June 20, 2017 Newsletter

Newsletter Highlights include:

Australia FlagXanadu and Yering Station Wineries. Vic visited Yering Station in the Yarra Valley tasting their wines and those from Xanadu in Margaret River, Western Australia while there. This is the final chapter in his 2017 Australian vinous odyssey. It’s a good read with background and wine reviews—click the link above.

  • Exceptional-value wine Exceptional Value! – 11 of 80 wines currently in stores meet the strict quality-price guidelines. They’re found throughout the newsletter easily identified via the exceptional-value checkmark above. Which strict quality-price guidelines? Click here.
  • 5-Star wine – There was only one wine that’s available on retail shelves that earned a 5-star rating - Versado ‘Reserva - Ancient’ Malbec 2012 @ $59.95 found under Argentina: Red Wine.
  • Vic Picks – Graham Beck ‘Brut’ Rosé Non-Vintage with 4 ½ stars @ $19.95 found under Feature: Sparkling Wine (along with a few others of exceptional value in the feature); Southbrook ‘triomphe organic’ Cabernet Franc 2015 with 4 ½ stars @ $21.95 found under Ontario: Red Wine; Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2015 with 4 ½ stars @ $19.95 found under Italy: White Wine; López de Haro Crianza 2010 with 4 ½ stars @ $14.95 found under Spain: Red Wine).
  • Happy 150th Birthday to Canada, eh! Oh Canada! – There are 13 reviews of Canadian wines in this newsletter and 37 more reviewed in the two most recent newsletters (archived on the site) giving you an incredible 50 to choose from and plenty of time to stock up for July 1st and the balance of summer. 

Access the LCBO store nearest you with stock of any wine with an LCBO product number by clicking on the number shown in brackets in wine reviews then clicking on ‘Select Stores’ and entering your postal code—the number of bottles available in 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 (wine not in Vintages) should always closely reflect stock in stores, updated every 24 hours. However, it’s always best to phone stores showing stock before going.

Vintages Release: June 24, 2017

Feature: Sparkling Wine

• There are various ways to put bubbles in wine. Four common methods (highly simplified) are listed below in order of expense, and what wine people (modestly including yours truly) generally think as the method producing the highest-quality Sparkling Wine:

  1. Traditional Method, aka Méthode Traditionelle aka Methode Cap Classique in South Africa, Tasmanoise in Tasmania, etc. - requires one to first make ‘still’ wine (no bubbles) then place this already once-fermented wine in a bottle and add yeast, yeast nutrient and sugar (aka tirage) and stopper the bottle immediately, usually with a crown cap (like beer), causing a 2nd fermentation to occur in that bottle. After some months of time, you then remove the yeast cells aka lees (aka disgorge) and top it up by adding a small amount of still wine and cane sugar (aka liqueur d’expédition) in which a carefully titrated amount of cane sugar determines the eventual sweetness level of the wine you drink. Some wine regions are restricted to only making sparkling wines in this method, e.g. Cava (Spain) and Champagne (France).
  2. Transfer Method - same as above until the disgorging process, in this method the bottles are disgorged (wine, bubbles and lees) into a sealed tank under pressure, filtered (remove lees) re-bottled and sold with the 2nd fermentation having occurred in ‘a bottle’, but not in the bottle you purchase. Not as involved or as expensive as the Traditional Method and considered to not produce wines as superior as the Traditional Method.
  3. Tank Method, aka Charmat Method or Cuvée Close Method – a still base wine is placed in a sealed tank to which yeast, yeast nutrient, and clarifying agent are added. The 2nd fermentation then takes place in the tank with resulting sediment filtered out and remaining wine and bubbles transferred under pressure to the bottle you purchase. Again considerably less expensive and considered a notch down in quality. 
  4. Carbonated Method, aka Bicycle Pump Method - CO2 is injected into wine that is in a sealed tank, then wine, now with bubbles, fill bottles that are then stoppered and sold. Although inexpensive, popular and acceptable in soft drinks, it’s considered an inferior method to produce bubbles in wine and incapable of producing superior product. 

**** drink now
Emiliana ‘Organic Brut’ Sparkling Non-Vintage
Casablanca Valley, Chile $15.95 (451914) 12.5% alcohol
Lifted aromas of floral notes and citrus mingle with saline/minerality on the nose of this organically farmed chardonnay and pinot noir sparkler. It’s straightforward and uncomplicated throughout. Ripe pit fruit—peach, mango and yellow plum—shines through on the palate and finish, and it cleans up well on the fade. The 2nd fermentation was completed in tank, not in the bottle you purchase—aka Charmat method—a contributor to the low price. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Graham Beck Sparkling Wine wine was produced using the ‘Traditional Method’ (see differing methods explained above).

****1/2 drink now
Graham Beck ‘Brut’ Rosé Non-Vintage

WO Western Cape, South Africa $19.95 (175588) 12.0% alcohol 

This opens with fragrant aromas—strawberry, watermelon and wisps of raspberry—and plenty of mousse, a.k.a. froth or bubbles, that form when poured. It’s a delight on the palate with lively flavours of red cherry and red berry fruit persisting throughout. It finishes in a blaze of crisp, lip-smacking freshness. Wonderful on its own as an aperitif or party starter, it has the oomph to stand alongside most appetizers. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Charme d’Aliénor is Méthode Traditionale with a unique 90% semillon/10% cabernet franc blend, a vigorous mousse when poured and plenty of fine-bead bubbles that follow. This is winecurrent’s first crack at a Crémant de Bordeaux; it has the body, flavour and balance to pour with all appetizers and roasted white meat for mains and it came very close to nailing down 5 stars.

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Charme d’Aliénor Crémant de Bordeaux Non-Vintage
AOC Crémant de Bordeaux $16.95 (483008) 12.0% alcohol
Slight leesy aromas interweave with citrus, ginger and wisps of nutty notes on the nose. It’s creamy smooth and quite expressive on the palate, brimming with texture and ripe, fruit flavour tinged slightly off-dry —honeydew melon, juicy nectarine and blood orange meld into a delectable mouthful of pure joy persisting through the balanced, refreshing, finish and aftertaste. Pick up a few on release day; it’s not to be missed. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Joseph Cattin Brut Crémant d’Alsace Non-Vintage

AOC Alsace $17.95 (281329) 12.0% alcohol

You can’t go wrong with Cattin, this finely wrought Crémant a testament to centuries of winemaking expertise. It’s dry, the mousse fine and creamy, floral and mineral notes complement citrus and crisp, tasty green apple on the palate. It’s a lively, delicate wine with mousse persisting through the long-lasting finish. It’s wonderful; sip away! (Susan Desjardins) 

• Long before Dom Perignon (1638-1715) and long before Champagne made sparkling wine, there was Blanquette de Limoux sparkling wine that was documented being made by monks in the Saint-Hilaire monastery in 1531. The following’s a vintage-dated gem from there that’s well worth tasting.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Sieur d’Arques ‘Première Bulle Brut’ Blanquette de Limoux 2015
AOC Blanquette de Limoux, France $18.95 (497727) 12.5% alcohol
There are aromas of brioche, citrus and wisps of mineral and leesy notes on the nose of this clean, crisp sparkler with generous mousse forming in the glass. It races over the palate with tensile streaks of lemon curd and white grapefruit tang persisting through the mouth-watering finish and aftertaste. This pours particularly well with freshly shucked oysters, sushi or pan-seared fish under a squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Chevalier ‘Monopole’ Brut Rosé Non-Vintage
AOC Crémant de Bourgogne $15.95 (485920) 12.0% alcohol
This ‘Monopole’—they source only fruit that’s from their own vineyards—is clean, crisp and refreshing with ripe fruit flavour, persistent fine-bead bubbles and a lengthy, mouth-watering finish. It opens with excellent frothy mousse and aromas of red cherry/berry fruit with wisps of spice and mineral notes before bathing the palate with a well-balanced stream of red currant and red raspberry flavours that replay along with notions of crisp orange on the lingering, lip-smacking aftertaste. The price-quality balance tips wildly in your favour, pick up six or more for drinking over the next year or so. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink now
Valdo Marca Oro ‘Valdobbiadene’ Prosecco Superiore Non-Vintage
DOCG Veneto $16.95 (422840) 11.0% alcohol
There’s nothing intricate about this lighter-styled, slightly off-dry Prosecco—there’s good spritz and ripe fruit flavour. Aromas of floral, ripe fruit and citrus precede a light-on-its-feet wash of mango, grilled pineapple and nectarine bathing the palate. It finishes with citrussy tang, clean and refreshing. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Sumarroca ‘Brut Reserva’ Cava 2013
DO Spain $14.95 (482661) 12.5% alcohol
All Cava is made in Spain, and in the traditional method. This particular vintage-dated sparkler is sourced from the holy grail of Cava grapes—paralleda, xarello, macabeo. This is linear and quite focused with bracing acidity throughout. It races over the palate with great élan—tang-laden lemon and lively lime interwoven with flinty minerality—persisting through the crisp, clean finish. Pour this value-packed Cava with steamed mussels. (Vic Harradine)

The Main Release

Fortified Wine: Port

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Taylor Fladgate ‘Fine White’ Port

DOC Douro $15.95 (69856) 20.0% alcohol

That's correct, 'white' Port. It's a tad sweet, you can add ice and mix it with a splash of tonic and a sprig of fresh mint or citrus slice to make a refreshing aperitif. It has hints of apple and fig flavours with a focused spine of citrus acidity that keeps it crisp and refreshing. It's high octane—20% alcohol—moderation not suggested, it’s required. (Vic Harradine) 

Ontario: White Wine

• The following Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 is a sweet, spritzy treasure from Nova Scotia, it’s gained almost cult-like status since its inception—winecurrent’s first taste was the 2010 Vintage and it’s the same price now as then. According to the winery, the grape blend is made up of ‘100% Nova Scotia-grown grapes—L’Acadie, New York Muscat, Ortega, Geisenheim and more’.

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Benjamin Bridge ‘Nova 7’ 2016
Nova Scotia $24.95 (256289) 6.5% alcohol
This is light-pink hued in the glass with aromas of exotic spice, muscat grapes—floral, spicy and grapey—and mandarin orange galore. A surge of sweet ambrosia blankets the palate with piquant spice, minerality and tropical fruit drizzled with lime juice to the fore. It finishes fairly clean and pours well as an aperitif; it also pairs well with prawn bisque or lemon curd cake.

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
Cave Spring ‘Estate Bottle’ Chardonnay Musqué 2015
VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment $16.95 (246579) 13.5% alcohol
Delicate aromas waft from the glass of this mid-weight, nicely textured chardonnay clone with floral notes and soft citrus predominant. It envelops the palate with flavours of blood orange, white grapefruit and mineral notes persisting through the lengthy aftertaste adorned with orchard fruit, minerality and grapefruit pith. There’s good purity of fruit, deft balance and plenty of style at a knockout price. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Featherstone ‘Canadian Oak’ Chardonnay 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula $21.95 (149302) 13.0% alcohol
This is a deep golden yellow with lifted aromas of piquant spice, toast and oaky notes on the nose of this ambient-yeast fermented, medium-full bodied, nicely textured chardonnay. Flavours of apple, pear and clementine intertwine with baking spice and oaky notes. It finishes in a flourish, balanced and complex, stylish and with a swagger. Another few months in bottle will be rewarded in spades. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: Red Wine

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Cuddy by Tawse Cabernet-Merlot 2013

VQA Niagara Peninsula $24.95 (469031) 13.0% alcohol

Piquant spice, black plum, tobacco and dark, juicy briary berry waft from the nose of this medium-plus bodied nicely textured red blend. It’s lively and tangy on the palate with grilled savory herbs interwoven with pomegranate, red currant and racy red cherry. It finishes with replays along with hints of tomato leaf and fresh herbs on the aftertaste. Pour with pasta puttanesca or spaghetti Bolognese. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Southbrook ‘triomphe organic’ Cabernet Franc 2015

VQA Niagara Peninsula $21.95 (275958) 12.5% alcohol

A lifted nose of black currant, pencil shavings and mixed spice set the table for a glorious smorgasbord of ripe, red fruit flavour—red cherry, red plum and cranberry—mingling with piquant spice. It’s medium bodied with good mouthfeel and deftly balanced, spirited finish and aftertaste with added spice, excellent tang and plenty of charm. Pour with chicken parmesan. (Vic Harradine)

California: White Wine

****1/2 drink now
Bonterra Viognier 2015
Mendocino County/Lake County $21.95 (128900) 14.4% alcohol
Lifted and lively floral/spice/grapey aromas announce the splash of muscat in this California viognier. It’s medium bodied and nicely textured with honey-drizzled orchard fruit—peach, nectarine and plum—interwoven with soft lemon tang on the palate persisting through the lingering aftertaste, balanced and beautiful, rich and luscious. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now
La Crema ‘Monterey’ Chardonnay 2015
Monterey County $26.95 (158683) 13.9% alcohol
Baking spice and tropical fruit aromas provide segue for this creamy smooth, balanced and beautiful California chardonnay—from cork pop to last drop there are simply no hard edges. It rolls over the palate medium-plus weight with generous mouthfeel and a boatload of flavour—nectarine and mango, lemon chiffon pie and poached pear. It finishes with replays on the lingering finish and aftertaste. What’s not to like. (Vic Harradine)

Washington State: Wine

**** drink now
Chateau Ste. Michelle Chardonnay 2015
Columbia Valley $21.95 (232439) 14.0% alcohol
Baking spice, vanilla and tropical fruit aromas open the door to a medium-weight, tang-laden flow of crisp green apple, ripe pear, juicy peach and racy lemon citrus. It finishes with wisps of lemongrass and orchard fruit galore. This is balanced and good to go now. Lovely sipped on its own, it has the oomph to pour with roast chicken or pork. (Vic Harradine)

California: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
La Crema Pinot Noir 2014

Monterey County $26.95 (367896) 13.5% alcohol

This is value-packed, fully fruited, deftly balanced and generously textured with a lengthy aftertaste—hard to imagine red-wine lovers not enjoying this. Sandalwood and savory spice aromas set the table for a delicious smorgasbord of creamy-smooth, rich, luscious flavour—ripe dark Bing cherry and black currant mingling with baking spice and bits of toasty oak. The finish lingers with replays, nicely balanced with each sip as good, or better than the previous. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Lake Sonoma Zinfandel 2013
Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County $28.95 (498766) 15.4% alcohol
Rich and luscious, full bodied and full flavoured, this hi-octane—15.4% abv—fruit bomb will find a lot of fans around the smoker / barbecue. It cuts a wide swath across the palate with an onslaught of black plum compote and sweet kirsch liqueur decorated with baking spice, savory herbs and sweet vanilla. Pour with smoked and grilled back ribs slathered with spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
McManis Zinfandel 2015

Lodi $20.95 (256735) 14.5% alcohol

There’s rich, sweet ripe fruit galore in this medium-full bodied, well-textured zin. Red and black cherry and dark briary berry wash over the palate balanced and beautiful. The lengthy balanced finish offers up with rich, dark fruit and racy acidity all in perfect harmony. Good to go now, pour with beef fajitas. (Vic Harradine)

Argentina: Red Wine

• In the following Alamos flagship, 2013 Malbec, high-altitude sourced fruit—three to five thousand feet—was hand harvested, destemmed and cold-soaked three or four days. After fermentation fruit remained in contact with skins for 25 days extracting additional flavour and colour. After malolactic conversion it was aged in French and American oak for nine to twelve months.

****1/2 drink now Exceptional Value!
Alamos ‘Selección’ Malbec 2013
Uco Valley, Mendoza $16.95 (322800) 14.5% alcohol
Smoky, tarry, black cherry/berry aromas abound on the nose of this generous Mendoza malbec. A rich, ripe flow of dark briary berry, mocha and grilled herbs coat the palate persisting through the lingering, balanced aftertaste. This is medium-plus bodied with generous mouthfeel and soft tannin underpinning. The price-quality balance make this a compelling buy. (Vic Harradine)

• The following organically farmed Versado malbec is sourced from ungrafted vines planted circa 1920 that grow in a cool corridor over an ancient river bed, subject also to cooling winds tumbling down a nearby mountain. Those factors and the unique soil and substrata plus the expertise of the after mentioned, iconic partners in marriage and wine, Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble, are the major reasons for the runaway success of Versado.

***** drink or cellar
Versado ‘Reserva – Ancient’ Malbec 2012
Mendoza $59.95 (316984) 14.1% alcohol
The Canadian combo, Sperling and Gamble, strike gold again—this is silky smooth with depth, structure, purity of fruit and deft balance. Fresh, lively aromas of spice, red and black currant precede a medium-full bodied, fully textured stream of red berry fruit and dark briary berry adorned with racy tang, mineral notes and mocha persisting through the tangy finish. It benefits from a three-hour aeration/decant; a further three years in bottle will also pay handsome dividends. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: Red Wine

****1/2 cellar
d’Arenberg ‘The High Trellis’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

McLaren Vale $19.95 (943456) 14.2% alcohol

Floral notes, perfumed exotic spice and notions of iodine aromas on the nose, this sports a full-Monty rush of palate-coating flavour with briary berry, tang-laden pie cherry and crunchy red currant to the fore. This medium-plus bodied, nicely textured cab has miles to go as it’s quite taut and firmly underpinned by still-evolving tannin—twist caps 2020 to 2025 and pour with grilled-rare, well-seasoned striploin. The price-quality balance certainly tips in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Pirramimma ‘White Label’ Shiraz 2014
McLaren Vale, South Australia $27.95 (987784) 14.7% alcohol
Ripe dark fruit and baking spice aromas introduce a rich, ripe flow of dark plum, sweet, ripe mulberry, currants and dark bittersweet chocolate galore. It coats the palate with a full-bodied creamy-textured, river that persists through the fruit-laden finish decorated with hints of tang. Pour with grilled back ribs mopped with spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink now
Kilikanoon ‘The Lackey’ Shiraz 2015

South Australia $17.95 (5199) 14.5% alcohol

This is straightforward and tang-infused. Savoury-laced flavours of red plum and cranberry ride a racy line of bracing acidity that’s underpinned with a firm tannin structure. It’s medium-full bodied, reasonably textured and finishes lengthy and quite dry. Pour with pasta, tomato sauce and meatballs. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink or cellar
Zonte’s Footstep ‘Chocolate Factory’ Shiraz 2015
McLaren Vale, South Australia $18.95 (396481) 14.5% alcohol
An outside-the-box choice for Wine of the Month given its confectionary flavours, it will also find admirers—it certainly lives up to its ‘chocolate factory’ label, closely resembling a chocolate bar in a glass. It’s certainly full bodied and full flavoured with a lengthy finish providing replays of the same. (Vic Harradine)

New Zealand: White Wine

****1/2 drink now
Kono Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Marlborough, South Island $18.95 (441394) 13.0% alcohol
Quintessential Marlborough, sauvignon blanc aromas—freshly mown grass, gooseberry and savory herbs abound. It bathes the palate with a river of green-tinged savory notes, lemon-lime and crunchy acidity. This is value packed, medium bodied and nicely textured with replays reverberating through the crisp, mouth-watering aftertaste, Pour with mesclun greens and crumbled chèvre. (Vic Harradine)

South Africa: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Rupert & Rothschild ‘Classique’ 2012

WO Western Cape $22.95 (434787) 13.0% alcohol

Here’s a stylish, well-balanced, deep ruby cab/merlot blend tantalizing the nose with aromas of ripe red fruit, earth and dried herbs. There’s great concentration of fruit on the palate, elusive savory notes of fresh herbs, tobacco and roasted peppers woven through the flavours of berries and plum. Sporting a well-defined yet supple structure, the wine delivers great length on the finish. A great match for rare, prime rib. (Susan Desjardins)

France: White Wine

**** drink now
Domaine Servin Vaillons Chablis Premier Cru 2015
AOC Chablis $34.95 (142778) 12.5% alcohol
Opening with aromas of saline/minerality, savory herbs and citrus notes, this sleek Chablis dishes up a tang-laden, laser-like stream of lemon juice, white grapefruit and blood orange racing over the palate, infusing the lip-smacking aftertaste. It’s tight and taut at this point, pouring well with freshly shucked, briny oysters dotted with hot sauce, drizzled with freshly squeezed lemon juice, sushi or steamed mussels. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Vignerons de Buxy ‘Buissonnier’ Montagny 2014

AOC Montagny $19.95 (382879) 12.5% alcohol

Introduced by aromas of floral notes and tropical fruit, this is clean, crisp and refreshing with tinges of minerality and a solid line of Chablis-like tangy acidity with lemon-lime and white grapefruit softened by wisps of ripe pear and peach flavours on the palate and aftertaste. Pour with freshly shucked oysters, ceviche or lemon sole. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Henri Bourgeois ‘La Chapelle des Augustins’ Sancerre 2014
AOC Sancerre $37.95 (322628) 13.0% alcohol
The 10th generation, doyen of Sancerre, Henri Bourgeois, dishes up a humdinger here. The nose is riveting with matchstick/gunflint aromas mingling with gooseberry and sharp citrus. Look for variations on a theme on the palate with laser-like focus and highly tensile and tang-laden flavours. Shimmering acidity—lemon and lime—are joined by green savory herbs and piquant green fruit. Try pouring in a year or so with crumbled chèvre over olive-oiled greens or try this (modified) winery recipe – cut ripe pear in half, hollow out centres, place chèvre in centre, warm in oven 20 minutes and serve with warmed walnuts. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Gérard Bertrand ‘Réserve Spéciale’ Viognier 2015
IGP Pays d’Oc $14.95 (147975) 12.5% alcohol
Glorious aromas leap from the glass with honeyed pit fruit, ripe tropical fruit and soft citrus to the fore. It’s full bodied, fully textured and full flavoured mandarin orange, sweet, ripe tropical fruit, grilled pineapple and very soft wisps of citrus notes. It’s a tad short on acidity, but still worth a buy. Serve chilled as a welcoming, deck-sitting wine or pair with spicy chicken wings or maple-syrup brushed, cedar-planked and grilled smoked salmon. (Vic Harradine)

France: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Château Haut-Piquat 2010
AOC Lussac Saint-Émilion $22.95 (386540) 13.5% alcohol
Given the superior vintage and the general price of red Bordeaux, this offers a very good price-quality balance and is worthy of purchase to drink now or over the next 8 to 10 years. Bright, lively aromas of red cherry/berry fruit set the stage for a medium-bodied, nicely textured flow of red currant and pie cherry interlaced with ripe mulberry and dark juicy cherry garnished with chalky/mineral notes, underpinned by soft tannin structure. Aerate/decant a couple of hours pouring with grilled and well-seasoned rib-eye. (Vic Harradine)

**** cellar
Marchand-Tawse Nuits-Saint-Georges 2012
AOC Nuits-Saint-Georges $64.95 (484030) 13.0% alcohol
Highly perfumed aromas of smoky/earthy notes and red cherry/berry fruit provide segue to flavours of pie cherry and passion fruit framed with searing tang and acidity. It’s medium bodied and sleek on the palate. Still quite tight and taut, underpinned by still-evolving tannin; give it another three years to soften its grip. (Vic harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Saint-Roch ‘Vieilles Vignes’ Syrah/Grenache 2014
AOP Côtes du Roussillon $15.95 (195107) 14.0% alcohol
This is a smooth and mellow, well-balanced, drink-me-now, red blend showcasing oodles of fruit flavour—plum compote, bramble berry with kirsch liqueur—interwoven with notions of mocha and fennel. It’s medium-full bodied and nicely textured with a long, fruit-forward finish that’s certain to be a hit around the grill—burgers, dogs and gourmet sausage all come to mind along with pizza and wings. Pick up a few. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Laplace Madiran 2013
AOP Madiran $17.95 (103705) 13.5% alcohol
This is surprisingly approachable for tannat, easily ready to drink after a two-hour aeration/decant. Alluring dark fruit aromas—plum, currant and cherry—set the table for a smorgasbord of flavour—black currant, dark cherry and blueberry decorated with sharp spice and savory herbs. This is medium-full bodied with good texture and firm structure. It finishes fruity, lengthy and with plenty of oomph. Pour with a thick, grilled steak, osso buco or boeuf bourguignon. (Vic Harradine

France: Rosé Wine

****1/2 drink now
Château La Négly ‘La Natice’ Rosé 2016
AOP Languedoc $23.95 (492199) 14.0% alcohol
This is dry, elegant and oozing style and charm, Aromas of red fruit—strawberry, raspberry and notions of cherry provide a grand entrance for this glass-stoppered, red blend—70% mourvèdre/15% syrah/15% cinsault. A clean, crisp, wash of delectable flavours—red cherry and strawberry—is ably supported by tangy red currant and passion fruit persisting through the lip-smacking finish. Delectable sipped, you can easily pair with pan-seared salmon or charcuterie board. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: White Wine

****1/2 drink now
Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2015
IGT Vigneti delle Dolomiti $19.95 (474742) 12.5% alcohol
This is a value-for-money, inspired choice for Wine of the Month and will have wide appeal to wine lovers. It’s nicely flavoured and textured with ripe fruit and soft tang plus an interesting, lengthy finish and aftertaste. Think of this as a life-vest thrown to a wine-world awash in watery pinot grigio. Aromas and flavours of soft lemon-lime with ripe melon and ripe apricot interweave from twist top to last drop, balanced and bountiful with flavour and style. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: Red Wine

****1/2 cellar
Taliano ‘Michele Ad Altiora’ Barbaresco 2012
DOCG Montersino $41.95 (480640) 14.5% alcohol
This is gorgeous, full stop. There’s an orange-hue to the rim and an alluring perfume to the nose—aromas of savory herbs, spice box and berry fruit mingle with notions of tarry and gamy bits. A smooth-as-glass wash of soft berry fruit and juicy black cherry, baking spice and grilled savory herbs bathe the palate with lip-smacking tang and generous mouthfeel. It finishes lengthy, balanced and laced with spice and wisps of black licorice. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink or cellar
Sassoregale Sangiovese 2014
DOC Maremma Toscana $16.95 (251785) 13.5% alcohol
This is tart, tight and taut requiring a lengthy four-hour aeration/decant and pouring alongside pasta in an über-rich tomato sauce. Sour cherry, red currant passion fruit dominate flavours while bracing acidity dominates the taste. It finishes dry and mouth-watering. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Tedeschi ‘Capitel Nicalo’ 2015
IGT Rosso delle Venezie $17.95 (984997) 13.5% alcohol
This will certainly cause a stir at backyard gatherings given the full-fruit flavour and attractive price point. Aromas and sweet flavours—ripe black plum and sweet briary berry—intertwine with dark chocolate and sweet vanilla on the palate persisting through the lengthy finish and aftertaste. This could pair with chocolate dessert or pork bellies with spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Deu La Deu Alvarinho 2016
DOC Vinho Verde $20.95 (40642) 13.0% alcohol
Hints of beeswax aromas mingle with mineral notes and citrus on the nose of this classy Vinho Verde. It bathes the palate with a light-on-its-feet, racy wash of tangy grapefruit and lemon robed in ripe melon flavour. The crisp, clean finish signals a great pairing with pan-seared prawns or a Portuguese favourite—grilled sardines. Here’s a recipe. (Vic Harradine)

Spain: Red Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Barón de Ley ‘Gran Reserva’ 2010

DOCa Rioja $29.95 (642496) 13.5% alcohol

This spent 24 months in 50/50 French and American oak barrel and a further three years in bottle before release. Licorice, tobacco and baking spice mingle with dark berry fruit aromas on the nose of this medium-bodied, nicely textured gem. A gorgeous wash of black berry flavour bathes the palate robed in peppery spice, complexity and charm. There’s persistent purity of fruit and a lengthy balanced aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
López de Haro Crianza 2010
DOCa Rioja $14.95 (377481) 13.5% alcohol
Pick an armful of this. It’s full of flavour, medium bodied and well textured with a lengthy aftertaste. Aromas of red cherry and spice open the floodgates to a tsunami wave of racy pie cherry and tangy red currant flavour that somehow turns balanced and beautiful on the mid and back palate through to the aftertaste. Good to go now with what you like to eat—veggie burgers, mac and cheese, grilled meat or sausage, beef, pork or chicken fajitas, chili con carne or red pizza. (Vic Harradine)

Upstream in winecurrent

Vintages Release: July 12, 2017

• Conveniently released for Thronies, just before the new, penultimate season begins on July 17, the following Game of Thrones chardonnay has a 10% splash of Riesling—serve at Small Council meetings.

****1/2 drink now
Game of Thrones Chardonnay 2016
Central Coast, California $29.95 (515676) 13.5% alcohol
Baked apple, nutmeg and poached pear aromas introduce a medium-full bodied river of lemony tang, blood orange, ripe pear and wisps of peach skin coating the palate persisting through the balanced finish and aftertaste. This is lightly oaked with good highlights and a long finish that layers on notions of baking spice and nutty notes. (Vic Harradine)

• Conveniently released for Thronies, just before the new, penultimate season begins on July 17, the following Game of Thrones Red Blend is made up of syrah, tempranillo and petite sirah, aka durif. (petite sirah having no familial connection to Syrah, aka Shiraz), Serve at raucous feasts alongside wild-bird pie.

****1/2 drink now
Game of Thrones Red Blend 2015
Paso Robles, California $29.95 (515684) 14.7% alcohol
Aromas of dark cherry, dark berry fruit and pipe tobacco waft from this full-bodied, generously textured red blend. It envelops the palate with rich, luscious flavours of black currant, sweet ripe mulberry and crunchy red cherry framed with spice, underpinned by firm tannin structure. Replays reverberate on the long, dry, balanced and beautiful finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

New in the LCBO

**** drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Concilio Pinot Grigio 2016
DOC Trentino, Italy $13.95 (637595) 13.0% alcohol
Grilled pineapple and lemon-pie filling aromas on the nose, it bathes the palate with off-dry flavours of tropical fruit and peach then cleans up crisp and balanced on the citrus-tang finish. It’s light-medium weight with good texture pouring well on its own or paired with light appetizers. The price is right. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
Grange of Prince Edward County ‘Almanac – Estate Grown’ White 2016
VQA Prince Edward County $19.30 (516567) 12.5% alcohol
This field blend is 60% Chardonnay/30% Riesling/10% Pinot is 100% estate fruit. A funky nose of gunflint and matchstick aromas waft easily from the glass. It glides over the palate tart and tangy with lemon zest and grapefruit pith galore. These flavours replay on the mid-length, dry, tart finish and aftertaste. Pour with prawn ceviche or seafood sushi rolls. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
Grange of Prince Edward County ‘Almanac – Estate Grown’ Red 2014
VQA Prince Edward County $19.30 (516567) 12.5% alcohol
The average age of the vines from which estate-grown fruit was sourced is approaching 15 years—60% cabernet franc/30% gamay noir/10% pinot noir. Aromas of dark berry fruit and gamy notes introduce a racy, tart stream of cranberry and sour cherry fruit streaking across the plate with nerve, verve and riveting acidity. These all replay on the mid-length, mouth-wateringly, dry finish. Pour with pasta in tomato sauce. (Vic Harradine)

• The following, and it has quite a following, 2016 Henry of Pelham Baco Noir was matured 6 to 8 months in American oak barrel, 24% new.

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham Baco Noir 2016
VQA Ontario $14.95 (270926) 13.0% alcohol
Gamy and spice-laden aromas set the table for a smorgasbord of flavour—sweet, ripe black currant and briary black berry interwoven with spice box, sweet vanilla and racy pie cherry coating the palate. This is full bodied, well textured and fully flavoured with a mid-plus length finish. It’s nicely balanced and value-laden; this baco pairs exceptionally well with grilled side or back ribs mopped with spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Lolo Albariño 2016

DO Rias Baixas, Spain $14.95 (483933) 13.0% alcohol
Here’s a nifty white from a hip ‘n happening cooperative that offers aromas of minerality and sharp citrus on the nose with wisps of floral notes. It skates over the palate with good mouthfeel and flavours of lemon curd and piquant lime infusing the lip-smacking finish. Lovely sipped on its own, it fronts up well to pan-seared fish, grilled prawn or just about any seafood making its way to your table. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
White House Wine Vidal-Moscato 2016
VQA Ontario $13.95 (279547) 11.5% alcohol
The muscat aromas jump from the glass with spice, lychee, lemon and grapey aromas galore. There’s a slight spritz when poured with sweet fruit flavours enveloping the palate with honeyed pit fruit, mango and lemon chiffon pie to the fore. It’s medium weight with creamy-smooth texture and a lingering sweet and tang finish. The yin and yang on the finish make it an eager partner for tandoori chicken, baked ham or spicy Thai dishes. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
White House Wine Riesling-Pinot Grigio 2016
VQA Niagara Peninsula $13.95 (219022) 12.0% alcohol
Piquant spice, mineral notes and crisp green apple aromas provide segue for a palate-bathing wash of tang-laden fruit—Key lime, freshly squeezed lemon and ripe apple galore. This medium bodied and nicely textured with a lingering aftertaste of lime cordial. A great quaffing wine, it also pours well with fruit flan, pad Thai or pan-seared white fish. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Red House Wine Cabernet-Shiraz 2016
VQA Niagara Peninsula $13.95 (219030) 11.5% alcohol
This is smooth and mellow showcasing exceptional value, sweet, ripe fruit—bramble berry and black cherry—good balance and enough structure to pair with burgers, red pizza or wings. Enough said – try it. (Vic Harradine)

New in Ontario Wineries

• The following Closson Chase, pinot gris was sourced from single-vineyard, premium, hand-picked fruit in the prestigious Four Mile Creek appellation—grapes were quickly whole-berry pressed and saw no oak.

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
Closson Chase ‘K.J. Watson Vineyard’ Pinot Gris 2016
VQA Four Mile Creek $22.95 12.0% alcohol
This showcases, deft balance, persistent purity of fruit, depth, complexity and a gorgeous finish. A slight spritz when poured, this offers up aromas of honeysuckle, wisps of spice and chalky/mineral bits on the nose. It bathes the palate with a medium-weight, slightly viscous stream of pure ambrosia with ripe peach and pear interwoven with lemony tang. It finishes in a blaze of replays; crisp, refreshing and lip-smacking good. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Closson Chase limited-production, single-vineyard, estate-grown, PEC chardonnay was sourced from low-yielding fruit – 1 tonne per acre – whole-cluster pressed, 100% barrel fermented with full malolactic conversion, maturing 16 months in 100% French oak barrel with a scant 10%, new. Only 236 cases were produced.

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada! 
Closson Chase ‘Closson Chase Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2015
VQA Prince Edward County $29.95 12.5% alcohol
Mineral/flinty notes mingle with baking spice aromas on the nose of this spice-laden beauty. It strides confidently across the palate with tart lemon curd, green apple, peach, peach skin and piquant spice all clamouring for attention. It’s early on, but already makes its mark with bold flavours, purity of fruit and lengthy balanced and beautiful aftertaste. Another 4 to 6 months in bottle and this will really strut its stuff. Drinking well now after a 20-minute aeration/decant, even better 2018 – 2020. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
Closson Chase ‘K.J. Watson Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2015
VQA Niagara River $34.95 12.0% alcohol
Bright, lively red cherry and spice-laden red licorice aromas precede a lighter-styled wash of red currant and pie cherry flavours framed by tangy acidity and underpinned by soft, approachable tannin and wisps of cherry pie filling. It’s nicely balanced, smooth and mellow with plenty of style and charm to go with the lengthy, mouth-watering finish and aftertaste. Grilled cedar-planked salmon or smoked, grilled duck breasts pair well. (Vic Harradine)

Private Order / Consignment Wines

• Order the following wine 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.

***1/2 drink now
Miguels ‘Vinho Tinto’ Barraida 2014
DOC Barraida, Portugal $14.95 12.0% alcohol
Red berry fruit, gamy notes and mixed spice aromas introduce a medium-full bodied, nicely textured stream of ripe red and dark fruit—red currant and cherry interweaving with black plum, savory herbs and soft, ripe tannin on the palate along with racy tang on the aftertaste. It’s drinking now and pairs well with burgers, wings or red pizza. (Vic Harradine)

• Order the following wines by the case for shipping to your home, office or restaurant in Ontario via email - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , online from The Vine Agency, or by phoning them at +1 416 693 7994.

****1/2 drink now
Noelia Ricci ‘Bro’ Bianco 2014
DOC Sangiovese Superiore Romagna $39.95 13.0% alcohol
This intriguing blend of 95% trebbiano and 5% pagadebit—a local grape variety— was fermented with indigenous yeast spending five months on its lees before bottling. Subtle aromas of zesty citrus accented with fresh herbs entice the nose while flavours of green apple, lemon and a lovely saline/mineral note refresh the palate. Dry and crisp, yet round in texture, it finishes with mouth-watering tang. This pairs nicely with grilled octopus or other seafood dishes. (Lisa Isabelle)

**** drink now
Noelia Ricci ‘il Sangiovese’ Sangiovese Superiore 2015
DOC Sangiovese Superiore Romagna $26.95 13.0% alcohol
Grapes from the best parcels of land on the estate were used to produce this fresh-tasting 100% sangiovese. Organic farming plus fermentation and ageing in stainless steel tanks helped fashion the aromas and flavours of fresh, crunchy red fruit intermingling with notions of mixed spice. Dry, medium-bodied with discernable tannin, it’s bright and tangy on the palate and finishes with a lengthy earthy, mineral aftertaste. This wonderful summer red would be a fine choice with beef carpaccio. (Lisa Isabelle)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Noelia Ricci ‘Godenza’ Sangiovese Superiore 2014
DOC Sangiovese Superiore Romagna $39.95 13.0% alcohol
100% sangiovese grapes from the Godenza vineyard were used to produce this elegant, Tre Bicchieri-awarded red. Aged without oak, delicate, fresh fruit aromas of cherry, cranberry and strawberry meld with hints of violet and spice. Dry, medium-bodied, soft and smooth in texture, flavours of tart red fruit persist through the long, mineral-laden finish. Try this appealing and accessible red with grilled salmon. (Lisa Isabelle)

**** drink now
Roccafiore Rosado di Sangiovese Rosé 2016
IGT Umbria $19.95 12.5% alcohol
Pale salmon-pink in colour, this 100% sangiovese Rosé from Umbria offers aromas of strawberry, red plum with floral and mineral notes on the nose. A nicely-balanced fruit-forward wash of red berry, plum and pink grapefruit, accented by dusty mineral notes, keeps the palate crisp and refreshing. Dry, medium-light bodied it finishes mid-plus length with a pleasant, savoury herbal aftertaste. Try this pleasing Rosé with seared tuna or a grilled vegetable salad. (Lisa Isabelle)

**** drink now
Tenuta Cocci Griffoni ‘Le Torri’ Falerio Pecorino 2015
DOC Falerio Pecorino $16.95 13.5% alcohol
This blend of 85% pecorino and other white grape varieties offers aromas of orchard fruit, citrus and stone fruit with a pretty floral note. Dry, medium-light bodied, green apple, peach, grapefruit and mineral notes bathe the palate while a touch of pithiness persists through the lasting, tangy finish. Enjoy this well-balanced, good-value white with seafood risotto. (Lisa Isabelle)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Tenuta Cocci Griffoni ‘Colle Vecchio’ Offida Pecorino 2014
DOCG Offida Peccorino $25.95 14.0% alcohol
Colle Vecchio is the vineyard where this estate’s unique DOCG was established, with pecorino being their signature wine. Lifted aromas of lemon, grapefruit, apple and subtle floral and herbal notions introduce this interesting white. Dry, medium bodied, the weighted texture anchors vibrant citrus flavours while a defined spine of acidity assures a clean, mouth-watering finish. A slight saline aftertaste makes this a lovely pairing with fruits de mer. (Lisa Isabelle)

**** drink now
Tenuta Cocci Griffoni ‘Le Torri’ Rosso Pienco Superiore 2012
DOC Rosso Pienco Superiore $21.95 13.5% alcohol
This blend, 55% montepulciano / 45% sangiovese, matured 18 months in Slavonian oak barrels followed by four months in bottle before release. Cherry/berry fruit with notions of spice, dark chocolate and bergamot segue to juicy, ripe cherry and plum flavours overlaid with mocha and spice on the palate. Dry, medium-full bodied, it’s well balanced with a mid-plus length, warm finish. This value red would complement any summer barbeque. (Lisa Isabelle)

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
La Guardiense Janare Falanghina del Sannio
DOP Falanghina del Sannio $16.95 13.5% alcohol
La Guardiense is a 50 year old co-operative winery with 1000 members producing high quality grapes. The dedication to quality is reflected in this good-value, Tre Bicchieri, award-winning white. Lifted aromas of ripe peach, pear and honeysuckle are introduced on the nose. Dry, medium-light bodied with good texture; flavours of orchard fruit reappear on the palate joined by a pleasant savoury herbal note. Versatile and food friendly, it offers a lengthy, lemon-flavoured mouth-watering finish. This exceptional-value gem delights on its own or paired with an array of summer fare. (Lisa Isabelle)

**** drink or cellar
La Guardiense Janare Fiano Sannio
DOP Sannio $16.95 13.5% alcohol
Fiano, a traditional grape of southern Italy, is used to produce this crisp, vibrant white. It opens with aromas of apricot and pear with hints of mineral while the palate offers flavours of ripe peach, quince and delicate notions of acacia flower. Dry, medium-light bodied, it finishes mid-plus length with a persistent citrus aftertaste. Serve as an aperitif or with grilled pork tenderloin with a fresh fruit salsa. (Lisa Isabelle)

**** drink or cellar
La Guardiense Quid Brut Falanghina Spumante Non-Vintage
DOP Sannio Benevento, Campania $19.95 12.0% alcohol
100% falanghina grapes were sourced to produce this fresh, fragrant sparkling wine produced in the Charmat method, undergoing a second fermentation in the tank, similar to Prosecco. Aromas of orchard fruit and citrus with floral and mineral undertones lead to flavours of green apple, white peach with a hint of brioche. Dry, light-bodied, lively and fun, a delicate mousse plays on the palate extending through the vibrant, cleansing finish. This delightful sipper doesn’t need a special occasion to be enjoyed. (Lisa Isabelle)

Cheers, Vic and Lisa