February 1, 2017 Newsletter

California Wine Fair

The 2017 California Wine Fair Announces its Tour Schedule....
Tickets NOW on Sale – it often sells out, but never disappoints the in-crowd who attend. It’s arguably Canada’s best, and best-value wine fair. Tickets are NOW on sale via 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 with over 400 wines and 150 wineries present. 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! – 4 of 31 wines meet the strict quality-price guidelines. They’re easily found via the exceptional-value checkmark above. Which strict quality-price guidelines? Click here. 
  • 5-star Wine – no wine rang the 5-star bell.
  • Lisa Likes – Miguel Torres ‘Santa Digna – Reserva’ Syrah 2013 earned 4 stars @ $14.95 found under Chile: Red Wine; Château D’Or et de Gueules les Cimels 2013 earned 4 stars @ $15.95 found under France: Red Wine
  • Vic Picks – KWV ‘The Mentors’ Shiraz 2012 earned 4 ½ stars @ $29.95 found under Feature: South Africa; Fattoria La Torre ‘Rosso’ San Gimignano 2011 earned 4 ½ stars @ $17.95 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.

Lisa IsobelleLisa Isabelle is welcomed back now covering for Vic as he begins sipping and spitting through various Australian wine regions. Along with Lisa’s useful reviews, look for insider information on upcoming Vintages Releases and comments from some of Australia’s leading winemakers and winery principals in upcoming newsletters.

Vintages Release: February 4, 2017

Feature: South Africa

**** drink or cellar
Flagstone 'Dragon Tree' Cape Blend 2013

WO Western Cape $16.95 (37549) 14.5% alcohol

A blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon/33% Shiraz/30% Pinotage/2% Malbec, this deep-red hued gem shows a tinge of orange. Aromas of moss, black pepper, dry mint leaf and dark chocolate abound. It's tart and jammy on the palate with tannin that begins in the back seat gradually moving forward while bursting with flavours of red cherry, especially on the finish. This is drinking well now and good value. Pour with smoked beef carpaccio. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink or cellar
Rustenberg ‘RM Nicholson’ 2014
WO Stellenbosch $19.95 (278390) 14.0 % alcohol
This red blend 50% Shiraz/30% Merlot/20% Cabernet Sauvignon opens to reveal aromas of blackberry, cassis, thyme and mint with a whiff of new leather. Dry, full bodied, it has an immense store of black fruit, savoury herbs and black pepper on the palate supported by ripe tannins and a long juicy finish. Serve with grilled red meats. (Lisa Isabelle)

• KWV (Kooperatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereeniging – Cooperative Wine Farmers Association) launched the ‘Mentor’ brand a few short years ago showcasing what meticulous fruit management—the correct varietal matched to optimum terroir at the proper yield—along with stringent winery practices—100% ‘quality control’ of winery and barrel regimen and ‘intervention only when necessary’—can do to produce premium South African wine. KWV’s Chief Winemaker, Richard Rowe, an earnest, engaging Australian, shared this with winecurrent during a 2012 visit, “You can taste a marked stylistic evolution in our wines over the last four or five vintages and we’re not nearly finished. I’m unashamedly a ‘new world’ winemaker, making wine that can be benchmarked alongside what the best wine regions in the world have on offer—our wines are modern, clean, stylish and refreshing with some reaching elegance—we value structure and concentration. We’re backing off our winemaking intervention, especially with oak, allowing the terroir, meticulous vine management practices and the fruit to have more of a voice. We're pretty happy with where we are and know we're going to continue getting better.” If you want to see the results, pick up the following KWV Shiraz.

****1/2 drink or cellar
KWV ‘The Mentors’ Shiraz 2012

WO Paarl $29.95 (403618) 14.5% alcohol

Charred toast, campfire smoke and exotic spice billow from the nose of this medium-plus weight, gorgeously textured red. A gusher of ripe, red and black berry fruit robed with cassis and kirsch liqueur are ably supported by tangy acidity, fine-grained tannin and a boatload of style and charm. A lengthy, balanced finish and aftertaste place a bow on this attractive package. Pour with grilled, smoked back ribs or gourmet sausage. (Vic Harradine)

Fortified Wine: Sherry

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Gonzalez Byass ‘Nutty Solera’ Oloroso Sherry 

DO Jerez-Xérès-Sherry $16.95 (35204) 20.0% alcohol

This is one the great bargains and most over-looked treasures on wine-store shelves. Flamboyant aromas of dark spice, figs, currants and peel marmalade explode from the glass of this delicious nectar. The ripe sweet flavours—caramel, marmalade, toasted almonds and toffee—turn, magically, almost dry on the lingering finish. Serve chilled, as an aperitif or conversation starter or with spice cake for afters. (Vic Harradine)

Sparkling Wine

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Blue Mountain Brut

Okanagan Valley $28.95 (206326) 12.5% alcohol

Blue Mountain is well known for its quality, both in sparkling wines and Pinot Noir. Produced in the traditional method and aged 24 months on the lees, this dry, pale-gold blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris displays alluring aromas of butter biscuit, pear, ripe apple and citrus. The refreshing mousse has a fine, creamy texture, while the palate offers vivid citrus and light tree-fruit flavours. Light-medium bodied, the wine is in fine balance with a crisp, lengthy aftertaste. With so few wines from the Okanagan finding their way here, you won’t want to miss this one. (Susan Desjardins)

**** drink now
Louis Bouillot ‘Perle d’Ivoire’ Brut Blanc de Blancs Non-Vintage

AOC Crémant de Bourgogne $19.95 (48801) 12.0% alcohol

Dry, light in body, offering a fine creamy mousse, this lovely Crémant balances refreshing vibrant acidity, clean minerality and subtle notes of citrus, green apple and brioche. Long and bright on the finish, it’s excellent value and can be enjoyed on its own or with light appetizers. (Susan Desjardins)

***1/2 drink now
Carpenè Malvolti ‘Cuvée Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene’ Prosecco Superiore Non-Vintage

DOCG Veneto $18.95 (727438) 11.0% alcohol

This is brimming with a solid line of orchard fruit on the nose and palate with aromas of apple and pear joined by flavours of white peach and notions of lemon drop—dry, crisp and refreshing. It’s light on its feet with an affinity for lighter-styled dishes like chicken or seafood canapés or sipped on its own before dinner. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Lakeview Cabernet Franc Icewine 2013 

VQA Niagara Peninsula $29.95 (53397) 375ml 11.0% alcohol

Aromas of fresh red berries, dried cherry, rosewater and potpourri drift from the glass of this intensely flavoured dessert wine. Luscious in texture, intensely flavourful and honeyed, the fine backbone of classic acidity balances and accents the berry flavours and delivers a lingering sumptuous aftertaste. Serve with your favorite chocolate torte along with raspberry coulis. (Susan Desjardins)

Okanagan Valley: White Wine

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Dirty Laundry Say Yes Pinot Gris 2014
VQA Okanagan Valley $19.95 (423202) 12.7% alcohol
Dirty Laundry is a nod to this region’s colourful history. It was home to a Laundromat that illicitly doubled as a brothel during the Gold Rush era, hence the whimsical wine names relating to this theme. This playful Pinot Gris has lifted aromas of ripe stone fruit and candied lemon zest. It’s slightly off-dry and mid weight on the palate with flavours of ripe peaches and nectarine joined by fresh citrus through the medium-long finish. (Lisa Isabelle)

California: White Wine

**** drink now
Fleur Chardonnay 2014
Carneros $25.95 (311522) 13.8% alcohol
Muted notes of Golden Delicious apple, pineapple and lemon interlaced with notions of orchard blossom and vanilla lift from the glass and repeat on the palate. Dry, medium-light bodied it has a creamy texture and lively acidity through the mid-length, fresh citrus finish. Serve with grilled seafood. (Lisa Isabelle)

California: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Joel Gott Merlot 2014
California $24.95 (479121) 13.9 % alcohol
This 100% Merlot, with fruit sourced from vineyards in Paso Robles, Napa Valley and Lodi, opens with aromas of red plum and blueberry jam complimented by vanilla, baking spices and smoke which repeat on the palate. Dry, medium-full bodied with balanced acidity and well-integrated tannins, it offers a juicy, fruit-forward finish. Curl up by the fire with this crowd pleaser. (Lisa Isabelle)

**** drink or cellar
Craftwork Pinot Noir 2013
Monterey $24.95 (479089) 13.5 % alcohol
Initial hints of cloves, violets and earthy forest floor reveal a rich stream of red cherry and cranberry on the nose. Dry, medium-bodied, it showcases mouth-watering flavours of sour cherry and raspberry with savoury notes of roasted herbs on its mid-length finish. Pair with cedar planked salmon. (Lisa Isabelle)

Washington State: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Chateau Ste. Michelle 'Indian Wells' Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Columbia Valley $25.95 (55764) 14.5% alcohol

Another winner, as was the 2012, this inky wine offers lovely spiced floral notes overlaid on dried lavender, cassis, cedar, spice and vanilla. There's terrific balance here, great depth of jammy dark fruit—blackberry and cassis to the fore—with complexity coming through the notes of pepper and spice, a touch of Syrah was blended in, dark chocolate-coated coffee bean and an earthy quality. This appealing and approachable red delivers a velvety finish that subtly expresses its supple, well-defined structure. Pick up a few bottles to enjoy with friends. (Susan Desjardins)

Argentina: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Finca La Escuela El Limo Malbec 2012
Uco Valley $22.95 (479600) 14.2% alcohol
This is one of a collection of Malbec wines showcasing five different single-soil profiles. El Limo refers to the silty soil of the Finca La Escuela estate. The nose is driven by ripe cherry and blackberry with hints of espresso bean, cocoa and smoke. Flavours of ripe cherry and blackberry compote with a nuance of vanilla and baking spices coat the palate. Its dry, medium-full bodied with fine-grained tannins and a medium-long velvety finish. (Lisa Isabelle)

**** drink or cellar
Trapiche ‘Fincas las Palmas’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Mendoza $16.95 (143206) 14.5% alcohol

There’s good depth to this Cabernet with aromas of blackberry and cassis, vanilla and spice, cedar and roasted red pepper. On the palate you’ll find ripe round flavours of cassis replaying with the vanilla, spice and sweet oak. Ripe tannins contribute to the structure while there’s tangy warmth on the smooth fruity finish. A really fine value. (Susan Desjardins)

Chile: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Miguel Torres ‘Santa Digna – Reserva’ Syrah 2013
Central Valley, Chile $14.95 (480905) 14.0% alcohol
Medium-purple hued, this certified ‘Fair Trade’ Syrah offers aromas of dark cherry and plum with hints of black pepper and violet. Red currant, cherry and garrigue provide a mouth-watering tang on the palate. It’s dry, medium bodied with firm tannins through the mid-length finish. Decant an hour before serving with seasoned, grilled lamb chops. Very good value here. (Lisa Isabelle)

New Zealand: White Wine

***1/2 drink now
Oyster Bay Pinot Grigio 2015

Hawkes Bay, North Island $18.95 (326090) 13.0% alcohol

Subdued aromas of spice-infused citrus and floral notes reveal a light-on-its-feet, delicate wash of palate bathing flavour with muted notes of ripe orchard fruit—pear, nectarine and yellow plum—to the fore along with notes of citrus in the background. This is an enjoyable sipper with no rough edges. (Vic Harradine)

France: White Wine

**** drink or cellar
Jean Biecher & Fils Schonenbourg Riesling 2014
AOC Alsace Grand Cru $23.95 (469767) 12.5% alcohol
Aromas of red apple and peach merge with white pepper and a stony minerality on the nose. Flavours of Granny Smith apple, white peach and lemon-lime tempered by a hint of honey and a clean mineral quality bathe the palate. Dry, medium bodied, there’s a stream of racy acidity through the medium-long finish. (Lisa Isabelle)

**** drink or cellar
Domaine Jacky Marteau Sauvignon Touraine 2015
AOP Touraine $24.95 (475349) 13.5 % alcohol
This good-value white wine is light in body and colour but full of flavour. Aromas of Kaffir lime, passion fruit and fresh cut grass on the nose segue to flavours of tart green apple, pineapple and white grapefruit on the palate. Dry, medium-light bodied, it has a weighted texture, due to time spent on its lees before bottling, and finishes with a splash of citrus. (Lisa Isabelle)

France: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Château Blaignan 2010

AOC Médoc $23.95 (400606) 13.5% alcohol

Toasted herbs and smoky notes furl from this juicy, lively red blend. It streaks over the palate with great nerve and verve—there’s red currant, pie cherry and notions of passion fruit sprinkled with espresso roast, earthy notes and wisps of cassis on the dry, mouth-watering finish and aftertaste. It’s medium weight with decent texture and enough oomph from a ripe tannin structure to be drinking now to 2018. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Château Fontenil 2005
AOC Fronsac $60.95 (468322) 14.0% alcohol
90% Merlot/10% Cabernet Sauvignon fruit was used in this gorgeous blend resulting in an expressive nose of blackberry, plum compote and fig with hints of cedar and dark chocolate. Dry and full bodied with well-defined tannins, there’s a savoury blend of ripe and dried dark fruit mingling with notes of pipe tobacco and baking spices through the long finish. Decant two hours before serving. (Lisa Isabelle)

**** drink or cellar
Château D’Or et de Gueules les Cimels 2013
AOC Costieres de Nimes $15.95 (480301) 13.5 % alcohol
This good-value blend of Syrah, Carignan and Grenache has a powerful nose of candied cherries, blackberry and dark plum entwined with grilled herbs, charcuterie and a dusty minerality. The palate is awash with ripe plum and cherry compote seasoned with baking spices and smoke. It’s dry, medium-full bodied with marked acidity and fine-grained tannins lining the long ripe plum finish. (Lisa Isabelle)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Clos Des Brusquières Châteauneuf-Du-Pape 2013
AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape $55.95 (416289) 14.5 % alcohol
Vibrant aromas of red cherry, sunned red currant and raspberry jam are joined with notions of violets, sweet pipe tobacco and vanilla. Ripe red fruit is enhanced with flavours of fig, spice and smoke on the palate. Dry, medium-full bodied it finishes long with supple tannins and bright acidity. Serve with grilled venison. (Lisa Isabelle)

France: Rosé

**** drink now
Gérard Bertrand ‘Cote des roses’ Rosé 2015
AOP Languedoc (373985) $18.95 12.5% alcohol
This blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah is as attractive as its bottle with a base moulded in the shape of a rose. Pale salmon in colour, it entices the nose with notes of pink grapefruit, strawberries and acacia flowers. Dry, medium bodied, it tempts the palate with flavours of blood orange, white peach, red currant and almond which linger on the mid-length finish. A wonderful reminder of spring. (Lisa Isabelle)

Italy: White Wine

**** drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Ponte Pellegrino Greco Di Tufo 2015
IGP Campania $13.95 (477760) 12.5% alcohol
Made from 100% Greco di Tufo grapes, this light-bodied white offers a fragrant nose of citrus fruit, green apple and nectarine entwined with notes of orchard blossom. Flavours of pear are enlivened with a lively spritz of fresh lemon and grapefruit. It’s dry with a lovely vein of acidity that persists through the medium-long finish. (Lisa Isabelle)

Italy: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Planeta La Segretta Rosso Sicilia 2014
IGT Sicilia $16.95 (477950) 13.0 % alcohol
This blend of Nero d’Avola, Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon offers fruity aromas of cherry, blackberry and plum tempered by savoury notes of dry leaves, garrigue and black pepper which repeat on the palate. It’s dry, medium bodied with firm tannins that persist through the mid-length savoury finish. A perfect pairing with week-night pizza. (Lisa Isabelle)

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Fattoria La Torre ‘Rosso’ San Gimignano 2011

DOC San Gimignano, Italy $17.95 (480665) 14.0% alcohol

Grapes for this fruit-forward blend were sourced from 70% Sangiovese, 15% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon vines. Lively aromas of exotic spice, cedar and dark cherry/berry fruit leap from the glass. It coats the palate with a gusher of black berry and dark juicy cherry adorned with black plum and piquant spice. It’s medium-full bodied with a supple, fine-grained tannin underpinning and excellent, tangy acidity. Aerate/decant for three hours. It finishes with replays—delightful, distinctive, delicious. What’s not to like? (Vic Harradine)

Portugal: White Wine

**** drink now Exceptional Value!
Curvos Loureiro Vinho Verde 2015
DOC Vinho Verde (471284) $12.95 12.0% alcohol
Lifted aromas of ripe fruit-peach, pineapple and melon are layered with honeysuckle and ginger. A rush of nectarine, green apple and lemon flavours garnished with crisp acidity persist through the mid-length saline finish. This dry, medium bodied wine has a refreshing, light spritz that would complement a seafood salad at brunch. (Lisa Isabelle)

Spain: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Muriel Reserva Vendimia Seleccionada 2011
DOCa Rioja $20.95 (4276030) 13.5 % alcohol
This Reserva aged 24 months in French and American oak barrels and spent 2 years in the bottle before release. Aromas of red cherry and fig are accompanied by old leather, cocoa, tobacco and toasted herbs on the nose. Velvety in texture, it’s dry, full bodied and offers more dried fruit and spice flavours on the palate which persist through the long finish. Enjoy with roast leg of lamb. (Lisa Isabelle)

New in LCBO Portfolio

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Château des Charmes Cabernet Franc 2015
VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake $14.95 (162602) 13.0% alcohol
Displaying good colour intensity, it offers smoky roasted red peppers, blackberry, cassis and sweet spice mingling with attractive earthy notes. Clean and dry, refreshing on the palate, the appealing earthiness replays bright flavours of fresh berries and light notes of toast and cocoa. Well-framed by perceptible tannin and fresh acidity, the wine finishes bright, lively and dry. This Ontario classic pairs with meat-based pasta or dense winter stew. (Susan Desjardins)

• $1 off price shown below for the barrel-fermented Chardonnay until February 26, 2017

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Château des Charmes ‘Barrel-fermented’ Chardonnay 2015
VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake $14.95 (81653) 14.3% alcohol
Aromas of baked, buttered pears and ripe apples with delicate hints of spice and brown sugar waft from the glass. Mid weight with creamy texture, it offers excellent value, ripe flavours of tree fruit, hints of pineapple and cinnamon underpinned by well-defined citrus acidity. Showing good balance, roundness of fruit and lingering lively notes of spice on the finish, it’s a great match for roast chicken, veal piccata or pork tenderloin. (Susan Desjardins)

Cheers, Vic, Lisa