontario: White Wine: Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 with 4 stars @ $24.95 under California: Red Wine; Gérard Bertrand ‘Grand Terroir Les Aspres’ Syrah/Mourvèdre/Grenache 2013 with 4½ stars @ $18.95 found under France: Red Wine.
  • Finding Waldo – I’m a red wine from Naoussa made from 100%, hand-picked, indigenous Xinomavro fruit.

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.

August 6, 2016 Vintages Release

Feature: Greek Wine

• The following red wine is made from arguably Greece’s best red wine grape, Agiorgitiko, grown mainly in the region of Nemea in the Peloponnese. Its name translates to St. George and is pronounced—Ah yor YEE ti ko.

**** drink or cellar
Tselepos ‘Driopi’ Agiorgitiko 2013
PDO Nemea $19.95 (60830) 14.0% alcohol
Aromas of smoke and oak abound in this medium-bodied, racy red. A satin-smooth wash of brambleberry and tangy red currant bathe the palate adorned with piquant spice, black licorice and savory herbs. The lengthy finish layers on aromatic bitters and sweet vanilla. It pairs and pours well with rack of lamb. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Alpha Estate ‘Turtles Vineyard’ Syrah 2011
IGP Florina $21.95 (115295) 14.5% alcohol
Red cherry, gamy and medicinal notes on the nose, this mid-full weight, nicely textured Syrah unleashes a tang-laden wash of red and black currant interlaced with peppery spice, grilled herbs and wisps of soft, fine-grained tannin. This is a delectable red with lots going on; it pairs well with smoked, grilled back ribs or grilled lamb chops. (Vic Harradine)

• Grapes for the following red wine were sourced from the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) of Naoussa. According to the winery website, it’s made of 100%, hand-harvested Xinomavro spending 16 months in 300L oak barrel, primarily French, 30% new, before bottling.

**** drink now
Tsantali Naoussa ‘Reserve’ 2011
PDO Naoussa $15.95 (209627) 13.0% alcohol
An aromatic nose of exotic spice, tobacco and red berry fruit unleashes a mid-weight, silky-smooth flow of palate-bathing flavour with black plum, dark cherry and red currant robed in a boatload of racy tang persisting through the dry, mouth-watering finish and aftertaste. Aerate/decant three hours before serving and pouring with pastitsio. (Vic Harradine)

The Main Release

Fortified Wine: Port

****1/2 drink or cellar
Offley ‘10 Year Old Tawny’ Port
DOP Duoro $25.95 (297788) 20.0% alcohol
From cork pop to last drop, this is reasonably priced and offley good. Piquant spice, caramel and spirits aromas abound. A gorgeous array of hi-toned, sweet-tinged flavours coat the palate with sweet vanilla, aromatic bitters, toffee and mixed spice dominant. It’s velvety smooth and generously textured with unctuous flavours replaying on the lingering finish. Pour with consommé, spice cake or crème brûlée. (Vic Harradine)

Fortified Wine: Sherry

****1/2 drink now
Emilio Lustau ‘East India Solera’ Sherry

DO Jerez $24.95 500 mL (342931) 20%lcohol

When you spot ‘Lustau’ on a Sherry label, it’s akin to a gold seal of approval. This perennial favourite is showing toffee, raisin and caramel on the nose coupled with a most scrumptious mélange of sweet fig, raisin and nutty flavours. Dense and intense, deftly balanced, the effect is amazing. Serve this dessert wine slightly chilled; either on its own or matched with crème caramel, crème brûlée or any manner of dark spiced fruit cake. (Vic Harradine) 


**** drink now
Georges Gardet ‘Cuvée Saint Flavy’ Brut Non-Vintage

AOC Champagne $41.95 (924654) 12.0% alcohol

This has an attractive nose of minerality, floral and heady citrus notes. There’s a lovely attack on the palate with a rush of white grapefruit and green apple flavours infused with spice and mineral nuances. It’s medium in weight and texture and offers a lingering finish that’s zesty and clean. There’s enough oomph for it to be paired with light appetizers and the attractive price, as Champagne goes, allow it to be served as the welcoming wine at any upscale gathering—including a special evening for two. (Vic Harradine)

Sparkling Wine

****1/2 drink now
Labouré-Gontard ‘Brut’ Crémant de Bourgogne

AOC Burgundy $19.95 (401018) 12.0% alcohol

This blend of Chardonnay/Pinot Noir is made in the ‘traditional method’ thus mirroring Champagne in grape varieties and how it’s produced; it’s also made from grapes grown just south of Champagne. However, it doesn’t mirror Champagne’s price and that makes it interesting. It’s rich, fruity with generous mousse—lots of bubbles— satin-smooth mouth feel and divine aftertaste. A perfect wine to welcome guests, this has the character and depth to match well with appetizers and lighter fare—pick up a few. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: White Wine

***** drink or cellar Exceptional Value!  Oh Canada!
Featherstone ‘Black Sheep’ Riesling 2015

VQA Niagara Peninsula $16.95 (80234) 9.5% alcohol

Always very good, this vintage reaches new plateaus—delicious, incredible value, difficult to spit. Floral, mineral and citrus aromas on the nose, it releases a surge of sweet and tang flavour with lime cordial, lemon curd, crisp apple and ripe white peach coating the palate. There’s persistent purity of fruit, deft balance and bracing acidity in this lip-smacking gem. The finish is monumentally long and refreshing. Give it a go with lightly spiced Asian dishes or pan-seared breaded, calamari rings. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: Red Wine

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

VQA Niagara Peninsula $18.95 (189183) 13.0% alcohol

This blend of separately vinified Cabernets/Syrah/Merlot offers enticing notes of sweet vanilla, spice, cocoa and cedar, ripe berries and plum. There’s good structure to this; it’s medium-bodied with supple tannin underpinning ripe fruit and well-integrated notes of oak. There’s lively texture complementing tasty flavours of black plum, cherry and raspberry. Notes of spice, pepper and hints of cocoa and toasty oak round out the lengthy, dry finish. Enjoy this well-crafted, approachable wine with grilled meats and vegetables. (Susan Desjardins)

****1/2 drink now  Oh Canada!
Flat Rock ‘Red Twisted’ 2012
VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula $24.95 (86918) 13.5% alcohol
Grilled herbs and earthy aromas on the nose, this is well balanced and structured with persistent purity of fruit. A juicy, savory-infused, fruit-laced stream of black plum, dark berry fruit and pie cherry wash over the palate persisting through the long, long finish. It’s medium bodied with good mouthfeel and pours well with grilled beef tenderloin. (Vic Harradine)

California: White Wine

****1/2 drink now 
Cline Viognier 2014
North Coast $18.95 (128421) 14.0% alcohol
Fragrant honeysuckle and piquant spice aromas herald ripe, sweet tropical fruit, white peach and poached pear flavours on the palate, medium weight and nicely textured, quite fleshy and full fruited. There’s just enough acidity to provide some balance and there’s a nice tangy bite on the finish. Pour with steamed prawns or lobster dipped in clarified butter. (Vic Harradine)

• The following wine is a delightful coolish-climate Chardonnay. ‘Acero’ in Spanish translates to ‘steel’, as in stainless steel tank—this wine saw no oak. It was sourced from single-clone, high-density planted, low-yielding vines in the coolest, foggiest portion of the Russian River Valley AVA, some 16 K from the Pacific Ocean. It was whole-cluster pressed, cold fermented with wild yeast and underwent full malolactic conversion in tank.

**** drink or cellar
Marimar Estate ‘Acero’ Chardonnay 2014
Russian River Valley, Sonoma County $34.95 (383943) 13.8% alcohol
There’s oodles of fruit on the nose and palate—pineapple, honeydew melon and ripe red apple mingling with mere wisps of acidity via lemon and passion fruit. It’s medium-full bodied with good mouthfeel and a lengthy, fruit-filled finish and aftertaste. Pour alongside supermarket rotisserie chicken and roast-potato salad. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink or cellar
Mer Soleil ‘Silver - Unoaked’ Chardonnay 2014
Monterey County $29.95 (220343) 14.2% alcohol
This offers sweet, ripe fruit throughout with very little perceptible acidity. Poached pear, apricot and red apple flavour abounds interwoven with wisps of minerality and spice. It bathes the palate medium bodied and nicely textured infusing and persisting through the lengthy aftertaste. Serve well chilled. (Vic Harradine)

California: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Sonoma County $24.95 (226944) 13.5% alcohol

This opens with a funky nose of earthy notes, tapenade and grilled herb aromas. It spills over the palate with a racy, mouth-watering wash of sour cherry and red currant garnished with spice, vanilla and savory bits. It’s medium bodied with good texture and a substantial finish garnished with good acidity and a lick of tannin—the tannin’s easily ameliorated with a three-hour aeration/decant. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Simi Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Alexander Valley, Sonoma County $24.95 (25221) 13.5% alcohol
This has firm structure, good definition, purity of fruit and lots of life ahead of it. Roasted herbs and campfire smoke introduce a generously textured mouthful of red and dark berry fruit and black Bing cherry on the palate that’s tang-laced, spice-infused and absolutely delectable. Pour with a fine cut of grilled red meat. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink or cellar
Zig Zag ‘Zin’ Zinfandel 2013
Mendocino County $22.95 (39982) 14.5% alcohol
Savory herb and cedar aromas precede an herb-laced line of sour cherry and cranberry streaking across the palate of this sleek, taut Zin. It’s medium-plus bodied and dishes up a cedar and herb-fused finish and aftertaste. This will pair and pour well with pasta in tomato sauce. (Vic Harradine)

Oregon: Red Wine

****1/2 drink now
Castle Rock Pinot Noir 2014
Willamette Valley $23.95 (366880) 13.5% alcohol
Dark, purple-hued in the glass, baking spice and forest floor aromas waft easily from this mid-weight, juicy Pinot. A ripe, sweet and luscious river of fruit—red and black berry fruit adorned with baking spice and soft, fine-grained tannin—bathe the palate, balanced and gorgeous. It’s good to go now and would be a suitable dance partner with smoked, grilled duck breast or coq au vin. (Vic Harradine)

Washington State: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Columbia Crest ‘H3’ Merlot 2013
Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley $19.95 (209874) 14.5% alcohol
Smoke, oak and toast aromas open this terrific Merlot—it’s balanced, racy and fully fruited. A gorgeous tang-laden wash of red and black briary berry garnished with spice, espresso roast and bittersweet chocolate coat the palate. It’s a well-paced, well-priced Merlot with persistent purity of fruit and a tangy bite on the finish and aftertaste. Pour with osso buco or prawn and chorizo paella. (Vic Harradine)

Argentina: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Graffigna ‘Grand Reserve’ Malbec 2012
San Juan $17.95 (162149) 14.5% alcohol
Aromas of smoke and tar on the nose set the table for a smorgasbord of palate flavours with deftly balanced red and black currant robed in mixed spice and dark coffee bean. This is medium-full bodied with great acidity and tang throughout. It sports a reasonably lengthy finish and aftertaste and pours well with burgers or meat-lovers pizza. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: Red Wine 

• The Great Western wine region of Victoria began at the time of the gold rush in the 1850’s when two Frenchman met and planted vines. Two Australians, Joseph and Henry Best, followed suit a decade later in 1865. Their vineyards were eventually purchased by Hans Irvine who established a winery dedicated to premium sparkling wines and this enterprise was purchased by Benno Seppelt. Seppelt winery, now owned by Treasury Wine Estates, still produce sparkling wine here. Another premier winery in the region is Best’s, who are the producers of the following Shiraz. Best’s have vines that were planted in 1868 on pre-phylloxera rootstocks. Best’s have two wines listed in the vaunted Langton’s Classification of 139 of Australia’s finest wines. The following is not one of them, but the same winemaker takes the same care and grapes from some of those same vines that made their flagship wine, make their way to this wine.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Best’s ‘Bin No. 1’ Shiraz 2013
Great Western, Victoria $19.95 (222323) 14.0% alcohol
This has good depth and concentration, is full bodied and fully textured. Wood smoke, sweet vanilla and peppery spice aromas roll from the nose of this fruit-laden, delectable Shiraz. A surge of black cherry and dark plum garnished with piquant spice and red berry acidity and tang coat the palate with balance and charm. It has a lengthy finish with the price-quality ratio skewed well in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

• The following winery is owned by Josef Chromy. Josef was an immigrant who arrived in Australia in 1950 fleeing his native Czechoslovakia as a 19-year-old with little more than the clothes on his back, hope and ambition after enduring the previous eleven years under Nazi and Soviet occupation. He’s an inspiration and still going strong. I had the honour and pleasure to meet and have lunch with him while on a winery tasting and visit in 2009. He began a meat packing business that grew large enough to go public and it was soon after that, he started this eponymous winery and bought or planted what became other wineries in Tasmania—Jansz , Heemskerk, Tamar Ridge and what’s now known as Bay of Fires. Quite a man.

**** drink or cellar
Josef Chromy ‘Pepik’ Pinot Noir 2014
Tasmania $21.95 (162990) 13.0% alcohol
Savory herbs and mixed spice interlaced with aromas of earthy notes open the door to a juicy, fresh and lively, cool-climate Pinot. It bathes the palate with pie cherry, passion fruit and cranberry with persistent purity of fruit in replays on the dry, mouth-watering aftertaste. It’s mid weight and nicely textured, pouring well with grilled duck breasts or roast fowl. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Kilikanoon ‘Killerman’s Run’ Grenache/Shiraz/Mataro 2013
Clare Valley, South Australia $19.95 (412189) 14.5% alcohol
This is another Aussie winery you’ll find on Langton’s Classification with their ‘Oracle’. Peppery spice, wood smoke and black licorice aromas herald a palate-bathing flow of piquant spice and tang underpinning an enormous, full-bodied, structured wave of black berry fruit adorned with savory herbs and gamy bits. This has good depth and balance with great value and delicious flavour. It was spit with reluctance; pick up a few. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Torbreck ‘Old Vines’ Grenache/Mourvèdre/Shiraz 2013
Barossa Valley, South Australia $21.95 (10223) 15.0% alcohol
This Aussie winery has two wines listed on Langton’s Classification—their ‘Run Rig’ and ‘Descendant’. Aromas of sandalwood and mixed spice give way to a medium-plus bodied, silky-smooth stream of black briary berry and tangy pie cherry with earthy notes bathing the palate, deftly balanced with persistent purity of fruit replaying on the lengthy finish. This is fully fruited with enough tang for good balance. Each sip is as good or better than the previous. (Vic Harradine)

• The next wine is from a ‘negociant’ – a person(s) who negotiates to buy grapes and makes wine, or purchases already made wine, and blends and bottles them under their own label. George Dubouef of Beaujolais Nouveau fame is a famous negociant. Two Hands have made quite a splash for themselves since their first wine in 2000. Parker called them ‘the best negociant south of the equator’ and in 2012 the Wine Spectator named one of Two Hands wines in their Top 100 for the 10th consecutive year, a feat that had not been accomplished by any brand before them. They now have their own vines and vineyards as well, and one of the original partners has left and been replaced.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Two Hands ‘Brave Faces’ Grenache/Mourvèdre/Shiraz 2014
Barossa Valley, South Australia $24.95 (660035) 14.5% alcohol
Grilled herbs, baking spice and red berry fruit aromas turn loose a tang-laced wash of red currant and sour cherry softened and balanced with a lovely wave of briary berry and kirsch liqueur, all balanced and lip-smacking good on the palate. This is full bodied and silky smooth with lovely replays on the lingering finish. (Vic Harradine)

New Zealand: White Wine

****1/2 drink now
Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Marlborough, South Island $19.95 (919514) 13.5% alcohol
Grassy, herbal, savory aromas introduce a quintessential Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc from the Wairau Valley. Flavours of white nectarine and lemon-lime interweave with green apple and wisps of salinity on the palate. It’s mid-weight and textured with flavours replaying through the lingering, lip-smacking finish. Pour with breaded, pan-seared, breaded calamari rings or steamed mussels. High quality + low price = very good value. (Vic Harradine)

New Zealand: Red Wine

***1/2 drink or cellar
Momo Pinot Noir 2013
Marlborough, South Island $19.95 (163972) 13.0% alcohol
Hand-picked, hand-sorted, wild-yeast fermented, organic/biodynamic fruit was settled and aged in seasoned French oak barrel over 11 months. Introduced by savory herbs and spice aromas, it dishes up a sleek and tart line of tangy red currant and passion fruit streaking across the palate and finish from first sip to a lip-smacking aftertaste. Pour with paella or pasta in tomato sauce. (Vic Harradine)

South Africa: White Wine

***1/2 drink now
Sutherland ‘Thelema Mountain Vineyards’ Chardonnay 2012
WO Elgin $15.95 (146423) 13.5% alcohol
This is medium-full bodied with racy tang and a crisp mouth-watering finish and aftertaste. Smoky/nutty notes interweave with citrus notes on the nose before a tight, taut, streak of lemon-lime and grapefruit acidity races across the palate infusing the tang-laden aftertaste. Pour with prawn ceviche or oysters on the half shell. (Vic Harradine)

French: Red Wine

***1/2 drink or cellar
Château Patache d’Aux 2012
AOC Médoc $24.95 (217307) 13.0% alcohol
This Bordeaux blend—60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc, 3% Petit Verdot—was aged 12 months in French oak. There are aromas of espresso roast, rose petals and smoke on the nose, precursors to a delicate, light-on-its-feet flow of red and dark berry fruit with notions of mixed spice and herbs on the dry, mid-length finish. (Vic Harradine)

• Fruit for the following d’Angles blend—20% Mourvèdre/40% Syrah/40% Grenache—was hand harvested and totally destemmed before fermentation and 30-days maceration followed by 18-months stabilization in vats. It was bottled without fining or filtration. Vines were hard pruned to reduce yields and farmed sustainably. Current winemaker/owner Eric Fabre was formerly winemaker for Château Lafite Rothschild—that alone tempts one to pick up a bottle.

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Château d’Anglès ‘Classique’ La Clape Mourvèdre/Syrah/Grenache 2012
AOC La Clape $17.95 (286484) 14.0% alcohol
Black licorice and tar interplay with dark berry fruit on the nose of this well-paced, value-packed beauty. A stunning , balanced and beautiful wash of black currant, dark juicy cherry coat the palate interwoven with mocha and bittersweet chocolate—dense, structured, just plain delicious with a lingering finish. Don’t linger in picking up some. (Vic Harradine)

• On October 8, 1929 a handful of local vignerons banded together to form the following cooperative. At present, 80% of their production is devoted to Rosé wine.

***1/2 drink or cellar
Les Vignerons du Castelas ‘Vieilles Vignes - Signargues’ Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2013
AOC Côtes du Rhône-Villages $17.95 (34116) 14.0% alcohol
Subdued aromas of herbs, spice and mixed field berry fruit pave the way for a medium-bodied sleek and lightly fruited stream of cranberry and red cherry flavour bathing the palate. The mid-length finish is dry, crisp and refreshing. Olive-oiled mesclun salad garnished with grilled strips of chicken breast pairs well. (Vic Harradine)

• The following wine is by the iconic Languedoc vigneron, Gérard Bertrand. In 2012 he was named Red Winemaker of the Year after winning 46 accolades and 2 trophies for his wines. The Bertrand Group owns many wineries and has a financial interest in numerous others. The fruit for this wine was hand sorted at the winery, underwent long maceration and full malolactic conversion followed by 33% of the fruit aged in barrel for nine months with the remainder left to settle in vats before bottling.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Gérard Bertrand ‘Grand Terroir Les Aspres’ Syrah/Mourvèdre/Grenache 2013
AOC Côtes du Roussillon $18.95 (413245) 14.0% alcohol
This is value-laden, balanced on a pin and fully fruited with depth and concentration. Aromas of baking spice, roasted herbs and dark berry fruit introduce a creamy smooth surge of black currant, bittersweet chocolate-dipped cherries and wisps of fennel and mineral notes. It’s full bodied with a lengthy mouth-watering aftertaste and a boatload of charm. Dare I say… yummy. (Vic Harradine)

France: Rosé Wine 

• The following AOC Bandol Rosé was sourced from—40% Mourvèdre/30% Grenache/30% Cinsault—with vines averaging 20 years of age. Bandol is in Provençe near the village of Bandol, west of Toulon. Almost 2/3rds of Bandol wines are Rosés even though they’re also known for their excellent reds. Les Vigneron de La Cadierenne is a cooperative of 37 grape growers who joined hearts and hands in 1929 to make fine wine under one banner. This is a gorgeous Rosé commanding your attention at a most favourable price-quality balance. It has depth to stand up to serious food and the structure to be enjoyed over the next 12-18 months. Think of it as a lightly hued red wine when choosing food pairings.

****1/2 drink now
La Cadierenne ‘Cuvée Grande Tradition’ Bandol Rosé 2015
AOC Bandol $20.95 (119453) 14.0% alcohol
Delicate aromas of local wild herbs, aka garrigue, interweave with red berry fruit on the nose of this medium-full bodied and most generously structured and textured Rosé. The elegant fruit flavours dance on the palate with red currant, red raspberry and mixed spice to the fore with all replaying on a dry, crisp, mouth-watering aftertaste. Just plain scrumptious and lip-smacking good sipped on its own or with appetizers, canapés or mains. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now
Château d’Aquéria Tavel Rosé 2015
AOP Tavel $21.95 (319368) 14.0% alcohol
Tavel is an AOP wine region making only Rosé wine, this wine includes seven different grapes—it’s balanced and beautiful, charming and delicious. Savory local herbs, aka garrigue, mingle with red cherry/berry fruit before unleashing a stylish river of mid-weight, well-textured, delicate strawberry, tangy red currant and racy red cherry bathing the palate infusing the classic, dry, crisp and mouth-watering finish. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: White Wine

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Nals Margreid Pinot Grigio 2014
DOC Südtirol/Alto Adige $16.95 (290924) 13.0% alcohol
Here’s a Pinot Grigio that’s heads above most of what’s available for this price and even much more. Aromas of honey and floral notes provide segue for a medium-bodied, nicely textured, flow of tropical fruit, peach and pear that’s deftly balanced with a lovely squirt of lemon-lime tang. The flavours have good intensity and are persistent throughout. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Tenuta Ulisse ‘Unico’ Pecorino 2014
IGP Terre de Chieti $19.95 (249128) 13.0% alcohol
Exotic spice and a salad bowl of tropical fruit aromas unleash a solid line of citrus acidity with Key lime and white grapefruit dominant. It’s light-on-its-feet with plenty of racy tang bolstered by stony minerality on the nervy finish. Pour with pan-seared freshwater fish under a squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Pietra ‘Pura Mandus’ Primitivo di Manduria 2013
DOP Primitivo di Manduria $16.95 (216457) 14.0% alcohol
Mixed spice, pipe tobacco and dark berry fruit aromas reveal a tangy, fruit-laden river of black plum compote and dark raspberry jam with good acidity providing balance. It’s medium-plus bodied with generous mouthfeel and a lingering sweet-tinged aftertaste. Pour with smoked, grilled back ribs mopped in spicy hot barbecue sauce. Pick up a few for easy drinking and fun times. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Brancaia ‘Tre’ 2013
IGT Toscana $23.95 (164715) 13.5% alcohol
This red blend—80% Sangiovese/10% Merlot/10% Cabernet Sauvignon—was aged 12 months, 2/3rds in large oak barrel and 1/3rd concrete vat before bottling. Spice, gamy notes and field berry fruit aromas on the nose, it streaks over the palate with flavours of sour cherry, passion fruit and red currant. The finish is dry and crisp with still-evolving tannin. Overall it’s tart and tight with tannin. Aerate/decant a few hours pouring with spaghetti Bolognese. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Lazzeretti Brunello Di Montalcino 2008
DOCG Brunello Di Montalcino $46.95 (318352) 14.0% alcohol
This is well priced and deftly balanced, displaying depth, persistency of fruit and charm. With a bouquet of charred toast, mixed spice and medicinal notes on the nose, this delivers a delightful mouthful of ripe, red and black berry fruit and black plum compote brushed with moderating acidity and mineral notes. The finish lingers, dry and tangy, balanced and beautiful. Good to go now and on to 2021. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink or cellar
Valiano ‘Poggio Teo’ Chianti Classico 2010
DOCG Chianti Classico $19.95 (250563) 13.5% alcohol
This 100% Sangiovese aged 12 months in large, 50 hl oak casks, three months in small barriques and four months in bottle before release. The delicate nose of baking spice and mixed berry fruit unveils a mid-weight rush of tang-laden red and dark berry fruit racing across the palate infusing the dry, lip-smacking finish. Pour alongside pasta in tomato sauce. (Vic Harradine)  

**** drink or cellar
Villa Cerna ‘Riserva’ Chianti Classico 2012
DOCG Chianti Classico $28.95 (349407) 13.5% alcohol
Piquant spice and dark cherry/berry aromas open up a medium-bodied, nicely textured wash of red and black berry fruit with a lick of soft tannin on the palate and finish. This is well balanced with juicy pie cherry tang on the dry finish. Aerate/decant a couple of hours before pouring with spicy manicotti; here’s a recipe. (Vic Harradine

**** drink or cellar
Monte Del Fra ‘Lena Di Mezzo’ Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2013

DOC Valpolicella Ripasso $19.95 (165662) 14.0% alcohol

Sweet vanilla, dark coffee and chocolate aromas on the nose, this dishes up a river of black briary berry and dark juicy cherry entwined with plenty of peppery spice and oodles of structure and charm. It’s creamy smooth with good weight and balance and a dark ripe berry fruit and tangy, mouth-watering finish—each sip is as good or better than the previous. (Vic Harradine)

Spain: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Ardal ‘Reserva’ 2006 

DO Ribera del Duero $23.95 (167700) 14.5% alcohol 

A bouquet of black licorice, dried, dark berries and leather herald a full-bodied, fully flavoured stream of flavours—cassis, espresso roast and dark chocolate-dipped black cherries to the fore. It’s medium-weight with good mouth feel, balance and plenty of charm. It’s well structured and has the oomph, from a ripe tannin underpinning, to pair well with osso buco or rare-grilled striploin. (Vic Harradine) 

**** drink or cellar
Cims Del Montsant Garnatxa/Carinyena 2010
DO Montsant $15.95 (311894) 13.5% alcohol
This is ready to roll and offers very good value. Grilled herbs, sandalwood and tobacco aromas unleash a delightful, crowd-pleasing, red blend sourced from 65% old-vine Grenache/35% Carignan, aged just five months in French oak. Look for a smorgasbord of delicately balanced black fruit—plum, cherry, raspberry along with passionfruit. It finishes with lip-smacking tang. The price-quality ratio skews in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 cellar
Luis Cañas ‘Reserva’ 2010
DOCa Rioja $26.95 (334094) 13.5% alcohol
Aromas of cedar and anise reveal a taut, sleek Rioja Reserva. It cuts across the palate with great tang—cranberry, red currant and oodles of spice. This is medium-plus bodied with decent mouthfeel and a racy, dry finish of cassis and earthy notes. This really shines poured alongside roast poblano peppers stuffed with rice, onion, tomato and minced beef or pork. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Torres wine is available only in the LCBO’s largest, flagship stores—Ottawa—Bank St. & Holmwood Ave, Rideau St. at King Edward. Toronto—Summerhill & Yonge, Bay & Bloor (Manulife Centre), Queen's Quay at Cooper St., Bayview Village (Bayview & Sheppard), Avenue Rd. south of Wilson, Bloor & Royal York Rd., Laird south of Eglinton. Oakville—Cornwall Dr. at Trafalgar Rd. Woodbridge—Hwy. 7 & Weston Rd.
• It was sourced from fruit grown on 80 to 100 year old Garnacha/Cariñena vines from a variety of specially selected, small family plots in the Priorat region grown in terraced hillsides with shallow, rocky soils derived from slate, aka licorella. It spent 18-20 months in new French oak. Connoisseurs, collectors and red wine-lovers like you and me will love this. It was quite difficult to spit.

***** drink or cellar
Torres ‘Cos Perpetual’ 2013
DOCa Priorat $49.95 (265710) 15.0% alcohol
Rich, nuanced aromas of brambleberry, sandalwood and gingerbread unleash an intense luscious stream of black currant and black plum, baking spice and black licorice. This is stunning, deftly balanced, powerful and elegant with persistent purity of fruit, depth and structure. The ripe fruit is underpinned by fine-grained tannin and framed by excellent, mouth-watering acidity. Aerate/decant two hours before pouring, now to 2022. (Vic Harradine)

Upstream in winecurrent

Vintages Release: Fall, 2016

• All the stars aligned for the fabulous 2010 vintage in Niagara. Hand-harvested fruit for the following red blend was sourced from low-yielding, estate vines of Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc, some vines over 22 years old, then aged 20 months in French oak barrel, 60% new, 40% one-year old.

****1/2 drink or cellar  Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham ‘Speck Family Reserve’ Cabernet-Merlot 2010
VQA Short Hills Bench $39.95 (616433) 13.5% alcohol
An intense, beguiling bouquet of exotic spice, cedar and rich black berry fruit abounds on the nose of this stylish, smooth and mellow, balanced and beautiful red blend. A well-paced and delicious river of cassis, tangy red cherry and wisps of black raspberry bathe the palate. It’s medium-full bodied with generous mouthfeel and a monumentally long delectable finish and aftertaste. Drink now and over the next three years. (Vic Harradine)

New in the LCBO

**** drink now  Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham Riesling 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula $14.95 (268375) 11.0% alcohol
Pear, lemon citrus and apple aromas introduce a laser-like, bracing stream of lemon-lime juxtaposed with riper, sweeter notes of ripe apple and lemon chiffon pie on the palate. It’s medium bodied, crisp and clean. The finish dishes up a mouthful of lip-smacking tang. Pours well with pan-seared fish under a squeeze of fresh lemon juice or with baked ham. (Vic Harradine)

New in Vintages

**** drink or cellar  Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham ‘Estate’ Chardonnay 2014

VQA Short Hills Bench $19.95 (268342) 13.5% alcohol

Opening with tropical fruit, buttery, toasty notes and spice, this dry, mid-weight gem freshens the palate with finely-honed acidity paired with ripe orchard fruit, juicy pineapple and tangy citrus. Oak presents in the sweet spicy notes and a touch of nuttiness and underlying freshness shines through on the clean, tasty finish. Enjoy with veal chops or herbed grilled pork loin. (Susan Desjardins)

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Quinta de Curvos ‘Prova Cega’ 2013
DOC Douro $13.95 (446054) 14.0% alcohol
The price-quality balance here tips well in your favour. This is a gorgeous red blend that includes four of the über-premium grapes used in Port wine. Aromas of cedar, tar and dark berry fruit waft from this mid-full bodied, generously textured beauty. A broad swath of flavour coats the palate with ripe mulberry and black currant to the fore. It has a bit of an edge on the back palate reflecting tannin and good balancing acidity. Pour now with burgers or grilled gourmet sausage. (Vic Harradine)

New in Ontario Wineries

• Purchase the following 2 wines in person at Château des Charmes Niagara-on-the-Lake winery at 1025 York Rd, St. David’s ON or in their Ottawa or Toronto retail store, or online, by the two-bottle minimum, for daily home, restaurant or office delivery from Château des Charmes.

****1/2 drink or cellar  Oh Canada!
Château des Charmes ‘Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2013
VQA St. David’s Bench $22.95 13.0% alcohol
Hints of sweet spice, vanilla and custard flan aromas interweave with delicious fruit and warm butter pastry on the nose of this creamy, elegant gem. Dry, medium-full bodied, barrel fermented and aged, the flavours of ripe pineapple and apricot, pear and lemon curd permeate the palate while deftly balanced oak manifests in subtle notes of toasted nut and flaky pastry. The finish shows good length, full fruit and a fine backbone of acidity; it’s a great match for full-flavored dishes—chicken Caesar salad or lobster thermidor. (Susan Desjardins)

**** drink or cellar  Oh Canada!
Château des Charmes ‘Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2014
VQA St. David’s Bench $35.00 13.0% alcohol
This is medium weight with good texture, depth and intensity marked by red fruit, nerve and verve—a classic cool-climate Pinot. Hi-toned aromas of exotic spice, tobacco and red berry fruit release a tang-infused wash of red currant and pie cherry garnished with truffles and a solid line of lip-smacking acidity. It finishes in a blaze of tang on the dry finish. It’s drinking well now, pour with grilled rack of lamb. (Vic Harradine)

Cheers, Vic