January 18, 2018 Newsletter

Dave Isaacs Louise Boutin

Dave Isaacs and Louise Boutin are back with many exceptional-value wines that may help ease the eye-opening holiday-season purchases now appearing on credit-card statements. Enjoy!

Newsletter Highlights include:

  • Exceptional-value wine  Exceptional Value!  – 14 of 51 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 – no wine available at LCBO retail scored 95 or more in this newsletter.
  • Louise Likes – Louis Moreau Vaulignot Chablis 1er Cru 2015 earned 93 points @ $38.95 found under France: White Wine; Bürgerspital Würzburg Trocken Silvaner 2016 earned 90 points @ $19.95 found under Germany: White Wine; Luis Cañas Reserva 2012 earned 90 points @ $27.95 found under Spain: Red Wine; and, of course, all her exceptional-value wines.
  • Dave’s Delights – Pérez Cruz ‘Limited Edition’ Cot 2015 earned 91 points @ $19.95 found under the Feature Chile and Portugal; Bushmills ‘Red Bush’ Irish Whiskey earned 89 points @ $34.95 found under Irish Whiskey; 13th Street Cabernet/Merlot 2016 earned 93 points @ $19.95 found under Ontario: Red 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.

Vintage Release: January 20th 2018

Feature: Chile and Portugal - Online and Instore purchasing

Chile: White Wine

87drink now Exceptional Value!
Boya Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Leyda Valley $14.95 (389726) 12.5% alcohol
The Leyda Valley is a small subsection of the San Antonio Valley, located less than 100 km west of Santiago, Chile’s capital. Sauvignon blanc is the most widely planted grape in the region and this example is a pure, uncomplicated expression of the grape. It’s light-gold coloured with aromas of cut grass and grapefruit peel on the nose. This is medium bodied with a mouth-watering tartness dominated by flavours of crisp, refreshing lemon. It’s well matched with braised chicken thighs decorated with lemon slices and olives. (Dave Isaacs)

Chile: Red Wine

87drink or cellar
Caliterra ‘Tributo’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015
Colchagua Valley $17.95 (205567) 14.0% alcohol
This is 90% cabernet sauvignon with a 10% splash of petit verdot. It has a lively nose of strawberry and vanilla, is full bodied on the palate with a moderate amount of tannins. There’s a lovely balance of tang complementing cherry flavours that linger nicely on the finish. It’s the ideal red to match with hearty beef stew. (Dave Isaacs)

90drink or cellar
Concha Y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenère 2015
Peumo, Cachapoal Valley $19.95 (169862) 14.0% alcohol
A blend of 87.5% carmenère and 12.5% cabernet sauvignon, this is almost opaque purple-plum in colour and has aromas of mint and spice on the nose. There’s good fruit on the palate with approachable tannins and a mouth-watering acidity that fades to a pie cherry finish. This’ll pair nicely with a serving of skillet-cooked pork chops alongside tomatoes and peppers. (Dave Isaacs)

89drink or cellar
Luis Felipe Edwards ‘LFE 900 - Single Vineyard Blend’ 2014
Colchagua Valley $24.95 (431809) 14.5% alcohol
The name of this wine comes from the 900 m above sea level location of the vineyard - described as ‘the highest altitude commercial vineyard in the region.’ It’s sourced from a medley of grape varieties: 77% syrah, 9% mourvèdre, 9% cabernet sauvignon, 4% tempranillo, 1% grenache. You’ll find aromas of cherry and vanilla layered over hints of oak on the nose. It’s full bodied, with good balance of acid and easy tannins supporting flavours of spice and cherry. It’s probably drinking at its best right now, but will last for another year in the cellar if you wish. Enjoy with pan-cooked pepper steak. (Dave Isaacs)

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)

91drink or cellar
Pérez Cruz ‘Limited Edition’ Cot 2015
Maipo Valley $19.95 (670547) 14.0% alcohol
This wine is 95% cot—an old French name for malbec—and 5% cabernet franc. It spent 14 months in French oak barrels, half new. The nose is a fascinating mix of oak, smoke, leather and dried fruit. It’s medium bodied on the palate with flavours of strawberry along with smooth tannins and a good balance of tangy acidity. The finish is long with slight, pleasant bite peeking out from under the fruit. This’ll pair delightfully well with a grilled beef burger topped with melted, smoked cheddar and mushrooms. (Dave Isaacs)

90drink now Exceptional Value!
Santa Ema ‘Gran Reserva’ Syrah 2015
Leyda Valley $18.95 (371161) 13.5% alcohol
This is an opaque, black plum colour offering aromas of wet stone, moss and dark berry jam on the nose along with wisps of smoke lurking in the background. Its medium bodied on the palate with mouth-watering juiciness dominated by flavours of crunchy red cherry. The tannins are smooth and meld with ease into the finish. It’s recommended for drinking within the next 12 months and pours well with roast duck. (Dave Isaacs)

Portugal: Red Wine

87drink or cellar
Guadalupe Red 2015
Vinho Regional Alentejano, Quinta do Quetzal $12.95 (336313) 14.0% alcohol
This Portuguese blend is made of two indigenous varietal —40% trincadeira, 20% alfrocheiro and 40% of Spanish native tempranillo called aragonez west of the border.
A shy red berry nose seemed to be camouflaged under layers of dry tobacco and wood aromas. The reveal comes on the palate with generous flavours of red cherry, tangy raspberry and a hint of cassis bundled-up in round tannins and lively acidity. This is easy to drink on a weekday night with a pulled-beef sandwich and coleslaw. (Louise Boutin)

90drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Evel Tinto 2014
DOC Douro $14.95 (190694) 13.5% alcohol
This deep-purple coloured Douro blend —touriga nacional, touriga franca and tinta roriz, fills the air with generous aromas of ripe black cherry, juicy black plums, kirsch liqueur and dry tobacco. The palate’s hit with a potpourri of ripe black fruits, lifted with tangy raspberry and a hint of vanilla softly wrapping the flavours. The finish keeps giving with enjoyable fine tannin and black peppercorn notes adding to this already rich character, medium-full bodied beauty. This is a powerhouse gem at a bargain price. Delicious now and will certainly improve with an additional 3-5 years cellaring. Aerate/decant about an hour before pouring alongside a rare well-seasoned, grilled striploin. (Louise Boutin)

The Main Release


89drink or cellar
Charles Mignon ‘Premium Réserve’ Champagne Brut Non-Vintage

AOC Champagne $48.75 (421032) 12.0% alcohol

A 60% pinot noir, 20% chardonnay, 20% pinot meunier blend produced this lively, fruity Champagne. There are aromas of green apple, Bosc pear, red berries with a squeeze of lemon followed by delicate floral notes on the nose. Ripe red apple, grapefruit, hints of spice and toast coat the palate. Dry, medium-bodied with a creamy texture, this Champagne finishes with mouth-watering acidity and fine, persistent bubbles. (Lisa Isabelle)

Irish Whiskey

89drink now
Bushmills ‘Red Bush’ Irish Whiskey
Ireland $34.95 (519215) 40.0% alcohol
This is another great-value whiskey from Bushmills Distillery. This caramel-coloured, smooth-as-silk beauty is a blend of malt and fine-grain whiskeys. It has a nose of fall leaves and orange peel with a hint of burnt sugar aromas. It’s full bodied with gentle flavours of molasses and orange. It’s very smooth to drink, exceptionally so if you add a few drops of water to your glass. It’s the perfect companion with whom to unwind after a long day. (Dave Isaacs)

88drink now
The Sexton ‘Single Malt’ Irish Whiskey
Ireland $49.95 (541607) 40.0% alcohol
The whiskey in the eye-catching, black, hexagon-shaped bottle is made from 100% Irish malted barley, aged in first, second and third fill Oloroso Sherry butts. The excellent result is amber-coloured nectar with aromas of orange peel, bees wax and a slight hint of oak. It’s full bodied with flavours of caramel and sponge toffee. You can pour this over ice to cool the warmth, while the flavour profile is enhanced when sipped neat; it’s your choice. (Dave Isaacs)

Ontario: White Wine

91drink now Oh Canada!
Cuddy by Tawse Chardonnay 2013

VQA Niagara Peninsula $24.95 (469023) 12.5% alcohol

Aromas of baking spice, toasty notes, honeydew melon and wisps of caramel abound. A surge of green apple, passion fruit and ripe pineapple flavour coat the palate, medium bodied and nicely textured. The aftertaste replays palate flavours and layers on notions of grapefruit pith and minerality. Quite good now on its own, this also pours well with grilled calamari or pan-seared fish. (Vic Harradine)

Ontario: Red Wine

93drink or cellar Oh Canada!
13th Street Cabernet/Merlot 2016
VQA Creek Shores $19.95 (56598) 13.5% alcohol
A blend of 55% cabernet sauvignon/45% merlot, this is attractively priced. It’s still in its youth, as indicated by the purple edges on the otherwise opaque black plum colour and the perceptible, almost fully integrated tannins. The nose is wonderfully complex with notes of tobacco, strawberry jam, toasted walnuts and nutmeg aromas. It’s full bodied on the palate with juicy tang and flavours of blueberry, cherry, and spice. Keep in the cellar until 2024 or enjoy now with a medium-rare, grilled steak. (Dave Isaacs)

86drink now Oh Canada!
Frogpond Farm Gamay Noir 2016
VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake $16.20 (245613) 12.2% alcohol
Frog Pond Farms has been in operation since 2001 and is Ontario’s first certified organic winery. This 2016 gamay noir is predominantly reddish-pink, though there’s a cast of orange throughout. It offers a fascinating nose of smoky moss and tobacco with hints of red berries. It’s medium bodied on the palate with flavours of tart cherry—there are approachable tannins on the palate and finish. This is well matched with baked Portobello mushrooms. (Dave Isaacs)

British Columbia: Red Wine

90drink or cellar Oh Canada!
Mission Hill ‘Reserve Merlot’ 2014
VQA Okanagan Valley $29.95 (553313) 14.5% alcohol
When the dramatic-looking dark, almost opaque, red liquid hits the glass, you know you’re in for a treat. The nose is bursting with blackberry and blackcurrant aromas adorned by hints of plum. It’s medium to full bodied with excellent tang supporting flavours of blueberry and sour cherry. There are plenty of tannins and they’re wonderfully smooth. The lengthy finish and aftertaste deliver balanced cherry flavours. Enjoy with grilled beef ribs slathered with sweet ‘n sour barbecue sauce. (Dave Isaacs)

Washington State: White Wine

91drink now Exceptional Value!
Powers Viognier 2016
Columbia Valley $17.95 (486993) 13.0% alcohol
This is pale-gold hued with a slight green tinge around the edge. It has a wonderfully expressive nose of rose petals, pear, peach, clover and white floral note aromas. It’s medium to full bodied, with excellent balance of good tang juxtaposed with flavours of stewed pears layered on top of minerality. The pear lingers on the finish and is joined by a pithy bite. Enjoy alongside cod baked with orange slices and fennel. (Dave Isaacs)

California: Red Wine

88drink or cellar
Clayhouse Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Paso Robles $17.95 (57869) 13.5% alcohol
This 100% cabernet sauvignon spent 10 months in a mix of French and American oak barrels. It’s dark red plum in colour with aromas of strawberry and cherry on the nose punctuated with hints of smoke and oak. The tannins are very smooth, making it easy to sip and enjoy the flavours of vanilla and cherry, which ride through the finish. Pair with a serving of deep dish lasagna. (Dave Isaacs)

• The following 2015 J. Lohr ‘Seven Oaks’ Cabernet Sauvignon is little brother to the popular Vintages Essentials product that’s in a full-bottle, 750 mL format.
89drink now
J. Lohr ‘Seven Oaks’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Paso Robles $14.95 375 mL (313817) 13.5% alcohol

Spice and smoke mingle with dark berry fruit aromas on this half-bottle sized California cab—perfect for a couple or when dining solo. A fruit-laden, tang-infused river of black briary berry, juicy black Bing cherry and mocha blanket the palate replaying on the finish and aftertaste. It’s mid-full weight with satin-smooth texture and fruit-driven throughout. (Vic Harradine)

87drink or cellar
Simi Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Alexander Valley $22.95 (25221) 13.5% alcohol
This California cabernet is dark plum in colour, just short of being completely opaque. It has a dynamic nose with prominent aromas of oak, strawberry and raspberry. On the palate it’s tart with the tanginess nicely complementing flavours of raspberry and hints of cocoa. The tannins are firm but acceptable and well integrated. Enjoy with steak and mushrooms. (Dave Isaacs)

Australia: Red Wine

87drink or cellar
Alkoomi Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Western Australia $19.95 (904227) 14.5% alcohol
Western Australia is go-to source for a disproportionately high amount of Australian fine wine. The name, ‘alkoomi’, is from a local aboriginal dialect meaning, ‘the place we choose’. This has brick-red colour with a nose of oak, blackcurrant, cherry, and vanilla. It’s full bodied with a strong medicinal cherry flavour, smooth tannins and lip-smacking tang. Pair with barbecued ribs. (Dave Isaacs)

90drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz/Cabernet 2016
Padthaway, South Australia $16.95 (186114) 14.5% alcohol
This red blend—55% shiraz/45% cabernet sauvignon—will dazzle your olfactory system with a compelling nose of red fruit, vanilla and earthy note aromas interlaced with hints of oak. It’s full bodied and fully fruited with fresh flavours of cherry, strawberry and sweet vanilla deftly balanced with mouth-watering tang. The tannin in this youthful red are barely perceptible and smoothly integrated. This will keep until 2026 and can be enjoyed today with grilled pepper steak or smoked cheddar. Your imbibing pleasure will be enhanced by a two-hour aeration/decant. (Dave Isaacs)

86drink or cellar
Mojo Shiraz 2016
Barossa Valley $19.95 (327767) 14.0% alcohol
This is a crowd pleaser. The fruit-laden nose is punctuated with notes of eucalyptus and it’s easy to drink as it dishes up a tandem of smooth tannins and pie cherry flavour. It’ll drink well through the end of 2020 or, if you wish, you can twist tops now and serve with cheese-stuffed mushroom and/or bruschetta. (Dave Isaacs)

New Zealand: White Wine

85drink now
Wild Rock Sauvignon Blanc 2016
Marlborough $18.95 (164012) 13.0% alcohol
This is almost clear in the glass with an ever-so-slight touch of green. The nose is straightforward with aromas of pear and grassy notes. It’s light-on-its-feet throughout with flavours of canned peas interwoven with smooth and mellow acidity. It begs to be chilled and served with grilled chicken burgers at a friendly gathering of friends and family. (Dave Isaacs)

South Africa: White Wine

88drink now Exceptional Value!
Essay Chenin Blanc/Viognier/Roussanne 2017
WO Western Cape $14.95 13.5% alcohol
This white blend—68% chenin blanc, 22% viognier, 10% roussanne—shows a lot of character. It has a light-gold hue and a nose of pineapple and green apple aromas. It’s medium bodied on the palate with flavours of apple, pear and lemon deftly balanced with excellent tang and acidity leading to a pleasantly crisp finish. Pair with breaded and pan-fried pork cutlets. (Dave Isaacs)

South Africa: Red Wine

83drink now
Barista Pinotage 2017
WO Robertson $15.95 (172585) 13.5% alcohol
If you miss the ‘good old days’ when many South African reds seemed to be marked by aromas with a burnt-rubber tinge, this pinotage will be a pleasant, nostalgic journey for you. The nose has the aforementioned up-front aromas accompanied by cooked bacon and smoked cheese. It’s medium bodied and smooth on the finish with flavours of smoked meat and coffee fading to just a slightly smoky note. Give this a try alongside smoked, pulled pork. (Dave Isaacs)

88drink or cellar
Porcupine Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2016
WO Coastal Region $17.95 (146894) 14.5% alcohol
It appears character was infused in this wine through the blending of an undisclosed amount of cabernet franc. This is medium-red coloured with a slight orange cast and aromas of dried currants and leather on the nose. There are perceptible tannins sitting atop a nicely textured mouthfeel and a flavour of toasted nuts. This would be great to pair with grilled meat, or better yet, a vegan mushroom, walnut burger. (Dave Isaacs)

France White Wines

90drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Cuvée Joseph Talmard Mâcon-Chardonnay 2016
AOC Mâcon $16.95 (392712) 13.0% alcohol
This unoaked 100% chardonnay displays a lovely aromatic nose —ripe apple, yellow pear, white wild flowers and a touch of nutmeg. The palate of this medium-bodied white shows a bright acidity putting forward the flavours of ripe pear and even sweet lychee balancing a zesty medium finish. An excellent entry-level chardonnay to have handy for its quality and versatility. Pair with a casserole of cauliflower au gratin. (Louise Boutin)

93drink or cellar
Louis Moreau Vaulignot Chablis 1er Cru 2015
AOC Chablis $38.95 (525386) 12.5% alcohol
Racy, elegant and charming would describe this beautiful hand-harvested 1er cru Chablis. A wet-rock mineral nose opens-up to citrus and mild fennel notes. This 100% chardonnay—inox-fermented and aged on fine lees with 100% malolactic conversion—conveys a delicious, softness on the palate. You don’t want this to end and it almost doesn’t; the finish lingers on lemon tang and mineral flavours. Serve now and on to 2028 with shucked oysters or splurge and pour with lobster and beurre blanc. (Louise Boutin)

90drink now Exceptional Value!
Domaine de la Fruitière 2015
AOC Muscadet de Sèvre et Maine sur Lie $14.95 (45112) 12.0% alcohol
This Muscadet carries a name announcing a fruit cocktail personality which does not disappoint—green apple, ripe pear, white peach, pink grapefruit and some floral notes. The flavours of crisp tart green apple dance on the palate with the sweetness of royal gala apple giving a beautiful balance to this 100% melon de Bourgogne. It’s from the Nantes region where on-lees ageing until bottling is a requirement. This more than your every-day Muscadet and an excellent value to pair with bacon-wrapped seared scallops. (Louse Boutin)

91drink or cellar
Domaine des Côtes Blanches Sancerre 2016
AOC Sancerre $23.95 (409292) 13.0% alcohol
A canned-pea aroma is common in sauvignon blanc, you’ll also find green apple, lemon, flint and a whiff of fresh-mown grass here. The liveliness of the palate is all about Meyer lemon, lime, granny-smith apple and a salty minerality that makes your mouth water. This is deliciously refreshing, especially alongside fresh oysters with mignonette sauce or homemade crab cakes. (Louise Boutin)

88drink now
Chapoutier ‘Les Vignes de Bila-Haut’ Côtes du Roussillon Blanc 2015
AOC Côtes du Roussillon $15.95 (485656) 13.0% alcohol
A blend of grenache blanc, grenache gris and macabeu fashions this southern-France, value-laden gem showcasing fresh aromas of Meyer lemon, juicy fennel, parsley and pleasing minerality. The palate is dry, but round with the sweetness of pink grapefruit, with mineral notes and a mild almond bite on the finish and aftertaste. Drink now through 2020 with roasted fennel and lemon-garlic, tiger shrimps. (Louise Boutin)

France: Red Wine

89drink or cellar
Château Puygeraud 2015
AOC Bordeaux Côtes de Francs $28.95 (966382) 14.5% alcohol
This interesting red blend—55% merlot, 25% cabernet franc, 15% cabernet sauvignon, 5% malbec—is from the smallest appellation in Bordeaux. The Thienpont family are the Chateau owners and also own iconic Vieux Château Certan in Pomerol. This dishes up a nose of ripe dark fruits— juicy blackberry, cassis and blueberry with a gamy and oaky backdrop. The palate is dry and fruity consistent with the aromas and offer fine, soft tannins with a slightly warm and peppery finish. Drink this full-bodied red now through 2025 with a braised shank of lamb. (Louise Boutin)

89drink or cellar
Domaine René Couly Chinon 2014
AOC Chinon $22.95 (7286) 13.0% alcohol
This 100% cabernet franc wine exudes lovely green bell pepper aromas charming the Chinon lover in you. Dig deeper and you’ll discover ripe blackberry and black cherry aromas. On the palate, soft tannins make their presence known along with an offering of nicely framed black fruit flavours balanced with good tang and acidity. Aerate/decant an hour before service and pour alongside coq au vin. (Louise Boutin)

85drink now
Château de Paraza Cuvée Spéciale Minervois 2013
AOC Minervois $17.95 (178467) 13.5% alcohol
This red blend from south of France—40% syrah, 40% grenache noir and 20% mourvèdre—shows early signs of ageing with its garnet-colored bowl. The nose is gamy with forest floor notes covering brighter red cherry and raspberry aromas. The mouthfeel is soft and mellow carrying mild oaky notes on the back palate and medium-length finish. Drink now with pan-seared veal liver with sautéed onion and mushrooms. (Louise Boutin) 

92drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Domaine de la Croisette Côtes du Rhône 2016
AOP Côtes du Rhône $16.95 (155465) 15.0% alcohol
This Rhône blend—syrah, grenache and cinsault—explodes with lovely bright aromas—fresh, sweet, black cherry, raspberry, kirsch liqueur, violet and a hint of licorice. The first sip blankets the palate with rich ripe fruit flavours and just enough tannin for structure along with a minty balanced freshness. This full-bodied delicious bargain will not last long on shelves. Pour now through 2026 with roast beef and root vegetables. (Louise Boutin)

89drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Visan Domaine André Aubert Côtes du Rhône Village 2015
AOC Côtes du Rhône Village $14.95 (224915) 14.5% alcohol
The Aubert family is a fourth-generation wine concern in the southern Rhône. This blend — 80% grenache, 20% syrah from 90-year-old vines saw no oak in the winemaking process leaving clear space for the rich ripe fruit to express itself—bursting-ripe Bing cherry, cassis, blackberry and licorice under-notes jump out of the glass. A warm wash of juicy black fruit flavours spiced-up with a hint of clove floods the palate and lingers on a medium-length pleasant drying finish. Pop corks 2015 to 2021 and enjoy with a port-reduction glazed pork ribs. (Louise Boutin)

88drink or cellar
Château Vincens ‘Origine’ Malbec 2014
AOC Cahors $16.95 (343400) 14.0% alcohol
This rich, deep, purple-coloured malbec is indicative of the Cahors appellation. The nose is quiet requiring a vigorous swirl to wake-up the wonderful aromas— blackberry, black cherry, cassis, sweet smoke and black peppercorn. The black cherries turn to red with good tang on the palate mingling with blackberry, cedar and smoky flavours. The ageing in oak barrel brings roundness and balance to this full-bodied robust red with its excellent cellaring potential. Aerate/decant one to two hours and enjoy with wild mushroom risotto. (Louise Boutin)

Germany: White Wine

90drink now
Bürgerspital Würzburg Trocken Silvaner 2016
Qualitätswein, Franken $19.95 (260273) 11.5% alcohol
Silvaner is sometimes blamed for lacking acidity. This, from one of the largest and oldest wineries in Germany is hand-harvested at the perfect stage of ripeness providing good acidity. A fresh nose of green apple, aromatic white floral notes and parsley aromas escape from the glass. On the palate, the discrete, residual carbonation tingles the tongue lifting flavours of lime nicely balanced with green pear and mineral notes; it’s a deliciously simple, well-made sylvaner. Look for the distinctive, traditional Franken bottle—the squat, short-necked ‘bocksbeutel’—and enjoy with smoked salmon blinis garnished with sour cream and capers. (Louise Boutin)

Germany: Red Wine

91drink now Exceptional Value!
Königschaffhauser Steingrüble Pinot Noir 2015
Qualitätswein, Baden $18.95 (460410) 13.0% alcohol
A typical pinot noir, pale-ruby hue sets the table for delightful aromas —red cherry, field strawberry, earthy beetroot and rose petal. A velvety wash of red berry flavours perfectly balanced with light earthiness and mellow young tannins spreads over the palate, bringing pleasure. It’s simply delicious. This crowd pleaser will go down like a breeze with appetizers—try alongside skirt steak and chicken skewers with dipping sauce. (Louise Boutin)

Greece: White Wine

85drink now
Tetramythos Roditis 2016
PDO Patras, Peloponnese $13.95 (261610) 12.5% alcohol
From an ancient Greek varietal, this 100% rodotis starts on a funky note reminiscent of canned asparagus before opening up to citrus, pear and mineral aromas. The palate is more expressive in flavours than in its aromas —white grapefruit, ripe pear and fleur de sel minerality served in a well-textured mouth-watering finish. Drink now with fish and chips. (Louise Boutin)

Greece: Red Wine

84drink or cellar
Boutari Naoussa Xinomavro 2015
PDO Naoussa $13.95 (23218) 12.0% alcohol
This 100% xinomavro is from one of Greece’s oldest wineries. It reveals its unique personality on the nose—dry fruits with quasi-maderized aromas as well as pencil shavings, mushroom, tomato stem and mild vanilla scents uniquely mingling together. Once the red tart cherry flavours dissipate, the earthy, oaky and vanilla notes take front stage with a firm tannin backbone lingering on a dry finish. If you wish to take a path less travelled, this is an interesting choice. Pair with rare-grilled lamb chops with sun-dried tomato pesto. (Louise Boutin)

Italy: Red Wine

88drink now Exceptional Value!
Michele Chiarlo Le Orme 16 Months 2015
DOCG Barbera D’Asti $13.95 (265413) 13.5% alcohol
This Barbera D’Asti offers more than the price tag would suggest. A rich nose — juicy black cherry, sweet smoke and earthy truffle with a replay of flavours on a velvety textured palate with a fresh, lively and tart, red currant finish. This hand-harvested approachable red from Piedmonte is the perfect partner to any tomato-based gourmet pizza. (Louise Boutin)

89drink or cellar
Il Molino Di Grace Riserva Chianti Classico 2013
DOCG Chianti Classico $24.95 (382945) 13.0% alcohol
This 100% sangiovese is sourced from a still-producing, 350-year-old vineyard plot (presumably the soil, not the vines) now producing sustainably-farmed Chianti Classico. After the red cherry, you’ll find mostly secondary and tertiary aromas on the nose— gamy, light oaky notes, dry tobacco and dry rose petals. The palate showcases tart cherry, pomegranate and baking spices with a finale on slightly piquant cinnamon. A good traditional Italian food companion, pour with pasta and authentic Bolognese sauce. (Louise Boutin)

92drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Fattoria La Torre ‘Guinzano’ Rosso 2013

IGT San Gimignano, Italy $16.95 (480665) 14.0% alcohol

This 70% sangiovese/15% cabernet sauvignon/10% merlot blend matured 12 months in French oak barrique and a further 12 months in bottle. It bolts from the glass with heady aromas of red berry fruit, savory herbs and red cherry. This is medium-plus bodied with a juicy river of palate-bathing flavour—black Bing cherry dipped in dark chocolate interwoven with cassis, mixed spice and oodles of charm. The finish lingers, balanced and structured with grace and excellent tang. Well paced, well priced and well… delicious. (Vic Harradine)

91drink or cellar
Leonardo Da Vinci Brunello Di Montalcino 2012
DOCG $43.95 (97592) 13.5% alcohol
This 100% sangiovese clone produced from a co-op of fruit growers in Montalcino has a charming nose of ripe black cherry, blackberry, cedar and a hint of mocha. The ripe black fruit flavours surf on the palate with an almost creamy-textured fashion ending in a delicious dry chocolaty and fruity, medium-length finish. Brunellos have good ageing potential but don’t wait for this one, it’s delicious now. Pair with slow-cooked beef short ribs lightly dusted with cocoa powder. (Louise Boutin)

• The following 2009 Quintarelli Rosso ‘Ca’Del Merlo’, with its handwritten label from the late, Giuseppi Quintarelli, a near-mythical Veneto producer, is a blend from a single vineyard and a complex work of art. It was sourced from eight different varieties from vines averaging 30-years old—corvina, corvinone, rondinella, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, nebbiolo, croatiana and sangiovese.

94drink or cellar
Quintarelli Rosso ‘Ca’Del Merlo’ 2009
IGT Veneto $111.95 (958595) 15.0% alcohol
Hand-harvested fruit, fresh and dry grape pressings, two fermentations; one of which was on Amarone lees, and ageing in Slovenian oak barrels for seven years result in a complex bouquet of fresh and dry fruit aromas —ripe black plum, fig, raisin, truffle, mocha and baking spice. The generous palate bounces between fruity and earthy flavours deliciously enrobed in elegant tannins and perfectly integrated alcohol for a fresh, lingering, decadent finish. Drink now through 2024 and pair with wild mushrooms and blue-veined cheese gnocchi. (Louise Boutin)

92drink or cellar
Provolo ‘Campotorbian’ Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2011

DOC Valpolicella Superiore $19.95 (974402) 14.0% alcohol

This is terrific Ripasso at a very good price—a top pick. A blend of indigenous grapes from the Veneto—60% Corvina, 25% Rondinella, 15% Corvinone—it spent 24 months in oak and another six in bottle before release. It opens with lively aromas of campfire smoke, cedar and dark berry fruit. A silky-smooth wash of ripe, dark fruit—currant, mulberry and cherry—mingle with grilled herbs, piquant spice and bittersweet chocolate. It finishes fruit-driven, lengthy and sporting espresso roast and notions of black licorice on the aftertaste. (Vic Harradine)

Portugal: Red Wine

91drink or cellar Exceptional Value!
Quinta do Valdoeiro Tinto 2012
DOC Bairrada $16.95 (29222) 14.0% alcohol
This is a red blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon, touriga nacional, and the lesser known native variety, baga. Beautifully rich, complex, sweet aromas jump from the glass—ripe black fruit, fig, date, prune, smoke and baking spice announcing a special wine. The palate flavours replay aromas in delicious mature flavours ample on the palate, complemented with ripe soft tannins beautifully integrated and fresh cherry tartness that’s lip-smacking good. The finish is slightly warm and comforting. This is a quality wine that over-delivers given the price. Drink now through 2022 paired with lamb and dry fruit couscous. Stock up; for sure I will. (Louise Boutin)

Spain: Red Wine

• From humble beginnings of producing wine for quick consumption, this 4th-generation family of grape growers/winemakers have come a long way. The following 2012 Luis Cañas Reserva attests to their attention to detail and expertise.

90drink or cellar
Luis Cañas Reserva 2012
DOCa Rioja $27.95 (334094) 14.5% alcohol
This red blend—95% tempranillo with the balance garnacha, mazuelo and graciano—showcases a toasty/smoky nose with leather, cedar and black plum aromas. The low-yield production shows good fruit concentration on the silky-textured palate with flavours of red cherry, black plum and hints of vanilla lingering on the finish. Rioja ‘Reserva’ regulations require three-years ageing, with at least one year in oak barrel—it brought character and longevity to this full-bodied gem. Drink now through 2022 with cured meat and smelly, strong-flavoured cheese. (Louise Boutin)

New in Vintages

Irish Whiskey

89drink now
Bushmills ‘Red Bush’ Irish Whiskey
Ireland $34.95 (519215) 40.0% alcohol
This is another great-value whiskey from Bushmills Distillery. This caramel-coloured, smooth-as-silk beauty is a blend of malt and fine-grain whiskeys. It has a nose of fall leaves and orange peel with a hint of burnt sugar aromas. It’s full bodied with gentle flavours of molasses and orange. It’s very smooth to drink, exceptionally so if you add a few drops of water to your glass. It’s the perfect companion with whom to unwind after a long day. (Dave Isaacs)

88drink now
The Sexton ‘Single Malt’ Irish Whiskey
Ireland $49.95 (541607) 40.0% alcohol
The whiskey in the eye-catching, black, hexagon-shaped bottle is made from 100% Irish malted barley, aged in first, second and third fill Oloroso Sherry butts. The excellent result is amber-coloured nectar with aromas of orange peel, bees wax and a slight hint of oak. It’s full bodied with flavours of caramel and sponge toffee. You can pour this over ice to cool the warmth, while the flavour profile is enhanced when sipped neat; it’s your choice. (Dave Isaacs)

Cheers, Vic, Louise, Dave