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Two International Competitions, One Goal: Find the Best Wines

by Treve RingAugust 29, 2015


This week’s trip east to judge at the World Wine Awards of Canada (WWAC) in Toronto reminds me of another trip east I took this past spring, skipping over Toronto by double and on to London, to judge at the International Wine Challenge (IWC).

Treve RingBoth competitions are based on the same basic guidelines: bring experienced tasters together for a multi-day blind tasting and evaluation, whittling down the top international wines. While our WWAC is a respectable size (just under 1000 entries in 2015, spread over 4.5 days and 16 judges), we’re a drop in the spit bucket of what is tasted at the IWC. The IWC, now in its 33rd year, is so massive it is split into two parts, two tranches, dividing the volume of entries between spring and fall. For the 2015 year there were more than 14,000 entries. The spring session of judging (Tranche 2) was spread over two weeks and between 358 judges. 22 panels judged per day, and each panel consisted of 1 panel chair, 1 senior judge, 2 judges, 1 associate judge, and the five co-chairs that oversee it all, totalling 115 judges daily.

Held in high regard around the world, the IWC goes head-to-head with the Decanter World Wine Awards, interestingly enough held in London the week following the IWC in the spring. Also of note is the fact there is little crossover of judges between the two competitions. Finding folks that judge in both was an exception, certainly not the norm, and predetermined as much by time commitments as alliances.

While the principle is shared between WWAC and IWC – find the best wines – the procedure varies considerably between the two competitions. At WWAC, the national judging team is a tight, cohesive core of 12 or so, with a roster of floating WineAlign associate judges who we welcome back annually. We taste seated, in small panels of 3-4 led by a senior panel captain. Flighted wines are brought out to us poured and ready to go.


At the IWC, the sheer volume (47 countries submitted wines!) dictates an entirely different set up for space requirements and efficiency. The group of judges changes daily, though panel leaders, judges who are recognized global experts and experienced IWC tasters, are constant for the two weeks. You meet your panel of 6-8 in the morning, and head to your marked tables where bottles are wrapped, taped and labelled for us to pour our own samples. We taste standing, with clipboards. Roving back room staff clear bottles as panels finish and move to an adjacent table and begin again.

Entries come from all around the world, grouped by variety (e.g. Tempranillo) or region and style (e.g. Portuguese White Wines). Of course, the IWC has access to thousands more wines and London is the wine centre of the universe, so the diversity of wines, regions and styles is outstanding.


With both competitions, judges taste individually, and then briefly discuss, led by the panel head. We look for consistency in scoring, and where there is discrepancy, the wine is retasted and debated to consensus. Here is where a skilled panel leader comes in handy, guiding the best wines through to the next round. I was exceptionally fortunate to have excellent panel chairs for my first crack at these two competitions: WineAlign’s David Lawrason at the WWAC years ago and Jamie Goode (honourary international WineAlign member) and Jim Harré (NZ winemaker, consultant and international wine judge) for my first IWC days this spring.

IMG_1478We taste somewhere around 80-90 wines each day, in both competitions, bringing back the most promising wines for retasting in final rounds. Fortunately, both competitions provide our full tasting notes and scores to us, allowing us to reference the wines we tasted blind. I always make notes when I’m judging if I’m curious about a wine, guessing and testing myself along the way if I think I recognize region or more. This year at the IWC I nailed one particular wine and producer, having tasted it and enjoyed it immensely just a few weeks earlier.

But of course, that’s just a geeky plus. Blind tasting is about learning and raising your own level of tasting skill by tasting with different palates. These two competitions, in their own scale and breadth, are a carefully executed skilled exercise to find the right wines, elevate the profile of these wineries and direct consumers to informed purchases.

The results of the 2015 International Wine Challenge are found here.

The results of the 2015 World Wine Awards of Canada will be released this fall.



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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Sept 5, Part One

Fudging Sweetness: Notes from the New World
By David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Without VINTAGES having a specific theme for the Sept 5 catalogue, we have decided to create our own themes for this release.  I make some New World recommendations this week, while John will lead off with European wines next week. That sounded like a straightforward assignment until I came to actually search for my best buy values. While I found some excellent whites, I discovered that there was only one New World red that makes the cut – the good ole’ Faithful Hound from South Africa. The dearth of value picks is partially explained by the fact there are no Australian reds being released, which is very odd. As well, there are only a handful of South American and South African reds. But the real reason for the absence of New World red values rests squarely on the strong core of American wines.

There are 15 American reds on the release – from California, Oregon and Washington. And there are some excellent wines, which Sara has pointed out. But none make my value cut because their prices are high (perhaps thanks to the weak Canadian dollar) and in many cases their quality suffers because of excessive sweetness.

Sweetness in lower priced/commercial American reds is nothing new. Most California reds on the LCBO’s general list have some perceptible sweetness. But I am discouraged that it is creeping into more expensive wines, and moving from California into Washington, in particular, and even into Oregon’s pinot noirs. Let alone into other countries.

It is obvious that American consumers, and many Canadian consumers for that matter, like sweet reds. They sell very well. I have always believed in the idea that ‘there is no wrong or right about what wines you like’; but as a critic who is supposed to be providing an objectively derived opinion on quality, it’s clear to me that excessive sweetness lowers quality – just as excessive alcohol, acidity or tannin lowers quality. It is a question of imbalance, of sweetness making the wines too thick, soft and soupy. They miss that key element of refreshment that underlies all great table wines and makes any wine “drinkable” through more than a few sips. It can also dumb down or mask varietal and regional expression.

It really is a matter of how sweet is sweet on a wine by wine basis. I am in the lucky position of being able to examine this wine by wine, but most consumers are not. There is usually no label indication that there is sweetness/sugar in red wines; one has to read into code words on back labels like ‘smooth’, ‘velvety’ and ‘fruity”. Why isn’t the industry brave and honest enough to call them what they are – sweet reds? Because the industry knows people like sweetness but would rather be perceived to be drinking dry (perhaps because we know a balanced dry wine is better?).

Eleven of the 15 American wines in VINTAGES catalogue are categorized on the LCBO’s official Perceived Sweetness Scale as D or Dry. The other four are categorized as Extra Dry. Which I guess means that Dry doesn’t really mean dry. In any event, in 13 of the 15 reds – including those labeled as Extra Dry – I perceived some sweetness – from the egregious sweetness of Conundrum, to more subtle sweetness in a wine like the very good Hess Select Cabernet (at $24.95 the only one to come close to being recommended on value). The two wines that taste clearly dry are the great Ridge 2012 Montebello ($190) and Grgich Hills 2012 Zinfandel ($49.95), but neither are good value. The LCBO often lists the actual grams of sugar per litre on their shelf tags and on their website, if you want to dig a little deeper.

Here are our picks:

California and New World Reds

Chateau Montelena 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, ($70.95)
Hess Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2012 Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Sara d’Amato – Although this traditional beauty has seen a considerable increase in price over the past year, it has not faltered in its characteristic refinement and elegance. This very old world style evokes the delicacy of the wines of Margaux on Bordeaux’s left bank. If you’re thinking along this vein then the price might seem just right.

Ridge Vineyards 2012 Monte Bello, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, ($190.95)
Sara d’Amato – There is no great value here but Ridge’s Monte Bello site, located in the upper elevations of the Santa Cruz Mountains, consistently produces stunning results. Its cooler site gives the wine unusual elegance, a distinctly mineral component and a savory tartness that provides both energy to the palate and great potential longevity.

Hess Select 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendocino/Lake/Napa Counties, California, ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – This the best value of the Californians in this VINTAGES release and a consumer favourite. I especially appreciated the honesty, generosity and the dry, un-manipulated feel of this solid find.

The Hilt 2012 The Vanguard Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, California, ($64.95)
Swartland Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2013 Mulderbosch Faithful Hound 2012 The Hilt The Vanguard Pinot Noir 2012Sara d’Amato – Santa Rita Hills is a very special place for cool climate varietals, in particular, pinot noir. The vineyards are in relative close proximity to the ocean that blows in cool breezes and sweeping fog. This climatic influence gives the grapes of this southerly region freshness and delicacy. Dried leaf, musk and peppery spice enhance the juicy cherry fruit on the palate of this old world inspired but distinctly southern Californian pinot noir.

Mulderbosch 2012 Faithful Hound, Western Cape, South Africa ($20.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very impressive, dense and complex blend of six Bordeaux varieties with cab sauv and franc adding up to 50%. It is certainly ripe but it has impressive tension, complexity and depth at this price; with some Cape granitic minerality and herbaceousness. A classic example of the Old World-New World yin & yang of many South African reds.

Swartland Winery 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot, South Africa($12.95)
Sara d’Amato – Who doesn’t love the combination of cheap and delicious? I can’t imagine that this will last long on the shelves so be sure to pick up in multiples this clean, natural feeling, and well-made Bordeaux blend from a winery known for their extensive bush vine plantings.

Ontario & New World Whites

Cave Spring 2013 Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($15.95)

Flat Rock 2013 Riesling

Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2013 Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2013David Lawrason – This is a fine vintage of one of Niagara’s best on-going examples of this distinctively aromatic chardonnay clone. Expect fairly generous floral, lemongrass, lychee-melon and anise on the nose. It’s medium bodied, well-balanced, warm and quite powerful – a great choice for a late summer garden dinner.
Sara d’Amato – Chardonnay musqué is a clone that gives a unique flavour profile to the resulting wine of flowery muscat. This light and fresh example delivers lovely tension from vibrant acids and an elegant mineral component. Drink up – this might just make summer last a little longer!

Hidden Bench 2013 Chardonnay, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($28.95)
David Lawrason – For the past seven vintages Hidden Bench’s “basic non-single vineyard chardonnay” has achieved a 90-point WineAlign rating. This could be the best yet, from a great white wine vintage in Niagara. It is textbook premium Niagara chardonnay – very refined, solid and complex with the ability to age. It has become too easy perhaps to call chardonnay like this Burgundian; but it truly does have a core and elegance mindful of a fine example from the key villages of the Cote de Beaune.

Flat Rock 2014 Riesling, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($16.95)
David Lawrason – A stunning riesling and a heck of a good deal – this tense, nervy, mid-weight style delivers tingling vibrancy to the palate which balances its just off-dry character. One of my favourite vintages yet of this consistently good quality find.

Henry Of Pelham 2013 Estate Chardonnay, Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)
KWV The Mentors Chenin Blanc 2014 Te Whare Ra Toru 2014 Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2013David Lawrason – Yet another lovely and nicely priced 2013 Niagara chardonnay! It is silky yet poised with well integrated, subtle and complex flavours of ripe yellow pear, butter, almond, toast and vanilla cream. It will equally comfortable as a sipping style, or with grilled white meat dished.

Te Whare Ra 2014 Toru, Marlborough, New Zealand ($24.95)
David Lawrason – I am not a big fan of aromatic blended whites. Most of them are toss offs to use up spare batches of cheaper wine. So you might at first glance think this rather expensive for a blend. But there is a difference here. It is an organically grown, single vineyard blend of three varieties – gewürztraminer, riesling and pinot gris – that have been co-fermented (not combined after the fact). So not only is it fragrant and well balanced, it has a real sense of integration and completeness.

KWV 2014 The Mentors Chenin Blanc, Paarl, South Africa ($29.95)
David Lawrason – The Mentor’s series are the top wines in the KWV range – changing from year to year, but always sourced from the best older vine sites in this large company’s portfolio of vineyards. This oaked chenin shows great power, depth and exotic, very spicy flavours, right down to a sense of minerality on the finish.
That’s a wrap for this week. If you are reading this over the weekend of August 29 to 31 think of us as at the World Wine Awards of Canada where we tasting through an international selection of wines available somewhere in the country. All to keep you abreast of what’s new and what’s good in more affordable wines.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES Sept 5, 2015
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier 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 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc 2014

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20 bons vins à moins de 20$ pour août 2015

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 !

Notre équipe du Québec : Bill, Marc, Nadia et Rémy

Les choix de Marc Chapleau

Bonne récolte, ce mois-ci. Et la plupart de mes choix sont même à moins de 15 $ ! C’est dire que personne ne tombera en bas de sa chaise, évidemment pas de grands vins, ci-dessous — mais de très bons voire d’excellents rapports qualité-prix.

En rouge, de Vénétie, le Santi Nello Pinot Nero 2014 regorge de fraîcheur et de tonus, malgré qu’il soit peu corsé et, au fond, pas très typé pinot noir. N’empêche : à 11,65 $, c’est une affaire.

Plus corsé, avec du fruit mûr et du bois bien mariés l’un à l’autre, le portugais Altano Douro Symington 2013 est un des incontournables de l’année. À moins de 13 $, on se pince, même, tant la proposition est juteuse.

Santi Nello Pinot Nero 2013 Altano 2013 Septima Malbec 2014 Monasterio De Las Vinas Crianza 2008 La Sablette Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2014

On monte d’un cran en puissance mais on reste dans la fraîcheur avec le Septima Malbec Mendoza 2014, d’Argentine. Boisé marqué, mais pas de lourdeur. On aime !

On reste en territoire hispanophone mais on revient en Europe avec le Monasterio de las Vinas Crianza 2008, rouge espagnol tout simple, sur le fruit, avec de l’allant et du tonus. Le prix : 11,30 $ pour encore quelques jours, il fait l’objet d’une promotion.

Le blanc pour la fin. Un classique : le Muscadet La Sablette 2014, vendu 15,95 $. Ce vin de la Loire est bluffant, cela dit, avec ses notes de fruit tropical bien marquées qu’on n’attend pas au tournant. Mais avec l’acidité et le gaz carbonique (c’est un « sur lie »), cela demeure léger et passe comme une lettre à la poste, d’autant que le taux d’alcool dépasse à peine les 12 pour cent.

Les choix de Rémy Charest

Quand il est question de vin mousseux, on ressort souvent une citation attribuée à Napoléon Bonaparte : « Je ne peux vivre sans champagne, en cas de victoire, je le mérite ; en cas de défaite, j’en ai besoin. » Personnellement, même pas besoin de grande victoire ou de défaite, pour ouvrir des bulles : un coucher de soleil vu du balcon suffit amplement à rendre le tout agréable, surtout quand on en trouve un qui offre un rapport qualité-prix aussi remarquable que le Blanc de Blanc du Domaine Baud,  un crémant du Jura 100% chardonnay qui a du nerf et de la profondeur.

Je n’ai pas besoin qu’on soit dans les premières chaleurs du mois de mai pour boire du rosé, non plus. Dans les moments caniculaires du mois d’août, L’Esprit de Provence du Domaine du Grand Cros m’a donné bien du bonheur, grâce à un profil sec et rafraîchissant, doublé du sérieux qu’il faut pour le servir avec un bon repas.

Domaine Baud Blanc De Blanc Brut Le Grand Cros L'esprit De Provence 2014 Domaine Dyckerhoff Reuilly 2014 Feuille De Garance 2013 Kocabag Kapadokya 2012

Je devais avoir le plaisir facile, ce mois-ci, parce que je me suis également laissé séduire facilement par le Reuilly de chez Dyckerhoff, même si je ne suis pas fan de sauvignon blanc aux notes herbacées. Il faut dire que celles-ci sont discrètes, dans ce chouette blanc de Loire, et qu’avec une salade de tomates rehaussée de basilic, le vin se montrait sous un jour très favorable.

En rouge, le Feuille de Garance du Domaine Rouge Garance, dans les Côtes-du-Rhône, a fait mon bonheur sur un plat d’aubergines, de tomates, de fenouil et d’olives. Il faut dire que le côté anisé du vin faisait particulièrement bien écho au fenouil, et que sa fraîcheur permettait de bien combler ses envies de rouge, lors d’une soirée chaude et ensoleillée. (À condition de le servir un brin rafraîchi, idéalement.)

Finalement, j’ai aussi retrouvé ce mois-ci un assemblage turc aussi typique que sympathique (par le prix tant que par le goût), l’öküzgözü-bogazkere de la maison Kocabag, qui combine un fruité expressif à des tannins bien placés, en toute simplicité. Il y a des moments où on ne veut surtout pas se casser la tête.

Les choix de Nadia Fournier

Même si on la connaît surtout pour ses cuvées mythiques du Piémont et de Toscane, l’Italie ne produit pas que de grands vins de garde. Du nord au sud, le pays est aussi la source de bons vins de table, à savourer au quotidien, en accompagnement d’un bon plat de pâtes aux tomates fraîches du jardin. Ça tombe bien, c’est la saison!

Mezzacorona, Teroldego Rotaliano 2011, Riserva :
La coopérative de Mezzacorona jouit d’une bonne réputation, malgré une production annuelle de 25 millions de bouteilles. Leur Reserva 2011 est le vin idéal pour s’initier à peu de frais, aux charmes du teroldego, un cépage du Trentin.

Masi, Valpolicella Classico 2014, Bonacosta :
Presque sec (4,6 g/l), contrairement à nombre de « petits » Valpolicella vendus à la SAQ. Ne serait-ce que pour cela, il mérite d’être recommandé. Un bon vin à la fois gourmand, bien typé de son appellation, équilibré et agréable à boire.

Mezzacorona Teroldego Rotaliano Riserva 2011 Masi Bonacosta 2014 San Fabiano Calcinaia Casa Boschino 2013 Taurino Riserva Salice Salentino 2009 Caruso & Minini Terre di Giumara Frappato 2013

San Fabiano Calcinaia, Casa Boschino 2013, Toscana :
Sangiovese (70 %), merlot et cabernet sauvignon, issus de l’agriculture biologique, donnent un très bon vin typiquement toscan par sa vigueur tannique, son acidité et ses bons goûts de fruits noirs et de cuir. Très bon achat à ce prix.

Taurino Cosimo, Reserva 2009, Salice Salentino :
Les années passent et le « petit frère » du Notarpanaro demeure parmi mes vins rouges favoris à moins de 20 $. Le 2009 témoigne déjà d’une certaine évolution, ce qui permet d’apprécier les cépages negroamaro et malvasia sur un registre aromatique singulier. Un excellent vin dans sa catégorie.

Caruso & Minini, Frappato 2013, Terre di Giumara :
Cette entreprise sicilienne située dans le secteur de Marsala, tout à l’ouest de l’île, produit à prix doux, un bon frappato gorgé de fruit et tout en souplesse, comme le commande ce cépage. Rien de complexe, mais un bon vin juteux, gouleyant et doté d’une vitalité qui appelle la soif.

Les choix de Bill Zacharkiw

Les enfants retournent peut-être à l’école, mais l’été a encore quelques bonnes semaines en réserve. Alors qu’on se dirige tranquillement vers la fin de semaine et bientôt septembre, allons-y avec des blancs légers et rafraîchissants, et aussi quelques rouges pour pimenter nos barbecues.

Besoin d’un blanc qui conviendra tant pour l’apéritif que pour les fruits de mer et autres plats légers, comme une salade ? Je vous recommande d’entrée de jeu le désaltérant et excellent Aligoté Jaffelin 2014 — l’un des meilleurs vins à base du « second cépage blanc de Bourgogne » que j’aie goûtés.

Si vous préférez les blancs plus aromatiques, alors essayez le Gentil Hugel 2013, blanc d’Alsace fruité et épicé tout en demeurant plutôt sec. Moins intense, mais avec un beau fruit et une finale d’une texture étonnamment riche, le Cheverny Domaine du Salvard 2012 marie superbement le sauvignon blanc et le chardonnay.

Jaffelin Bourgogne Aligote 2014 Hugel Gentil 2013 Domaine Du Salvard Cheverny 2014 Boschendal 1685 S & M Aranleon Blés Crianza 2012

Amateurs de rouge, et surtout si vous grillez des viandes, j’ai deux excellentes suggestions pour vous. D’Afrique du Sud, le Boschendal Shiraz/Mourvèdre 2013 a une note fumée à laquelle se greffent un fruité bien mûr et de très beaux tannins. Servez-le aux environs de 16 C, et voyez la bouteille se vider…

Pour terminer, une super-affaire : le Bles Crianza 2012, rouge de la région de Valence, en Espagne. Un vin bio, qui plus est, et l’un des meilleurs rouges, toutes catégories confondues, que j’ai bus à moins de 16 $ depuis belle lurette. Mieux encore : jusqu’au 30 août, le vin est en promotion et n’est vendu que 13,70 $. Faites-en provision !

La liste complète : 20 bons vins à moins de 20$

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 60 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de grands vins!

Vins Grec

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20 under $20 for August 2015

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.

Back to school for the kids perhaps, but summer still has a few solid weeks to go. So to bring you into September and the weekend let’s drink light and fresh whites, and a few reds that will pair well with the BBQ. Here is the August version of the 20 under $20.

Chacun son Vin Critic Team

Bill Zacharkiw’s picks

Need a few whites that work well as an aperitif, or with seafood and other lighter fare? I’ll start with a thirst quenching and excellent 2014 aligioté from Jaffelin. One of the better versions of Burgundy’s “second white grape” that I have tasted. Pack this back on its own with delight, or a lunchtime salad.

If you like whites with more aromatic intensity, try the 2013 Gentil from Hugel, an Alsatian wine that is fruity and spicy, and still remains quite dry. With a touch less intensity, but still with beautiful fruit and a surprisingly rich texture on the finish, the 2012 Cheverny from Domaine du Salvard is a wonderful mix of sauvignon blanc and chardonnay.

Jaffelin Bourgogne Aligote 2014 Hugel Gentil 2013 Domaine Du Salvard Cheverny 2014 Boschendal 1685 S & M Aranleon Blés Crianza 2012

From you red fans, and especially if you have meats cooking on the grill, I have two excellent wines for you to try. From South Africa, the Boschendal Shiraz Mourvedre offers up a smoky note alongside ripe fruit and some superbly crafted tannins. Keep this at 16C and watch it disappear.

For a real bargain, the 2012 Bles Crianza is a wine from the Spanish region of Valencia, is organically grown, and is one of the best under $16 reds I have tasted of late. As an extra bonus, the wine will be on sale for a mere $13.70 until August 30!

Marc Chapleau’s picks

It’s time to harvest, and you can fill your basket with a number of wines that are under $15! While you might not fall off your chair due to complexity (these are not grandiose wines) they are the definition of excellent on the equality vs price meter.

Staring with the reds, the Venetian Santi Nello 2014 Pinot Nero is replete with freshness and body, despite that it has nominal tannin, and is not what I would call a typical pinot noir. But at $11.65, it’s very much worth a try.

With a touch more power with its ripe fruit and oak driven notes, the Portuguese Altano 2013 Douro is one of this year’s “must try” wines. At under $13, it’s a juicy and inexpensive wine that will regail.

Santi Nello Pinot Nero 2013 Altano 2013 Septima Malbec 2014 Monasterio De Las Vinas Crianza 2008 La Sablette Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie 2014

Moving up in the power scale, yet still very fresh, the Septima 2014 Malbec from Argentina. The wood is very noticeable, which I like!

Staying with Spanish origins, but back to the source in Europe, the Monasterio de las Vinas 2008 Crianza, is a simple red, but with drive and body. It’s on sale for $11.30 until August 30 so take advantage of this even more reasonable price.

I left my white wine selection for last and it’s an SAQ classic, the 2014 Muscadet La Sablette. Hailing from the Loire valley, the wine surprises with its tropical fruit notes, which one normally doesn’t expect from a Muscadet. But due to its acidity, slight fizziness from being aged on its lees, and an alcohol level that is just over 12%, the wine does down with remarkable ease.

Remy Charest’s Choices

When it comes to sparkling wine, there is a quote from Napoleon Bonaparte that gets served just as often as the wine : “I can’t live without Champagne. When I win, I deserve it, and when I lose, I need it.” Personally, watching the sun set from my balcony is plenty enough reason for me to have bubbly, especially if it’s as delicious and affordable as the Blanc de Blanc from Domaine Baud, a crunchy Crémant du Jura made from 100% chardonnay.

I don’t need to feel the first hot days of May to have rosé, either. In the dog days of August, L’Esprit de Provence from Domaine du Grand Cros made me very happy with its dry and refreshing profile, doubled with enough stuffing to go with a tasty dinner.

Domaine Baud Blanc De Blanc Brut Le Grand Cros L'esprit De Provence 2014 Domaine Dyckerhoff Reuilly 2014 Feuille De Garance 2013 Kocabag Kapadokya 2012

I must have been easy to please, this month, because I even got a lot of fun drinking the Reuilly from Dyckerhoff, even though I’m not much of a fan of sauvignon blanc’s grassy varietal notes. Mind you, there’s just a touch of them in this particular Loire sauvignon, and with a tomato salad generously garnished with basil, the wine showed particularly well.

On the red side of things, Feuille de Garance from Domaine Rouge Garance, in the Rhône Valley, satisfied my thirst for red on a hot day, thanks to freshness and its great anise and spicy notes that went so great with a dish prepared with eggplant, tomato, fennel and olives. Ever so lightly chilled, it was really satisfying.

Finally, I also was happy to get another taste of Kocabag’s blend of öküzgözü and bogazkere, which showed expressive fruity aromas and a nice set of tannins, all in a very simple and affordable package. Sometimes, you just want things to be simple.

Nadia Fournier’s selections

Despite being best known for the mythical and long-aged wines of Piedmont and Tuscany, Itlay produces much more than wines for the cellar. From north to south, the country is source of soem excellent table wines, to be drunk daily, especially when accompanied by such dishes as pasta with a fresh tomato sauce. Speaking of which, it’s the season!

The co-operative Mezzacorna has maintained an excellent reputation, despite producing 25 million bottles a year. Their 2011 TR Riserva, made with local Trentino indigenous grape terodelgo, is the ideal wine to be served slightly chilled.

Masi’s 2014 Bonacosta Valpolicella is almost dry with 4.6 g/l of residual sugar, which is contrary to the majority of entry level Valpolicellas available at the SAQ. Just for that, it is deserving of a “thumbs up.” But it is also a juicy and gourmand wine, showing the typicity of the appellation, well balanced and so easy to drink.

Mezzacorona Teroldego Rotaliano Riserva 2011 Masi Bonacosta 2014 San Fabiano Calcinaia Casa Boschino 2013 Taurino Riserva Salice Salentino 2009 Caruso & Minini Terre di Giumara Frappato 2013

A blend of 70% sangiovese with merlot and cabernet sauvignon, and made with organically grown grapes, the San Fabiano 2013 Casa Boschino is very typical of Tuscan wines with its gritty tannins, its refreshing acidity, as well as its mix of dark fruits and leather. For under $15, it’s an excellent purchase.

Year after year, the “little brother” of the Notarpanaro remains one of my favourite red wines under $20. The Taurino 2009 Riserva Salice Salentino shows signs of a certain evolution, which allows us to appreciate the aromatics of negroamara and malvasia even more. For the price, it’s a leader in its category.

Caruso and Minini, a Sicilian winery located in the western part of the island where one finds Marsala, makes an excellent frappato at a very accessible price. Gorging with fruit and suppleness. Nothing overly complex here, but a wonderfully thirst quenching wine.

Cheers !

The complete list: 20 under $20

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 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

NOVA 7 - The Toast of Nova Scotia

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Season 5, Table 14 – The Grand Finale of “So, You Think you Know Wine?”

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
(aka “Surf’s up on Meat Beach”)

Welcome to Table 14, the Grande Finale of “So, You Think You Know Wine?”

After weeks of battling for position and points, everything comes down to the final wine. Finalists John Szabo MS, Sara d’Amato and William Predhomme face-off for all the glory with their own compelling arguments as to what’s in the glass. Tune in to see who gets it right and, as host Seán Cullen would say, who gets it more right.

Watch the Finale

Table 14 – The Finalists

Sara d’Amato

Sara is a Toronto-based wine consultant, sommelier, wine critic and principal partner with WineAlign. She has worked in cellars both in Niagara and in France, as Sommelier at the Four Seasons Hotel and at the Platinum Club of the Air Canada Centre. She is also a contributor to Chatelaine magazine. Sara is the first and only woman to have won the Grand Award at the prestigious Wine Tasting Challenge.

Sara d'Amato

John Szabo, MS

John is Canada’s first Master Sommelier. He’s a partner and principal critic for WineAlign and authors the bi-monthly Vintages Buyer’s Guide. John is wine editor for Toronto’s CityBites Magazine and is the author of Pairing Food and Wine For Dummies. John also designs wine programs, teaches, speaks, judges and travels around the world, and to round out his experience and get closer to the land, he also owns a small vineyard in Eger, Hungary, the J&J Eger Wine Co. These days you’ll find him climbing volcanoes.

John 1

Will Predhomme

Will Predhomme is a prominent Canadian Professional Sommelier, beverage business development specialist, and industry liaison. Will’s experience reflects a career based in the beverage alcohol, hospitality, education, government and private sectors. For several years, he was the Senior Sommelier at Canoe Restaurant. Now he teaches WSET courses, is o-producer of Ontario and Oregon-made wines, host of The Globe & Mail Wine Basics videos, and is Managing Director of Predhomme Market Insights. He is an Advanced Sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers and in 2010 he won the title of Best Ontario Sommelier.


Watch the Finale

The Scoring

The scoring on each wine remains similar to past seasons with points for Variety, Country, Region, Appellation, Vintage and Price.

Variety:  3 points
Country, Region, Appellation:  up to 4 points
Vintage:  up to 2 points
Price (within 10% on either side): 1 point

Score Card:

Click on the score card below to see how the semi finalist and finalist were selected.

The Scorecard


Thank you for watching this fifth season of “So, You Think You Know Wine?” We hope that you found this new series entertaining and that you had as much fun watching as we did filming. As usual, please send your comments to and feel free to share this video with your friends and family.

Previously on Season 5 of “So, You Think You Know Wine?”:

Table 1 – Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013
Table 2 – Creekside Sauvignon Blanc 2013
Table 3 – Catena Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Table 4 – The Grinder Pinotage 2013
Table 5 – Faustino VII Tempranillo 2012
Table 6 – Gnarly Head Pinot Noir 2012
Table 7 – Laroche Chablis St. Martin 2012
Table 8 – Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2010
Table 9 – Root: 1 Carmenère 2012
Table 10 – Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2012
Table 11 – Ogier Héritages Côtes Du Rhône 2012
Table 12 – [Semi Final #1] Sterling Chardonnay 2012
Table 13 – [Semi Final #2] Fontanafredda Barolo Nebbiolo 2010

For those of you new to our video series, “So, You Think You Know Wine?”, you can watch all previous seasons under the Videos tab.

Special thanks to our glassware sponsor, Schott Zwiesel, for their beautiful glasses and carafes used during filming.

Balderson Cheese

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Éloge de la fraîcheur

Hors des sentiers battus21 août 2015

par Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

Marc Chapleau

J’aurais pu titrer : « Éloge de la buvabilité ». Mais outre que ça fait plutôt alambiqué, le mot « buvabilité » n’existe pas à proprement parler, il n’est pas dans le dictionnaire. Il s’agit d’un néologisme, forgé par les amoureux des mots que sont aussi, souvent, les amateurs de vino.

Quoi qu’il en soit, on ne doit pas le prendre, ce terme, dans le sens : « Ce vin est buvable » — ce qui revient à mettre des gants blancs pour dire qu’il ne vaut pas grand-chose.

Au fond, et justement à cause de cela, je devrais peut-être laisser tomber toute référence à « buvabilité » et lui substituer « digeste ».

Je sais : il s’est écrit plein de choses sur ce dernier qualificatif, souvent pour le dénigrer. Alors que je trouve, personnellement, que dire d’un vin qu’il est digeste, c’est à la fois limpide et un beau compliment à lui faire.

Continuons à triturer la question. Et prenons le problème à l’envers.

Et donc : un vin qui manque de buvabilité (oups ! désolé), autrement dit un vin qui n’est pas digeste, c’est par exemple un vin trop sucré (alors qu’il ne devrait pas l’être autant), trop lourd, trop boisé, trop riche ou trop chargé en alcool.

Or le bon vin doit rafraîchir et désaltérer, pour ainsi dire. Une gorgée doit en appeler une autre. Ultimement, on boirait le vin sans s’y arrêter que ce serait une preuve supplémentaire à son actif : ça se siffle en moins de deux, c’est clair, net et précis, si possible peu alcoolisé, alors on picole et on la ferme.

On recherche la fraîcheur dans tous les types de vin. Y compris, et peut-être même surtout, chez les mousseux. Mais trop souvent, le vin indigeste, déséquilibré, qui tombe sur le coeur, c’est souvent du rouge, par les temps qui courent.


Contrairement à « buvabilité », ce mot-là existe, mais il désigne plutôt la transformation de la houille (un combustible) en coke — rien à voir avec la poudre blanche.

Le rapport avec le vin, c’est que nous tombent sur la tomate depuis quelques années des vins rouges anormalement sucrés, plus proches de la  boisson gazeuse que du jus de raisin fermenté.

Or c’est l’évidence même : il y a beaucoup plus d’amateurs de boissons gazeuses dans le monde que d’oenophiles. Le calcul vaut donc le travail : maquillez votre produit pour qu’il ressemble à du cola, et tout seul, les doigts dans le nez, il se vendra.

On entend parfois dire que c’est au contraire une bonne chose, que cela amènera progressivement au vin des gens qui buvaient avant va savoir quoi, mais tout sauf un breuvage acidulé, astringent ou amer…

Le problème, c’est que le serpent est en train de se mordre la queue. Et les vignerons, qui font du vin essentiellement pour le vendre, ne le perdons pas de vue, sont de plus en plus nombreux à commercialiser des cuvées dénaturées, exagérément sucrées, au seul motif que c’est ce que le client demande.

Sauf que le client, nous autres les passionnés de vin, on s’en fout !

Donnez-nous votre vin quotidien et cessez au plus vite ces douteuses galipettes.

Back to basics, comme on dit en tagalog, et chugalug. 


Cela dit, la question du sucre dans le vin m’amuse par ailleurs beaucoup.

Dans le sens où depuis que inscrit la quantité de sucre résiduel que contient un vin (sous l’onglet « Informations détaillées » et à l’instigation, notamment, du collègue Bill), c’est devenu une sorte de jeu. Au lieu d’essayer de deviner avec des amis, par exemple, combien il fait dehors ou quelle heure il est, on s’amuse avec le zucchero : « Il reste combien dans le vin, d’après toi : 2 grammes ?  4 grammes ?  Au moins voire 5 ou 7 ? Ou même 15 grammes si ce n’est pas 20 ? »

Comme quoi l’adage a bien raison : à quelque chose malheur est toujours bon.


À boire, aubergiste !

Pour poursuivre dans la veine « vin digeste », je vais faire tout de suite un fou de moi en recommandant deux rouges du Nouveau Monde passablement corsés et généreux. Le hic, pour ainsi dire, c’est qu’ils sont tout pleins de fraîcheur par ailleurs, ils se laissent boire, peut-être pas goulûment, mais avec grand plaisir — surtout si on prend soin de les rafraîchir un peu avant.

De Californie d’abord, je retiens le très honnête Zinfandel Kendall-Jackson Mendocino County 2012. Puis, d’Argentine, et élaboré sous l’égide de la maison catalane Codorniu, le Malbec Septima Mendoza 2014, savoureux lui aussi et par surcroît vendu la somme faramineuse de 13,95 $ (je blague,  c’est vraiment un super rapport qualité-prix).

Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Zinfandel 2012 Septima Malbec 2014 Domaine Marcel Lapierre Raisins Gaulois 2014

Aux antipodes maintenant, au propre comme au figuré, le Raisins Gaulois Lapierre Vin de France 2014 est pur fruit et pur plaisir, avec seulement 12 % d’alcool et donc un caractère très léger et franchement acidulé. Seul bémol, le prix, qui dépasse désormais les 20 $.

À peine plus corsé, tout en fruit lui aussi mais avec une touche boisée qui lui donne un peu plus de coffre, le Crozes-Hermitage Les Vins de Vienne 2012 accompagnera sans problème la plupart des viandes, et pas juste les blanches, même les rouges.

Les Vins De Vienne Crozes Hermitage 2012 Samuel Billaud Chablis 2013 Albert Bichot Pouilly Fuissé 2013 Domaine Dyckerhoff Reuilly 2014

Du côté des vins blancs, et on demeure bien entendu dans le vin-plaisir, tout à fait digeste, trois suggestions : le Chablis Samuel Billaud 2013, le Pouilly-Fuissé Albert Bichot 2013 et le Reuilly Dyckerhoff 2014, de la Loire celui-là.

Deux mousseux pour finir. Et d’entrée de jeu une contradiction, une autre !

Château Moncontour Cuvée Prédilection Brut Vouvray 2012 Domaine Baud Crémant Du Jura Brut Sauvage

C’est que le premier, le Château Moncountour Cuvée Prédilection Vouvray 2012 contient 14 g de sucre résiduel. Mais l’acidité est telle, le tonus est tellement là, qu’à peine si on le perçoit. J’ai même lancé « 8 grammes ! » quand il s’est agi de deviner.

Le deuxième mousseux vient du Jura : le Crémant du Jura Brut de la maison Baud. Plus sec celui-là, sans être nécessairement plus vif et plus tendu que le précédent. Mais tout à fait convaincant, ce mousseux à base de chardonnay aux notes oxydatives évoquant la noisette et la pomme blette.

Voilà, amusez-vous !


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 60 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de bons vins !

19 Crimes


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 22, Part Two

Finding Value over $20
By Sara d’Amato, with notes from David Lawrason and John Szabo MS

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Last week David Lawrason highlighted some of the best money could buy in this upcoming release for under $20. This week we focus on some higher priced offerings.

At these price points, we know that your expectations run high and so do ours. Wines recommended at this level tend to be excellent examples of classic styles and varietals that are characteristically representative of their region. However, they must be more than that to achieve top marks. They must excel in the categories of complexity, structure and finesse. Let it be known that our scores are not impacted by price although scores tend naturally to be higher at these price points. For example, when a wine achieves a score of 88+ at under $20, you can bet we are screaming at you to check it out. At the upper echelons of price point, more of these high scores should be expected.

What makes a wine worthy of a hefty price tag? There is no debate that a great wine costs more to make, as much as the bargain hunter in us would like to believe otherwise. There are more and better quality wines available now at low prices, in particular, from such regions such as Portugal, Argentina and Chile. However, great wines, more often than not, cost more.

Here are just a few reasons why. First, labor costs are higher. Consider, for example, how labor intensive it is to maintain an organic vineyard without the wave of a chemical wand, the work that is required to bury vines and uncover them as is done in the high quality production of Prince Edward County wines, or, how in the upper Cru Classé of Bordeaux’s left bank, an individual is assigned to manage every row of vines. A Bordelaise winemaker once told me of Chateau Margaux: “On brosse les dents des vignes” referring to the painstaking detail that goes into maintaining each vine. Triple sorting, manual de-stemming of grapes and small lot punch downs by hand are a few of the labor-intensive techniques that may go into the production of a fine wine.

In addition, better quality grapes involve lower yields in the vineyard, which impact the quantity, quality and thus the price significantly. The use of high quality, new oak barrels for long periods of time, uniquely designed amphorae, or the use of a new fleet of concrete eggs can also lead to an increase in cost. You will see below that we have highlighted for you some of these special techniques.

Due to the high quality and limited production of our top picks, many of our $20+ recommendations are in short supply. As such, some of these wines fall into what the LCBO used to call “ISD” (In Store Discovery) and is now referred to as FSE (Flagship Store Exclusives). Technically these wines offered in limited quantities are part of the VINTAGES bi-monthly releases. The listings can be found both in the VINTAGES catalogue and online. As the name suggests, these wines are available only in select stores. This category is often overlooked and, not surprisingly misunderstood, but there are some real gems to be found.

Without further ado, the best bets for your cellar, for good friends and for yourself:


Von Hövel Scharzhofberg Saar Riesling Auslese 2011

Charles Baker 2012 Picone Vineyard RieslingCharles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2012, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($35.20)
John Szabo – Not to be shown up by the Germans, Niagara, too, has its special sites, like the cru-worthy Picone vineyard and its 35 year old riesling vines. Baker’s interpretation is crackling, sinewy, as mineral as they come. And thanks to riesling’s dark shadow, you’re getting one of Ontario’s best wines for under $35. If it were labeled chardonnay, nobody would blink at double the price.
Sara d’Amato – Often, slightly warmer years like 2012 produce more interesting and age-worthy rieslings in Niagara and here is a spot-on example. The clay-limestone soils of the small but mighty Picone vineyard are uniquely suited to this finicky varietal. Only free-run juice, not pressed, is used to make this consistently memorable wine.

Von Hövel 2011 Scharzhofberg Saar Riesling Auslese ($48.00)
David Lawrason – This 21 acre estate was taken over by 7th generation winemaker Max  Schatzi in 2010, who began immediately to convert the site to organic viticulture.  This is not cheap, but it is a gorgeous, precise example of late harvested Saar riesling. Sweet of course but ultra-refined with lacy acidity and such tenderness. Love the ripe apricot, melon, honey and floral aromas and flavours.
John Szabo – As I never tire of saying, German Riesling is one of the world’s greatest values. Period. Here’s an unimpeachable bottle of poetry from one of the country’s greatest vineyards, the majestic Scharzhofberg, in auslese ripeness (late harvest, medium-sweet) for under $50. Laughable. The depth of flavour on a 7% alcohol frame is nothing short of astonishing. I’d like to see this again in another half dozen years. Best 2020-2030.

Buena Vista 2013 Chardonnay, Carneros, California ($23.95)
David Lawrason – Since being taken over by Boisset of Burgundy Buena Vista wines are indeed striving for finesse and layers. This is a quite rich, elegant and complex chardonnay with lifted very toasty, nutty, slightly caramelized\fried onion aromas, with honey and corn in the background. Quite exotic.

Vidal Fleury 2012 Condrieu, Rhône, France ($49.95)
Sara d’Amato – We rarely see whites of the northern Rhône in Ontario much to shame. This 100% viognier offers a lush texture and notes of peaches and cream. Unfined, produced using wild, indigenous yeast in small lots, and after, spend 12 months on their lees. Available in limited quantities as a Flagship Store Exclusive.

Buena Vista Chardonnay 2013 Vidal Fleury Condrieu 2012 Beringer Luminus Chardonnay 2013 Domaine Cordier Père Et Fils Maçon Fuissé 2012

Beringer 2013 Luminus Chardonnay, Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley, USA ($39.95)
John Szabo – In the oft over-priced world of Napa chardonnay, here’s an example that shines for far fewer dollars than most. This has nothing to do with the blowsy, woody Beringer wines of yore – it’s far more “luminous”, truly enlightened, lively, and well balanced, from one of the cooler pockets of the Napa Valley. There’s genuine length and depth here, too. Best 2015-2021.

Domaine Cordier Père et Fils 2012 Mâcon Fuissé, Burgundy, France ($29.95)
John Szabo – Burgundy is frequently skewered for its poor value quotient, but the savvy know that there are plenty of brilliant values as soon as you step off the Route des Grands Crus. The town of Fuissé in southern Mâcon has enviable terroir, and the Cordier family coax out it’s best. Yes, fine white Burgundy for under $30. Best 2017-2022.


Cakebread Benchland Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Thirty Bench 2013 RedThirty Bench Red 2013, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($24.00)
Sara d’Amato – An underpriced, stunning red which from a high achieving winery at this year’s National Wine Awards. This knockout Bordelaise blend delivers both power and elegance along with enticing notes of smoky herbs and spicy black pepper.
David Lawrason – Thirty Bench was named Best Small Winery in Canada (under 10,000 cases) at the 2015 WineAlign National Wine Awards, partially because winemaker Emma Garner snagged medals across a range of wines, including a bronze for this wine. It’s a nervy, juicy Niagara red from a cooler vintage that avoids the greenness and sourness of many others. It has lifted aromas of cedar, currants, tobacco and graphite. It’s not at all heavy but flavour concentration is very good to excellent.
John Szabo – A classic cool climate Bordeaux-style blend done very well, showing the touch of a gentle, deft hand. It’s not for nothing that Thirty Bench earned the inaugural Best Performing Small Winery award at this year’s nationals. This is all elegance and class at a rare price. Best 2015-2023.

Cakebread 2011 Benchland Select Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California, USA ($162.95)
Sara d’Amato – Cakebread can do magnificent work with cabernet sauvignon making it elegant, polished and playing up its complexity. Here is an open and revealing wine, not masked by over treatment and showing off ingredients of superb quality. The cooler vintage adds to the wine’s refinement and dimension with notes of wild, dried herbs and acids that peak out from behind the fruit.

Cantina Del Pino 2010 Barbaresco, Piedmont, Italy ($37.95)
Sara d’Amato – In the shadow of its more renowned neighbor, this Barbaresco is testament to the appellation’s undervalued nature. This offering easily rivals the complexity and structure of your average Barolo with great intensity and potential longevity for much less of a price.
John Szabo – If, like me, you liken Piedmont to Burgundy (similar philosophy-obsession of expressing vineyards through a single grape), the former can be considered great value. This “village”-level equivalent from various vineyards averaging 40 years old is a perfect example, in perfect sync and harmony, from a cracking vintage. Best 2017-2025.

Mocali 2009 Brunello di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($44.95)
David Lawrason – One of the great joys of Brunello is that its long ageing at the winery renders it ready to drink. Add the lushness of  2009 vintage and the efforts of one my fave small Brunello producers, and this is a winner. This is very fragrant, tender yet intense Brunello to enjoy right now- so elegant, supple yet not at all blowsy. The tannin is well fitted. Excellent to outstanding length.

Poggio Bonelli 2011 Poggiassai  ($31.95)
David Lawrason – Available only in Vintages Flagship stores, this is a very impressive modern Tuscan red from sangiovese and 25% cabernet sauvignon grown on a classic 81 ha estate near Siena. It has a lifted, very engaging nose of blackcurrant, coffee, sage and cured meat, with underlying green olive/caper notes. It’s medium weight, fairly juicy and tender, with a certain vibrancy. Very Italian! Excellent to outstanding focus and length.

Cantina Del Pino Barbaresco 2010 Mocali Brunello di Montalcino 2009Poggio Bonelli Poggiassai 2011 Castello di Gabbiano Bellezza Chianti Classico Gran Selezione 2011  Finca de la Rica El Nómada 2011

Castello Di Gabbiano 2011 Bellezza Chianti Classico Gran Selezione DOCG, Tuscany, Italy  ($39.95)
John Szabo – $40 Chianti you say? This is every bit as good as any Brunello, which start at $40 and move quickly up in price. While not exactly classic sangiovese (it reminds me more of old school Spanish Rioja), this is a big, bold and impressive wine to be sure, with terrific complexity and length. Best 2015-2026.

Finca de la Rica 2011 El Nómada, Rioja, Spain  ($24.95)
David Lawrason – From a south facing vineyard near the village of La Bastide, “The Nomad” is a smart, tense yet delicious young Rioja, made from 90% tempranillo and 10% graciano, aged 16 months in French oak.  It shows nicely concentrated and ripe currant/berry fruit integrated with pine/herbal notes, gentle oak and savoury notes. I like tension, juiciness and depth here.

Château La Bienfaisance 2010

Domaine Durieu 2012 Lucile Avril Châteauneuf du PapeDomaine Durieu Lucile Avril Châteauneuf Du Pape 2012, Rhone, France ($44.95)
Sara d’Amato – An offering that should go straight to your cellar. A finely crafted Châteauneuf-du-Pape that is built to age and needs time for its tannic toughness to soften up.

Château La Bienfaisance 2010 Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux ($39.95)
David Lawrason – The excellent 2010 vintage strikes again. This is a nicely fragrant, complex St. Emilion with a sense of elegance and precision.  Classic Bordeaux cedar currant/raspberry, tobacco, wood smoke and foresty aromas are very attractive. It’s mid-weight, firm and well proportioned – a bit on the light side. Not quite ready yet thanks to its firmness, but its showing fine promise.


We return next week with fall offerings (already!) as we move into what is best when the air becomes crisp. At that time we will be deep into sorting out our top international picks at the World Wine Awards of Canada that begin on August 27th. We are pleased to have some of Canada’s top palates from coast to coast with us in Toronto to help with this enormous task. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @WineAlign #WWAC15 for live updates of the awards.


Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES August 22nd, 2015

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
All Reviews
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 22, Part One – Super Values Under $20

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 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc 2014

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks August 2015

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks 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.

This past week all of our WineAlign West members were in the Okanagan during the wildfires. Massive thanks to all the brave firefighters and rescue crews working around the clock saving homes, businesses and vineyards from the lightening-lit fires north and south of Oliver. While fires east of Osoyoos still blaze on at this time, it’s important to share that the wineries, hotels and restaurants in Oliver and Osoyoos are open for business, and now is the time (more than ever) to show your support for their communities and our industry. Also, starting today until August 26th, all BC Liquor Stores will collect funds for the BC Wildfires Red Cross relief efforts.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team


Anthony Gismondi

August looks like it’s going to be warmer than July and it could spill into September before we really cool down on the coast. The clouds continue to tantalise us but very little rain has fallen. I’ve almost forgotten what a big red wine is. Plan to put some seafood in your future and let these three white wines help you slay the heat and take you to the end of our warm summer evenings.

Noble Ridge Stony Knoll Chardonnay 2012 Anarchist Mountain Elevation Chardonnay 2013 Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2013The Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2013 is all about complexity. I love the fruit and the terroir that leaks into this wine making it so much more interesting than the commercial labels that flood this market. It finishes dry, making it so much more interesting with food.

Closer to home we look at two chardonnays from central/south Okanagan. The Anarchist Mountain Vineyards Elevation Chardonnay 2013 is the best yet from the property. A blessing in disguise was a malolactic fermentation that didn’t complete, thus halting that creamy, softening process that can flatten out a lot of New World chardonnays. Its intense citrus butter and peachy stone fruit flavours will capture and hold your imagination. Perfect with halibut and a fruit salsa.

Finally, just a little further north in Okanagan Falls the Noble Ridge Stony Knoll Chardonnay 2012 comes off a near perfect vintage and is one of the best I have tasted from Noble Ridge. Only eight percent of this wine sees any oak and even that is a mix of new and one year old wood, leaving the fruit free to express itself all under screwcap. A delicious way to say good-bye to summer.


Rhys Pender, MW

Château De La Gardine Châteauneuf Du Pape 2011 Famille Perrin Les Christins Vacqueyras 2012 Stags' Leap Winery Petite Sirah 2011With the August heat comes cooler nights, and turned my mind to warming red wines. These three are a perfect match to a night under the stars watching for the meteor showers (although the smoke haze hasn’t helped in BC). In these wines I look for character, intensity and complexity of flavour, a mix often found from warmer parts of the world and a Mediterranean climate.

My first pick is the Stags’ Leap Petite Sirah 2011. Very Napa in plushness but with a very characterful, savoury edge that begs for it to be drunk outdoors.

The second two wines are both from the south of France. The first is a great value wine from Perrin, the Les Christins Vacqueyras 2012. Great complexity and togetherness for the price and very warming.

The second will cost you a few more bucks but is worth it for the complexity, and something to ponder over between shooting stars. The Château de la Gardine Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2011 is full, rich and soft, continuously opening in the glass to reveal more complexities.


DJ Kearney

Here are three white wines that tickled my tastebuds this week, either sipped with a modest chill, or put to work with grilled dinner.

Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2014 Painted Wolf The Den Chenin Blanc 2014 Salomon Undhof Wachtberg Reserve Erste Lage Grüner Veltliner 2011How do I love thee grüner veltliner? Let me count the ways. Well, forget the counting and just trust me that this under-$30 bottle is a convincing way to try Austria’s most important white grape. The 2011 Salomon Undhof Wachtberg Erste Lage Grüner Veltliner from Kremstal is dry and medium bodied with savoury fruit, white pepper and pile-driving minerality. The words ‘erste lage’ mean first growth, and refers to a special collection of top-terroir vineyards spread across Austria’s most important winegrowing regions. Try this ‘premier cru’ grüner with grilled white fish or scallops.

We all need more chenin blanc in our lives, and South Africa has some of the oldest preserves of this noble Loire grape. Painted Wolf The Den Chenin Blanc 2014 combines weighty fruit and lick-smacking acidity for bring-home sushi or melon and shrimp cocktail. Drink up and help preserve the older chenin vineyards.

Finally a standout bottle of Blue Mountain Pinot Blanc 2014. To my mind, one of the best wines in BC. Structured and fruit-draped enough to star with some bbq’d sustainable sockeye, or pair its galvanizing acidity with grilled local oysters. And if dinner is just salad, baguette and local cheese, this is all the wine I need.


Treve Ring 

I taste wine every day, and every day something surprises me. Granted, it’s not always a good surprise, but these three wines certainly were – above and beyond expectations. It’s a constant reminder to be open and non-judgmental about grapes and places, because beauty can sneak up and surprise from anywhere, especially in the glass.

Graceland Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Yangarra Vineyards GSM 2013 Road 13 Vineyards Marsanne 2014Road 13 Vineyards have released a trio of white Rhone varieties from the 2014 vintage, all under the Low Yield Wines flag. Their 2014 Marsanne opens into an orchard of perfumed florals, starfruit, passionfruit and pink grapefruit. Whole cluster pressing and fermentation in old neutral barrels builds mouth-feel and complexities.

On the theme of Rhone varieties transported, the Yangarra Vineyards 2013 GSM impressed with its deft marriage of finesse and structure, ripeness and freshness. Nearly half of this fragrant, layered biodynamic wine is old bush vine grenache. Wild ferment, nine months in old French oak and no fining ups the mouth-feel and complexities.

Grilled and herb-crusted lamb chops pair beautifully with the structured, perfumed and leathery Graceland 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon from Stellenbosch, South Africa. Red and dark fruit, dark cocoa, fresh herbs and bright, lifted acidity carry through to a black cherry and espresso finish, and will finish off your summer evening’s BBQ soundly.


WineAlign in BC

In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic.


BC Wildfires Relief Fund

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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (Aug 2015)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers & Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

The LCBO announced some big discounts last Monday plus many wines with Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) so I have quite a few new wine values to report. I picked 20 wines under $20 that are the best values presently.

This month’s selections are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the Vintages Essentials Collection. I have selected eleven wines 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 it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

To these I added another nine wines, all with BAMs, that make them good choices and though none of them quite made it on to the Top 50, they were all close.

The discount period runs until September 12th. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I was able to ensure that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


Beso De Vino Seleccion Red 2011 Carinena Spain ($8.95 was $9.95) New to TOP 50 – A ripe structured red with a nice lemony tone to nose and palate which is full bodied with some tannin and soft acidity for balance. Try with sweet ribs.

Lavau 2011, Cotes Du Rhone Villages, Rhone Valley France ($12.90) New to TOP 50 – A recent arrival at LCBO that jumped straight onto the Top50 list. A generous, fruity, lively red with very good length. Versatile food wine.

Hardys Stamp Of Australia Shiraz Cabernet 2013, South Eastern Australia ($9.85 +6BAMs) – Hardy’s Stamp series are well priced easy drinking wines that are balanced for food and are designed for current consumption. This is a bright lively midweight red. Try with lamb cutlets.

Beso de Vino Seleccion Red 2011 Lavau 2011 Hardys Stamp of Australia Shiraz Cabernet 2013Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2013Bodegas Volcanes de Chile Summit Reserva Cabernet Syrah 2013

Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2013, Abruzzo, Italy ($7.75 + 4BAMs) – An inexpensive red for pizza and tomato pasta sauces. Basic but it delivers.

Bodegas Volcanes De Chile Summit Reserva Cabernet Syrah 2013, Rapel Valley, Chile ($9.95 + 8BAMs) – A midweight to full bodied juicy red at a great price. Grown on volcanic soils which adds to its purity of flavour.

Cusumano Syrah 2013, Sicily, Italy ($10.95 was $11.95) TOP 50 August – A midweight cool climate syrah that’s well balanced flavourful and very fruity.

Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($11.45 + 5BAMs) TOP 50 August – A perfumed nicely ripe carmenère with no hint of greenness and it’s not too ripe either. Try with grilled meats.

Cusumano Syrah 2013Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013Thelema Mountain Red 2012Santa Carolina Merlot Reserva 2012

Thelema Mountain Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa ($12.90 + 7BAMs) – This delightful blend of shiraz and five other grapes comes from high mountain vineyards above Stellenbosch. It is very smooth and quite dense. Try with pizza or burgers .

Santa Carolina Merlot Reserva 2012, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($12.95+ 4BAMs) – A bright fresh merlot with pure aromas and flavours. It is deliciously vibrant with the juicy fruit balanced by soft tannin. Try with bbq meats.

Montecillo Crianza 2010 Rioja Spain ($12.95 was $14.95) New to TOP 50 – I love the classy orange red label on this classic Spanish red. It is easy drinking, well balanced and a very versatile food wine.

Château Des Charmes Gamay Noir 2013, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario ($13.95 + 5BAMs) New to TOP 50 – There is a distinctly European feel to this full plush red with very good length. It shows how well suited this grape is to Niagara.

Montecillo Crianza 2010Château Des Charmes Gamay Noir 2013The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2013Hardys Chronicle No. 3Santa Rita Medalla Real Carmenere Gran Reserva 2011

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014, Western Cape ($13.95) New to TOP 50 – Another excellent vintage for this Rhone blend from the Cape. It is medium to full-bodied with a savoury peppery tone to the ripe fruit.

Hardys Chronicle No. 3 Butcher’s Gold Shiraz Sangiovese 2012, South Australia ($14.95 + 8BAMs) – Sangiovese, the Chianti grape from Italy, is blended in this wine with shiraz to deliver a fresher more vibrant wine than one normally expects from this region.

Santa Rita Medalla Real Carmenere Gran Reserva 2011, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($17.90) New to TOP 50 – A complex powerful red that it also elegant with youthful aromas. Very cellar worthy.


Riverlore Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand ($13.90 was $15.90) – New to TOP 50 – A crisp juicy very typical Kiwi sauvignon at a great price. Sautéed seafood or a goats cheese salad would be perfect.

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2013, Livermore Valley, California ($17.95) New to TOP 50 – What I like most about this modern California chardonnay is that the fruit shows through on both nose and palate. Creamy smooth with a fresh pure nose. Try with tempura.

Citra Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2013 Abruzzo, Italy ($7.75 + 4BAMs) – A basic yet quite fruity Italian white that’s great with grilled calamari.

Riverlore Sauvignon Blanc 2014Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2013Citra Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2013Cono Sur Bicicleta Chardonnay 2013Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014Château Des Arroucats 2012

Cono Sur Bicicleta Chardonnay 2013 Chile ($10.45 + 5BAMs) – A bright fresh chardonnay with peach and apple fruit and soft complementary oak aromas and flavours.

Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($12.95 + 6BAMs) – A cool coastal sauvignon with good varietal character. Try with sautéed scallops with a lemongrass dressing or creamy goats cheese salad.

Château des Arroucats 2012, Ste. Croix du Mont, Bordeaux, France ($14.80 was $17.70) New to TOP 50 – An elegant sweet wine that makes a great aperitif but also good with white chocolate desserts. Recently delisted, over 1000 bottles remain.

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

Top 20 Under 20There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either in the LCBO Wines section 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

In addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 39 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, 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 (Click on Wine =>Top 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list), 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.

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
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 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 22, Part One

Super Values Under $20
By David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Here at WineAlign we score wines on their quality. Yet value is the reason we usually highlight certain wines in these VINTAGES preview newsletters. This week Sara and I highlight super values under $20, and next week John Szabo returns from vacation to join us in putting forward values over $20. Which makes the essential point that value is not just a matter of lower price, and that it can be found, or at least argued, at almost any price point.

I have long struggled with whether to include a separate value rating with my reviews. In fact I did use a three-star value rating, as well as a score, at one point when reviewing for Wine Access. As did John. I have two counter arguments. One is that value does get a bit more subjective, and two, that readers engaged enough to be reading wine reviews in the first place are entirely capable of making that value judgement themselves, and can fit it into their own budgetary parameters.

But the temptation to rate value remains large. What is our job if not to find the best wines at the best possible price? At WineAlign we are currently tinkering with mathematical methodology to design a meaningful value rating system, and due to the size and history of our database we should be able to arrive at a fairly accurate statistics-based scale.

I guess the question is whether you, dear reader, want it. We would love to get your feedback in our Comments forum at the end of this newsletter.

Meanwhile, here are some super values for late summer enjoyment.


Grace Lane 2013 Riesling, Yakima Valley, Washington ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – Yakima Valley is a large, high desert region with controlled irrigation from water descending the Cascade Mountains. Its situation allows for hot days and very cool nights – the ideal setting for growth of high quality wines. Grace Lane specializes in riesling and this excellent value, off-dry example is dynamic, nervy and surprisingly complex.
David Lawrason – Riesling is the #1 white variety in Washington and underpriced due to lower land costs and a softer market for riesling in the US. But here in Canada we know good riesling when we see it. It’s quite fulsome, ripe and rich with generous aromas of pineapple, yellow plum, honey and spice. It’s medium bodied, fleshy, off-dry and quite concentrated.

Von Buhl 2012 Armand Riesling Kabinett, Pfalz, Germany ($18.95)
David Lawrason – True Pfalz! This is great value in organically grown riesling from a classic producer. It’s very pretty and complete with refined aromas of pineapple, peach and lemon; some white flowers and clover honey. It’s light bodied (9.0%) yet fleshy and delicate. Such precision!

Man Vintners 2014 Free-Run Steen Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region, South Africa ($13.95)
David Lawrason – Free-run chenin blanc is not quite the same as say, free run chicken. But there is a similar sense that quality should be better. (Free run juice flows freely out of the grapes without pressing of the bitter skins and should therefore be more delicate). This shows authentic and generous aromas of quince, honey and candle wax of Cape chenin. Quite substantial and complex for the money. MAN might seem an odd name but it is actually a compilation of the initials of the names of the wives of the three couples that own this winery.

S. Cristina Massoni 2014 Lugana, Lombardy, Italy ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – The northern Italian region of Lugana is well-known for its structured, mineral influenced and aromatic whites made principally from the turbiano variety (or Trebbiano di Lugana). Here is a classic example that is zesty, nutty and lightly tropical with fresh acids and a little lees contact. A wonderful treat for the last, lazy days of summer. (DL agrees!)

Grace Lane Riesling 2013Reichsrat Von Buhl Armand Riesling Kabinett 2012Man Vintners Chenin Blanc 2014S. Cristina Massoni Lugana 2014

De Wetshof 2014 Limestone Hill Chardonnay Unwooded, Robertson, South Africa ($15.95)
David Lawrason – Unique and intriguing! From limestone soils in the hot inland region of Robertson, this is bold, ripe yet firm unoaked chardonnay. There is some flinty sulphur on the nose, but also very generous green melon, wildflower and vague orange scents. It’s medium weight, fleshy, elegant and loaded with exotic flavour. Danny De Wetshof has long been considered one of the best chardonnay producers of the Cape.

Koncho & Co. 2012 Tsinandali, Kakheti, Georgia ($12.95)
Sara d’Amato – Nervous about picking up an inexpensive Georgian wine from the shelves? Don’t be! This is a gem of a find and one at a price that is notably low for VINTAGES. Tsinandali wines are generally made from a blend of rkatiteli and mtsvane and have a relatively long ageing process of several years in order to develop a more integrated, complex profile.

Henri Bourgeois 2014 Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc, Vins de Pays du Val de Loire, France ($15.95)
David Lawrason – One of the best sauvignon producers of Sancerre goes outside the zone to lower the price on a very well defined Loire sauvignon, that is both sleek and structured. It shows nicely lifted mint, lavender, grapefruit, green apple and pepper on the nose, with very good focus and length.

Paco & Lola 2013 Albariño, Rías Baixas, Spain ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This is a lovely albarino with snap and crunch, very good depth and well defined, lifted aromas of pineapple/starfruit, fresh herbs and yellow flowers. It’s mid-weight, very fresh and well structured, with great acidity and a sense of minerality.

De Wetshof Limestone Hill Chardonnay 2014Koncho & Co Tsinandali 2012Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc 2014Paco & Lola Albariño 2013


Herdade do Rocim 2011 Red, Alentejano, Portugal ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This is a quite charming, juicy yet substantial red with lifted aromas of currant/raspberry fruit nicely inset with oak spice, toast and light char. It’s medium weight, a bit tart and green on the palate, but I like the tension and length for the money.
Sara d’Amato – From Lower Alentejo in southern Portugal, Herdade do Rocim is a state of the art project which produces widely appealing blends. The indigenous varieties of aragonez, touriga nacional and alicante bouschet are represented in this savory blend along with spicy syrah. Try with barbecued short ribs.

Château Des Moines Menodin 2010, Bordeaux Supérieur ($14.95)
David Lawrason – Great Bordeaux authenticity and half-decent depth and complexity for the money. For two years now I have been singing the praises of this vintage in Bordeaux. Do not overlook 2010 while it is still hanging around.

Herdade do Rocim 2011 RedChâteau Des Moines Menodin 2010La Ferme Du Mont Le Ponnant Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2012

La Ferme Du Mont 2012 Le Ponnant Côtes Du Rhône Villages, France($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – La Ferme Du Mont’s grenache focused wines of Provence are often top value. Here is a wine with a traditional feel – a little earthy, funky and rustic. It is well seasoned with saline and black pepper which nicely compliments the juicy cassis fruit.

Palacios Remondo 2014 La Vendimia, Rioja, Spain ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – This is a fresh, youthful Rioja with very little oak blended from grenache and tempranillo. Despite the plump, plummy fruit on the palate, this year’s Vendimia shows surprising restraint and elegance. A sultry and aromatic find.

Palacios Remondo La Vendimia 2014Tahbilk The Tower Shiraz 2013Viña Maipo Gran Devócion Carmenère Syrah 2012

Tahbilk 2013 The Tower Shiraz, Central Victoria, Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This is a quite intriguing, somewhat sinewy shiraz that harkens back to the northern Rhone to some degree. Not great power or depth but I like the weave of pepper, vanillin, blackcurrant, vague mint and resin. There is grip and intrigue unexpected at the price.

Viña Maipo 2012 Gran Devócion Carmenère/Syrah, Maule Valley, Chile ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – An intense and concentrated blend with the elegant dried herbal notes of carmenere and the peppery vibrancy of syrah. Focused and impressively structured for the price.

That’s a wrap for this week. Tune in next Thursday for our more expensive recommendations.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES August 22nd, 2015
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier 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 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Squealing Pig Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Pacific Northwest Tasting - Aug 17th

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008