November 19, 2016 Newsletter

California Wine FairThe 2017 California Wine Fair Announces its Tour Schedule....  

It often sells out, but it never disappoints those who attend. Tickets are slated to go on sale via their website on February 1, 2017. Call their Hotline (905) 336-8932 or 1-800-558-CORK (2675) with questions.

In its 38th year, Canada’s largest Wine Fair tour showcases some of the finest wines from the vineyards of the Golden State. There will be trade tastings and consumer tastings in each city.  


  • Quebec City, PQ: Tuesday, March 28
  • Montreal, PQ: Thursday, March 30
  • Ottawa, ON: Friday, March 31
  • Toronto, ON: Monday, April 3
  • Halifax, NS: Wednesday, April 5
  • Vancouver, BC: Monday, April 24
  • Calgary, AB: Tuesday, April 25

Newsletter highlights include:

  • Exceptional-value wine Exceptional Value! – 12 of 52 wines meet the strict quality-price guidelines. They’re easily found via the exceptional-value checkmark above—priced from $8.95 to $35.00—with 10 found after the Main Release. What strict quality-price guidelines? Click here
  • 5-star Wine – only three rang the 5-star bell. 2027 Cellars ‘Queenston Road’ Pinot Noir 2012 @ $35.00 found under Ontario: Red Wine; Monte Del Fra ‘Lena Di Mezzo’ Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2013 @ $21.95 found under Italy: Red Wine and Jean-Nöel Haton Champagne Extra Brut 2005 @ $66.60 found under New in Private Order.
  • Vic Picks – 2027 Cellars ‘Aberdeen Road Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2013 earning 4 ½ stars @ $30.95 found under Ontario: White Wine; Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 earning 4 stars @ $25.95 found under California: Red Wine; Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2015 earning 4 ½ stars @ $19.95 found under New Zealand: White Wine and Bodegas Ateca ‘Honora Vera’ Garnacha 2015 earning 4 stars @ $12.80 found under New in LCBO Portfolio after the Main Release.

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.

• winecurrent was unable to attend the November tasting, but still have reviews from a total of 52 wines that have been tasted and reviewed previously—22 from this release—and all follow.

November 26, 2016 Vintages Release

The Main Release

Dessert Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Cave Spring ‘Indian Summer’ Select Late Harvest Riesling 2013

VQA Niagara Peninsula $24.95 (415901) 375 mL 12.5% alcohol

A true treasure; if you haven’t given this a try, I encourage you strongly. Not icewine, but grapes from the VQA sub-appellation of Lincoln Lakeshore handpicked and pressed while partially frozen. It pours well with pan-seared spiced pâté, aged hard cheese, foie gras or fruit flan. Perfumed aromas of apricot, herbs and spice, honeyed pit fruit and lemony citrus herald a delightful flow of poached pear, peel marmalade and lemon-pie filling with a balancing, tangy line of racy citrus keeping it far from cloying on the finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

Sparkling Wine

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

New Zealand $21.95 (280172) 12.0% alcohol

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

**** drink now
Graham Beck Brut Non-vintage 

WO Western Cape $19.95 (593483) 12.0% alcohol 

A blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, 30% of the wine for this sparkler was fermented in barrel, the blended wine undergoing 24 months of secondary fermentation in bottle. A charming pale-peach hue, the aromas of brioche, citrus, orchard fruit and spice drift from the glass. Dry, medium bodied, the mousse is mouth filling and creamy, the texture vibrant and the citrus and green apple flavours crisp. Finely crafted and lively, it sports good value. (Susan Desjardins)

**** drink or cellar
Domaine de Vaugondy ‘Brut’ Vouvray Non-Vintage 

AOC Vouvray $17.95 (154567) 12.5% alcohol 

A deep golden tone, this sparkling Chenin Blanc offers leesy, yeasty notes paired with ripe orchard fruit. Dry and crisp in texture, the abundant fine mousse highlights the flavours of citrus, pear and apple, delivering a zesty tang right through a lengthy, dry finish. Sip or serve with light appetizers. (Susan Desjardins)

Ontario: White Wine

• The following winery—2027 Cellars—is one of a handful of Niagara’s virtual wineries. Kevin Panagapka is owner and winemaker. Kevin’s father, Don, is a Wine Judge of Canada and a master home winemaker. Apples don’t fall too far from the tree and Kevin began his wine career as a youngster—a ‘cellar hand’ for his dad at bottling time in the basement of their family home; he’s been around wine most of his life, worked a vintage at Esk Valley Wines in New Zealand and completed the Viticulture and Oenology program at Niagara College—it all shows up in the fabulous wine he’s now producing. His focus is on Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Riesling as he feels these are well suited—a good opportunity to ripen each year—to the macro-climate of the larger region and he sources fruit from carefully chosen, specific sites which he determines are optimum for each. Kevin purchases fruit from specific rows in premium vineyards and fully manages the viticulture aspects such as grape yield, leaf pulling and overall health of the vines. He bottles single-varietal table wines, most wild-yeast fermented and unfiltered, and also makes Vintage and Non-Vintage, traditional-method sparkling wine from a Pinot Noir/Chardonnay blend. His wines are stunning. They reach heights that place them amongst the best Canada produces. There are always limited quantities in the LCBO—act quickly and pick up a few, they don’t last long.

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada! 
2027 Cellars ‘Aberdeen Road Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2013 

VQA Beamsville Bench $30.95 (421362) 12.8% alcohol 

Spice box, Key lime and persimmon aromas herald a mid-weight splendidly textured, medium-weight mouthful of tangy lemon-lime yoghurt, poached pear and spice-laden peach skin. This is crowd-friendly and delicious with all moving parts in synch—excellent tang balanced with ripe fruit, firm structure juxtaposed with soft creamy texture, striking individual aromas and flavours tempered with a lingering, pleasing finish and aftertaste. It’s like meeting up and spending time with an old friend. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: Red Wine

***** drink or cellar Oh Canada! Exceptional Value!
2027 Cellars ‘Queenston Road’ Pinot Noir 2012

VQA St. David’s Bench $35.00 (421370) 13.0% alcohol 

Here’s a fabulous Pinot with great purity of fruit, complexity, balance and delectable flavour. Funky aromas of earthiness, savory bits, spice and dark toast are pried from the subdued nose. Palate-coating flavours of juicy, tangy sour cherry and spice-infused black berry interweave with notions of anise and cocoa. It finishes with a balanced, complex replay of palate flavours garnished with ripe, supple tannin and charm—it was tough to spit. Good to go now and on to the early 2020s. (Vic Harradine)

• 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)

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada! 
Stratus Red 2012

VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake $44.95 (131037) 13.8% alcohol

The doyen in blending wine in this neighbourhood, J.L. Groulx of Stratus, fashioned yet another masterpiece—kudos! This red blend—29% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 26% Cabernet Franc, 13% Petit Verdot, 3% Tannat, 3% Malbec—wafts from the glass with aromas of charred toast, dark juicy berry fruit and baking spice. It coats the palate with a stylish, smooth-as-silk river of bramble berry, sweet ripe mulberry and wisps of mocha. It’s full bodied and structured with a long finish that’s lip-smacking good—a stunning wine that’s good to go now after a two-hour aeration/decant. (Vic Harradine)

California: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

California $25.95 (291666) 13.8% alcohol

Cedar, lilac, mocha and vanilla aromas abound. It coats the palate with a concentrated flow of red and black cherry entwined with sweet milk chocolate persisting through the finish. It’s full bodied, creamy smooth and fruit laden. No fruit bomb, though, as there’s good moderating acidity and fine-grained supple tannin for structure. Pour with smoked grilled back ribs mopped with spicy barbeque sauce. (Vic Harradine)

Washington State: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Columbia Crest ‘H3 Les Chevaux’ Red Blend 2012 

Horse Heaven Hills, Washington State $19.95 (287425) 14.5% alcohol

Principally Syrah, blended with Merlot and small amounts of other grape varieties, this shows complexity on the nose—floral notes, plum, blueberry and blackberry, notes of licorice, exotic spice and lavender. Dry and full bodied, the ripe tannins and a fine degree of fresh acidity frame flavours of brambleberry pie, cocoa and smoky toast. The texture is plush yet spicy and peppery through the warm, dry finish. Tremendous balance of rich fruit and well-defined structure makes this a good value for the cellar and a great match for herbed lamb chops. (Susan Desjardins)

Argentina: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Terrazas de los Andes ‘Reserva’ Malbec 2013

Mendoza $19.95 (29218) 14.5% alcohol

Purple with flecks of violet, this opaque, full-bodied Malbec has enticing floral notes spilling from the glass, exotic spice, dark fruit and a subtle earthy quality. Subtly framed, velvety and potent, there’s a core of plush black fruit and spicy replays along with hints of licorice, pepper and toasted oak. Full bodied, long and dry on the finish, it’s a great match now for grilled meats, but has potential for aging—this offers very good value. (Susan Desjardins)

Chile: White Wine

****1/2 drink now
Toro de Piedra ‘Grand Reserve’ Chardonnay 2014

DO Maule Valley $19.95 (417493) 14.9% alcohol

One of the oldest and largest Chilean wine regions, Maule Valley has gained a lot of press recently for full-bore reds—this Chardonnay is no slouch, either, in fact it’s first-class. There are heady tropical fruit aromas and it’s smooth as silk on the palate with robust layers of pineapple, mango and almonds. This is full bodied and rounded with a pinch of sweet spice on the finish. (Julie Stock)

Australia: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Wynns ‘Coonawarra Estate’ Shiraz 2012  

Coonawarra, South Australia $22.95 (433060) 13.5% alcohol 

You’ll find this wine in the vaunted Langton’s Classification in the ‘Excellent’ category—only Australia’s top drops make their way there. Rich and robust from the get go, it opens with heady aromas of dark berry fruit, black pepper and dark berry fruit. Intense and beautifully structured, palate-coating flavours of richly concentrated dark cherry, mint and ripe mulberry interlace with kirsch liqueur and wisps of minerality. It’s medium-full bodied with creamy-smooth mouthfeel and a balanced, lingering finish—an affordable luxury. (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, calamari rings or steamed mussels. High quality + low price = very good value. (Vic Harradine)

France: White Wine

**** drink now
Domaine du Colombier Chablis 2014

AOC Chablis $23.95 (366419) 12.5% alcohol

This was vinified and aged in stainless steel tank—the traditional manner—and saw no oak. Pineapple, honeydew melon, lemon butter, flinty minerality and a hint of smoke entice the nose. The palate is mineral-laden with lemon rind, and white grapefruit offering a balanced wine with zesty acidity and a long saline finish encouraging another sip. Pair with fresh-water fish sprinkled with Fleur de sel or escargot á la Bourguignonne. (Lisa Isabelle)

France: Red Wine

• The following Bordeaux red blend—50% Merlot/45% Cabernet Sauvignon/5% Petit Verdot—was de-stemmed and cold soaked two or three days before fermentation, left on skins two to three weeks and aged in new oak barrel 12 to 18 months. There’s always some risk, but at this price it’s a low-risk option for tucking away until 2019 before popping corks and being handsomely rewarded for your time.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Château de Panigon 2010

AOC Médoc, Cru Bourgeois $19.95 (348250) 14.0% alcohol

Exotic spice, cedar and mixed field berry fruit aromas herald a medium-full bodied rush of red and black currant with juicy black cherry, baking spice and racy tang coating the palate infusing the lingering aftertaste of this cellar dweller. All these flavours remain in the firm grip of still-evolving tannin and the effect of a healthy dollop of new oak. Cellar until 2019 to reap the rewards of patience. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: Red Wine

****1/2 drink now
San Felice Chianti Classico 2013

DOCG Chianti Classico $19.95 (282996) 13.0% alcohol

A highly aromatic nose of dark cherry/berry fruit, sandalwood and floral notes wafts easily from this mid-weight, deftly balanced beauty. A river of pie cherry and ripe juicy mulberry flavour mingles with a solid line of racy acidity on the palate and through the lingering, lip-smacking-good aftertaste. The price-quality balance tips well in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

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

DOC Valpolicella Ripasso $21.95 (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)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Tommasi ‘Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico’ 2012

DOCG Valpolicella Classico $49.95 (356220) 15.0% alcohol

Dried raisins and wisps of figs on the nose, this shifts into high gear with a gorgeous river of deep, rich fruit flavour—black plum compote and black cherry—and hints of Ribena coating the palate infusing the lingering finish. It was crafted from hand-harvested Corvina/Corvinone/ Rondinella/Oseleta and aged in Slovenian oak barrel. It’s full bodied and well balanced with firm structure and good bones. Drink now, after a two-hour aeration/decant, and on to 2023. (Vic Harradine)

Portugal: White Wine

**** drink now
Quinta de Curvos ‘Affectus’ Alvarinho 2015
Vinho Regional Minho, Portugal $17.95 (471276) 13.0% alcohol
Perfumed aromas spring from the glass with floral and soft citrus notes. It streaks across the palate mid weight and nicely textured with laser-like focus on a linear line of Key lime and white grapefruit tang joined by mineral notes on the crisp, refreshing finish. This is poured well alongside freshly shucked oysters under a squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

Spain Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Bodegas Balbas ‘Reserva’ 2005

DO Ribera del Duero $22.95 (85183) 14.0% alcohol

Dark cherry/berry fruit and campfire smoke precede a smooth, mellow, balanced and beautiful expression of a +10-year-old Tempranillo Reserva from Spain that can age another 5 years. A lively, persistent flow of cherry/berry fruit and great acidity bathe the palate balanced-on-a-pin with grace and charm. Great value given the age, provenance and delectable flavours. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Baron De Ley ‘Reserva’ 2010

DOCa Rioja $21.95 (958868) 13.5% alcohol

Smoke, oak and toast aromas dominate the nose of this Tempranillo Reserva. It spent 20 months in casks of new American oak. This wraps around the palate with a creamy smooth stream of black currant and ripe mulberry garnished with coconut, savory herbs and dark coffee—medium bodied and balanced with texture and charm. The price-quality ratio skews well in your favour. Aerate/decant a couple of hours before serving; it also wouldn’t hurt to wait until 2018… your call. (Vic Harradine)

Upstream in winecurrent

December 10th, 2016 Vintage Release

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Château des Charmes ‘Estate Bottled’ Cabernet-Merlot 2012

VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake $21.95 (222372) 13.0% alcohol 

The price-quality ratio in this balanced, structured, delectable gem skews well in your favour. Dark berry fruit, cedar and mocha aromas portend a gorgeous river of cassis, juicy black cherry and bittersweet chocolate cascading over the palate with firm weight and creamy-smooth texture. It finishes dry, fruity and lip-smacking good—it took willpower to spit. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Wakefield Chardonnay 2015
Clare Valley $15.95 (711556) 13.6% alcohol
This is a great match for holiday turkey and the price-quality balance is outstanding at any time. It’s fresh and lively in the mouth with medium body and excellent texture. This is light-yellow in colour with a slight green tinge followed by deftly balanced aromas of oak, vanilla, butter, and tropical fruit. Clean, crisp apple flavours shine through a persistent foundation of acidity. (Dave Isaacs)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Clare Valley $18.95 (744235) 13.9% alcohol
This is a rich, almost opaque, dark-red coloured Cab with aromas of earthiness, dry leaves, smoky oak and eucalyptus. It’s full bodied with medium tannins and flavours of jam and mint. There’s also a base of red cherry flavour lingering in the finish. It's drinking well now—as the perfect red for your holiday dinner after a three-hour decant—but a couple more years in the cellar won't hurt. This is excellent value. (Dave Isaacs)

New in Vintages

**** drink or cellar
Wakefield ‘Jaraman’ Shiraz 2014
South Australia $24.95 (377036) 14.5% alcohol
This is very dark plum in colour with strong aromas of earthy dried mushroom and black pepper. It’s full-bodied with lots of strawberry and vanilla flavours. A great balance of acidity and well-integrated tannins complete the package to make this a wonderful, crowd-pleasing Shiraz. Try with grilled gourmet sausage, steak or with this Marcella Hazan recipe. (Dave Isaacs)

New in LCBO Portfolio

• Louis Bernard is already a trusted household name for many wine lovers, producing value-laden wine from the Cotes du Rhone wine region of southern France showcasing deft balance, pure fruit flavour, consistency and charm. The following four were found to be no exception as winecurrent tasted through them with Guillaume Blisson, National Sales Director for parent company Gabriel Meffre. Guillaume holds a Master’s degree of Science in Viticulture/Oenology from Institut national agronomique Paris-Grignon and Diploma of Viticulture and Oenology from Montpellier SupAgro and provided interesting perspectives on the winery, region and these particular wines.

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Louis Bernard Côtes-du-Rhône White 2015
AOP Côtes-du-Rhône, France $13.95 (589432) 13.5% alcohol
This Grenache blanc/Bourblenc/Clairette blend oozes all that’s good from this producer and the diverse wine region—persistent ripe fruit, good balancing acidity, not a splinter of oak. Tropical fruit aromas adorned by wisps of floral/lemony notes introduce a balanced-on-a-pin wash of ripe peach and pear nicely complemented by tangy lemon curd. It’s medium bodied and well textured with a lingering dry, crisp, refreshing finish. Delicious sipped on its own, it also pours well with seafood, chicken or veal. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Louis Bernard Côtes-du-Rhône Red 2015
AOP Côtes-du-Rhône, France $13.95 (581645) 13.0% alcohol
The lifted nose of mixed spice and red cherry/berry fruit aromas unleash a medium-plus bodied, nicely textured flow of pie cherry, piquant spice and lively tang on the palate infusing the balanced, dry mouth-watering finish, The peppery aftertaste layers on notions of dark raisin. Pour this Grenache/Syrah blend with red pizza, burgers or gourmet sausage. (Vic Harradine)

• You may find either or both of the following two wines in stores as they are presently transitioning to the new 2015 vintage. The ‘Villages’ indicates the fruit was sourced from smaller, preferred sites rather than the broader C-d-R indication of the above two wines. The following two wines are also a step up in price and, quite different from each other, stylistically.

**** drink now
Louis Bernard Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Red 2014
AOP Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, France $16.95 (391458) 13.0% alcohol
This light-medium bodied, nicely textured blend—Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre—offers subtle aromas of floral and earthy aromas and a light-on-its-feet stream of red and dark berry fruit enhanced with excellent tang and a mid-length, dry finish and aftertaste. Poured best with pasta in tomato sauce, red pizza or tomato-rice, stuffed green peppers. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Louis Bernard Côtes-du-Rhône Villages Red 2015
AOP Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, France $16.95 (391458) 13.5% alcohol
This was fashioned with Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre fruit, the Syrah being sourced from older vines and in a vintage that was dry and produced relatively low yields. It’s nicely structured with persistent purity of ripe fruit, balance and complexity. Medium-full bodied with good mouthfeel, it drenches the palate with black juicy cherry, cassis and notions of mixed spice and black licorice finishing lengthy and lip-smacking good. (Vic Harradine)

White Wine

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
KWV ‘The Vinecrafter’ Chenin Blanc 2015
WO Western Cape, South Africa (18689) $9.95 13.0% alcohol
Wow, this punches way above its price; it’s exceptional value—plus, plus. Honey-kissed pit fruit and grassy/savory herb aromas provide segue to a slightly off-dry, palate-bathing flow of melon, yellow plum and grilled pineapple. It finishes clean and crisp with lemon-lime tang and a boatload of charm. Delightful sipped on its own, it also pours well with grilled or pan-seared seafood or roast chicken or pork. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Trapiche ‘Extravaganza’ 2015
Argentina $8.95 (439851) 13.5% alcohol
This light-on-its-feet Torrontés/Chardonnay blend delivers aromas of floral, spice and tropical fruit along with terrific value. It streaks over the palate with lemon curd, white peach and apple skin to the fore. There’s excellent tang on the mouth-watering finish and aftertaste. Pour with skillet-seared fish under a squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

• The following winery lays claim to being Washington State’s first premium winery formed over fifty years ago by 10 visionary buddies including six professors from U of Washington.

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Columbia Winery Chardonnay 2013
Columbia Valley, Washington State $17.95 (462804) 14.0% alcohol
This was fermented in stainless steel and left on lees for nine months with excellent results. Floral and citrus aromas mingle with vanilla and ripe pineapple on the nose. It dishes up a gorgeous river of medium-full bodied lemony tang and ripe tropical fruit flavour interlaced with spicy ginger and white nectarine. A terrific wine offering exceptional value. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Marisco Vineyards ‘The Ned’ Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand $16.60 (470070) 13.0% alcohol
The price-quality ratio of this Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc skews well in your favour; pick up an armful. This is smoky and grassy on the brash nose prior to unleashing a swashbuckling array of flavours—asparagus, gooseberry, piquant spice and tinned peas—persisting from twist top to last drop. The lengthy, lip-smacking finish is tang-laden, crisp and refreshing. What’s not to like. (Vic Harradine)

• The following winery, Colombia Crest, is owned by Chateau Ste Michelle. Twenty-two percent of the fruit was pressed and settled in stainless steel, the balance was aged and hand-stirred, once-a-week in one- to three-year-old French and American oak barrel for nine months.

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Columbia Crest Chardonnay 2014
Columbia Valley, Washington State $17.95 (462846) 13.5% alcohol
Lifted aromas of spiced apple, pear and apricot introduce a gorgeous mouthful of ginger-infused tropical fruit and lemon pie filling. This is mid-plus weight with generous mouthfeel and oodles of charm. It finishes lengthy and luxurious with loads of fruit crowned with excellent moderating acidity. Pour with roast bird, pan-seared, firm fish or crown roast pork. (Vic Harradine)

Red Wine

***1/2 drink now
Ménage à Trois ‘Silk’ 2015
California $17.95 (462853) 13.5% alcohol
Sharp spice and mixed field berry fruit aromas waft from this medium-bodied Pinot Noir/Malbec/Petite Syrah red blend. A sweet-tinged flow of ripe black currant and red cherry underpinned by wisps of tannin coats the palate infusing the mid-length finish and aftertaste. Aerate/decant this before pouring with pizza or burgers. (Vic Harradine)

• Fruit for the following red was sourced from the Australian GI Super Zone—South Eastern Australia—that includes all of the States of New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania plus part of South Australia and Queensland. It contains a dash of fortified wine accounting for its Port-like qualities.

**** drink or cellar
Lindeman ‘Gentleman’s Choice - Batch/Cuvée No. 3’ 2015
South Eastern Australia $17.95 (461533) 14.0% alcohol
And now for something completely different - a table wine on steroids from a dash of fortified wine – dishing up flavours that are Port-like minus the 20% alcohol. Aromas of mixed spice and dark berry fruit open this luscious, spirited, warm-on-the-palate red. There’s oodles of mocha and ripe sweet fruit—black currant and black cherry—interlaced with cassis and sweet kirsch liqueur coating the palate infusing the lengthy aftertaste. Pours well with grilled, smoked back ribs slathered with spicy barbecue sauce or an after-dinner cigar or cigarillo. (Vic Harradine)

• The name Firestone is inextricably entwined with tire innovator, Harvey Firestone. In the 1970s, Harvey’s son Leonard, a former US Ambassador to Belgium, saw potential at his family ranch in the rugged Saint Ynez Valley for viticulture, planting a vineyard with a plan to sell grapes. Soon after, he, son Brooks and Brooks’ wife Kate, founded the first estate winery in the valley. The rest as they say, is history; and with this you have an opportunity to taste it.

**** drink or cellar
Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Saint Ynez Valley $20.10 (292128) 14.2% alcohol
This dishes up a structured mouthful of delectable juice, deft balance, delightful tang and good value. Estate-grown fruit—77% Cabernet Sauvignon/12% Petit Verdot/5% Malbec/4% Cabernet Franc/2% Merlot—was aged 16 months in French, American and Hungarian oak, 36% new. Piquant spice, mint and savory herb aromas precede a medium-full bodied stream of cassis, red cherry and black licorice persistent through the lip-smacking finish. Aerate/decant three hours before pouring. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Apothic ‘Dark Red’ 2015
California $16.95 (392654) 14.0% alcohol
This is full bodied, fully textured and oozing sweet, ripe fruit. A gusher of sweet, ripe mulberry and bramble berry jam coat the palate robed in bittersweet chocolate and espresso roast underpinned by a solid tannin underpinning—a hedonist’s treasure trove. Flavours replay on the lingering finish and aftertaste. Pour after a three-hour aeration/decant with grilled smoked meat mopped with spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

• Grenache fruit for the following was sourced from hi-altitude—700-900 m—low-yielding—2 tonnes/hectare—30- to 40-year old vines aged 2 months in French oak barrel. Bodegas Ateca is a member of the respected Juan Gill family of wineries. When you’re having the gang over and it’s your treat, this’ll be a hit.

**** drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Bodegas Ateca ‘Honora Vera’ Garnacha 2015
DOP Calatayud, Spain $12.75 (440867) 14.5% alcohol
This is an extremely well-priced and nicely paced Grenache with a quality-price balance tipped wildly in your favour. Spiced, red and dark berry fruit aromas introduce a luscious river of palate-bathing flavour—strawberry, black plum and bramble berry interwoven with wisps of mixed spice and mineral notes. It’s medium bodied and smoothly with a lengthy, dry balanced aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

New in Ontario Wineries

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Château des Charmes ‘St. David’s Bench’ Chardonnay 2014
VQA St. David’s Bench $19.95 (430991) 13.0% alcohol
From the bitter winter and late spring of the 2014 vintage come alluring aromas of toasted nut, sweet ripe orchard fruit and citrus. The viticulturalist and vintner’s skills are on display in the creamy, lush texture of this well-crafted, medium-full bodied wine. Harmonious, complex and showing beautiful structure and texture, the lively acidity and subtle mineral character complement clean flavours of juicy ripe pear, melon and grilled pineapple. Hints of toasted coconut and the warmth of sweet baking spices add depth while the fine balance extends through a persistent, tangy, buttery finish. Well done, and a fine value! Serve with rosemary roast chicken with pan-roasted root vegetables. (Susan Desjardins)

New in Private Order

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

• The following two wines from Domaine Lombard are unique. They’re sourced from AOC Brézème, the only Côtes-du-Rhône sub-region allowed its own AOC. The vineyards are situated between the southern and northern Rhône with Syrah the only red grape allowed. All Domaine Lombard fruit is farmed organic/biodynamic and fermented with indigenous yeast.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Domaine Lombard Brézème Blanc 2015
AOC Brézème, Côtes-du-Rhône $41.80 12.5% alcohol
This is a stunning white blend using the northern Rhône holy trinity of white grapes; Marsanne 80%, Roussanne 15%, Viognier 5%. Pour, then let rest in the glass for a few minutes to develop its full potential. It showcases a wonderfully floral nose with underlying aromas of mineral notes and just a touch of oak. This is medium bodied with apple and citrus flavours and just a hint of butter on the palate. An edge of tart lemon peel lingers wonderfully on the finish. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink or cellar
Domaine Lombard Brézème ‘Grand Chêne’ Red 2014
AOC Brézème, Côtes-du-Rhône $32.75 12.5% alcohol
This 100% Syrah is deep cherry in colour with a complex nose of earth, barnyard, coffee and mint. Medium bodied with firm tannins, there are flavours of plum and mint and a fine base of acidity. The balanced finish lingers fading away slowly with wisps of cherry pie. Enjoy now after a three-hour decant with steak tartare or cellar another 5 years allowing it to handsomely reward careful cellaring. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Domain de Maubet Côtes de Gascogne Blanc 2015
AOC Côtes de Gascogne $13.95 11.5% alcohol
This lively blend of Colombard/Ugni Blanc/Gros Manseng/Sauvignon Blanc—predominant grapes of the region—has apple and grassy aromas on the nose. Clean tart flavours of green apple and citrus streak over the palate finishing crisp and refreshing. Enjoy with steamed mussels… heck, use a cup to steam the mussels along with chopped onion, parsley and butter, then dip bread in the resulting broth while sipping this family-produced, value-laden wine. (Dave Isaacs)

• The following wine is from a cooperative that was formed 75-plus years ago and now numbers over 250 local, family vignerons.

***1/2 drink now
Vignerons de Florensac Picpoul de Pinet 2015
AOP Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc $13.95 12.5% alcohol
This light-medium bodied white wine is 100% Picpoul, considered one of the oldest grape varieties found in the Languedoc. The unassuming nose of lemon and rind replays on the palate and lingers as a pleasantly tart, clean, mouth-watering finish. Picpoul is an excellent match for seafood—source recommended recipes here. (Dave Isaacs)

***1/2 drink now
Cave de Bissey Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Blanc Non-Vintage
AOC Crémant de Bourgogne $23.80 12.5% alcohol
This sparkler’s produced in the traditional method as in Champagne from a blend of 60% Aligoté/30% Pinot Noir/10% Chardonnay. It shows pale gold in the glass with a profusion of fine-bead bubbles. There are aromas of apple with touches of yeast on the nose while palate flavours are dominated by green apple giving way to a racy, tang-laden citrus finish. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink now
Cave de Bissey Crémant de Bourgogne Rosé Non-Vintage
AOC Crémant de Bourgogne $25.25 12% alcohol
This sparkling Rosé is sourced from an assemblage of 60% Aligoté/30% Pinot Noir/10% Gamay with the 2nd fermentation induced in the bottle you purchase, just as it’s done in Champagne. It has a lovely pale-orange and pink hue with aromas of strawberry and dried fruit. It finishes light on the palate with a slightly sweet, jammy flavour. Pair with filet of oven-baked salmon. (Dave Isaacs)

• The following family-owned, 4th generation Champagne house began with vineyards in the 1920s founded by Octave Haton. A momentous change occurred in the 1970s under Jean-Nöel by adopting the regulated designation of ‘negociant-manipulant’ allowing them to expand production by purchasing grapes. They own 20 hectares and purchase grapes equal to another 75—their wines are ranked in the top percentile of houses and you’ll find that reflected in the reviews below.

**** drink or cellar
Jean-Nöel Haton Champagne Brut ‘Réserve’ Non-Vintage
AOC Champagne $47.55 12.5% alcohol
This is pale-yellow hued with an explosion of fine-bead mousse. It greets you with aromas of freshly baked bread and lemon peel. The three major grape varieties of Champagne are found in this age-worthy, refreshing gem—Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay. It’s a well-paced and well-priced ‘Reserve’, dancing lightly over the palate with crisp, refreshing grapefruit flavours and a lingering lemon-zest finish. (Dave Isaacs)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Jean-Nöel Haton Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2011
AOC Champagne $57.00 12.5% alcohol
100% Chardonnay, this Vintage Champagne presents very pale gold with a slight-green tinge. It has an interesting nose of fresh bread, apple, and dry leaf aromas. It’s refreshing on the palate with creamy mouthfeel and buttery orange flavours. This high-quality Champagne already has some age; a few more years tucked away in the cellar should further develop secondary aromas and flavours, perhaps vanilla, butterscotch, truffles and/or toasty-nutty notes. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink now
Jean-Nöel Haton Champagne Brut ‘Classic’ Non-Vintage
AOC Champagne $44.85 12.5% alcohol
This is sourced from the two black grapes of the region—Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. It’s light gold with a subtle orange tinge and showcases mineral and apple aromas interwoven with an underlying layer of Brie. There’s good acidity with a taste reminiscent of green apple. It finishes with tangy lemon notes and an ever-so-slight touch of sweetness. As prices go in this tony neighbourhood, there’s very good value on offer here. (Dave Isaacs)

• The following Vintage Champagne is a dazzling example of well-aged Champagne showcasing secondary aromas and flavours developed from premium fruit, harvested in an outstanding vintage, meticulous blending of wine from dozens of premium sites and careful cellaring. A cursory look at, or a thorough investigation of Vintage Champagne prices, will highlight this as excellent value.

***** drink now
Jean-Nöel Haton Champagne Extra Brut 2005
AOC Champagne $66.60 12.5% alcohol
This stunning Vintage Champagne is a 50/50 split of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It has a bright golden hue and shows voluminous lines of fine-bead bubbles streaming through the wine. The fascinating nose overflows with butterscotch, custard pudding, white chocolate, and orange aromas. It’s structured and creamy textured tasting wondrously dry while supporting a complex mix of crême caramel and lemon. It lingers lip-smacking good with a racy citrus finish. Serve with hors d'oeuvres, perhaps freshly shucked oysters or scallop ceviche. (Dave Isaacs)

Cheers, Vic and Dave