October 25, 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 from one final winery give winecurrent subscribers an inside track and are just a click away here

Christmas… just around the corner!

BesottedHere’s a present to give yourself and wine-loving friends. Larry Horne, author of, ‘Besotted – my love affair with wine’, immersed himself in wine—taster, winemaker, journalist, sales manager and traveler extraordinaire. His reader-friendly book takes you first on a journey through Ontario and BC with insights gained only by an ‘insider’ then trips—some rollicking—to California, Australia, New Zealand, Italy, France and others with the unbridled passion of a wine-lover. You’ll gain myriad ideas and valuable tips of places and wineries to visit and you’ll live vicariously through this fabulous journey. For more information on Larry and the book click here

To order this book - Send a cheque for $25 (includes postage) to Larry Horne at #37-275 Pelham Road, St. Catharines, ON, L2S 3B9 or an e-transfer to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , using the password, Besotted. Be sure to include your return address.

Newsletter highlights include:

  • Exceptional-value wine Exceptional Value! – 4 of 46 Vintages release wines and a whopping 8 of 22 wines reviewed after the Main Release—all priced from $11.95 to $17.95—meet the strict quality-price guidelines; they’re easily found via the exceptional-value checkmark. What strict quality-pricing guidelines? Click here.
  • 5-star Wine – 5 wines rang the 5-star bell. Cave Spring Riesling Icewine 2014 @ $49.95 found under Icewine; Featherstone ‘Black Sheep’ Riesling 2015 @ $16.95 found under Ontario: White Wine; I Castei Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2012 @ $44.95 and Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2008 @ 104.95 both found under Italy: Red Wine and Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine 2015 @ $49.95 found under New in Vintages Essentials.
  • Vic Picks – Featherstone ‘Black Sheep’ Riesling 2015 earned 5 stars @ $16.95 found under Ontario: White Wine; Segura Viudas ‘Heredad Reserva’ Brut Cava Non-Vintage earned 4 ½ stars @ $29.95 found under Sparkling Wine; Wakefield Shiraz 2014 earned 4 ½ stars @ $18.95 found under New in Vintages Essentials.

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 29, 2016 Vintages Release

Feature: Bordeaux

***1/2 drink or cellar
Château Lamartine Merlot 2014
AOC Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux $15.95 (368159) 13.5% alcohol
This entry-level red blend comes from a 230-member cooperative of small-plot, family vintners working with predominantly Merlot fruit aged 12 months in oak. Subtle aromas of spice-laden red and black berry fruit provide segue for a medium-weight, nicely textured stream of pie cherry, passion fruit and red currant interwoven with wisps of mint. There’s a solid tannin underpinning – aerate/decant for three hours before serving. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Château La Caussade 2010
AOC Médoc $19.95 (177014) 14.0% alcohol
A 59% Cabernet Sauvignon/41% Merlot red blend, this is highly perfumed on the nose with exotic spice, floral notes and dark cherry/berry fruit aromas. It’s medium-plus bodied and fully fruited with black plum and juicy, black Bing cherry garnished with excellent acidity and wisps of truffles. There’s a bit of a tannic bite on the finish—aerate/decant a couple of hours before serving. This would also be a lovely wine to tuck away for five years—the price-quality balance tips well in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Château Le Doyenné 2011

AOC Côtes de Bordeaux $24.95 (416735) 13.5% alcohol

This right bank, Merlot-predominant red blend is medium-full bodied, with good mouth feel and wisps of still-evolving tannin. The 200-year-old estate fell into disrepair after WW2 and was re-built and modernized in the 90s. It’s now being recognized as one of the premiere producers from this appellation. Aromas of dark cherry, herbs and spice introduce a structured, palate-coating wash of black currant and pie cherry interwoven with vanilla and spice persisting through the dry finish. Aerate/decant for three hours before serving. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Château Siaurac 2010
AOC Lalande-de-Pomerol $43.95 (309831) 15.0% alcohol
Perfumed aromas of camphor, tar and berry fruit spring from this 80% Merlot/20% Cabernet Sauvignon blend followed by a gusher of wildly delicious fruit—ripe, black briary berry and juicy, tangy, black Bing cherry robed in excellent moderating acidity, elegance and charm. It’s medium-plus bodied with generous mouthfeel and a bit of warmth from alcohol and a nudge from the soft tannin underpinning on the aftertaste. On balance, fine wine at a reasonable price. (Vic Harradine)

The Main Release


***** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Cave Spring Riesling Icewine 2014
VQA Niagara Peninsula $49.95 375 mL (447441) 10.5% alcohol
Glorious aromas of apricot, honeyed ripe pear and raisin fill the air. A palate-coating surge of liquid ambrosia coats the palate with a tapestry of sweet flavour—peel marmalade, poached pear, grilled pineapple, honey and spice. It’s fully fruited and full textured with moderating citrus tang on the finish and aftertaste keeping it balanced and far from cloying. Quite special. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham Cabernet Icewine 2013

VQA Short Hills Bench $39.95 200 mL (672492) 9.5% alcohol

Aromas and flavours of spice, strawberry and mixed field berry abound. It’s balanced on a pin with sweet ripe fruit mingling with tangy acidity on the palate and stunning finish. It’s full bodied and fully textured and not the least cloying. Pour on its own as dessert for a decadent, romantic treat for two or alongside strawberries dipped in dark chocolate. (Vic Harradine)

Sparkling Wine

**** drink now
Château Moncontour ‘Tête de Cuvée Brut’ Vouvray Non-Vintage

AOC Vouvray, France $17.95 (207936) 12.0% alcohol 

This bubbly opens with a lovely nose of citrus, leesy notes and honeyed, pit fruit aromas. A profusion of bubbles carry nutty nuances and yeasty bits interlacing with racy lemon zest and juicy white nectarine. It’s medium weight with a creamy smooth texture and crisp, refreshing, lip-smacking-good aftertaste. This is very good value and worth picking up a few to keep chilled for when friends drop by unexpectedly. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvée Brut Non-Vintage

New Zealand $21.95 (163634) 12.0% alcohol

Aromas of baking brioche and alluring floral notes open this zippy refreshing gem. The energetic mousse supports flavours of green apple, ripe white peach and slate. It’s nicely textured and finishes lengthy with ripe citrus, sweet notes of ripe pineapple and tree fruit. The sweet and tang on the lip-smacking finish offers the opportunity to pair with spicy appetizers or to sip on its own, either is equally delightful. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Ferrari Brut Non-Vintage

DOC Trento, Italy $24.95 (352153) 12.5% alcohol

Aromas of tropical fruit, floral notes and baked apple introduce a mid-weight, nicely textured profusion of bubbles riding over the palate garnished with a tapestry of flavour—leesy/baked brioche notes interweaving with apple, poached pear and lemon curd—balanced and persistent through the lip-smacking finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Segura Viudas ‘Heredad Reserva’ Brut Cava Non-Vintage

DO Cava, Spain $29.95 (558825) 12.0% alcohol

Golden, with a green hue, this limited-production Cava, a blend of first pressing of estate-grown Macabeo and Parellada, displays depth and lovely balance. Intense aromas of pear, citrus and toasted butter pastry entice. Dry, bright and fresh, it has refined creamy mousse and lively, crisp texture. Rich flavours of Bosc pear and lemon-lime wash across the palate lingering on a clean, persistent finish. A sparkling wine of presence and weight, it presents well as a gift or served at any holiday gathering. (Susan Desjardins)

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)

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Flat Rock Chardonnay 2013

VQA Twenty Mile Bench $18.95 (286278) 13.0% alcohol

Hand harvested, aged in French oak, this brilliant golden wine fuses delicious aromas of a basket of ripe fruit with scents of nutty oak, vanilla and spice. The palate is equally alluring, offering tasty orchard fruit, pineapple and citrus matched with buttered popcorn and delicate notes of spice. There’s great richness to the texture, depth of flavour, the balance of well-defined acidity, and longevity to the fresh, fruity finish. Serve this great-value Chardonnay with poached salmon or grilled halibut. (Susan Desjardins)

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Hidden Bench ‘Estate’ Riesling 2014

VQA Beamsville Bench $23.75 (183491) 10.5% alcohol

Produced from hand-harvested organic fruit, fermented with natural yeasts, this is a captivating wine that combines floral aromas with pear, lime and mineral. Dry, light-mid weight, it shows great presence on the palate. The vibrant texture underscores the notions of mineral and lime, the freshness persisting on the lasting finish. A versatile wine that can be enjoyed on its own or with salads, fish, seafood or white meats. (Susan Desjardins)

Ontario: Red Wine

**** drink now Oh Canada!
13th Street ‘Red Palette’ 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula $15.95 (249458) 13.0% alcohol
Campfire smoke, flinty notes and underbrush aromas unlock a sweet-tinged, palate-bathing flow of strawberry and red cherry flavours adorned with grilled herbs and espresso roast. This is mid weight with good mouthfeel and offers good value. The lingering finish is balanced and beautiful; pick up a few. (Vic Harradine)

• A handful of grape varieties, including Cabernet Franc, have higher amounts of methoxypyrazine, usually referred to as ‘pyrazines’. All those grapes originate in Bordeaux. It’s also said to be present more in cooler climates and lessens its effect with ripening. They can also be somewhat controlled by careful vine management. Pyrazines can produce green bell pepper, aka capsicum, aromas and flavours plus others in the savory spectrum like mint and herbs. High amounts in red wine that are detected by the average wine drinker as green bell pepper are generally considered a flaw while others have come to expect and accept them.

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2013
VQA Niagara Escarpment $19.95 (391995) 14.5% alcohol
Fabulous benchmark, cool-climate Cab Franc with no overt aromas or flavours of green bell pepper here. This is medium-full bodied and smooth as silk on the palate dishing up a well-paced flow of delectable flavour—cassis and dark berry fruit interlaced with mixed spice, pipe tobacco and espresso roast. The balanced finish is garnished with polished tannin and excellent acidity. It showcases very good value, purity of fruit, deft balance and is absolutely delicious. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Marynissen Cabernet Franc 2014
VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula $18.00 (472274) 12.5% alcohol
Smoke, oak and floral notes on the nose, it delivers a tang-laden rush of red and black raspberry, savory herbs and fennel on the palate. It’s mid weight and nicely textured with green-tinged, savory flavours on the finish and aftertaste. Pour with robustly seasoned stew. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
The Magician Shiraz/Pinot Noir 2012

VQA Niagara Peninsula $24.95 (246413) 14.0% alcohol

Aromas of black berry, dried fruit, exotic spice and vanilla with hints of chocolate and cappuccino dominate. This was aged 14 months in French oak—it’s enhanced, concentrated flavours reflect grapes kiln-dried for three weeks. Full bodied and structured, it combines richness of flavour and texture with well-defined tannins, pleasing acidity and lasting finish. Enjoy the plush, ripe, berry fruit and nuances of chocolate-coated dried cherries interlaced with nuances of cracked pepper and spice. Serve with roast lamb. (Susan Desjardins)

California: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Candor ‘Lot 7’ Zinfandel Non-vintage

Lodi $22.95 (133389) 14.5% alcohol

A rare non-vintage table wine, it opens with aromas of spice and savory supporting dark berry fruit and black cherry on the nose of this smooth-as-silk gem. A creamy flow of bramble berry and black currant is juxtaposed with pie cherry and lip-smacking tang on the palate, persisting through the dry, refreshing finish. The price-quality ratio skews in your favour. The ripe, delectable fruit flavour offers recognition to the warm climate of Lodi. Pour alongside veal Marsala. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Gallo Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is one of their 2013 flagship ‘Signature Series’ wines marking both their incredible 80 years (since 1933) of successful winemaking spearheaded by Ernest and Julio, and third-generation winemaker Gina Gallo’s return to the cellar. Fortuitously, the 2013 vintage was outstanding and is reflected by the high quality of the meticulously chosen fruit and the resulting wine.
****1/2 drink or cellar
Gallo ‘Signature Series’ Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Napa Valley $50.95 (394197) 15.0% alcohol

Involved aromas of bramble berry, black licorice, vanilla and mint abound. A luscious, structured, full-bodied wash of black currant, boysenberry jam and espresso roast coat the palate infusing the lengthy aftertaste. There’s deft balance, ripe tannin, persistent purity of fruit, depth and seamless integration of oak—20 months in French and American. Gorgeous now poured with grilled striploin, this will also repay patience by popping corks up to 2025. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
The Prisoner 2014

Napa Valley $49.95 (104299) 15.2% alcohol

This is a rich and succulent Zin blend—Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah – a.k.a. Durif – and Charbono—built in a luscious, take-no-prisoner style. Aromas of black berry, espresso roast and savory spice introduce a fresh, lively and rich river of black currant and red raspberry robed in excellent, mouth-watering acidity and wisps of ripe, fine-grained tannin. It’s medium-plus weight with good texture and lingering aftertaste of dark, ripe fruit and charm. It’s good to go now and pours well with smoked, grilled back ribs mopped in mild, barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink or cellar
Toasted Head ‘Barrel Aged’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
North Coast $19.95 (686824) 14.5% alcohol
Aromas of charred toast, smoke and cherry/berry fruit abound. This uber-sweet Zin is replete with ripe black fruit—black plum compote and bramble berry pie interlaced with kirsch liqueur. It’s medium-full bodied with oodles of texture and a lingering aftertaste of yet more, sweet, ripe fruit. Pour with smoked, grilled back ribs mopped in spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

Argentina: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Chakana Estate ‘Selection’ Malbec 2014
Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza $21.95 (219261) 14.5% alcohol
Hand-harvested fruit was aged 12 months in French oak. This is savory and tang laden boasting aromas of grilled savory herbs, red cherry and dark berry fruit. A medium-bodied flow of racy passion fruit and pie cherry streak over the palate with loads of acidity. It finishes with replays of the bold, red cherry fruit tang, racy and mouth-watering. Pour with pasta in tomato sauce, Swiss steak or spaghetti Bolognese. (Vic Harradine)

Chile: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Viña Tarapacá ‘Gran Reserva’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
DO Maipo Valley $17.95 (18721) 14.0% alcohol
There’s good fruit and fine balance here with roasted savory herbs and forest floor aromas making way for a mid-plus bodied stream of cherry/berry fruit, mixed spice and wisps of mushroom and musky bits on the palate. This is nicely textured with good structure and a lingering finish that’s dominated by mushroom and musky notes. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: White Wine

1. Tyrrell’s are famous for their iconic Vat 1 Semillon that’s found in the ‘Outstanding Category’ of Langton’s Classification of top Australian wine and will easily age for a decade or more.

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Tyrrell’s ‘Lost Block’ Semillon 2015
Hunter Valley $17.95 (933200) 11.0% alcohol
This is fashioned in a very friendly, drink-me-now style. Aromas of piquant citrus and honeysuckle replay as flavours on the palate along with a crisp refreshing river of Key lime and Meyer lemon with wisps of green apple. It’s light-medium bodied and built for easy, early drinking and can be paired with all manner of grilled and skillet-seared seafood. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: Red Wine

• The following Elderton red blend—56% Cabernet Sauvignon/40% Shiraz/4% Merlot—was sourced from low-yielding blocks first planted in… 1964 – Cabernet Sauvignon; 1914 – Shiraz; 1982 – Merlot that spent 24 months in French and American oak before bottling. The LCBO’s price is equal to the cellar-door price you’d pay at the winery in Australia—can’t beat that, and it’s worth it.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Elderton ‘Ode to Lorraine’ 2013
Barossa Valley $39.95 (976423) 14.5% alcohol
This premium red is opaque in the glass with a quiet nose of black licorice, tar and dark berry fruit aromas. A brawny surge of sweet, ripe cherry, spice-laden black currant and cassis entwined with dark bittersweet chocolate muscles its way over the palate, full bodied and creamy smooth. It showcases persistent purity of fruit, deft balance, good depth and a lengthy, juicy aftertaste. Flirting with 5 stars, it was tough to spit. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Shiraz/Cabernet blend hails from the somewhat off-the-beaten-path region of South Australia that produces some stunning wine. Padthaway, along with its neighbour, Coonawarra, are quite small in area, but large in stature and both boast terra rossa soils—stunningly red in colour. Coonawarra was planted and recognized for its wines first with Padthaway gaining its Geographical Indication status in 1999. They’re both a four-hour drive from Adelaide and 4 ½ from Melbourne. There are three big hitters when it comes to grape varieties in Padthaway—Shiraz, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. Two are found in the following from Jip Jip and it’s certainly worth a try.

**** drink or cellar
Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz/Cabernet 2014
Padthaway, South Australia $16.95 (186114) 14.5% alcohol
This crowd-friendly red blend—60% Shiraz/40% Cabernet Sauvignon—was produced from the 5th generation Bryson family’s estate fruit spending 13 months in French and American oak before bottling. Aromas and flavours of peppery spice, dark berry fruit and excellent tang abound. A rich luscious wave of bramble berry, black Bing cherry and baking spice show great balance, depth and satin-smooth texture on the palate and lingering, lip-smacking finish and aftertaste. Very good value here. (Vic Harradine)

New Zealand: White Wine

**** drink now
Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Marlborough, South Island $19.95 (686675) 13.0% alcohol
Wood smoke, grassy notes and gooseberry aromas usher in a tang-infused, creamy smooth wash of passion fruit and citrus streaking over the palate with great élan, nerve and verve. Lemon-lime and racy white grapefruit dominate the lip-smacking finish and aftertaste. Pour with freshly shucked oysters dotted with hot sauce and a squirt of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

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

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

This 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)

New Zealand: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2014

Marlborough $19.95 (590414) 14.0% alcohol

Reflecting a warm vintage and gently aged six months in French oak, this transparent ruby wine whispers a floral note, hints at earthy beet and delights with aromas of cherry and berry. The ripe savory fruit offers depth and character, the gentle tannins and fine acidity deliver a refined structure, while the well-integrated oak finds expression in notes of sweet baking spice and light toast. Finishing with the warmth of a dash of white pepper, this consistently well-made wine is a real crowd pleaser. (Susan Desjardins)

South Africa: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Rustenberg Stellenbosch Shiraz 2013
WO Stellenbosch $19.95 (399246) 14.0% alcohol
Wood smoke and tarry aromas set the stage for an über-ripe gusher of peppery spice, dark berry fruit, tarry bits and excellent tang rolling over the palate in waves, medium-full bodied and silky smooth. The manually harvested fruit spent 16 months in French oak barriques—all of which has been fully integrated. The lengthy finish and aftertaste reveals wisps of tannin, easily ameliorated with a three-hour aeration/decant. (Vic Harradine)

France White Wine

***1/2 drink or cellar
André Blanck & Fils ‘Altenburg’ Gewürztraminer 2015
AOC Alsace $19.95 (168906) 13.5% alcohol
Rosewater, exotic spice and pineapple aromas herald a nicely balanced stream of ripe tropical fruit, sweet white peach and lychee nut. It’s light on its feet with a fairly brief finish and aftertaste. Sip on its own or with lighter-styled appetizers. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Mallory & Benjamin Talmard Mâcon-Uchizy 2015
AOC Mâcon-Uchizy $17.95 (733956) 13.0% alcohol
Tropical fruit, mixed spice and mineral notes on the nose provide segue for a medium-bodied, mouth-watering wash of pit and orchard fruit—peach, yellow plum, apple and pear—interwoven with spice and racy, citrus tang. It’s nicely balanced throughout with good mouthfeel and a penchant for pouring well with poached, grilled or pan-seared seafood under a squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Jean-Max Roger ‘Cuvée Les Caillottes’ Sancerre 2015
AOC Sancerre $26.95 (65573) 13.0% alcohol
This, from one of Sancerre’s premium producers, never fails to impress with persistent purity of fruit, fully textured mouthfeel and great élan. Flinty/mineral notes mingle with smoke and apple aromas on the nose of this medium-weight, balanced, crisp and refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. It unleashes a textured—it spent 6 to 8 months on heavy lees—tangy, palate-searing river of citrus, minerality, gooseberry and passion fruit flavours softened by ripe green apple. The aftertaste is mouth-watering and lip-smacking good. Pour with all manner of seafood or lemon chicken. (Vic Harradine)

France: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Chateau de Gourgazaud ‘Réserve’ 2013
AOC Minervois La Livinière $17.95 (986083) 13.5% alcohol
This crowd-pleasing, easy-drinking, estate-grown, Syrah/Mourvèdre blend was aged 12 months in new oak. Local savory herb aromas join berry and cherry fruit on the nose of this silky-smooth gem. A ripe, luscious, medium-full bodied flow of bramble berry and kirsch liqueur is balanced beautifully with lip-smacking tang on the palate and lengthy aftertaste. Give it a three-hour decant before serving with grilled steak. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Château Saint-Roch Chimères 2014

AOC Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, Midi $19.95 (119354) 15.0% alcohol

Cedar, cigar smoke and tapenade aromas dominate the nose of this tasty GSM blend—60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre. It spreads over the palate with a broad swath of flavour—black currant and dark juicy Bing cherry robed in fennel, wisps of espresso roast and earthy notes crowned with a dollop of good acidity. It’s medium-plus bodied with good texture and a bit of a tangy bite on the finish. Good to go now with grilled red meats and hearty stews in fall and winter. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Château de Nages ‘Vieilles Vignes’ Costières de Nîmes 2013
AOC Costières de Nîmes $19.95 (40964) 15.0% alcohol
Lively, fresh aromas of piquant spice and red berry fruit precede a smooth, silky wash of bramble berry, cassis and sweet kirsch liqueur enhanced by a generous helping of mixed spice and a boatload of charm. This is medium-plus weight with good texture and lingering dry, mouth-watering aftertaste. There’s a lick of tannin here that’s easily handled with a three-hour aeration/decant. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: White Wine

**** drink or cellar
St. Pauls Chardonnay 2014
DOC Südtirol/Alto Adige $18.95 (455170) 13.0% alcohol
Peach, apricot and orange zest aromas introduce a nicely textured, well-balanced and slightly off-dry mouthful of Granny Smith apple, lemon yoghurt and lime cordial. It’s medium bodied and full flavoured with a tangy, crisp and refreshing finish. Pour alongside grilled calamari under a squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
San Raffaele ‘Monte Tabor’ Pinot Grigio 2015

IGT Veronese $13.95 (204768) 12.0% alcohol
Now certified organic, the Fasoli family have been farming this hand-picked, low-yielding fruit organically for over 25 years. Aromas of honeydew melon, nectarine and vanilla bean transform into a creamy-smooth, well-textured stream of mandarin orange, lemon yoghurt and racy white grapefruit on the palate and infuse the crisp, refreshing aftertaste. Exceptional value here, pick up a handful. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Lornano Chianti Classico 2011
DOCG Chianti Classico $17.95 (211599) 14.0% alcohol
Grilled savory herbs, charred toast and dark berry fruit aromas herald a medium-weight, nicely textured flow of ripe, luscious cherry/berry flavour mingling with savory herbs and excellent tang and acidity throughout. This is a drink-me-now-red with lots to offer—structure, rich flavour and great balance. Pours particularly well alongside pasta in tomato sauce or pasta puttanesca. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 cellar
Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello Di Montalcino 2010

DOCG Brunello Di Montalcino $53.95 (928028) 14.5% alcohol

The highly-rated 2010 vintage is on display here. A splendid nose of cedar, black plum and tobacco precede a delightful wash of dried berry fruit, wisps of iodine and mineral tones along with excellent tang. It’s a medium-bodied, satin-smooth beauty showcasing depth, complexity and deft balance throughout. It finishes dry and mouth-watering with good tension. A drinking window of 2018 to 2025 is forecasted. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 cellar
Rocca Di Castagnoli Chianti Classico 2013

DOCG Chianti Classico $19.95 (222810) 13.5% alcohol

Savory herbs, baking spice and cherry/berry fruit aromas unleash a racy streak of sour cherry and red currant framed by riveting acidity and underpinned by a taut, tannin underpinning. A red blend of indigenous grapes—90% Sangiovese, 5% Canaiola, 5% Colorino—it finishes with replays on the lip-smacking aftertaste. Pour 2018 to 2023 with pasta in tomato sauce or lasagna. (Vic Harradine)

***** drink or cellar
I Castei Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2012
DOCG Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico $44.95 (739979) 15.5% alcohol
Fabulous aromas of grilled herb, tar, black licorice and dark berry fruit. A generous, rich and luscious river of cassis, kirsch liqueur, bramble berry compote and tarry notes coat the palate with gusto. The lengthy finish layers on ripe fig and plum jam notes. It’s full bodied, full textured and structured with depth and focus from cork pop to final drop. Drink now to 2025. (Vic Harradine)

• The late, great, Giuseppe Quintarelli, doyen of the Veneto, was a perfectionist in all his ways for over six decades; he crafted some of the world’s finest, most sought-after wines. His family carries on using his patient, perfectionist manner.

***** drink or cellar
Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2008
DOC Valpolicella Classico Superiore $104.95 (986117) 15.0% alcohol
An alluring nose of espresso roast, baking spice, black licorice and tar ushers in a rich mouth-filling tsunami wave of dark, Bing cherry, sweet, ripe berry fruit, with notions of Christmas cake spice and kirsch liqueur. There’s great depth and complexity, persistent purity of fruit with a balanced and bountiful finish and aftertaste. One of the wine-world’s treasures. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Tomassi Amarone is in a 375 mL bottle and will improve with age over the short-medium term. Half-bottles are not preferred for long-term cellaring as the ratio of air in the ullage space compared to the volume of wine is higher. Magnums are much preferred. One should assume wine-critic cellaring recommendations are made on 750 mL bottles unless otherwise stated.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Tomassi Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2012
DOCG Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico $26.95 375 mL (980128) 15.0% alcohol
Dark coffee, campfire smoke and black plum compote aromas make way for a sweet-tinged flow of mixed field berry fruit and bright red cherry flavour interlaced with baking spice, fig and roasted herbs. This is medium-full bodied and textured with good weight, structure and balance and a lingering aftertaste that’s tasty, lip-smacking good. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Valpantena ‘Torre Del Falasco’ Ripasso Valpolicella 2014
DOC Ripasso Valpolicella $17.95 (642421) 13.5% alcohol
Underbrush, roasted herbs and pipe tobacco billow from this well-paced Ripasso. It bathes the palate with a medium-bodied, rich, balanced wash of black berry and Bing cherry adorned with dark coffee and spice cake. This is smooth and silky on the palate with a lingering finish and firm structure. Let this breathe via a two or three hour aeration/decant before serving. (Vic Harradine)

Portugal: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Quinta de la Rosa ‘Dourosa’ 2014
DOC Douro $16.95 (146233) 14.0% alcohol
This is the second label of Quinta de la Rosa and was fashioned from traditional Port varieties—50% Touriga Franca, 35% Touriga Nacional, 5% Tinta Roriz—along with 10% ‘assorted others’ that were fermented in stainless steel. It’s rich and full of fruit—dark bramble berry and red currant—mingling with wisps of earthy notes and mixed spice. It’s quite good now and improves with a two-hour aeration/decant and when poured with burgers, gourmet sausage or meat-laden pizza. (Vic Harradine)

Upstream in winecurrent

Vintages Release: November 26, 2016

• Fruit for the following wine hails from not only hand-picked fruit, but also hand-planted vines in the oldest plots the Speck boys worked on way back in 1988—when the term ‘boys’ closely reflected their age—making these low-yielding vines quite special for them and for their wine. Those Speck ‘boys’ have built a highly respected, value-for-money brand at every price level.

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham ‘Speck Family Reserve’ Cabernet-Merlot 2010
VQA Short Hills Bench $39.95 (616433) $39.95 13.5% alcohol
Deep, rich aromas of Ribena, black licorice and plum pudding set the table for a smorgasbord of flavour with ripe, sweet mulberry jam, spice-infused dark chocolate-drenched black Bing cherry and earthy notes. It’s mid-weight with good mouthfeel and a dry, mid-length finish. Drink up over the next couple of years. (Vic Harradine)

New in Vintages Essentials

• These two Vintages Essentials wines are always available in select stores.

***** drink now Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula (430561) $49.95 375 mL 9.5% alcohol
Honeyed apple and whiffs of spicy ginger fly from the glass of this unctuous icewine. It coats the palate with a fully textured wave of baked apple, poached pear and grilled pineapple before unleashing moderating lemon acidity on the lingering finish and aftertaste. It’s dessert in a glass, serve well-chilled, sit back and prepare to be dazzled… absolutely divine. (Vic Harradine)

• The following wine is from Wakefield, one of 12 family-owned ‘Australia’s First Families of Wine’ producing wine with sense of place. Respecting a previous trademark, they’re known as Wakefield in Canada and the U.S., but in Australia as Taylors, where they’re owned and managed by the Taylor family.  

****1/2 drink now
Wakefield Shiraz 2014
Clare Valley, Australia $18.95 (943787) 14.0% alcohol
Dark berry fruit, eucalyptus and roasted herbs, set the table for a cornucopia of flavour with soft pie cherry and black bramble berry garnished with baking spice, milk chocolate and moderating acidity to the fore. From cooler-climate Clare, this is full value for money with balanced, persistent purity of fruit and more than its fair share of charm. (Vic Harradine)

New in LCBO Portfolio

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Montes ‘Twins’ White Blend’ 2015
DO Aconcagua Coast, Chile $11.95 (440156) 13.0% alcohol
This easy-drinking blend of Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay/Viognier leaps from the glass with heady, perfumed aromas of savory herbs and spice. Creamy smooth and chockful of flavour, you’ll be dazzled by the gorgeous array of tropical fruit—grilled pineapple, lemon curd, ripe honeydew melon and wisps of tangy lime. The finish is crisp, refreshing and mouth-watering. Sip on its own or with pan-seared seafood or lightly spiced Asian cuisine. The price-quality balance tips well in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Argento Malbec 2015
Mendoza, Argentina $9.95 (591693) 13.5% alcohol
This is value-packed, fruity and well balanced. Don’t hesitate to pick some up, Black plum and spice aromas lead to a crowd-friendly, medium-weight, nicely textured wash of ripe red cherry and boysenberry preserve bathing the palate and replaying on the balanced finish an aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Argento ‘Reserva’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Mendoza, Argentina $13.95 (164764) 14.0% alcohol
This spent nine months in oak, but you wouldn’t know it. It’s smooth and mellow from cork pop to last drop. Dark berry fruit and charred toast on the nose, it bathes the palate with a spice-laden river of black currant and cassis garnished with a sprig of mint and excellent tang, The finish is lengthy and lip-smacking good. Pour with all manner of grilled or roasted meat. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham Chardonnay 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula (291211) $14.95 13.0% alcohol
Fruit was sourced from a variety of estate vineyards, barrel fermented in 90% French oak then barrel-aged for eight months before bottling. Lovely aromas of caramel apple, baking spice and orchard fruit waft from this medium-plus bodied nicely textured beauty. It bathes the palate with a gentle stream of baked apple and ripe pear decorated with baking spice and excellent citrus acidity. It finishes up smooth and mellow, balanced and beautiful and the price-quality ratio skews well in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

New in Ontario Wineries

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham Vidal Icewine 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula (897470) $24.95 200 mL 9.5% alcohol
Alluring aromas of apricot preserve, honey-drizzled pear and baking spice dominate the nose. It delivers full-bodied, full-fruited peel marmalade, baked apple and grilled pineapple flavour persisting through the balanced and beautiful finish and aftertaste garnished with mango and treacle. This easily serves as dessert and also pours well alongside fruit flan or blue-veined cheese and water crackers. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Redstone ‘Limestone Vineyard – South’ Riesling 2013
VQA Twenty Mile Bench $19.20 (381251) 10.0% alcohol
This was organic/biodynamic-farmed and sourced from hand-picked, 14-year-old vines. Gunflint, wisps of petrol and piquant spice precede a tang-laden, barely off-dry river of lime cordial, lemon curd and apple skin streaking across the palate with great élan. It’s medium bodied with laser-like focus and persistent purity of fruit throughout. It finishes dry and drenched with white grapefruit and notions of chalky minerality. Pour with prawn or scallop ceviche. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 cellar Oh Canada!
Redstone ‘Redstone Vineyard’ Merlot 2012
VQA Lincoln Lakeshore $39.95 $14.0% alcohol
Black plum, pipe tobacco and mixed spice aromas provide segue to a tangy full-bodied, fully textured wave of dark cherry/berry fruit, black plum and dark bittersweet chocolate. It coats the palate with gusto, firm structure and a solid tannin underpinning. The finish lingers with good balance of ripe fruit and acidity. Pour 2018 to 2022; it’ll repay patience and careful cellaring. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Tawse Winery ‘Growers Blend’ Cabernet Franc 2013
VQA Niagara Peninsula $27.95 (284570) 13.5% alcohol
Dark plum and black berry fruit aromas reveal a spice-laden, palate-enveloping river of racy red currant and passionfruit interlaced with dark toast and notions of espresso roast. It’s medium-plus weight with good texture and a lengthy finish replete with excellent acidity, good structure and wisps of ripe tannin. Aerate/decant this organic/biodynamic-farmed Cab Franc for three hours before serving. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Tawse Winery ‘Van Bers Vineyard’ Cabernet Franc 2012
VQA Creek Shores $49.95 13.0% alcohol
Alluring aromas of sandalwood, exotic spice and bramble berry abound. A full-bodied, full-fruited wall of spice-infused black currant and dark cherry coat the palate entwined with balsamic and black plum compote. This creamy smooth flow replays on the drying finish and aftertaste robed in great structure, underpinned by still-evolving tannin and robed in mouth-watering acidity. Aerate/decant for three/four hours and pour with grilled beef tenderloin or pop corks 2017-2024— it should improve with age. (Vic Harradine)

New in Private Order

• Order any of the following six wines by the case for home, restaurant or office delivery in Ontario from VinoLuna wine agency. Contact by website, VinoLuna, by Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , or in the GTA phone 416 587-6691.

**** drink now
Fattoria La Torre ‘La Villa’ Chianti Colle Senesi 2015
DOCG Chianti Colle Senesi, Italy $14.20 13.0% alcohol
Situated near San Gimignano, this value-packed red blend is 90% Sangiovese/10% Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s medium weight with very good mouthfeel, deft balance and raciness. A delightfully juicy wash of ripe red currant and pie cherry streaks across the palate with hints of sweet red raspberry. It finishes dry and in a blaze of mouth-watering tang. Pour with pasta arrabiata or spaghetti Bolognese. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Fattoria La Torre ‘Guinzano’ Rosso 2013
IGT San Gimignano, Italy $16.75 14.0% alcohol
This 70% Sangiovese/15% Cabernet Sauvignon/10% Merlot blend matured 12 months in French oak barrique and a further 12 months in bottle. It bolts from the glass with heady aromas of red berry fruit, savory herbs and red cherry. This is medium-plus bodied with a juicy river of palate-bathing flavour—black Bing cherry dipped in dark chocolate interwoven with cassis, mixed spice and oodles of charm. The finish lingers, balanced and structured with grace and excellent tang. Well paced, well priced and well… delicious. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Fattoria La Torre Sangiovese 2015
IGT Toscana, Italy $14.20 13.0% alcohol
This 100% Sangiovese spent a brief three months in French oak barrique followed by three months in bottle before release—the price-quality balance tips well in your favour. Aromas of roasted herbs and mocha precede a ripe sweet flow of red and dark berry fruit garnished with charred toast and espresso roast bathing the palate infusing the lingering, balanced and beautiful aftertaste. This is medium bodied and nicely textured with oodles of fruit and glorious tang. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
CarlindePaolo ‘CVRSVS Vitae’ 2015
DOCG Barbera d’Asti, Italy $14.75 13.5% alcohol
A value-laden and 100% Barbera from vines 25 to 40 years old; it saw no oak. It’s ripe and juicy on the palate with a creamy smooth flow of red raspberry and strawberry melding perfectly with wisps of spice and hints of red cherry on the palate and aftertaste. Mid weight and nicely balanced this is a crowd-friendly red with many options at the table—pasta in tomato sauce, grilled gourmet burgers, charcuterie or red pizza. (Vic Harradine

• The following white wine is from the Ponte family—4th generation vignerons—and their 100% Arneis grapes from the tiny DOC of Terre Afieri. They’re just south of the town of Asti in the northern Italian Piemonte region.

****1/2 drink now
CarlindePaolo Arneis 2015
DOC Terre Afieri, Italy $19.90 13.0% alcohol
Alluring aromas of honeycomb and tropical fruit herald a medium-weight, nicely textured wash of palate-bathing flavour with lime cordial, grilled pineapple and lemon pie filling to the fore. It’s lively and juicy with a solid line of excellent tang and a dry, crisp and refreshing finished decorated with apple skin and a lovely lip-smacking finish. Pour with roast chicken, pork or seafood. Terrific value here and not something you see every day. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
CarlindePaolo Piemonte Rosso 2015
DOC Piemonte, Italy $14.55 12.5% alcohol
A subtle red cherry and dark berry nose introduces this gorgeous, low-alcohol, red blend—Barbera/Dolcetto/Bonarda—from vines ranging from 20 to 30 years of age. It envelops the palate with a dazzling array of flavour and charm—ripe red cherry and cassis enhanced by red currant, piquant spice and earthy notes. This is balanced on a pin with good focus, balance and a lengthy, dry and mouth-watering aftertaste. Hard to pass this by given the flavour and price-quality balance that’s well in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

• Order any of the following four wines by the case for home, restaurant or office delivery in Ontario from Nokhrin Wines or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , if in the GTA, phone 416 704-8617.

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Barramundi Chardonnay 2016

Wine of Australia $11.95 13.5% alcohol
Peach, pineapple and yellow plum aromas open this ready-to-drink, crowd-friendly Chardonnay. It’s good weight and silky smooth with a gorgeous river of sweet, ripe tropical fruit bathing the palate with more of the same on the delectable finish. The price is certainly exceptional. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Barramundi Chardonnay/Viognier 2016

Wine of Australia $11.95 13.5% alcohol
Aromas of apple, pit fruit and wisps of honey introduce a delicious mouthful of summer in a glass—ripe nectarine, honeydew melon and lemon yoghurt galore. It’s medium bodied with creamy smooth mouthfeel and a balanced and beautiful aftertaste. You’ll be hard pressed to find better value than this—don’t hesitate to pick some up. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Barramundi Shiraz 2016

Wine of Australia $11.95 14.0% alcohol
Wisps of piquant spice and dark berry fruit aromas waft from this nicely weighted, full-fruited Aussie Shiraz. A gorgeous flow of bramble berry preserve and racy red currant spills from the bottle robed in soft, ripe tannin and soft acidity. This sips extremely well on its own or with grilled burgers, steak or kebabs. Where else can you find Aussie Shiraz with this profile at this price? (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Barramundi Shiraz/Petit Verdot 2016

Wine of Australia $11.95 14.0% alcohol
Are you comfortable around charming people with an interesting edge? This is for you. Rich aromas of dark berry fruit and spice hustle from the glass before dazzling the palate and senses with an energetic stream of black plum, boysenberry jam and hints of licorice coating the palate with peppery spice and oodles of charm. Good to go now on its own or pour with grilled gourmet sausage or steak. (Vic Harradine)

Cheers, Vic