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Buy The Case: Lifford Wine and Spirits

A Report on Consignment Wines in Ontario
Written by WineAlign

Buy the CaseIn this regular feature WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single importing agent. Our critics independently, as always, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted to WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in our Buy The Case report. Importers pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to each critic, as it is with our reviews of in-store wines. 

For an explanation of the program, the process and our 10 Good Reasons to Buy the Case, please click here

Lifford Wine & Spirits

Proprietor Stephen Campbell has been a fixture on the Ontario restaurant and wine importing scene for more than four decades. Since 1978, Lifford has been bringing an exceptional portfolio of wines into Ontario and was purchased by Campbell in 1995. Two recent acquisitions in 2010, Saverio Schiralli Agencies and Prevedello and Mathews, have cemented Lifford as one of the premier agencies not just in Ontario, but across Canada. They now represent several hundred meticulously chosen producers in four provinces out of “a truly international collection of the world’s finest wines and spirits.”

Lifford is a provincial pioneer of the Liquor Control Board of Ontario’s consignment program and is arguably the largest supplier of premium wine to licensee restaurant accounts. Though the major areas of concentration of more than 125 producers are from France, Italy and California, with 16 total countries represented, Lifford’s is truly of a global portfolio.

This year their combined companies will sell more than 800,000 cases in Canada, cementing their work as a market leader in Ontario and the largest supplier of premium wines to the LCBO.

Below our critics have assembled their picks submitted for tasting in November, and they suggest reasons why you might consider buying by the case.

Australian Icon

Brokenwood Shiraz 2013Brokenwood 2013 Shiraz, Hunter Valley, Australia ($39.99)

John Szabo – Brokenwood is a Hunter Valley leader, and their shiraz a reliable and regular favourite of mine. The 2013 is full of elegance and grace in a style quite unique to Australia, where acids and elegance, and mid-weight, balanced wines seem to come together naturally. This has almost no detectable oak influence other than the rounding and softening effect on the palate; tannins are super fine grained and acids bright. This should age beautifully; buy a case now and follow its evolution over the next dozen years. Cellar Wine.
David Lawrason – From one of the great houses of the Hunter Valley, this shiraz has a lovely, pure and focused nose of blueberry/black cherry fruit, pepper, granitic earthiness and graphite. It’s medium-full bodied, very smooth, sweetish and engaging, with very fine tannin. If you are a fan of Aussie shiraz here is case to have on hand in your personal cellar, perhaps splitting with a friend or two.
Michael Godel – It may be the younger brother to the Graveyard but it comes from the same mother. A rare opportunity to enjoy Australian Shiraz of restraint and elegance. An excellent candidate to ask around and split a case with two or less.
Sara d’Amato – A classic and very elegant shiraz that is both fresh and fleshy. Very well structured but also not austere or bracingly youthful. Friends can help mitigate the cost of a case so buddy up and pool for this cellar-worthy find.

Welcome to the Age of the New Spanish Vigneron

Telmo Rodriguez 2014 Rueda Basa, Castilla y Léon, Spain ($16.99)

John Szabo – Telmo Rodriguez crafts some of Spain’s best, and best value wines from nine distinct regions throughout the peninsula. Against the odds, quality, and consistency are exemplary across the board. Basa is his rendition of Verdejo from Rueda, made here into a clean, semi-aromatic, floral and fruity white with no wood. Light CO2 spritz elevates the freshness. A fine house white or restaurant by-the-glass option. By-theGlass/House Wine
Michael Godel – Acts more like native Verdejo than ever before in ’14, with its very specific grape tannin effect. You must concentrate on the nuances to get this wine. This should hold a rightful white by the glass spot on every geeking out restaurant wine list.

Telmo Rodriguez 2013  Gaba do Xil Mencia, Valdeorras, Spain ($18.99)

John Szabo – Spain’s great red grape mencía continues to gather momentum, with both increasing numbers of quality producers, and consumers who appreciate them. Telmo Rodriguez (see Basa, above) highlights the lovely fragrant, floral and herbal side of the variety, with fresh red and blue fruit and no evident wood. All in all, this is a genuine mouthful, nicely proportioned, with great length and complexity at the price, full of joy and happiness. Drink with a light chill. By-theGlass/House Wine
David Lawrason – Made by young gun Telmo Rodgriguez, this charming, fruity red is from the mencia grape that is carving out a great reputation in northwestern Spain.  The treatment here is not as ‘serious’ as in Bierzo where it makes more dense, age-worthy wines, but I really like the juiciness, freshness. It reminds me of Beaujolais.  It’s price and style make a good by-the-glass restaurant pour but only to adventurous clientele. I would stock a case for warm weather sipping.
Michael Godel – A fluid, medium-rare red, perfect for a house wine to go with a mid-week steak. Year in and year out this is Rodriguez’ base and necessary expression for the “the freshness of Galicia.” Shares an aromatic commonality with Cabernet Franc though its gait is more Northern Rhône Syrah. Anti-serious, easy wine, existing as “a link to the past.”

Giro Ribot NV Cava Brut Reserva, Penedes, Spain ($18.99)

John Szabo – Quality sub-$20 sparkling wine, as Ben Franklin might have said, is a necessity of life. It’s even better when you find a traditional method, complex bubbly under $20, like this Cava. It’s crafted in the lightly oxidative style, with bruised apple and dried mango/tropical fruit flavours blending with yeasty/brioche notes, essentially dry, with succulent acids and very good length. House wine.
David Lawarson – This good value, well structured cava has a clean, mild nose that gently weaves subtle aromas of pear, wet stone, caraway and fresh baked scones. It’s light to mid-weight, firm with great acidity and minerality. Priced well as an upscale reception and oyster and tapas wine for mid-size functions. And a bit of talking point as well.
Michael Godel – Far from your average, every day, cookie-cutter Cava, the wealth of personality and character here is really refreshing. Though it is certainly steeped in tradition and a touch of oxidation, the amount of flavour will appeal to a diverse crowd at many different types of functions. Choose it for parties and sparkling needs at home.
Sara d’Amato – The name “giro robot” supposedly references the gyropalette which is the automated machine now used to riddle bottles of Champagne or sparkling wine in an even and efficient manner. And like Champagne, this Cava is leesy and complex with both verve and substance. Terrific value here, don’t miss out. House wine.

Basa Blanco 2014Gaba Do Xil Mencía 2013Giro Ribot Brut Reserva Ab Origine

Red Hot Value from Chile

Echeverria Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Viña Echeverria 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva, Chile ($14.99)

David Lawrason – This is a very smooth, quite supple, simple and vaguely sweetish young cabernet designed for immediate enjoyment. I like the balance and charm here, with some jammy fruit, very fine tannin. Very good length.  Screw cap assists its cause as a tippler that should stay fresh as a by-the-glass restaurant pour.
Michael Godel – Fresh, reductive, ripping and ready to pour for the masses Cabernet Sauvignon. Its versatility makes it an excellent choice for Chilean red by the glass to pair with a restaurant menu of many pages.
Sara d’Amato – Priced for everyday enjoyment, Echeverria’s cabernet sauvignon is refreshingly devoid of big oak and filling alcohol. Its meaty, earthy and minty profile is classically Chilean and its mid-weight profile allows it to be more versatile with food than your typical cab. Restaurant pour by the glass.


Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. 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!


This report was sponsored by Liffird Wine & Spirits. WineAlign critics have independently recommended the above wines based on reviews that are posted on WineAlign as part of this sponsored tasting. Lifford Wine & Spirits has provided the following agency profile.

About Lifford Wine & Spirits

lifford-logoIf you’ve only heard of one agency that specializes in consignment sales by the case in Ontario, there’s a good chance it’s Lifford.

As a pioneer of the LCBO’s consignment program, Lifford has grown to be the largest supplier of premium wine to restaurants and discerning consumers in the province.

Founded in 1978, Lifford was purchased by Steven Campbell in 1995. As a seasoned restaurateur of twenty years, Steven was passionate about wine and jumped at the opportunity to acquire a small but excellent portfolio of Californian, Australian and Italian wines. Eager to expand the portfolio, Steven travelled the international wine roads to find regional superstars whose families owned the land, tilled the soil and breathed life and vitality into their wines.

Today the portfolio represents a myriad of meticulously chosen producers, a truly international collection of the world’s finest wines and spirits at every price point, with a special emphasis on family-owned producers.

Whether it’s iconic wines from regions like the Napa Valley and Tuscany, excellent values from countries like Chile and Spain, or exciting new discoveries like sparkling wine from England and Nova Scotia, you can find it all in the Lifford portfolio.

Sign up for their weekly e-newsletter at to learn more about their excellent portfolio, and browse their e-commerce enabled website to purchase wine for delivery direct to your door in Ontario.



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British Columbia Critics’ Picks November 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.

We’re all over the map this month with our picks, from our own BC backyard to New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Italy and France. All the wines stood out for us this month, and considering we’ve tasted hundreds of wines between us in the past few weeks, that’s saying something. Buy local, think global, but drink well.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team

Anthony Gismondi

Having just returned from Emilia-Romagna, Italian wines are on my mind, and in particular, warming reds that stand up to the heartier dishes craved in November. Altesino 2010 Brunello di Montalcino serves up sangiovese’s refined aromatics with restrained red fruit and silky tannins. Osso Buco anyone?

Popping over to Spain and Priorat, the Domini De La Cartoixa Formiga De Galena 2012 blends grenache, samsó and syrah into a a fresh, juicy and stony blend, ideal for a mushroom-laden winter stew.

If you’d like a new lens for local, seek out Black Hills Carmenere 2013 from Oliver. This wine has come a long way since first release. With only 12 percent alcohol, the peppery, structured undertone is balanced with soft red fruits, striking a fine balance and elegance.

Altesino Brunello Di Montalcino 2010Domini De La Cartoixa Formiga De Galena 2012Black Hills Estate Winery Carmenere 2013

Rhys Pender, MW

The world seems awash with great value Chardonnay in the modern, restrained style and New Zealand has many regions and climates well suited to this fresher expression. Winemaker and fellow MW, Michael Brajkovich has the technique down with a range of Chardonnays from his Kumeu River winery and these are starting to appear in BC. I was quite impressed with the Kumeu River 2012 Hunting Hill Chardonnay from the Kumeu region. Lots of nut, fruit, fresh crispness and restraint. Delicious.

A wine with good pedigree that I don’t get to try too often is the Howard Park 2012 Leston Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River in Western Australia. The 2012 is out now in BC and should be a good one to put a few bottles away for later. Most Margaret River reds seem to age quite well and are often a well-priced bet for the cellar.

An interesting red worth trying and that has some nice complexity and a bit of age for the price is the Losada 2011 Bierzo from Spain. Bierzo and its Mencia grape were rediscovered in a forgotten corner of north-west Spain not so long ago and I’m glad they were. This wine has a nice combination of rich fruit, minerality, spice and some savoury notes. Very good with something meaty cooked over charcoal.

Kumeu River Hunting Hill Chardonnay 2012Howard Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon 2009Losada Bierzo 2011

Treve Ring

Though November has been chilly, we’ve been blessed with many days of brilliant sunshine and ample grilling opportunities, befitting juicy, friendly red wines. JoieFarm PTG 2013 is a BC classic, a blend of pinot noir and gamay that references Passe-Tout-Grains and the Burgundy blend of winemaker Heidi Noble. The medium-bodied palate carries forest, dark raspberries, cherries and dried salted herbs along lightly grippy tannins. Herb grilled chicken was a perfect match.

Gamay also plays a starring role in Okanagan Crush Pad’s Narrative Red 2014, a smart and well-priced syrah/gamay that is seriously quaffable. Smoked berry, ripe black cherry, raspberry jam and peppery roasted meats rule this juicy, round red, while ripe tannins finish with a gentle tug, making for the ideal support for a warm wild mushrooms and hearty grain salad.

Gamay is (obviously) never far from my heart, especially during November and Beaujolais Nouveau month. I skipped the Nouveau this year however, in favour of the striking Domaine Piron-Lameloise Chénas Quartz 2014. Rock juice. That’s what this wild ferment Chénas is like, living up to its Quartz name. Subtle earthy smoke, dark florals and black berries are laid across a textured streambed of stones. Tannins are slightly grippy and acids are bright and shining through to a fine peppery finish. Quite structured, this held up beautifully to roasted pork tenderloin.

~Joie Farm PTG 2013Okanagan Crush Pad Narrative Red 2014Domaine Piron Lameloise Quartz Chénas 2014

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.

Wolf Blass - Here's to the Chase

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Soif d’ailleurs avec Nadia – Soif de terroir québécois

par Nadia Fournier

Nadia Fournier - New - Cropped

Nadia Fournier

Aujourd’hui s’amorce la 10e édition de La Fête des Vins du Québec, qui se tiendra au Marché Bonsecours jusqu’à dimanche. Trois jours durant, le salon réunira plus d’une trentaine de vignerons et une foule d’artisans du domaine agroalimentaire.

Maintenant mieux distribués à la SAQ sous la bannière Origine Québec, les vins québécois connaissent une popularité sans précédent auprès des amateurs d’ici. L’année dernière, les ventes (en valeur) des vins québécois ont connu une augmentation de plus de 75 % dans les succursales du monopole d’état.

Avec raison, puisque la qualité des vins d’ici est plus que jamais au rendez-vous. D’accord, pour les rouges, la formule n’est pas encore tout à fait au point et on trouve encore plusieurs vins rustiques et peu attrayants sur le marché. Mais en matière de vins blancs secs et liquoreux, que de progrès! Sans parler des bulles…

Parmi la trentaine de vignerons qui seront dans le Vieux-Montréal ce soir, demain et dimanche, Daniel Lalande, président de cette 10e édition et propriétaire du Vignoble de la Rivière du Chêne, un vaste domaine de Saint-Eustache, développé il y a une quinzaine d’années. L’œnologue Laetitia Huet me semble avoir trouvé la bonne formule pour le William rouge 2013, avec la macération carbonique qui atténue les parfums rustiques des cépages hybrides. Une très bonne note aussi pour le William Blanc 2014, une valeur sûre sur le marché. Très sec, désaltérant et ponctuée de jolies notes florales. Toujours un bon achat à la SAQ.

Domaine de Lavoie
Maintenant solidement épaulé par son fils Francis-Hugues, Francis Lavoie veille sur une vaste propriété de 10 hectares, dans le secteur de Rougemont, en Montérégie. Parmi les vins, cidres et dégustés au cours des derniers mois, je retiens, le très bon Blanc 2014. Sec, léger et facile à boire, il ne manque pourtant pas de caractère. Tout aussi indiqué pour l’apéritif, le Hugues Original est une curiosité à découvrir. Déstabilisant aux premiers abords, avec des odeurs et des saveurs à mi-chemin entre un cidre et une IPA. C’est étrange, mais ça marche! Très bien même. Et ça se boit dangereusement bien… À la fin du repas ou en fin d’après-midi, en rentrant d’une longue marche en forêt, vous apprécierez la richesse doublée de vitalité du Bulles d’Automne. Une très belle réussite et un excellent cidre qui fera bon ménage avec les desserts fruités du temps des Fêtes.

Vignoble de la Rivière du Chêne Cuvée William 2013 Vignoble De La Rivière Du Chêne Cuvée William Blanc 2014 Domaine De Lavoie Blanc 2014 Domaine De Lavoie Hugues Original Domaine De Lavoie Bulles D'automne

Léon Courville croit depuis longtemps aux mérites du saint-pépin, un hybride créé au Minnesota. Son St-Pépin 2012, Réserve est savoureux; certainement le meilleur vin de ce cépage que j’aie goûté. Fermenté et élevé sur lies en fûts de chêne américain et français pendant 16 mois, très sec et doté d’une texture grasse qui enrobe l’acidité. Plus modeste, la Cuvée Charlotte 2014 mise sur un assemblage gagnant de seyval blanc et de geisenheim. Sec, net et désaltérant. Particulièrement complet cette année, le Vidal 2014 a des airs de vin germanique. 12 grammes de sucre, mais un tonus d’enfer, attribuable non seulement à l’acidité, mais aussi à une bonne structure.

Château de Cartes
Installé à Dunham, Stéphane Lamarre élabore ce très bon vin mousseux rosé, composé à 100 de st-croix, vinifié selon la méthode traditionnelle. Le rosé 2014 est délicatement brioché et relevé de notes sauvages qui traduit le caractère un peu rustique du cépage hybride et lui donne une touche d’originalité.

Domaine Les Brome Réserve St Pépin 2012 Domaine Les Brome Cuvée Charlotte 2014 Domaine Les Brome Vidal 2014 Château De Cartes Vin Mousseux Rosé 2014

Vignoble de l’Orpailleur
Le vin blanc sec haut de gamme de Charles-Henri de Coussergues mise sur l’opulence du cépage vidal et sur la vivacité caractéristique du seyval, assouplie par passage d’un an en fûts de chêne américain. Beaucoup de consistance en bouche dans cette Cuvée Natashquan 2011, une texture ample et nourrie, sans lourdeur aucune. Excellent! Issu à part quasi égales de seyval et de vidal, le Seyval blanc et Vidal 2013 est vendu dans l’ensemble du réseau de la SAQ. Aucun bois, mais des saveurs pures et une bouche rafraîchissante. C’est le vin blanc d’apéro idéal. 

Situé sur le chemin Bruce, non loin de l’Orpailleur et d’une foule d’autres domaines cidricoles et vinicoles, Union Libre a le vent dans les voiles. Partis d’une petite production artisanale il y a quelques années, cette entreprise de Dunham a connuu un immense succès avec son Cidre de Feu, un cidre issu de jus de pomme concentré sous l’effet d’un évaporateur – comme dans les érablières. Le résultat séduit par son caractère moelleux et sa vivacité. Issu de la même méthode, le Cidre Apéritif est un cran plus intense – ne serait-ce que par sa richesse en alcool à 16,5 %. Question de goût, mais je préfère encore le classique Cidre de Glace, ample, onctueux, de bonne tenue et très agréable à siroter par une journée fraîche d’automne.

Vignoble De L'orpailleur Natashquan 2011 L'orpailleur Seyval Blanc Et Vidal 2013 Union Libre Cidre De Feu (375ml) Union Libre Cidre Apéritif (375ml) Union Libre Cidre De Glace (375ml)

Coteau Rougemont
Ce domaine de création récente, développé par la famille Robert, abrite un verger et un vignoble. Issu de jeunes vignes, le Saint-Pépin 2013 est enrobé par un élevage en fûts de chêne qui arrondit les angles et apporte des notes grillées et légèrement torréfiées. Assez flatteur à sa manière. Pour l’apéro, Le Versant blanc 2013 offre une attaque en bouche est vive qui rappelle un peu le caractère tranchant d’un chablis. Cette année encore, une réussite très convaincante pour le prix. La famille Robert élabore aussi Le Grand Coteau 2013, un vin rouge substantiel, produit au pied du mont Rougemont. Belle réussite dans un registre moderne. Pour se sucrer le bec à la fin du repas, le Frontenac gris 2013 – Vendanges tardives et le Vidal 2013 – Vin de glace sont tous deux portés par une franche acidité dotés d’un équilibre impeccable. 

Coteau Rougemont Saint Pépin 2013 Versant Blanc Coteau Rougemont 2013 Coteau Rougemont Le Grand Coteau 2013 Coteau Rougemont Frontenac Gris Vendange Tardive 2013Coteau Rougemont Vidal 2013 Vin de glace

Domaine St-Jacques
Établis depuis une dizaine d’années à Saint-Jacques-le-Mineur, en Montérégie, Nicole Du Temple et Yvan Quirion ont largement contribué au succès populaire des vins québécois. Leur dynamisme est contagieux et la rigueur avec laquelle ils mènent leur entreprise a valeur d’exemple. Parfois un peu trop boisé à mon goût dans le passé, le Réserve blanc semble avoir trouvé son équilibre en 2012. Du volume en bouche et tout le naturel fruité des cépages seyval et vidal. Le Sélection rouge 2014 poursuit dans la même veine, très attrayant dès le premier nez; la bouche regorge quant à elle de saveurs fruitées nettes, ce qui n’est pas encore le cas de tous les vins rouges d’ici, malheureusement. Encore et toujours, une valeur sûre dans sa catégorie. Une bonne note aussi pour le Vin de glace 2011, un bon vin moelleux, modérément parfumé et doté d’une bonne acidité.

Vignoble du Marathonien
Dans leur domaine de Havelock, non loin de la frontière américaine, Line et Jean Joly se sont forgé une solide réputation, notamment grâce à la qualité incomparable de leurs vins liquoreux souvent primés sur la scène internationale. Sans surprise, le Vidal 2011 – Vin de glace est un monument. Une texture sirupeuse et des saveurs aussi complexes qu’intenses. Immense, mais sans la moindre lourdeur. Profitant des conditions climatiques idéales de l’été 2012, Jean Joly a produit un Vendanges tardives 2012 d’une concentration et d’une complexité aromatique supérieures. Moins d’acidité que dans les millésimes classiques, mais un équilibre irréprochable. Il trône toujours au sommet de sa catégorie.

Réserve De St Jacques 2011 Sélection De St Jacques 2014 Vin De Glace Blanc De St Jacques 2011 Vignoble Du Marathonien Vidal 2011 Vignoble Du Marathonien Vendange Tardive 2012Le Chat Botté Vin Blanc 2014

Vignoble Le Chat Botté
Isabelle Ricard et Normand Guénette ont acquis cette propriété dans le canton de Hemmingford en 2001 et ont entrepris d’y planter des cépages rustiques à partir de 2004. S’il est un peu plus tendre que le 2013 commenté l’année, leur Vin Blanc 2014 n’en est pas moins désaltérant et savoureux. Très bon vin d’apéritif à boire au cours de la prochaine année. 

Sur la route

Les deux vignobles suivants ne participent pas à la Fête des Vins du Québec, mais la qualité de leurs vins vaut bien un détour par les chemins de campagne. À commencer par les Négondos, premier vignoble biologique à avoir vu le jour au Québec. Lorsqu’ils ont entrepris de planter de la vigne dans les Basses-Laurentides, en 1993, Carole Desrochers et Mario Plante ont d’emblée été séduits par ce mode d’agriculture qui comptait très peu d’adeptes à l’époque. La qualité des vins goûtés à quelques reprises au cours des derniers mois leur donne raison. D’abord un peu discret en attaque, le Saint-Vincent 2013 n’a rien d’une bombe fruitée. On l’apprécie surtout pour sa franchise et pour la persistance de ses saveurs très fines de pêche blanche et de thé vert. Un excellent vin blanc à apprécier à l’apéritif ou avec de la cuisine japonaise. Plus ample, l’Opalinois 2013 se distingue des autres seyvals sur le marché tant par ses parfums tropicaux, que par son volume en bouche. 

Négondos Saint Vincent 2013 Négondos Opalinois 2013 Domaine Bergeville Blanc Brut 2013

De l’autre côté du fleuve, à North Hatley dans les Cantons-de-l’Est, le Domaine Bergeville se consacre exclusivement à l’élaboration de vins effervescents. Ève Rainville et Marc Théberge croient au potentiel des vins mousseux québecois et élaborent dans les règles de l’art, trois très bons vins, dont le Blanc 2013 Brut, issu de cépages hybrides cultivés selon les principes de la biodynamie. Un deuxième millésime couronné de succès. Bravo!

À votre santé!

Nadia Fournier

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 !

Wolf Blass Gold Label Shiraz 2012

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20 bons vins à moins de 20$ pour novembre 2015

Les choix de notre équipe du Québec

C’est bien beau, les bouteilles coûteuses 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. Et voici notre première sélection mensuelle de la saison froide. Le mois prochain, à temps pour que vous puissiez faire vos achats des Fêtes, on rehausse la barre un peu, avec une sélection spéciale de bons vins à moins de 30 $.

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

Les choix de Nadia

Naudin-Ferrand, Bourgogne Aligoté 2014 : À mi-chemin entre Beaune et Nuits-Saint-Georges, la vigneronne Claire Naudin produit cet excellent vin blanc issu du cépage aligoté. Très sec, léger en alcool et doté d’une acidité vive. Le compagnon idéal pour les huîtres! (19,50 $)  

Campagnola, Chardonnay 2014, Veneto : Difficile de trouver un vin blanc offrant un meilleur rapport qualité-prix que ce chardonnay de la maison Campagnola. Du gras, des saveurs nettes de poires et une saine fraîcheur. À moins de 15 $, on peut faire des réserves pour les Fêtes. (13,85 $)

Pittnauer, Pitti 2013, Burgenland : Délicieux vin gorgé d’un fruit éclatant et ficelé de tanins bien mûrs, issu d’un assemblage de blaufränkisch, de zweigelt et de saint-laurent, cultivés en biodynamie. Vif, pimpant, plein de vie. À moins de 20 $, on en ferait volontiers son vin quotidien. (18,15 $)

Domaine Henri Naudin Ferrand Bourgogne Aligoté 2014 Campagnola Chardonnay 2014 Weingut Pittnauer Pitti 2013 San Valentino Scabi Sangiovese Superiore 2013 Paolo Scavino Vino Rosso 2014

San Valentino, Sangiovese di Romagna 2013, Scabi : Au bord de l’Adriatique, en Émilie-Romagne, Roberto Mascarin signe un excellent sangiovese en 2013. D’emblée attrayant avec son nez de coulis de petits fruits sauvages, juste assez charnu et soutenu par une franche acidité. Servir frais autour de 16 °C et boire jeune pour profiter pleinement de son fruit. (19,05 $)

Paolo Scavino, Vino Rosso 2014 : Très bon vin de soif, façon Piémont. Encore tout jeune et fringant, ce vino da tavola est issu de jeunes vignes de barbera, dolcetto, nebbiolo et merlot. Rien de complexe, mais désaltérant, avec tout le fruit voulu. Dans sa catégorie, il vaut bien quatre étoiles. (17,70 $)

Les choix de Marc

Il commence à faire sérieusement froid, on penche de plus en plus souvent vers le rouge, mais vu que j’ai l’esprit de contradiction, trois blancs aujourd’hui dans mes bons choix pas chers… [Au moment de publier, ils annonçaient un redoux, l’heure sera donc au blanc, finalement, maudite météo qui m’empêche de tourner en rond…]

Un classique alsacien, d’abord, le Riesling Hugel 2013 (18,75 $), peut-être moins vif et tranchant qu’à l’accoutumée mais toujours aussi satisfaisant, bien nerveux malgré tout. De France encore, mais de la région de la Loire – bien que la Bretagne soit tout près, à un jet de galet –, le Muscadet Château de la Forchetière 2014, à 16,60 $, est sec et tonique, avec de savoureuses notes d’agrumes en prime. Enfin, d’Espagne, le Telmo Rodriguez Basa Blanco Rueda 2014 (17,45 $) sauvignonne un peu, même s’il est à base du cépage verdejo, et il a de la poigne en bouche ainsi qu’une texture relativement veloutée.

Hugel Riesling 2013 Château La Forchetière Muscadet Côtes De Grandlieu 2014 Basa Blanco 2014 Cusumano Syrah 2014 Animus 2013

En rouge, deux aubaines. Le Cusumano Syrah 2014, de Sicile et à 14,65 $, a des accents modernes et fruités, et il combine la générosité à juste ce qu’il faut de fraîcheur (pour ne pas lasser le palais). Du Portugal, l’Animus 2013, en appellation Douro, est moins corsé que le précédent et tout en souplesse, bien que le boisé soit davantage marqué. Mais à la bonne heure : à 13,95 $, la proposition est plus qu’honnête.

Les choix de Remy

En attendant les Fêtes

Pour préparer vos partys du tournant de l’année, l’équipe de Chacun son vin vous offrira une édition « de luxe » de cette chronique. En attendant, voici une petite sélection de bouteilles pour toutes les occasions, en cette fin d’automne qui se prolonge.

Un de mes vins préférés du mois, à 20$ ou pas, aura été le Mompertone 2012 de la maison Prunotto, dans le Piémont. Un assemblage énergique et très réussi de barbera et de syrah, qui réunit les côtés fruit rouge et épices des deux cépages de façon très réussie. Une vraie belle bouteille, qui avait bien paru lors du Grand prix canadien des vins du monde, plus tôt cette année.

Prunotto Mompertone 2012 Domaine du Clos des Fées Les Sorcières 2013 Citra Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2014 Donnafugata Anthìlia Bianco 2014 Rodney Strong Chardonnay 2013

Pour mes autres rouges du mois, j’étirerai juste un tout petit peu l’élastique des 20$ pour vous proposer un rouge délicieux, chaleureux, regorgeant de belles notes de garrigue et plein de caractère, Les Sorcières du réputé Domaine du Clos des Fées. Pour compenser ce dépassement, je vous renvoie au Citra 2014, un Montepulciano tout à fait correct pour à peine plus de 10$… le litre !

Du côté des blancs, l’Anthilia Blanco 2014 de Donnafugata montre bien qu’on peut avoir des vins à la fois aromatiques et frais, expressifs sans être sucrés. Très sympa, tout comme le très classique Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2013 de la maison Rodney Strong, mûr et satisfaisant, qui irait même fort bien avec la dinde du Thanksgiving, si jamais vous fêtez avec des voisins américains…

Les choix de Bill

La première neige est tombée et mes pneus d’hiver, eux, sont posés. Amenez-en des bordées, je suis paré. Mais le début décembre ne fait pas que rimer avec froidure : il signale aussi l’arrivée de la saison festive, avec la famille et les amis. C’est party time, et on a besoin de vins de party !

C’est-à-dire des bouteilles faciles à boire pour elles-mêmes, ou avec des hors-d’oeuvre. Qu’il s’agisse de bulles, de rouges ou de blancs, les vins festifs de l’ami Bill sont tous désaltérants. En voici cinq.

En matière de mousseux, je recherche quelque chose de pas trop sec, d’aromatique, et pourvu d’une bonne texture. Le Crémant de Limoux Antech 2013 a tous ces attributs.

Antech Cuvée Expression Brut Crémant de Limoux 2013 Les Jardins de Meyrac 2014 Château de Pocé Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Michele Chiarlo Cipressi Della Court Barbera d'Asti Superiore 2013 Vila Regia 2014

En blanc, je vous recommande le Jardins de Meyrac 2014, un assemblage de chardonnay et de sauvignon frais et aromatique, et qui n’a pas besoin de sucre pour avoir de la texture. Encore plus intense sur le plan des odeurs, le Château de Pocé 2014 Touraine est un excellent sauvignon blanc, aussi agréable à sentir qu’à boire.

Bien que les rouges riches et corsés aient la cote, ils ne font pas, en règle générale, de bons vins apéritifs. Je recherche pour cela le fruit, la fraîcheur et un vin qui demande à être servi à environ 15 C. Le Barbera d’Asto Cipressi 2013 de Michele Chiarlo répond à ces critères. Si le facteur prix est encore plus important à vos yeux, alors le Vila Regia 2014, du Douro, est meilleur que jamais dans ce dernier millésime. Difficile de trouver mieux, à moins de 11 $.

Santé !


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!

Les vins du Sud-Ouest de la France


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20 under $20 for November 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. No cash? Still thirsty? No problem! Here is the first winter version of the 20 under $20. Next month, we will raise the price bar a touch to bring you some great gift ideas.

Chacun son Vin Critic Team : Bill, Marc, Nadia & Remy

Bill Zacharkiw’s picks

The first snow is on the ground and the snow tires have been put on my car. I’m ready. But while December’s cold is around the corner, it’s also the beginning of the festive season, a time to get together with family and friends. It’s party time and we need party wines!

What’s a party wine? These are wines that drink well on their own or with snacks. Be it bubbles, reds or whites, Bill’s party wines are about drinkability. So here are five affordable and fun wines that will do the trick.

With respect to bubbles, I want a wine that isn’t overly dry, is aromatic and has a certain texture. The Antech 2013 Cremant de Limoux will do just that with brio.

Antech Cuvée Expression Brut Crémant de Limoux 2013 Les Jardins de Meyrac 2014 Château de Pocé Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Michele Chiarlo Cipressi Della Court Barbera d'Asti Superiore 2013 Vila Regia 2014

For my whites, I want something fresh and fun to drink. The 2014 Jardins de Meyrac is a blend of chardonnay and sauvignon blanc which is both aromatic and fresh, without resorting to sugar to give it volume. If you want a wine that is even more dynamic in terms of aromas, the 2014 Touraine from Château de Pocé is an excellent sauvignon blanc that is as much fun to smell as it is to drink.

While many people love full-bodied red wines, they do not generally make for great aperitif wines. I look for fruit, freshness and a wine that is best served around 15C. The 2013 Cipressi Barbera d’Asti Superiore from Michele Chiarlo is just that wine. And if you want a true bargain, in a similar style, try the 2014 Vila Regia. This is a “basic” Douro with this vintage striking me as being even better than the last. It’s hard to find a better wine under $11 at the SAQ.

Nadia Fournier’s selections

Naudin-Ferrand 2014 Bourgogne AligotéHalfway between Beaune and Nuits-Saint-Georges, vigneronne Claire Naudin is the woman behind this excellent white wine made with the aligoté grape. Very dry, light in alcohol and with a bright acidity, this is the ideal match for oysters. 

Campagnola 2014 Chardonnay VenetoDifficult to find a better value white than this chardonnay from Campagnola. Richly textured, with notes of pear and an underlying freshness. At under $15, stock up for the festive season.

Domaine Henri Naudin Ferrand Bourgogne Aligoté 2014 Campagnola Chardonnay 2014 Weingut Pittnauer Pitti 2013 San Valentino Scabi Sangiovese Superiore 2013 Paolo Scavino Vino Rosso 2014

Pittnauer 2013 PittiA delicious wine with explosive fruit held together by a delicate thread of ripe tannin. A blend of indigenous Austrian grapes: blaufränkisch, zweigelt and saint-laurent. Biodynamically grown, this wine is just so lively. And for its under $19 price tag, it’s a wine that can be drunk with abandon.

San Valentino 2013 Scabi Sangiovese SuperioreOn the Adriatic coast in the region of Émilie-Romagne, Roberto Mascarin produced an excellent sangiovese in 2013. So attractive with its nose of wild fruit, with just enough texture and underlying acidity. Serve this around 16°C and drink it in its youth to benefit from its gorgeous fruit.

Paolo Scavino2014 Vino RossoAn excellent ‘thirst-quencher’ Piedmont-style. Still so fresh and youthful, this table wine is made with young vines of barbera, dolcetto, nebbiolo and merlot. Nothing overly complex, but so refreshing and with all the fruit you could want. In its category, a four star rating is well deserved.

Marc Chapleau’s picks

It is starting to get seriously cold, so we collectively shift the balance towards red wines. But seeing as I am not averse to being slightly contrarian, here are three whites. (It should be noted that while writing this, they are calling for even more unseasonably warm weather, so these whites are rather timely).

A classic from Alsace, the Hugel 2013 Riesling, while perhaps being a touch less cutting than I am accustomed to, is still as satisfying as ever. My second choice hails from France as well, but from the Loire Valley. The Château de la Forchetière 2014 Muscadet, at $16.60, is dry and refreshing, with delicious notes of citrus. Finally, from Spain, the 2014 Telmo Rodriguez Basa Blanco Rueda will make you think sauvignon blanc even though its base is verdejo. It shows a certain punch despite its relatively rich texture.

Hugel Riesling 2013 Château La Forchetière Muscadet Côtes De Grandlieu 2014 Basa Blanco 2014 Cusumano Syrah 2014 Animus 2013

For my reds, two great value wines: The Cusumano Syrah 2014, from Sicily, speaks to a more modern style with its ripe fruit and rich texture with just enough acidity to keep the wine fresh. From Portugal, the 2013 Animus Douro, shows less power than the Cusumano, but has a great suppleness with oak driven flavours that dominate just a touch. At under $14, a very honest wine for the price.

Remy Charest’s Holiday Selections 

To give your holiday parties some extra pizzaz, the Chacun son Vin team is preparing a “deluxe” edition of this monthly feature for December. In the meantime, here is a selection of bottles for every occasion.

One of my favorite wines of the month, for under or over 20$ a month, has been the Mompertone 2012 from the Piemontese winery, Prunotto. A really successful and inspiring blend of barbera and syrah, bringing together the lively red fruit and spice of both varieties. A lovely bottle, which scored very nicely at the World Wine Awards of Canada earlier this year.

Prunotto Mompertone 2012 Domaine du Clos des Fées Les Sorcières 2013 Citra Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2014 Donnafugata Anthìlia Bianco 2014 Rodney Strong Chardonnay 2013

For my two other reds, I hope you’ll allow me to go just over the 20$ barrier to offer a delicious Languedoc wine that’s full of character and nice garrigue notes, Les Sorcières from Domaine du Clos des Fées. If that makes a hole in your budget, you can compensate with the 2014 Citra, a Montepulciano that does quite well for 10$… a litre!

On the white side of things, Donnafugata’s 2014 Anthilia Blanco shows you can get wines that are both aromatic and fresh, and expressive, but without being sweet. Very pleasant and easy going, just like the very classic 2013 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay from Rodney Strong, a ripe and satisfying California white that can be a great match for Thanksgiving turkey, if you’re celebrating with American friends.

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!

Infinitely Roussillon

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Nov 28, Part Two

Our Finest from Europe
by John Szabo MS, with notes from David Lawrason & Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

No need for a preamble this week; I’ll jump straight into the recommended wines. In part two of coverage for this largest VINTAGES release of the year, we look at European wines, minus the super Tuscans that David covered admirably last week.

We have suggestions from no fewer than nine countries, from Germany to Greece, Portugal to Austria, $18 to $90. I’m confident you’ll find something to love on the list. And don’t forget to log on and use the “find wine” feature on WineAlign, as we’ve been busy tasting and reviewing hundreds of wines over the last couple of months, including many wines in the consignment world, worthy of buying by the case for the holidays and beyond.

Buyers Guide for November 28th: Our Finest European White

Giannikos 2014 At Sea Roditis, Peloponnese, Greece ($17.95)

John Szabo – Fans of aromatic white wines will want to discover this fruity, peachy and floral expression of roditis, reminiscent of viognier, farmed organically. Enjoy it in the flower of its youth.
Sara d’Amato – This organically farmed Peloponnese white is made from the indigenous roditis variety, a pink grape that has the ability to hold on to freshness and acidity even when planted in hot climates. Fresh, light and typically aromatic, the palate boasts sweet fruit and tender blossom.

Donnachiara 2013 Greco di Tufo, Campania, Italy ($17.95)

Sara d’Amato – Donnachiara is located in the hilly vineyards of Avellino and is known for producing wines with great regional typicity. This distinctiveness is well represented in this aromatic, food friendly expression of Greco di Tufo offering notes of peach, grapefruit and melon.

Vignerons de Buxy 2103 Buissonnier Montagny, Châlonnais, Burgundy ($19.95)

David Lawrason – The Buxy co-op is one of the more successful in this region just south of the Côte de Beaune, and with its more famous neighbours now financially out of reach I urge you to try this for $20 bucks. It is not a dramatic or powerful chardonnay, but it is poised, complex and well integrated with peach, vanilla, wood spice and vague hazelnut notes. It’s lighter weight, quite tender and refined. Very good value.

Giannikos At Sea Roditis 2014 Donnachiara Greco Di Tufo 2013 Vignerons de Buxy Buissonnier Montagny 2013 Leth Brunnthal Grüner Veltliner 2013

Leth 2013 Brunnthal 1öwt Grüner Veltliner, Fels Am Wagram Austria ($24.95)

John Szabo – Here’s an archetypal grüner from a family-operated, regional leader on the deep loess soils of the Wagram region, replete with sweet citrus, fresh parsnip and sweet green herbs off the top, just slipping into the honeyed spectrum. It’s generous and broad, intensely flavoured, with fine depth and excellent length, with the merest impression of sweetness; a top class example at a very keen price. Best 2015-2021.

Jean-Max Roger 2014 Cuvée G.C. Sancerre, Loire Valley, France ($28.95)

John Szabo – 2014 was a cool and challenging vintage, but Roger comes out here with flying colours, delivering pure, crisp, bright and sharply focused flavours, with plenty of thrust and drive on the palate. This wine hails from the Grand Chemarin vineyard (“GC”), a top, particularly stony site in the village of Bué with the soil type known locally as caillottes.  Best 2015-2020.

Château de Beaucastel 2014 Coudoulet de Beaucastel Blanc, Côtes du Rhône, Rhône, France ($33.95)

Sara d’Amato – Known as the “baby Beaucastel” Coudoulet blanc’s 3 hectares of vineyard are located just across the highway from those of the revered Château de Beaucastel’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape. This cooler and wetter vintage in the southern Rhône has produced more delicate and fresher wines, which is evident in this elegant, graceful beauty with impressive complexity.
David Lawrason – I am a huge fan of Perrin family white wines. This is a refined, richly flavoured and exotic southern Rhône white with subtlety and integration – ripe peach/melon, oak spice, vanilla cream and the unique perfume of viognier peaking through. It’s mid-weight, fairly creamy yet fresh.

Jean-Max Roger 2014 Cuvée G.C. Sancerre Château De Beaucastel Coudoulet De Beaucastel Blanc 2014 Antinori Castello Della Sala Cervaro Della Sala 2013 Miraval Rosé 2014Künstler Hochheimer Stielweg Old Vines Riesling Trocken 2013

Künstler 2013 Hochheimer Stielweg Old Vines Riesling Trocken, Rheingau, Germany ($42.95)

John Szabo – Künstler is a leader in the dry riesling genre from the Rheingau, with an enviable collection of top vineyards. The 50+-year-old vines from Stielweg provide an explosive, dense, concentrated mouthful of wine, with terrific length and genuine complexity, and real old vine vinosity, best in at least another 3-5 years. Künstler describes the wine as “sustainable and robust”. “Stielweg is the only vineyard where old vines combine an enormous wealth of fruitiness with the delicate ways of a Riesling.” Best 2018-2025.

Antinori 2013 Castello della Sala Cervaro della Sala IGT Umbria, Italy ($57.95)

John Szabo – A classy, complex, mid-weight, sinewy and lean vintage for the Cervaro (chardonnay and grechetto blend) with integrated wood and notable lees character, and exceptional length and complexity overall. This is 2-4 years away from prime enjoyment, but should satisfy fans of the genre handily. Great depth. Best 2018-2025.
Sara d’Amato – The flagship wine of Antinori’s Castello Della Sala estate is a blend of chardonnay and grechetto. A smart, sophisticated buy that is also immensely satisfying. Lightly buttery with nicely integrated French oak treatment and a hint of creaminess from the fine lees ageing. Pair with a festive turkey dinner.

Miraval 2014 Rosé, Côtes De Provence, Provence, France ($22.95)

Sara d’Amato – A new shipment of the Miraval Rosé is quite welcome any time of the year. Just because the cold is upon us, it doesn’t mean that rosé should be off the table. In fact, it makes for a versatile wine over the holidays that works well with everything from roasted poultry to fish to lamb. The Perrin family and the Pitt-Jolie’s collaborative effort yields a dry, classy rosé with subtly and elegance.

Buyers Guide for November 28th: Our Finest European Red 

Lungarotti 2012 Rubesco, Rosso di Torgiano, Umbria, Italy ($17.95)

Sara d’Amato – This sangiovese-based blend, akin to a good quality Chianti Classico, is Lungarotti’s flagship wine. Licorice, leather and pomegranate make up the inviting nose of this traditional and lightly floral Rubesco.

Château Trillol 2011 Corbières Grenache Carignan Syrah, Languedoc, France ($19.95)

John Szabo – The Languedoc continues to be a source of characterful wines at down-to-earth prices, like this Grenache-syrah-carignan blend. It’s a genteel and elegant Corbières, more refined than the average to be sure, with elegant styling and suave, silky tannins. Length and depth are uncommonly good for the price category. Best 2015-2021.

Prazo De Roriz 2011 Tinto, Douro, Portugal ($19.95)

David Lawrason – This is ‘basic’ Douro red from a high-powered duo – the Symington family that forms the aristocracy of the Douro and Bruno Prats of Bordeaux’ Cos d’Estournel.  It has a generous nose of mulberry/blackberry with some vanillin, light mocha and cigar. It’s full-bodied, fairly dense, rich and smooth, yet showing firm tannin.  Youthful, from an excellent vintage.

Lungarotti Rubesco 2012 Château Trillol Grenache Carignan Syrah 2011 Prazo de Roriz 2011 Plavac Frano Milos 2011 Olim Bauda Le Rocchette Barbera D'asti Superiore 2012

Frano Milos 2011 Plavac Peljesac Peninsula, Croatia ($20.95)

John Szabo – Lovers of savoury, old world wines will want to make the acquaintance of native plavac mali from Croatia, and no better introduction than from regional star Frano Milos and the dramatic, terraced Dolomitic vineyards of the Peljesac (pell-yeh-shatz) peninsula overlooking the Adriatic. Wild fermented and aged in old Slavonian casks, this is a marvellously firm and complex red, with puckering walnut skin-like tannins, yet enough fruit extract to make it work. It will never be a supple and smooth red, but rather one destined for the table with a large roast of beef, served rare with a last minute sprinkle of sea salt. Best 2015-2025.

Olim Bauda 2012 Le Rocchette Barbera d’Asti Superiore, Piedmont, Italy ($28.95)

Sara d’Amato – Barbera is a great wine to include on your festive table. It is characteristically deliciously juicy, not too filling, and with both freshness and fleshiness to complement a wide array of dishes. This particularly memorable example is lightly oaked with more colour and structure than the norm, making it an excellent choice for a festive occasion.

Chapelle de Potensac 2010, Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($29.95)

John Szabo – A well structured and proportioned, lively 2nd wine from Potensac, perfectly mid-weight, zesty and fresh. I love the balance and class on offer – this is arch classic left bank Bordeaux, with firm, elegant tannins and bright natural acids. Lovely wine, drinking now, but better in 3-5 years.
David Lawrason – This is an even-keeled, fresh and engaging young Bordeaux – another very fine 2010 – with a fragrant, balanced nose of raspberry/fresh fig fruit, spice and fresh herbs. Quite juicy yet it firms up on the finish. Will thrive through this decade.

L’Expression de Margaux 2010 AC, Bordeaux, France ($33.95)

David Lawrason – I approached this wine with all red flags flying – a Margaux from a negociant, not an individual property (chateau). But it actually does express Margaux well (as advertised), which is so rare given that Margaux is pricing out of reach for most. The essence is nicely lifted fragrant black raspberry, cedar and vanillin. It’s smooth, elegant and a bit warm (14%) with very fine tannin.
John Szabo – Stylish and plush but balanced, this is a terrific mouthful of wine, even-keeled, with supple tannins that still frame the billowing dark fruit nicely. Acids are likewise firm and fresh, and the length is excellent. Elegant and suave in the Margaux style, and top value. Best 2015-2025.

Chapelle De Potensac 2010 L'expression de Margaux 2010 Faustino I Gran Reserva 2004Le Fonti Di Panzano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011 Château De Beaucastel Châteauneuf Du Pape 2013

Faustino I 2004 Gran Reserva,  DOCa Rioja, Spain ($35.95)

John Szabo – A classic, old school Rioja here from Faustino, showing beautifully right now. Tannins are supple and suave, in place but perfectly integrated, while acids remain fresh and bright. The range and depth of flavours is excellent. Fine wine, drink or hold another decade.

Le Fonti di Panzano 2011 Chianti Classico Riserva, DOCG Tuscany, Italy ($41.95)

John Szabo – This may seem pricey for Chianti Classico, but tasted alongside a range of more expensive Brunello, this wine stole the spotlight. From a small organic farm in Panzano, the delicate hands of respected winemaker Dr. Stefano Chioccioli show through in this concentrated, very ripe, full and stylish wine made in a clearly defined riserva style, from evident low yields and careful crafting. Barrel ageing adds depth and texture without excessive impact on flavour, polishing and softening tannins. Excellent length. Best 2015-2025.

Château de Beaucastel 2013 Châteauneuf-Du-Pape AC Rhône, France ($89.95)

John Szabo – 2013 was a stellar year for Beaucastel, surely one of the Châteauneufs of the vintage. It’s rich, balanced, spicy, nicely delineated, clean-and very focused, firm, lively and elegant. I appreciate the freshness and pinpoint flavours, the light but tightly knit texture, like Kevlar, and the lingering, cherry-perfumed finish. Classy stuff, and best after 2020, when it will have shifted fully into the savoury spectrum. Drink 2020-2030+.

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

From VINTAGES November 28th, 2015

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Nov 28, Part One – The Super-Tuscans

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!

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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What’s New at LCBO in November 2015

Between our VINTAGES Buyers’ Guide and Steve Thurlow’s top picks from the LCBO Wines, we have the whole store covered each and every month.

Nouveau, Gifts and New Releases
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I found a nice selection of wines to tell you about from my recent tastings of new wines at the LCBO, including one from the Nouveau 2015 release and one from the new gift items on the shelf for the upcoming holiday season. Many are quite exciting; give them a try and let’s hope that some of them stay around for awhile.

Last week, the Beaujolais Nouveau arrived on the shelves. I do not normally like Nouveau wines as the method used to make them so quickly after the harvest does not usually deliver great wine. Fortunately the category is gradually falling out of fashion. So, as expected, I was not impressed by this year’s batch, with one exception from Drouhin that I selected below.

Most of the items in the gift section at LCBO stores are beautifully packaged, but again, not all great wines. The exception here is the Penfolds offering – a superb cabernet. So if your giftee is impressed by packages there are many options, but I for one would be delighted to get this gift from Santa which I’ve featured below.

The wines on the shelves at the LCBO are constantly changing and I am tasting the new ones all the time. Many favourites are always there but the range and variety is gradually being updated. I suggest you read on, pick a few that appeal, then check on inventory at your local LCBO which should be set up as your Favourite Store in Find Wine at WineAlign.

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 reviews of great value wines!


The Entertainer Red Blend 2013, South Australia ($13.95 was $15.95) – This wine was created in honour of Wolf Blass, the famous Australian winemaker, whose passion in life has always been to entertain. It is certainly entertaining and at $2 off is also a great buy.

The Entertainer Red Blend 2013

Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2015, Burgundy, France ($15.95) – Nouveau Wine Release: It is youthfully fruity and exuberant but there is more to it than that. It is very pure with some structure and good length. Try with veal scallopini.

Joseph Drouhin Beaujolais Villages Nouveau 2015

Ara Pathway Single Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand ($16.95) – Great value for a juicy fruity pinot with a very harmonious nose. It’s dry, tightly knit and well balanced for food. Try with roast beef.

Ara Pathway Single Estate Pinot Noir 2013

Woodwork Pinot Noir 2013, Central Coast, California, USA ($16.95) – A clean ripe sweetish very typical Central Coast pinot. It’s soft and very drinkable. Chill a little and enjoy with a ham and cheese sandwich.

Woodwork Pinot Noir 2013

Mark West Pinot Noir 2013, California, USA ($16.95) – A well made juicy fruity sweetish pinot that’s very appealing with a good depth of flavour and good length. Chill a little and enjoy on its own or with delicate cheeses.

Mark West Pinot Noir 2013

Château Canteloup 2012, Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($19.65) – This has the presence and aromas of a top quality Bordeaux red. It has very traditional styling and though the structure is not that of the top wines, it is still very impressive for the money.

Château Canteloup 2012

Penfolds Bin 9 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, South Australia ($23.95) – Holiday Gift Section: A superb elegant cabernet with a gorgeous nose and finely balanced palate. Makes a great gift for any lover of fine red wine who enjoys a steak.

Penfolds Bin 9 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013


Chateau d’ Eternes Brut, Saumur, Loire Valley, France ($14.95) – This is a very classy sparkling wine at a great price with an enticing nose. It is dry and finely balanced with very good to excellent length. A great aperitif but also a wine for delicate seafood dishes

Chateau D' Eternes Saumur Brut

Ara Pathway Single Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand ($14.95) – A fresh mellow sauvignon that’s a little sweet but there is very good length and it makes for a good sipping wine.

Ara Pathway Single Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Fiol Prosecco Extra Dry Veneto, Italy ($15.60) – A fresh lively non-vintage Italian bubby with clean aromas of pear and melon fruit with lemon and icing sugar tones.

Fiol Prosecco Extra Dry

Woodwork Chardonnay 2013, Central Coast, California, USA ($16.95) – This is a modern California chardonnay with modest well integrated oak adding to the lemon, melon and pear fruit aromas. Chill well and enjoy with chicken, veal or pork dishes.

Woodwork Chardonnay 2013

Villa Maria Lightly Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand ($17.95) – A new trend from the Kiwis. Take good quality sauvignon crammed with aromas and flavours, leave some sugar and lightly carbonate just before bottling to get a delightful refreshing bubbly.

Villa Maria Lightly Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc 2015



Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20 for November
Top 50 Value Wines
World Wine Awards of Canada

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!


Bottega Prosecco

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Quality over quantity in the basin of Catalan culture

What is the Roussillon?
by Bill Zacharkiw

Let’s start with where is it. The Roussillon is the most southern of France’s wine regions, shaped like an amphitheatre and bordered by Spain to the south, and nestled in between the western coast of the Mediterranean and three mountain ranges – the Corbières to the North, the Pyrenees to the West and the Albères to the South.

Its northern border is the beginning of France’s largest wine producing region, the Languedoc, which it was “fusioned” with in the 1970’s. So for many wine lovers, when they hear Roussillon, it is often as part of this greater entity. But while the Roussillon shares certain soil and climate characteristics with parts of the Languedoc, it is a very different place.

The Roussillon, which came into France as a province in 1659 and became the department of the Pyrenees-Orientales, is the basin of the Catalan culture in France.

Historically, the Roussillon made a name for itself with fortified wines, and up until as recently as the 1970’s, fortified wines represented over 80% of all wine made in the region. The reason might be that the first patent for the process of “mutage” was granted to a Catalan doctor Arnaud de Villeneuve at the end of the 13th century.

baie de paulilles-®BravoMaza

Baie de Paulilles ®BravoMaza

As fortified wines have shown a drop in sales over the years, wineries gradually have shifted production towards table wines, but fortified wines still represent an important part of the region’s identity, and most wineries offer one or more of the five designated AOPs (Appellation d’Origine Protégée) for fortified wines: Rivesaltes, Muscat de Rivesaltes, Maury, Banyuls and Banyuls Grand Cru.

Maury and Banyuls

Maury and Banyuls can be made with white grapes, but are made primarily with grenache noir, often with a touch of carignan and to a much lesser extent, syrah and mourvedre. Like vintage Port, some Banyuls and Maury are aged for over a year without contact with oxygen and then continue to age in bottle. These wines are called “Rimage,” in Banyuls, and “Vendange” or “ Vintage” in Maury.

The dominant style, however, are the oxidized wines, much like Tawny Port. The wine is exposed to oxygen and acquires a “nutty” aroma. In both appellations, many wineries will use a technique of leaving all, or part, of the fortified wines outside in the sun in glass containers for up to two years. The combination of heat and sun speed up the oxidation process, which adds complexity and gives them their unique character.

These wines are arguably the ideal pairing for chocolate, though they can also be drunk on their own or with stronger cheeses.

Rivesaltes and Muscat de Rivesaltes

The rest of the Roussillon is covered by the two AOP’s for fortified wines: Rivesaltes and Muscat de Rivesaltes. As the name suggests, Muscat de Rivesaltes is made with muscat grapes: muscat petits grains and muscat of Alexandria. These are primarily sold young and offer up a host of tropical and citrus notes.


Canigou Mountain and Vineyards ®civr

The family of Rivesaltes are made with both white and red grapes, and all are aged oxydatively. Amber Rivesaltes are aged a minimum of 30 months, and made entirely with white grapes. Tuilé Rivesaltes are also aged a minimum of 30 months, but can be a mix of red and white grapes. Rivesaltes Hors d’Âge is an Amber or Tuilé Rivesaltes with a minimum of 5 years of age, and sometimes much more. These wines can live for decades, and even centuries as I discovered during a recent trip to the region.

The Dry Wine Revolution

Many wineries have now shifted the majority of their production to table wines. While there was little in terms of tradition with respect to making “dry” wines, the region’s grapes and terroir are ideally suited to making this style of wine.

What the Roussillon has going for it is a complex mosaic of quality soils, and a warm climate that is fairly constant. Name a famous soil type, from limestone to schist, and you will find it in the region. Many of the vineyards are grown at higher altitudes, or by the sea, which both act to temper the heat and allow for the grapes to keep great acidity and show solid, though ripe, tannin.


Caramany ®civr

But the greatest strength in terms of quality and uniqueness is that the Roussillon is a treasure trove of old vines, specifically carignan and grenache noir in red, and grenache blanc, grenache gris and macabeo in white grape varieties.

There are three main AOP’s covering dry wines: Côtes de Roussillon, Côtes de Roussillon Villages and Collioure. Côtes de Roussillon includes red, white and rosé. Côtes de Roussillon Villages is exclusively red wine and can include five named villages:  Caramany, Latour de France, Lesquerde, Tautavel and Maury sec (dry Maury). Collioure which can be red, white and rosé and is the AOP which covers the same region which produces Banyuls.

All of the red wines must be blends and have a minimum percentage of syrah or mourvedre, which are newcomers to the region, alongside the carignan and grenache. The style tends to be riper wines, with alcohol levels often around 14% but with exceptional acidity. I often call them the perfect median between classic European structure and riper styled, new world wines.

The hidden gem might be the region’s white wines. With its limestone and schist soils, grenache gris and blanc perform extraordinarily well. Those who believe that minerality is reserved for northerly growing areas will be taken aback by the sheer rockiness that one finds in these wines. These wines can age with the best of them, and are a truly unique.

And perhaps unique is the best word to describe what has become one of my favourite wine regions in the world. The Roussillon is visually stunning, with a deep history in winemaking, its own culture, and a region which specializes in quality over quantity. Any true wine lover deserves, and needs, to discover what I believe is one of France’s most dynamic regions.

Discover the wines

Here’s a short list of some Roussillon wines that have been reviewed recently either by me or my WineAlign colleagues. You can find many more available at your favourite store by searching this tag: Vins du Roussillon.

Domaine de Rancy Ambré Rivesaltes 1948 “At 65 years of age, remarkably fresh and surprisingly delicate.” – Bill Zacharkiw

Domaine La Tour Vieille Reserva Banyuls “Barely sweet, and remarkably fresh. One of the better dessert wines out there.” – Bill Zacharkiw

Château Saint Roch Chimères 2013 “Seductive, ripe plummy, peppery nose nicely finished with subtle oak.” – David Lawrason

Domaine Lafage Côté Est 2013 “This is a lovely, exotic, bloomy and spicy young white” – David Lawrason

Domaine Lafage Cuvée Nicolas Vieilles Vignes Grenache Noir 2013 “A very rich grenache brimming with aroma and character.” – Sara d’Amato

Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Villages 2014 “A lovely, succulent fruity and spicy, oak-free red blend” – John Szabo MS

Domaine De Rancy Ambré Rivesaltes 1948Domaine La Tour Vieille Reserva BanyulsChâteau Saint Roch Chimères 2013Domaine Lafage Côté Est 2013Domaine Lafage Cuvée Nicolas Vieilles Vignes Grenache Noir 2013M. Chapoutier Les Vignes De Bila Haut Côtes Du Roussillon Villages 2014

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!

Photo credits: Vins du Roussillon

Vins du Roussillon

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Culmina: No Stone Unturned

A WineAlign Winery Profile
By David Lawrason

Many of the world’s most iconic wines have taken single word names that evoke classicism and ring with entendre. Many end with the letter “a” –  Solaia and Ornellaia from Italy for example, or Insignia from California. I am wary of such wines as often the names can portend more than the wines deliver. It is much easier to sound important than be important.

Culmina, the latest ‘single-word-ending-with-an-a-winery’ from B.C.s Okanagan Valley is indeed important to B.C. and Canadian wine! As I sat with the range recently at the WineAlign offices I kept telling myself that they were clearly in a state of grace (literally) that many from B.C. have not yet attained. There is a sense of detailing and compactness that is actually quite rare in wines so recently out of the gate.

(At the bottom of this report, WineAlign critics have included some top picks from a recent Culmina tasting.)

culmina_table_crop4450_4 (1)

That may be because Culmina is not really new. The winery is new, the vineyards are new and the name is new, but the wines are truly the culmination of the careers of three men and two women with deep roots in winemaking, and who have brought not only experience, but a particular understanding of what it takes to make wine in the southern Okanagan.

The founders of Culmina are Donald and Elaine Triggs, whose surname still appears on more bottles of wine than any in Canada. After the partnership of Alan Jackson and Donald Triggs dissolved within a series of corporate acquisitions in the 1990s and 2000s, Donald was left to his own devices. He could have retired as a grandfather, but instead he and Elaine launched into a new project that would bring their years of experience to bear.

Part of that experience was having overseen the launch of Osoyoos-Larose in the southern Okanagan. Osoyoos-Larose was a joint venture between Vincor (of which Donald was president at the time) and Groupe Taillan of Bordeaux, and from the outset it was conceived as a “one wine” house focused on a red blend of Bordeaux varieties. In other words, ‘très serieux’.

Triggs hired two Bordeaux trained specialists for that project. One was renowned French viticulturalist Alain Sutre, the other was winemaker Pascal Madevon. Together these men knew the soils on the bench lands overlooking the valley; knew about temperature ranges at various elevations and about air and frost drainage; and knew the vagaries and caprices of vintages in this northern latitude. Madevon, through ten years of blending, had honed his ability to create excellent wine on a consistent basis.

Both men would become instrumental in the creation of Culmina. With Sutre’s help the search for a southern Okanagan site ideal for Bordeaux varieties began in 2006, with the first section of the current property being purchased in 2007 (of which more in a moment), with higher altitude benchlands being acquired in 2009.

Much of Donald Triggs experience and skill was administrative and operational – in building, brand development and marketing – tasks which he shares now with Elaine and daughter Sara. Elaine had been very hands on when the couple purchased and farmed the Delaine Vineyard in the Niagara River sub-appellation in 1998, turning it into one of Niagara’s best vineyards for sauvignon blanc and syrah. Daughter Sara, the youngest of three children, earned her Masters in Wine Business from Adelaide University in Adelaide, Australia and brings her very wine focused business and marketing skills to the table. In fact, I have rarely seen such careful, well-timed and sustained marketing efforts in Canada


The Vineyards

I first visited Culmina’s vineyards on the Golden Mile Bench in 2014, while in the Okanagan to judge the WineAlign National Wine Awards. I climbed into a truck with Donald and Madevon, and we stopped first near the winery at a site that once contained 12 acres of vines belonging to a previous winery (in total 44 acres were purchased, but the rest had not been planted). There were some red Bordeaux vines immediately identified as unsuitable, but also a tempting patch of chardonnay. The first tough decision Triggs had made was whether to keep them, which would give him some immediate production, or start again with his own vision. He decided to rip them out.

Culmina’s vineyards sit on the western slope of the valley with south-east-facing vineyards that capture early morning light when temperatures are cool, and are shaded when late afternoon-evening sun is hot. Their height above the valley floor was also a major draw; the Margaret Vineyard is the highest in the south Okanagan, a decidedly cool site that doesn’t qualify for the new appellation Golden Mile Bench boundary because it is above the mapped altitude line.

But knowing the basics was not enough. Triggs set up 20 temperature stations. He dug 66 pits to explore the soils of the site. He then mapped the site based on micro-climates and soil types, coming up with 45 different blocks of about 1.25 acres each. Once this information was analyzed he had a good idea of not only which grape varieties to plant but which rootstocks to use as well. No stone unturned.

That first vineyard – called Arise Bench – has similar heat-summation degree days to Bordeaux and is planted to cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot, with a touch of syrah and malbec in its warmest location. Cabernet franc was also placed in the areas containing soil with high calcium content, while the merlot was planted in areas nearest to the mountain shadow to protect the variety’s delicate aromas

Back in the truck we climbed steeply to a vineyard that curved along a long terraced bench. Out at its edge there was a rocky promontory which we climbed on foot to absorb one of the most spectacular views of the south Okanagan, from Oliver in the north clear to Osoyoos in the south. Out on this rock edge Donald Triggs was actually so excited that he danced a quick jig, kicking up dusty soil.

Donald Triggs

We were on Margaret’s Bench, a cooler site with heat summation closer to Burgundy. Three white varieties – chardonnay, riesling and Austria’s grüner veltliner – were selected, with soil variations further determining the placement of each clone and rootstock combination on the Bench. Grüner veltliner was chosen for the schist-like soil areas, whereas riesling was planted on stonier soils.

Back in truck we drove across (south) to Stan’s Bench. Here again they planted riesling, and chardonnay on the cooler, higher sections, but then decided to plant late ripening varieties of petit verdot and malbec in the lower areas, with the highest number of degree days on the property. And surprisingly at the far end of this patch, on a very steep slope he showed us the most daring of his vineyard exploitations – a patch of head pruned, unirrigated vines. This too was a culmination, the crescendo in a carefully orchestrated grape-growing scheme.

The Winemaking

With the combined experience of Donald Triggs and Pascal Madevon, Culmina’s winemaking is grounded in both tried and true methods and some new pieces of technology. Born in Paris, France, winemaker Pascal completed a Technician’s Degree in Viticulture and Oenology and went on to complete an Oenology National Diploma from the University of Bordeaux in 1989. He came to the Okanagan in 2002.

His philosophy revolves around two principles: gentle handling of fruit and minimal intervention of wine. All of the grapes harvested from the estate are picked by hand. They are then protected in small stacked bins so that their own weight does not cause their skins to break before they reach the winery. Upon arrival, the fruit is hand-sorted on a vibrating table so that the fruit is gently deposited into the de-stemmer. The grapes are processed in a gravity-flow designed winery, built into the side of a hill – allowing for pump-less rackings and transfers from the fermentation hall into the barrel room.

The winery’s simple design also allows for each tank to only be used once each vintage. By allowing the fermented wine to sit on the skins for up to 24 days after the fermentation is completed creates wines with softer and more approachable tannins.

Lastly, a simple basket press is also used for all pressings. Even though this kind of press is less efficient yield-wise, and is much more time consuming and manually intensive to operate, its gentle pressing ensures that stems and seeds are never pressed so hard that they crack, thereby preventing unwanted green tannins from being added into the pressed wine.

Among more high-tech processes, Culmina uses a Bucher Oscillys de-stemmer from France – the first of its kind in Canada – that allows more gentle handling during the crushing and destemming of fruit. In addition, modern, stainless steel, temperature-controlled conical red fermentation tanks were imported from France. And when a pump is required (pumping over) they use a peristaltic pump, the kind used to transfer live fish at aquariums from one tank to another.

The Wines

Full reviews by several WineAlign critics can be viewed by following the links below.

I have sat down with the range twice in the last year, and both times, as I mentioned at the outset, I was impressed by the sense of poise and layering.

The flagship of the range is a red blend called Hypothesis, based on merlot (as are many southern Okanagan reds) with cabernet sauvignon and cab franc.  It is not the most expensive of its sort in the Okanagan, but it is easily among the best, especially the 2013 to be released next year.  Three years does not quite a vertical tasting make, but the 2013 has a fine sense of fragrance and poise, whereas the currently available and quite ripe 2012 is a bit more powerful and youthfully tense at the moment. The 2011, the debut vintage from a cool year is quite refined, more subdued and showing subtle evolution. The less expensive blend called R&D Red is quite lively, complex if a bit more sinewy. And the 2014 rosé blend from the red wine shows considerable finesse and liveliness as well.

Culmina 2014 Saignée

“It has a very pretty, gentle nose of red currant jam, raspberry and fresh herbs. It’s medium weight, elegant, smooth yet nicely fresh with a dry finish.” David Lawrason

Culmina 2013 R & D Red Blend 

“Begins like elegiac poetry, with a Bordeaux sensibility and a nod to blends distinguished by site.” Michael Godel

Culmina 2012 Hypothesis 

“The palate offers an abundance of black cherry, plum and blackberry fruit along with graphite and saline. Excellent concentration with flavours that build like crescendo.” Sara d’Amato

Culmina Saignée 2014 RoséCulmina R & D Red Blend 2013Culmina Hypothesis 2012Culmina Decora 2014Culmina Dilemma 2013

Most people discussing Culmina whites leap onto the fact that Donald Triggs has planted the Austrian variety grüner veltliner – a rarity in Canada – and he has done an amazing job extracting varietal veracity.  The wine is called Unicus, and it was an immediate hit, selling out the  2013 and 2014 vintages. I am just as impressed by the bold, taut riesling called Decora, again with vineyard altitude imparting unexpected tension for South Okanagan riesling. The chardonnay, called Dilemma, is richer of course, but also based on fine acidity and minerality.

Culmina 2014 Decora

“Dynamic and age-worthy.” Sara d’Amato

Culmina 2013 Dilemma 

“I like the freshness and the balance here – acids snap and crackle on the palate, while concentration and density are genuine, weaving in some intriguing resinous-savoury-herbal character into citrus and white fleshed orchard fruit.” John Szabo, MS

The production at Culmina is relatively small, and clearly pointed to the premium end of the market – although fairly priced given the quality. So it may not be as easy to find as many in our national audience might like. But again, for a young project the family Triggs is keenly aware of the need to get their wines out to key buyers across the country. Their website provides points of contact.

As a regular feature WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single winery. Our critics independently, as always, taste, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted to WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in the winery profile. Wineries pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to WineAlign. See below for more details provided by the winery.


Culmina is pleased to offer complimentary shipping across Canada to WineAlign Members on purchases of 12 or more bottles.
Have the warmth of the South Okanagan shipped directly to your door just in time for the holidays. All shipments are temperature-controlled to assure the integrity of your order. Purchase by Monday December 14th to best ensure delivery by December 24th.
We’ve exclusively made two cases of our sold-out 2013 Dilemma (Chardonnay) to WineAlign Members from our library (maximum two bottles per order). Try a mixed-case with our 2014 Decora (Riesling), 2014 Saignée (Rosé), and flagship 2012 Hypothesis (Bordeaux-Style blend) to share with friends and family.
Buy Now Here:

Have any questions? Call the winery directly at (250) 498-0789.
To ensure access to upcoming limited production releases – such as our first single varietal red, the 2013 Merlot, and 2015 Unicus (Grüner Veltliner) – become a complimentary Member to receive your own Allocation. No commitment is required.
Become a Member Here:
Creating wines of excellence through the blending of art and science.

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Nov 28, Part One

The Super-Tuscans, Our Finest and New World Picks
by David Lawrason with notes from John Szabo and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

VINTAGES November 28 release offers a once-a-year opportunity to buy all the major super-Tuscans in one fell swoop. And indeed they will be swooped. In most other places you could find them any time of year, but the system here forces them out through a window that can be only open for a matter of hours. I won’t rag on about that. Buyers of these very collectible wines already know that supplies are limited and the appetite is huge.

I thought it might be useful however to provide brief background on the super-Tuscans, and to compare the current offerings, to help you decide which ones to buy. I very conveniently had an opportunity to taste them shoulder to shoulder earlier this month. For starters all scored 90 points or better in my books – so yes they are excellent wines. But all sell for more than $100, with a couple nudging $200 and one at $250. One bottle of each will cost you $865! I have not scored any at 95 or better, which is where I think they should be at these prices. So if you are value shopping you might want to skip down to the other New World wines being recommended this week.

The original, core Super-Tuscans – the royal family – are Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Solaia, Luce and arguably Guado Al Tasso, that came along later. (I would add San Felice’s Vigorello to the list but it is not in the Nov 28 tranche). They were all hatched in Tuscany in the heyday of the New World expansionism – post 1976 Judgement of Paris when California wine’s bold, fruit forward style began seeping into European consciousness. The innovative Antinori and Frescobaldi clans of Florence said – ‘we can do that’. They planted cabernet and merlot in the Chianti hills, and especially along the warmer coast near Bolgheri. They practiced safe winemaking, coddled the wines in French barriques, established high prices and voila – they were a hit, first with news-hungry journalists, then with collectors.

But because they didn’t adhere to local DOC appellation regulations the new wines were only labeled as ‘vino da tavola’, the lowliest classification. It is still debated who coined the term super-Tuscan, but it was Wine Spectator magazine that at least made the name known worldwide. It stuck because it is such an apt name, still enduring 30 years later. And the word super has now been adopted by every Italian producer making non-DOC wines. There are about a billion of them by now. Super this, super- that.  Some not so super-duper at all.

My general sense of those being offered by VINTAGES on the 28th is that they are quite ripe (the summer of 2012 was hot), fairly supple, subtle, layered and refined – all good things. And they are very modern, with only Sassicaia leaning to a more traditional ambiance. I pinpoint my lack of 95-point enthusiasm more around lack of depth and length; and lack of wow factor. They are tidy, pristine and polished, but they are not world beaters; they are not magical or individual. This may be related to youthful reticence, and perhaps the hot summer has depreciated their acidity and nerve.

So here is my take on this royal family. Sassicaia is the leaner, age-worthy still very Euro cabernet, king of the empire, thin and wiry and ruling with a tight fist, but a recluse. Ornellaia, is the queen, a merlot based seductress with beguiling subtlety and depth of character. Luce, in this vintage at least, is the brute elder heir to the throne, muscular, a bit volatile and overripe – perhaps fearful of losing its rights to Guado al Tasso, the dashing yet substantial prince from the coast (and best buy of the bunch). And then there is Solaia, which in this vintage, for some reason, comes across like the court jester – notably sweet and engaging but lacking substance. Which is odd given it is the most expensive.

Here are recommended wines from the WineAlign court of opinion, not only on super-Tuscans and other wines from VINTAGES Our Finest selection, but from the New World offerings as well. Next week John leads off with Old World picks.

Super Tuscans

Ornellaia 2012, DOC Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy ($195.95)

John Szabo – In a side by side tasting of a half-dozen of the top 2012 super Tuscans, Ornellaia (and Sassicaia) came out measurably ahead of the pack. It was a warm and dry vintage with cool nights and a timely splash of rain towards harvest that shepherded grapes through to full and even ripening. The result is a marvellously composed, generous but balanced and seamlessly integrated edition of Ornellaia, bringing together a compelling mix or perfectly ripened fruits, integrated and subtle barrel spice, and slowly emerging earthy and savoury notes. The palate is pitch perfect, well structured, with fine-grained tannins and lively, vibrant acids building around a core of succulent fruit. Exceptional length. It’s not hard to see why this wine was nicknamed “L’Incanto” (The Enchantment) at the estate. Best after 2020, or hold until the late 2030s.

Sassicaia 2012 DOC Bolgheri Sassicaia, Tuscany, Italy ($199.95)

Antinori Guado Al Tasso 2012 Sassicaia 2012 Ornellaia 2012John Szabo – The 2012 Sassicaia is surely one of the wines of the vintage in Tuscany, and one of the most impressive from the estate in the last decade. As usual, it delivers the most old world, Italianate expression amongst the elite of the 2012 super Tuscans, focused more on structure and finesse than sheer concentration. It’s very firm at the moment, offering fine detail and remarkable freshness, but still years away from full unravelling. Yet already an impressive mix of red and black fruit, fresh and lightly dried, and subtle barrel spice and dusty, savoury Tuscan character are revealed, boding very well for future development. Best 2020-2035+.
Sara d’Amato – There is a great purity to this Sassicaia, rustic would be too gruff but there is certainly an authentic beauty to this marvellously expressive wine. A classic incarnation of this Bordelaise blend with distinct Tuscan charm.

Antinori 2012 Guado Al Tasso,  Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany ($104.95)

David Lawrason – With the first vintage in 1990, Guado is the late comer to the Antinori super-Tuscan family, from an estate that rises from the sea coast into calcareous hills. It is a gorgeous, vibrant and refined, cabernet-merlot-franc-petit verdot blend with a fine sense integration. Best 2020 to 2030+. Best value among the super-Tuscans in my books.

Others from VINTAGES’ Our Finest

Barossa Valley Estate 2008 E&E Black Pepper Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($89.95)

David Lawrason – I am already quoted in VINTAGES magazine from a release of this wine last year, so I won’t go into full descriptive mode here. But an image came to mind as I tasted it – of a dusty black steam engine dragging a slow freight train across a weathered plain on rails of iron and graphite, spewing smoke and sparks as it goes. My top score of the Our Finest Collection.
Sara d’Amato – E&E’s small production has a cult following and for good reason. This classic, old vines Barossa shiraz is impactful, edgy and exotically spiced offering a complex, lengthy finish. Due to impressive structure and filling, you can happily tuck this one away for 5-10 years.

Catena Alta 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Historic Rows, Mendoza, Argentina  ($46.95)

Joseph Phelps Insignia 2012 Catena Alta Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Barossa Valley Estate 2008 E&E Black Pepper ShirazSara d’Amato – Catena Alta’s limited production is sourced from top parcels at various elevations throughout Catena’s estate vineyards. High elevation cabernet sauvignon has a distinctly unique expression with a wild aromatic profile of violets, currants, sandalwood and pepper. A seriously sophisticated and structured offering with surprising approachability.
David Lawrason – This “Historic Rows” is from two older vines sites in the Agrelo heartland of Mendoza. It is deeply coloured with a lovely nose of ripe mulberry, sage, fine oak spice and vanilla. There is sophistication as well as generosity. The focus and length are excellent. Will age 20 years.

Joseph Phelps 2012 Insignia, Napa Valley, California($299.95)

David Lawrason – Here is a beautifully honed wine that showcases all kinds of sophistication through the winemaking, but doesn’t lose the lion-heartedness of cabernet sauvignon. Great aromatics here. It’s dense, continuous and deep. The length is outstanding.

Chateau Montelena 2011 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga, Napa Valley, California  ($187.95)

John Szabo – Although roundly panned in the press, 2011 is proving to be one of my favourite vintages in the Napa Valley, forcing many winemakers into a generally fresher, firmer more balanced style. Not that Montelena needed a push in that direction; the estate has steadfastly produced wines of genuine finesse, complexity and elegance for decades in an unwavering style. The 2011 flagship estate cabernet is outstanding, a beautiful, lifted, fragrant and complex, marvellously savoury and vibrant vintage, with crackling red and black fruit, fully integrated wood, terrifically elegant tannins and exceptional length. This is all class and finesse. Best 2020-2035+.

Ridge 2013 Geyserville, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California  ($62.95)

Quintarelli Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2007 Ridge Geyserville 2013 Chateau Montelena Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011John Szabo – 2013 yielded a terrific Geyserville from Ridge, with pitch-perfect balance, elegance and lingering finish. There are few wines that can carry 14.7% alcohol with so much grace and elegance; wood is not a flavour feature, but rather this is all about the wild and savage fruit flavours, and the California garrigue (resinous herbs). Best 2015-2028.

Quintarelli 2007 Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Veneto, Italy ($104.95)

Sara d’Amato – Quintarelli is not exactly known for value but if you want to know what all the fuss is about for a relatively moderate price (in Quintarelli terms), then here is your chance. This is certainly no ordinary, basic Valpolicella, however, offering a perfectly matured, highly pleasurable experience. Its mid-weight frame belies its power and complexity. A sleek, harmonious and exceptional bottle of wine

Shafer 2013 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, Napa Valley/Carneros, California ($76.95)

David Lawrason – This grand, opulent and silky chardonnay is not afraid to be California. The nose is quite spectacular – so tropical it’s almost as if some viognier is involved. Quite full bodied to be sure (14.9%) with some heat on the finish, and wood tannin as well, yet it has poise and depth within its large footprint.

Kistler 2013 Les Noisetiers Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California ($99.95)

Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2012 Kistler Les Noisetiers Chardonnay 2013 Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2013John Szabo – Steve Kistler has focused exclusively on mostly single vineyard pinot noir and chardonnay since 1978, and his mastery of, and consistency with these grapes is by now beyond question. Les Noisetiers is a Sonoma Coast blend of mainly Vine Hill, Dutton Ranch and Trenton Roadhouse vineyards, all planted on the region’s coveted marine sedimentary Goldridge soil. In 2013 the results are superb: creamy, ripe but still fresh, a complete wine with balance and concentration, complexity and intensity. Comfortably in the premium category. Best 2015-2023

Cloudy Bay 2102 Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand ($35.95)

David Lawrason – This an elegant, tart edged, cooler vintage chardonnay from Marlborough with a sense of tartness and austerity Shows lovely, almost satiny texture spread thin over sour, lemony acidity. Burgundian to be sure.

Other New World Whites

Josef Chromy Pepik Sekt, Tasmania, Australia ($26.95)

Sara d’Amato – A dry, refreshing and elegant traditional method sparkling riesling from Joseph Chromy, a venerable personality in Tasmanian wine who spent his life investing in and developing its wine producing landscape before opening Josef Chromy Wines at the age of 76. Try with shrimp tempura.
John Szabo – Leading Tasmanian producer Joseph Chromy, nicknamed Pepik, delivers here a fine, fresh and apple –flavoured, riesling-based sparkling wine in the traditional method, with 12 months on the lees adding just a touch of toasty-biscuity character. This would make a fine Sunday morning Brunch wine, not overly complex but refreshing and enlivening.

Spy Valley 2013 Envoy Sauvignon Blanc, Waihopai Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand ($29.95)

John Szabo – Spy Valley’s premium Envoy range is a considerable step up from the ‘regular’ range. Sauvignon Blanc from the gravelly Johnson Vineyard, Spy Valley’s oldest vines, is barrel fermented and aged on lees for a year before bottling, though wood is barely detectable. It has lovely wild yeasty aromatics with pungent green herbs and dense citrus-pear-pineapple flavours in palate arresting concentration and complexity. Fans of distinctive wines will revel in this.

Josef Chromy Pepik Sekt Spy Valley Envoy Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Tomich Woodside Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Delheim Family Chenin Blanc 2014

Tomich 2014 Woodside Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills, South Australia, ($16.95) (430660)
Sara d’Amato – Master of Wine John Tomich along with his son Randal are an innovative team creating new viticultural practices for cool climate growing regions such as their own Adelaide Hills site. Although there is no shortage of sauvignon blanc on the shelves of VINTAGES, here is one that stands out from the rest. Refined and elegant without overt grassiness or underripe vegetal undertones, it is lively and refreshing with notes of birch bark, lemongrass and quince.

Delheim 2014 Family Chenin Blanc 2014, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($17.95) (429720)
Sara d’Amato – Delheim is a consistent, value-oriented producer who has knack for chenin blanc. This lush and opulent example is sure to quell your craving for anything-but-chardonnay.

Other New World Reds

Lapostolle 2012 Canto de Apalta, Rapel Valley, Chile ($19.95)

John Szabo – Canto is the recently created second wine from Lapostolle’s excellent Apalta Estate in the heart of the Colchagua Valley, which, like the grand vin, is a carmenere-led blend, with merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah.  Wood, fruit concentration, acids and tannic structure are sensibly doled out in balanced measure, giving this high drinkability and an appealing, savoury-gritty edge. Best 2017-2022.

Clos De Los Siete 2012, Uco Valley, Mendoza ($23.95)

David Lawrason – This is one wine sourced from four French owned properties that have formed a foreign legion-like enclave at the base of the Andes in the Vista Flores sub-region of the Uco Valley. This a full bodied, warm, dense and powerful yet also vibrant malbec-based blend. Better than the 2011.

Stags’ Leap Winery 2012 Petite Sirah, Napa Valley, California ($39.95)

John Szabo – A perennial favourite of mine from Stags’ Leap, this savage and savoury petite sirah offers a fine mix of earth, resinous herbs and dark fruit character, and firm and burly tannins, but there’s more than ample fruit to ensure proper integration in time. Best 2017-2025.

Lapostolle Canto De Apalta 2012 Clos De Los Siete 2012 Stags' Leap Winery Petite Sirah 2012 Perez Cruz Limited Edition Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Dos 2 Estacas Reserva Malbec 2012 Montes Alpha Malbec 2012

Perez Cruz Limited 2012 Edition Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Alta, Chile ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This is estate grown from selected higher altitude vineyard blocks. It rings of a cooler climate cabernet with medium weight and lifted, slightly herbal aromas of roasted red pepper, cassis and chocolate mint.

Dos 2 Estacas 2012 Reserva Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – Offering great value, this soft, seamless and compelling malbec has been only mildly oaked and offers impressive aromatics. The cooler, high elevation climate of the Uco Valley contributes the lively notes of pepper and violets on the nose and palate.

Montes Alpha 2012 Malbec, Colchagua Valley, Chile  ($19.95)

David Lawrason – This is a shiny, vibrant and quite juicy young Malbec – with a typically slender Chilean feel as opposed to the chunkier malbecs form over the Andes in Mendoza.  Very nicely balanced and intense.

And that is a wrap for this edition. Tune in next week for a continued look at this huge release.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES November 28th, 2015

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
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!

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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