January 12, 2018 Newsletter

Sincere Thanks. There were many kind comments in emails enquiring if the newsletter with the January 6 release wine reviews was missed. Due to the Holiday Season, the Vintages tasting was delayed and this is our best in delivering the quality of reviews you’ve come to expect. Louise Boutin and Dave Isaacs deserve special thanks for their Herculean efforts in burning the candle at both ends. We’ll have the upcoming publication to you next week before the January 20, 2018 release. Happy reading.

Spoiler Alert. You’ll find an embarrassment of riches here as Vintages buyers certainly delivered on their ‘Smart Buys’ promise. Approximately one in ten winecurrent reviews earn an Exceptional Value! exceptional buy. In this publication, three in ten earned it. Happy shopping.

Newsletter Highlights include:

  • Exceptional-value wine  Exceptional Value! – 18 of 56 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 – one wine available at LCBO retail scored 95 and more points: Alain Jaume Clos de Sixte 2015 @ $25.95 found under France: Red Wine. 
  • Louise Likes – Castello Di Bossi C. Berardenga 2013 @ $22.95 earned 91 points found under Italy: Red Wines; Joseph Cattin Pinot Blanc 2016 earned 89 points @ $15.95 found under France: White Wine; and, of course, all her exceptional-value wines.
  • Dave’s Delights – Caliterra Tributo ‘Single Vineyard’ Carmenère 2015 earned 89 points @ $17.95 found under Special Feature: Smart Buys - Online and Instore; Vineland Estates ‘Elevation - St. Urban Vineyard’ Riesling 2016 earned 90 points @ $19.95 found under Ontario: White Wine; and, of course, all his exceptional-value wines.

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.

Vintages Release: January 6, 2018

Feature: Smart Buys - Instore and Online

91drink or cellar Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
Flat Rock Riesling 2016
VQA Twenty Mile Bench $17.95 (43281) 9.5% alcohol
The very pale-gold appearance of this wine belies the fascinating nose of herbs, peach and pear with wisps of petrol aromas. It’s medium bodied and slightly off dry with flavours of pear and peach accompanied by a delightfully lemon tang. The lemon hangs on through the finish, making the entire tasting experience crisp and refreshing. This will go very nicely with a plate of spicy pad Thai drizzled with lime juice. (Dave Isaacs)/

88drink or cellar
McManis Chardonnay 2016
River Junction, California $19.95 (265983) 13.5% alcohol
This wine is medium-yellow in appearance with just a slight green-hued cast. It’s been aged in new and used American and French oak which gives it an unmistakable nose of buttered toast and honeydew melon. About two-thirds of the wine went through malolactic fermentation giving it a full-bodied, creamy mouthfeel while maintaining a healthy balance of acidity. There are flavours of tropical fruit with a smoky/oak background that lingers in the finish. This pairs wonderfully with chicken Alfredo. (Dave Isaacs)

88drink now
Ironstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
Lodi, California $17.95 (537597) 13.5% alcohol
This wine delivers year after year, a consistent, pleasurable and approachable tasting experience at a reasonable price—how good is that. It’s dark plum in colour with an interesting nose of blackcurrant, smoked meat and vanilla. Full bodied in the mouth with flavours of cherry, mocha latte and smoked bacon, this is perfect paired with grilled burgers topped with smoked cheese and bacon. (Dave Isaacs)

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

91drink or cellar
Wakefield Wines ‘Estate’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Clare Valley, Australia $19.95 (744235) 14.0% alcohol

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

90drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Zuccardi ‘Serie A’ Malbec 2016
Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina $16.95 (167619) 13.5% alcohol
This is partially aged in French oak barrels demonstrated by the slight smoky note aromas present on the nose. It’s a young wine with hints of green leaves and stemmy bits on the nose and relatively aggressive tannins on the palate. Peel back the tannins and you’ll discover enticing flavours of tart raspberry, spice, and thyme and a long tangy, herb-like finish. This’ll keep in the cellar to at least 2022. If you want to enjoy today, pair with a medium-rare, grilled pepper steak following a three-hour aeration/decant. (Dave Isaacs)

89drink or cellar
Caliterra Tributo ‘Single Vineyard’ Carmenère 2015
Colchagua Valley, Chile $17.95 (56630) 13.5% alcohol
This red blend is 98% carmenère with 2% carignan filling in the corners. You’ll find blackcurrant, dried leaves and a hint of smokiness that suggests oak, although 100% of this wine was aged in stainless steel tanks. There are flavours of strawberry and cherry supported by a medium-full body, good balance of acid and easy tannins. Now drinking near its peak, it’ll hold in the cellar for another year or two. It’s good value and a good match for ground beef sautéed with hot peppers and chili sauce. (Dave Isaacs)

88drink now
Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand $17.95 (981670) 13.0% alcohol
Fermented from grapes sourced from multiple vineyards in the Awatere and Wairau Valleys, this is an excellent example of Marlborough sauvignon blanc. There are easily discernible aromas of fresh cut grass and citrus on the nose and crisp lemon flavours on the palate. It’s all tied together with a mouth-puckering, tart finish. Enjoy with baked halibut under a squeeze of fresh lemon and steamed broccoli. (Dave Isaacs)

86drink now Exceptional Value!
Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc 2017
WO Western Cape, South Africa $12.95 (480764) 13% alcohol
If you’re looking for an enjoyable white that really delivers on the price-quality balance, this is a good place to start. It’s pale-gold coloured with a slight tinge of green showing around the edges. On the nose, you’ll find aromas of peach overlaying background notes of mineral. Although dry overall, the peach flavours give an impression of ripeness. Pair this alongside baked chicken breasts with marmalade glaze. (Dave Isaacs)

92drink now Exceptional Value!
Paul Mas Estate ‘Nicole Vineyard’ Viognier 2016
IGP Pays D’Oc, France $13.95 (370098) 13.5% alcohol
A leading producer in the south of France, Paul Mas delivers a superb single-vineyard viognier that’s produced according to biodynamic principles. A charming aromatic nose —apricot, ripe pear, orange blossom and a hint of ginger, the palate’s round and fresh with abundance of orchard fruits combined with a perfect citrus and mineral balance. If you’ve been disappointed with flabby viognier before, give this medium-bodied one a chance. It’s an exceptional value and would pair perfectly with stuffed-apricot, pork tenderloin. (Louise Boutin)

87drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Gérard Bertrand Grenache-Carignan Fitou 2014
AOP Fitou, France $16.95 (403683) 14.0% alcohol
An interesting nose of mixed berry fruit, licorice, vanilla and spice usher in a mid-weight flow of piquant spice and red berry fruit—cranberry and currant—racing across the palate decorated with bracing tang, savory herbs and wisps of grainy tannin. It finishes in a blaze of acidity on the mid-length finish and aftertaste. This is medium bodied with decent texture and a mid-length finish and aftertaste robed in tang and acidity. Pour with meat laden red pizza or Swiss steak. (Vic Harradine)

88drink now
Isle of Arran ‘Robert Burns’ Single Malt Scotch
The Highlands, Isle of Arran, Scotland $49.95 (981084) 43.0% alcohol
This exclusive Robert Burns edition of the Arran Single Malt is produced by Isle of Arran Distillers, Patron of the Robert Burns World Federation and one of the few remaining independently owned Scottish distilleries. The whisky is light golden brown in colour with hints of caramel and honey on the nose that carry through all the way to the finish. Though enjoyable neat, a small shard of ice in the glass helps smooth this out. If you’re looking to raise a glass to the poet on his birthday later this month, you certainly won’t go wrong with this. (Dave Isaacs)

The Main Release

Oloroso: Sweet Wine

• The following Non-Vintage Alvear Cream Oloroso is not fortified, but a dry Oloroso of Pedro Ximénez grapes blended with sweet Pedro Ximénez. It was aged in a solera system made of seasoned, American white-oak, 500L barrels for ten-plus years. Hence the light-mahogany coloured ambrosia from a white grape, as over the years it oxidised—with the following fabulous result.

93drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Alvear Cream Oloroso Non-Vintage
DO Montilla-Moriles $16.95 (515791) 18.0% alcohol
This pours from the bottle with a stream of light-mahogany-hued, pure ambrosia. Aromas of piquant spice, raisined, rancio notes with spun sugar and desiccated peach envelop your senses. It coats the palate with a warm, swashbuckling wash of spice-infused, tang-laden flavours with dark bittersweet chocolate, espresso roast, nutty notes and burnt sugar. This has subtle sweetness with a clean, balanced finish, not the least cloying. Pour on its own as an aperitif or alongside duck confit, paté or consommé. Full disclosure… I didn’t spit the sip I required for tasting, and was it good. (Vic Harradine)

Specialty Wine

90drink now
The Lyme Bay ‘Moniack Mead’ Non-Vintage
United Kingdom $19.95 (987263) 14.5% alcohol
The history of mead, made by fermenting honey and water, goes back as far as 8000 years. This particular brand is wildly popular and extremely sought after around the world. In the glass, it has hues of deep golden brown. There are predominant aromas of honey and beeswax with secondary notions of honeydew melon, clover and burnt sugar. It’s full bodied, sweet in the mouth—stops well short of being cloying—with flavours of caramel, honey, and apple. Enjoy by itself after dinner or with home-baked apple pie. (Dave Isaacs)

Sparkling Wine

90drink now Exceptional Value!
Château Moncontour ‘Tête de Cuvée’ Brut Vouvray Non-Vintage

AOC Vouvray, France $17.95 (207936) 12.0% alcohol 

This bubbly opens with a lovely nose of citrus, leesy notes and honeyed, pit fruit aromas. A profusion of bubbles carry nutty nuances and yeasty bits interlacing with racy lemon zest and juicy white nectarine. It’s medium weight with a creamy smooth texture and crisp, refreshing, lip-smacking-good aftertaste. This is good value and worth picking up a few to keep chilled for when friends drop by unexpectedly. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: White Wine

88drink now Exceptional Value! Oh Canada!
Calamus Estate Winery ‘White Night’ 2014
VQA Niagara Peninsula $13.95 (484014) 12.2% alcohol
This value-packed wine is an expressive blend of 85% vidal/15% chardonnay—fermented entirely in stainless steel. There are strong aromas of lychee and sweet apple on the nose. On the palate it’s full bodied with good balance of acid. Although categorized as off-dry, there’s only the slightest hint of sweetness, accompanied by flavours of apple and citrus peel. A good match for poached white fish with squeeze of fresh lemon. (Dave Isaacs)

85drink or cellar Oh Canada!
G. Marquis ‘The Silver Line’ Chardonnay 2016

VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake $17.95 (258681) 13.0% alcohol

Aromas of toasty oak, poached pear, and tropical fruit dominate the nose. A medium-bodied wash of flavour washes over the palate with green apple, honeyed pear and lemongrass interwoven with caramel and oaky notes, all replaying on the finish and aftertaste. It hasn’t yet matured and melded its disparate parts, another year in bottle will be rewarded. (Vic Harradine)

90drink now Oh Canada!
Vineland Estates ‘Elevation - St. Urban Vineyard’ Riesling 2016
VQA Niagara Escarpment $19.95 (38117) 10.5% alcohol
You’ll find a very floral nose on this light-gold-coloured riesling along with a hint of pear and touch of mineral. It’s full bodied and off dry with flavours of red delicious apple and pink grapefruit. The long finish is reminiscent of apple cider spiked with citrus peel. A great wine to enjoy alongside skillet-seared pork chops. (Dave Isaacs)

89drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Château des Charmes St. David’s Bench Vineyard Gamay Noir “Droit” 2016
VQA St. David’s Bench $18.95 (346742) 13.5% alcohol
As the story goes, Paul Bosc noticed a single, interesting vine in his vineyard back in the early 1980s. He propagated it to see what would happen, and gamay noir ‘droit’ was born! You’ll find aromas of cherry, raspberry and a musty smokiness that’ll make you think the wine is barrel aged, even though it’s not. It’s tart to taste, with flavours of cherry, and adds a healthy dollop of tannin on the finish. It’s a lovely accompaniment for grilled, Mexican, chorizo sausage. (Dave Isaacs)

California: White Wine

88drink now
Hess Select Sauvignon Blanc 2016
North Coast $19.95 (420968) 13.5% alcohol
This wine is unmistakably sauvignon blanc. It’s bright, pale-gold in the glass and has a decidedly forward nose of canned asparagus, cooked parsnip and fresh coriander aromas. It’s medium bodied with flavors of piquant acidity expressed as juicy Meyer lemon. The acidity carries through a long lemony finish. Although ready to drink now, you won’t go wrong waiting for spring and cracking it open on a warm evening to enjoy with pan-seared seafood with grilled asparagus. (Dave Isaacs)

California: Red Wine

89drink or cellar
Ca’ Momi Merlot 2015
Napa Valley $24.95 (470187) 14.5% alcohol
This 100% merlot saw eight months in French and American oak barrel before bottling. It has a medium-red hue with a dynamic nose of smoked ham, mossy notes and cherry jam. This is medium weight with tart flavours of sour cherry and a base of integrated, but still apparent, tannins. Overall, it’s very pleasurable to drink now and will also keep until 2021. Pair with grilled Portobello mushrooms marinated in balsamic vinegar after a two-hour aeration/decant. (Dave Isaacs)

88drink or cellar
Folie à Deux Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Alexander Valley $27.95 (186163) 14.5% alcohol
This California cab is opaque—appearing quite dramatic in the glass. The nose is a mix of strawberry and oak aromas with hints of wet leaves lurking in the background. It’s very smooth on the palate with soft tannins and pleasant acidity supporting a fruity character dominated by flavours of black cherry. Drink before 2020 alongside grilled ribs topped with a tangy barbecue sauce. (Dave Isaacs)

87drink or cellar
Klinker Brick ‘Old Vine’ Zinfandel 2014
Lodi $23.95 (59113) 15.4% alcohol
This is a big wine with a lot of punch. It’s dark red in colour with hints of orange brick around the edges that hint at its age. On the nose you’ll find lots of oak, vanilla, and red berry fruit aromas. It’s full bodied and creamy in the mouth with flavours of sour cherry and just a touch of gentle tannins. It may be drinking at or near optimum now, although it will keep another year or so. It’ll make a nice accompaniment to deep-dish, hearty lasagna. (Dave Isaacs)

87drink or cellar
Murphy-Goode Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
California $22.95 (427542) 13.5% alcohol
This red plum-coloured blend—82% cabernet sauvignon/18% cabernet franc—dishes up lifted aromas of cherry on the nose with hints of raspberry jam. The full-bodied mouthfeel is accompanied by flavours of red cherry and vanilla along with a zingy tartness. The tannins persist through a pleasantly smooth finish. It’s a good match for a meat-lovers pizza. (Dave Isaacs)

87drink or cellar
Toasted Head ‘Barrel-Aged’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
North Coast $19.95 (686824) 13.5% alcohol
This is an annual favourite; named for the practice of firing—aka, ‘toasting’,—the inside of the barrel heads in order to impart toasty oak characteristics to the wine. A combination of Hungarian, French and American barrels provide interest with the result a heady nose of oak aromas punctuated with vanilla and red cherry. It’s juicy and just slightly tart in the mouth with lots of cherry flavours mingling with smooth, well-integrated tannins. This is an altogether easy-to-drink package. It can probably cellar for another year or two, but why wait? Crack open a bottle, aerate/decant a couple of hours and enjoy with spice-rubbed, roast pork tenderloin. (Dave Isaacs)

Argentina: Red Wine

88drink or cellar
BenMarco Malbec 2014
Uco Valley $18.95 (657601) 14.5% alcohol
This wine is strikingly inky black with plenty of notes of earth and black fruit aromas on the nose. It’s medium bodied with an inviting juicy tartness, smooth tannins and red berry flavours. There’s a long drawn out finish dominated by flavours of sour cherry. Drinking at its best right now, it’ll hold through 2019. Enjoy this wine with a plate of spaghetti, meatballs and tomato sauce. (Dave Isaacs)

South Africa: Red Wine

92drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Flagstone ‘Dragon Tree’ Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Pinotage 2014
WO Western Cape $17.95 (37549) 14.5% alcohol
The bulk of this wine is comprised of 32% cabernet sauvignon, 27% shiraz and 25% pinotage with the remaining 16% made up of merlot, cabernet franc, touriga nacional, tinta barocca, and barbera. The result is a finely tuned red blend at an extremely attractive price. The nose is like a summer meadow, a mix of flowers and spice with hints of sage and thyme. It’s full bodied on the palate with an excellent balance of acid and flavours--juicy cherry and mint. The tannins are prominent but smooth, falling off nicely while leaving a long fruity finish. You’ll have the perfect match when you serve beside traditional South African Boerweors sausage—or make your own—to put on the grill. (Dave Isaacs)

Australia: White Wine

• Fruit for the following Wakefield Chardonnay was sourced from their Estate vineyard in cool-climate, Clare Valley. It was picked at night, taken directly to the winery, chilled and whole-bunch pressed; after settling, most was fermented in French oak barrel, only 10% new, and stayed on lees a short four months, with the oak nicely integrated at bottling.
89drink now
Wakefield Wines ‘Estate’ Chardonnay 2016

Clare Valley $15.95 (711556) 13.5% alcohol

This offers a generously textured, mouth-filling stream of crisp, refreshing flavour from twist top to final drop of the lengthy finish and aftertaste. Aromas of tropical fruit, ginger and nutmeg abound. They precede a medium-full bodied, tapestry of palate-bathing flavour—white nectarine, apple pie spice, nutty notes and gorgeous lemony tang. It’s well balanced, well priced and delicious. Long story short—pick up a few. (Vic Harradine)

Australia: Red Wine

93drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
d’Arenberg ‘The Footbolt’ Shiraz 2014

McLaren Vale $17.00 (984021) 14.5% alcohol

This punches well above the price, is well structured and showcases good balance and complexity. Aromas of earthy/mushroom, piquant/peppery spice and dark berry fruit abound. A delicious flow of ripe, bramble berry and spice-laden black plum flavour coats the palate decorated with espresso roast and dark bittersweet chocolate. It’s medium-full bodied with good mouthfeel and a balanced lengthy aftertaste layering on notions of grilled savory herbs and oodles of juicy tang. Aerate/decant three hours before serving. (Vic Harradine)

91drink or cellar
Kilikanoon ‘Killerman’s Run’ Grenache/Shiraz/Mataro 2013

Clare Valley, South Australia $19.95 (412189) 14.5% alcohol

This is another Aussie winery you’ll find on Langton’s Classification of Fine Australian Wine with their, ‘Oracle’. Peppery spice, wood smoke and black licorice aromas herald a palate-bathing flow of piquant spice and tang underpinning an enormous, full-bodied, structured wave of black berry fruit adorned with savory herbs and gamy bits. This has good depth and balance with great value and delicious flavour. It was spat with reluctance; pick up a few. (Vic Harradine)

France: White Wine

89drink now
Joseph Cattin Pinot Blanc 2016
AOC Alsace $15.95 (224642) 12.0% alcohol
From a well-established Alsatian, 11th generation winemaking family, Joseph Cattin needs little introduction. Many times rewarded for the quality and consistency of his wines, this 2017 Paris wine competition gold medallist pinot blanc is genuine to its terroir and varietal. A discrete and fresh nose of white grape, Asian pear and white grapefruit aromas fill the air. The palate is fresh and crisp with citrus and mineral flavours. This is a crowd-pleasing option for pairing with steamed mussels or light cream-sauce shrimp pasta. (Louise Boutin)

90drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Château D’Argadens Blanc 2016
AOC Bordeaux $17.95 (159111) 12.0% alcohol
A gold-medal winner at Concours International des Vins de Lyon in 2017, this limited-production Bordeaux blend —65% sauvignon blanc, 35% sémillon opens and display its beautiful aromas after a hearty swirl—ripe pear, honeysuckle, sweet vanilla, smoke and ginger. The new oak barrel fermentation and resting on lies fashion the creamy texture and medium body. Peach and citrus flavours mingle with vanilla, nutmeg and subtly elegant oaky notes. Enjoy now or cellar until 2019 and pour with your favourite seafood platter. (Louise Boutin)

92drink or cellar
Château Moncontour ‘Sec’ Vouvray 2015
AOC Vouvray $19.95 (344929) 11.5% alcohol
This 100% chenin blanc announces itself with a dignified whisper of subtle aromas—white grapefruit and green apple predominant. A gorgeous surprise awaits… this Vouvray, from one of the oldest vineyards in Touraine, bursts on the palate revealing its true zesty personality—crisp apple, green pear and pink grapefruit drizzled with honey ride on the palate and medium-length finish with a pleasant tangy bite. Drink now to 2020 with pan-seared, trout fillet in lemon butter—there’s good value here. (Louise Boutin)

89drink now Exceptional Value!
Domaine Jacky Marteau Sauvignon Touraine 2016
AOC Touraine $14.95 (745349) 13.0% alcohol
This sauvignon blanc might be confused with a Kiwi with its sweet herbaceous and gooseberry aromas on the nose. The bright palate brings you back to France with flavours of white grapefruit, green apple, pineapple and minerality, all coming together with roundness as a result of maturation on fine lies before bottling. Easy to drink, this will pair perfectly with goat cheese crostini. (Louise Boutin)

France: Red Wine

85drink or cellar
Château Bréhat 2012
AOC Côtés de Bordeaux-Castillon $19.95 (348672) 13.5% alcohol
This Bordeaux blend —75% merlot and the balance cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon, displays intense green pepper aromas with layers of new oak and gamy notes. On the palate, the surprising silky mouthfeel carries flavours of red tart cherry, blackberry and oaky notes on a medium-short, grippy finish. Aerate/decant for an hour and pair with your favourite cut of well-seasoned grilled beef. (Louise Boutin)

88drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Château La Croix de Queynac 2015
AOC Bordeaux Supérieur $14.95 (138636) 13.5% alcohol
This Bordeaux blend —50% cabernet sauvignon/50% merlot—suggests aromas of juicy black cherry and cassis with notes of green bell pepper and black peppercorn in the backdrop. The palate’s velvety with ripe black cherry, red plum acidity and a piquant peppery, medium-length finish. Aerate/decant an hour before service and enjoy with a plate of steak-frite. (Louise Boutin)

91drink or cellar
Château Peyrabon 2015
AOC Haut-Médoc $23.95 (10538) 13.0% alcohol
This left-bank red blend —63% cabernet sauvignon, 32% merlot, 3% cabernet franc, 2% petit verdot is hand harvested and aged in traditional Bordeaux oak barriques, 25% new, for 14 months. The nose, discrete at first, opens up on dark fruits, sweet smoke, green bell pepper and baking spice. Ripe black cherry, black plum and tangy raspberry flood the palate with a velvety gush of flavours. This medium-bodied red offers freshness, fine tannins and a medium-long fruity and spicy finish. Pair with charcuterie and hard cheese board. (Louise Boutin)

92drink or cellar
Château Siaurac 2010

AOC Lalande-de-Pomerol $43.95 (309831) 15.0% alcohol

Perfumed aromas of camphor, tar and berry fruit spring from this 80% Merlot/20% Cabernet Sauvignon blend followed by a gusher of wildly delicious fruit—ripe, black briary berry and juicy, tangy, black Bing cherry robed in excellent moderating acidity, elegance and charm. It’s medium-plus bodied with generous mouthfeel and a bit of warmth from alcohol along with a nudge from the soft tannin underpinning on the aftertaste. On balance, fine wine at a terrific price. (Vic Harradine)

95drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Alain Jaume Clos de Sixte 2015
AOC Lirac $25.95 (76349) 15.0% alcohol
From a respected winemaking family since 1826 in Châteauneuf du Pape, Alain Jaume also owns a vineyard in Lirac, just across the Rhône River. This hand-harvested, deep-ruby blend —50% grenache, 35% Syrah, 15% mourvèdre—offers sumptuous aromas —ripe blackberry, cassis, licorice and smoke. The first sip envelops the palate with ripe black fruit sweetness beautifully balanced with harmonious grippy tannins lingering on a slightly warm peppery long finish. It’s worth every penny. Delicious now on to 2023, aerate/decant one hour before pouring alongside cassis-glazed, grilled duck breast. (Louise Boutin)

90drink or cellar
Père & Fils ‘Ferraton Les Calendes’ Crozes Hermitage 2015
AOC Crozes Hermitage $29.95 (526376) 13.5% alcohol
Alluring aromas of exotic spice, grilled savory herbs, mocha and dark berry fruit waft from this medium-full bodied, nicely textured, spice-laden, 100% syrah. A well-paced stream of red berry fruit and pie cherry race over the palate adorned with excellent acidity and notions of tannin. Palate flavours replay on the tangy finish. Aerate/decant a couple of hours then pour with pastitsio or prawn and chorizo paella. (Vic Harradine)

91drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Foncalieu ‘Réserve du Crouzau St. Gervais’ Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2012

AOC Côtes du Rhône-Villages $16.95 (142943) 14.0% alcohol

This award winner offers a perfumed nose of garrigue, vanilla, spice and ripe field berries. Nicely balanced and medium-full bodied, the tasty flavours of raspberry, plum and black cherry are garnished with spicy peppery notes while ripe tannins and clean acidity add to the frame and substance. Weighty on the palate, the wine is warm, ripe, rich and flavourful, delivering a long velvety finish. This is versatile at the table and offers exceptional value. (Susan Desjardins)

91drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Aydie L’Origine Madiran-Famille Laplace 2014
AOP Madiran $14.95 (343566) 13.5% alcohol
This is a blend of 70% tannat and 30% cabernet franc. Tannat grapes are known for their fruit concentration, high acidity and sugar/tannin content usually leading to high-alcohol, tannic wines needing time to become user friendly… not this one, it’s fruit forward and rarin’ to go. The lovely nose of blueberry, sweet cherry, kirsch liqueur, red licorice and vanilla sets the table for a silky mouthfeel where ripe blackberry, black cherry, tangy raspberry, vanilla and piquant peppery notes are nicely wrapped in soft mellow tannins for a medium-long, lovely finish. For a delicious match, serve with braised beef short ribs. (Louise Boutin)

Spain: White Wine

88drink now Exceptional Value!
Abad Dom Bueno Godello 2015
DO Bierzo $14.95 (154302) 12.5% alcohol
Believed to be native to Galicia, Spain, the godello grape is grown in both Portugal and Spain. In this version, the nose is reminiscent of dry sherry with briny notes topped with bruised apple and apple cider vinegar aromas while the palate reveals sweet red apple flavours followed with crisp acidity and excellent dry, saline minerality on the finish. Pour with fried calamari and salted potato chips for the aperitif—fabulous. (Louise Boutin)

Georgia: Red Wine

90drink now Exceptional Value!
Teliani Valley ‘Medium-Sweet’ Red 2015
Alazani Valley, Kakheti $14.95 (143578) 12.0% alcohol
An indigenous grape grown in several countries of the Caucasus region where it’s believed that wine making goes back 7000 years, the saperavi variety, the basis for this wine, is planted widely in Georgia and used to produce a variety of wine styles. This medium-sweet version exudes delicious notes of sweet cherries, raspberry, jujubes with a hint of orange zest. The mouthfeel is luscious with flavours of sour cherry coated with kirsch liqueur and a repeat of the citrus zest for deft balance. This is definitely worth discovering alongside bittersweet-chocolate, Black Forest trifle. (Louise Boutin)

Greece Red Wine

89drink or cellar
Tsantali Reserve Rapsani 2013
PDO Rapsani, Thessalia $20.95 (734855) 13.0% alcohol
A blend of equal parts exotic Greek native grapes —xinomavro, krassato and stavroto is needed to carry the Rapsani PDO label. This has good ageing potential given the high acidity and tannin content in xinomavro. The nose is gamy with red fruit in the backdrop, layers of dry tobacco, pepper and dry savoury herbs. Chewy tannins make their presence known on the first sip along with red cherry tartness lingering on a medium-long finish. Aerate/decant two to three hours before serving with an inspired pairing of slowly simmered, lamb ragout. (Louise Boutin)

Italy Red Wines

91drink or cellar
Castello Di Bossi C. Berardenga 2013
DOCG Chianti Classico $22.95 (994608) 14.0% alcohol
This hand-picked, 100%, sangiovese delivers beautiful rich aromas — ripe dark cherry, prunes, tobacco, oak, baking spice and vanilla. The soft and silky palate is initially joined with red cherry and pomegranate tartness and delicious grippy tannins bringing desired structure on a medium-long finish of tart cherry, sweet oak and baking spices. True to its reputation, this Chianti Classico is an excellent value and will pair perfectly with grilled, juicy rack of lamb. (Louise Boutin)

Upstream in winecurrent

Vintages Release: January 20, 2017

86drink or cellar
Torres ‘Cordillera De Los Andes – Special Reserve’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
DO Maipo Valley $19.95 (541169) 14.0% alcohol
Rich aromas of black currant, black plum and wood smoke roll from this medium-bodied, fruit-forward, savory-laden cabernet sauvignon. Crunchy red fruit—pie cherry and currant—coat the palate interlaced with green herbs, bittersweet chocolate and hints of tomato leaf on the back palate and tang-laden finish. Pour with lasagna, pasta puttanesca or spaghetti in tomato sauce and meat balls. (Vic Harradine)

New in Vintages Essentials

• The following 2015 J. Lohr Paso Robles Merlot is a recent, welcomed edition to the Vintages Essentials portfolio and always available in select stores. Fruit was sourced from a number of sites in cooler plots and aged 12 months in oak barrel after 100% malolactic conversion. There’s a generous splash of 9% Malbec in here, accentuating fruit and complexity

91drink or cellar
J. Lohr Paso Robles Merlot 2015
Paso Robles, California $22.95 (27516) 13.5% alcohol
Black plum compote, black cherry and baking spice introduce a deftly balanced stream of dark ripe fruit—black currant, juicy Bing cherry—interwoven with dark bittersweet chocolate, sharp spice and an excellent dollop of juicy tang. This is medium-plus bodied with satin-smooth mouthfeel and is fruit forward throughout—the finish is rich, complex, tangy and lengthy. Pour with grilled steak or burgers dressed with all the fixings. (Vic Harradine)

New in Ontario Wineries

• Order the following by the case for daily office or home delivery direct from the winery using this link - Rosehall Run - or pick it up from the cellar door on your next visit to the winery in Prince Edward County. It’s just over a two-hour drive from the GTA or Ottawa via the 401. Here’s a map

• The following 2011 Rosehall Run ‘Stardust’ Brut Cuvée was sourced from estate-grown fruit—55% pinot noir/45% chardonnay—barrel fermented individually then aged 12 months in French oak 500L puncheons before bottling on their fine lees. After resting ‘en tirage’ for five years, bottles were disgorged with no sugar added resulting in a brut zero bottling in this Méthode Traditionelle, vintage-dated Sparkling Wine—the first produced by Rosehall Run.

91drink or cellar
Rosehall Run ‘Stardust’ Brut Cuvée Sparkling Wine 2011
VQA Prince Edward County $49.95 12.2% alcohol
A tantalizing bouquet of tarte tatin, honey-tinged apricot and mineral notes wafts easily from the glass. A generous mousse—aka bubbles when poured—precedes seemingly endless streams of fine-bead bubbles winding their way to the surface—a beautiful sight. It’s medium bodied and creamy-smooth textured with a lively, refreshing attack on the palate with flavours of custard apple, blood orange and lemon-lime adorned with piquant minerality persisting through the clean, mouth-watering finish and aftertaste. Ready to pour now as an aperitif to get the gustatory juices active, it also pairs well with steamed or grilled lobster dipped in warm, clarified butter. (Vic Harradine)

• The following Non-Vintage Rosehall Run ‘Indigo’ Sparkling Wine was sourced from estate-grown, muscat ottonel, chardonnay musqué and gewürztraminer, as well as premium riesling from Niagara. This was fashioned via the Charmat Method.

88drink now
Rosehall Run ‘Indigo’ Sparkling Wine Non-Vintage
VQA Ontario $24.95 12.2% alcohol
Aromas of honey, floral and lychee notes show the way to a value-packed, sweet and tang shower of refreshing bubbles and fruit flavours on the palate—ripe Bosc pear and honeydew melon perfectly balanced with ruby red grapefruit and mandarin orange. It’s medium bodied with good mouthfeel and lengthy, dry finish. The delightful yin and yang of flavours provide myriad opportunities—drink on its own as a welcoming wine or aperitif, or pour with seafood appetizers or spicy Asian cuisine. (Vic Harradine)

• Fruit for the following dry-as-a-bone, 2016 Rosehall Run ‘Acid Head’ Riesling was rescued from a now extinct, old-vine plot of Niagara riesling; unfortunately now a housing development. The front label was designed by local PEC artist, Alex Simons. About 2/3rds of the fruit was fermented and aged 10 months in neutral French oak 500L puncheons, the balance in stainless steel. Some underwent batonage, aka lees stirring. The above and the following review for ‘Acid Head’ may have you tripping out… to Rosehall Run; either in person or online for a few bottles.

90drink or cellar
Rosehall Run ‘Acid Head’ Riesling 2016
VQA Beamsville Bench $24.95 11.8% alcohol
Green apple, lemon curd, spice and mineral aromas introduce a blaze of bracing tang-laden flavours with green plum, Granny Smith apple and Key lime to the fore. It races across the palate with great élan, piercing with piquant tang and persisting with dazzling pizzazz on the lingering, lip-smacking finish. Pour with a charcuterie board or grilled, crumbled chèvre over olive-oiled mesclun. (Vic Harradine)

New in Private Order Wines

• Order the following wine by the case plus those in previous newsletters for home, restaurant or office delivery in Ontario from Nokhrin Wines or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , if in the GTA, phone 416 704-8617.

• The following 2015 Domaine Du Mont Épin Mâcon-Péronne was sourced from a small 7 Ha plot of 35- to 40-year-old chardonnay vines. The resultant wine was fermented in stainless steel tanks on its fine lees for 8 months, seeing no oak.

92drink or cellar
Domaine Du Mont Épin Mâcon-Péronne 2015
AOC Mâcon-Péronne, Burgundy, France $22.00 13.0% alcohol
Green apple, ripe pear and white nectarine aromas precede a medium-bodied, beautifully balanced stream of creamy smooth palate flavours with orchard fruit—apple and green plum—interlaced with refreshing lemony acidity and mineral notes. The fruit and tang persist through the balanced-on-a-pin finish and aftertaste. There’s good value and great sipping here at a favourable price. Pour with pan-seared fish, roast chicken or breaded, skillet-seared veal cutlets. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2015 Domaine Du Mont Épin ‘L’Etiole’ Mâcon-Péronne was sourced from 35- to 40-year-old chardonnay vines grown on limestone-rich soil, was destemmed and gently pressed into stainless steel vats for a slow alcoholic fermentation and malolactic conversion then rested on fine lees for 8 months before bottling.

91drink or cellar
Domaine Du Mont Épin ‘L’Etiole’ Mâcon-Péronne 2015
AOC Mâcon-Péronne, Burgundy, France $24.00 13.0% alcohol
Lifted aromas of green apple and flinty/mineral notes provide segue for a focused line of citrus, green apple and pear palate flavours interwoven with gun-flint minerality. This is medium-bodied and nicely balanced chardonnay with good mouthfeel and a lengthy finish of lemon zest and peach skin. Pour, after removing from frig for 30 minutes, with pan-seared fish, grilled calamari or your favourite sushi. (Vic Harradine)

90drink or cellar
Domaine Du Mont Épin Viré-Clessé 2015
AOC Viré-Clessé, Burgundy, France $25.00 13.0% alcohol
Aromas of ripe, orchard fruit—apple, pear and Mirabelle plum—and lemon citrus waft from the nose of this chardonnay. It bathes the palate with a rush of tang-laden citrus and crisp green apple persisting throughout the lingering finish and aftertaste. This is medium weight with good mouthfeel and balance. Pour alongside pan-seared fish or grilled prawns. (Vic Harradine)

• The following 2015 Domaine Du Mont Épin ‘Breillonde’ Viré-Clessé was sourced from 0.8 ha of gnarled, 45- to 50-year old chardonnay vines, grown on limestone-infused soils that was slow fermented, 70% in stainless steel vats and 30% in oak barrel, both for 8 months before bottling.

94drink or cellar
Domaine Du Mont Épin ‘Breillonde’ Viré-Clessé 2015
AOC Viré-Clessé, Burgundy, France $28.00 13.0% alcohol
Toasty notes, apple and nectarine aromas abound on the medium-bodied beautifully textured chardonnay. This is structured, complex, creamy smooth and simply delicious, bathing the palate with gorgeous flavours of ripe peach, baked apple and lemon curd intertwined with minerality. It finishes with replays of palate flavours. Gorgeous on its own—pour after removing from frig for 20 minutes—or with roast chicken, pork cutlets or linguine con le vongole. (Vic Harradine)

New in Consignment Wines

Order the following wine by the case plus those in previous newsletters for home, restaurant or office delivery in Ontario from Nokhrin Wines or Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , if in the GTA, phone 416 704-8617.

• The following 2016 Bojador Vinho Tinto is a red blend sourced from 50% aragonez, 30% touriga nacional, 20% trincadeira grapes grown in the premium, red-wine region of Alentejano.

89drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Bojador Vinho Tinto 2016
Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal $14.00 14.0% alcohol
This is purple-black hued in the glass showing aromas of blackberry jam and mincemeat tart. It coats the palate with a spice-laden, fruit-filled, nicely textured river of black raspberry and dark Bing cherry intertwined with mixed spice and oodles of tang. This is medium weight with a price-quality balance tipped well in your favour—load up the trunk—and a juicy, lingering finish and aftertaste. Terrific on its own, it has the oomph and balance to pair well with grilled steak, burgers or beef fajitas. (Vic Harradine)

Cheers, Vic, Dave, Louise