September 12, 2017 Newsletter

Louise BoutinPlease welcome Louise Boutin as a guest wine critic. She’s completing her final requirement for Algonquin College Sommelier accreditation by spending forty hours with winecurrent, attending tastings, evaluating wine, writing reviews, becoming more familiar with wine distribution and sales. Read more

Newsletter Highlights include:

  • Exceptional-value wine Exceptional Value! –only 2 of 62 wines currently available meet the strict quality-price guidelines. They’re found throughout the newsletter easily identified via the exceptional-value checkmark above. What strict guidelines? Click here.
  • 5-Star wine – 2 wines rang the 5-star bell. Elk Cove Pinot Noir 2014 @ $39.95 found under Oregon: Red Wine – it’s also exceptional value; Marchese de’ Frescobaldi ‘Castel Giocondo’; Brunello di Montalcino 2012 @ $52.95 found under New in Vintages Essentials located after the Vintages Release wines.
  • Louise Loves – Torres ‘Floralis – Moscatel Oro’ Non-Vintage earned 4 ½ stars @ $16.95 (500 mL) found as the first wine review of this newsletter; Wits End ‘Luna’ Shiraz 2015 earned 4 ½ stars @ $17.95 found under Australia: Red Wine; Les Halos de Jupiter Gigondas 2014 earned 4 ½ stars @ $38.95 found under France: Red Wine
  • Vic Picks – Featherstone ‘Four Feathers’ 2016 earned 4 stars @ $14.95 found under Ontario: White Wine; Malivoire ‘Courtney’ Gamay 2015 earned 4 ½ stars @ $27.95 found under Ontario: Red Wines; Bodegas en Villabuena ‘Izadi’ Reserva 2012 earned 4 stars @ $19.95 found under Spain: Red Wine.

Identify 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 before going.

Vintages Release September 16, 2017

Fortified: Vino de Licor Wine

• The Torres family has been making the following Non-Vintage Floralis for over seventy years—when you taste this stunning, 15% alcohol, full-bodied dessert wine you’ll certainly understand why they continue to do so.

****1/2drink now
Torres ‘Floralis – Moscatel Oro’ Non-Vintage
DO Manzanilla, Sanlúcar de Barrameda $16.95 500 mL (642173) 15.0% alcohol
This dessert in a glass is robed in a gorgeous, light-amber hue. It’s fashioned from Muscat de Alexandría grapes and is fragrant with beautiful aromas of quince jelly, marmalade, honey and a touch of ginger. The flavours are luscious and kept in perspective with tangy acidity and sharp ginger flavours balancing this on a pin through the enjoyable medium-length finish of candied-orange zest. Serve chilled on its own or partner with orange-infused, crème caramel. (Louise Boutin)

Ontario: Icewine

• The following 2016 Stratus ‘Red’ Icewine is a delectable red blend—40% petit verdot/30% cabernet franc/30% cabernet sauvignon.

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Stratus ‘Red’ Icewine 2016
VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Niagara-on-the-Lake $39.95 200 mL (56689) 12.0% alcohol
This offers alluring aromas of sugared strawberry and maraschino cherry. On the palate it showcases a treasure trove of balanced-on-a-pin, gorgeous flavour with cherry clafoutie and strawberry tart deftly juxtaposed with tangy red currant and sugared red grapefruit. A rare treat for an icewine to be so drinkable on its own—really quite elegant—and so easily paired with fruit flan. Kudos to Stratus. (Vic Harradine)

Sparkling Wine

****1/2 drink now Oh Canada!
Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs Brut Non-Vintage
VQA Niagara Escarpment $29.95 (213983) 12.0% alcohol
Apple, pear and floral aromas introduce this; it’s flavourful and oozing with charm and elegance. Lemon/grapefruit acidity electrifies the palate riding a serious profusion of fine-bead bubbles. Green apple and melon join the palate flavours just before the monumentally long finish and aftertaste clicks in—crisp, refreshing and lip-smacking good. The price-quality balance tips well in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Trius Brut Rosé Non-Vintage

VQA Niagara Peninsula $29.95 (184309) 12.0% alcohol

A lovely rosy hue, this traditionally crafted sparkler is brimming with subtle aromas of red berries, strawberry-rhubarb compote and warm pastry. Scintillating on the palate, dry, light-medium bodied, it’s bright and lively in texture. The persistent mousse accents the tart and tangy fruit flavours—green apple, red berry and rhubarb—lingering through the refreshing clean finish. It’s an invigorating wine to sip and serve. (Susan Desjardins)

**** 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 now
Belcanto Di Bellussi Prosecco Di Valdobbiadene Superiore Non-Vintage

DOCG Valdobbiadene $19.95 (53215) 11.5% alcohol

This is crisp, clean and refreshing with notes of minerality and lemon acidity streaking across the palate preceded by a quiet nose of crisp green apple and mineral notes. There’s a solid line of acidity throughout with lime and pineapple peeking through on the finish. A lovely welcoming wine or serve with lighter-styled appetizers. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Bernard Massard ‘Cuvée de l’Éusson’ Brut Non-Vintage

Luxembourg $19.95 (970970) 12.0% alcohol

This refreshing sparkler is made using the traditional method (that is, using the same protection techniques as Champagne), but includes a non-traditional blend of grape varieties: 40% chardonnay, 35% pinot blanc, 15% pinot noir, and 10% riesling. The result is a clean and crisp sparkling wine that is light gold in colour and has a slightly yeasty aroma with hints of apple and clean minerality. It’s medium bodied with a pleasing fizz and acidity that cleanses the palate, leaving subtle tastes of toast and lemon. This will be well matched with garlic butter shrimp pasta. (Dave Isaacs)
Ontario: White Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Closson Chase ‘K.J. Watson Vineyard’ Pinot Gris 2016

VQA Four Mile Creek $22.95 (469445) 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)

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Creekside ‘Marianne Hill’ Riesling 2015
VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment $20.90 (443572) 10.5% alcohol
Lifted aromas of piquant spice and minerality mingle with lime and crisp green apple on the nose of this single-vineyard, medium-bodied, off-dry gem. It rolls over the palate with a sweet- and tang-infused gusher of Key lime and lemon curd nicely rescued on the back palate and aftertaste with ripe nectarine. It finishes well balanced and mouth-watering good. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Featherstone ‘Four Feathers’ 2016

VQA Niagara Peninsula $14.95 (341586) 12.5% alcohol

This value-laden, harmonious blend of riesling, chardonnay, gewürztraminer and sauvignon blanc expresses aromas and flavours typical of each grape varietal. Orchard fruit, zippy citrus, exotic tropical fruit layered with hints of rose and ginger aromas on the nose provide segue to a mouth-watering wash of crisp apple, ripe pear and peach on the palate. Medium bodied and slightly off-dry, it offers a fresh fruit finish perfect with pan-seared white fish. (Lisa Isabelle)

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Flat Rock ‘The Rusty Shed’ Chardonnay 2014
VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment $26.95 (1552) 13.0% alcohol
Delicate aromas of apple, spice and sandalwood open the floodgates to a palate-bathing river of racy, tang and citrus-dominated flavour—lemon-lime and white grapefruit—interwoven with apple pie spice and grapefruit pith. It’s mid-plus weight with good texture and a dry, lingering finish and aftertaste. Pour with beer-can roast chicken or roast pork tenderloin. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
G. Marquis ‘The Silver Line’ Chardonnay 2016
VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake $17.95 (258681) 13.0% alcohol
Aromas of toasty oak, poached pear, and tropical fruit dominate the nose. A medium-bodied wash of flavour washes over the palate with green apple, honeyed pear and lemongrass interwoven with caramel and oaky notes, all replaying on the finish and aftertaste. It hasn’t yet matured and melded its disparate parts, another year in bottle will be rewarded. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham ‘Speck Family Reserve’ Chardonnay 2015
VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment $29.95 (616466) 13.5% alcohol
Baking spice, cedar and green apple aromas abound preceding a gorgeous stream of flavour unfurling on the palate—baked apple, poached pear and lemon pie filling persist and interlace with excellent tang, acidity and nutty notes on the lengthy finish and aftertaste. There’s complexity, depth, good purity of fruit and a texture that’s dreamy, creamy smooth. Pour alongside pork medallions in cream and mushroom sauce. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: Red Wine

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Leaning Post Wines Pinot Noir 2013

VQA Niagara Escarpment Twenty Valley (523183) $30.20 12.5% alcohol

Produced from a blend of fruit sourced from three vineyards—Wismer, Queenston, Lowrey—this is a light-medium bodied, old-world style pinot noir. Showcasing aromas and flavours of sun-ripened red berries, earth, herbs and spice, it has a smooth, silky texture. Slight toasty notes mingle with notions of earth on the flavourful aftertaste. It’s a great match for grilled salmon or duck confit. (Susan Desjardins)

• After alcoholic fermentation and malolactic conversion, 80% of the following 2015 Malivoire ‘Courtney’ Gamay matured nine months in seasoned French oak barrel while 20% matured similarly for four months then a further 5 months in new oak before both being bottled, unfined.

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Malivoire ‘Courtney’ Gamay 2015
VQA Beamsville Bench $27.95 (524231) 13.0% alcohol
Lively fresh aromas of dark berry fruit, graphite and grapey notes are followed by intense waves of primary fruit flavours—racy pie cherry and juicy black raspberry melding on the palate with mixed spice, grilled savory herbs and mocha. This is medium weight, nicely textured with a monumentally long finish and aftertaste replaying palate flavours, balanced and bountiful. Good to go now on to 2022; pour with gourmet grilled sausage, beef fajitas or rare-grilled skirt steak. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Thirty Bench Winemaker's ‘Blend Double Noir’ 2015

VQA Niagara Peninsula $18.95 (493973) 12.5% alcohol

This wine is a blend of gamay noir and pinot noir. It's pale red in colour, with a fascinating nose of strawberry, cedar hedge and mocha. It's medium bodied with flavours of dried fruit and lots of chewy tannins that linger in a slightly bitter finish. A great wine to match with some extra old cheddar. (Dave Isaacs)

**** drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Viewpointe Cabernet Franc 2010
VQA Lake Erie North Shore $17.10 (359299) 13.5% alcohol
Full-blown aromas of campfire smoke, black berry fruit and piquant spice herald a tart- and tang-infused line of passionfruit, cranberry and red currant streaking over the palate and through the drying, racy, lip-smacking finish. It’s medium bodied with decent texture and a gamy note and tomato-leaf bite on the aftertaste. Pour with pasta in tomato sauce. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: Rosé Wine

• The following 2016 Malivoire ‘Vivant’ Rosé was sourced from hand-harvested, whole-cluster pressed, 100% Pinot Noir fruit off the Beamsville Bench.

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Malivoire ‘Vivant’ Rosé 2016
VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment $19.95 (498535) 12.5% alcohol
Piquant spice, smoky notes and flinty/mineral aromas curl from the glass of this medium-bodied, nicely textured beauty. It dishes up a lively wash of tang derived from flavours redolent of raspberry, cranberry and passionfruit. It’s very lively and deftly balanced making it the perfect partner for charcuterie board or deli platter. Serve chilled, not too cold—remove from frig twenty minutes before serving. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now Oh Canada!
Tawse ‘Sketches of Niagara’ Rosé 2016

VQA Niagara Peninsula $17.35 (172643) 12.0% alcohol

Subtle aromas of tart red fruit—cranberry, red currant and pomegranate—segue to a wash of strawberry with a refreshing splash of lemon-lime flavours on the palate. Medium-light bodied and slightly off-dry, a saline mineral note is evident on the mid-plus length finish. Enjoy on its own or with a summer salad dressed with citrus vinaigrette. (Lisa Isabelle)

California: White Wine

**** drink now
Landmark Vineyards ‘Overlook’ Chardonnay 2014
Sonoma County $34.95 (356501) 14.2% alcohol
There are peach, pear and apple aromas decorated with smoke and toast on the nose of this nicely balanced California chardonnay. It sports a medium-full bodied, nicely balanced stream of ripe, delectable, palate-coating, fruit flavours brimming with tropical fruit—melon, pineapple and notions of mango—melding beautifully with oodles of spice and tangy citrus on the long finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Ryder Chardonnay 2015
Central Coast $17.95 (358638) 13.5% alcohol
Notes of smoke, cedar and baking spice billow from the nose of this balanced, rich and delicious chardonnay. It bathes the palate with ripe apple, pear and soft Meyer lemon persisting through the lingering, mouth-watering finish. It’s medium-full bodied and fully textured with more than its fair share of appeal. Pour on its own or alongside chicken â la King—Here’s a recipe. (Vic Harradine)

Oregon: White Wine

**** drink or cellar
A to Z Wineworks Chardonnay 2015
Oregon $22.95 (269258) 13.0% alcohol
Lemony citrus, melon and crisp green apple aromas show the way to a lively citrus attack on the palate led by ripe pineapple and tangy white grapefruit decorated with green-tinged melon and crisp apple, This shows persistent tang from twist top to last drop. Pour with grilled or pan-seared seafood scallop or ceviche. (Vic Harradine)

California: Red Wine

**** drink or cellar
Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Sonoma County $35.95 (186171) 13.9% alcohol
This Sonoma red blend—89% cabernet sauvignon/9% merlot/1% petite sirah/1% petit Verdot—delivers a nicely balanced flow of flavour, good balance and solid tannin underpinning. Aromas of smoky notes and spice box open the floodgates to a medium-full bodied, palate-bathing, smooth and mellow wash of black currant and black raspberry adorned with sweet vanilla and hints of mocha. The finish layers on perceptible tannin that’s easily ameliorated with two-hour aeration/decant. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2015 J. Lohr ‘Seven Oaks’ Cabernet Sauvignon is little brother to the popular Vintages Essentials product that’s in the full-bottle, 750 mL, format.

**** drink now
J. Lohr ‘Seven Oaks’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Paso Robles $14.95 375 mL (313817) 13.5% alcohol
Spice and smoke mingle with dark berry fruit aromas on this half-bottle sized California cab—perfect for a couple or when dining solo. A fruit-laden, tang-infused river of black briary berry, juicy black Bing cherry and mocha blanket the palate replaying on the finish and aftertaste. It’s mid-full weight with satin-smooth texture and fruit-driven throughout. (Vic Harradine)

**** 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 complemented 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 in a comfy chair with this crowd pleaser. (Lisa Isabelle)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Ravenswood ‘Old Vine’ Zinfandel 2014

Lodi $21.95 (942599) 14.5% alcohol

Sage and thyme aromas meld with dark berry fruit on the nose of this gorgeous, fruit-filled and spice-laden Zin. A fully textured wash of crowd-friendly, luscious dark fruit—bramble berry, plum and cherry—garnished with baking and peppery spice coat the palate infusing the balanced, juicy aftertaste. There’s a fine-grained tannin underpinning that’s easily ameliorated with a three-hour aeration/decant. Pour alongside barbecued back ribs mopped with spicy red sauce. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar
William Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
North Coast $22.95 (453647) 14.5% alcohol
Alluring aromas of smoke, oak and mixed field berry fruit set the table for a dense, complex flow of black cherry and dried currant interlaced with spice box and licorice enveloping the palate with gusto. It’s medium-full weight with generous mouthfeel and a lengthy aftertaste balanced with ripe fruit and racy tang throughout. The price-quality ratio in this California cab tips in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

Oregon: Red Wine

• The following 2014 Elk Cove Pinot Noir showcases Oregon and Willamette Valley—it’s will - ammit, dammit—as a world-class source for pinot noir and Elk Cove for its many contributions to their sterling reputations. The 2014 was a fabulous vintage producing both high-yielding and high-quality fruit; it’s a rare occurrence to be blessed with both.

***** drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Elk Cove Pinot Noir 2014
Willamette Valley $39.95 (234534) 13.5% alcohol
There’s persistent purity of fruit, deft balance and creamy-smooth texture galore in this elegant, succulent pinot. Aromas of dark and red berry fruit aromas mingle with baking spice and sandalwood on the nose. Flavours of black berry and racy red currant spread over the palate in a well-paced flow interwoven with wisps of piquant spice and mocha. This is mid weight with balance and graceful demeanour throughout. Pour with smoked, grilled duck breasts on a bed of arugula dressed with mango chutney. (Vic Harradine)

Argentina: Red Wine

***1/2 drink or cellar
Trapiche ‘Finca Las Palmas Gran Reserva’ Malbec 2014
Uco Valley, Mendoza $16.95 (186668) 14.5% alcohol
Distinctive aromas of floral notes, grilled savory herbs and black licorice introduce a tang-tinged, lively wash of red currant and pie cherry interlaced with notions of tapenade and an underpinning of firm tannin. It’s mid-plus weight with good mouthfeel and tangy, dry finish and aftertaste. Aerate/decant for two hours before serving with pasta in tomato sauce or red pizza. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: White Wine

****1/2 drink or cellar
Mountadam Estate Chardonnay 2015

High Eden, Eden Valley, South Australia $26.95 (333211) 13.5% alcohol

This is full bodied with good mouthfeel and rich, luscious flavours. Aromas of ripe, pit fruit and pear mingle with citrus and oaky notes on the nose. It blankets the palate with a surge of tropical fruit, pineapple and lemon curd before finishing with excellent citrusy tang mingling with wisps of oak. Pour this with roast pork or roast turkey with all the fixings. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: Red Wine

• The following Wakefield ‘Estate’ Cab is fashioned for the long haul with firm tannin underpinning, full complement of ripe luscious fruit and excellent, cool-climate Clare, tang and acidity.

**** drink or cellar  

Wakefield Wines ‘Estate’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Clare Valley $19.95 (744235) 14.0% alcohol

The lifted lively nose is resplendent with black currant, spice and espresso roast aromas. It coats the palate with a full-bodied, full-textured, full-Monty gusher of chewy cassis, mulberry, peppery and minty notes joined by tang-laden pie cherry persisting through the lengthy mouth-watering finish. It’s a bit taut at present, handsomely rewarding a three-hour aeration/decant or careful cellaring 2018-2023. (Vic Harradine)

****1/2 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Wits End ‘Luna’ Shiraz 2105
McLaren Vale, South Australia $17.95 (311258) 14.5% alcohol
This is no jammy, boozy Shiraz. It exudes a beautifully fresh nose of dark plum, blueberry and blackberry, along with fragrant violet and licorice aromas courtesy the Barbera in the blend. It gets even better on the first sip as a silky blanket caresses your palate while the juicy black plum, dark chocolate and vanilla, lifted by the freshness of mint, express themselves on the pleasant, medium-long finish. Perfectly balanced, this medium-full bodied gem will not last long on shelves or in your home. Enjoy with braised shank of lamb with fresh mint. (Louise Boutin)

New Zealand: White Wine

**** drink now
Toi Toi Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Marlborough, South Island $17.95 (454785) 13.5% alcohol
Savory herbs, sharp citrus notes and hints of gooseberry aromas open the floodgates for a rush of clean, crisp and lively lemon curd and lime cordial joined on the back palate and finish by melon and hints of gooseberry jelly. This is medium bodied with decent texture and a lengthy clean, refreshing finish and aftertaste. Pour with pan-seared fish, or freshly shucked oysters under a dot or two of hot sauce and squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

South Africa: Red Wine

*** cellar
Stellenrust Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
WO Stellenbosch $17.95 (172593) 14.0 % alcohol
The lifted nose of charred toast, campfire smoke and oaky notes portend the charred-, smoke-infused wash of black juicy fruit—plum, cherry and currant—robed in a cloak of still-evolving grippy tannin. This is medium-full bodied with lots of texture and a cheek-drying finish and aftertaste. Give this a go with rare-grilled, red meat in 2020. (Vic Harradine)

France: White Wines

• The ‘Cuvée Centenaire’ in the heading of the following 2016 Domaine Lafage Cuvée Centenaire, refers to the ancient vines—over 90 years old—from which this white blend was sourced. The blend consists of 80% grenache gris/grenache blanc, and 20% roussanne grapes.

**** drink now
Domaine Lafage ‘Cuvée Centenaire’ 2016
AOP Côtes du Roussillon $17.95 (343491) 13.0% alcohol
The involved nose is quite inviting—honeysuckle, apricot, ripe cantaloupe and honey. Partial malolactic fermentation showcases a pleasant, round mouthfeel that wraps the palate-bathing white peach, honey and pink grapefruit flavours together. The medium-long finish offers good minerality and lingers on contrasting notes of honey and a mild, pleasant pithy bite. This versatile blend is an excellent partner with ham and endive gratin. Here’s a recipe. (Louise Boutin)

**** drink or cellar
Pascal Bouchard ‘Montmains – Vielles Vignes’ Chablis 1er Cru 2014
AOC Chablis 1er Cru $45.95 (374181) 12.5% alcohol
This racy crisp gem will please your minerality and tang cravings. Discrete fruit aromas—green apple, pear and citrus, leave centre stage to the wet-rock and seashell aromas so typical of classic Chablis. The palate is fresh and vibrant with lip-smacking acidity while staying balanced and structured. This medium-bodied, old-vine chardonnay has great ageing potential but is perfect now with a smoked salmon appetizer—adorn with capers for a tangy match. (Louise Boutin)

France: Red Wine

***1/2 drink or cellar
Château Pey la Tour Réserve du Château 2012,
AOC Bordeaux Supérieur $21.95 (349308) 14.0% alcohol
This red blend is 85% merlot. It’s earthy and gamy at first nosing, after a vigorous swirl it reveals a potpourri of aromas—ripe black cherry, mulberry, prune, baking spice, chocolate and cedar. On the palate this still-evolving 2012 vintage displays firm tannins along with juicy mulberries, baking spice and dry cocoa while the medium-long finish replays them. This Bordeaux Supérieur is a great companion to slow-cooked, beef short ribs now and on to 2022. Aerate/decant two hours before service. (Louise Boutin)

**** drink or cellar
René Bouvier ‘Cuvée Chapitre Suivant’ Bourgogne 2014
AOC Bourgogne $24.95 (209601) 12.5% alcohol
A classic nose—tart cherry, raspberry, mushroom and a hint of bay leaf introduce this racy pinot noir. It’s a blend of several prestigious terroirs including Gevrey-Chambertin. This is medium-bodied and well balanced with good tannin structure plus lively acidity presenting through the tart cherry flavour of the medium-long finish. It’s an inspired and beautiful pairing with coq au vin. (Louise Boutin)

***1/2 drink or cellar
Domaine Le Grand Retour ‘Plan de Dieu’ Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2015
AOC Côtes du Rhône-Villages – Plan de Dieu $14.95 (224592) 14.5% alcohol
This entry-level grenache/mourvèdre/syrah blend offers tart cherry, raspberry, savory herbs and fresh, cracked-pepper aromas on the nose. The first sip is round and mellow on the palate until joined by peppery, tart juicy cherry flavours and young tannins. It’s a medium-bodied red that may need a couple of years to fully reveal its intriguing personality or you can aerate/decant a few hours before pouring a glass while digging into a gourmand charcuterie board. (Louise Boutin)

****1/2 drink or cellar
Les Halos de Jupiter Gigondas 2014
AOC Gigondas $38.95 (274217) 14.5% alcohol
You’ll be attracted to the distinctive ruby-hued label with planet and golden-star constellation. The renowned duo of Philippe Cambie and Michel Gassier showcase hi-altitude-grown grenache with their combined talents crafting this powerful Gigondas. The opaque purple robe in the glass and the complex black fruit nose—black plum and blackberry with cassis and a hint of licorice and violet—forecast the robust palate. The fruits are ripe, the tannins are firm while the licorice freshness carries a long generous finish in this succulent gem, cellar up to 2030. If poured now, aerate two hours before service, enjoying with rare-grilled flank steak. (Louise Boutin)

**** drink or cellar  
Gérard Bertrand Syrah/Grenache 2013

AOP Languedoc $16.95 (413237)) 13.5% alcohol

This is crowd friendly and medium-plus bodied with a lingering, balanced finish and aftertaste. Aromas of red berry fruit and piquant spice billow from this straightforward Syrah/Grenache red blend. A silky-smooth stream of ripe dark berry and blueberry joined by roasted herbs and spice glide over the palate. Pour with burgers, steak or whatever you grill on your Broil King. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: Red Wine

• The following 2011 Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino is sourced exclusively from 21 ha of sangiovese grosso vines planted at 500 to 600m. Wine has been made here since the 16th C, due in part to people coming here since ancient times to take in healing sea breezes from the adjacent Tyrrhenian Sea.

**** drink or cellar
Villa Poggio Salvi Brunello di Montalcino 2011
DOCG Brunello di Montalcino $49.95 (363028) 14.0% alcohol
This classic Brunello, sourced from a sangiovese clone called sangiovese grosso, displays a complex nose—dates and figs complemented by fennel seeds, a note of violet, and aged wood—compliments of 30 months in Slovenian oak casks. The dry palate and chewy tannins combine with tartness of red cherry and call for patience. This full-bodied red can cellar up to 30 years. It’ll be an excellent partner to a tomato-sauce, pork pot roast. Pouring now? Aerate/decant at least two hours before serving. (Louise Boutin)

**** drink or cellar
Scacciadiavoli Montefalco Rosso 2012
DOC Montefalco $20.95 (372458) 14.4% alcohol
This Umbrian-hills, value-packed blend—sangiovese, merlot and sagrantino—showcases aromas of earthy, leathery, peppery aromas with hints of dark cherry. The palate reveals tart red cherry and fresh mint flavours tingling the tongue. The firm, mouth-puckering tannins, derived mostly from sagrantino, conclude with the long finish of tartness and peppery flavours—not for the faint of palate. To fully appreciate this robust red, aerate/decant for three hours then serve with a dish like rare, beef tournedos wrapped in bacon. (Louise Boutin)

**** drink or cellar
Farina Le Pezze Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2013
DOCG Amarone Della Valpolicella $34.95 15.0% alcohol
Amarone are sometimes described as contemplative wines; you need to savour them slowly to fully experience their complexity and this is a good example. Aromas of prune, raisin, old wood, baking spice and a fresh note of raspberry fill the air. The first sip is round and velvety until chewy tannins join the dance allowing sweet raisins and piquant pepper to frame a long elegant finish. Aerate/decant two hours before service and enjoy this full-bodied, still-evolving red with a prune- and lamb-simmered ragout. (Louise Boutin)

Spain: Red Wine

• The following 2014 Alceño ‘Premium 50 Barricas’ Syrah is a 85% Syrah/15% Monastrell red blend recently winning a bronze medal in the International Wine Challenge.

***1/2 drink now
Alceño ‘Premium 50 Barricas’ Syrah 2014
DO Jumilla $14.95 (398933) 14.0% alcohol
A hedonistic wine of gargantuan proportions, it’s a jammy and fruit-forward red with aromas of baking spice, vanilla, macerated black fruit and oaky notes. It coats the palate with bramble berry and black plum compote flavours. The back palate and aftertaste capture notions of crunchy red fruit acidity providing semblance of balance, but still quite fruit forward. Pours well with grilled, smoked back ribs mopped with spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Ardal Crianza 2013
DO Ribera del Duero $19.95 (167601) 14.0% alcohol
If there’s such a thing as, ‘New World-styled wines’, this could be the poster wine for the category, notwithstanding it’s from the ‘Old World’. This is ripe, rich and raring to go. Aromas of smoke and cherry/berry fruit dominate the nose and replay on the palate with a medium-plus bodied, well-textured river of dark bramble berry, raisin and red pie cherry mingling with spice, espresso roast and black licorice galore. It finishes lengthy and lip-smacking good with oodles of delectable tang. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Bodegas en Villabuena ‘Izadi’ Reserva 2012
DOCa Rioja $19.95 (461269) 14.0% alcohol
Inky black in the glass, this 100% tempranillo offers aromas of savory herbs and black licorice preceding a tang-laden line of crunchy red fruit—pie cherry and pomegranate—streaking over the palate. This is medium-full bodied with good mouthfeel and a lengthy, lip-smacking finish adorned with mouth-watering tang and soft, ripe tannin. Pour alongside prawn and chorizo paella after a one-hour aeration/decant. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink or cellar
Palacio de Sada Crianza 2013
DO Navarra $16.95 (246736) 14.0% alcohol
Floral, oaky and berry fruit aromas intertwine with oak and graphite on the nose. It dishes up a boatload of crunchy red fruit delivered by flavours of passion fruit, red currant and cranberry on the palate. This is medium bodied and nicely textured with good balance and lively fruit from cork pop to last drop. (Vic Harradine)

**** cellar
Tobía ‘Selección’ Crianza 2013
DOCa Rioja $21.95 (364828) 14.0% alcohol
This matured 20 months in French and American oak barrel. It’s uber-rich on the palate with black currant and black plum compote underpinned by good tang, ripe soft tannin and intertwined with mocha and savory herbs. Medium weight with decent structure and mid-length finish, this partners well with pasta puttanesca or spaghetti Bolognese. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Yaso ‘Tinto de Toro’ 2012

DO Toro $19.95 (377499) 14.0% alcohol

Tinto de Toro translates to tempranillo in the Toro region and this grape is generally thought to be indigenous to northern Spain. Baking spice, stewed prune and black plum on the nose, this bursts onto the palate with a hedonistic surge of ripe and über-ripe black fruit—cherry, plum and bramble berry jam. It’s full bodied and fully textured, a fruit bomb for certain, and will find many fans. Fruit and wisps of kirsch liqueur persist through the finish and aftertaste. Pour with grilled back ribs brushed with spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

Upstream in winecurrent

Vintages Release Date: TBD

• The first 12-bottle case of wine I purchased from the LCBO was about twenty-five years ago, a Henry of Pelham baco noir. A prescient purchase at the time, it was enjoyed over three or four years. I’d suggest the following would be just as pleasing a purchase. Comparing this to then, it’s now certainly less rustic, has much better balance and while a stretch to describe as ‘elegant’, it certainly has tamed what was then deemed to be ‘wild, hybrid characteristics’ on the nose and palate, it’s now smooth, almost mellow. And, it now deserves high praise as an über-dependable, value-packed red that delivers in spades. If you haven’t tried baco for a while, this would be the time.

****1/2 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham ‘Speck Family - Reserve’ Baco Noir 2016

VQA Ontario $24.95 (461699) 13.5% alcohol

Grilled roasted herbs and dark cherry/berry fruit aromas unfurl from this medium-full bodied, nicely balanced, generously textured baco. A stream of sweet-tinged dark fruit flavours envelop the palate with black plum compote and bramble berry jam to the fore infused with a potpourri of spice. This was aged 13 months in new and seasoned American oak, now well integrated, and finds perfect dance partners with grilled, smoked back ribs mopped in spicy barbecue sauce or your favourite red pizza. (Vic Harradine)

New in Vintages

**** drink or cellar
Catena ‘High Mountain Vines’ Chardonnay 2016
Mendoza Argentina $19.95 (918805) 13.0% alcohol
Aromas of baked apple and fruit salad abound in this yellow-gold hued chardonnay. It bathes the palate with lemon pie filling and tropical fruit with wisps of caramel and Key lime. It’s medium-bodied, generously textured with good balance on the finish and aftertaste. Pour with your favourite chicken—rotisserie roast, Mary Brown’s, nuggets, KFC, beer-can, St Hubert, clay-bake… you get the idea. (Vic Harradine)

***1/2 drink now
Guillaume Auréle Viognier 2015
IGP Pays d’Oc, France $13.95 (380741)
Honeyed pear and apricot aromas give way to a medium weight, well-textured river of dried orchard fruit and tart apple flavours persisting through the finish followed by a distinctive grapefruit pith on the aftertaste. The price is certainly right. Pour with lighter-styled appetizers. (Vic Harradine)

• Vic recently attended a Vintages Essentials tasting in Toronto hosted by Vintages at the LCBO Head Office. Here are some of the wines tasted with many more to follow in future winecurrent publications.
New in Vintages Essentials: always available in select stores. However, it’s important you check that each vintage date matches reviews below as stores may have the past vintage or even the past vintage and the one reviewed. The reviews below pertain only to the indicated vintage.

White Wine

****1/2 drink now
La Chablisienne ‘Les Venerables’ 2014
AOC Chablis, France $26.95 (215525) 12.5% alcohol
A benchmark effort here for reasonably priced Chablis—it’s mid weight with decent texture, a lively line of lemony tang and a lip-smacking, dry finish and aftertaste. Aromas of pear, apple and chalky mineral notes segue a nerve and verve wash of lemon zest and white grapefruit adorned with Granny Smith apple and ripe Bartlett pear on the palate. Pour with prawn ceviche, green-lipped mussels steamed in white wine and garlic or oysters Pernod. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink now
Casas del Bosque ‘Reserva’ Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Casablanca Valley, Chile $14.95 (974717) 14.0% alcohol

There’s a lovely, arresting pungency to the nose—herbal notes vying with tangy cut peppers and hints of asparagus underlying the notes of citrus. On the palate it’s zesty and vibrant with passionfruit, lemon-lime and fresh-cut herbs riding the finely-honed edge of acidity and clean seam of mineral. This has great intensity and a lingering tangy finish. It’s a great value and superb choice to refresh your palate on a warm summer day. (Susan Desjardins)

**** drink now
Beringer Napa Valley Chardonnay 2015
Napa Valley, California $23.95 (84988) 14.5% alcohol
This is a ripe, mellow beauty, quite restrained without overt oak, rich, ripe and ready to drink. It’s medium-full bodied with generous mouthfeel and a delightful stream of flavour enveloping the palate—caramel apple, baking spice and poached pear nicely balanced with grilled pineapple and lemon-lime tang on the back palate and aftertaste. As Napa chards go, the price-quality ratio skews well in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

Red Wine

**** drink now
Bastion ‘Réserve - Du Bastion’ Pinot Noir 2014
AOP Bourgogne, France $19.95 (50575) 12.5% alcohol
Lightly hued in the glass, this wafts easily on the nose with delicate aromas of mixed spice, grilled savory herbs and red berry fruit. A soft, nicely paced wash of blood orange, pomegranate and cranberry mingle with beetroot and earthy notes persisting through the tangy finish and aftertaste. Hard to find better quality red Burgundy at this price point, it’s very good wine and very good value. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2013 Bodegas Lan Crianza has the term ‘Crianza’ on the label as a guarantee this tempranillo-dominant red was matured for at least 12 months in oak before bottling.

***1/2 drink now
Bodegas Lan Crianza 2013
DOCa Rioja, Spain $16.95 (166358) 13.5% alcohol
A muted nose of berry fruit, oaky notes and mocha unleash a racy line of lively, tang-infused red fruit flavour with passionfruit and sour cherry interwoven with piquant, peppery spice and vanilla. This is mid-weight with palate flavour replays on the dry finish and aftertaste. Pour with pasta in tomato sauce. (Vic Harradine)

**** drink or cellar
Monte Zovo ‘Sa’ Solin’ Ripasso Valpolicella 2014
DOC Valpolicella Ripasso, Italy $18.95 (650713) 14.0% alcohol
Campfire aromas mingle with gamy notes and dark berry fruit on the nose of this rich, ripe Ripasso. A surge of sweet ripe fruit and toasty/oaky notes blanket the palate adorned with spice, still-evolving tannin and crunchy red fruit—cranberry, currant and raspberry. It finishes dry with good tang and acidity. Paired and poured well with manicotti or pasta puttanesca sauce with garlic toast. (Vic Harradine)

• Be certain you check the vintage date on the following 2012 Marchese de’ Frescobaldi ‘Castel Giocondo Brunello di Montalcino bottle(s) in the store where you shop as there may well be 2011 still remaining and the 2012 vintage is the one reviewed below.

***** drink or cellar
Marchese de’ Frescobaldi ‘Castel Giocondo’ Brunello di Montalcino 2012
DOCG Brunello di Montalcino, Italy $52.95 (650432) 14.5% alcohol
This showcases purity of fruit, a deft tang/fruit balance and plenty of years ahead to mature—pop corks now, after a three-hour aeration/decant, or 2019 to 2026. Alluring, sexy aromas of baking spice, smoky notes, berry fruit, floral and cedar abound. A supple flow of full-flavoured ambrosia envelops the palate with crunchy red fruit—pomegranate and cranberry—interlaced with black currant, dark plum, spice and juicy Bing cherry. It’s medium-full bodied with good mouthfeel and a lingering finish underpinned by still-evolving ripe tannin. (Vic Harradine)

New in LCBO Portfolio

***1/2 drink now
La Linda ‘Selection – Old Vines’ Malbec 2014
Mendoza, Argentina $15.95 (507442) 13.4% alcohol
This 100% malbec displays aromas of dark cherry, plum and bay leaf with peppercorn notes. Only 50% of this matured eight months in once-used American oak barrel leaving a delicate oak thumbprint. The dark cherry aromas turn to tart, juicy pie cherries on the palate while coated with firm tannins persisting through the mild, peppery finish. This medium-bodied red pairs well with fresh tomato sauce dishes, it’s perfect with spaghetti Bolognese. (Louise Boutin)

New in Okanagan Valley Wineries

• Order the following wine to be shipped to your home or office in most provinces, including Ontario, via this link - Culmina Family Estate Winery.

****1/2 drink or cellar
Culmina ‘Hypothesis’ 2013
VQA Golden Mile Bench, Okanagan Valley, BC $46.00 14.0% alcohol
Aromas of black currant, mineral notes and sweet vanilla mingle with cedar and savory herbs on the nose of this flagship red blend—38% merlot/36% cabernet franc/26% cabernet sauvignon. It cuts a wide swath across the palate that’s fully fruited—bramble berry, cassis and black plum—all nicely balanced with tangy acidity and soft, ripe tannin galore; these synergies provide refinement and sophistication on the palate and aftertaste. Quite good now, bottle age to be handsomely rewarded. This warrants a multiple purchase pulling corks 2020 and well beyond for optimum enjoyment. (Vic Harradine)

Cheers, Vic and Louise