October 9, 2017 Newsletter

We’ve got your number!

Beginning this issue, we’ve gone to a numbered evaluation system rather than stars. Wines under 80 points are not reviewed.

80-82 unremarkable wines, but still enjoyable
83-85 enjoyable wines with attributes
86-89 extremely enjoyable wines with many qualities
90-94 wines of noted excellence
95-100 wines approaching nirvana

And a new rating system...

...for Exceptional-value wines  

80-82 points and under $10.00
83-85 points and under $12.00
86-89 points and under $15.00
90-94 points and under $19.00
95-100 points and under $50.00

Newsletter Highlights include:

  • Exceptional-value wine  Exceptional Value! – 8 of 65 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.
  • Finding Waldo – wine is sourced from grapes picked and placed on mats, dried in the sun then fermented and matured 12 months in traditional earthenware jars.
  • Vic Picks – Clos Pegase ‘Mitsuko’s Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2014 earned 91 points @ $34.95 found under Feature: Napa Valley; Bodega Alvear ‘Pedro Ximenez de Añada’ 2014 earned 94 points @ $24.95 (375 mL) found under Dessert Wine: Spain; The King’s Legacy Chardonnay 2015 earned 92 points @ $19.95 found under New Zealand White Wine; Red House Wine Co. Baco-Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 earned 88 points @ $13.95 found under New in the LCBO, after the Main Release.

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: October 14, 2017

Feature: Napa Valley

92 drink or cellar
Faust Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Napa Valley $60.95 (238261) 14.5% alcohol
This showcases persistent purity of fruit, depth and complexity. There are plenty of dark fruit aromas—bramble berry, cherry and plum—along with earthy notes on the nose of this full-bodied, nicely textured gem. It envelops the palate with a fruit-forward surge of tang-laden, tannin-influenced black currant and black plum interwoven with dark bittersweet chocolate and excellent acidity. Flavours replay on the lengthy lip-smacking finish. A three-hour aeration/decant ameliorates tannin; if patient, pop corks 2019 and beyond. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2014 Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 83% cabernet sauvignon, 13% merlot, 2% cabernet franc, 2% petit verdot matured 16 months in French oak barriques, 50% new with the balance used.

93 drink or cellar
Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Napa Valley $84.95 (24190) 14.5% alcohol
Aromas of floral notes, pencil shavings, black licorice and dark berry fruit abound on this medium-plus bodied Napa cab. It has good mouthfeel and a generous helping of rich, ripe palate flavours with briary berry and red cherry interlaced with mint and wisps of black licorice underpinned by soft, ripe tannin. Aerate/decant an hour or so pouring with grilled-rare, well-seasoned steak. (Vic Harradine)

89 cellar
Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Napa Valley $29.95 (39388) 13.5% alcohol
This is a well-priced Napa cab requiring more time in bottle. It opens with a nose of dried herbs, bramble berry and wisps of charred toast. The palate’s treated to full-bore flavours with black currant, ripe dark Bing cherry and cassis adorned by dark coffee and chocolate. The drying, dusty finish alerts you to the underlying still-resolving tannin—pop corks 2021 to 2025. (Vic Harradine)

• In the early days of Napa Valley, there was more petite sirah planted the cabernet sauvignon, it wasn’t until the 1960’s that cabernet sauvignon became King. The following 2014 Stags’ Leap Winery petite sirah is an interesting choice if you’ve interest in evaluating this varietal or you’re just interested drinking good wine, especially if you can wait a year or two.

89 drink or cellar
Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah 2014
Napa Valley $49.95 (590356) 14.2% alcohol
Mixed spice, floral notes and grilled savory herb aromas provide segue to a tangy wash of pie cherry and über-ripe black currant intertwined with sweet vanilla, oodles of spice and wisps of cocoa. This is mid-plus bodied with loads of texture, depth and flavour, though not for the faint of palate. It finishes lengthy with a firm underpinning of ripe tannin—somewhat ameliorated with a three-hour aeration/decant and a well-seasoned grilled striploin, but better opened in 2019, (Vic Harradine)

93 cellar
Dominus ‘Napanook’ 2013
Napa Valley $129.95 (212357) 15.0% alcohol
Intense, concentrated and complex are apt descriptors for this deftly balanced, full-bore Napa red blend—92% Cabernet Sauvignon/5% Petit Verdot/3% Cabernet Franc. Earthiness, gamy notes and pipe tobacco mingle with dark berry fruit aromas. It drenches the palate with dense and intense, silky textured and vivid flavoured—black currant, cassis and kirsch liqueur decorated with vanilla and black licorice. It finishes underpinned by somewhat grippy tannin—pop corks 2020 to 2030, (Vic Harradine)

89 drink or cellar
Atalon ‘Pauline’s Cuvée’ 2012

Napa Valley $42.95 (432310) 13.5% alcohol

A long, cool growing season helped fashion this supple, fruit-laden, right-bank inspired red blend—75% merlot, 20% cabernet franc with a splash of cab sauv and malbec. Piquant spice, tobacco and black plum aromas set the stage for a symphony of flavour with red cherry, red currant and briary berry front and centre. It’s medium-full weight with generous mouth feel and a balanced, lip-smacking finish showcasing racy tang and juicy dark cherry, along with toasty notes and baking spice—it aged a little over 14 months in primarily French oak, 63% seasoned. (Vic Harradine)

91 drink or cellar
Frank Family Zinfandel 2013
Napa Valley $42.95 (278283) 14.6% alcohol
This zinfandel-predominant blend also sports 14% petite sirah and 2% cabernet sauvignon. It leaps from the glass with aromas of charred toast, grilled savory herbs and briary berry. This is medium-plus weight with good mouthfeel, quite rich and luscious on the palate—but not jammy—with a glorious sweet-tinged stream of ripe mulberry and kirsch liqueur interwoven with hints of slightly tangy red cherry. It finishes lengthy, luxurious and brimming with mouth-watering, savory-laced, juicy fruit flavour. Beef fajitas, barbecued ribs or pulled pork sandwiches pair well. (Vic Harradine)

88 drink or cellar
Clos du Val Zinfandel 2014
Napa Valley $34.95 (590216) 14.5% alcohol
Energetic aromas of mixed spice and dark berry fruit abound. A creamy-smooth wash of bramble berry jam, black plum and dark chocolate make a statement on the palate along with hints of vanilla and cherry cordial. It’s medium-full bodied with decent texture and a lingering finish adorned with soft, ripe tannin. Pour with grilled, smoked ribs smothered in spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

89 drink now
Cakebread Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Napa Valley $44.95 (707224) 13.9% alcohol
Alluring aromas of piquant spice, citrus and herbal notes introduce a tang-laced flow of Key lime, white grapefruit and lemon curd on entry decorated with flecks of minerality and melon making their appearance on the back palate and finish. This is medium-bodied and light-medium in texture with a crisp, clean, refreshing aftertaste. Give this a go with pan-seared fish or grilled seafood. (Vic Harradine)

91 drink or cellar
Clos Pegase ‘Mitsuko’s Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2014
Carneros, Napa Valley $34.95 (986737) 14.1% alcohol
Toasty oak aromas mingle with baked apple and buttered popcorn on the nose of this balanced-on-a-pin, highly seductive chardonnay. A delicious wash of baking spice, mango and ripe pear embrace the palate infusing and persisting through the lengthy finish. This showcases purity of fruit, complexity and almost fully integrated oak along with charm and elegance—it’s an affordable luxury, worth the splurge. (Vic Harradine)

The Main Release

Dessert Wine: Spain

• The following 2014 Bodega Alvear ‘Pedro Ximenez de Añada’ is a dessert wine, technically not Sherry—although grapes from this region are used for the base wine in making PX Sherry as the designated ‘Sherry triangle’ doesn’t have sufficient PX grapes. It’s not fortified, but rather it’s fashioned from grapes laid out to dry and raisin in the sun on mats, then pressed, fermented and finally aged 12 months in traditional earthenware jars called ‘tinajas’, see photo below—it’s absolutely delicious. The Alvear family got their start in 1729 and it’s still family owned and managed—now by 50 Alvear family members.


94 drink now
Bodega Alvear ‘Pedro Ximenez de Añada’ 2014
DOP Montilla-Moriles, Spain $24.95 375 mL (499152) 16.0% alcohol
Orange-peel marmalade, caramel and spun sugar aromas abound. A thick, sweet, unctuous river of delectable ambrosia coats the palate with honeyed figs, hazelnut liqueur, peppery spice and treacle. The finish and aftertaste is monumentally long with magical orange-zest tang giving balance. Pour with pumpkin desserts. An affordable luxury, it’s not to be missed. (Vic Harradine)

Dessert Wine: Canada

85 drink now Oh Canada!
Muskoka Lakes ‘Red Maple’ 2014
Product of Canada $29.95 375 mL (50039) 15.0% alcohol
This unique blend of cranberry/maple syrup is unique on the nose and palate. Aromas of red fruit, dark toast and caramel honey introduce a sweet-tinged smattering of palate-coating flavour with honeyed flavours tinged with maple fudge interweaving with piquant, tangy cranberry flavour. Give this a go with chocolate mousse. (Vic Harradine)


• There’s an argument to be made that Bollinger is the top or one of the top Champagne houses and the following Non-Vintage Bollinger ‘Special Cuvée Brut’ certainly lends a good deal of support for top spot. It’s a blend of 60% pinot noir/25% chardonnay/15% pinot meunier with over 85% of grapes sourced from Premier Cru and Grand Cru-rated sites and a generous amount of barrel-age and inclusion of reserve wines.

94 drink or cellar
Bollinger ‘Special Cuvée Brut’ Champagne Non-Vintage
AOC Champagne $42.95 375 mL (234104) 12.0% alcohol
A profusion of mousse fills the glass with lines of fine-bead pearls winding upward, seemingly forever, in the glass. Alluring aromas of leesy/mineral notes, strawberry, baked apple and biscuit introduce a gorgeous array of invigorating, sweet and tang flavour caressing the palate with creamy-smooth texture, lemon curd, nutty notes and poached pear. This is crisp, refreshing, balanced and bountiful on the finish. My highest compliment; it required utmost discipline to spit rather than swallow. (Vic Harradine)

Sparkling Wine

90 drink now
Cave de Lugny ‘Brut Rosé’ Crémant de Bourgogne Non- Vintage
AOC Burgundy $19.95 (297846) 11.5% alcohol
Aromas of citrus and minerality come tumbling from the gorgeous, rose-coloured froth of small-bead bubbles when poured. The palate’s treated to a marvelous cluster of flavours with ruby red grapefruit, racy blood orange and sweet, ripe freshly sliced strawberry to the fore. It finishes in a blaze of palate replays and an invigorating dollop of tang—delicious and very good value. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: White Wine

89 drink now Oh Canada!
13th Street ‘White Palette’ 2015

VQA Niagara Peninsula $15.95 (207340) 12.5% alcohol

The price-quality ratio skews well in your favour here. Perfumed and lifted aromas of exotic spice, rose petals and licorice abound on the nose. A juicy, lively stream of lemon curd, lime cordial and crisp green apple blanket the palate infusing the refreshing finish. It’s well balanced, well paced, and well… lip-smacking good. Pour alongside pan-seared fish or lightly spiced/curried dishes. (Vic Harradine)

88 drink now Oh Canada!
Cave Spring ‘Estate Bottled’ Gewürztraminer 2013

VQA Beamsville Bench $17.95 (302059) 13.5% alcohol

Enjoy lifted floral aromas mingling with tropical fruit drizzled with honey. Off-dry, this golden gem is replete with rich fruit flavours—lychee to the fore with peach and mango—accented with fresh-grated ginger and sweet spice. The finely-honed acidity brings balance to the lush, focused fruit flavours. There’s great intensity on the lasting, spiced finish. Serve with grilled chicken and vegetables marinated in coconut milk. (Susan Desjardins)

92 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Fielding ‘Estate Bottled’ Riesling 2016
VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment $19.95 (251439) 10.8% alcohol
The price-quality balance tips wildly in your favour here. Petrol, mineral and citrus aromas waft from this beautiful, fruit-driven gem. A river of ripe orchard fruit—pear and apple—intertwine with racy tang—white grapefruit, Key lime and soft Meyer lemon—providing a balanced and beautiful mouthful of flavour. This is mid weight with good texture and a long, lip-smacking finish and aftertaste. Pour with grilled or pan-seared fish or seafood. (Vic Harradine)

89 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Flat Rock Chardonnay 2015

VQA Twenty Mile Bench $18.95 (286278) 13.5% alcohol

Tropical fruit aromas interweave with lemon butter, vanilla and spice in this alluring white. Creamy in texture, balanced with bright acidity, the palate is awash with intense fresh fruit flavours of red apple, pineapple and grapefruit with spice and mineral notes lingering through the long finish. Enjoy this very good-value chardonnay with apple-stuffed, roast pork tenderloin. (Lisa Isabelle)

• The following 2016 Henry of Pelham Icewine is a Vintages Essentials product always available in select stores.

93 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine 2016
VQA Niagara Peninsula $49.95 (430561) 9.5% alcohol
This is a perennial favourite showcasing excellent acidity and ripe, sweet, fruit flavours that are perfect partners in this delicious offering. Aromas of peach, pear and wisps of minerality unleash a flow of palate-enveloping flavours—baked apple and poached pear interlace with crisp green apple, sharp ginger and lemony tang in a crescendo of balanced and beautiful ambrosia. It all replays on the lengthy finish and aftertaste. Gorgeous now, will develop depth and complexity with bottle age. Pour on its own or with premium blue-veined cheese, fruit flan or pan-seared foie gras. (Vic Harradine)

87 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Smoke & Gamble Chardonnay 2016
VQA Ontario $17.95 (490391) 13.4% alcohol
Spice, cedar, apple and bell pepper aromas make way for a light-on-its-feet mouthful of tang-laden flavour with crisp Granny Smith apple, racy citrus and wisps of grapefruit pith on the palate persisting through the finish and aftertaste. Pour with prawn ceviche or sushi. (Vic Harradine)

Okanagan Valley: White Wine

89 drink now Oh Canada!
Gray Monk Gewurztraminer 2015
VQA Okanagan Valley $21.95 (321588) 13.5% alcohol
Rosewater, lychee fruit and exotic spice aromas set the table for a smorgasbord of off-dry palate flavours including sweet, ripe white peach and melon nicely balanced with grilled pineapple and tangy lemon curd. This is medium bodied with good mouthfeel and a crisp, clean, refreshing aftertaste from soft citrus notes. Pour alongside baked, bone-in ham studded with whole cloves and basted with brown-sugar glaze. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: Red Wine

87 drink now Oh Canada!
Reif Estate Pinot Noir 2014
VQA Niagara River, Niagara-on-the-Lake $16.95 (282889) 13.0% alcohol
Floral aromas and red berry fruit show the way to a mid-weight, tang-loaded red with crunchy, red fruit galore—pie cherry, passionfruit and pomegranate interlaced with earthy/savory notes on the palate. This is all underpinned by firm tannin and fully revealed in the drying, mouth-puckering finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

91 drink now Oh Canada!
Tawse ‘Sketches of Niagara’ Cabernet/Merlot 2012

VQA Niagara Peninsula $21.95 (130252) 13.0% alcohol

This shows complexity, balance and plenty of style with the price-quality balance tipped well in your favour. Charred toast, dark cherry/berry fruit and piquant spice aromas set the table for a smorgasbord of flavour. Medium-full bodied and fully textured, a balanced river of black briary berry and dark Bing cherry adorned with mocha and tangy acidity flow endlessly over the palate and lengthy aftertaste. Pour with grilled striploin. (Vic Harradine)

California: Red Wine

91 drink or cellar
Belle Glos ‘Dairyman Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2015
Russian River Valley, Sonoma County $59.95 (366013) 14.5% alcohol
Opaque in the glass—looking for all the world like cabernet sauvignon, rather than pinot noir—aromas of piquant spice, dark berry fruit and lilac waft easily from this rich, ripe and luscious pinot. It envelops the palate with a wide swath of full-bodied, full-textured wash of rich, ripe flavour—black currant, kirsch liqueur and juicy black plum decorated with mint and black licorice persisting through the aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

Oregon: Red Wine

90 drink or cellar
Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir 2012
Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley $35.95 (784434) 14.5% alcohol
There are lifted aromas of charred toast, dark chocolate and earthy notes on this medium-full bodied, generously textured red. It dishes up a racy, tangy streak of pie cherry and red currant mingling with mixed spice and sprigs of savory herbs. This showcases depth and complexity with wisps of tannin—aerate/decant two or three hours before serving. (Vic Harradine)

Argentina: Red Wine

90 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Susana Balbo ‘Crios Red Blend’ 2016
Mendoza $14.95 (366146) 13.0% alcohol
This lovely, hand-harvested red blend—73% malbec/22% syrah/5% petit Verdot—spent 8 months in French oak, 20% new and the balance second-fill. It hustles from the glass with aromas of violets, spice box and dark currant. There’s a satin-smooth river of nicely textured flavours bathing the palate persisting through the finish and aftertaste. It’s balanced, fruit-forward and delectable—black briary berry, spice-laden crunchy red cherry and wisps of red licorice and gamy notes. (Vic Harradine)

Chile: Red Wine

• The following 2013 Emiliana Coyam red blend is farmed biodynamically.

91 drink or cellar  

Emiliana Coyam 2013

Colchagua Valley $29.95 (63891) 14.5% alcohol

With cedar and smoke on the nose, this red blend—primarily and in descending order, syrah, carménère, merlot, cabernet sauvignon—sports a rich and luscious, balanced and beautiful wash of palate-bathing flavour—black plum compote and juicy dark Bing cherry interlaced with mixed spice, mocha and notions of grilled savory herbs. It’s medium-full bodied with excellent mouthfeel, depth, structure and a lengthy, dry finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

91 drink now
Ritual Pinot Noir 2015
Casablanca Valley $21.95 (514182) 14.0% alcohol
This is delicious. Piquant spice, wood smoke and aromatic bitters aromas float easily from this medium-bodied, nicely textured, deftly balanced, drink-me-now pinot. Rich, ripe and rarin’ to go fruit blankets the palate—strawberry, raspberry and cherry—deftly balanced by excellent acidity and tang. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: Red Wine

91 drink or cellar
Mitolo ‘Jester’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
McLaren Vale, South Australia $22.95 (43224) 14.5% alcohol
Aromas of cedar, graphite, floral notes and dark fruit herald a gorgeously fruited and nicely textured rush of deftly balanced ripe fruit—mulberry, black currant and juicy, black, Bing cherry—interwoven with racy red currant and passionfruit. There’s a lingering finish of fruit replays, dark chocolate and espresso roast that’s racy and lip-smacking good. Pour now with grilled red meat or hearty stew. (Vic Harradine)

94 drink or cellar  
Paxton ‘MV’ 2015 Shiraz

McLaren Vale $19.95 (327403) 14.5% alcohol

This 100% shiraz is value-laden, absolutely gorgeous and flirts with 5 stars. Aromas of savory herbs, piquant spice and red and black cherry/berry fruit abound. A dazzling palate-bathing wash of ripe black plum, mulberry and black Bing cherry joins with excellent tang, structure and deft balance persisting through the long finish and aftertaste. It showcases luscious tang, fine-grained tannin, purity of fruit and plenty of oomph. Pour now after a two-hour aeration/decant and on to 2024 with grilled lamb or grilled beefsteak. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Wakefield ‘Jaraman’ Cabernet Sauvignon and its label have quite a story to tell. You may have noticed the three tiny Seahorses on Wakefield wine labels. Shortly after the Taylor family purchased their Clare Valley property they dug a dam uncovering tiny shells of Seahorses. In geological terms that indicates a former salt-water body of water (true Seahorses live only in salt, or brackish water) and this would lead one to believe there’s also limestone base. There was and still is, and it, and the terra rossa topsoil, contribute to the high quality of this and all Wakefield, Clare Valley wines. Jaraman translates to ‘horse’ in a number of Australian Aboriginal languages and dialects.

89 drink or cellar
Wakefield ‘Jaraman’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Clare Valley/Coonawarra, South Australia $24.95 (142398) 14.5% alcohol
The Clare and Coonawarra regions both have cool-ish climates and it’s reflected nicely in the excellent balance of fruit and tang in this particular offering. Savory herbs, piquant spice and floral notes mingle with mixed field berry aromas before a vibrant, lively river of crunchy red fruit—pie cherry and cranberry—envelop the palate along with riper, dark fruit—currant and black cherry. The palate fruit is robed in excellent, racy tang and decorated with savory herbs, dark bittersweet chocolate and wisps of drying tannin. Aerate/decant for three hours pouring with rare-grilled, well-seasoned flank steak. (Vic Harradine)

New Zealand: White Wine

92 drink or cellar
The King’s Legacy Chardonnay 2015
Wairau Valley, Marlborough, South Island $19.95 (393694) 13.5% alcohol
This is quite stunning with its nose of leesy notes, sharp gunflint and piquant spice aromas followed by a glorious wash of medium-weight, creamy-dreamy texture plus vibrant sweet and tang. Ripe white nectarine and ripe apricot meld effortlessly with tang-infused lemon and tart lime on the palate, finishing up nicely balanced and full of spice and pizzazz. Pour now with pan-seared fish, sautéed scallops or roast chicken. (Vic Harradine)

89 drink now
Thornbury Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Marlborough, South Island $18.95 (734798) 13.0% alcohol

Grassy notes, savory herbs and piquant spice aromas provide segue for a sleek line of racy citrus—lemon, white grapefruit and blood orange—riding through the back palate and finish, tangy and mouth-watering, clean, crisp and refreshing. It’s medium-bodied with generous mouthfeel, it spent time on its lees, and pours well with pan-seared or grilled fish. (Vic Harradine)

New Zealand: Red Wine

89 drink now
Oyster Bay Pinot Noir 2015
Marlborough, South Island $19.95 (590414) 13.5% alcohol
Aromas of strawberry/rhubarb pie and charred toast open the door to a medium-bodied, well-paced stream of tang-laden flavour with passionfruit and pie cherry to the fore that’s nicely balanced by mingling with ripe dark berry fruit flavour on the mid-palate and lingering, savory finish. Pour with smoked then skin-side-up broiled, duck breasts. (Vic Harradine)

South Africa: Red Wine

• The following 2016 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir was sourced from estate vines in one of South Africa’s most southern locations kept cool by sea breezes from the nearby South Atlantic—many SA vineyards were subjected to excessive heat in 2016, but not these.

92 cellar
Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016
WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay $57.95 (999516) 13.5% alcohol
Forest floor/earthy aromas joined by grilled savory herbs and spice box on the nose, this sleek pinot noir dishes up a bracing mouthful of über-savory-infused, racy acidity with mixed, dark field berry, cranberry and pie cherry streaking over the palate with considerable élan along with notions of minerality and still-evolving grainy tannin. It’s medium bodied and requires time in bottle—pop corks 2020-2025. (Vic Harradine)

86 drink now Exceptional Value!
The Grinder Pinotage 2015
WO Western Cape $13.95 (269076) 14.0% alcohol
This always finds its fair share of fans and detractors. Aromas of dark-roast coffee bean and tar—induced from heavily toasted oak barrel—and black cherry/berry aromas set the table for a smorgasbord of palate flavours with black currant and boysenberry jam intertwined with mocha, grilled savory herbs and dark bittersweet chocolate. Pour with grilled/smoked back ribs slathered with spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

France: White Wine

90 drink now Exceptional Value!
Baron de Hoen Gewürztraminer ‘Réserve’ 2015
AOC Alsace $18.95 (377721) 13.0% alcohol
Rosewater, piquant spice and Turkish delight aromas leap from the glass. It bathes the palate with a delectable river of spice-laden flavour with ripe lychee fruit, mineral notes, exotic spice and a dollop of lemon curd crispness expressing itself with balance and good vigour. This is medium-plus weight and heavenly textured with persistent flavour through the lingering finish and aftertaste. Pour on its own or with baked ham dotted with cloves and basted with honey and brown sugar. (Vic Harradine)

France: Red` Wine

89 drink or cellar
Joseph Drouhin Côte De Beaune-Villages 2014
AOC Côte De Beaune-Villages $29.95 (518191) 13.0% alcohol
Alluring aromas of savory herbs and red berry fruit—cranberry and currant—meld with earthy notes before unleashing a polished, fine-boned surge of palate-bathing pie cherry and pomegranate flavours adorned with juicy black plum and piquant spice. This is mid weight with good mouthfeel and a lengthy, tart, lip-smacking finish. Pour with pasta in tomato sauce, pastitsio or Swiss steak. (Vic Harradine)

91 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Château d’Anglès ‘Classique La Clape’ Mourvèdre/Syrah/Grenache 2015
AOP Languedoc-la-Clape $18.95 (286484) 14.0% alcohol
Floral notes, savory herbs and peppery spice aromas mingle with red berry fruit before revealing itself with a rich, ripe, luscious river of palate-enveloping flavour—black berry, cassis, kirsch liqueur and racy tang. This is silky smooth, deftly balanced with a lengthy, lively finish and a charming personality from cork pop to last drop. (Vic Harradine)

92 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!  
Château de Ségure ‘Vieilles Vignes’ Fitou 2014

AOP Fitou $17.95 (370254) 13.5% alcohol

Aromas of baking spice, cedar and mocha reveal a beautifully balanced flow of sweet, ripe mulberry and dark bramble berry fruit bathing the palate robed in spice, red berry tang and oodles of charm. This is medium-weight with good mouthfeel and a particularly full-fruited and lengthy aftertaste of lively replays, delicious and mouth-watering. Lovely sipped on its own, it shines with grilled rack of lamb. The price-quality ratio skews well in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

• The Rasteau AOC has been around for some time, since 1944, but only for Vin Doux Naturel, the sweet, fortified wine made from three types of grenache—noir, gris, and blanc. It was only in 2010 red table wines were included in the AOC due to their persistent high quality demonstrated over a number of years.

85 drink or cellar
Lavau Rasteau 2014
AOC Rasteau $19.95 (394650) 14.0% alcohol
This is an even split of grenache/syrah from a highly respected family-owned winery. It wafts from the glass with aromas of sharp, peppery spice, grilled savory herbs and dark berry fruit. It’s full of tang and a bit rustic as waves of racy pomegranate and cranberry make their way across the palate adorned with sour cherry and an herbal, tomatoe-leaf bite on the drying finish and aftertaste. Pour with pasta in tomatoe sauce after a two-hour aeration/decant. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: Red Wine

• The following 2013 Nipozzano ‘Vecchie Viti Riserva’ Chianti Rúfina is sourced from one of the better-known sub-zones of Chianti. ‘Vecchie Viti’ translates to ‘old vines’ and the fruit from a Frescobaldi, 20-Ha plot of old-vine sangiovese makes up this wine.

90 drink or cellar
Nipozzano ‘Vecchie Viti Riserva’ Chianti Rúfina 2013
DOCG Chianti Rúfina $29.95 (395186) 13.5% alcohol
Toasty notes and dark cherry/berry fruit aromas waft from the nose of this creamy-smooth, deftly balanced, old-vine sangiovese. It’s round and mellow on entry with flavours gliding over the palate—ripe black currant and blueberry intertwined with crunchy red fruit—pie cherry and passionfruit—mingling on the back palate and through the balanced and bountiful finish and aftertaste. Lamb and root-vegetable tagine pairs well here. (Vic Harradine)

85 drink now
Santa Margherita Chianti Classico 2013

DOCG Chianti Classico $19.95 (91694) 13.5% alcohol

This pleasantly smooth 100% Sangiovese is pale red with aromas of strawberry, spice and smoke on the nose. It's medium bodied with flavours of sour cherry and well-integrated tannin. The lip-smacking tartness guides the wine to a mouth-watering, lengthy finish. This’ll pair particularly well with chicken Marsala. (Dave Isaacs)

89 drink or cellar
Tenuta Sette Ponti ‘Crognolo’ 2015
IGT Toscana $32.95 (727636) 14.0% alcohol
Aromas of red and dark berry fruit swirl from the glass with notions of spice and herbs before the palate’s treated to a rich, fruit-driven flow of briary berry, juicy black Bing cherry and piquant/peppery spice blanketing the palate. This is medium-full bodied with firm texture and a finish and aftertaste displaying a sharp herbal bite along with drying tannins. Aerate/decant for three hours or pop corks 2019-2023. (Vic Harradine)

91 drink or cellar
Villa Cafaggio ‘Cortaccio’ 2008
IGT Toscana $24.95 (20966) 14.5% alcohol
An alluring nose of dried fruit, spice box and black plum precede flavours of well-aged cabernet sauvignon—minty notes interlaced with cassis and rich, ripe, dark cherry and black currant. This is quite charming, approaching elegant, full bodied and nicely textured sporting a balanced and beautiful aftertaste. Pour alongside prawn and chorizo paella or a pulled pork sandwich. (Vic Harradine)

Portugal: Red Wine

• The following 2014 Altivo Tinto red blend was sourced from: 35% touriga nacional, 35% jaen and 30% trincadeira.

89 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Altivo Tinto 2014
DOC Dão, Portugal $12.95 (522292) 13.0% alcohol
Exotic spice, cocoa and cassis aromas provide segue for a soft, creamy-smooth, medium-bodied stream of palate-bathing flavours with cherry pie filling and hints of chocolate-covered maraschino cherries to the fore. It’s straightforward, uncomplicated and nicely balanced with persistent fruit flavour and a fairly lengthy balanced finish and aftertaste. It’s good to go now with burgers, grilled sausage or steak. (Vic Harradine)

Spain: Red Wine

91 drink now
Faustino I Gran Reserva 2004

DOCa Rioja $35.95 (976662) 13.5% alcohol

Aromas of green leaf, mineral, and raspberry dominate the nose. This Gran Reserva shows its age with the red colour fading slightly towards orange. It’s medium bodied with tannins that reveal themselves early, but then gently withdraw letting flavours of red berry show through a lingering, dry, fruit-laden finish. (Dave Isaacs)

• In the following 2012 Rolland Galaretta Tempranillo/Merlot, the ‘Rolland’ refers to the ubiquitous Michel Rolland who makes wine and consults on making wine seemingly all over the world.

88 drink now
Rolland Galaretta Tempranillo/Merlot 2012
DO Ribera del Duero $25.95 (434423) 14.0% alcohol
This red blend is 85% old-vine tempranillo with the balance merlot. It leaps from the glass with herbal notes, dark coffee and oodles of ripe black fruit aromas mingling with both piquant and baking spice. Succulent flavours blanket the palate, rich and concentrated—dark bramble berry and kirsch liqueur interweave with mixed spice, mocha and gamy notes. This is mid-full weight with good texture and a long, deftly balanced finish. (Vic Harradine)

92 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Viña Real Crianza 2014
DOCa Rioja $18.95 (657411) 13.5% alcohol
This is a red blend of 90% tempranillo with the balance garnacha, graciano, mazuela. Quiet aromas of graphite, dark berry fruit and piquant spice intro an intensely flavoured river of tang-infused fruit—Montmorency cherry, black plum and bramble berry decorated with sweet vanilla and underpinned by still-evolving tannin. It’s good weight, well balanced with nicely integrated oak and a lingering lip-smacking finish. Aerate/decant a couple of hours before serving. (Vic Harradine)

Upstream in winecurrent

Vintages Release Date: November 11, 2017

88 drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Vinha do Cais da Ribeira ‘Reserva’ 2014
DOC Douro, Portugal $13.95 (523639) 13.5% alcohol
Cedar, spice and dark berry fruit aromas roll easily from the glass. A mid-weight, fruit-forward wash of juicy red cherry/berry flavour bathes the palate flecked with notions of crunchy pomegranate and a generous dollop of tang; it finishes with hints of mocha. This is easy to drink—satin-smooth on the palate and über-easy on the wine budget. Pour with meat-laden red pizza or beef fajitas. (Vic Harradine)

Vintages Release: TBD 2017/2018

• The following 2016 Henry of Pelham Chardonnay ‘Speck Family Reserve’ was hand-harvested from the oldest estate vineyard where yields were held to under 2 tonnes per acre then whole-cluster pressed and barrel fermented. The wine then matured in French oak, 40% new Alliers, and 60% seasoned one year.

89 cellar Oh Canada!  
Henry of Pelham Chardonnay ‘Speck Family Reserve’ 2016
VQA Short Hills Bench $29.95 (616466) 13.5% alcohol
Lifted aromas of baking spice, toasty oak and flinty mineral notes abound on this well-textured, medium-full bodied, cool-climate chardonnay. It blankets the palate with piquant spice, lemon zest, apple and oaky notes galore. It finishes with wonderful citrussy tang. Expect this to mature gracefully in bottle over the next two years gaining in balance, unity and melding of what are now disparate flavours, much enhancing its charm and elegance. Pop corks, 2020 to 2026. (Vic Harradine)

New in Vintages (Flagship stores only)

• Tucked away on Concession road 5 in Niagara-on-the-Lake is a nascent winery, Icellars, owned and operated by the Icel family, who immigrated to Canada from their native Turkey eleven years ago. An engineer and successful entrepreneur, Adnan Icel decided to follow a life-long interest in agriculture, purchasing the 60 acres of fallow land on which his vineyard is now planted. With focus and determination, he immersed himself in the wine industry, learning that his land has the heat units to fully ripen the cabernets and merlot. Using his expertise, he built the entire winery – solar ready - with only the help of his family. Business savvy meant he hired expert wine consultants, previously Ross Wise and, now, the team of Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble. His production is tiny, only 2500 cases in 2017, but the wines are simply amazing. A limited amount of his Bordeaux-style blend Arinna 2015 will be available at flagship LCBO stores in the October 14 Vintages release. Line up at the door to get your bottle or two!

• For more information about Susan’s visit to Icellars Estate Winery and reviews of other Icellars wines, visit her blog at

90 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Icellars Arinna 2015
VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake $39.00 (524421) 13.0% alcohol
Intense ripe fruit aromas escape from the glass—black currant, plum, black cherry—garnished with hints of herbs and toast, cured meat and mineral. Aged 12 months in French and American oak, merlot and cabernet franc are blended with 54% cabernet sauvignon to create a complex, full-bodied wine with great depth and intensity of flavours. The wash of dark fruit flows like velvet on the palate, a dash of pepper and spice mingling with the notes smoky toast and dark chocolate. Polished tannins and subtle acidity anchor the fruit, offering balance and an enduring dry, fruit-filled finish. (Susan Desjardins)

New in Vintages Essentials

These wines are available in select stores. However, it’s important you check that each vintage date matches reviews below on each bottle you purchase as stores may have the past vintage or even the past vintage and the vintage reviewed. The reviews below pertain only to the indicated vintage—always advisable to phone the store before going to assure availability.


93 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham Riesling Icewine 2016
VQA Niagara Peninsula $49.95 (430561) 9.5% alcohol
This is a perennial favourite showcasing excellent acidity and ripe, sweet, fruit flavours that are perfect partners in this delicious offering. Aromas of peach, pear and wisps of minerality unleash a flow of palate-enveloping flavours—baked apple and poached pear interlace with crisp green apple, sharp ginger and lemony tang in a crescendo of balanced and beautiful ambrosia. It all replays on the lengthy finish and aftertaste. Gorgeous now, will develop depth and complexity with bottle age. Pour on its own or with premium blue-veined cheese, fruit flan or pan-seared foie gras. (Vic Harradine)


95 drink or cellar
Roederer ‘Cristal 2009
AOC Champagne $304.95 (268755) 12.0% alcohol
Leesy and honeysuckle aromas dominate the nose while the mousse froths in the glass followed by a profusion of small-bead bubbles streaming upward in the glass. A glorious swath of rich flavours blanket the palate with poached pear, baked apple and lemon pie filling to the fore. The monumentally long finish and aftertaste replay palate flavours. This is elegant and charming from cork pop to last drop—include this experience on your bucket list. (Vic Harradine)

White Wine

87 drink now
Bollino Pinot Grigio 2016 

DOC Trentino, Italy $17.95 (951319) 14.0% alcohol 
Delicate aromas of straw and floral notes open the door to a medium-bodied, nicely textured wash of crisp refreshing white grapefruit intertwining with Granny Smith apple and mineral notes bathing the palate infusing the clean, zippy-dry finish and aftertaste. Pour this clean, mouth-watering pinot grigio with grilled fish or seafood under a squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

85 drink now
Anselmi ‘San Vincenzo’ 2016 

IGT Veneto, Italy $16.95 (948158) 12.5% alcohol
An über-savory nose of grassy notes and sprigs of savory herbs dressed in piquant spice provide segue to this garganega blend. The mid-weight, lightly textured stream of palate-pleasing flavour skips over the palate with flavours of lemongrass, pear and wisps of apple persisting through the mid-length finish and aftertaste. Pour on its own as a pleasant pre-dinner sipper. (Vic Harradine)

92 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Thirty Bench ‘Winemaker’s Blend’ Riesling 2015
VQA Beamsville Bench $20.85 (24133) 10.8% alcohol
The lifted nose of lime and piquant spice aromas is also decorated with sharp mineral notes and notions of petrol. An off-dry surge of citrus-infused flavours explode on the palate with lemon curd and lime cordial providing pizzazz along with delicious accoutrements of melon, minerality and under-ripe orchard fruit. It’s medium-weight with a bountiful, lip-smacking finish. Divine sipped on its own, it pours well with grilled or pan-seared fish, steamed mussels or breaded and skillet-fried calamari. (Vic Harradine)

87 drink now
Mer Soleil ‘Reserve’ Chardonnay 2015

Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County $34.95 (958975) 14.9% alcohol
Baking spice, caramel and toasty, buttery aromas unleash a huge gusher of flavour that will leave few imbibers without a strong opinion. If you’re looking for a full-bodied, fully textured, high-octane, tsunami wave of rich, luscious, sweet flavours—grilled pineapple, oak-inspired vanillin and caramel apple—then you should love this. There are tropical fruit notes along with ripe pear, a bit of citrus pith and wisps of oak on the sweet-tinged finish and aftertaste—not for the faint of palate. (Vic Harradine)

Red Wine

91 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Hidden Bench Estate Pinot Noir 2014
VQA Beamsville Bench $31.95 (274753) 12.7% alcohol
A subdued nose of red berry fruit and spice provide segue for a gorgeous mouthful of deftly balanced racy tang—pie cherry and red currant—and ripe juicy fruit—black plum and dark Bing cherry. It’s medium weight with good mouthfeel and a delectable lingering finish of mixed spice with wisps of toasty oak and soft tannin. Pour with rack of lamb, roast turkey or crown roast of pork. (Vic Harradine)

• The folks from Caymus, the iconic Charles F. Wagner is winemaker, only reveal two of the grapes that make up the following multi-blend 2014 Conundrum Red—zinfandel and petite sirah—with no mention of oak or winemaking regimen—other than that it is oaked.

88 drink now
Conundrum Red 2014
California $24.95 (294298) 15.2% alcohol
Dark cherry/berry aromas, charred toast and spice box leap from the almost-opaque liquid in the glass. Ripe, sweet fruit envelops the palate—black plum compote, cherry cordial and rich, blackberry jam to the fore, decorated with milk chocolate. This is full bodied, fully textured and certainly fully flavoured with a lengthy sweet-tinged, fruit-forward finish and aftertaste. Pour with grilled back ribs mopped with spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

92 drink or cellar
Two Hands Wines ‘The Gnarly Dudes’ Shiraz 2016
Barossa Valley, South Australia $24.95 (660043) 13.8% alcohol
Purple/black, almost opaque in the glass, this unleashes aromas of ripe black berry fruit with support from mixed spice and savory herbs. On the palate, crunchy red fruit—pie cherry and cranberry—meet up with ripe black fruit—currant and mulberry—in a delightful, delicious pairing that’s balanced, well paced and well priced. Flavours replay on the long, mouth-watering finish. This pours well on its own, with each sip as good, or better, than the previous, as well as rack of Australian lamb or grilled steak. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2015 Trius ‘The Icon’ red blend—43% cabernet franc/42% cabernet sauvignon/15% merlot—was matured 12 months in French and American oak.

87 drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Trius ‘The Icon’ Red 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula $24.95 (303800) 13.6% alcohol
Aromas of ripe cherry/berry fruit, herbs and spice abound. A medium-full bodied, nicely textured flow of red cherry, bramble berry and savory herbs blanket the palate tightly robed in the still-evolving grip of perceptible tannin. Aerate/decant for three hours pouring with rare-grilled, well-seasoned striploin. (Vic Harradine)

New in the LCBO

• The following 2016 Cusumano Nero d’Avola was hand-harvested from 100% Nero d’Avola vines that average 15-years of age; this grape variety is indigenous to Sicily.

85 drink or cellar
Cusumano Nero d’Avola 2016
IGT Terre Siciliane, Italy $12.95 (143164) 13.5% alcohol
Aromas of red cherry/berry fruit, grilled herbs and pencil shaving aromas introduce a river of crunchy red fruit with red currant and racy pomegranate decorated with sharp spice and wisps of still-evolving tannin on the palate. It’s medium-weight with lingering, dry and mouth-watering finish. Pour alongside spaghetti Bolognese with meatballs after a two-hour aeration/decant. (Vic Harradine)

88 drink or cellar Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
Red House Wine Co. Baco-Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
VQA Ontario $13.95 (279521) 13.0% alcohol
Campfire smoke, grilled savory herbs and peppery note aromas leap from the glass of this nicely balanced, tang-laden red. It pushes the right buttons on the palate where ripe, juicy cherry/berry fruit teams up with excellent tangy acidity infusing the balanced and bountiful finish. As the winery name suggests, there are many pairing possibilities—burgers, wings, pizza, beef fajitas, mac and cheese, grilled gourmet sausage and more. (Vic Harradine)

Cheers, Vic