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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 5th – Part Two

Spain and the best of the rest
by John Szabo MS with notes from Sara d’Amato and David Lawrason

This week’s report comes a bit later than usual due to a birthday celebration – Canada’s – and a postponed LCBO tasting, but here we wrap up coverage of the July 5th VINTAGES release with some cool chardonnays leading up to the highly anticipated i4c weekend (International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration) happening July 18th-20th in Niagara, of which more to come next week. We also have some picks from Spain, a couple of rosés and more to get you through the week.

The main feature of the July 5th release is New Zealand, which was admirably covered last week by David and Sara, and it’s safe to say that we have all aligned on the recommendations already set out. Many of my top producers have been highlighted, and the LCBO has done a fine job in selecting some of the top regional representatives. Spain, on the other hand, the mini feature this week, offers less excitement overall. It seems Ontarians are not yet privy to the best that this ascending country has to offer, though there are a couple worth your attention.

Chardonnay comes up strong with a half-dozen very solid wines from California, South Africa, Niagara and Burgundy, proving once again the adaptability and suitability of the world’s most planted fine white grape, while premium rosé – the real, dry, purpose-grown stuff is represented by the country that does it best: France. A few extras round out the week’s picks.


Finca Constancia 2011Star Alignment: Peique 2012 Tinto Mencía, Bierzo ($15.95). John Szabo – Another fine, fruity-savoury example of mencía from Bierzo, with balanced, succulent acids and moderate-firm tannins. This delivers all one could want from a $16 wine. Drink now or hold short-term. David Lawrason – There are plenty of pleasant fruity young (joven) reds coming out of Spain nowadays, but I often find them too soft. The mencia grape of Bierzo however has the character to infuse a bit more tension and refreshment. This is a great summer red; not recommended for power or complexity or depth, but for liveliness in the glass.

Finca Constancia 2011 Vino de La Tierra de Castillia ($18.95). This is a modern Spanish blend of tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon, syrah, cabernet franc, petit verdot and graciano from vineyards near the picturesuque town of Toledo, part of the Gonzalez-Byass family of wines. It offers exuberant, ripe black berry fruit character in a modern-leaning style, though the palate is all old world with its dusty, firm tannic structure and prominent acids. This should continue to age well over the next 2-5 years, offering a more savoury expression.

Cool Chardonnay

Hamilton Russell 2012 Chardonnay, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa ($32.95). David already highlighted this wine last week, but I think it’s worth another mention. Walker Bay (Hemel-en-Aarde Valley) pioneers Hamilton Russel have led, and continue to lead the pack in this cooler region of South Africa, well-suited to chardonnay and pinot noir. The 2012 chardonnay is an exceptional bottle in every respect, hitting a pitch-perfect balance between ripeness and freshness, oak and fruit, minerals and savoury spice. A very satisfying wine all around, with excellent depth and length, a wine for fans of classically-styled, balanced, minerally chardonnay.

Ridge Vineyards 2012 Estate Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, California ($59.95). I can’t seem to get enough of Ridge’s top wines – these are peerless in the Golden State for their authentic and regional character. The Santa Cruz Mountains are clearly a special place to grow grapes, and one trip up the narrow, winding mountain road to the estate leave an indelible impression. Failing that, have a taste of this pristine, evidently classy chardonnay which shines even more brightly in the excellent 2012 vintage. 14.5% alcohol is held in check by fresh acids and ample fruit extract, and the texture is nothing short of beguiling. This will need at least another 2-3 years to enter its prime drinking window, and should also age into the mid-twenties without a stretch.

Cave Spring Estate 2012 Chardonnay, Cave Spring Vineyard, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($18.95). Angelo Pavan has done an admirable job in reeling in the generous fruit of the 2012 vintage here; I like the crisp acids that counterbalance the ripe fruit, while wood is an accent rather than feature. Fine wine at a nice price.

Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2012Ridge Estate Chardonnay 2012Cave Spring Estate Chardonnay 2012Kali Hart Chardonnay 2012Caves Des Vignerons De Buxy Montagny Les Chaniots 1er Cru 2010

Kali Hart 2012 Chardonnay, Monterey County, California ($23.95). This wine from the reliable house of Talbott is a bit of a conundrum off the top admittedly, with a bit of an awkward sweet-sour tension upfront. But there’s plenty of flavour intensity and very good length to be sure, above the regional average in the price category. Ultimately this has merit, and should be revisited in 1-2 years by which time it will have knit together nicely.

Caves Des Vignerons De Buxy 2010 Montagny Les Chaniots 1er Cru, Burgundy, France ($24.95). The Côte Chalonnaise, south of the Côte d’Or is one of Burgundy’s hot spots for value, and the cooperative at Buxy is a great place to start shopping. This 2010 premier cru delivers a fine dose of chalky-limestone minerality on a taught and tightly wound frame, with little interference from wood. I appreciate the vibrancy and forthrightness of this wine, made simply and honestly. Solid length, too; a fine ‘starter’ wine for those getting into white Burgundy, or for those who love it but don’t always have $40-$50 to dispose on a bottle.

Château Des Charmes Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2012Melville Verna’s 2011 Estate ChardonnayMelville Verna's Estate Chardonnay 2011, Santa Barbara County ($16.95). Here’s an open, honest, characterful California chardonnay at an unusually low price. This has plenty of chalky minerality, tart acids (in the good sense), and sensible, low oak influence. This has everything but the high price tag; if I had a restaurant, I’d be pouring this by the glass.

Star Alignment: Château Des Charmes Estate Bottled 2012 Chardonnay Musqué, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($16.95). John Szabo – The aromatic musqué clone of chardonnay shines here from Chateau des Charmes in 2012, capturing the essence of the vintage nicely. Fruit is round and ripe in the orchard/tree fruit spectrum, while generous but balanced alcohol carries the finish. A pleasant, round, easy-sipping example all in all, for current enjoyment. David Lawrason – The musque clone of the chardonnay grape is a peek-a-boo performer in Niagara and seems to like the warmer vintages that coax out its more opulent characteristics. At least that’s what I like about musque. No point it tasting taut and lean like riesling, of which we have plenty of good examples. This is textbook musque.

Rosé and More

Château De Lancyre 2013 Pic Saint-Loup Rosé, Coteaux du Languedoc ($17.95). A rosé made in the Provençal style from about half grenache and syrah (with a splash of cinsault), offering genuine concentration and depth, not to mention length, while complexity stretches the rosé genre further than its used to going. A rosé for serious wine drinkers from one of the Languedoc’s most interesting appellations in my view.

Domaine De l’Hermitage 2013 l’Oratoire Bandol Rosé ($24.95). $25 may seem like a lot to pay for rosé, and it’s certainly well above the average, though then again so is the quality of the mourvèdre-based rosés from this small appellation overlooking the Côte d’Azure. This pale, delicate wine offers a fine mix of savoury herbs and bright red fruit flavours, with very good complexity and length. This is the sort of rosé I could drink all summer, and all winter long.

Château De Lancyre Pic Saint Loup Rosé 2013Domaine De L'Hermitage L'Oratoire Bandol Rosé 2013Terredora Fiano Di Avellino 2012Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 2013

Terre Dora 2012 Fiano Di Avellino ($21.95). Regional leader Terre Dora’s 2012 Fiano is a sultry, smoky, mineral-driven white wine with subtle grapefruit-citrus and savoury herbal notes, though this is not a fruity wine by any stretch. The palate offers plenty of palpable texture and grip, salty-saline-mineral flavours and excellent length and depth. As with many wines from volcanic terroirs, this is not a soft and easy-sipping style, but rather one that demands some attention and desire to explore the more regionally distinct variations of the wine world. Drink or hold this a half-dozen years or longer I suspect, without sacrificing any quality, on the contrary, enhancing the honeyed-stony side.

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara 2013 Riesling, Niagara Peninsula ($17.95). Here’s another fine example of Tawse’s “entry level” riesling, which has consistently performed above its price category. The 2013 is crisp, bright and green apple flavoured, in a perfectly balanced, barely off-dry style. Impressive length, too. Drink or hold short term.

Lawrason’s Take

Osborne Bailen Dry Oloroso Sherry, Jerez, Spain $16.95 – I have a habit of being mightily impressed by sherries when I taste them after a long day of working through whites and reds in Vintages lab. No exception here for this browning old chestnut. Make that a walnut. This is high strung, powerful yet refined and the complex tapestry of dried fruit, citrus, barrels and nuts flavours drift on forever.

Villa Cafaggio Chianti Classico Riserva 2009Osborne Bailen Dry Oloroso SherryBordeaux 2010s: The Hits Keep on Coming

Between regular releases and some In Store Discoveries there are four very worthy 2010 Bordeaux on this release. Sure, most are pricey, but we are not talking $100s for top echelon wines here. If you are collector, or a fan, or wanting to explore the allure of Bordeaux here are four, from least to most expensive, to consider. And they cover four main regions. Check out the full reviews by clicking on the link, beginning with an under $20 merlot that over delivers:

Château Gachon 2010 Cuvée Les Petits Rangas, Montagne Saint-Émilion ($18.95)

Château Tour Maillet 2010, Pomerol ($49.00)

Château Sociando-Mallet 2010, Haut-Médoc ($57.00)

Château De Fieuzal 2010, Pessac-Léognan ($64.00)

Star Alignment: Villa Cafaggio 2009 Chianti Classico Riserva, Tuscany, Italy ($26.95). David Lawrason – This is 100% sangiovese (whereas many Chiantis can now contain a small percentage of cabernet, merlot, even syrah). This is perhaps why I find this such an authentic expression of Tuscan red, with fruit bolstered by the warm 2009 vintage, then softened and given some grace by an extra year of ageing in barrel and bottle. Drinking very nicely right now. Sara d’Amato – A charming, classic example of Chianti from elevated plantings. The wine has a very natural, traditional feel and impressive length.

Sara’s Sommelier Selection

Lealtanza 2012 White, Rioja, Spain ($15.95). Fresh, zesty, pure and appealing, this unoaked viura based white offers clean refreshment at a very fair price. Lealtanza means “loyal”, i.e. loyal to tradition as the producer has an inclination to take a classic approach to their wines such as using only indigenous varietals.

Edge Wines 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, North Coast, California ($29.95). Nothing to do with U2, Edge is actually produced by Signorello wines – the high-end Napa producer with a Vancouver connection. Here is a wine that used to be a restaurant gem, unavailable to the general public. In the past 5 years, it has increased in price, but not declined in quality, and is now widely available. Despite its commercially focused appeal, the wine boasts really great structure, concentration and is perfectly dry.

Malma 2010 Reserva Malbec, Neuquén, Patagonia, Argentina ($17.95). From the cooler, southern reaches of Patagonia, Malma is a stunning malbec at a highly palatable price. This isn’t a big, boastful style of malbec but rather a stylish, sophisticated and well-balanced example that is sure to make an impression.

Lealtanza White 2012Edge Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2011Malma Reserva Malbec 2010Ortas L'estellan Gigondas 2011Roux Père & Fils L'ebaupin Saint Aubin 2010

Ortas l’Estellan 2011 Gigondas, Rhône, France ($24.95). A gracefully maturing Gigondas with ample southern charm, garrigue and impressive complexity. Despite its high alcohol, the wine feels in no way heavy, sweet or unbalanced. Well-priced and drinking beautifully now.

Roux Père & Fils 2010 l’Ebaupin Saint Aubin, Burgundy, France ($28.95). An uncommon find, and a lovely one at that – Saint Aubin is nestled among some of the finest white Burgdundy sites, close to Montrachet. Red is also produced in this region and this beautifully perfumed version, lean in body but with impressive complexity is a splendid example of the elegant nature of this appellation.

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

From VINTAGES July 5th release:

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Selections
All Reviews
July 5th Part One – New Zealand’s Core Strengths

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!



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Les bons choix de Marc – Juillet

Made in USA
par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

En ce 4 juillet, jour de réjouissances nationales pour nos amis états-uniens, j’ai pensé qu’il serait de bon ton de jeter un œil du côté de leur production viticole.

On parle couramment de vin « américain », mais en réalité, il faudrait souvent dire vin « californien ». Le Golden State est en effet responsable d’environ 90 % de la production nationale. La Californie se trouve ainsi encore et toujours loin devant les États de Washington, de l’Oregon et de New York, qui occupent les trois places suivantes. Cela dit, ce qu’on sait moins, c’est qu’on fait du vin dans chacun des 50 États de l’Union. Même en Floride ! Et ce n’est rien : même en Alaska, où le United States Department of Agriculture recensait sept wineries, en 2013.

Autre particularité du marché états-unien, il y a encore là-bas plus d’une quinzaine de monopoles d’État de la vente d’alcool – un peu comme notre bonne vieille SAQ, eh oui. Parmi les États pour ainsi dire prohibitionnistes, qui maternent les consommateurs et les protègent du démon Alcool, on retrouve le New Hampshire, le Vermont, l’Oregon, l’Ohio, la Pennsylvanie et bien entendu aussi l’Utah, le fief des mormons.

Bons troisièmes derrière la France et l’Italie

Pour revenir à nos moutons, précisons que les vins des États-Unis, et principalement ceux de la Californie, progressent très bien au Québec. Toutefois, spécifie le rapport annuel 2014 de la SAQ, ils le font « de manière plus modérée cette année avec près de 10 % d’augmentation des ventes en volume [...] tant pour les vins blancs que pour les vins rouges ». Il n’empêche que les vins américains demeurent bons troisièmes sur le plan des ventes à la SAQ, avec 13 % de parts de marché, derrière la France (31 %) et l’Italie (23 %), mais devant l’Espagne et l’Australie (respectivement 8 % et 6 %).

Les régions plus fraîches du nord de la Californie, ainsi que l’Oregon et Washington produisent de très belles bouteilles qui n’ont rien à envier à ce qui se fait de mieux en Europe et notamment en France. À l’inverse, on trouve aussi en provenance de ces chers États-Unis des Ménage à Trois et des Apothic Red sucrés, ainsi que des White Zinfandel tout aussi doucereux – qui se vendent, hélas, comme des petits pains. Le collègue Bill Zacharkiw a d’ailleurs récemment publié un article à ce propos.

Et dire qu’on est censés être une société distincte, au Québec, et avoir un palais plus raffiné… Désolé pour la digression, je n’ai pu m’empêcher, j’aimerais tellement que les rouges sucrés coca-colaesques ne marchent pas.

Surtout qu’elle est pratiquement révolue, l’époque des vins américains vanillés et archiboisés. Nos voisins y vont aujourd’hui plus mollo sur le chêne, de manière générale et en Californie, notamment. Le pays a pour ainsi dire mûri, il fait toujours partie du Nouveau Monde viticole mais comme il produit depuis plusieurs décennies, il se fait vieux un peu — et c’est bien tant mieux.

De belles bouteilles born in the USA

J’ai puisé dans mes récentes notes de dégustation et dégoté quelques bonnes bouteilles que l’on pourrait très bien ouvrir cette fin de semaine, dans la foulée de l’Independence Day.

En blanc d’abord, le Grgich Hills Chardonnay 2011 n’est pas donné, à 50 $, mais il tient la comparaison avec bien des bourgognes blancs vendus le même prix.

Du côté du vin rosé, je retiens notamment le Terre Rouge Vin Gris d’Amador 2012, un très bon rosé de saignée californien, corsé et riche mais bien appuyé par l’acidité.

En rouge, on a, encore une fois, l’embarras du choix. En y allant par ordre de prix, on se régalera avec le Schug Pinot Noir 2012 de Sonoma Coast. Clin d’œil à la France maintenant, avec le Syrah Le Pousseur Bonny Doon 2010, typé syrah et doté d’une bonne fraîcheur.

Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2011Terre Rouge Vin Gris D'amador 2012Schug Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2012Bonny Doon Le Pousseur Syrah 2010

Du même excentrique producteur qu’est Randall Grahm, place au Cigare Volant Bonny Doon 2008, qui pastiche pour ainsi dire les vins de Châteauneuf-du-Pape mais qui ressemble davantage, avec ce 2008, à un beau rouge de la région nord du Rhône.

Deux derniers rouges états-uniens, d’un producteur vedette aussi consultant à ses heures. Plus les années passent, plus les millésimes se succèdent, et plus les vins de ce Paul Hobbs me surprennent. Imposants, concentrés, costauds même, ils ont en revanche de la fraîcheur, ils ne s’écrasent pas en bouche et n’alourdissent pas le palais – pour peu, of course, qu’on n’abuse pas.

Essayez par exemple son Cabernet Sauvignon Paul Hobbs Crossbarn 2011 Monterey, à 48 $, ou encore, dans un tout autre registre, son Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir 2011 Russian River. Ce dernier, puissant et savoureux, est vendu 62 $ et des poussières, et ma foi il les vaut !

Bonny Doon Le Cigare Volant 2008Paul Hobbs Crossbarn Cabernet Sauvignon 2011Paul Hobbs Pinot Noir 2011CHANDON ROSÉ

Enfin, à l’apéro ou à la fin du repas, avec des fromages pas trop puissants, on pourrait très bien opter pour le Chandon Rosé Méthode Traditionnelle, un peu dosé (sucré), il est vrai, mais l’équilibre est préservé et il s’agit simplement de le servir bien frais, pour en rehausser le fruit.

Cheers !


Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 30 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de bons vins!

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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (July 2014)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers and Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO this month

by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I always get a great deal of pleasure finding the 20 wines under $20 for this monthly report, and this time was even more pleasurable as I was in Portugal last week visiting wineries. I was impressed to find some modern fresh reds and whites at great prices to add to the selection below. They should make excellent summer drinking.

The Top 20 under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO wines and the VINTAGES Essentials collection. I select some from Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs) and Bonus Air Miles (BAMS).

The current discount period runs until July 20th. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were decent stocks available when we published. You can also use WineAlign to create and print your list of those available at your local store.

[Stay tuned: John Szabo will be up next with his observations and recommendations on the July 5th VINTAGES release.]


Mezzomondo Negroamaro 2011, Salento, Puglia, Italy. $8.95 + 5 BAMs, Top 50 – An easy drinking flavourful red.

Obikwa Shiraz 2012, Western Cape, South Africa. $9.45 + 5 BAMs – An excellent inexpensive BBQ shiraz

P K N T Carmenere Reserve 2012, Central Valley, Chile. $9.95 was $10.95, Top 50 – A full-bodied red with supple juicy fruit, not at all spicy, as might be suggested by the label.

Mezzomondo Negroamaro 2011Obikwa Shiraz 2012P K N T Carmenere Reserve 2012Trapiche Cabernet Sauvignon 2013Nederburg Winemaster's Reserve Shiraz 2012

Trapiche Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Mendoza Argentina. $9.95, New to the Top 50 – An amazingly good cabernet for the money. Enjoy with BBQ meats.

Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve Shiraz 2012, Western Cape, South Africa. $11.95 + 7 BAMs, New to the Top 50 – A fullbodied red with freshness from minerality and vibrant acidity.

Thelema Mountain Red 2011, Stellenbosch, South Africa. $11.95, New to the Top 50 – Shiraz plus five other grapes in a dense complex red.

Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Western Cape, South Africa. $11.95, New to the Top 50 – A lightly oaked savoury ripe red with a lot of complexity for the money.

Pezoules Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Peloponnese, Greece. $12.60 + 4 BAMs – A fresh midweight cabernet ideal for BBQ meats.

Thelema Mountain Red 2011Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Pezoules Cabernet Sauvignon 2011Pessoa Da Vinha Reserva Douro 2010Stoney Ridge Pinot Noir 2011Quinta Do Encontro Q Do E 2011

Pessoa Da Vinha Reserva 2010 Douro Valley, Portugal. $12.95 New to the Top 50 – An opaque purple with a fragrant fruity nose, that’s full-bodied. Try with a steak.

Stoney Ridge Pinot Noir 2011, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario. $13.95 + 6 BAMs – A fruity pinot with some spice and smokey complexity.

Quinta Do Encontro Q do E 2011, Bairrada, Portugal. $14.25 + 4 BAMs – An elegant structured red.


Citra Trebbiano D’abruzzo 2012, Abruzzo, Italy. $7.45 New to the Top 50 – A good inexpensive fruity white.

Periquita White 2013, Portugal. $8.80 – A fruity fragrant white for mildly flavoured seafood.

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013, Central Valley, Chile. $9.95 Top 50 – A juicy very ripe sauvignon blanc with lots of balancing acidity.

Citra Trebbiano D'abruzzo 2013Periquita White 2013Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013Carl Reh Riesling Kabinett 2012

Carl Reh Riesling Kabinett 2012, Mosel, Germany. $11.95 New to the Top 50 – An elegant balanced off-dry white ideal for Thai food.

Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013, Leyda Valley, Chile. $11.95 New to the Top 50 – A fresh floral creamy sauvignon blanc.

The Wolftrap White 2013, Western Cape, South Africa $13.95 + 5 BAMs, Top 50 – An intensely flavoured white.

Jacob’s Creek Chardonnay Reserve 2013, Adelaide Hills, South Australia $14.95 + 10 BAMs – New style Aussie chardonnay; fresher, crisper and less oak.

Alpine Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand $14.95 + 10 BAMs – Good value for a typical kiwi sauvignon blanc

Brancott Estate Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Southern Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand $19.95 + 10 BAMs – Classic Marlborough sauvignon blanc, elegant, fresh, pure and mouthwateringly delicious.

Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2013The Wolftrap White 2013Jacob's Creek Chardonnay Reserve 2013Alpine Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2013Brancott Estate Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc 2013

How does a wine get selected for the Top 20 under $20.

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the Vintages Essential Collection.

On Sale (LTO’s or Limited Time Offers): Every four weeks the LCBO discounts around 200 wines  I have looked through the current batch and have highlighted some of my favourites that offer better value at present…. so stock up now.

Bonus Air Miles (BAM’s): If you collect Air Miles then you will be getting Bonus Air Miles on another 150 or so wines…a few of these have a special appeal for a while.

Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top 50 Best Values this month. This is on an-on going WineAlign selection (Top 50,) that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General List. You can access the report any time and read more about it now.

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesThere are another 39 wines on the Top 50 list so if you did not find all you need above for your current needs dip into the Top 50 LCBO and Vintages Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must be inexpensive while also having a high score, indicating high quality. I use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database. I review the list every month to include newly listed and recently tasted vintages of current listings as well as monitoring the value of those put on sale for a limited time.

Before value wine shopping remember to consult the Top 50, since it is always changing. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. Moreover if you disagree with our reviews, tell us please us. And if you think our reviews are accurate, send us some feedback since it’s good to hear that you agree with us.

How I Choose the Top 50

I constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep the Top 50 list up to date. You can easily find all of my all Top 50 Value Wines from the WineAlign main menu. Click on Wine =>Top 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list.

Every wine is linked to WineAlign where you can read more, discover pricing discounts, check out inventory and compile lists for shopping at your favourite store. Never again should you be faced with a store full of wine with little idea of what to pick for best value.

The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping. I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.


Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20 for July
Top 50 Value Wines

Editors Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


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Inconvenient Truths

The Caveman Speaks
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I have a pretty good life being a wine critic. I get to travel the world and hang out with “gourmandes” and bon vivants. Aside from having lost pretty well all the enamel on my teeth, there is very little to complain about. Oh, there is one other thing, I have to taste way too much wine.

Now before you all start thinking “Cry me a river you spoilt baby,” understand that it is work. First, much of the wine we critics have to taste isn’t all that exciting. Many in fact anger me due to their lack of character or simply because they taste bad.

But that’s not what bugs me most. Maybe 15 years ago, when I started getting serious about wine, I made a commitment to myself to mostly drink from my basement as opposed to buying wines at the SAQ and drinking them the same night. And for years I happily drank wines from my modest cellar. Most of those wines were pretty modest, between $20-$30 a bottle.

Those days are gone. Since I became a wine writer, I spend most of my drinking time testing out the latest arrivals – drinking young wines. And this leads me to a very inconvenient truth about wine: drinking young wine is just “ok.”

The point was driven home at a dinner party I threw last winter. We had just started to eat – rib roast, cauliflower baked with Gré des Champs cheese, roasted potato, and all doused with a truffle sauce. We were seven around the table and I opened one of the magnums I had in my cellar – a 1990 Château Barbeyrolles. This mourvèdre-based, Côte de Provence was given to me by wine maker Régine Sumeire on my last trip to Provence. A couple of minutes after the first few bites of truffled cheesy cauliflower and prime rib, I glanced over to the other end of the table and my buddy Herve raised his glass in silence, gave it a quick swirl, finished his bite and drank it down. He gave me that “Damn this is ever good” look.

And it was. The wine was wonderfully “thin,” much like a classically made nebbiolo. The aromatics were staggering – flowers, cherry blossoms, mushrooms. All that boisterous primary fruit and oak of a young wine had become kirsch, sweet earth and spice. And a beautiful counterpoint to the truffle sauce. The tannins were there, but gave the wine just enough heft to stand up to the richness of the rib.

Despite that myself and Herve were the only wine “experts” there that night, the reaction of my normally not so “wine fussy” friends was unanimous – this was a meal to remember. Everyone thanked me for opening such an expensive bottle of wine. Never being one to shun a bit of flattery, I didn’t say anything that night, but if you were to buy a bottle of a recent vintage of Barbeyrolles, which unfortunately is not available here in Quebec, it would set you back around $20. Let’s call that magnum $45.

As you can see from the price tag, it has less to do with the price of the bottle, rather it’s a question of bottle age and pedigree. And here is another inconvenient truth – every wine has its time. It might be six months, a few years, or 18 as was the case with that magnum of Barbeyrolles, but nothing rewards a wine lover like patience.

Inside the cellars of Lopez de Heredia

Inside the cellars of Lopez de Heredia

Unfortunately this is not part of our drinking culture and it isn’t for a number of reasons. Most people don’t have wine cellars. Storing wine takes up space and if you live in an apartment, when the temperature in mid-summer climbs to 30ºC, we are not talking ideal cellar conditions. It also requires a certain amount of cash outlay, even if you are stocking wines in the $20-$40 range. And for many, it simply isn’t a priority.

This is not to say that drinking wines in their youth is necessarily a bad thing. Young wines can have a wonderful ‘fruitiness,’ and because of their spicy tannins and vibrant acidity, can feel very “alive” in your mouth. I remember a dinner a few years back with wine maker Jean-Paul Daumen of the Rhône winery Domaine de la Vieille Julienne. We drank his 2005 and 2006 Châteauneuf-de-Pape and they were very good. Not transcendent but as good as one could possibly expect from any well-made young wine. But we finished our meal with his 2001, and there we started to see the evidence of maturity – depth and complexity, a caressing mouthfeel, the beginnings of greatness.

There is always a risk involved when cellaring wines, that they may become too old, devoid of any real fruit and lacking any real structure. Did I know that the 1990 magnum would be that good? Nope. What I knew was that 1990 was a phenomenal year in the south of France and wine maker Régine Sumeire makes wines in a very traditional manner – never over ripe which translates into wines with enough acidity and a quality of tannin to be able to evolve with grace. It was an educated guess and the payoff was that we got to drink a wine at it’s apogee – when all wines should, in a perfect world, be drunk.

So for those of you who have a cellar, or are thinking about starting your own wine collection, as much as I would love to give you the formula as to when your wines will be at their best – I can’t. I can however say that by drinking wines as they age, you will get a different perspective and a deeper understanding of what wine can be, and how wine can inspire at times such reverence.

Apostolos Thymiopoulos' Naoussa is a great inexpensive wine for your cellar

Apostolos Thymiopoulos’ Naoussa is a great inexpensive wine for your cellar

And for those who don’t that’s fine too. Well made wine can be drunk and enjoyed in their youth – it is simply a case of not witnessing the beauty of its full potential. Unfortunately nothing is able to replace patience – as inconvenient a truth as that may be.

So if you are looking for some mid-priced wines that will gain with a few years, or decades, in a cellar, here are a few suggestions. And yes, they can all be enjoyed now as well.

We’ll start in Greece with one of my favourite wines, the 2011 Noussa Terre et Ciel from Apostolos Thymiopoulos. So graceful and complex with a structure that reminds me of nebbiolo.

Speaking of nebbiolo, Cantina del Pino’s 2009 Barbaresco shows all the signs of traditional wine making. Great acidity, gritty tannin and a delicate fruitiness. For the price, a great buy and can live for a least a decade.

Staying in Italy, one of the better under $30 bargains is Umani Ronchi’s Cùmaro. The 2009 shows what is great about the montepulciano grape – ripe but not jammy fruit and some super grippy tannin. Easily will cellar well over the next 5 years.

One of the better wines I have tried recently is Dominio De Pingus’ 2011 Psi. Made from old vine tempranillo, this is but a baby and will gain so much more depth and complexity over the next decade.

Finally, the cellar isn’t just a place for red wines. I probably have as much white wine down there as red. Try to put away a few bottles of Prà’s 2012 Soave Monte Grande. So delicate, yet as it opens up, gains so much depth and complexity. Would love to see this in 3-5 years.

If you are looking to have your mind blown, then try the 2004 Rioja Gravonia from Lopez de Heredia. Just read the review to get a sense of what you are up against here.

Thymiopoulos Vineyards Yn Kai Oupavós Xinomavro 2011Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2009Umani Ronchi Cùmaro 2009Dominio De Pingus Psi 2011Prà Monte Grande Soave Classico 2012Vina Gravonia Rioja Crianza 2004

Happy summer folks,


“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

Editors Note: You can find Bill’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. Premium subscribers see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

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BC Critics’ Picks July 2014

Our monthly Critics’ Picks column is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics, wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution through BCLDB or VQA stores. All are currently available for sale in BC.

Our small but mighty BC Team has a lot of big themes on our mind this month to guide our palates and dictate our choices. Here are some wines we’re excited to share with you.

Cheers, Treve Ring

BC Team Version 3

Respect – from DJ Kearney

Respect is the common thread for my picks, and in a world of commodity wines, it can feel like a rare and precious ingredient. Respect for a grape, respect for a terroir, respect for a tradition, respect for a style. You know when you are drinking a wine that exudes respect – it’s expressive of something palpable, meaningful and enduring. The wine has a message, and it is immediately understood by the drinker.

The Italian coastal calcareous clays of the Marche’s Jesi hills are carpeted with verdicchio, often cropped at preposterously high yields for the neutral, lemon and almondy vino of the region. Not so at Villa Bucci, where the local grape receives respect and care, allowing it to defy expectations. Whites from Villa Bucci show a naturalness that always delights and amazes me; the Riserva Verdicchio ages magnificently and is a triumph of a humble grape, a fine terroir and a respectful family. The Bucci Classico 2012 is a more modest version, and easier to find too, but it has similar values and vinous earthiness of the flagship Riserva.

Penfolds St. Henri Shiraz 2010Cave Saint Désirat Syrah 2012Villa Bucci Verdicchio Classico Dei Castelli Di Jesi Doc 2012Respect is also when you find an honourable country wine made with all the purpose and quality of a fine appellation wine, for less than $15. That’s the case with Cave Saint Désirat’s streamlined syrah, from fruit grown just a granite pebble’s throw from St. Joseph’s heavy hitting vineyards. It’s light, trim and thirst-quenching in a way that should be encouraged.

And how about respect for a style, for a tradition of multi-regional blending that has given us one of the great, great wines of the world. Penfolds St. Henri 2010 with its gloriously ripe shiraz fruit and distinctive old oak élévage possesses an identity and style that’s recognizable but also wonderfully unexpected from Australia. Developed in the 1950’s as a riposte to the all-new American oak of first growth stable-mate Penfolds Grange, St. Henri presents a restrained, understated Euro-style wine that has stayed faithful from the beginning. The 2010 is a miracle of potency, texture, structure and longevity. There’s not much of it around, but for $65 a bottle, the quality to price ratio is simply ludicrous. Respect.

Attitude Shifts – from Rhys Pender MW

Caught up in world cup fever it is increasingly hard to be productive. Luckily this only happens every four years. Over two weeks in and things are shaping up to be very exciting. It seems more teams are giving youth a chance and playing less cautious, attacking football, a treat for the fans.

There are some parallels with the barrage of goal scoring and what is happening in the wine world. A previous stubbornness to change, kind of the equivalent of playing too many of the experienced but slowing statesmen on the football pitch, seems to be giving way to an enlightened attitude that just focuses on making the best wine.

Tablas Creek Esprit De Tablas Paso Robles 2011Black Hills Syrah 2011Domaine Marcel Deiss Riesling 2010On a recent visit to California, it was refreshing to see this kind of attitude in the upcoming Paso Robles AVA. Tablas Creek in particular has pioneered Rhône varieties and following a great pedigree, thanks to their links with the Perrin family, is now enjoying the energy of the next generation farming organically and biodynamically and making fantastic wine. The Tablas Creek Esprit De Tablas 2011 captures the spirit perfectly.

While Canada didn’t make the cut for Brazil, at least many of the wines are starting to find their own personality, no longer trying to copy the style of other wine countries around the world. A good example of this is BC Syrah, now embracing its moderate climate encouragingly. Try the Black Hills Syrah 2011 for an example of just how BC should be approaching this great grape.

The French had an impressive first outing at the world cup. And there are many impressive wines that show the same, cavalier, attacking attitude. One producer who has been known as a little controversial at times, but making great wines nonetheless, is Michel Deiss. The Domaine Marcel Deiss Riesling 2010 shows what the right attitude can achieve.

Tour de Canadian Force – from Treve Ring

Though it’s easy to be distracted by the end of school and the start of summer (and yes, World Cup), at this time of the year I’m laser focused on one thing: wine judging. It’s prime time for wine in my calendar, with numerous wine competitions happening before summer fully sets in.

My June kicked off with the Lieutenant Governor Awards of Excellence in BC Wine, followed by WineAlign’s National Wine Awards of Canada with my coast to coast colleagues, and shortly I head to Seattle to judge the SIP Northwest Magazine Best of the NW Awards. People ask me all the time if my palate gets tired, if I can’t taste anything after a day of 120 wines or if I’m sick of wine. My honest answer is No (with a little bit of yes). Yes – I love a cold beer, refreshing cocktail or healing amaro after a day of wine judging, but I’m up and ready to taste at 8am the following morning. My senses sharpen with each flight and my nose and palate are tuned on a finer frequency with each passing day of competition. I relish these days, plus I love the opportunity to taste a cache of wines in one sitting that I would never have access to otherwise.

With Canada Day high on my mind, I’m thinking about the delicious wines across Canada from beyond my BC borders. Fortunately these favourites are now currently available on our store shelves.

DOMAINE PINNACLE ICE CIDERBenjamin Bridge Brut Methode ClassiqueTawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 2010One longtime favourite is Tawse, a repeat Canadian Winery of the Year winner and a leader in organic and biodynamic viticulture, both in their Niagara Escarpment region and for Canada. Though the current vintage on BCLDB shelves is 2010 (the 2013 is released in Ontario), the Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling is still alive with juicy grapefruit, lemon zest and zippy minerality, buoyed with vibrant acidity.

I was thrilled to see that Benjamin Bridge wines were finally being imported into BC, allowing local drinkers to experience premium wines from our other coastal wine region – Nova Scotia. The 2009 Brut is a stunning and serious traditional method sparkler, made from decidedly untraditional grapes : L’Acadie, Chardonnay and Seyval.

There is much more to this country’s dessert wine than ice wine. Quebec specializes in ice cider, and Domaine Pinnacle is a rich, golden, full-bodied example of the style. Produced from a hand-picked blend of 6 varieties, these tree fruits are harvested after frost and extracted naturally over the winter months.

Check out our BC team’s Top 20 under $20 coming up mid-July, with Rhys Pender MW’s BC Wine Report and The Final Blend from Anthony Gismondi to follow later in the month.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

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Redécouvrir le Canada autrement

Soif d’ici, avec Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Cette semaine, permettez-moi de changer le titre de cette chronique (Soif d’ailleurs), pour « Soif d’ici ». Si je prends cette liberté, c’est d’abord à l’occasion de la fête du Canada, mais aussi parce que je rentre tout juste de Penticton, où les équipes de Chacun son vin et de Wine Align étaient réunies pour déguster plus de 1300 vins canadiens dans le cadre du National Wine Awards.

Le constat de la semaine ? Tout n’est pas encore parfait, mais avec des connaissances viticoles et œnologiques accrues et des vignes qui gagnent en maturité, on a toutes les raisons de croire que les vins seront encore meilleurs !

Parmi les coups de cœur de la semaine, je retiens, entre autres, de délicieux cabernets francs, de somptueuses syrahs, des pinots noirs et des rieslings de classe internationale et nombre de chardonnays de climats frais, d’un équilibre exemplaire.

D’un océan à l’autre, voici donc un survol de très bons vins canadiens que l’on peut trouver à la SAQ.

La Nouvelle-Écosse en pleine effervescence

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2012Le climat hivernal doux et les étés frais de la Nouvelle-Écosse sont de très bonnes conditions pour la culture de raisins à forte teneur en acidité, nécessaires à l’élaboration de vins effervescents. Par conséquent, la province produit déjà plusieurs mousseux de très bonne qualité et l’avenir s’annonce encore plus prometteur avec les plantations récentes de chardonnay, de pinot noir et de pinot meunier, les trois principaux cépages de la Champagne.

Depuis 2008, le Québécois Jean-Benoît Deslauriers agit à titre d’oenologue chez Benjamin Bridge, vignoble agrobiologique développé en 2001 sur les rives de la baie de Fundy. Premier vin offert à la SAQ, le Nova 7, un effervescent, est issu d’acadie blanc 22 %, de muscat (16 %), d’ortega et de vidal. Un vin doux certes, mais qui n’accuse aucune lourdeur malgré ses 62 grammes de sucre. Une boisson fort sympathique – et originale – pour terminer le repas sans trop se fatiguer!

La belle province se raffine et se réinvente

Un peu plus de 270 exploitations se consacrent à la culture de la vigne au Québec. C’est peu si l’on compare à nos voisins ontariens, mais c’est loin d’être négligeable. De mieux en mieux représentés à la SAQ, et avec raison, les vins québécois présentent une qualité beaucoup plus homogène depuis cinq ans. Plusieurs hommes d’affaires sérieux ont investi dans le vignoble et s’y sont consacrés avec la même rigueur que pour leur première carrière. Leur contribution, conjuguée au savoir-faire d’œnologues qualifiés et d’agriculteurs chevronnés comme Réjean Guertin (Les Artisans du Terroir, à Saint-Paul-d’Abbotsford), permet de faire progresser la qualité des vins québécois à plus grande vitesse.

Je sais que certains d’entre vous ont encore en tête de mauvaises expériences passées et sont encore frileux quant à l’idée d’acheter des vins québécois. Chat échaudé craint l’eau froide, dit-on. Mais toutes les régions viticoles ont connu des débuts hésitants et le Québec n’y fait pas exception. Pour vous réconcilier avec les vins d’ici, voici quelques suggestions pour vous inciter à mettre le Québec dans votre verre avec autant de plaisir et de fierté que dans votre assiette !

Côteau Rougemont Versant Rouge 2012Versant Blanc Coteau Rougemont 2012En 2006, la famille Robert a acquis un immense verger situé à Rougemont, à une cinquantaine de kilomètres à l’est de Montréal. Développé dès 2007 sur les coteaux voisins du verger, le vignoble compte aujourd’hui près de 50 000 plants! Tous deux disponibles dans l’ensemble du réseau de la SAQ, les cuvées Versant Rouge et Versant blanc témoignent du sérieux des frères Robert à produire des vins de qualité, à la fois savoureux et rassasiants de fraîcheur.

Un peu plus au Sud, mais toujours en périphérie de Montréal, Nicole Du Temple et Yvan Quirion mènent avec beaucoup de dynamisme le Domaine St-Jacques, à Saint-Jacques-le-Mineur, en Montérégie. Depuis trois ans maintenant, leur Sélection rouge 2013 compte parmi mes vins rouges québécois favoris. Juteux, débordant de fruit et surtout, très digeste, grâce à une saine acidité qui laisse la bouche fraîche et nette. Plus modeste, mais non moins agréable, le Classique blanc 2013est aussi tout indiqué à l’apéritif.

Référence incontestée depuis sa création en 1999, le Domaine Les Brome est un fleuron des Cantons de l’Est. Ancien banquier et professeur d’économie, Léon Courville veille sur un vignoble de près de quelque 18 hectares, en bordure du lac Brome. Son Vidal 2012 est fort agréable à l’apéritif ou en accompagnement de mets indiens. À retenir aussi, Le Courville, un très bon vin effervescent, savoureux et délicatement brioché, disponible exclusivement à la propriété.

Sélection De St Jacques 2013Classique De St Jacques 2013Domaine Les Brome Vidal 2012Domaine Les Brome Le Courville Brut 2011Vignoble De Sainte Petronille Voile De La Mariée 2012

Cet été, si vous êtes de passage dans la région de Québec, un détour par l’île d’Orléans s’impose. Les propriétaires du Vignoble Sainte-Pétronille se sont associés à ceux du restaurant Panache (Auberge Saint-Antoine, à Québec) pour établir le Panache Mobile, une roulotte adjacente à la terrasse, où les visiteurs peuvent déguster un bon verre de vin accompagné d’une « guédille » au homard, avec une vue imprenable sur les chutes Montmorency. La cuvée le Voile de la Mariée doit son nom à l’une des deux petites chutes qui bordent l’impressionnante chute Montmorency. Un très bon vin d’apéritif, vif, pimpant et juste assez aromatique.

Ontario, le leader canadien

L’Ontario demeure le numéro un canadien avec un vignoble qui couvre un peu plus de 6500 hectares (65 km2). Le secteur de Niagara représente toujours l’essentiel de la production viticole ontarienne, mais on note de très belles avancées qualitatives dans le comté de Prince Edward (PEC), où des sols argileux s’avère un atout majeur pour la culture des cépages bourguignons. Trois de mes pinots noirs favoris dégustés la semaine dernière à Penticton provenaient d’ailleurs du « County ».

À Niagara, le pinot noir donne généralement des vins plus nourris et charnus qu’à PEC, mais la qualité d’ensemble est, selon moi, moins homogène. En revanche, le chardonnay et le riesling semblent avoir trouvé un terrain de jeu rêvé dans la péninsule, donnant des vins blancs naturellement équilibrés.

Contre toutes attentes, ce n’est pas d’une variété bourguignonne qu’est née ma révélation de cette dernière semaine, mais bien d’un cépage basque : le cabernet franc. J’avais déjà été séduite par la finesse et l’élégance de ceux de Tawse, dont j’avais goûté un 2002 l’année dernière, mais j’ignorais qu’autant de domaines de Niagara s’y consacraient avec autant de succès. Les cabernets francs dégustés étaient, dans l’ensemble, plus précis, moins boisés, empreints de fraîcheur et déployaient un spectre aromatique étonnamment complexe et nuancé. À suivre!

Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay 2009Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2009Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2009Echos Tawse Chardonnay 2011Tawse Échos Riesling 2010

Né d’un partenariat entre le groupe Boisset et la société canadienne Vincor, Le Clos Jordanne est l’une des références en matière de cépages de Bourgogne. Originaire de Bourgogne, l’œnologue Sébastien Jacquey a succédé au Montréalais Thomas Bachelder, qui élabore maintenant des vins sous sa propre étiquette. alors que la qualité se manifeste même dans le vin courant de la propriété. Tous deux disponibles à la SAQ, les Chardonnay 2009 et Pinot noir 2009 de la gamme Village Reserve sont autant de bons achats pour s’initier à bon prix aux vins de Niagara.

Plus nourri que celui de Clos Jordanne, le Chardonnay 2009 de Flat Rock Cellar plaira aux amateurs de vins blancs boisés et vineux. Tout indiqué pour accompagner le homard des îles!

Tawse Winery est le joujou du financier torontois Moray Tawse, qui a construit un domaine de grande envergure à Vineland, sur les rives du lac Ontario. Le talent de vinificateur du Québécois Pascal Marchand se manifeste davantage dans les cuvées parcellaires du domaine – pinot noir et cabernet franc entre autres –, mais aussi dans le Chardonnay 2011 et le Riesling 2010 courants du domaine. Simples, mais tout à fait recommandables à moins de 25 $.

Colombie-Britannique, le désert et les montagnes

Les vins de Colombie-Britannique ont généralement une allure un peu plus nourrie, enveloppée et moderne que ceux de l’est du pays. Les vins de pinot noir tendent à ressembler à ceux de régions fraîches de Californie et les assemblages bordelais, quoique mieux équilibrés, rappellent ceux de leur voisin, dans l’État de Washington.

Depuis une quinzaine d’années cependant, la Colombie-Britannique a démontré qu’elle a un climat propice à la culture de cépages alsaciens (pinot gris, riesling, gewurztraminer ou pinot blanc). Elle en tire de bons vins blancs aromatiques et originaux, dont le marché canadien a grandement besoin.

La partie septentrionale de l’Okanagan est aussi la source de vins plus fins et délicats, issus de chardonnay, de pinot noir ou de gamay, qui donne ici d’excellents résultats. Celui d’Orofino mérite une mention spéciale!

Mais la palme de la semaine va sans la moindre hésitation à la syrah, qui nous a donné de grands moments de plaisir. Je ne peux encore vous révéler le nom des domaines les plus méritoires, mais surveillez de près le dévoilement des résultats du Canadian Wine Award. Il y a quelques bijoux à découvrir!

Nommé d’après un hibou menacé d’extinction, le domaine Burrowing Owl, situé à quelques kilomètres au nord du lac Osoyoos, est un modèle d’entreprise environnementalement responsable. Sans rien révolutionner, son Chardonnay 2011, disponible à la SAQ est un bon exemple du genre : assez gras et agréable à boire.

Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2011Osoyoos Larose Petales D' Osoyoos 2011Laughing Stock Portfolio 2011Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2011Mission Hill Riesling Reserve 2012

Également situé sur les rives du lac Osoyoos, au sud de la vallée d’Okanagan, Osoyoos-Larose est né d’un partenariat entre la canadienne Vincor et le Groupe Taillan (Gruaud-Larose, Ferrière et Chasse-Spleen, dans le Médoc). Le vignoble planté il y a une douzaine d’années – racheté en totalité par le groupe Taillan – donne maintenant de très beaux fruits. Pour en juger sans se ruiner, le Pétales d’Osoyoos 2011, second vin du domaine, offre un bon rapport qualité-prix. À savourer au cours des cinq prochaines années, en attendant le Grand Vin!

En bordure du lac Okanagan, dans le secteur prisé du Naramata Bench, les vins de David et Cynthia Enns (Laughing Stock Vineyards) jouissent d’une réputation bien méritée, du moins si l’on en juge par la qualité de Portfolio 2011, issu de cabernet sauvignon (42 %), de merlot, de malbec et de cabernet franc.

Plus au nord, installé à West Kelowna sur la rive du lac Okanagan, le vignoble de la famille Stewart célèbre cette année son 25e anniversaire. Plus que tout autre domaine de l’Okanagan, Quails’ Gate a mis beaucoup d’efforts à la mise en valeur du cépage pinot noir. Leur cuvée Dijon Clone est une référence. Impossible à trouver au Québec, mais commenté ICI par des collègues. Quoique plus modeste, le Pinot noir Family Reserve 2011 propose une interprétation moderne et fougueuse du cépage. Les rendements sont limités et le vin est élaboré dans un esprit d’élégance.

Mission Hill, le domaine d’Anthony von Mandl est l’un des piliers de la viticulture britanno-colombienne. En plus de vins rouges d’envergure, la spectaculaire winery commercialise un excellent Riesling 2012, sec frais et désaltérant. Le vin d’été par excellence!

Santé, et bonne fête du Canada !

Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 30 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de bons vins.


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES July 5th – Part One

New Zealand’s Core Strengths
by David Lawrason, with Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The collection of wines from New Zealand on the July 5 release provides a clinic on what the tiny, green land is up to these days, and we will get right to it. But first an alert that Part Two, which will focus on Spain and some fine 2010 Bordeaux, will be delayed by about 24 hours next week as Canada Day bumps a lab tasting opportunity until Thursday, July 3. We will all be playing catch up to fill in many reviews still missing at this point. And after travels in Europe and at the just-completed National Wine Awards in B.C., John Szabo will also be back with his observations and recommendations. So tune in on Friday, July 4th.

New Zealand’s successes are undeniable; with industry and export growth galloping ahead year after year. What may be less obvious is why. Sure, there are climatic and terroir conditions that have allowed  NZ to position itself in a cooler climate niche within the New World. But behind the scenes the New Zealand industry has been focused on exporting wine of the high quality rather than trying to lure fans with very cheap prices – as several other countries have done. Winemakers have gone to school in their own country, and Australia, and worked and studied abroad; while welcoming Europeans in particular to their midst.  Although rapidly exploring and developing terroirs and appellations on a local basis, they are hesitant to stamp them officially, and over-regulate. And they have kept it simple and focused in terms of a NZ brand and worked with a handful of grapes and styles that they can grow well, in contrast to tendencies of the Canadian industry that I discussed in regards to the June 21 release.

This release presents a mini-clinic on NZ’s core strengths, although not every wine is a winner. I urge you to click on all the reviews to get the full scoop before shopping.  The recommendations below from Sara and I tell the story, and we are only missing a great NZ chardonnay from to complete the picture. We have aligned on four wines.

Clos Henri 2102 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, South Island $27.75 – David Lawrason. Such is the power of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc on the global stage that is attracting investment from Henri Bourgeois, a leading producer of sauvignon blanc in Sancerre – the spiritual homeland of this grape. Having recently tasted Henri Bourgeois single vineyard bottlings from the Loire I can assure you that the NZ project has the same focus on taut, compact wines – which may be a relief to those who find Kiwi versions generally too intense. Sara d’Amato:. I’ve long admired the elegant style of Henri Bourgeois wines. The grapes on these sites in the Wairau are organically grown and produce richly flavoured wines. This sauvignon blanc is widely expressive on the nose yet remains restrained and polished on the palate. Eight months of lees stirring adds the volume, texture and complexity that makes this sauvignon stand out from the crowd.

Sileni Cellar Selection 2013 Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough, South Island ($17.95) – David Lawrason - Sileni is a frequent visitor to Vintages shelves, and I have always viewed it as competent and tasty but mid-pack in terms of quality. So perhaps it is the quality of the 2013 vintage – that all NZ is talking about – that has elevated this super bright, fruit drenched yet refined offering.

Momo 2103 Pinot Gris Marlborough, South Island $19.95 – Sara d’Amato, This playful and highly gulpable pinot gris is anything but a wallflower. It boasts wonderful concentration and plenty of succulent stone fruit that lingers memorably on the finish. The Momo range of wines are sourced from three of Seresin’s biodynamically farmed vineyards and generally offer very good value. David Lawrason:  NZ Pinot Gris is all in the eye of the beholder, as different winemakers sculpt this malleable variety into something unformed that captures what the winemaker likes and what he or she thinks “the consumer” likes. But I sense, as witnessed by this example, that they are trending toward a ripe, fruit, perhaps marginally sweet style as opposed to light crisp pinot grigio. This is very successful, a great chillable summer white.

Lawson’s Dry Hills 2011 Gewürztraminer Marlborough, South Island  ($17.95) – David Lawrason.  This gets a borderline recommendation. I want you to know that NZ may be the most consistently good gewurz producer outside of Alsace, because here ripeness and opulence matter. There is even a winery called Vinoptima that makes nothing but gewurz in NZ. This example certainly catches the style, although I would rather have seen a 2012 or 2013 vintage that really blooms. Still, it is very much worth a go for gewurz fans, and Lawson is a bit of a specialist.

Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2012Sileni Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2013Momo Pinot Gris 2013Lawson's Dry Hills Gewürztraminer 2011Clos Henri Bel Echo Terroir Greywacke Pinot Noir 2012Staete Landt Paladin Pinot Noir 2010

Clos Henri 2012 Bel Echo Terroir Greywacke Pinot Noir, Marlborough, South Island ($28.95) – David Lawrason – I am intrigued by NZ pinot and am still working on an essay that purports there are already at least 20 fairly distinct appellations.  The upper Wairau Valley with it’s ‘greywacke” soils – a variety of sandstone that is hard, dark “grey” color, and contains quartz, feldspar and small rock fragments – is the soil involved here. And as with Clos Henri’s sauvignons, this house is all about the rocks. A superb pinot awaits folks – don’t balk, don’t walk, run to get some. Sara d’Amato: The vineyard for this wine is in a small, stony corner of Clos Henri’s property. It produces a wine with very good aromatic intensity, terrific definition, mineral, verve and purity of fruit.  The price certainly does not reflect its premium character.

Staete Landt 2010 Paladin Pinot Noir, Marlborough, South Island ($36.95) – David Lawrason: The organic/biodynamic movement has strong support in NZ, and Netherlands-born winemaker Ruud Maasdam has been a leading voice since starting Staete Landt in 2000.  Staete Landt, by the way, was the name given to New Zealand by explorer Abel Tasman in the 17th C. – a rather unimaginative moniker that translates as “land of the governor”.  Anyway, this pinot is far from dull; it’s uplifted, vibrant and elegant, all in one breath. And it’s where NZ can go and is going with pinot.

Other Whites

Talamonti Trabocchetto Pecorino 2012Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2012Vina Robles 2012 Sauvignon BlancVina Robles Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Paso Robles, California ($19.50) - Sara D’Amato- A lovely, slightly smoky and leesy sauvignon blanc with a great deal more complexity than you generally find in a new world version of this classic Loire varietal. Vina Robles is known for its European, old world inspired styles but this example also highlights exceptional California fruit.

Hamilton Russell 2012 Chardonnay, Wo Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa ($32.95) David Lawrason -  It’s a bit old school, but this is profound, attention-grabbing, brilliant chardonnay. Anthony Hamilton Russell, along with Peter Finlayson of Bouchard Finlayson were the founding pioneers in the Hemel-en-Aarde appellation (Heaven and Earth) in coastal Walker Bay. He is meticulous and totally quality oriented, making wines with structure and complexity above all. If you would pay $33 for white Burgundy, California or Canadian chardonnay, you will be shocked by the value here.

Talamonti Trabocchetto 2012 Pecorino, Igp Colline Pescaresi, Abruzzo, Italy ($15.95) – Sara D’Amato.  This lovely pecorino is a perfect summer treat for those looking for something a little different. If you are used to sipping on pinot grigio or sauvignon blanc, you’ll likely find this more intriguing. Pecorino is known for its intriguingly complex nose and relatively low yields compared its widely planted neighbor, Trebbiano. The wine offers enticing aromas of peach, flint, white flower and green apple with a delicately refreshing palate. David Lawrason – Not much more detail required here – this may be the best white value of the release.

Other Reds

Red Rooster Reserve Meritage 2011Redstone Vineyard Reserve Cabernet Franc 2010Red Rooster 2011 Reserve Meritage, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada, $24.95 (366187) – Sara d’ Amato - Having just returned from the Okanagan judging the 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada, I wanted to highlight a rare Okanagan find (at least on the shelves of the LCBO). Perched on the Naramata Bench, this red Bordelaise blend has been deftly crafted by talented winemaker Karen Gillis whose fresh approach has garnered international acclaim.

Redstone 2010 Reserve Cabernet Franc, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore ($29.95) David Lawrason Redstone is a new property owned by Moray Tawse. It is in the Beamsville area but as the vineyards are lower below the bench it wears the Lincoln Lakeshore appellation. Having just tasted many Canadian cab francs at the 2014 National Wine Awards I can tell you styles vary widely, as winemakers search for a groove between serious and fresh styles. This falls in the middle.  I was intrigued to note that guest NWAC judge Jamie Goode, was more enthused by Cdn cab franc than we homegrown critics.

Château Los Boldos Vieilles Vignes Syrah 2011Hidden Bench 2010 Terroir Caché MeritageHidden Bench Terroir Caché 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula $38.20.  David Lawrason: I have always been intrigued by the dogged determination of Hidden Bench owner Harald Thiel to make super-premium red Niagara “Bordeaux” blends, even more so on his cooler Beamsville Bench sites.  This assembles merlot, cab franc, cab sauvignon and malbec in a vintage that was ripe and warm and gave these varietals a fighting chance. Although I am not for a minute suggesting you should open it now, this has the density, stuffing and tension that might make one a believer.

Château Los Boldos 2011 Vieilles Vignes Syrah Single Vineyard, Cachapoal Andes, Chile ($18.95) David Lawrason – Until 2008 Chateau Los Boldos was a family-owned 190-ha property in the Andean foothills of Cachapoal. That year it was purchased by the giant (red wine focused) Sogrape company of Portugal. Syrah was certainly not among the old vines at the property compared to the cabernet dating from the 40s and 50s. But this still has all the earmarks of lush, vibrant particularly Chilean syrah. And at this price syrah fans can’t afford not to take a look.

That’s a wrap for this week. Again, please stay tuned for Part Two on July 4th, and meanwhile enjoy some upcoming reading next week when Steve Thurlow reports on 20 Under 20 values at the LCBO and Julian Hitner provides a primer for Bordeaux-lovers on the under-appreciated Haut-Medoc region.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES June 21st release:

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Selections
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!



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20 bons vins à moins de 20$ pour juin

Les choix de notre équipe du Québec

C’est bien beau, les bouteilles dispendieuses qui font vibrer d’émotion, mais au jour le jour, avec tous les autres comptes à payer par ailleurs, on a la plupart du temps envie de se faire plaisir avec de bons vins pas trop chers. Ça tombe bien ! À chaque fin de mois, nos chroniqueurs vous suggèrent 20 bonnes affaires à moins de 20 $ parmi les bouteilles qu’ils ont goûtées récemment. Santé !


Les choix de Rémy Charest

Vous voulez sortir – confortablement – des sentiers battus? Pourquoi ne pas jeter un coup d’oeil du côté des blancs du sud-ouest de la France, qui offrent un bel équilibre entre fraîcheur et gras en bouche. Le Chant des vignes 2013 du Domaine Cauhapé, un des domaines les plus connus de la région, est un exemple parfait de ce style fait pour la table – et l’été.

Une petite délégation de producteurs sud-africains était de passage au Québec, récemment, ce qui a donné une belle occasion de (re)goûter des cuvées bien faites – et vendues à bon prix. Le chenin blanc est une des réussites de l’Afrique du Sud vinicole, et le Petit Chenin 2013 de Ken Forrester, un des grands partisans du cépage, offre un vrai beau rapport qualité-prix, avec des arômes nets et une belle vivacité.

Également d’Afrique du Sud, le Wolftrap 2013 est un rouge qui impressionne constamment.Un assemblage inhabituel (syrah, mourvèdre, viognier) où l’on ne trouve absolument aucune trace de ces arômes brûlés que certains pensent encore omniprésents dans les rouges de ce pays (ce n’est pas le cas).

Domaine Cauhapé Chant Des Vignes Jurançon Sec 2013Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2013The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvèdre Viognier 2013Les Jardins De BagatelleMark West Pinot Noir 2012

Le fruité, l’épice, le caractère mûr et la fraîcheur: quand tous ces éléments sont présents, les vins du Languedoc sont parmi les belles aubaines de la planète-vin. Cette cuvée d’entrée de gamme du Clos de Bagatelle (Les Jardins De Bagatelle 2012), domaine bien connu au Québec, répond bien à cette description.

Vous avez besoin de rouge pour vos grillades estivales? D’accord, mais faut-il vraiment choisir des grosses bêtes boisées? Pourquoi pas un pinot noir avec un fruité bien rond et bien mûr, capable de bien enrober un steak, mais sans vous envoyer un coup de deux par quatre dans le front ou de vous endormir avec un taux d’alcool élevé? Rafraîchissez le un peu, et profitez-en en toute simplicité. (Mark West Pinot Noir 2012)

Les choix de Marc Chapleau

En blanc d’abord, puisque l’été, on n’en sort pas, c’est plus que jamais la saison pour ce type de vin, j’ai d’abord retenu un chardonnay californien. Et dire qu’il y a un temps, je sais, où tout le monde se faisait une gloire de boire « ABC » – Anything but Chardonnay… Il faut croire que les Californiens ont changé leur approche, comme en témoigne ce Chardonnay Wente Morning Fog 2012 boisé et généreux, sans lourdeur aucune.

Changement de cap, toujours en blanc, on se dirige cette fois vers la France et vers la Bourgogne, plus précisément. Mais on ne parlera pas de chardonnay, étonnamment. Car on cultive aussi là-bas le sauvignon blanc. Et avec un certain succès, comme en témoigne le Sauvignon Blanc St-Bris 2012 Bailly-Lapierre, légèrement miellé tout en étant bien rafraîchissant.

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2012 Bailly Lapierre Saint -Bris 2012Hoya De Cadenas Reserva 2009Pascual Toso Malbec Limited Edition 2012Christian Moueix Merlot 2010

En rouge maintenant, trois vins à servir frais – en cette saison, le frigo ou le seau à glace est pratiquement obligatoire – et qui accompagneront sans problème à peu près toutes les viandes grillées, qu’elles soient blanches, rouges, bleues ou rosées…

D’abord, d’Espagne et à base de tempranillo (aussi le principal cépage du rioja), le Hoya de Cadenas Reserva 2009 a un engageant nez de raisins secs et de tabac, et s’il n’est pas très concentré, il compense par une bonne fraîcheur.

Moi qui d’ordinaire ne suis pas très malbec, j’ai été charmé par le Malbec Édition Limitée 2012 Pascual Toso, d’Argentine, marqué par la prune bien mûre mais aussi floral, tandis qu’en bouche, l’ensemble est à la fois corsé et rafraîchissant.

Enfin, de Bordeaux, une région qu’il est si facile de snober… je recommande à tous les amateurs en quête d’un bon rouge « classique » d’aller vers le Merlot 2010 Christian Moueix, au boisé et au fruité bien mariés.

Les choix de Nadia Fournier

Remisez vos bouteilles de Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Ribera del Duero et shiraz de Barossa jusqu’à l’automne. Pendant la période estivale, on mange plus léger et on boit plus léger ! Très bon vin blanc d’apéritif, juste assez aromatique, gras et tonique tout à la fois, La Segreta bianco 2013 de la maison Planeta présente une délicate amertume en finale, qui appelle un second verre.

Le rosé de Michel Gassier (Buti Nages Vin Rosé 2013) a rajeuni son image il y a deux ans, mais la qualité est restée inchangée. À défaut de la retenue et de la subtilité des bons rosés de Provence, on appréciera son volume en bouche et son fruité croquant.

Planeta La Segreta 2013Buti Nages Vin Rosé 2013Umani Ronchi Medoro 2012Argiolas Costera 2010Alvear Amontillado

Exemple même du bon vin de trattoria, que l’on boit simplement, en mangeant une pizza margherita ou un plat de pâtes tomate et basilic, le Umani Ronchi, Sangiovese 2012 Medoro, Marche est souple, savoureux et plein de vigueur. Tout ça à prix d’aubaine !

Plus charnu, mais sans la moindre lourdeur, le Argiolas, Costera 2010 Cannonau di Sardegna offre une interprétation aussi gourmande que juteuse du cépage grenache, appelé cannonau en Sardaigne. Avec des saucisses grillées… Miam!

34 grammes de sucre ne nuisent en rien à l’équilibre et au caractère digeste du Alvear, Amontillado Medium dry. Les saveurs de fumée, d’épices, de fruits secs et de tabac sont portées par une texture onctueuse qui le rend particulièrement agréable à la fin du repas avec des fromages puissants.

Les choix de Bill Zacharkiw

Juillet rime avec vacances et, espérons-le, avec temps chaud. C’est aussi la saison des légumes frais, des fruits de mer et, bien sûr, des grillades ! Je suis personnellement amateur de bulles et de rosé, alors pourquoi ne pas s’offrir un 2 pour 1, cette fin de semaine ? Je pense au Brut rosé Segura Viudas, d’Espagne, un cava sec, savoureux et d’une étonnante finesse, compte tenu de son prix.

J’ai choisi pour vous deux blancs très rafraîchissants, qui conviendront tant à l’apéritif qu’avec les salades et les fruits de mer. D’abord, le Vinho Verde Quinto do Minho 2013, très classique avec ses notes d’agrumes et son côté pétillant. Puis, de la Rioja, le Genoli Ijalba 2013 élaboré à partir de viura : peu de vins vendus à ce prix font preuve d’un tel croquant dans les saveurs.

Segura Viudas Lavit BrutQuinta Do Minho Loureiro 2013Ijalba Genoli Viura 2013Domaine La Rocalière Lirac 2011Capezzana Barco Reale Di Carmignano 2011

Mes deux choix en rouge sont des vins de party, à boire frais et à trimballer avec soi un peu partout. Le Lirac Domaine de la Rocalière 2011 est biologique, non boisé et superbement équilibré. Autre vin passe-partout, le Barco Reale di Carmignano Capezzana 2011 sera un compagnon de choix pour les mixed grill.

Santé !

Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 30 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de grands vins!


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20 under $20 for June

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

Ah yes, the end of the month. It’s the time when we pay for our excesses over the previous weeks. Well, fear not, this doesn’t mean that you still can’t drink well. Our four critics have chosen for you their favourite five under $20 wines that they have recently tasted. No cash? Still thirsty? No problem! Here’s June’s version of the 20 under 20.


Bill Zacharkiw’s Picks

We’re heading into July and that means holiday time and hopefully some hot weather. It’s also the time for fresh vegetables, seafood and of course, grilling things! I’m big on both bubbles and rosé, so why not get the holiday weekend off with a 2 for 1, and the superb Brut rosé from Segura Viudas. Like all of their Cavas, it’s dry, flavourful and with a “finesse for the price” ratio that’s off the charts.

I picked two very fresh whites that both work well as aperitifs, as well as with salads and lighter seafood. First up is  Quinto do Minho’s 2013 Vinho Verde – classic in it’s citrus and spritz. The second is from Rioja, and Ijalba’s 2013 Genoli. Made with 100% Viura, few wines at this price level show such crispness and flavour.

Segura Viudas Lavit BrutQuinta Do Minho Loureiro 2013Ijalba Genoli Viura 2013Domaine La Rocalière Lirac 2011Capezzana Barco Reale Di Carmignano 2011

My two red selections are both party wines that you can keep cool and pack back with abandon. Domaine la Rocaliere’s Lirac is organic, unoaked, and beautifully balanced. If you want a wine that shows great versatility, then Capezzana’s Barco Reale di Carmignano is my choice for the mixed grill.

Rémy Charest’s Picks

Looking to comfortably go off the beaten path? How about a white from the French Southwest where the wines show great balance between fresh and rich. The 2013 Chant des Vignes from Domaine Cauhapé, one of Jurançon’s most reputed producers, is a perfect example of the style, and ideal for light summer meals.

Some South African producers rolled into Eastern Canada recently, and it was a good occasion to taste some solid, well-made and well-priced wines. Chenin blanc is one of the stars of that country’s winemaking world, and Ken Forrester is one of the grape’s most avid supporters. His 2013 Petit Chenin is a great value with its bright flavours and zippy character.

Also from South Africa, The Wolftrap 2013 is a red that impresses year after year. This blend of syrah, mourvèdre and viognier shows no hint of those burnt aromas that some wine lovers still believe is a “signature” of South African wines. It’s not, and it’s worth trying this wine to perhaps get a fresh perspective on the country’s wines.

Domaine Cauhapé Chant Des Vignes Jurançon Sec 2013Ken Forrester Petit Chenin Blanc 2013The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvèdre Viognier 2013Les Jardins De BagatelleMark West Pinot Noir 2012

Fruity aromas and spice, ripeness and freshness: when all these elements come together, Languedoc wines present some of the best deals around. This entry-level red from Clos de Bagatelle, a producer who’s been present for a long time in Québec, hits all the right notes. (Les Jardines de Bagatelle 2012)

So you want a red that’ll stand up to your summer grilling? Does it really need to be big and oaky? How about a pinot noir with ample fruit that can stand up to your steak, but without beating you over the head with oak and high alcohol? Chill this just a bit, and enjoy. (Mark West 2012 Pinot Noir)

Marc Chapleau’s Picks

No argument that this is the season for drinking white, so I’m going to start with a Californian chardonnay. I know there was a time when many people were members of the ABC (Anything but Chardonnay) club. Those days are gone and California has changed its approach to chardonnay, and this new style is well exemplified by Wente’s 2012 Morning Fog ChardonnayRich and well oaked, but not at all heavy.

Changing direction, but still in white, let’s go to France and specifically Burgundy. But surprisingly, I’m not going to suggest a chardonnay. There is also a small amount of very good sauvignon blanc grown in the region,  as you can taste for yourself in Bailly-Lapierre’s 2012 St-Bris.

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2012 Bailly Lapierre Saint -Bris 2012Hoya De Cadenas Reserva 2009Pascual Toso Malbec Limited Edition 2012Christian Moueix Merlot 2010

This is the season when a fridge and an ice bucket are a necessity. Here are three red wines to serve slightly chilled, and will easily pair with almost everything you throw onto the grill, whether they be white, red or pink.

Well start in Spain and the tempranillo based Hoya de Cadenas 2009 Reserva. It has an alluring nose of raisins and tobacco, and while not extremely concentrated, it more than makes up for it in freshness.

While I am not usually a fan of malbec, I was charmed by the Argentine Pascual Toso 2012 Malbec Limited Edition. Floral aromatics, notes of dark plums and shows both great power and freshness on the palate.

Finally, from Bordeaux, a region which is all too easy to discount, I recommend to all those wine lovers who are looking for a traditional Bordeaux, where fruit and oak are married to perfection, to try Christian Moueix’s 2010 Merlot

Nadia Fournier’s Picks

Put away your bottles of  Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Ribera del Duero and Barossa shiraz until Fall. It’s summer, when we eat and drink much lighter. If you’re looking for a very good white wine for an aperitif, try Planeta’s 2013 Segreta Bianco, where a delicate bitterness on the finish begs you to take another sip.

Umani Ronchi’s 2012 Medoro Sangiovese is a great example of the classic “vino di trattoria,” a simple wine which matches perfectly with a “Pizza Margherita,” or a plate of pasta with tomato and fresh basil. Supple, flavourful and full of energy, and a bargain at $13.

Planeta La Segreta 2013Buti Nages Vin Rosé 2013Umani Ronchi Medoro 2012Argiolas Costera 2010Alvear Amontillado

Much richer, but equally fresh, is Argiolas’ 2010 Cannonau di Sardegna which shows both the seductively rich and juicy side of the grenache, which is called cannonau in Sardinia. Just try it with grilled sausages, yumm!

34 grams of residual sugar does nothing to take away from the balance and drinkability of Alvear’s Medium Dry Amontillado. Aromas of dried fruits, spice, smoke and tobacco are followed by a rich an unctuous texture, which make it an ideal match for a powerful cheese at the end of any meal.

Michel Gassier changed direction stylistically with his rosés two years ago, but the high quality has remained, Instead of a wine that shows that subtlety of the Provencal style, Gassier’s Buti Nages Vin Rosé 2013 can be appreciated for it’s rich texture and crunchy fruit.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to Chacun son vin see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Prince Edward County’s New Releases Kicked off at County in the City

The Ontario Wine Report
By Sara d’Amato, with notes from David Lawrason

Prince Edward County continues to make waves in the Ontario wine scene, and its burgeoning wine region is being brought to light by unique, innovative events which include everything from art festivals to marathons to cheese festivals. This year WineAlign even ran a sold-out bus tour to the Terroir festival in Picton in May (pictures posted on Facebook)

I got my in-depth look at new releases at this year’s 3rd annual “County in the City” event held in late April at one of Toronto’s most chic and bohemian of event spaces, the Berkeley Cathedral on Queen East. It drew hundreds of local trade and Torontonians to experience over 100 wines from Ontario’s fastest growing wine region.

To give you an idea of how fast that growth actually is, the LCBO has almost tripled its selections since 2008, having gone from 20 Prince Edward County products on the shelves to 78. Sales from that period have also increased an amazing 1000% from a mere $661,471 in 2008 to now over $7 million in net sales at the LCBO.

Despite the region becoming a growing tourist destination and the LCBO stocking more and more product from the area, I still hear, all to often, “yes, Prince Edward County, where exactly is that?” So, for those in the need to know, let me regale you with more than just the physical location.

PEC Map“The County”, as it’s called, is Ontario’s most northern VQA appellation, and lies at a latitude of 44 degrees, well within the 30-50 band where grapes thrive. In fact, this is the same latitude of Bordeaux and within a mere stone’s throw of the 44-degree line lies Tuscany. For those of you who may find it hard to make it to the County without longitude to guide you, the region is situated just south of the town of Belleville toward the eastern end of Lake Ontario. It is located on a virtual island cut off from the mainland by a canal that connects the Bay of Quinte to Lake Ontario. It is about a 2.5-hour drive from Toronto, and about 3 from Ottawa.

The County is a sandy, beachy place with over 500 miles of shoreline (due to its many bays and inlets). And not only beach-goers benefit from this shoreline, but grapes do to – the lake provides a moderating effect on the climate, giving the region a long and cool growing season. The slow, long maturation of grapes is ideal for wine production, although that is not the only element of terroir that makes this place unique and appropriate for wine growing.

Most of the vineyards in the County were planted a mere 10 years ago or less. The quality they are producing at such a young age is indicative of a bright future. Pinot noir and chardonnay are making the biggest waves, and not surprisingly so given the conditions and the soil. The soils are very special here and quite different from those in Niagara. A bedrock of limestone topped by gravelly clay makes for excellent drainage in these mineral-rich soils. This drainage is key to wicking away moisture in the rainy spring, and forces the roots of the vines to dig deep to find ground water in the hot summer months. The faster and deeper those roots penetrate the ground; the more hardy the plants become and will hence produce better quality. Burgundy is home to both pinot noir and chardonnay and its soils are uncannily similar to those of the County.

CountyIf there was one thing I came away with from this year’s County in the City it is that these wines are becoming fierce competition in the Ontario premium wine drinking market. The leaps and bounds in quality are extraordinary. If you haven’t tasted wines from the County in even a few years, it’s time for another go.

Due to rather harsh winter conditions, it is not easy or inexpensive to make wine in the County, especially with young vines. It is labor intensive and premium price tags are more common than not. Boutique wineries producing high-quality juice are the niche of the region. The exploding wine community, with now just over 30 wineries, offers a great deal to explore.

Without further ado, I would like to share with you a selection of some of the many standouts among new releases at this year’s County in the City:

Casa Dea 2011 Riesling ($16.95) – Although many wineries in the County produce at least one wine made from Niagara fruit or wine partially sourced from Niagara fruit, Casa Dea produces only wines sourced 100% from their two estate vineyards in the County. A great indication of the quality of a wine is graceful maturation and this riesling is headed down this path. This dramatic wine is full of exquisite tension and a great deal of classic mineral feel and flavour – it is just beginning to exhibit an aged petrol character.

Lighthall 2012 Progression Sparkling Vidal ($20.00) – Vidal is a wonderfully hardy variety and is a grape that most Ontario producers can feel confident growing without fear of winter damage. Although most notably producing our sweet icewines and late harvests, this vidal is unusually dry and refreshing with creamy bubbles and a widely appealing palate. Having poured this for a multitude of test audiences now, you can be confident of its appeal and very happy about its price.

Rosehall Run 2011 Cuvée County Cabernet Franc ($24.95) – Rosehall Run wines have almost as much personality as their exuberant co-owners Dan and Lynn Sullivan. I have long been an admirer of the Cuvée County cabernet franc and the 2011 is no disappointment. A product of sustainable winemaking, the cabernet franc features delightful refreshment without sacrificing ripeness.

Huff Estates 2010 South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay Ontario ($29.95) – Huff Estates made the right decision in minimizing the oak influence on this lovely County chardonnay allowing the fruit, acidity and mineral to really surface. A chardonnay with world-class appeal but shows the timeless elegance that the region is so easily capable of producing now.

Keint-He 2012 Portage Chardonnay ($20.00) – Chardonnay is undoubtedly a strength of the County and this is fine example from a producer who prides itself on emulating Burgundian style pinot noir is an amazing find for $20. In case you’re wondering, as I was, as to the origin of the name Keint-He, it was the name of one of the four Seneca villages of the region. The Senecas were a native tribe of the Iroquois (one of five) whose name was francocized into Quinte of which the Bay of Quinte was named.

Norman Hardie 2012 County Unfiltered Pinot Noir ($35.00) – No wonder Norm Hardie is considered to be the pioneer of high quality pinot production in the County. This silky, brambly, expressive and complex pinot noir is one that had my adjective usage a-flowing. This is a wine that everyone can appreciate on one level or another.

David Lawrason’s White Wine Picks

Although pinot noir is the County’s calling card, many of the most interesting new releases so far this year are white wines, specifically pinot gris and chardonnay – both Burgundian cousins to pinot noir. I was impressed by several samples that seem to be showing more depth and complexity as vineyards mature. Check out full reviews on six of the most interesting by clicking the links below.

Grange Of Prince Edward Estate Pinot Gris 2012

Lacey Estates Pinot Gris Rose 2013

Exultet Pinot Grigio 2013

Norman Hardie Unfiltered County Chardonnay 2012

Long Dog Bella Riserva Chardonnay 2010

Redtail Vineyard Chardonnay 2012

Ontario’s Emerging Wine Regions: The South Coast

South Coast wineIn other news, John Szabo learns of quite possibly the first wine produced in Canada, and certainly the first in the proposed Viticultural Area called South Coast. If accepted, South Coast, an area centred around Norfolk County and the town of Port Dover on the shores of Lake Erie, would become Ontario’s fourth official wine region. He examines the region’s strengths and weaknesses, and muses on the similarities between merlot and Palm trees.

Read more

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

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