October 12, 2016 Newsletter

California dreaming…

Susan DesjardinsSusan Desjardins recently enjoyed California, tasting and spitting her way through premium wineries. Her photos, insightful comments and helpful reviews on wine in stores and slated for upcoming Vintages releases from one more winery give winecurrent subscribers an inside track and are a click away here. Another California winery is slated for the next winecurrent publication.

LCBOThe LCBO’s newest Products of the World specialty store is at 115 King Street in Waterloo with this destination boutique offering approximately 100 wines from Germany with some products available to buy online through LCBO’s e-commerce site. With the opening of the Germany boutique, LCBO’s Products of the World specialty store program now boasts 13 destination stores, including Greece, East Asia and Chile. For more information, and to see a full list of Products of the World stores, click here. (above information courtesy Christine Bujold, LCBO Media Relations Coordinator)

Newsletter highlights include:

  • Exceptional-value wine Exceptional Value! – 5 of 61 wines reviewed meet strict quality-price guidelines, priced from $11.95 to $17.95; they’re easily found throughout the newsletter and feature article via the value checkmark. What strict quality-pricing guidelines? Click here.
  • 5-star Wine – an astounding 7 release wines rang the 5-star bell. Dominus ‘Napanook’ 2012 @ $95.95 and Newton ‘Unfiltered’ Chardonnay 2013 @ $68.95 and Ridge ‘Geyserville’ 2014 @ 64.95 all found under Feature: California; Gianni Gagliardo Barolo 2011 @ $54.95 found under Feature: Nebbiolo; Ségla 2010 @ $64.95 found under France: Red Wine; Masi Serego Alighieri ‘Vaio Armaron’ Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2008 @ $84.95; Henry of Pelham ‘Cuvée Catharine – Carte Blanche - Estate Blanc de Blanc’ 2011 @ $45.95 found under Upstream in winecurrent.
  • Vic Picks – Wits End ‘Luna’ Shiraz 2014 with 4 stars @ $17.00 found under Australia: Red Wine; Baron de Hoen ‘Réserve’ Pinot Gris 2014 with 4 stars @ $15.95 found under France: White Wine; Bastide Miraflors ‘Vieilles Vignes’ Syrah/Grenache 2014 with 4½ stars found under France: Red Wine; Villa Mora Montefalco Sagrantino 2009 with 4½ stars @ $24.95 found under Italy: Red 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 stock in stores near you is displayed—or by clicking ‘Check all stores’ where you’ll see stock available in all LCBO stores. 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 stores showing stock before you go.

October 15, 2016 Vintages Release

Feature: Stellar Wine from California

***** drink or cellar
Dominus ‘Napanook’ 2012
Napa Valley $95.95 (212357) 14.5% alcohol
This fabulous Napanook offering from Dominus—95% Cabernet Sauvignon/5% Petit Verdot—showcases purity of fruit, deft balance, age-worthiness and the personal quest for perfection that personifies ubiquitous owner/winemaker extraordinaire, Christian Moueix. A full-bodied, silky smooth flow of black Bing cherry, cassis, black licorice and baking spice dazzle the senses, coating the palate and infusing the lengthy aftertaste. It’s elegant and simply delicious. (Vic Harradine)

***** drink or cellar
Newton ‘Unfiltered’ Chardonnay 2013
Napa Valley $68.95 (1537) 14.5% alcohol
Honeyed pit fruit and Christmas cake spice aromas replay in a stunning, palate-bathing wash of ripe pear, nectarine and crisp green apple adorned with soft citrus tang—Meyer lemon, Key lime and grilled pineapple. This has good depth, complexity and is full bodied and fully textured with oodles of charm from cork pop to last drop with the balanced and monumentally lengthy aftertaste merely icing on the cake. Good to go now and for another five years. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Duckhorn Merlot 2013
Napa Valley $62.95 (992529) 14.5% alcohol
Aromas of spice and cherry/berry fruit introduce a rich and luscious, balanced and beautiful flow of dark cherry and bramble berry interwoven with sweet vanilla and apple pie spice on the palate. The lingering finish and aftertaste complete this gorgeous package—dark bittersweet chocolate, kirsch liqueur and baking spice. It’s medium-full weight with a smooth and mellow mouthfeel and is balanced on a pin. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Girard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Napa Valley $44.95 (231712) 14.5% alcohol
Savory herbs, mint and charred toast on the nose, this nicely textured, deftly balanced Napa Cab unleashes a dense and structured river of gorgeous fruit on the palate—red and black currant and black plum—interlaced with dark chocolate, and grainy tannin on the finish and aftertaste. This is full bodied and better poured after a three-hour aeration/decant. Pour with rare-grilled, well-seasoned striploin. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Napa Valley $103.95 (222877) 14.8% alcohol
This is full bodied, full fruited, fully textured and oozing with sweet-tinged, dark, jammy fruit; in a word… hedonistic. The nose is heavily perfumed with briary berry, black plum compote, tarry notes and baking spice. It coats the palate with a gusher of opaque-hued kirsch liqueur, bramble berry jam and cherry cordial entwined with black licorice. It pours well with grilled back ribs mopped with spicy barbecue sauce or with a slice of death-by-chocolate mousse or cake. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now
Sbragia ‘Home Ranch’ Chardonnay 2013
Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma $49.95 (52720)
Here’s a fabulously rich and perfumed Chardonnay that, given its quality and provenance, is well priced. Perfumed aromas of honeyed pit fruit, lemon and orange with mixed spice and wisps of vanilla abound. It dazzles the palate with a luscious, unctuous flow of pure ambrosia with ripe pear, green apple and blood orange to the fore. It’s medium weight with gorgeous mouthfeel and a lingering, balanced finish and aftertaste enhanced with moderating acidity. (Vic Harradine)

• Collectors, cognoscenti and red-wine lovers like you and me will want some of this iconic Zin blend from Ridge—60% Zinfandel/24% Carignan/12% Petite Syrah/4% Mourvèdre. And, it’s not too early to be thinking of placing something special under the tree for your boss, good friend or family member. Sourced from +100-year-old Zin bush vines, 2014 is the 48th year in which this has been produced with this vintage being one of the lowest amount of Zin in the blend as a result of low yields from these ancient, gnarled and highly treasured vines.

***** cellar
Ridge ‘Geyserville’ 2014
Alexander Valley, Sonoma County $63.95 (723072) 14.6% alcohol
This is rich, dense and delicious, full bodied and full-flavoured oozing with firm structure, persistent purity of fruit and finesse; and it’ll improve with careful cellaring. Aromas and flavours fill the room and coat the palate with a surge of bramble berry, cassis and sweet vanilla with wisps of coconut—it aged in 13 months in American oak barrel, 15% new. This is a seriously delicious Geyserville that has miles to go before it sleeps—pop corks 2019 and on to 2035. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Belle Glos ‘Dairyman Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2014
Russian River Valley, Sonoma County $69.95 (366013) 14.7% alcohol
Aromas of savory herbs, forest floor and red berry fruit set the table for a smorgasbord of sweet ripe flavours. Bramble berry and ripe mulberry dominate palate flavours adorned with milk chocolate and sweet vanilla. It’s mid-full weight and nicely textured, finishing with a flourish redolent of a creamy chocolate milkshake—perhaps an echo of the past as the vineyard was once a dairy farm. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Ravenswood ‘Besieged’ 2014
Sonoma County $24.95 (414136) 14.5% alcohol
One of the original three R’s of Zinfandel, along with Ridge and Rosenblum, this Ravenswood sports a lengthy list of grape varieties in the blend, along with Zin. It’s a brawny and bold effort not for the faint of palate —‘No wimpy wines’, is their motto—with lots going on, including good value. Roasted herb, underbrush and peppery spice aromas set the stage for an array of players on the flavour palette with luscious dark cherry, tang-laden red currant and ripe briary berry to the fore with minor bits of vanilla, spice and espresso roast. It’s full bodied and full fruited with complexity, structure and an appealing finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Seghesio Zinfandel 2014

Sonoma County $29.95 (942151) 14.8% alcohol

There’s an aromatic nose of dark fruit—Bing cherry, currant and plum—robed in mixed spice. It coats the palate medium-full bodied, full fruited and fully textured—red cherry and ripe mulberry melding with black licorice and toasty notes. These replay on the lengthy finish, balanced and bountiful. As very good Zin from a premium producer goes, it’s very attractively priced. (Vic Harradine)

• Buena Vista’s been around for well over 100 years and is now owned by Burgundian born—in the village of Vugeot—Jean-Charles Boisset and his family empire. He and winemaker Gina Gallo-Boisset are the wine-worlds über-influential, power couple. Jean-Charles is a passionate proponent of fine wine, history and organic/biodynamic practices.

**** drink now
Buena Vista Pinot Noir 2012
Carneros $25.95 (304105) 14.5% alcohol
The price-quality balance tips well in your favour here. Exotic incense and savory herb aromas make way for a medium-weight, stream of red and black currant bathing the palate robed in a delightful combination of tangy passion fruit, cherry cola and kirsch liqueur. The lengthy finish and aftertaste dish up a firm structure of fine-grained tannin. Aerate/decant for two hours pouring with smoked, grilled, crispy-skin duck breasts over olive-oiled arugula decorated with slices of mango. (Vic Harradine)

• Fruit for the following Buena Vista Chardonnay was hand-harvested from 4 specific vineyards. After being whole-cluster pressed and 100% barrel fermented it completed malolactic conversion then aged ten months in French and Hungarian oak barrel, 25% new French oak, before bottling unfiltered.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Buena Vista Chardonnay 2014
Carneros, Sonoma County $24.95 (67405) 13.5% alcohol
This is quite special given the positive, in-your-face and in-your favour, price-quality ratio. Smoke, toast, cinnamon and cloves mingle with ripe orchard fruit—pear and white nectarine—on the nose of this medium-full bodied, creamy-textured beauty. An unrestrained mouthful of exotic spice, peel marmalade, apricot preserve and tang-infused citrus envelopes the palate - elegant, balanced and deliriously delicious. It finishes lengthy with replays and a brushstroke of vanilla. (Vic Harradine)

Feature: Nebbiolo Wines from Piedmont, Italy

**** drink or cellar
Sottimano Langhe Nebbiolo 2013
DOC Langhe $29.95 (454017) 14.0% alcohol
An involved nose of sharp spice, eucalyptus, earthy and floral notes provide segue for a linear line of nerve and verve expressed as tang-laden red currant, rhubarb and racy passionfruit enhanced by good texture and a mouth-watering, dry, crisp aftertaste. This is lively, juicy, medium weight and underpinned by still-evolving tannin. Aerate/decant for three hours before serving. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Rocche Dei Manzoni ‘Bricco Manzoni’ Langhe Rosso 2010
DOC Langhe $38.95 (459651) 14.0% alcohol
Fabulous aromas of peppery notes, baking spice and rose petals unleash a well-paced, well-priced, full-bodied, full-flavoured gusher of bramble berry and pie cherry coating the palate with persistent purity of fruit, excellent moderating acidity and a boatload of charm from cork pop to last drop. Pour now, after a three-hour aeration/decant, and on to 2019. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Pelissero Nubiola Barbaresco 2010
DOCG Barbaresco $45.95 (138495) 14.0% alcohol
Dark cherry/berry fruit, sandalwood, floral notes and hints of black licorice herald a medium-weight, textured stream of ripe red cherry and sweet mulberry nicely balanced by red currant and pomegranate juicy tang. The lengthy aftertaste showcases the typical austere, dry finish associated with Nebbiolo. Give this a go with pastitsio. (Vic Harradine)

• Fruit for the following red was sourced from the single-vineyard, 17 acre, estate-owned, 100% Nebbiolo vines of the Santa Stefano vineyard in the Barbaresco sub-appellation of Albesani with average vine years 30 years. Fruit was fermented in stainless steel, underwent malolactic conversion, aged in stainless steel and 35 HL, seasoned French; Allier oak barrel for 2 years and a further one year in bottle before release.

****1/2 cellar
Castello Di Neive ‘Santo Stefano – Albesani’ Barbaresco 2012
DOCG Barbaresco $64.95 (702944) 14.0% alcohol
This should develop into something quite special once the still-evolving tannin is brought to heel—pop corks 2020 to 2027. Floral notes, peppery spice and aromatic bitters unleash a full-bodied, full flavoured rush of red cherry and cassis robed in excellent moderating acidity underpinned with a firm tannin structure. It finishes with oodles of acidity and tannin, also with the complexity and fruit to portend a fine wine in the future after careful cellaring. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Bersano ‘Nirvasco’ Barolo 2010
DOCG Barolo $34.95 (713628) 14.0% alcohol
This is approachable now, after a two-hour aeration/decant, and certainly could be cellared another 8-10 years. An array of aromas bless the nose of this well-priced, mid-weight, crowd-friendly Barolo—tar, rose petals, licorice and red berry fruit. It delivers a straight up mouthful of tangy red currant and passion fruit flavour underpinned by soft, fine-grained tannin. This finish is as one might expect given the grape and region—dry and lip-smacking good. (Vic Harradine)

• The following is the top wine in this flight of Nebbiolo. In it, 100% Nebbiolo fruit was sourced in a warm/hot vintage from four communes—La Morra, Monforte d’Alba, Barolo, Serralunga—spending 6 months in small oak barrique followed by 18 months in large oak botti. Winemaker, Stefano Gagliardo, advises this has another ten-plus years of optimum drinking.

***** drink or cellar
Gianni Gagliardo Barolo 2011
DOCG Barolo $54.95 (713602) 14.5% alcohol
This showcases complexity, depth, structure and deft balance while aromas of fennel, red licorice and mocha abound. It coats the palate with a stunning, full-bodied, full flavoured, fairly dry, dense surge of red and black currant interwoven with mixed spice and wisps of chocolate. There’s supple tannin that’s easily tamed with a three-hour, aeration/decant, and a lengthy, dry, mouth-watering finish. The entire package is elegant and delicious. (Vic Harradine)

The Main Release

Fortified: Sherry Wine

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Osborne Pedro Ximenez ‘1827’ Sweet Sherry

DO Jerez $17.95 (047944) 17.0% alcohol

Sherry conjures up images of ‘cooking sherry’ and tippling Aunt Matilda … pity. It’s a delicious, sophisticated, misunderstood wine and Sherry drinkers love it that way; it keeps the price ridiculously low. This is sweet, viscous and brimming with flavour and charm—toffee, nutty nuances and desiccated berry fruit interlaced with spice and raisins. It pours well on its own as the dessert or alongside blue cheese, custards or dark, spiced fruit cake. Pick up a bottle, serve chilled, send an email to let me know what you think. (Vic Harradine)

Sparkling Wine

****1/2 drink now
Domaine Louis Bouillot ‘Perle d’Aurore’ Brut Rosé

AOC Crémant de Bourgogne $21.95 (48793) 12.0% alcohol

Pale-salmon hued, this is absolutely delightful—a medium-bodied sparkler that’s fruity and dry. From subtle aromas of summer berries, spice and brioche through to the delicate creamy mousse that refreshes the palate, it offers light, red berry flavours and a lengthy mouth-watering finish. Great value, enjoy it wiling away an afternoon or with smoked salmon. (Susan Desjardins)

Ontario: White Wine

• Hand-harvested fruit for the following Redstone Chardonnay was sourced from select vineyards across the VQA Niagara Peninsula region. It was aged 12 months in French oak before bottling.

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Redstone Chardonnay 2013
VQA Niagara Peninsula $19.20 (398966) 12.5% alcohol
Citrus, floral notes and orchard fruit aromas precede a racy flow of lemon and Key lime citrus streaking across the palate garnished with Granny Smith apple and notions of flint/minerality. It’s medium weight with good mouthfeel and a crisp, refreshing aftertaste of apple skin and lemony tang. Pour alongside pan-seared fish or steamed mussels. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
Vineland Pinot Blanc 2015
VQA Niagara Escarpment $17.95 (164467) 12.0% alcohol
Floral notes and exotic spice unfurl from this medium-bodied, pleasantly textured Pinot Blanc. It releases a gorgeous, palate-bathing, nicely balanced mouthful of white peach, ripe pear and tropical fruit enhanced with moderating lemon/lime acidity. The finish is clean and mouth-watering good. There’s very good value here. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Creekside Estate ‘Laura’s’ Red 2012

VQA Niagara Peninsula $19.95 (117960) 13.5% alcohol

This complex blend offers an orchestrated chorus of aromas and flavours including ripe black fruit, mineral undertones, subtle notes of mint and licorice, cedar and vanilla. It’s a generous medium-full bodied red with a core of ripe dark fruits balanced by grippy tannins and refreshing acidity. The savory notes of spice, dried herbs and mineral emphasize the complexity, the long dry finish putting a spotlight on the fine balance of texture and rich fruit. It’s very approachable, versatile and a great value. Pair with autumn meals built around roast vegetables and full-flavoured meats. (Susan Desjardins)

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Flat Rock ‘Gravity’ Pinot Noir 2013

VQA Twenty Mile Bench $30.25 (1560) 13.0% alcohol

Blended from the best barrels, this ruby gem offers an alluring nose of ripe red fruit, sweet spice, vanilla and elusive earthy quality. Dry, medium bodied, it’s silky in texture with a defined backbone of clean acidity and fine tannin. Flavours of red cherry and berries provide focus, mingling with mineral notes and a gentle touch of spicy toast. A pleasant warm peppery note garnishes the lengthy finish. Enjoy with roast duck. (Susan Desjardins)

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham ‘Speck Family Reserve’ Pinot Noir 2010
VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula $34.95 (657874) 13.5% alcohol
Barnyard and earthy aromas set the table for a spirited wash of racy red currant, pomegranate and pie cherry racing across the palate infusing the mouth-watering finish of this drink-me-now Pinot. The aftertaste layers on soft, perceptible tannin and dried berry fruit robed in tangy acidity. Pour this after a two-hour aeration/decant with grilled, smoked duck breasts or roast turkey with all the fixings. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Keint-He ‘Portage’ Pinot Noir 2014
VQA Prince Edward County $30.00 (373415) 12.7% alcohol
Piquant spice and mixed cherry/berry fruit waft from this well-paced, light-on-its-feet Pinot. An enticing, light-medium bodied wave of tangy and truly delicious flavours blanket the palate with dark juicy Bing cherry entwined with grilled savory herbs and a dollop of charm. The finish replays with fairly good length. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
Rockway Vineyards ‘Red Assemblage’ 2013

VQA Twenty Mile Bench $17.95 (321893) alcohol 13.5% alcohol

This red blend—54% Cabernet Franc, 31% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon—spent 18 months oak-barrel aging. Aromas of wood smoke, earthy notes and dark berry fruit herald juicy red currant and ripe strawberry rolling over the palate with wisps of mixed spice and passion fruit. It’s mid weight with good mouth feel and a dry, mouth-watering finish and aftertaste. Pour with hearty game stew, osso buco or cassoulet. There’s solid fruit flavour, balance and good value here. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
Southbrook Vineyards ‘triomphe’ Cabernet Franc 2013

VQA Niagara Peninsula $21.95 (275958) 12.6% alcohol

Aromas of bright red berry fruit, cedar and sprigs of herbs announce a balanced and beautiful wash of lively, ripe red cherry/berry flavour bathing the palate, mid weight, delicately textured with persistent purity of fruit throughout. It finishes in a fanfare of red fruit flavour garnished with savory-infused, roasted herbs and good moderating acidity. (Vic Harradine)

• The following wine from the Foreign Affair winery in Niagara dried 30% of the Pinot Noir fruit in this wine to produce a wine that’s distinctly Canadian using Italian traditional methods. They also produce white and Rosé in a similar fashion. From their website. “The entire Foreign Affair Winery team is proud to have been recognized as the first winery to make appassimento wine in Canada. In 2013 it was chosen for the Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence for pioneering a new wine style in Ontario by using knowledge that was developed in another part of the world.”

*** drink now Oh Canada!
The Foreign Affair Pinot Noir 2010
VQA Niagara Peninsula $34.95 (127332) 14.2% alcohol
Aromas of dried berry fruit and wet forest floor/underbrush introduce a bracing wash of red currant, passion fruit, stewed rhubarb and cranberry tang racing across the palate and dominating the dry, crisp finish and aftertaste robed in grippy tannin. (Vic Harradine)

Argentina: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Luigi Bosca Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Mendoza, Argentina $19.95 (128629) 14.0% alcohol

This is rich and luscious, mid-plus weight with good mouthfeel, persistent purity of fruit and well structured. Aromas of charred toast, grilled herbs and dark berry fruit abound. It dishes up a juicy, balanced wash of ripe red and black cherry garnished with piquant spice and dark, bittersweet chocolate with lively replays on the finish and aftertaste. Pour with rare-grilled, dry-rubbed striploin. Good to go now and on to 2021. (Vic Harradine)

Chile: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Ventisquero Queulat ‘Gran Reserva Single Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2014
Casablanca Valley $17.95 (389213) 12.5% alcohol
Piquant spice and red cherry/berry fruit aromas reveal a tang-infused, mid-weight, textured stream of cool-ish-climate, Pinot Noir. It streaks over the palate with pomegranate and passion fruit mingling with savory herbs and wisps of black plum. Pour with pan-seared fish or Feta-stuffed chicken with spinach and tomato sauce. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Jim Barry ‘The Cover Drive’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 

Coonawarra $24.95 (677476) 13.5% alcohol

Cover Drive is cricket terminology and the Barry family are cricket-mad. This Cab is a blend from their beloved Clare Valley and the iconic Terra Rossa soils with its sub-soils of porous limestone in the Coonawarra region. Spice-driven aromas of cherry and dark berry fruit herald a solid line of pomegranate acidity balanced by ripe mulberry fruit on the palate, persisting through the lip-smacking aftertaste. Good to go now after a two-hour aeration/decant and on to 2026 with snags off the barbie—snags aka sausages. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Shiraz, from Australia’s Chalk Hill winery, is labelled ‘Wit’s End’ in Canada respecting copyright on the Chalk Hill name previously registered to a California winery. It brings out all that’s great about this McLaren Vale beauty, a Mediterranean climate, low-yielding vintage, sixth-generation family owned and… the price-quality balance is well in your favour—stock up.

**** drink or cellar
Wits End ‘Luna’ Shiraz 2014

McLaren Vale, South Australia $17.00 (311258) 14.5% alcohol

Dark berry fruit, peppery spice and wisps of smoke aromas provide segue for a tempered, measured wash of black plum compote and stewed fruit flavours interlaced with gamy notes and espresso roast bathing the palate. Look for good weight and texture throughout. It finishes in tang-laden blaze—red currant and pie cherry galore. Pour with grilled burgers or grilled gourmet sausage. (Vic Harradine)

France: White Wine

**** drink now
Baron de Hoen ‘Réserve’ Pinot Gris 2014

AOC Alsace $15.95 (461657) 13.0% alcohol

Pinot Gris from Alsace is generally more full bodied with an enhanced flavour profile and more texture compared to Pinot Grigio, a Pinot Gris clone grown in Italy. Medium-yellow-hued, this offers aromas of lemon drop candy, floral notes and heady exotic spice. It’s creamy smooth with good weight and a dazzling wash of honey-dipped tropical fruit that’s moderated on the back palate and aftertaste with a dollop of grapefruit pith. Pour with grilled chicken over arugula dressed with creamy Caesar salad dressing. (Vic Harradine)

France: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Château La Verrière 2014
AOC Bordeaux Supérieur $17.95 (349274) 14.0% alcohol
Smoke, oak and tarry bits mingle on the nose with aromas red and black cherry/berry fruit. This 85% Merlot/15% Cabernet Sauvignon blend dishes up a lovely stream of dark black cherry, ripe black currant and racy cranberry sporting considerable depth and complexity. It’s mid weight with good mouthfeel and a firm underpinning that could use another year in bottle, but can be easily negotiated with a three hour aeration/decant and a slab of prime beef, seasoned, grilled rare. (Vic Harradine)

• The following wine is from Château Rauzan-Ségla, a 2nd growth wine. In 1855, the great red wine estates of the Gironde in Bordeaux, France were judged to be in five categories (referred to as ‘Crus’ or ‘Growths’ with originally only four wineries (now five, but that’s another story) in the first category and 12 in the second category (there have been alterations/splits and one wine jumping from this category to the one above). The following wine, along with others of similar status, is often referred to as a ‘second label’ or ‘second wine’ of one of these premium wineries that made it into one of the exclusive groups—after the winemaker selects in his opinion the ideal barrels for the famed ‘Growth’ label—in this case, 2nd Growth Château Rauzan-Ségla—the best of the rest was chosen for this particular wine – hence ‘second label’. Some have a third and fourth label. This estate is owned by Chanel, who have gone to great lengths improve quality.

***** cellar
Ségla 2010
AOC Margaux $64.95 (359810) 13.5% alcohol
Perfumed aromas of sweet ripe fruit and floral notes provide segue to a dense and intense red blend—approximately 2/3rds Cabernet Sauvignon, 1/3rd Merlot with a dash of Petit Verdot and a dot of Cabernet Franc. A stunning wash of sweet, ripe black currant, crème de cassis and vanilla with hints of mint and mocha coat the palate along with moderating tang. This full-bodied beauty has great sense of purpose, stunning purity, is deftly balanced and bursting with promise. The rich fruit flavour, balancing acidity and profound tannin underpinning portend long life—pop corks 2025 to 2035, perhaps even longer. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 70% Syrah/30% Grenache old-vines, red blend is yet another great-value, excellent-quality, Wine of the Month selection—hats off to the Vintages buyer who stocked LCBO waters with this prize catch. If you cast bait in $20-a-bottle waters, reel in your limit.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Bastide Miraflors ‘Vieilles Vignes’ Syrah/Grenache 2014
IGP Côtes Catalanes $19.95 (320499) 14.5% alcohol
This red blend is rich, luscious and succulent with medium-bodied weight, smooth-as-silk texture and balanced-on-a-pin finish and aftertaste. Aromas of black briary fruit, gamy notes, anise and grilled herbs unleash a full-fruited flow of bramble berry, red and black currant and oodles of piquant spice. The lingering luscious finish and aftertaste replays with good balance and juicy, lively fruit—back up the van and keep the engine running; figuratively speaking… it’s a steal. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Domaine Galaman Fitou 2013

AOP Fitou $14.95 (395467) 14.0% alcohol

This purple-hued blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan offers a lively, invigorating nose of raspberry/ blueberry pie, tomato leaf, mineral, spice and pepper. Dry, medium-full bodied, the juicy texture lifts the lively cherry/berry flavours and accents the notes of pepper, spice and red licorice. This masterfully wrought wine brings together the ideal marriage of supple structure, clean tangy texture and tasty fruit that makes it approachable, balanced and a great wine to sip and to enjoy throughout a hearty meal—excellent value. (Susan Desjardins)

Italy: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Firriato ‘Santagostino - Baglio Sorìa’ Nero d’Avola/Syrah 2012
IGT Terre Siciliane $19.95 (291369) 14.0% alcohol
Campfire smoke, balsamic and espresso roast aromas waft freely from this full-bodied, full-fruited red blend. It traces over the palate with a serious wash of tangy red currant and pomegranate moderated with wisps of sweet, ripe cherry and black raspberry interweaving with piquant spice. The bracing acidity on the finish and aftertaste is joined by oaky/vanilla notes and traces of grainy tannin—aerate/decant two hours pouring with pasta in tomato sauce. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Sagrantino was first released a few months ago. Picked some up and recently served to a number of friends, some extremely wine knowledgeable, others simply wine drinkers and yet others in between. The comments have been universally positive from outstanding raves to, ‘That’s a lovely wine.’ The price is at the top end of my normal range, but a few more bottles of this will make their way to the cellar. Recently had it with South African bobotie; Here’s a demo video and recipe from

****1/2 drink or cellar
Villa Mora Montefalco Sagrantino 2009

DOCG Montefalco, Umbria $24.95 (342394) 14.5% alcohol

Mixed spice and savory herb aromas unleash a firm torrent of ripe, dark berry fruit, black plum compote interwoven with peppery spice and espresso roast coating the palate with excellent acidity and a supple, fine-grained, tannin underpinning. This is full bodied and well textured with oodles of charm, deft balance and long delicious aftertaste brimming with ripe fruit and delicious tang. Aerate/decant three hours and pour with hearty game stew, osso buco or cassoulet. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Amarone is one of the wine-world’s treasures—a Masi, single-vineyard—at a price that’s not insignificant, but certainly less than many other high flyers from tony neighbourhoods. The Boscaini family own and manage Masi. The single-vineyard, ‘Vaio Armaron’, sits on limestone/clay, terraced soil managed by the Boscaini family—the Boscaini’s are 7th generation vignerons and an outstanding Amarone producer. Speculation even has the term, ‘Amarone’, associated with this ancient vineyard belonging to the Serego Alighieri family.

*****drink or cellar

Masi Serego Alighieri ‘Vaio Armaron’ Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2008

DOC Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico $84.95 (462812) 15.5% alcohol

This is a Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara blend; the meticulously hand-picked fruit laid out on bamboo mats in ventilated lofts to dry before pressing. The fruit loses approximately 40% of its weight, mostly water, enriching flavour, texture and character in the finished wine. It was then aged in Slavonian oak for almost 5 years followed by a brief time in traditional, cherry casks before bottling. There are aromas and flavours of black plum compote, baking spice—vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon—and smooth mellow wisps of mocha and espresso roast. It finishes quite lengthy, fruit-forward, compact, deftly balanced with good pace and sense of purpose. A fabulous offering. (Vic Harradine)

Portugal: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Herdad Do Rocim 2012
Vinho Regional Alentejano $17.95 (423574) 14.0% alcohol
This blend—Touriga Nacional/Aragonez/Alicante Bouschet—is rich and luscious on the palate showcasing über-ripe, dense and intense fruit, a still-evolving tannin underpinning and a very nicely crafted red. Aromas of oaky notes and sweet vanilla blend with dark berry fruit on the nose before coating the palate with sweet, ripe fruit—black raspberry and black cherry intertwined with piquant spice, moderating acidity and a lengthy, balanced crisp, dry finish. (Vic Harradine)

Spain: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Borsao ‘Tres Picos’ Garnacha 2014

Do Campo de Borja $19.95 (273748) 15.0% alcohol

Produced from fruit of low-yielding old vines, this opaque, ruby-hued Grenache packs a punch of warm, jammy black fruit infused with notes of sweet baking spice, vanilla and tantalizing earthy notes. Dry and velvety, imbued with bushels of flavourful red and black berry fruit and warmth of tangy spice and cracked pepper, it shows balance, supple tannins, clean acidity and well-integrated oak aging. Long and warm through the finish, you’ll enjoy this great value with classic paella. (Susan Desjardins)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Bodegas San Prudencio ‘Depadre’ 2012
DOCa Rioja $22.95 (379917) 13.5% alcohol
The 50/50, Tempranillo/Grenache fruit for this was hand-harvested and aged 18 months in seasoned French oak barrel. It wafts from the glass with perfumed aromas of dark berry fruit, sweet vanilla and savory herbs more reminiscent of a Rhône Valley red than Rioja. A concentrated gusher of full-fruited, simply delicious black Bing cherry and bramble berry preserve decorated with bittersweet chocolate and piquant spice envelop the palate replaying on the balanced and beautiful finish. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Torres ‘Ibéricos’ Crianza Rioja 2013

DOCa Rioja, Spain $16.95 (381046) 13.5% alcohol

Roasted herbs, cedar and spice box introduce a medium-bodied, well-textured tangy river of pie cherry and red currant robed in mixed spice and racy acidity underpinned by a firm tannin structure. It dishes up more of the same on the lip-smacking aftertaste. Aerate/decant two hours pouring with red pizza, lasagna or backyard burgers. There;s good value here. (Vic Harradine)

Upstream in winecurrent

Vintages Release: November 12, 2016

**** drink or cellar
Gérard Bertrand ‘Cap’ Insula’ Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre Languedoc 2013
AOP Languedoc, France $17.00 (474973) 13.5% alcohol
Heavily perfumed with rich dark berry fruit aromas, the hand-picked fruit was taken to the eco-designed winery, macerated approximately three weeks then aged eight months in barrel. It’s dense, rich and concentrated with a surge of palate-coating flavour—black plum compote, cherry clafoutie and dark bittersweet chocolate. These replay on the finish joined by mouth-watering, moderating acidity and firm structure. Pour with grilled back ribs slathered in barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

The following red is from Chateau Mont-Redon, one of the oldest wine-producing Estates in France (since 1344) and the largest single property in Châteauneuf-du-Pape (100 hectares from 80% red and 20% white grapes). The name of the overall appellation, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, translates to ‘new house of the Pope’ referring to Pope’s residing here in the 1300s.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Chateau Mont-Redon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2012
AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France $45.95 (959627) 14.5% alcohol
Lifted aromas of floral notes, mixed field berry and espresso roast abound. A mid-full bodied red blend of 65% Grenache/15% Syrah/10% Cinsault/5% Mourvèdre and bits of a variety of other grapes flows creamy smooth over the palate—ripe black raspberry and dark Bing cherry interlaced with grilled, piquant spice and herbs with notions of kirsch liqueur, especially on the balanced and bountiful finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

Vintages Release: November 26, 2016

• The following 2011 vintage, Cuvée Catharine sparkling wine is stunning. People often and mistakenly refer to sparkling wine as Champagne, perhaps not realizing only sparkling wine from the Champagne region in France is Champagne. The differences are not minor, they are fairly significant: in the long history of meticulous, precise winemaking techniques; the terroir (especially chalky soils); the flavour and taste of Champagne—adding up to, ‘quality’. The following could be easily mistaken for Champagne. That doesn’t make it Champagne, but Wow… it’s terrific. And… it’s Canadian. According to winery technical sheets—hand-harvested, 100% estate Chardonnay was gently, whole-cluster pressed, 20% barrel fermented and aged a full 60 months in bottle on its lees before being disgorged.

***** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham ‘Cuvée Catharine – Carte Blanche - Estate Blanc de Blanc’ 2011

VQA Short Hills Bench $44.95 (315200) 12.5% alcohol
This is a perennial winner delivering possibly its best to date, redolent of the 2008. Fine-bead mousse releases a bouquet of baking brioche, lemon tart and minerality. The attack on the palate is dramatic with crisp green apple, lemon yoghurt and bracing citrusy tang riding a laser-like stream before developing depth, texture and breadth on the middle and back palate with replays on the mouth-watering, lengthy finish. (Vic Harradine)

New in LCBO Portfolio Wines

**** drink now
Henry of Pelham Chardonnay 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula $14.95 (291211) 13.0% alcohol
Here’s good-value, crowd-friendly Chardonnay with aromas and flavours of tropical fruit, lemony tang and wisps of minerality and caramel apple. It’s medium bodied with satin-smooth mouthfeel from resting on yeast lees, aka sur lie, with a long, nicely balanced finish and aftertaste. Great sipped on its own or poured with roast chicken or pan-seared/grilled seafood. (Vic Harradine)

New in Private Order

• Order the following wine by the case for home, restaurant or office delivery. Free delivery in the GTA or delivered to your local LCBO for pick up. Order from VIP Wine and Spirits via email to Dave Coutts This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Palagetto Chianti Colli Sensi 2014
DOCG Chianti Colli Sensi $11.95 13.5% alcohol
Perfumed aromas of ripe cherry, red licorice and rose petals waft easily from this light-ruby hued red. It bathes the palate with a balanced and beautiful wash of rich, ripe cherry and strawberry fruit flavours enhanced with good mouthfeel and plenty of tang od the lingering aftertaste. This is medium weight with good purity of fruit and plenty of charm. Lovely sipped on its own, it also pours well with gourmet burgers, spaghetti Bolognese or ribs. (Vic Harradine)

Cheers, Vic