October 23, 2017 Newsletter

Louise BoutinPlease welcome Louise Boutin back. She has now completed her final requirement for Algonquin College Sommelier accreditation by spending well over forty hours with winecurrent, attending tastings, evaluating wine, writing reviews, becoming more familiar with wine distribution and sales. Her reviews for this newsletter are found near the end of the newsletter under ‘New in Private Order’. Read more.

Newsletter Highlights include:

  • Exceptional-value wine  Exceptional Value! – 9 of 67 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.
  • 95 and over – Four wines scored 95 and more points: Bollinger ‘Special Cuvée Brut’ Champagne Non-Vintage earned 96 points @ $79.95 found under Champagne; Featherstone ‘Joy - Premium Cuvée’ Sparkling Wine 2012 earned 95 points @ $34.95 and found under Sparkling Wine; Ségla 2010 earned 96 points @ $65.95 found under France: Red Wine; Armand de Brignac ‘Ace of Spades - Gold’ Brut Non-Vintage earned 95 points @ $305.95 found under New in Vintages Essentials.
  • Finding Waldo – Crljenak Kaštelanski is indigenous to Croatia, known all over the world by a different name, except for Italy, and it’s in southern Italy where it really shines.
  • Vic Picks – Featherstone ‘Joy - Premium Cuvée’ Sparkling Wine 2012 earned 95 points @ $34.95 found under Sparkling wine; 2027 Cellars ‘Queenston Road Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2013 earned 96 points @ $34.95 found under Ontario: Red Wine; Henry of Pelham ‘Speck Family - Reserve’ Baco Noir 2015 earned 92 points @ $24.95 found under Ontario: Red Wine; Ravenswood ‘Besieged’ 2014 earned 93 points @ $24.95 found under California: Red Wine; Sidewood ‘Estate’ Sauvignon Blanc 2016 earned 94 points @ $17.95 found under Australia: White 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: October 28, 2017

Scotch Whisky

93drink or cellar
Bunnahabhain ‘12-Year-Old Islay’ Single Malt

Burn Steward $89.95 (250076) 46.3% alcohol

In 2016, Bunnahabhain was named ‘Distillery of the Year’ at the ‘San Francisco World Spirits Competition’. Piquant, peppery spice and hazelnut aromas introduce a nicely balanced, rich wash of toffee interlaced with gentle brushstrokes of marzipan and faint wisps of smoky peat. It rolls over the palate easily with creamy notes and sweet vanilla bean infusing the delicious fade. (Vic Harradine)

Fortified Wine: Vermouth

• Vermouth is an aromatized, fortified wine that has flavours added by the addition of herbs, spice, fruit, roots and/or bark. It’s made from wine, or wine must. It can be white, rosé, red or yellow and is fortified by high-alcohol, neutral brandy. It’s believed to have originated in China some time before 1000 BC with the more modern-day version produced first in Turin, Italy in the latter half of the 18th C. It can be dry or sweet. It was traditionally made with wormwood added, this is now banned—among many other side effects are kidney failure, paralysis and death. The following Vermouth is sweet. A stunning aperitif over the rocks, here are ten cocktail recipes using sweet Vermouth courtesy

88drink now  

Cocchi Vermouth Di Torino

Italy $27.95 (461913) 16.0% alcohol

The spirited (get it?) nose with aromas of iodine, orange peel, spun sugar and caramel will certainly get your attention. Flavours of candied peel marmalade, sweet, honey-dipped mandarin orange and aromatic bitters attack the palate with gusto persisting through the long and über-delicious aftertaste. Primarily used in cocktails—Martini, Manhattan—it’s quite good on its own, on the rocks. (Vic Harradine)

Fortified Wine: Port

• ‘Late Bottled Vintage’ or ‘LBV’ as those in the know call them—now you’re ‘in the know’, you can, as well. The term is used for a single-vintage Port staying in barrel four to six years before bottling—twice as long as true ‘Vintage’ Port—making them more drinkable as they have less perceptible tannin when you purchase—it softens more quickly in barrel (barrels are not air tight), than in bottle. The vintage date shown on the bottle is the year grapes were harvested. LBVs are also generally produced in years that don’t meet the high standard required of a Vintage Port. However, they are a fraction the price of Vintage Port—the following 2011 Fonseca LBV is well worth a try.

91drink or cellar  

Fonseca ‘Late Bottled Vintage’ Port 2011

DOP Porto $23.95 (87551) 20.0% alcohol

Fig and raisin aromas introduce a spice-infused, intense gusher of sweet ambrosia. Flavours of black currant, kirsch liqueur and baking spice blanket the palate, medium-full bodied and generously textured. Extremely versatile at the table, pour with blue-veined cheese, extra-old cheddar or chocolate dessert. This is from a premium Port producer and very good value. (Vic Harradine)

Dessert Wine

90drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Cave Spring ‘Indian Summer Select Late Harvest’ Riesling 2014

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

A perennial favourite, this spreads over the palate with creamy texture and luscious flavours of honey-drizzled tropical fruit adorned with nectarine and poached pear juxtaposed and balanced with a solid line of lemony tang. It’s medium-plus weight with a lingering finish layering on an added dimension via a tart lemon bite—it’s crisp, clean and refreshing. Pour with fruit flan or honey-glazed baked ham. (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 with inclusion of reserve wines.

96drink or cellar

Bollinger ‘Special Cuvée Brut’ Champagne Non-Vintage 

AOC Champagne $79.95 (384529) 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

• This limited-production, sparkling wine is a thing of beauty, deftly handled from vine to bottle. Estate-grown, 100% chardonnay fruit was hand-picked into small picking baskets, hand sorted at the winery and gently, whole-bunch pressed. It settled in tank for 36 hours then racked off gross lees before being fermented dry at a cool 16°C. The second fermentation began in the bottle you purchase on February 5, 2013 and was kept on its fine lees in bottle for 30 months before being disgorged on August, 2015. It’s sealed with a red ribbon and crown-cap closure ensuring it tastes as wonderful as the winemaker knew it would when you flip it off.

95drink now Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!

Featherstone ‘Joy - Premium Cuvée’ Sparkling Wine 2012

VQA Twenty Mile Bench $34.95 (310334) 12.6% alcohol

This is a stunning example of what meticulous vinification technique does to showcase excellent fruit from a top year. This would score well in a flight of world-class sparkling wine. Persistent fine-bead bubbles form an admirable mousse infused with lively aromas of citrus and mineral notes along with hints of baking bread and orange blossom. A refreshing attack of lime and zesty lemon interweaves with ripe pit fruit on the palate persisting through the lengthy aftertaste—clean and refreshing, balanced and beautiful. (Vic Harradine)

87drink or cellar
Roederer Estate ‘Sparkling Brut’ Non-Vintage

Anderson Valley, Mendocino, California $39.95 (294181) 12.0% alcohol

There are baking brioche and nutty notes on the nose before a solid profusion of bubbles and flavours are unleashed on the palate. The yeasty, mineral bits are predominant intertwined with pear and apple on the mid palate. It’s mid weight with good mouth feel and crisp, lemony finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

88drink now
Pierre Sparr ‘Brut’ Rosé Crémant d’Alsace Non-Vintage

AOC Alsace $19.95 (39016) 12.0% alcohol

Pale-salmon hued and crafted from pinot noir, the delicate aromas of red field berries come through on the crisp, bright and fresh palate. Just off-dry, light-medium bodied and fruity, it delivers fine mousse and lively acidity. A refreshing and delightful choice. (Susan Desjardins) 

92drink now
Bailly Lapierre ‘Réserve’ Crémant de Bourgogne Non-Vintage

AOC Crémant de Bourgogne $19.95 (991562) 12.0% alcohol 

An almost transparent straw colour, this lovely sparkler has delicate aromas of pear, green apple and brioche. It’s quite rich and fruity on the palate—tree fruit in particular with a citrus note—and the mousse is soft and creamy. This is finely balanced, well-crafted and quite flavourful. An underlying minerality and fresh fruity acidity persist on the finish. This is good value. (Susan Desjardins)

• The following 750 ml Bottega Gold Prosecco Non-Vintage at $27.95 is slightly better value than the magnum (1500 mL) on offer for $59.95 and far better than the Double Magnum (3000 mL) at $139.95. It’s generally conceded that larger-sized bottles age better than smaller, but can’t see keeping this wine in cellar for long.

88drink now

Bottega Gold Prosecco Non-Vintage

DOC Treviso, Veneto, Italy $27.95 (621458) + 1500 mL $59.95 (423673) + 3000 mL $139.95 (465340) 11.0% alcohol

The golden-coloured bottle isn’t merely bling, it preserves freshness in the wine longer than clear glass. Hand-harvested glera grapes produced this Charmat-method sparkler. It’s dry, crisp and refreshing throughout with aromas and flavours of lip-smacking, lemon zest, green apple and pear—pour with lighter appetizers or seafood. This also glitters in a variety of winery-suggested cocktails. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: White Wine

89drink 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)

93drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Southbrook ‘triomphe - organic’ Chardonnay 2015

VQA Niagara Peninsula $24.95 (172338) 12.5% alcohol

Sexy aromas of baking spice, exotic incense, apple and pear precede a rich, creamy-smooth wash of lemon pie filling and grilled pineapple robed in nutmeg, vanilla and ginger bathing the palate infusing the long, dry finish along with toasty bits. It’s medium-bodied with a lengthy, balanced, refreshing aftertaste. Pour now to 2020 with roast or rotisserie chicken and roasted potato wedges. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: Red Wine

96drink or cellar Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
2027 Cellars ‘Queenston Road Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2013

VQA St. David’s Bench $34.95 (421370) 13.0% alcohol

Alluring aromas of cedar, exotic spice/incense and black Bing cherry open a complex, structured pinot with depth and elegance. A medium-bodied, nicely textured stream of red currant, dark berry fruit and pomegranate interweave with chalky minerality and beetroot on the palate. Good tension, persistent purity of fruit and deft balance define this incredibly well-crafted red—it was indigenous-yeast fermented, aged 14 months in French-oak barriques, 30% new. Artisan-winemaker Kevin Panagapka hits all the high notes in this symphony of harmonious aromas and flavours. (Vic Harradine)

90drink now Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
Stratus ‘Wildass’ Riesling 2016
VQA Niagara Peninsula $16.95 (129700) 11.0% alcohol
Sharp spice and floral aromas waft from this just-barely off-dry, value-packed, Niagara riesling. It streaks across the palate with great élan, blood orange, tart lemon-lime, notions of white peach and flinty minerality mingling with white peach and ripe pear. It’s medium bodied with good texture and a clean, crisp finish and aftertaste. Pair with skillet-seared freshwater fish or grilled calamari. (Vic Harradine)

88drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Quails’ Gate Dry Riesling 2015
VQA Okanagan Valley $17.95 (308312) 12.5% alcohol
Piquant spice, petrol and citrus aromas unleash a lime-drenched, tang-infused river of mineral notes, crisp, green apple and, of course, lime. It’s a dry riesling that’s mid-weight and nicely textured with long, juicy, citrus-infused finish and clean, refreshing aftertaste. Pour with sushi, prawn ceviche or platter of freshly shucked briny oysters dotted with hot sauce under a squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

89drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Featherstone Pinot Noir 2013
VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment $24.95 (372425) 12.0% alcohol
An involved nose of gamy/earthy notes mingle with barnyard and dried orange peel aromas on the nose of this light-on-its-feet pinot. It glides across the palate lean and clean expressing tangy flavours of crunchy red fruit—pomegranate and pie cherry—well matched with dried currants, sweet-tinged red currant jelly and savory herbs. The lingering finish is lip-smacking good. This really shines alongside food, give it a go with coq au vin or smoked and grilled duck breasts. (Vic Harradine)

88drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2015

VQA Short Hills Bench $24.95 (268391) 13.5% alcohol

Medium-pale red with a slight orange tinge, this has notes of dried fruit, cherry jam and smoke on the nose. It's dry, light bodied, and tart on the palate with sour cherry and tannin that starts in the background and then slowly moves forward. There’s a lengthy, tang-laden finish. It pairs well with cherry-glazed duck breast. (Dave Isaacs)

• 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.

92drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Henry of Pelham ‘Speck Family - Reserve’ Baco Noir 2015

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)

92drink or cellar
Norman Hardie ‘Unfiltered Niagara’ Pinot Noir 2016
VQA Niagara Peninsula $45.00 (208702) 11.2% alcohol
This unfiltered pinot walks to the beat of a different drummer, which could well be the mantra for Norman Hardy and his wine. Piquant spice, lilac and dark cherry/berry aromas precede a light-on-its-feet, almost delicate wash of sweet-tinged red fruit—cherry and plum—adorned with spice box, forest floor notes, all deftly balanced with crunchy pomegranate and wisps of blood orange. It’s quite complex, showcasing persistent purity of fruit and a rather lengthy, crisp, dry finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

California: Red Wine

• The following 2015 J. Lohr ‘Hilltop’ Cabernet Sauvignon fulfills their goal of producing rich, fruit-filled wines that are well balanced and have well-integrated oak. They’re also eco-friendly with fully 75% of their energy needs met by a renewable source, solar power.

91drink or cellar
J. Lohr ‘Hilltop’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Paso Robles $47.95 (686584) 14.9% alcohol
This has a lifted nose of dark briary berry, oaky notes and peppery spice aromas. It envelops the palate with medium-plus bodied, generously textured surge of rich luscious black raspberry and black currant jelly intertwined with espresso roast, sweet vanilla, black licorice and dark, bittersweet chocolate galore. The lingering finish and aftertaste replay palate flavours with gusto. Pour with grilled back ribs, grilled striploin or beef fajitas. (Vic Harradine)

93drink or cellar
Ravenswood ‘Besieged’ 2014

Sonoma County $24.95 (414136) 14.5% alcohol

One of the original three R’s of zinfandel, along with Ridge and Rosenblum, this Ravenswood sports a lengthy list of grape varieties in the blend, along with zin. It’s a brawny and bold effort not for the faint of palate —‘No wimpy wines’, is their motto—with lots going on, including good value. Roasted herb, underbrush and peppery spice aromas set the stage for an array of players on the flavour palette with luscious dark cherry, tang-laden red currant and ripe briary berry to the fore with minor bits of vanilla, spice and espresso roast. It’s full bodied and full fruited with complexity, structure and an appealing finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)
90drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Ravenswood ‘Old Vine Vintners Blend’ Zinfandel 2014
California $36.95 1500 mL (289777) 13.5% alcohol
Spice-infused aromas of dark cherry and dark berry fruit introduce a medium-full bodied, well-textured river of crowd-pleasing flavour with savory herbs and spice-laden black currant and wisps of pie cherry gliding over the palate, creamy smooth adorned with mocha, vanilla and bramble berry jam. This is nicely textured and sports a long finish and aftertaste of palate-flavour replays. Pour with grilled burgers, spicy gourmet sausage or steak. (Vic Harradine)

92drink or cellar
Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel 2015

Sonoma County $29.95 (942151) 14.8% alcohol

Dark plum in colour, there are predominant aromas of raspberry highlighted with a pinch of black pepper. It's full bodied with firm, well-integrated tannins and a nice frame of acidity that balances flavours of cherry and spice with the spice lingering in the finish. Keep it in the cellar for another couple of years, or enjoy today with medium-rare peppercorn steak. (Dave Isaacs)

86drink or cellar
The Prisoner 2015

Napa Valley $49.95 (104299) 15.2% alcohol

Aromas of spice box and berry fruit precede this high-alcohol bruiser of a fruit bomb dishing up sweet, ripe jammy flavours of black currant, boysenberry and dark plum adorned with kirsch liqueur and hints of ripe tannin. It’s full bodied and fully textured with a lengthy finish and aftertaste. It’s a hedonist’s delight from start to finish and pairs well with tandoori chicken and garlic naan. (Vic Harradine)

Oregon: Red Wine

92drink or cellar
Lange Pinot Noir 2014
Willamette Valley $38.95 (367359) 13.7% alcohol
Grilled herbs, black currant and red berry fruit precede a sweet-tinged stream of kirsch liqueur, baking spice, dark cherry and earthy notes on the nose of this medium-weight, satin-smooth pinot. It finishes up dry with good complexity, balanced finish and aftertaste of excellent tang and ripe dark fruit—plum and cherry. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2015 Canoe Ridge ‘Expedition’ Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of 96% cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Syrah with full malolactic conversion then matured 9 months in 100% American oak.

Washington State: Red Wine

89drink or cellar
Canoe Ridge ‘The Expedition’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Horse Heaven Hills $27.95 (394726) 14.3% alcohol
This has smoky, spiced cherry/berry aromas on the nose preceding a medium-bodied river of crunchy red fruit—red currant and cranberry wisps of coconut, sweet vanilla and bramble berry. It dishes good texture and a mid-length finish that’s nicely balanced with ripe fruit and racy tang. Pour with lasagna, chili con carne or Swiss steak. (Vic Harradine)

Mexico: Red Wine

86drink now Exceptional Value!
L.A. Cetto Petite Sirah 2015
Guadalupe Valley, Baja California $12.95 (983742) 14.0% alcohol
The price-quality proposition here is in your favour. It opens with baking spice, grapey notes and cherry/berry fruit aromas. This delivers strawberry jam, prunes and mineral/salinity on the palate—medium bodied, well textured and nicely balanced with a finish and aftertaste that beg for meat-laden pizza. (Vic Harradine)

Argentina: Red Wine

88drink now
Salentein ‘Reserve’ Malbec 2015
Uco Valley, Mendoza $17.00 (640854) 13.5% alcohol
Subtle delicate aromas of berry fruit, fennel seed and smoky notes open the door to medium-plus bodied mouthful of red fruit—cherry, raspberry and plum—washing over the palate and infusing the finish the dry finish. This is a well-balanced, drink-me-now malbec that pours particularly well with grilled gourmet sausage, burgers and steak. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: White Wine

• The following 2016 Sidewood ‘Estate’ sauvignon blanc reflects winemaker Darryl Catlin’s three golden rules: 1) Pick fruit in cooler temperatures at moment of optimum maturity 2) press ASAP—the following wine was pressed within approximately one hour 3) use only free-run juice fermenting with ambient, aka wild, yeasts.

94drink now Exceptional Value!

Sidewood ‘Estate’ Sauvignon Blanc 2016

Adelaide Hills $17.95 (518357) 12.5% alcohol

Aromas of tropical fruit, gooseberry and piquant spice abound. This single-vineyard, sustainably farmed beauty delivers a medium-bodied, creamy-textured surge of tang-laden lemon curd and white grapefruit interlaced with green apple and wisps of honeydew melon bathing the palate persisting through the lengthy, lip-smacking finish. Clean, refreshing and full of value, it pours well on its own or alongside chèvre, grilled fish or prawn ceviche. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: Red Wine

92drink or cellar
Mollydooker ‘The Boxer’ Shiraz 2016
South Australia $32.95 (246595) 16.0% alcohol
The lifted nose leaps from the glass with aromas of piquant spice, red berry fruit and floral notes. It’s juicy, ripe and luscious on the palate. A generously textured surge of black berry, dark cherry and baking spice capture the palate and finish while the aftertaste is adorned with sweet- and tang-tinged, lingering, fruit flavour. Aerate/decant for two hours pairing with grilled rack of lamb. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar
Two Hands ‘Sexy Beast’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
McLaren Vale, South Australia $27.95 (219469) 13.8% alcohol
Charred toast, graphite and aromatic bitters aromas mingle with dark berry fruit and spice on the nose of this full-bodied, nicely textured Aussie cab. It rolls over the palate in layered waves with black Bing cherry, chalky bits and dark bittersweet chocolate to the fore. It finishes with a dollop of drying tannin. Better opened in 2019 and beyond, it pours well now after a three-hour aeration/decant and placed alongside grilled-rare, well-seasoned striploin. (Vic Harradine)

Austria: White Wine

89drink now
Nikolaihof Wachau Terrassen Grüner Veltliner

Wachau, Austria $20.95 (85274) 11.5% alcohol

Aromas of pear, floral and mineral notes on the nose provide segue for a lively stream of white fruit—pear, apple, peach—decorated with lemon-lime tang and peppery notes. This is light-medium bodied with good tang and a lengthy, crisp and refreshing aftertaste. Lovely sipped on its own, it pours especially well with prawn ceviche, sushi or pan-seared white fish. (Vic Harradine)

France: White Wine

90drink now Exceptional Value!
Thierry Delaunay Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2016
AOP Touraine $15.95 (391847) 12.5% alcohol
Grassy/herbal notes and piquant spice lead the way to a lovely blend of palate flavours with tropical fruit, ripe peach and pear on entry joined by a tang-laden wash of ginger, gooseberry, lemon curd and lime cordial on the back palate and aftertaste. Medium bodied with good mouthfeel, this showcases good purity of fruit, reverberating acidity and the perfect foil to pan-seared fish or sautéed scallops. (Vic Harradine)

France: Red Wine

• The following wine is from Château Rauzan-Ségla, a 2nd growth wine. In 1855, the great red wine estates of the Gironde in Bordeaux, France were judged to be in five categories (referred to as ‘Crus’ or ‘Growths’ with originally only four wineries (now five, but that’s another story) in the first category and 12 in the second category (there have been alterations/splits and one wine jumping from this category to the one above). The following wine, along with others of similar status, are often referred to as a ‘second label’ or ‘second wine’ of one of these premium wineries that made it into one of the exclusive groups—after the winemaker selects, in his opinion, the ideal barrels for the famed ‘Growth’ label—in this case, 2nd Growth Château Rauzan-Ségla—the best of the rest were chosen for this particular wine – hence, ‘second label’. Some have a third and fourth label. This estate is owned by Chanel, who have gone to great lengths improve quality.


Ségla 2010

AOC Margaux $65.95 (359810) 13.5% alcohol

Perfumed aromas of sweet ripe fruit and floral notes provide segue to a dense, intense red blend—approximately 2/3rds cabernet sauvignon, 1/3rd merlot with a dash of petit verdot and a dot of cabernet franc. A stunning wash of sweet, ripe black currant, crème de cassis and vanilla with hints of mint and mocha coat the palate along with moderating tang. This full-bodied beauty has great sense of purpose, stunning purity, is deftly balanced and bursting with promise. The rich fruit flavour, balancing acidity and profound tannin underpinning all portend long life—pop corks 2025 to 2035. (Vic Harradine)

91drink or cellar
Château Saint-Roch Chimères 2015
AOP Côtes du Roussillon-Villages $19.95 (119354) 15.0% alcohol
Dark cherry/berry fruit, black currant and cocoa mingle on the nose before unleashing a luscious river of dark cherry fruit and black plum decorated with fennel seed and grilled herbs. This is medium-full bodied with generous mouthfeel and lingering balanced and beautiful finish. What’s not to like? Pour with grilled gourmet sausage, roast beef or burgers. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: Red Wine

90drink or cellar
Fuedo Maccari ‘Saia’ Nero D’Avola 2014
DOC Sicilia $34.95 (128967) 13.5% alcohol
Grilled herbs, smoke and gamy note aromas unfurl on the nose of this mid-full weight, nicely textured nero d’avola. It’s rustic on entry with perceptible grainy tannin, fresh, crunchy red fruit—plum, cherry and pomegranate—and ripe mulberry, piquant spice all vying for attention supported by sharp spice and minerality. It can be easily smoothed out with a two-hour, aeration/decant. This is medium-full bodied with good texture and balanced, bountiful aftertaste. Pour with roast chicken or beef satay. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar
Castello Di Querceto ‘Riserva’ Chianti Classico 2013
DOCG Chianti Classico $28.95 (650754) 13.5% alcohol
Dark toast, spice, herbs and cherry/berry fruit aromas precede a nicely textured, medium-weight flow of palate-bathing flavours of red cherry and black currant flavours adorned with espresso roast and soft, ripe tannin. It finishes with palate-flavour replays nicely balanced with good tang/acidity and fresh fruit flavour persisting through the long aftertaste. Pour alongside Moroccan lamb tagine with couscous salad. (Vic Harradine)

87drink or cellar
Rocca Delle Macìe ‘Zingarelli Riserva’ Chianti Classico 2014
DOCG Chianti Classico $23.95 (930966) 14.0% alcohol
Aromas of floral notes, dark berry fruit and earthy notes gather on the alluring nose of this medium-plus bodied, well-textured sangiovese. It coats the palate with a nicely balanced wash of black currant, dark, juicy Bing cherry and blueberry joined on the aftertaste with a bite of sharp spice, wisps of tannin and herbal notes. This pours particularly well with pasta puttanesca. (Vic Harradine)

85drink or cellar
Ruffino ‘Santedame’ Chianti Classico 2014
DOCG Chianti Classico $19.95 (523076) 14.0% alcohol
Charred toast, cherry and notes of lilac aromas open the gates to a bracing line of tang-laden acidity expressed as red currant, passionfruit and pie cherry. It persists through the racy, drying finish and aftertaste. This is light-medium weight and lightly textured pouring well with pasta in ground meat and tomato sauce. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Remo Farina Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2015
DOC Valpolicella Classico Superiore $17.95 (999946) 13.5% alcohol
This is a well-paced, well-priced Ripasso that offers up aromas of raisin, black plum and spice- infused black currant. It coats the palate with sweet-tinged fruit on entry—dark cherry and mulberry—and balances out beautifully on the back palate, finish and aftertaste with bright red cherry and wisps of juicy raspberry mingling with baking spice and earthy notes. Pour this with grilled ribs, rack of lamb or meat-laden pizza. (Vic Harradine)

Spain: Red Wine

91drink or cellar
Bodegas Balbas ‘Reserva’ 2005

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

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

89drink or cellar
Finca Nueva ‘Reserva’ 2010
DOCa Rioja $20.95 (268425) 14.0% alcohol
Aromas of ripe, dark berry fruit with floral and mixed spice introduce a persistent stream of dark cherry and dried currant flavours interwoven with baking spice and an underpinning of perceptible tannin. This is medium-plus bodied and nicely textured with palate-replays on the lingering dry finish, Aerate/decant a couple of hours before service. Give this a go with roast beef alongside around-the-roast root vegetables. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2010 Bodega Classica López de Haro Reserva is sourced from a blend of hand-picked Tempranillo and Graciano matured 10 months in seasoned French oak.

89drink or cellar
Hacienda López de Haro ‘Reserva’ 2010
DOCa Rioja $18.95 (357335) 13.5% alcohol
Cherry/berry fruit aromas mingle with floral, graphite and mixed spice notes on the nose of this predominantly Tempranillo blend. Racy red currant and crunchy pie cherry provide oodles of tang while the ripe mulberry flavour dishes up enough sweetness to provide balance on the palate. This is medium-bodied with good mouthfeel and a tart, drying finish and aftertaste. Pair with lasagna or pastitsio. (Vic Harradine)

• Anyone with appreciation for aged reds, please take note of this 2005 Ontañón ‘Reserva’ Tempranillo/Graciano—it’s smooth and mellow with persistent purity of fruit, complexity and an abundance of delectable fruit flavour. Black plum and sweet vanilla aromas take shape first on the nose then on the palate, adorned with dark juicy cherry, rich bramble berry, dark coffee and soft spice. This is medium weight with creamy smooth, mouth-filling texture and a lengthy, memorable, mouth-watering finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar
Ontañón ‘Reserva’ Tempranillo/Graciano 2005
DOCa Rioja $27.95 (725895) 13.5% alcohol
Cherry/berry fruit aromas mingle with floral, graphite and mixed spice notes on the nose of this predominantly Tempranillo blend. Racy red currant and crunchy pie cherry provide oodles of tang while the ripe mulberry flavour dishes up enough sweetness to provide balance on the palate. This is medium-bodied with good mouthfeel and a tart, drying finish and aftertaste. Pair with lasagna or pastitsio. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Bodegas Volver ‘Single-Vineyard’ 2014 was sourced from 57-year-old organic Tempranillo vines that are goblet trained and dry farmed in the Finca Los Juncares vineyard. Hand-cultivated and hand-harvested fruit was then hand sorted at the winery, indigenous-yeast fermented and matured 14 months in new and second-use French oak barrels before bottling without clarification or filtration. Hats off and huge kudos to the LCBO buyer who sourced this.

92drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Vinessens ‘Sein’ 2011

DO Alicante $16.95 (391896) 15.0% alcohol

A 60% mourvèdre/40% syrah red blend, fruit was hand-harvested and hand-sorted before fermentation and malolactic conversion then aged 12 months in French and American oak barrel by this artisan, family-owned winery. Black cherry, baking spice and earthy notes are precursor to a surge of black cherry, black currant and kirsch liqueur. It’s medium weight with good texture and supple tannin frame. Aerate/decant two hours before serving—terrific value here. (Vic Harradine)

93drink or cellar
Volver ‘Single Vineyard’ 2014
DO La Mancha $23.95 (142752) 15.0% alcohol
Aromas of dark berry fruit, fennel and floral notes abound preceding a rich, luscious surge of ripe, sweet-tinged flavours on the palate with briary berry, black plum and cassis balanced nicely with racy pie cherry along with fennel seed and herbal notes. This is medium-full bodied with round smooth texture and a balanced and beautiful dry, lengthy finish. Given the price-quality ratio skews so much in your favour, pick up a few and drink now and the next 4 or 5 years. (Vic Harradine)

New in Vintages Essentials

These wine are always 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.


• The following Non-Vintage Armand de Brignac ‘Ace of Spades - Gold’ Brut is crafted at Cattier, a Champagne house since the mid-1700s. Its recent incredible surge in sales/popularity is due to a long-time fan, now majority owner, American rapper, Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter. It’s a blend of 40% pinot noir/40% chardonnay/20% pinot meuniere from premium vineyards and an assemblage of the 2009, 2010, 2012 vintages. This is packaged in an opaque bottle.

95drink or cellar
Armand de Brignac ‘Ace of Spades - Gold’ Brut Non-Vintage
AOC Champagne, France $305.95 (220244) $305.95 12.5% alcohol
Floral and biscuit aromas on the nose precede endless streams of miniscule bubbles in the glass. This is elegant and refined, but doesn’t lack in texture—it’s creamy/dreamy smooth—flavour or complexity. A firm flow of lemon-lime tang, ripe apple and notions grilled pineapple persist on the palate and lengthy finish. It’s crisp and refreshing, delicious and elegant. (Vic Harradine)


88drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Jackson-Triggs ‘Reserve’ Vidal Icewine 2015
VQA Ontario $39.95 (389411) 375 mL 9.5% alcohol
Mango and ripe yellow peach aromas unleash a gusher of sweet, honeyed flavour on the palate with honey-drizzled peach pie and candied apricot coating the palate and persisting through the finish. It’s full bodied and generously textured delivering a sticky, sweet aftertaste. Pour with quality blue cheese or fruit flan. (Vic Harradine)

89drink now Oh Canada!
Peller ‘Private Reserve’ Vidal Icewine 2015
VQA Ontario $27.30 (18564) 200 mL 11.5% alcohol
Deep golden-yellow in the glass, the nose offers up whispers of buckwheat honey, spice and orange peel marmalade aromas. It bursts onto the palate with an intense surge of sweet flavour—honey-soaked, baked apple, treacle, sweet ripe mango and poached pear. This is full bodied and creamy smooth on the palate with lengthy, reasonably balanced aftertaste. Pour with foie gras, soft white cheese or spiced honey cake. (Vic Harradine)

• Fruit for the following 2015 Sonoma Cutrer ‘Russian River Ranches’ Chardonnay was hand harvested, hand sorted and whole-cluster pressed. Free-run juice was allowed to settle in tank for a few days before fermented in 85% oak and 15% tank with full malolactic conversion. Wine was matured sur lie in French oak barrel.

White Wine

89drink or cellar
Sonoma Cutrer ‘Russian River Ranches’ Chardonnay 2015
Sonoma Coast, California (608653) $27.95 14.2% alcohol
Baking spice, oak, pear and apple aromas abound. A medium-full bodied, generously textured surge of tangy lemon curd and Key lime interweave with baked apple and spice along with hints of grapefruit pith on finish and aftertaste. It’ll all come together with another 12 months in bottle, rewarding patience handsomely. Pour with fall squash soup. (Vic Harradine)

Red Wine

90drink or cellar
Marchesi de' Frescobaldi ‘Tenuta di Castiglioni’ 2014
IGT Toscana, Italy $21.95 (145920) 13.0% alcohol
This red blend—cabernet sauvignon/merlot/cabernet franc/sangiovese—matured 12 months in French oak barriques and a further two months in bottle before release. Alluring aromas of red and black berry fruit mingle with mocha on the nose of this medium-bodied, nicely textured gem. It bathes the palate with a round, smooth stream of red currant and pie cherry interlaced with mixed spice and grilled savory herbs. It finishes dry, lip-smacking good. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2014 Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon is a limited-time-only, $5.00 off the price shown below, now to November 5, 2017.

90drink now
Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Knights Valley, California $43.95 (352583) 14.3% alcohol
This is rich, ripe and rarin’ to go… now. Aromas of sweet, ripe black berry fruit, dark cherry and baking spice waft easily from this full-bodied, fully textured, full-Monty flavoured cab. Satin-smooth palate flavours of black currant and dark Bing cherry interweave with mixed spice, dark chocolate and sweet vanilla enhanced by soft tannin adding structure and interest on the lengthy finish and aftertaste. In a perfect world, there would be more acidity, but enjoyed with grilled, well-seasoned roast or steak may fully mask this imperfection. (Vic Harradine)

86drink or cellar
Gnarly Head ‘Old Vines Zinfandel 2015
Lodi, California $18.20 (678698) 14.5% alcohol
Grilled savory herbs and campfire smoke aromas announce a ripe, rich, sweet flow of black currant jam and black raspberry intertwined with crunchy red fruit—currant and cherry—evolving into a deftly balanced palate-pleasing, tasting experience. This is medium-plus bodied and nicely textured with a savory- and spice-laden bite on the aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

93drink or cellar
Zenato Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012
DOCG Amarone della Valpolicella, Italy $52.95 (413179) 16.5% alcohol
Wood smoke, cedar and bramble berry fruit aromas provide segue for a rich, luscious, hi-octane, though deftly balanced and simply delicious stream of ripe fruit and soft tang with dried dark fruit, black berry and dark plum front and centre along with support from spice, earthy notes and notions of ripe red cherry. This is medium-plus weight with good texture, structure and a lingering full-of-flavour finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

New in the LCBO

Red Wine

88drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Château des Charmes Pinot Noir 2015
VQA Niagara-on-the Lake $16.95 (454967) 13.0% alcohol
This estate-grown and sustainably farmed, traditional-style pinot noir unveils gamy aromas combined with tart cherry, bay leaf and wild mushroom. The tart cherries take centre stage on the palate joined by pleasant, dry herb flavours with young tannins adding desired structure on the finish. This versatile pinot pairs and pours particularly well with braised, wild mushroom and chicken ragout. (Louise Boutin)

White Wine

89drink now Oh Canada!
Château des Charmes Estate ‘Barrel Fermented’ Chardonnay 2016
VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake $16.95 (81653) 13.0% alcohol
Alluring aromas of spiced green apple, tropical fruit and ripe pear abound. It caresses the palate with clean, crisp flavours of ripe apple, poached pear and soft Meyer lemon decorated with wisps of white pepper and mineral notes. This offers a price-quality balance tipped in your favour. Pick up a few to have on hand or to pour with pan-seared fish, lemon chicken or grilled prawns or calamari under a squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

Sparkling Wine

89drink now
Louis Bouillot ‘Perle Noire’ Blanc de Noirs-Brut-Non-Vintage
Product of France $16.95 (464776) 11.5% alcohol
This Méthode Traditionelle sparkling wine was sourced from pinot noir fruit. A frothy mousse when poured, this carries a delicate nose of floral notes and lemon aromas introducing a lively flow of lemon-tinged biscuit, apple and sweet pear on the palate. It persists through the lingering crisp, clean and refreshing finish. Perfect when served as an aperitif or welcoming wine, it also has structure and oomph to pair with appetizers and mains—at this great price keep a few handy for friends who drop by. (Vic Harradine)

New in Private Order

• Order the following wines—plus those in previous newsletters from VinoLuna—by the case (some in cases of six) for home, restaurant or office delivery in Ontario from VinoLuna wine agency. Contact via website, VinoLuna, by Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  , or in the GTA phone 416 587-6691.

92drink now Exceptional Value!
Alma Wines ‘Ambo’ Nero 2016
IGT Provincia di Pavia, Italy $14.95 12.5% alcohol
Alma scores a bulls-eye with this young, vibrant, new-world style, 100% pinot nero, aka pinot noir. Inviting aromas of cherry pie filling, red liquorice and a dash of fresh raspberry are repeated on the palate. Stainless-steel aging and early bottling is perceived through the wine’s freshness. Medium acidity and soft young tannins bring vigour and structure to this medium-light bodied bargain. Chill for 20 minutes and serve with simple pasta dishes or a grilled salmon fillet doll’d up with cherry chutney. (Louise Boutin)

90drink or cellar
Château Tour de Sarrail Bordeaux 2012
AOC Bordeaux, France $19.95 13.0% alcohol
This value-packed red blend—90% merlot/10% cabernet sauvignon—offers aromas of charred toast, spice, cedar and mocha. A gorgeous wash of dark, juicy fruit—cherry, currant, plum—blankets the palate interwoven with racy pomegranate and tangy pie cherry offering good balance and mouth-watering finish. This is medium bodied, creamy textured with a lingering, balanced finish that layers on soft, fine-grained tannin for structure and lovely peppery notes on the aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

90drink now Exceptional Value!
Alma Wines ‘Ambo’ Pinot Grigio 2016
DOC Friuli Grave, Italy $14.95 12.5% alcohol
Spoiler alert for pinot grigio, non-aficionados—this exceptional-value grigio deserves your attention. The charming honeysuckle nose mingles with ripe pear and sweet honeydew melon. The palate is fresh and dry with a repeat of ripe pear notes topped with juicy lychee and a tangy, lime-juice finish—it’s not your garden-variety, watery pinot grigio. Enjoy now with shrimp-stuffed ripe avocado and a squeeze of lime juice. (Louise Boutin)

• The following 2016 Alma Wines ‘Justo - Nuragico’ Vermentino di Sardegna showcases the vermentino grape that’s widely planted in Sardinia from where this wine hails; it’s thought to be indigenous to Italy. It’s generally lightly-oaked or un-oaked with good acidity and matched easily to fish or seafood. This wine displays many aromas and flavours considered ‘typical’ for this grape and region.

88drink now Exceptional Value!
Alma Wines ‘Justo - Nuragico’ Vermentino di Sardegna 2016
DOC Vermentino di Sardegna, Italy $14.95 12.5% alcohol
This un-oaked 100% vermentino is value laden and dishes up an inviting array of aromas with grapefruit, pineapple and melon amongst them. It shifts into high gear on the palate with a unique and flavourful stream of Key lime and ripe pineapple mingling with a note of saline minerality. It’s mid-weight with delicate texture and a lip-smacking finish of citrus tang with notions of almond skins and salinity on the aftertaste. Pour as a relaxing sipper or with all manner of pan-seared or grilled fish or seafood. (Vic Harradine)

90drink now Exceptional Value!
Tenuta Arbéta Barbera d’Alba 2016
DOCG Barbera d’Alba, Italy $18.95 14.0% alcohol
With fruit sourced in Alba, one of the most-esteemed towns growing the barbera grape, this well-crafted 100% barbera displays black fruit aromas— cherry, cassis, blackberry, plum, and a hint of cedar. The palate bursts with ripe fruity flavours, surprisingly well-integrated alcohol and balancing high acidity notorious to this grape. Supple tannins complete the package and bring a beautiful medium-long juicy finish to this food-friendly red. It’s an excellent companion to slow-cooked pork roast. (Louise Boutin)

95drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Tenuta Arbéta Barolo 2013
DOCG Barolo, Italy $35.95 14% alcohol
This has a typical garnet bowl with an orange hue on the rim. A deep complex nose of tart cherry, anise, tobacco, dried rose petals and truffle, announce a delectable elixir. While the tart cherries display their flavours initially, they’re joined by dry fig, vanilla, a hint of baking spice and balsamic notes. The fine-grain tannins are pleasantly grippy and soft courtesy the nebbiolo grape and 24 months maturation in French oak barrels. This exceptionally priced Barolo will further embellish with an additional five to 10 years of cellaring. Can’t wait? Aerate/decant for two to three hours and enjoy with rare, prime-rib roast. (Louise Boutin)

89drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Château Rousset-Caillau Bordeaux Supérieur 2015
AOC Bordeaux Supérieur, France $14.95 14.0% alcohol
Grilled savory herbs, earthy notes and dark plum aromas introduce a rich, ripe river of palate-enveloping flavours—dark berry fruit and sweet-tinged cassis nicely balanced with excellent tang from red cherry and red currant. It finishes dry and underpinned with wisps of tannin—easily ameliorated with a two-hour aeration/decant—and nicely decorated with spice and dark bittersweet chocolate. (Vic Harradine)

• Most wines that indicate multiple grapes on the label, including the following 2015 Masseria Supreno Sangiovese-Merlot, indicate the grapes in descending order of the percentage of each grape in the blend.

91drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Alma Wines ‘Masseria Supreno’ Sangiovese-Merlot 2015
IGT Salento, Italy $16.95 14.0% alcohol
Sangiovese meets merlot in this red blend. It’s an 80 - 20 split offering a generous nose of black cherry, cassis, savoury herbs, forest floor, baking spices and oak aromas. Aged in oak barrique for a minimum of 12 months, 30% new, it showcases a young tannin structure, flavours of kirsch liqueur, tangy tart cherry and a touch of cocoa powder and a medium-long enjoyable finish. This crowd pleaser will pair well with a variety of dishes including gourmet red pizza and grilled meats with herb butter. (Louise Boutin)

93drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Alma Wines ‘Masseria Supreno’ Primitivo 2016
IGT Salento, Italy $16.95 14.5% alcohol
The primitivo grape is indigenous to Croatia and better known as zinfandel when grown in other parts of the world, yet finds beautiful expression in southern Italy. The deep purple robe portends bright, clean dark fruit aromas—black plum compote, blueberry and raspberry. Palate flavours throw a curve with dry figs and raisins lifted by red plum acidity and a touch of cinnamon. It’s a superb pairing with grilled meat or as an end-of-meal sipper to savour with aged cheese, dried figs and nuts. (Louise Boutin)

91drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Alma Wines ‘Masseria Supreno’ Negroamaro 2016
IGT Salento, Italy $16.95 14.0% alcohol
This offers persistent purity of fruit, structure and a delectable, lip-smacking finish. Exotic spice, ripe cherry and herbal notes waft from the nose of this medium-full bodied, generously textured, 100% negroamaro. It glides over the palate with a balanced, creamy-smooth stream of excellent tang—red cherry and red raspberry—nicely balanced with ripe dark fruit—plum and bramble berry—infusing the finish and aftertaste. It finishes lip-smacking good and loaded with charm. (Vic Harradine)

Cheers Vic and Louise