Winecurrent
December 4, 2017 Newsletter

It’s with great sadness we share the news of the passing of one of Canada’s outstanding wine personalities, Karl Kaiser. You owe it to yourself to become more familiar with what he accomplished in putting Canada on the world wine map. For a quick primer, read this brief, interesting and recent interview with Karl, written by wine writer and reviewer, Bill Zacharkiw, published in the St. Catharines Standard.

  • If you wish to learn more about Karl Kaiser and other early Niagara wine visionaries, pick up a copy of Linda Bramble’s highly readable, insightful and enjoyable book, ‘Niagara's Wine Visionaries: Profiles of the Pioneering Winemakers’ available online via Amazon.ca and Indigo.

Newsletter Highlights include:

  • Exceptional-value wine  Exceptional Value! – 15 of 114 wines currently available at LCBO retail meet the strict quality-price guidelines. They’re found throughout the newsletter easily identified via the exceptional-value checkmark above. Strict guidelines? Click here.
  • 95 and over – 4 wines available at LCBO retail scored 95 and more points: Beringer ‘Private Reserve’ Chardonnay 2015 earned 95 points @ $59.95 found under California: White Wine; Peter Lehmann ‘The Barossan’ Shiraz 2015 earned 95 points @ $21.95 found under Australia: Red Wine; Cave de Turckheim ‘Hengst’ Pinot Gris 2012 earned 95 points @ $35.95 under France: White Wine; Torres 10 Imperial Brandy Gran Reserva earned 95 points @ $29.95 found under New in the LCBO.
  • Vic Picks – Pondview Vidal Icewine 2015 earned 89 points @ $19.95 200 mL found under Icewine; Fielding Estate ‘White Conception’ 2013 earned 89 points @ $18.95 found under Ontario: White Wine; Brella Pinot Gris 2015 earned 94 points @ $21.95 found under Oregon: White Wine; Studert-Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2016 earned 94 points @ $27.95;


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 making a trip.

Holiday garland

We all send best wishes to you, your family, friends and loved ones for a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season. We also extend fervent hope and prayers for everyone to enjoy a healthy, prosperous 2018 in a world at peace.

Lisa, Dave, Louise, Vic 

December 9, 2017 Vintages Release

Fortified Wine: Port

92drink or cellar
Quinta Do Portal ‘LBV’ Port 2011
DOP Porto $31.95 (473041) 20.5% alcohol
Sourced from three top-drawer Port grapes, this delicious Late Bottled Vintage Port, aka LBV Port, reveals structure, balance and purity of fruit. Aromas of black currant, fig and baking spice provide segue to a full-bodied, fully textured stream of cassis, kirsch liqueur juxtaposed with red currant and excellent tang coating the palate infusing the long finish. Pour with dark chocolate or chocolate dessert as an after-dinner treat.

90drink or cellar
Sandeman 20-Year-Old Tawny Port
DOP Porto $64.95 (116178) 20.0% alcohol
Tawny Port gains its name from the tawny colour as a result of many years aged in barrel—resolving tannin and imparting a silky-smooth, lip-smacking experience. Aromas of burnt sugar and spice abound on the medium-full bodied, nicely textured gem. It blankets the palate with an über-sweet river of orange marmalade, treacle and butterscotch toffee. This is creamy smooth and pours well with fruit flan or soft white cheese. (Vic Harradine)

Fruit Wine

93drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Sunnybrook ‘Estate Series’ Cranberry 2015
Canada $23.95 (539049) 11.0% alcohol
This earned Double-Gold recognition at the All Canadian Wine Championships and is made from cranberries, unfortunately not eligible for VQA designation as VQA wine must be made from grapes. However, this fruit wine is certainly on par with VQA wine; it races over the palate with nicely balanced palate-flavours of strawberry and currant joined by racy tang redolent of strawberry-rhubarb pie and mixed spice. It’s medium-weight, nicely textured and sports a dry, tangy, lip-smacking finish and aftertaste. Pour with festive turkey dinner and the full slate of accoutrements. (Vic Harradine)

Champagne

94drink or cellar
Billecart-Salmon ‘Brut’ Rosé Champagne Non-Vintage 

AOC Champagne $109.95 (724559) 12.0% alcohol 

My first taste of this and it’s dreamy delicious with character, complexity and charm—a very impressive bubbly. Baking brioche, red berry fruit and fennel aromas presage a vigorous mousse and oodles of assertive flavour with strawberry/raspberry, citrus tang and racy, blood orange galore. There’s good weight and mouthfeel and a lingering, lip-smacking aftertaste. The perfect aperitif, it has the structure and depth to pair with sea food or roast poultry. (Vic Harradine) 

90drink or cellar
Georges Gardet ‘Cuvée Saint Flavy’ Brut Non-Vintage

AOC Champagne $42.95 (924654) 12.0% alcohol

This has an attractive nose of minerality, floral and heady citrus notes. There’s a lovely attack on the palate with a rush of white grapefruit and green apple flavours infused with spice and mineral nuances. It’s medium in weight and texture and offers a lingering finish that’s zesty and clean. There’s enough oomph for it to be paired with light appetizers and the more than fair price, as Champagne goes, allow it to be served as the welcoming wine at any upscale gathering—including a special evening for two. (Vic Harradine)

92drink or cellar
Lallier ‘Grand Cru Rosé’ Champagne Non-Vintage

AOC Champagne $56.95 (385179) 12.5% alcohol

This elegant, pale-salmon beauty weaves together delicate notes of lightly toasted Easter bread, white flowers, fresh citrus and the red fruits of the pinot noir that dominate the blend. This is dry and crisp, showcasing a refined, persistent mousse. The palate’s persistent and true, replaying red fruits and testifying to the time spent on the lees. This shows elegance and verve through the lengthy, clean finish—it’s an ideal wine to wow your guests. (Susan Desjardins)

91drink or cellar
Moët & Chandon ‘Grand Vintage’ Brut Champagne 2008
AOC Champagne $92.95 (69773) 12.5% alcohol
This opens with leesy, nutty, toasty, mineral aromas that precede a mountain of mousse, aka bubbles, when poured, then an endless stream of fine-bead bubbles winding their way to the top while in the glass. It’s a lighter-style than I remember from previous vintages, although still delivering a lively flavour profile—peach and pear—borne on a tang-laden line of lemon and wisps of white grapefruit. It pours well with oysters Kirkpatrick or lemon Sole. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar
Nicolas Feuillatte ‘Brut’ Champagne 2008
AOC Champagne $56.95 (240085) 12.0% alcohol
This blend of the holy trinity of Champagne grapes—chardonnay, pinot noir, pinot meunier—displays an array of aromas including floral, citrus, leesy notes and wisps of baking brioche. It’s quite lively, even energetic on the palate with a bracing line of lemon, lime and grapefruit acidity mingling with baked apple and ripe juicy pear. It finishes clean, crisp, refreshing and pours exceptionally well as a welcoming wine or with lighter-styled appetizers. (Vic Harradine)

• The following non-vintage Ruinart ‘R de Ruinart’ Brut Champagne was sourced from a hand-picked blend of 57% pinot noir, 40% chardonnay, 3% pinot meunier, with full malolactic conversion. +20% of the assemblage is reserve wine from the previous two vintages. As with all premium, brut Champagne, the grape blend and percentage of each, as well as the percentage of previous vintages, may change each separate bottling due to vintage differentiation; all this in an attempt to deliver a similar taste profile—commonly known as their ‘house style’—each time you purchase a fresh bottle, even over decades.

93drink or cellar
Ruinart ‘R de Ruinart’ Brut Champagne Non-Vintage
AOC Champagne $86.95 (189878) 12.5% alcohol
Not your average Champagne, and not in your average Champagne bottle—it’s squat, distinctive, attractive. There’s a wonderful mélange of balanced-on-a-pin ripe fruit, acidity and mouthfeel. It opens with a surge of mousse-releasing aromas of floral and nutty notes before bathing the palate with textured, fresh, ripe fruit—pear, apple and nectarine—interwoven with lively, tangy lemon curd. It finishes crisp and refreshing. (Vic Harradine)

Sparkling Wine

85drink now
Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvée Rosé Non-Vintage

New Zealand $21.95 (280172) 12.0% alcohol

This attractive pink-hued sparkler is fashioned from 20% hand-harvested pinot noir and 80% low-yielding chardonnay, fermented in the Charmat, a.k.a. Cuve Close, method. It hustles from the bottle with an energetic mousse and aromas of red berry fruit and spice with hints of brioche. It delivers spirited and lively flavours of citrus and red currant interwoven with sweeter and riper cherry on the lip-smacking aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

89drink now
L’Ormarins ‘Classique’ Brut Non-Vintage
WO Western Cape, South Africa $23.95 (493411) 12.5% alcohol
This was produced via Méthode Traditionnelle, known in South Africa as ‘Méthode Cape Classique’ (MCC). This is light-on-its-feet with an energetic line of racy lemon zest, white grapefruit and green apple. This serves as an excellent aperitif to get the gustatory juices flowing or when served with pan-seared calamari or freshly shucked or poached oysters. (Vic Harradine)

89drink or cellar
Bailly-Lapierre ‘Brut’ Crémant de Bourgogne Non-Vintage

AOC Bourgogne, France $24.95 (369066) 12.0% alcohol

There’s 100% Chardonnay in this traditional-method sparkler dishing up aromas of flinty/mineral notes along with lemon zest on the aromatic nose. It dishes up a frothy mousse, a.k.a. those glorious bubbles in your glass, and a clean, crisp and refreshing salvo of Granny Smith apple, Key lime pie and racy lemon curd on the palate and throughout the mouth-watering finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

91drink now
Labouré-Gontard ‘Brut’ Crémant de Bourgogne Non-Vintage

AOC Burgundy $20.95 (401018) 12.0% alcohol

This blend of chardonnay/pinot noir is made in the ‘traditional method’ thus mirroring Champagne in grape varieties and how it’s produced; it’s also made from grapes grown just south of Champagne. However, it doesn’t mirror Champagne’s price and that makes it interesting. It’s rich, fruity with generous mousse—lots of bubbles—satin-smooth mouth feel and divine aftertaste. A perfect wine to welcome guests, this has the character and depth to match well with appetizers and lighter fare—pick up a few. (Vic Harradine)

89drink or cellar
Veuve Ambal ‘Grande Cuvée’ Brut Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne Non-Vintage
AOC Burgundy $19.95 (439257) 12.0% alcohol
Attractive when poured, this dazzles the olfactory tract with piquant spice and lively red berry fruit aromas. A tart ribbon of cranberry and passionfruit streaks over the palate persisting through the mouth-watering finish joined by tangy pie cherry on the lingering aftertaste. Pour with prawn ceviche or sushi. (Vic Harradine)

93drink or cellar
Ca’del Bosco ‘Cuvée Prestige’ Franciacorta Brut Multi-Vintage

DOCG Franciacorta $41.95 (105353) 12.5% alcohol

Hand-harvested 75% chardonnay, 10% pinot blanc, 15% pinot noir fruit was vinified ‘Metodo Classico’ with soft handling of grapes and blending with high-quality reserve wines before a secondary fermentation in the bottle you buy. This spent an average of 25 months on its lees gaining depth and complexity. It offers lifted aromas of lemon zest, white peach and biscuit concentrating into mouth-filling flavours of pink grapefruit, red apple, toasted brioche on the palate. It’s well balanced with fine, persistent effervescence and crisp, long finish. (Lisa Isabelle)

• The following Non-Vintage Le Contesse ‘Brut’ Prosecco was sourced from organically grown fruit and produced in the Charmat method where a single fermentation was carried out in sealed stainless steel tank then bottled under pressure. Regulations in this DOC region dictate that at least 85% of this wine be sourced from the highly acclaimed glera grape and be bottled with a minimum alcohol level of 11.0% abv.

90drink now Exceptional Value!
Le Contesse ‘Brut’ Prosecco Non-Vintage
DOC Veneto $17.95 (516583) 11.0% alcohol
This is a sleeper, over-delivering in flavour, tang and value—it’s all in your favour. A sweet wash—nectarine, pear and apple—and racy tang—lemon, lime and pineapple—wash over the palate enhanced by tiny bubbles. Delightful when poured as a welcoming wine, it can be served right through stand-up or sit-down appetizers. (Vic Harradine)

Icewine

89drink now Oh Canada!
Pondview Vidal Icewine 2015

VQA Niagara Peninsula $19.95 200 mL (390351) 10.5% alcohol

This is pale-gold in colour with aromas of clover, apricot, and apple pie. It's full bodied and syrupy sweet with flavours of dried apricot and apple, trailing off to a fruit-forward finish. Pour a couple of glasses to sip then use this as an ingredient in the winery's own Vidal Icewine Apple Chutney recipe. (Dave Isaacs)

Okanagan Valley: White Wine

93drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Quails’ Gate Chardonnay 2015
VQA Okanagan Valley $23.95 (377770) 14.0% alcohol
Quiet aromas of sandalwood, citrus and apple introduce a sleek and lean flow of tang-infused lemon and grapefruit racing across the palate with Granny Smith apple and ripe pear flavours. This is mid-weight with decent texture and crisp, clean mouth-watering finish and aftertaste. Pour with pan-seared salmon under a squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: White Wine

91drink or cellar Oh Canada!
13th Street ‘June’s Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2015
VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula $21.95 (236745) 13.5% alcohol
Aromas of mineral and leesy notes precede a riveting line of delicious tang-laden citrus and orchard fruit streaking across the palate with great élan. It’s medium-full weight with good texture and a long, lip-smacking finish and aftertaste, Pour with mussels steamed in white wine and leeks, add cream before serving. (Vic Harradine)

94drink or cellar Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
Featherstone ‘Black Sheep’ Riesling 2016

VQA Niagara Peninsula $16.95 (80234) 10.0% alcohol

Supporting eco-friendly farming, this is named after sheep who assisted trimming grape leaves in the fruiting zone of the vines. Medium-bodied and off-dry, it offers lifted aromas of tart green apple, citrus, honeydew melon and elderflower. Careful handling of fruit and a cool fermentation resulted in refreshing, pure fruit flavours of lemon-lime, white grapefruit and nectarine with mineral and floral notes persisting through the mid-plus length, tangy finish. Serve this stunning, well-balanced gem with crab cakes or lemongrass chicken. (Lisa Isabelle)

89drink now Oh Canada!
Fielding Estate ‘White Conception’ 2013 

VQA Niagara Peninsula $18.95 (2032737) 12.5% alcohol

This unique blend of 34% chardonnay/32% pinot gris/32% viognier dishes up alluring aromas of tropical fruit—pineapple and mango—interwoven with honey and citrus. It bathes the palate with a balanced and beautiful stream of honey-drizzled guava and lemon curd with grapefruit pith and peach skin. It’s medium weight with good mouth feel and a lingering, lip-smacking, tangy finish. This really sings with pan-seared fish or sea food; tried mine with pan-seared salmon alongside par-boiled, pan-grilled broccoli and cauliflower - delicious. (Vic Harradine)

91drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Hidden Bench ‘Estate’ Riesling 2015

VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment $23.95 (183491) 11.0% alcohol

Aromas of citrus zest and minerality precede a tang-laden surge of lime cordial and white nectarine scurrying over the palate persisting through the dry, crisp and refreshing aftertaste. This is nicely textured with good weight and oodles of zing. Pour with pan-seared fish under a squeeze of lemon or mussels steamed in white wine. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
Peninsula Ridge ‘Barrel Aged’ Chardonnay 2016
VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment $16.95 (211490) 13.5% alcohol
Apple and pear aromas robed in smoky notes abound on the nose of this medium-weight, nicely textured chardonnay. Palate flavours of tangy lemon zest and racy white grapefruit mingle and balance with white peach and grilled pineapple on the mid and back palate. The abbreviated finish is lean, crisp and refreshing. Pour with fish and chips or grilled seafood. (Vic Harradine)

92drink or cellar Oh Canada!
The Tragically Hip ‘Ahead by a Century’ Chardonnay 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula $19.95 (483875) 12.5% alcohol
This is a gorgeous gold in the glass with a slight green hue. Green apple, mixed spice and racy citrus aromas dominate the nose. A gusher of tang—lemon curd and blood orange—and ripe fruit—green apple and wisps of melon—meld on the palate persisting through the lengthy, balanced and beautiful finish and aftertaste. This is value-laden, medium-full bodied with good texture and versatility at the table—pour with seafood, pork or chicken then raise a glass in memory of Gord Downie. (Vic Harradine)

89drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Vieni ‘Private Reserve’ Chardonnay 2012
VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula $29.95 (520247) 14.5% alcohol
Aromas of binned apple, fig and crème brûlée provide segue to a creamy, medium-plus bodied, nicely textured mouthful of palate-coating ripe apple, juicy pear and nectarine flavour along with wisps of toasty notes; it spent 12 months in French oak. It backs off a bit on the lean, brief finish and aftertaste, but remains balanced and enjoyable. (Vic Harradine)

Okanagan Valley: Red Wine

91drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Burrowing Owl Meritage 2014
VQA Okanagan Valley $58.95 (343038) 14.9% alcohol
This is rich and luscious on the nose with aromas of black berry jam, juicy black currant and oaky notes. It blankets the palate with balanced and fruit-filled gusher of cassis and kirsch liqueur juxtaposed with crunchy red currant and racy cranberry. It’s full bodied and creamy smooth with a lengthy finish and aftertaste adding notions of sweet vanilla and espresso roast. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario Red Wine

89drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Tawse ‘Growers Blend’ Pinot Noir 2015
VQA Niagara Peninsula $25.55 (130989) 13.0% alcohol
Earthy notes with sandalwood, floral notes and mixed spice aromas leap from the glass. This showcases a mid-weight, medium-textured, racy, tang-laden wash of sour cherry, passionfruit, spice and herbal notes on the palate persisting through the dry, mouth-watering finish joined by dark berry fruit. Pour with pasta puttanesca. (Vic Harradine)

89drink or cellar Oh Canada!
The Tragically Hip ‘Fully Completely Grand Reserve’ Red 2015

VQA Niagara Peninsula $24.95 (411595) 13.5% alcohol

This is a proverbial iron fist in a velvet glove, all you need is patience. It coats the palate with a medium-bodied, nicely textured wave of red raspberry and sour cherry juxtaposed with a solid lick of sweet, ripe mulberry. There’s good structure, fairly good balance and a lingering aftertaste that layers on wisps of grilled herbs and espresso roast. About the patience… aerate/decant for three hours before pouring with your favourite grilled steak. (Vic Harradine)

86drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Westcott ‘Estate’ Pinot Noir 2013
VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Escarpment $30.00 (427500) 13.5% alcohol
Savory herbal and medicinal aromas dominate the nose. These replay on the palate decorated by sour cherry, dill weed and wisps of spice-infused red cherry. It’s medium bodied and lean in texture and flavour. This cleans up dry, tart and mouth-watering. Pour with red pizza or pasta in tomato sauce. (Vic Harradine)

88drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Wildass Red 2014
VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake $19.95 (86363) 13.5% alcohol
Stratus master winemaker, J-L Groux, is the doyen of blending around these parts. This is tart and racy on the palate with oodles of racy tang, pie cherry, red currant and sprigs of savory herbs that complement the aromas of red berry fruit, spice and herbs that preceded pouring. It’s medium weight with decent texture and balanced finish and aftertaste. Pour alongside grilled gourmet sausage, beef fajitas or meat-laden, red pizza. (Vic Harradine)

California: White Wine

96drink or cellar
Beringer ‘Private Reserve’ Chardonnay 2015

Napa Valley $59.95 (26682) 14.9% alcohol

This reserve chardonnay showcases depth, structure, elegance and purity of fruit. Aromas of cinnamon and nutmeg, toasty notes and orchard fruit abound. It blankets the palate with pure ambrosia—poached pear, baked apple and rich lemon pie filling—before a dazzling finish of flinty minerality, delectable tang and a boatload of charm. It’s creamy smooth with a lengthy aftertaste. Delicious now, it’ll improve over the next five years. (Vic Harradine)

87drink now
Conundrum White 2015
California $24.95 (694653) 13.5% alcohol
Rosewater, exotic spice and sweet, tropical fruit aromas herald a sweet, fleshy river of mandarin orange, baked apple and honeydew melon that coat the palate infusing and dominating the lengthy finish and aftertaste. Pour with fruit flan or spicy Asian cuisine. (Vic Harradine)

89drink or cellar
La Crema ‘Sonoma Coast’ Chardonnay 2015

Sonoma Coast $29.95 (962886) 13.5% alcohol

This shows many of the hallmarks of oaked, California chardonnay in a subdued, elegant manner. The quiet nose offers delicate aromas of orchard fruit, melon and toasty notes. It spreads over the palate with quite a shower of sweet-tinged flavours with buttered toast, baking spice, poached pear and caramel notes galore decorated with a splash of tangy citrus bite on the finish and aftertaste. Good to go now poured with supermarket rotisserie chicken and olive-oiled and seasoned roast potatoes. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar
Martin Ray Chardonnay 2016
Sonoma County $28.95 (57067) 13.8% alcohol
Lifted aromas of charred toast and piquant spice set the table for a smorgasbord of racy tangy flavours. Key lime and lemon curd with white grapefruit streak over the palate along with wisps of ripe apple and pear. This is medium-bodied with reasonable texture and a lengthy, lip-smacking, crisp, refreshing finish. Built for the table, fish and fowl make great dance partners. (Vic Harradine)

California: Red Wine

• I believe most wine lovers, in a ‘blind’ wine tasting, would not identify the following 2014 Belle Glos ‘Las Alturas Vineyard’ Pinot Noir, as pinot noir. It’s decidedly Port-like, hedonistic and chockful of sweet, jammy fruit with little balance of acidity—the way, I’m guessing, it was intended to be.

85drink or cellar
Belle Glos ‘Las Alturas Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2014
Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County $59.95 (212076) 14.8% alcohol
Savory herbs and baking spice—cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg—dominate the nose. This flows over the palate with a full-bodied, full-flavoured, full-Monty stream of sweet, ripe kirsch liqueur, blackberry jam, rich, sweet, Rainier cherry and black plum compote decorated with hints of fig and raisin. These replay on the warm finish with wisps of tannin. Pour alongside grilled ribs slathered with spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

91drink or cellar
Burgess Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Napa Valley $72.95 (291914) 14.7% alcohol
This is a lovely red blend—75% cabernet sauvignon, 12% merlot, 11% petit verdot, 2% malbec—that’s nicely structured with ripe juicy fruit, good acidity and soft, fine-grained tannin. It opens with dark berry fruit, and floral aromas before unleashing a brawny, textured river of cassis and blackberry fruit intertwined with pie cherry, baking spice and minty bits. It finishes with great balance of tangy acidity and fruit with tannins well in check. A two-hour aeration/decant before serving will enhance your experience. (Vic Harradine)

• The cellar door price for the following 2015 Ca’ Momi Zinfandel at the winery in Napa Valley is $24.99 USD. At time of writing, that’s equal to $31.70 Canadian. Kudos to the LCBO buyer for this price.

88drink or cellar
Ca’ Momi Zinfandel 2015
Napa Valley $24.95 (396168) 13.5% alcohol
Aromas of dark cherry/berry fruit and grilled savory herbs provide segue for a rich, luscious flow of bramble berry, kirsch liqueur and balancing red cherry on the palate adorned with herbs and spice. It’s medium-plus weight with oodles of texture and a pleasing, fruit-filled finish. While decidedly sweet, ripe and hedonistic, there’s also semblance of balance; serve with a well-matched pairing of grilled striploin. (Vic Harradine)

88drink or cellar
Cannonball Merlot 2014

Sonoma County $24.95 (342824) 13.8% alcohol

Aromas of ripe, dark berry fruit and espresso roast unfurl from this medium-plus bodied, nicely textured red. Tang-laden pie cherry and red currant meld with sweet, ripe, black cherry on the palate decorated with spice and wisps of tannin. It finishes medium-length with replays of racy tang and red cherry/berry fruit. (Vic Harradine)

89drink or cellar
Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Sonoma County $36.95 (186171) 13.9% alcohol

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

89drink or cellar
Decoy Zinfandel 2015

Sonoma County $32.95 (327502) 13.9% alcohol

Grilled savory herbs, peppery notes and dark berry fruit aromas set the table for a smorgasbord of flavour bathing the palate—ripe briary berry, sweet mulberry and cassis decorated with savory herbs, spice and licorice. It’s medium bodied with good mouthfeel and a lengthy finish and aftertaste. This dishes up with good depth, balance and charm. (Vic Harradine)

93drink or cellar
Michael David Winery ‘Earthquake’ Zinfandel 2014
Lodi $43.95 (59717) 15.0% alcohol
Fruit for this explosive zin was sourced from vines planted in Lodi around the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake—it then spent 14 months in American oak before bottling. Aromas of piquant spice and briary berry abound. It erupts on the palate with a shower of medium-full bodied, generously textured savory herbs, peppery spice, oaky notes, sweet, juicy black cherry and hints of black licorice and espresso roast—absolutely delicious. This replays on the finish with good balance, structure and a boatload of charm. Good to go now, pour with pepper steak or rare-grilled hangar steak. (Vic Harradine)

91drink or cellar
Joel Gott Zinfandel 2015
California $24.95 (224139) 14.4% alcohol
An involved nose of baking spice, savory herbs, mixed spice and dark and red cherry/berry fruit show the way to a medium-plus bodied, nicely textured mouthful of spice and savory herb-infused, ripe black bramble berry, pie cherry and sweet mulberry coating the palate persisting through the lengthy, balanced finish. Pour with osso buco or hearty beef stew. (Vic Harradine)

86 drink or cellar
Tom Gore Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

California $19.95 (451336) 13.5% alcohol

Dark red, almost opaque, this smells strongly of cotton candy and vanilla with a background of toasted oak. It’s full bodied and bursting with cherry flavour. The fruit’s balanced by strong tannins with both dancing together nicely in the finish. You could happily keep this in your cellar for another five to seven years and you can also enjoy it today alongside a juicy, medium-rare grilled steak. (Dave Isaacs)

• The early-morning-harvested fruit for the following 2015 Z. Alexander Brown ‘Uncaged’ Cabernet Sauvignon was widely sourced, underwent both alcoholic fermentation and malolactic conversion before maturing in French and American oak with only the best barrels selected for this wine.

91drink or cellar
Z. Alexander Brown ‘Uncaged’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
California $21.95 (478628) 14.0% alcohol
This is balanced and fruit-forward with well-integrated oak, ripe tannin, structure, purity of fruit and a quality-price ratio skewed well in your favour. A gorgeous river of ripe red and black berry fruit interweaves with sweet vanilla, baking spice and dark coffee on the palate. This is medium weight with good texture and nicely balanced finish and aftertaste. Good to go now with burgers, grilled gourmet sausage or your favourite steak. (Vic Harradine)

Oregon: White Wine

94drink or cellar
Brella Pinot Gris 2015
Willamette Valley $21.95 (514950) 13.1% alcohol
Honeyed pit fruit and wisps of citrus aromas preface a luscious, well-balanced surge of palate-coating flavour with ripe pear, yellow plum and tangy lemon coming together in a gorgeous display of sweet and tang. This is medium weight with good mouthfeel and a lingering, dry, lip-smacking finish and aftertaste. The price-quality balance tips in your favour—this is simply outstanding. Pour with creamy parsnip soup or pan-seared tuna. (Vic Harradine)

Oregon: Red Wine

89drink now
A to Z Wineworks Pinot Noir 2014

Oregon $24.95 (229781) 13.5% alcohol

Opening with spice and floral aromas this washes over the palate with rich dark fruit flavour—briary berry and juicy, dark, Bing cherry—interlaced with earthy/toasty notes. This is medium bodied and nicely textured with a balanced, bountiful finish and aftertaste. There are strong earthy/mushroom notes on the aftertaste adding a positive dimension to the tasting experience. Pour with smoked and grilled duck breasts or grilled root veggies. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar
River’s Edge ‘Barrel Select’ Pinot Noir 2014
Elkton, Oregon $29.95 (456764) 14.8% alcohol
Piquant spice, beetroot and orange peel aromas foreshadow a full-bore, fully textured river of ripe, sweet flavour—black currant and sweet Bing cherry—mingling with tangy red currant and wisps of tannin and dark bittersweet chocolate. This has good weight and a lingering, balanced and beautiful finish and aftertaste. Good to go now after a two-hour aeration/decant poured with well-seasoned, grilled steak. (Vic Harradine)

Washington State: Red Wine

• Fruit—87% cabernet sauvignon/6% merlot/4% syrah/1% malbec/1% cabernet franc/1% petit verdot—for the following 2015 Chateau Ste. Michelle cabernet sauvignon was sourced in the warmest growing season on record in Washington State.
91drink or cellar
Chateau Ste. Michelle Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Columbia Valley $21.95 (269357) 13.5% alcohol

There are aromas of ripe berry fruit, spice box and cherry galore. It bathes the palate with a nicely balanced river of boysenberry jam and ripe black currant adorned with dark bittersweet chocolate and wisps of espresso roast. It’s medium bodied with good texture and a finish marked by oaky notes—it matured 14 months in French and American oak, 32% new—and an underpinning of still-resolving tannin that’s easily ameliorated by a three-hour aeration/decant. (Vic Harradine)

92drink or cellar
Chateau Ste. Michelle ‘Indian Wells’ Merlot 2015
Columbia Valley $26.95 (408864) 14.5% alcohol
This merlot-dominant red is a beauty—it’s juicy and lively throughout with good balance, structure and plenty of flavour. Aromas of mixed spice, vanilla and dark berry fruit are followed by a chocolate-infused stream of black currant and juicy black cherry interwoven with savory herbs and sweet vanilla blanketing the palate. This is medium-plus bodied with good mouthfeel and lively, lip-smacking finish. Pour with beef fajitas or simple meatloaf.

Argentina: White Wine

90drink now
Familia Zuccardi ‘Q’ Chardonnay 2016
Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza $19.95 (232702) 13.5% alcohol
This was sourced from 100% chardonnay, wild-yeast fermented in barrel and concrete vats then aged sur lie without malolactic conversion. Subtle aromas of citrus, spice and floral notes make way for an incredible, bracing stream of tang interwoven with orchard fruit—green plum, pear and crisp green apple racing across the palate persisting through the dry, mouth-watering finish and aftertaste. Pour alongside prawn ceviche, freshly shucked oysters or mussels steamed in a ¼ cup white wine… this white wine. (Vic Harradine)

Argentina: Red Wine

87drink now
Alta Vista ‘Premium Estate’ Malbec 2015
Uco Valley, Mendoza $16.95 (677443) 14.0% alcohol
Alta Vista is family owned, founded by former owners of the Piper-Heidsieck Champagne House, the d'Aulan family. This reveals itself with dark berry fruit aromas interlaced with spice and savory herbs. It flows over the palate with crunchy red fruit—red currant and passionfruit—mingling with soft tannin, mixed spice and dark cherry. This is medium bodied with texture and a tang-laden, mouth-watering finish. Pour with pasta puttanesca or spaghetti Bolognese. (Vic Harradine)

87drink now
La Posta ‘Pizzella’ Malbec 2016
Mendoza $15.95 (166298) 13.5% alcohol
Aromas of red cherry/berry fruit, herbs and red licorice herald an über-tangy line of bracing acidity expressed as racy sour cherry and cranberry on the palate of this mid-weight malbec. Palate flavours replay underpinned by perceptible chalky tannin and robed with baking spice. Pour with pasta in tomato sauce or Swiss steak after a three-hour aeration/decant. (Vic Harradine)

• Sonia and David Smith, the former from Buenos Aires, Argentina, the latter a Brit, moved to Argentina and began living their dream; they started a winery, building a vineyard from scratch. Both Master Sommeliers holding Advance Certificates from WSET, their vineyard is near the fabled Bodegas Catena Zapata. They became friends with the Nicola Catena family and now Catena Zapata’s winemaker, Ale Vigil, also oversees the making of SonVida’s wine, including the following 2013 SonVida Malbec.

92drink or cellar
SonVida Malbec 2013
Mendoza, Argentina $29.95 (458240) 14.0% alcohol
This is rich luscious and brimming with flavour. There are dark berry fruit, graphite and charred/tarry aromas galore on the nose. A dense, lively gusher of tang-laden flavour coats the palate carried on flavours of piquant spice, luscious black cherry, cassis, racy pie cherry and notions of minerality. It’s full bodied, full flavoured and full of charm complemented by a lingering finish that’s fruit forward and nicely balanced. (Vic Harradine)

88drink now
Terrazas De Los Andes ‘Reserva’ Malbec 2015
Mendoza $19.95 (29280) 14.0% alcohol
A lifted nose of floral notes, tar and charred toast aromas set the stage for a boisterous wash of dark fruit—cherry black currant and plum—joined by tangy red currant, piquant spice, mocha and savory herbs blanketing the palate infusing the lengthy aftertaste. It’s mid-full weight with interesting complexity and loads of tang. Pour with curried, lamb tajine. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar
Trivento ‘Golden Reserve’ Malbec 2014
Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza $19.95 (588731) 14.5% alcohol
Grilled savory herbs, mixed spice and dark, briary, berry fruit aromas waft easily from this outstanding malbec. A lively, well-textured river of crunchy red currant and passionfruit mingling with wisps of red licorice, mint, toasty notes and sprigs of herbs persisting through the dry, lip-smacking aftertaste. This is smooth and balanced with good purity of fruit and complexity. (Vic Harradine)

Chile: White Wine

Concrete egg-shaped vats• The following 2016 Ritual Chardonnay was hand harvested in the cool of night with 20% of the fruit whole-cluster fermented in concrete, egg-shaped, wine vats with the balance in oak barrels. Then 20% aged in 400L new oak barrel, 60% older barrel and 20% concrete eggs. The barrel enhances structure, complexity, silkiness; the concrete eggs increase texture and fruit flavours.

90drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Ritual Chardonnay 2016
Casablanca Valley $18.85 (533737) 14.0% alcohol
Golden-hued with hints of green in the glass, aromas of nutty notes, sweet vanilla and wisps of caramel set the stage for a medium-bodied, satin-smooth stream of palate-bathing flavour with lemon pie filling, Golden Delicious apple and honey dew melon to the fore. It’s balanced nicely throughout and dishes up a long flavourful, enjoyable finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

Chile: Red Wine

88drink or cellar
Casas Del Bosque ‘Reserva’ Carmenère 2015
Rapel Valley $15.95 (205872) 14.5% alcohol
Berry fruit and herbal, dill weed aromas set the table for a smorgasbord of flavour—sweet kirsch liqueur, tang-laden red currant, black licorice, cassis, peppery spice and savory herbs. Medium bodied and nicely textured, this dishes up dry, crisp finish with hints of soft, ripe tannin and green herbs. Aerate/decant for a couple of hours, pouring with a prime rib roast and root veggies. (Vic Harradine)

88drink now
Primus Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Maipo Valley $19.95 (486043) 14.0% alcohol
A rich bouquet of incense and dark berry fruit replays with exotic spice, black currant and fennel coating the palate along with baking spice and sweet vanilla. The dry finish lingers, loaded with ripe black berry fruit, oodles of tang and plenty of charm. It’s good to go now and pours exceptionally well with steak au poivre. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: Red Wine

• Fruit for the following 2015 Claymore ‘London Calling’ Cabernet – Malbec was sourced from 75% cabernet sauvignon and 25% malbec from the cool-climate Clare Valley wine region in the State of South Australia. It was pressed and left to ferment for two to three weeks then sent to barrel completing malolactic conversion while maturing in oak for 12 months.

89drink or cellar
Claymore ‘London Calling’ Cabernet - Malbec 2015
Clare Valley, South Australia $21.95 (522110) 14.0% alcohol
This highly acclaimed ‘value wine’ hustles from the glass with aromas of peppery spice, savory herbs and cherry/berry fruit. It sports a full-bodied, well-textured surge of black currant, cassis and minty notes on the palate with replays on the lingering, luscious finish and aftertaste. The winery suggests pouring with wood-fired, prosciutto and chèvre pizza.

• The following 2014 Elderton ‘Barossa’ Shiraz is from a family-owned, iconic winery belonging to the Ashmead family who in the early 1980s reclaimed derelict vineyards. In 1993 they won ‘The Jimmy Watson Memorial Trophy’ making them and their wine famous at home and internationally.

92drink or cellar
Elderton ‘Barossa’ Shiraz 2014
Barossa, South Australia $24.95 (713024) 14.5% alcohol
This wine was matured 24 months in predominantly 2nd and 3rd fill, American-oak, 500L puncheons. It rips from the glass with dark chocolate, cassis and black plum aromas rollicking across the palate full bodied and creamy/dreamy textured with rich, luscious flavours of Christmas cake spice, black juicy cherry, black currant and dark bittersweet chocolate. It finishes with more of the same, balanced and beautiful, complex and structured. (Vic Harradine)

91drink or cellar
Gemtree ‘Uncut’ Shiraz 2015
McLaren Vale, South Australia $28.95 (627844) 14.5% alcohol
Fruit was sourced from 20- to 60-year-old vines, now grown biodynamically, then wine matured on lees in French oak barrel, 45% new, before bottling. This is deep, dark and brooding in the glass, almost opaque, before releasing lively aromas of black currant and spice. It’s full bodied and nicely textured as it blankets the palate with black currant and ripe, sweet boysenberry intertwined with toasty notes, dark chocolate and tarry bits. It finishes lengthy and simply delicious. (Vic Harradine)

95drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Peter Lehmann ‘The Barossan’ Shiraz 2015
Barossa, South Australia $21.95 (522235) 14.5% alcohol
This envelops the palate with a stunning wash of delectable ambrosia—ripe red and black fruit, baking spice, sweet vanilla and savory herbs. It’s full bodied with generous mouthfeel, good purity of fruit, complex and structured. It finishes in a blaze of red cherry and black plum interwoven with cassis and mocha. Pick up a few. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Sister’s Run ‘Calvary Hill’ Shiraz 2015
Lyndoch, Barossa, South Australia $17.95 (222018) 14.5% alcohol
Peppery spice, toasty notes and dark cherry/berry fruit aromas precede a rich, luscious, loaded-with-tang, tsunami wave of black briary berry and juicy black Bing cherry interweaving with cracked black pepper and sweet vanilla. This is full bodied and well textured with replays of palate flavours dominating the sweet-tinged, warm finish and aftertaste. Pour alongside grilled lamb chops or rare-grilled flank steak, (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2014 Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon showcases a member of the prestigious Australian First Families of Wine. One passes up Tahbilk wine with caution—they’re consistently very good and after tasting this value-laden cabernet, it’s no exception.

91drink or cellar
Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Nagambie Lakes, Victoria $22.95 (138818) 13.5% alcohol
Savory herbs and red berry fruit aromas open the door to a racy river of palate-bathing crunchy red fruit—currant, cherry and plum—mingling with piquant spice and toasty oak—matured 18 months in French oak barrel, 20% new. This is near full bodied and textured with soft, still-evolving tannin peeking through. Aerate/decant three hours and pour with a premium slab of well-seasoned, grilled beef. (Vic harradine)

• Although the medal-laden bottle of the following 2016 The Black Chook Shiraz/Viognier may look, and may be, impressive, they relate to vintages that have nothing to do with what’s in this 2016 bottle and they’re not from winning a medal at a judged wine competition… as a quick glance may mislead you to think.

89drink or cellar
The Black Chook Shiraz/Viognier 2016
McLaren Vale/Padthaway, South Australia $18.95 (66738) 14.5% alcohol
This opens with aromas of dark berry fruit with hints of black plum, black licorice and floral notes before a deluge of stewed, bramble berry fruit and black plum compote blanket the palate mingling with dark chocolate, kirsch liqueur and sweet vanilla flavour. This is full bodied and creamy smooth on the palate and fully fruited on the extended finish. Pour with grilled back ribs mopped with spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

91drink or cellar
The Lane ‘Single Vineyard - Block 14, Basket Press’ Shiraz 2015
Adelaide Hills, South Australia $29.95 (470591) 13.5% alcohol
Fruit was sourced from their highest, 450 m, most-exposed vineyard with soils of ironstone over deep, red-clay subsoil. This is rich and luscious with deft balance, admirable restraint and flirts with elegance. Aromas of red berry fruit, plum and blueberry mingle with savory herbs and piquant peppery spice on the nose of this medium-full bodied, smoothly textured shiraz. It showcases a lively, well-balanced and fruit-flavoured stream of crunchy red cherry and juicy black berry intertwined with fennel, peppery spice and savory herbs on the palate with replays on the finish. This is classy and deserving of a pairing with grilled rack of Australian lamb. (Vic Harradine)

92drink or cellar
Two Hands ‘Brave Faces’ Grenache/Mourvèdre/Shiraz 2015
Barossa Valley, South Australia $24.95 (660035) 14.5% alcohol
This a rich, luscious rendition of what has become a terrific Aussie red blend more commonly seen as ‘GSM’. There’s a bit more of the ‘M’ and less of the ‘S’ in this blend. It’s lively and fresh on the palate with racy red currant and pie cherry nicely juxtaposed with ripe mulberry and black raspberry on the silky-smooth, full-bodied palate flavours. The gorgeous, dry finish and aftertaste layers on soft tannin, gamy notes, piquant spice and a boatload of allure. (Vic Harradine)

New Zealand: White Wine

92drink or cellar
Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Marlborough, South Island $26.95 (677450) 13.0% alcohol
Off-the-chart aromas of smoke, flinty minerality, struck match and sharp spice dazzle the olfactory system and introduce a tang-laden, piquant-spice streak of lemon-lime, blood orange and white grapefruit adorned with savory herbs reverberating on the palate. It’s embellished by chalky/mineral notes on the finish and aftertaste. Pour with freshly shucked oysters or sushi. Not for the faint of the palate. (Vic Harradine

90drink now
Eradus Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Awatere Valley, Marlborough, South Island $19.95 (225557) 13.5% alcohol
Aromas of green apple and savory herbs interweave with tropical fruit and pear before a well-balanced wash of melon and grilled pineapple decorated with lemon curd, white grapefruit, gooseberry and sprigs of herbs blanket the palate infusing the medium-length, mouth-watering finish. Pour with breaded and pan-seared calamari rings or grilled salmon. (Vic Harradine)

France: White Wine

95drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Cave de Turckheim ‘Hengst’ Pinot Gris 2012
AOC Alsace Grand Cru $35.95 (522201) 13.5% alcohol
This is stunning pinot gris. Alluring aromas of honeyed pit fruit, exotic incense and musk melon foreshadow a delightful, delicious, fully textured mouthful of spice-infused mango, ripe Bosc pear and Mirabelle plum intertwined with racy citrus—lemon, lime and grapefruit on the palate persisting through the lengthy finish and aftertaste. This is rich, luscious and balanced with excellent weight and creamy-smooth texture throughout. Pour with fruit flan, pad Thai, baked ham dotted with cloves and basted with brown sugar and honey or tandoori chicken and garlic naan. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2013 Maison Ambroise Saint-Romain was sourced from 100%, Ecocert-certified, organically grown, chardonnay. It was hand-harvested, pressed, allowed to settle 24/48 hours then barrel fermented, 20% new oak, and matured 12 months in barrel.

89 drink or cellar
Maison Ambroise Saint-Romain 2013
AOC Saint-Romain, Burgundy $44.95 (522185) 13.0% alcohol
Smoky notes mingle with aromas of almonds and flinty minerality on the nose of this medium-full weight, nicely textured wine. It bathes the palate with racy citrus—white grapefruit, blood orange and lemon zest—along with wisps of green apple and pear. It finishes with replays alongside saline minerality on dry, crisp finish. Pour with pan-seared tilapia or trout under a generous squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

91drink or cellar
Jean-Max Roger ‘Cuvée Les Caillottes’ Sancerre 2016
AOC Sancerre $27.95 (65573) 12.5% alcohol
This sauvignon blanc is grown by one of Sancerre’s premium producers with vines on clay-limestone soil amongst ‘caillottes’—rounded vineyard stones. There’s wonderful texture, persistent purity of fruit and a tasty, crisp, refreshing finish. Aromas of gunflint minerality and savory herbs introduce a palate-dazzling, bracing stream of savory herbs and wisps of gooseberry interweaving with piquant spice, sprigs of herbs and tang-laden lemon and lime galore. It finishes in a blaze of replays—mouth-watering and lip-smacking good. (Vic Harradine)

89drink or cellar
Château de Beaucastel ‘Coudoulet de Beaucastel’ Blanc 2015
AOC Côtes de Rhône $34.95 (48892) 13.0% alcohol
From the Perrin family that bring you the iconic red blend, Château de Beaucastel, this opens with aromas of citrus, mineral notes, pear and apple on the nose. It’s lean and herbal on the palate with a medium-bodied stream of savory herbs mingling with tangy lemon, racy white grapefruit ameliorated by peach and ripe pear flavours. It’s astringent on the dry, crisp finish with notions of peach skin and grapefruit pith. (Vic Harradine)

France: Red Wine

86drink or cellar
Château Guillou 2015
AOC Montagne-Saint-Émilion $19.95 (140483) 13.5% alcohol
This is medium bodied with good mouthfeel, a tang-laden flow of crunchy red fruit and perceptible tannin on the finish and aftertaste. Aromas of red berry fruit, graphite and espresso roast precede a racy flow of pie cherry and cranberry streaking over the palate adorned with a wisp of ripe, black plum and underpinning of grainy tannin on the aftertaste. Aerate/decant a couple of hours pouring with well-seasoned grilled burgers or grilled gourmet sausage. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Château Hauchat 2015
AOC Fronsac $16.95 (123489) 14.0% alcohol
This value-packed, merlot-dominant red coats the palate with ripe fruit, complexity, good structure and allure. Aromas of incense, toasty notes and dark berry fruit abound. It rolls over the palate with waves of black currant, piquant spice and mocha. It’s medium-weight with an easy-drinking personality, creamy smooth and fruity on the palate and finish garnished with mixed spice and savory herbs. This is enhanced with a two-hour aeration decant. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar
Château la Fleur Pourret 2010
AOC Saint-Émilion Grand Cru $39.95 (455667) 14.5% alcohol
This high-octane, merlot-dominated red showcases aromas of oak, charred toast and berry fruit before blanketing the palate with a medium-bodied, nicely textured stream of crunchy, tangy, red fruit—currant, cherry and plum—intertwined with riper blackberry, mixed spice and cocoa. There’s chalky tannin and oodles of tang on the finish. Pour with pasta in tomato sauce or pastitsio. (Vic Harradine)

91drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Gérard Bertrand Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre Corbières 2014
AOP Corbières $16.95 (394288) 14.0% alcohol
Dark berry fruit, black coffee and gamy aromas preface a full-bore, full-fruited and balanced river of black currant, kirsch liqueur and tangy red cherry coating the palate persisting through the beautiful finish of this delectable GSM. It’s full-bodied with satin-smooth texture, fully integrated oak, after spending eight months in French barrique, and a lip-smacking aftertaste. Pour with burgers, steak or gourmet sausage. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Domaine les Grands Bois ‘Cuvée les Trois Soeurs’ Côtes du Rhône 2015
AOP Côtes du Rhône $16.95 (281147) 14.5% alcohol
Perfumed aromas of exotic incense, toasted/charry notes, forest floor and black berry fruit unleash a lively, spicy, tang-laden flow of racy pie cherry intertwined with piquant spice and juicy, rich and ripe, black bramble berry caressing the palate infusing the finish, This is medium-plus bodied with good texture and a wisp of chalky tannin on the aftertaste that’s easily ameliorated with a two-hour aeration/decant. (Vic Harradine)

88drink or cellar
Halos de Jupiter Côtes du Rhône 2016
AOC Côtes du Rhône $17.95 (276956) 15.0% alcohol
Aromas of rich, dark cherry/berry fruit and spice are expressed on the palate as bramble berry jam, kirsch liqueur and raspberry compote—sweet, jammy, hedonistic—simply delicious to some wine lovers, while high octane, lacking balance and acidity to others; it comes down to personal preference. This is medium-full bodied with good mouthfeel and a fruit-filled, sweet-tinged finish and aftertaste. Pour with grilled back ribs mopped with spicy barbecue sauce. (Vic Harradine)

94drink or cellar
Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2015
AOC Châteauneuf-du-Pape $65.95 (700922) 14.5% alcohol
This might be a suitable present for your favourite red-wine lover. Ripe, rich and rarin’ to go, this opens with aromas of mixed spice, floral notes, sprigs of local herbs and mineral notes. A full-bodied, fully textured rush of black, briary berry, juicy black cherry and cassis interweave with black licorice, gamy notes and yet more savory herbs. The finish and aftertaste are balanced, fruit forward and simply gorgeous. A bit pricey, but it certainly delivers—balanced and complex with persistent purity of fruit and firm structure—good to go now, even better 2019 to 2026. (Vic Harradine)

91drink or cellar
Tardieu Laurent ‘Vieilles Vignes’ Vacqueyras 2015
AOC Vacqueyras $39.95 (526657) 14.5% alcohol
Sandalwood, grilled savory herbs and black cherry introduce an über-rich and luscious, palate-bathing surge of black currant, black Bing cherry and sweet, ripe mulberry compote mingling with sprigs of savory herbs, piquant spice and notions of fennel. It’s full bodied and textured with a long, balanced finish and aftertaste. Pour with grilled rack of lamb and root veggies. (Vic Harradine)

Germany: White Wine

• The top accreditation for German wines is indicated by the ‘Prädikatswein’ designation. The following 2016 Dr. Loosen ‘Blue Slate’ Riesling has that designation, along with a ‘Kabinett’ designation indicating that it was sourced from ripe grapes.

92drink or cellar
Dr. Loosen ‘Blue Slate’ Riesling - Kabinett 2016
Prädikatswein Mosel $22.95 (160846) 7.5% alcohol
Lime, piquant spice and floral notes provide segue for an off-dry gusher of lime cordial, lemon pie filling and exotic incense blanketing the palate with delectable sweet and tang. It offers low-alcohol, good mouthfeel, plenty of flavour and a crisp lip-smacking finish showcasing oodles of tang with a crisp finish of minerality. Pour with butter chicken, using naan to mop up the sauce, or with curried Singapore noodles. (Vic Harradine)

• As you may know, the Prädikatswein on the following 2016 Studert-Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese label signals the highest designation of German wine. You may not be aware, or had forgotten, the Spätlese translates to a ‘Late Harvest’ wine, always with very high sugar levels in the unfermented grape, with that being the criteria for this designation on German wine. A sharp eye would discern that this wine will be somewhat sweet by simply reading the label. How? If the grapes are picked with high sugar levels, this provides the ability to produce high alcohol. As this is a low 8.5% alcohol, it leads one to conclude all the sugar was not fermented, leaving the wine in the bottle still somewhat sweet.

94drink or cellar
Studert-Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2016
Prädikatswein $27.95 (912659) 8.5% alcohol
This is a stunning wine with depth, incredible balance of inherent, tangy acidity and über-ripe fruit, plus a monumentally long finish and aftertaste. The involved aromas of rosewater, piquant spice, citrus and minerality set the table for a smorgasbord of sweet, ripe, luscious palate-coating flavours with sweet mango and peach marmalade interlaced with lime and ripe pear. This is mid weight with good mouthfeel and a lengthy, sweet-tinged, flavourful finish and aftertaste. Pour with fruit flan or baked ham, now to 2025. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: White Wine

90drink now
Nals Margreid ‘Punggl’ Pinot Grigio 2015
DOC Südtirol-Alto Adige $27.95 (395756) 14.5% alcohol
Intense aromas of lemon zest and minerality portend a racy, reverberating, laser-like focus of bracing acidity expressed as lemon-lime, grapefruit and blood orange along with wisps of pear and peach. The lively tang and acidity persist through the long finish and aftertaste, Pour with ceviche, sushi, or freshly shucked oysters under a dash of hot sauce and squeeze of fresh lemon. (Vic Harradine)

88drink or cellar
Zaccagnini Tralcetto Pinot Grigio 2016
IGT Terre di Chieti $19.95 (527622) 12.5% alcohol
This is a simple grigio with a nose of tropical fruit and savory herbs that turns quite racy on the palate supported by a focused stream of Granny Smith apple, white grapefruit and pear intertwined with mineral notes. It’s light on its feet with decent texture on the palate along with a lean, dry mouth-watering finish. Pour with mussels in white wine with leeks and garlic. (Vic Harradine)

92drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
La Fortezza ‘Taburno’ Falanghina Del Sannio 2016
DOC Campania $16.95 (527630) 13.0% alcohol
Mineral notes, exotic spice, citrus and tropical fruit aromas waft from the nose of this exceptionally well-priced falanghina. A lively, full-flavoured, full-textured flow of passionfruit and blood orange interlace with ripe orchard fruit, red apple, pear and white nectarine. It finishes in a torrent of lemon curd and lime zest electrifying the tangy finish and aftertaste. Pour with a local favourite, spaghetti alle vongole. (Vic Harradine)

90drink now Exceptional Value!
Cantina Gallura ‘Piras’ Vermentino Di Gallura 2015
DOCG Sardinia $15.95 (511485) 13.0% alcohol
An interesting, complex nose of savory herbs, minerality and oodles of citrus aromas signal a well-balanced, delightfully flavoured, palate-bathing mouthful of soft citrus—Key lime and lemon—interwoven with scads of hazelnut and grilled pineapple. It finishes with replays on the crisp, dry, refreshing aftertaste. Pour with pan-seared freshwater fish. (Vic Harradine)

Italy: Red Wine

92drink or cellar
Umberto Cesari ‘Liano’ Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
IGT Rubicone $27.95 (225086) 13.5% alcohol
Red cherry/berry aromas intertwine with savory herbs and baking spice preceding a dark chocolate-tinged river of mixed dark berry fruit and crunchy red cherry flavours mingling and melding on the palate, balanced with structure and depth. It’s full bodied with satiny texture and lengthy, mouth-watering aftertaste. Pour with beef and cheese manicotti. (Vic Harradine)

91cellar
Ascheri Barolo 2012
DOCG Barolo $49.95 (496851) 14.0% alcohol
Aromas of medicinal, floral notes, savory herbs, tar and cedar meld with field-berry fruit on the nose heralding a riveting line of palate-searing flavour with pie cherry and passionfruit to the fore interwoven with mixed spice and black licorice. This is medium weight with decent mouthfeel and a solid underpinning of firm tannin. The finish is juicy, tangy and lip-smacking delicious. Aerate/decant a couple of hours after opening 2020 to 2030. (Vic Harradine)

86drink now
Amastuola Primitivo 2014
IGP Puglia $16.95 (300004) 14.0% alcohol
Tobacco leaf, forest floor and charred toast unleash a vibrant, lively, tang-laden streak of passionfruit, racy red cherry and cranberry flavours racing across the palate persisting through the dry, mouth-watering aftertaste. There are still-evolving tannin peeking through—aerate/decant a couple of hours and pour with vegetarian lasagna or pasta puttanesca. (Vic Harradine)

92drink or cellar
Feudo Montoni ‘Lagnusa’ Nero D’Avola 2014
DOC Sicilia $22.95 (523738) 13.5% alcohol
With aromas of red and black berry fruit, sprigs of herbs and balsam notes on the nose, this single-vineyard gem dishes up a delectable smorgasbord of palate flavours with ripe red cherry and red currant interlaced with black plum, briary berry, spice and herbs. This is medium bodied with smooth mouthfeel and lingering, lip-smacking finish. (Vic Harradine)

91cellar
Banfi Brunello Di Montalcino 2012
DOCG Brunello Di Montalcino $56.95 (378257) 14.0% alcohol
Orange-hued and brimming with aromas, this cellar dweller promises to handsomely reward patience. The nose offers aromas of blue and black fruit, pipe tobacco and mixed spice. It bathes the palate with a mid-weight, well-textured stream of racy red cherry and tangy cranberry sauce that persists through the dry, mouth-watering aftertaste. Pop corks 2020 to 2028 and pour with hearty stew like osso buco. (Vic Harradine)

• When a corporation—in our world, a winery—provides information on a label, some is substantiated by a regulatory body and some is carefully worded by the marketing department (the latter usually found on the back label). In the case of the following 2013 Castello Di Ama ‘San Lorenzo - Gran Selezione’ Chianti Classico 2013, the ‘Gran Selezione’ is certainly worth noting, it’s regulated and is only applicable to ‘Chianti Classico’ wines. Read more.

92cellar
Castello Di Ama ‘San Lorenzo - Gran Selezione’ Chianti Classico 2013
DOCG Chianti Classico $50.95 (418897) 13.0% alcohol
Cedar, red cherry and exotic spice aromas pave the way for a taut and racy, tang-infused, tannin-laced gusher of pie cherry and piquant spice on the palate. The lengthy finish showers racy red fruit—currant and plum—with a solid underpinning of still-evolving tannin. Pop corks 2021 to 2027 for a patience-rewarding experience. (Vic Harradine)

91drink now
Le Volte dell’Ornellaia 2015
IGT Toscana $29.95 (964221) 14.0% alcohol
A highly anticipated, perennial favourite, this blend of 67% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon, 13% sangiovese, is ready to drink, is fair value and shouldn’t disappoint. Dark berry fruit, piquant spice and mint aromas abound before dishing up a focused line of crunchy pie cherry and tart passionfruit scurrying across the palate adorned with notions of mixed spice and mocha, This is medium bodied with silky-smooth texture and soft ripe tannin. Drink now after a three-hour aeration/decant. (Vic Harradine)

• Branches of the Antinori family have earned something akin to ‘wine-god’ status through their enviable, lengthy dedication to producing fine wine—the following 2014 Marchese Antinori ‘Tenuta Tignanello - Riserva’ Chianti Classico is an example.

92drink or cellar
Marchese Antinori ‘Tenuta Tignanello - Riserva’ Chianti Classico 2014
DOCG Chianti Classico $42.95 (512384) 13.5% alcohol
Scintillating aromas of exotic incense, grilled savory herbs and espresso roast translate to a rich luscious wash of balanced and beautiful palate flavours with black currant and juicy black cherries interwoven with savory herbs and juicy tang to the fore. Palate flavours replay on the finish and aftertaste. Aerate/decant for three-hours to enhance your imbibing experience. (Vic Harradine)

89drink or cellar
Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2015
DOCG Chianti Classico $23.95 (3962) 13.5% alcohol
Charred toast and tobacco leaf aromas open easily in the glass followed by a lively, juicy wash of racy red fruit—plum, currant and cranberry—bathing the palate decorated with piquant spice, sprigs of herbs and oodles of tang. This is medium-bodied with good mouthfeel and wisps of tannin on the finish and aftertaste, easily ameliorated with a two-hour aeration/decant. Pour with meat lasagna or pastitsio. (Vic Harradine)

94drink or cellar
Terralsole ‘Vigna Pian Bossolino’ Brunello Di Montalcino 2010
DOCG Brunello Di Montalcino $100.95 (515775) 14.5% alcohol
Light-ruby and orange-hued in the glass, this sports aromas of sandalwood, grilled herbs plus mixed, field berry fruit. A delicious stream of balanced ambrosia blankets the palate with cherry pie filling, racy red currant with wisps of dark chocolate and a boatload of lip-smacking tang. This has good weight, structure, purity of fruit with a monumentally long, delectable finish and aftertaste. (Vic Harradine

• The following 2014 Allegrini ‘Palazzo Della Torre’ is produced by the Allegrini family who have been active in the area’s agriculture since the 16th C. They were named Italy’s 2016 Winery of the Year by Gambero Rosso. The Palazzo delle Torre is Italy’s most awarded wine under $25.00 and has been included in the Wine Spectator’s top 100 list at least six times; more than any other wine under $25.00. It’s fashioned by keeping a small percentage of harvested fruit separate to be dried then fermented at a later date then carefully blended with the majority of fruit that was fermented at harvest.

92drink or cellar
Allegrini ‘Palazzo Della Torre’ 2014
IGT Veronese $24.95 (672931) 13.5% alcohol
Toast/oaky aromas mingle with raisin and bright, evergreen needles on the nose before releasing a tangy line of red currant and cranberry flavour on the palate intertwined with soft, ripe black cherry and dried currant. This is medium-plus bodied with smooth texture, balance, complexity and structure with good purity of fruit and oodles of charm. It lingers luxuriously on the finish. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Gran Passione Rosso 2016
IGT Veneto $17.95 (410704) 14.0% alcohol
A mélange of cedar, medicinal, minty and spicy aromas introduce a medium-full bodied, nicely textured, fruit-filled river of tangy red cherry and mixed spice along with wisps of tannin gliding effortlessly over the palate. This has structure, complexity and deft balance. The finish is dry, quite long and simply mouth-watering good. Pour alongside pasta with carbonera sauce.

Portugal: Red Wine

Quinta da Pellada vineyard

• Organic, autochthonous Port grapes form the basis of the following 2014 Dac Tinto; a firmly structured red blend from their family-owned vineyards in the stunningly beautiful Douro Valley.

89drink or cellar
Quinta da Pellada ‘Dac’ Tinto 2014
DO Dão $16.95 (523589) 13.0% alcohol
Buoyant aromas of piquant spice, alluring incense and cassis dominate the nose of this tang-laden, tannin-infused red blend. It flows over the palate structured and firm with flavours of black currant, plum and red cherry interwoven with savory herbs and wisps of minerality. Best to pop corks 2020 to 2028 although a three-hour aeration/decant also somewhat tames the grippy tannin, if waiting’s not an option. (Vic Harradine)

92drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Joao M. Barbosa ‘Lapa Dos Gaivoes’ 2014
Vinho Regional Alentejano $18.95 (523605) 14.0% alcohol
Floral notes, mocha, toasty oak and dark berry fruit aromas spill from the glass of this full-bodied red blend. It blankets the palate with a rush of firmly structured, deftly balanced fruit flavours of juicy black cherry and ripe mulberry adorned with peppery spice, sprigs of savory herbs and dark chocolate. This showcases good depth and complexity along with a lingering tang-laden finish that’s lip-smacking delicious. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar
Quadrus ‘Reserva’ 2011
DOC Douro $30.95 (534271) 14.0% alcohol
Found this quite smooth and mellow on the palate with a tang-infused stream of piquant spice and pie cherry juxtaposed with balancing black plum and currant flavours garnished with notions of mocha and spice. This is medium-full bodied with good structure, complexity and a mid-length, balanced finish. Pour with cassoulet or osso buco. (Vic Harradine)

Spain: Red Wine

90drink or cellar
Borsao ‘Tres Picos’ Garnacha 2015

DO Campo de Borja $19.95 (273748) 15.0% alcohol

This has developed quite the following. Aromas of black plum, fig and savory herbs set the tone for a rich, hedonistic river of bramble berry and black currant robed in lip-smacking acidity adorned with peppery notes and fennel. There are ripe fine-grained tannin adding structure and interest. It’s nicely balanced with a fruit and tang-filled finish. (Vic Harradine)

93drink now
Convento San Francisco 2010

DO Ribera del Duero $20.95 (206409) 14.5% alcohol

This is medium-full bodied, structured, complex, very tasty and punches well above the price and is another fabulous Wine of the Month selection. This is purple/black-hued almost opaque when poured. A hi-toned bouquet of red cherry, tobacco and gamy note aromas introduce a balanced and beautiful river of mature fruit—red and black currant and blueberry—interlaced with earthy notes and soft, polished tannin bathing the palate infusing the finish and aftertaste. Drink up in the short term. (Vic Harradine)

87drink or cellar
Bodegas Izadi ‘Selección Reserva’ 2010
DOCa Rioja $24.95 (92007) 14.0% alcohol
This Tempranillo-dominant blend offers up a racy line of reverberating acidity expressed as sour cherry and passionfruit flying across the palate with oaky bits, piquant spice, great pizzazz and élan. It delivers more of the same on the finish and aftertaste robed in still-evolving tannin. Aerate/decant for three hours pouring with pasta puttanesca or spaghetti Bolognese. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar
Montgó ‘Old Vines’ Monastrell 2015
DOP Jumilla $14.95 (452136) 15.0% alcohol
Smoke and oak aromas mingle with mixed berry fruit on the nose of this lovely Monastrell, aka Mourvèdre. A lively surge of ripe, delicious, spice-laden fruit coats the palate with red currant, black plum and wisps of cranberry supported by balance and complexity with riper black currant and dark cherry on the back palate and lengthy, lively, finish. Pour with prawn and chorizo paella. (Vic Harradine)

88drink or cellar
Castaño ‘Solanera - Viñas Viejas’ 2015
DO Yecla $18.95 (276162) 14.5% alcohol
This red blend rolls out a sweet-tinged mouthful from the warmth of sunny Spain—it’s rich, ripe and rarin’ to go. There’s a smooth, mellow wash of ripe fruit bathing the palate—black plum compote, raisin, hints of cherry cordial—enhanced by mixed spice and toasty notes. It’s medium-plus weight, nicely textured with a sweet-fruit-filled finish and aftertaste, Pour with grilled ribs brushed with spicy barbecue sauce or a sandwich of pulled pork topped with spicy hot sauce. (Vic Harradine)

88drink now
Urbina ‘Reserva Especial’ 2001
DOCa Rioja $36.95 (511568) 14.0% alcohol
This was sourced from an organic blend of 95% tempranillo, 5% mazuelo/graciano grown on +50-year-old vines then aged two years in French and American oak. It shows a brown-orange hue on the rim along with floral, earthy notes and berry fruit on the nose. It bathes the palate with smooth round flow of racy pie cherry, ripe red plum and wisps of savory dill weed on the dry, balanced finish. Pour with manicotti. (Vic Harradine)

New in LCBO Portfolio

Fortified Wine: Brandy

• The following Torres 10 Imperial Brandy Gran Reserva was sourced from white wine, distilled then matured in American-oak casks in a traditional solera system with the brandy in the oldest barrels being ten-years old.

95drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Torres 10 Imperial Brandy Gran Reserva
Product of Spain $29.95 (522359) 40.0% alcohol
Aromas of vanilla, apple pie spice and desiccated apricots abound on the nose. The mahogany-hued liquid sips easily and slips effortlessly over the palate dominated by the warmth and allure of this aged beauty. Flavours of dried peach, nutty notes, Christmas cake spice weave their way over the palate persisting through the lengthy fade with its orange-rind bite. The price-quality balance tips wildly in your favour. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2016 Silk and Spice ‘Red Blend’ is multi-regional—Dão/Lisboa/Bairrada—and a multi-blend—touriga nacional, baga, syrah, alicante bouschet. The front label is a treasure for anyone with even a passing interest in maps as this is an ancient map drawn around the time of the silk and spice routes that traders plied in the 14C.

Red Wine

• From now to December 30, 2017 there is a price discount of $2 for each bottle purchased of the following Silk and Spice Red Blend. You’ll pay only $10.95 for each bottle.

88drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Silk and Spice ‘Red Blend’ 2016
Product of Portugal $12.95 (533307) 13.0% alcohol
Aromas of dark berry fruit, grilled savory herbs and mixed spice precede a sweet-tinged flow of raspberry and candied cherry flavours on the palate decorated with balancing tang. This is light on its feet, smooth on the palate with a good spicy bite on the finish. Pour alongside pizza, burgers, wings or creamy mac and cheese.

86drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Torres ‘Altos Ibéricos’ Crianza 2014
DOCa Rioja, Spain $14.95 (527291) 13.5% alcohol
Red and dark cherry and grapey aromas announce a mid-weight, lightly textured stream of tangy flavours with crunchy pie cherry and passionfruit to the fore along with notions of wispy tannin, toasty notes and minerality. Hand-picked tempranillo was fermented in stainless steel tanks matured 12 months in French and Americasn oak and further 12 months in bottle under controlled temperature and humidity before release. Pour with appetizers and mains, beef, chicken or pork. (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, 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.

91drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Vinicola de Castilla ‘Señorío de Guadianeja’ Tempranillo Gran Reserva 2004 

DO La Mancha, Spain $17.95 13.0% alcohol

After macerating on skins for 12 days, this underwent malolactic conversion then spent 36 months aging in American oak. Aromas of red cherry, leather and spice unleash a spirited rush of red berry fruit, black plum and hints of passionfruit streaking across the palate, infusing the finish and aftertaste. There’s persistent purity of fruit, good balance, a lengthy, tang-laden aftertaste and a price-quality balance tipped well in your favour. (Vic Harradine)
 
93drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Vinicola de Castilla ‘Señorío de Guadianeja’ Cabernet Sauvignon Gran Reserva 2004 

DO La Mancha, Spain $18.95 13.5% alcohol

This beauty punches well above the price. A lovely orange hue in the glass, it offers alluring aromas of caramel, dark chocolate and hints of toasty notes. It blankets the palate with a broad swath of excellently textured, mature dark fruit—black berry, black cherry and ripe mulberry—dancing across the palate with boundless energy followed by a lingering finish and aftertaste. Pour on its own or enjoy with roast beef or steak. (Vic Harradine)

91drink or cellar
Domaine de Vervine Vacqueyras 2015

AOP Vacqueyras, France $23.95 14.0% alcohol

Aromas of ripe, dark cherry/berry fruit and peppery spice are precursors to a mouthful of über-ripe black plum, kirsch liqueur, savory herbs and warm peppery notes persisting through the finish and aftertaste. It’s medium-full bodied with good texture and lengthy balanced aftertaste. This pours particularly well with beef fajitas, spicy ribs, spicy wings, or grilled burgers; it has good heft and soft acidity melding with the very ripe fruit on the finish. (Vic Harradine)

Cheers, Vic