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Top Values at the LCBO (May 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

There is a lot to tell you about this month with 12 wines new to my Top 50 Best Values list. Sadly four of those are de-listed favourites with big discounts to quickly clear the shelves. So don’t hesitate on those or you will miss out. There are good stocks for now; but they may be all gone in the next week or so.

Four new vintages of current listings, that I have tasted since I last wrote, were better than the last vintage and so they also joined the list as did four wines that jumped onto the list because they are on discount for the next four weeks. These are the usual reasons for wines joining the Top 50 Best Values list. There are also another eight wines that all have lots of Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) for the next 4 weeks if you are a collector of miles.

Today’s report pulls best buys from Steve’s Top 50 which is a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio of the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The current discount period runs until June 19th. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

Editors Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!

Reds

La Posta Cocina Tinto Red Blend 2014 Mendoza, Argentina ($7.45 was $12.95) DELISTED – An opaque red blend of malbec with syrah and bonarda that is full bodied and flavourful with some firm tannin giving grip and acidity for vibrancy. Good to very good length just a little hot from alcohol on the finish. Try it with steak.

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

La Posta Cocina Tinto Red Blend 2014Beso De Vino Seleccion Red 2011Frisky Zebras Seductive Shiraz K W V Roodeberg 2013

Frisky Zebras Seductive Shiraz, Western Cape, South Africa ($8.95) – This batch of this non-vintage red from the Cape is better than last time it came my way. It is a dry soft shiraz with black cherry fruit with a hint of tobacco. The palate has soft acidity to keep it lively and mild tannin. Good length. Try with grilled red meats.

K W V Roodeberg 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($9.95 was $12.45) – This is medium bodied Cape classic had been in our stores for years because it offers good value for a well balanced and fairly complex red. Impressive depth for a wine that’s less than $10 for the next few weeks.

Tons de Duorum Red 2014, Douro Valley, Portugal ($10.35 was $12.55) – DELISTED – This is an elegant fruity red that is midweight to full bodied and juicy with the fruit well balanced by lemony acidity and mild tannin. Very good length. Chill a little and try with bbq meats.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2015, Central Valley, Chile ($10.95 + 5 BAMs) – The 2015 vintage is one of the best I can recall of this excellent unpretentious pinot with a harmonious nose and a pure well structured palate. It is fresh, pure, fruity and very drinkable.

Tons De Duorum Red 2014 Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2015 Tribunal Red 2012 Ara Pathway Single Estate Pinot Noir 2013 Fielding Fireside Red Cabernet 2012

Tribunal Red 2012, North Coast, California, USA ($11.45 was $18.95) – DELISTED – This slightly peppery red is brimming with berry fruit. Its youthful exuberance is very appealing. Enjoy on its own or with bbq meats.

Ara Pathway Single Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Marlborough, New Zealand ($13.95 was $16.95) – A structured juicy fruity pinot that is midweight with decent length and a fine balancing vibrant acidity. Quite elegant with new world styling but dry and tightly knit.

Fielding Fireside Red Cabernet 2012, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($13.95 was $14.95) – This blend of cabernet franc with cabernet sauvignon is very appealing. It is well structured for food with red cherry and plum aromas and flavours. Try with a steak.

Whites

Jaszbery Etyek Budai Riesling 2014, Hungary ($7.55) – The 2014 vintage is a fine dry riesling with aromas of melon, lemon and pear fruit with a floral tone. It is lightweight well balanced with just enough sweetness to cover the acidity. Very drinkable at a good price.

Brazos de Los Andes White 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($7.95 was $13.90) – DELISTED – This is blend of chardonnay and torrontes with a splash of pinot grigio. It is midweight and creamy smooth with a good depth of fruit flavour a little sweetness but if finishes dry. Very good length. Try with mildly spicy Asian cuisine.

Alvear Medium Dry, Montilla Morilles, Spain ($12.60) – This smells and tastes like toffee with floral orange and nutty tones, but with only a little sweetness. It is a great price for such a complex, zesty rich wine. Try with blue cheese. The delicate sweetness nicely balances the bitterness from the blue parts.

Jaszbery Etyek Budai Riesling 2014 Brazos De Los Andes White 2015 Alvear Medium Dry

How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesIn addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 37 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, dip into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

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!


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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – May 28, 2016

Veneto, German Royalty and Smart Buys
Text and photos by John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week I’ll have a look at the Veneto feature of the May 28th VINTAGES release, with some thoughts on the region and a quartet of top picks that cover some of the essential styles. A selection of miscellaneous smart buys follows, and includes a pair each of superb whites from the Niagara Escarpment and Stellenbosch, and a duo of old world reds straight from the textbook.

The annual German Wine Fair featured last week in Toronto, a country going from strength to strength and generating plenty of excitement, at least among the trade judging by the enthusiasm in the room. I’ve posted a separate Germany report including an interview with Josefine Schlumberger, current German Wine Queen, as well as top drops currently available, and ones I hope will soon be (calling all importers!!!).

Italian Giant: The Veneto

The Veneto in northeastern Italy is one of the country’s most prolific wine-producing regions. With large and famous appellations like Prosecco, Soave and Valpolicella, not to mention an ocean of pinot grigio “Delle Venezie IGT”, the quantity of wine produced, and exported, is staggering. Soave, for example, is the area with the most intense concentration of viticulture in all of Italy. The principal communes of Monteforte d’Alpone and Soave itself devote more than 90% of their agricultural area to vineyards.

Misty autumn morning, Valpolicella-3697

Misty autumn morning, Valpolicella

With some notable exceptions, the selection made available to us on LCBO shelves is underwhelming to be sure, favouring the largest mass-market brands with advertising dollars to spare. The region of course has much more to offer in the quality spectrum. See my January report from Verona listing the top releases from the 2016 edition of the Anteprima Amarone with bonus picks from the Valpolicella and Ripasso categories.

Vineyards of Filippi in Castelcerino, Soave-5231

Vineyards of Filippi in Castelcerino, Soave

The offerings debuting on May 28th are mixed, though I’ve found four wines that nicely represent their respective regions.

Pieropan 2014 Soave Classico DOC, Veneto, Italy ($17.95): The dual geological nature of the Soave zone, from black and red soils of volcanic origin to white or yellow terrain of calcareous (limestone) origins, is a hot current topic of discussion between producers. This arch-classic Soave is blended from both soil types but, like the region itself, is dominated by its volcanic side, yielding a lovely, floral-flinty, classically structured wine, with ample depth and smoky complexity, and I love the crackling acids of the 2014s in general. It’s terrific to see this come in at such an attractive price ($2 less than the 2013). I’d give it another year or two in bottle to reveal its more mineral side, but the range of flavours is already impressive. Best 2016-2024.

Monte del Frá 2014 Bardolino DOC, Veneto, Italy ($14.95): Here’s a totally delightful, fresh strawberry-raspberry-cherry scented red from the eastern shores of Lake Garda, the kind that just begs to be chilled and cracked, like the best wines of Valpolicella next door. I love the lack of pretension and the confidence to make an honest, simple but dangerously drinkable red without recourse to artificial wood flavouring or exaggerated ripeness. This is just fun.

Pieropan Soave Classico 2014Monte Del Frá Bardolino 2014 Masi Serego Alighieri 650 Anniversario Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2011 Giuseppe Campagnola Ripasso Della Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2014

Masi 2011 Serego Alighieri 650 Anniversario Monte Piazzo, Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC, Veneto, Italy ($21.95): If you are in the mood for a more serious red, this Masi wine from the historic estate that still belongs to the descendants of the poet Dante Alighieri is a fine option. It’s an ambitious, mature, very savoury example of Valpolicella, with notable wood influence but an equally abundant measure of dried porcini/leather/barley risotto-type flavours to balance. There’s definite old world styling here, complete with firm-dusty tannins. Best 2016-2021.

Traditional grape drying room at the Serego Alighieri Estate-9965

Traditional grape drying room at the Serego Alighieri Estate

Giuseppe Campagnola 2014 Ripasso della Valpolicella Classico Superiore DOC Veneto, Italy ($19.95): I find ripasso style Valpolicella a hard wine to get right – it’s neither pure and fruity-vibrant like straight up Valpolicella, nor rich, dense and heady like Amarone, but rather lost in between with varying degrees of unbalanced and overly raisined fruit flavour, or worse, excessive wood flavour, to which the delicate grapes of the region – mainly corvina/corvinone and rondinella – seem particularly susceptible. Campagnola dials it down nicely here, evidently a more serious, polished wine, heavier and more concentrated than the mean while retaining balance, with ripe, soft tannins and plush texture. Fruit remains faithful to the red berry spectrum, and the length is very good, and wood influence is marked but not exaggerated. Best 2016-2022.

Szabo’s Smart Buys

Escarpment Whites

Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2014 Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2013Supporters of local riesling, and indeed lovers of riesling from anywhere will want to tuck a few bottles of the Cave Spring 2013 CSV Riesling, VQA Beamsville Bench ($29.95) into the cellar. 2013 is a fine vintage for this Niagara classic, from some of the oldest riesling vines in the province. Balance is impeccable, with taught, quivering acids taming a light pinch of residual sugar. Length and depth impress, as does the range of spicy citrus, ginger and floral flavours. Drink or hold a decade – there’s a big window of enjoyment, judging by past great vintages.

And some insider information: the 2015 CSV riesling, made with wild ferment for the first time, is reportedly the estate’s best yet. But we’ll have to wait another couple of years to see it.

Flat Rock takes a page from the Chablis playbook in the 2014 Unplugged Chardonnay VQA Twenty Mile Bench ($16.95), a clean, lively, vibrant and very fresh unoaked chardonnay. I like the crunchy acids, lightly tacky texture, moderate alcohol, and vaguely lactic (yoghurt, fresh cheese) flavours that will remind you of northern France, in a very good way.

Stellenbosch Whites

With the already weak Rand in further free fall of late, we can only expect more great values from South Africa.

For the moment, Rustenberg delivers another overachieving value with their 2014 Chardonnay ($19.95). It’s a nicely pitched, gently oaked, well-structured and complex chardonnay that could hold its own in a much higher price category. Length and depth, as well as complexity are impressive. Best 2016-2022.

South African chenin blanc is likewise one of the best values on planet wine, that is if you like assertive, characterful whites with occasional brute smoky-mineral force. Oldenburg Vineyards 2014 Chenin Blanc ($20.95) is such a wine, melding ripe sautéed pineapple and candied tangerine fruit flavours on a full-bodied, concentrated frame, with the merest hint of wood influence. I like the expansive, wide-ranging palate, and the lingering finish – this is a substantial white wine, ready for full-on BBQed chicken or veal, or similar high-intensity foods.

Rustenberg Chardonnay 2014Oldenburg Chenin Blanc 2014Château Pegau Cuvée Maclura Côtes Du Rhône 2013Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva 2010

Textbook Euro Reds

I’ve been following the wines of Laurence Ferraud for a decade and a half, and watched her expand from her original family Domaine du Pégau in Châteauneuf and purchase Château Pegau just a few kilometers south of the appellation, with similar terroir including mounds of stones, next to the Rhône.

The 2013 Cuvée Maclura Côtes du Rhône ($19.95) is a fine, savoury-spicy, floral and cinnamon-tinged, quite well structured grenache-led GSM. This may run a little to the dry and dusty side for some, but I love the range of flavours on offer, covering all of the spectrums from dusty red fruit to lavender to black liquorice-pepper spice. Best 2016-2023.

Fans of classic sangiovese (with 10% canaiolo) will love the Carpineto 2010 Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano Riserva DOCG Tuscany, Italy ($29.95). 2010 was one of those perfect vintages, and this is showing beautifully now, a lovely floral, black pepper, pot pourri-savoury expression. The palate is expansive and terrifically complex, polished and softened by two years in wood, and having reached a silky, refined texture with excellent length and depth overall. Drink or hold mid-term (2016-2025). 

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

johnszabosignature

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES May 28, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
All May 28 Reviews

Buyers’ Guide to May 28th – Judgment of Paris Edition

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!


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Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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Szabo’s Highlights from the German Wine Fair

I Chat with a Queen
by John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The annual German Wine Fair featured last week in Toronto, a country going from strength to strength and generating plenty of excitement, at least among the trade judging by the enthusiasm in the room. Read on for my highlights and watch an interview with Josefine Schlumberger, current German Wine Queen, on what it takes to become a Queen (hint: it’s an election, not a birthright, nor a beauty pageant), as well as top drops currently available, and ones I hope will soon be (calling all importers!!!).

On German Wine & Asian Food

The annual German Wine Fair kicked off with a trade lunch + tasting focused on Asian cuisine paired with a dozen wines, hosted by the reigning German Wine Queen, Josefine Schlumberger, and yours truly. Dishes inspired by Thailand, Japan, China and India were designed by the culinary team at the Arcadian Court at 401 Bay Street to challenge and highlight the versatility of German wines from sparkling to spätburgunder (pinot noir), while a German chocolatier supplied hand-crafted chocolates specifically designed to match with German riesling eiswein.

The lunch tasting proved once again what sommeliers have long known: the pure, lively, sweet-tart balance of German whites, with varying degrees of ripeness and flavor intensity, provide an excellent foil for the baseline taste sensations on which southeast Asian cuisine is often built: sweet, sour and piquant. For example, Thai-inspired Citrus Infused Humbold Squid, Nam Prik, Fancy rice, Cucumber, Cilantro, Mango found seamless harmony with Weingut Rudolf May’s excellent 2012 ‘RECIS’ Silvaner Dry, from the Franken (even if half the room thought the superb Weingut Rappenhof 2014 Pettenthal Riesling GG Dry from the Rheinhessen was the top match; it all hinged on how much sweet mango purée you included in the bite).

New Perfect Pairings

Older wines develop the savoury-umami taste that is echoed in just about every Asian dish, a requisite for true harmony. Witness the impossibly good combination of China inspired Crispy sweet & sour pork, Fermented Bok Choy, Long bean & Pineapple, Sesame oil & Chili with perhaps the wine of the luncheon, the mesmerizing Weingut Leitz 2004 Rüdesheimer Berg Roseneck Riesling Spätlese from the Rheingau. The pairing was a symphony of sweet-sour-umami; it would be hard to imagine a better match for this pork dish. Perhaps most surprising was the compatibility of Lime scented Lamb Sirloin, Spiced Tomato & Potato, Wilted Mustard Greens, Kaffir Lime, Cilantro, & Clove with a marvellously evolved but still youthful Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt 1999 Josephshöfer Riesling Auslese, Mosel, a sweet but balanced wine than handled the heavy Indian spicing and gamey lamb with relative ease.

Next time you’re eating Asian, consider Germany for the glass.

I Chat with a Queen

Watch this video with German Wine Queen Josefine Schlumberger on what it takes to be a Queen, and on what we can expect to see in the future from German wines.

Buyer’s Guide: Highlights from the German Wine Fair

Dönnhoff, Nahe

I was overjoyed to see the wines of Dönnhoff finally available in Ontario, shown for the first time at the German Wine Fair by importer Groupe Soleil. I’ve been following the estate for many years now, always happy to drink the wines in Montreal, Calgary or abroad, wherever I came across them. Helmut, and since 2007 his son Cornelius Dönnhoff, craft wines worthy of a long list of superlatives from a handful of exceptional vineyards in the heart of the Nahe region. There’s really no magic or dogmatism at play here, just hard work and great sites. Sensible farming practices are followed, but not hardline organic or biodynamic. Fermentations are often spontaneous, but Dönnhoff will inoculate with a strain of locally isolated neutral yeast if things are not going “fast and clean enough”. The 2014 Estate Riesling ($29.95) is the entry point into the range currently available, a tight, dry, classically lean blend of vineyard sites with crackling acids. The Kreuznacher Kahlenberg (2014 Riesling Trocken, $41.95) and its heavier loamy-quartzite soils yields a generally richer, more immediately open style of Riesling, even if the cool 2014 vintage favoured tightly wound wines in general.

Cornelius Dönnhoff

The slate soils of the Norheimer Kirschheck (2014 Riesling Spätlese, $51.95) vineyard yields particularly fragrant and floral – cherry blossom-scented riesling with pitch perfect balance, while the slate mixed with volcanic rocks of the Niederhäuser Hermannshöhle (2014 Riesling Spätlese, $75.95), the Nahe’s most famous vineyard, delivers riesling of astonishing delicacy and power, finesse and complexity, with a finish that reverberates for minutes. Available by private order only is Dönnhoff’s greatest pure volcanic site, the Felsenberg, which in 2014 has an almost brutal quality, edgy and untamed, particularly smoky and salty and aromatically closed up for now. “Felsenberg is not always charming in its youth”, Cornelius offers. “It needs time to open.” All of Dönnhoff’s wines are worth a look. – Agent: Groupe Soleil, Stephen Cohen, gsoleil@rogers.com

Thörle, Rheinhessen

Christophe ThörleI met Christoph Thörle for the first time at last year’s German Wine Fair and I was impressed then; this year was no different. From his various vineyards around Saulheim in the limestone-rich northern part of the Rheinhessen just south of the Rhein River and within site of the Rheingau, he makes a cracking range of Rieslings (and an impressive pinot noir) from wild ferments. Top of the range is the 2014 Riesling dry Saulheimer Schlossberg, a wine of terrific tension and finesse from half-century old vines at the highest point in the village, on iron oxide-rich soils. Give this at least another 2-3 years in the cellar. The top value in the portfolio, however, is surely the 2015 Riesling Feinherb (August 2016 VINTAGES release, $18.95). It’s an off-dry but beautifully balanced blend composed of the barrels of riesling that didn’t completely finish their natural fermentations, carrying 17 grams of barely noticeable residual sugar. The secret is that it includes wines from Thörle’s top vineyards – only fully dry wines are bottled as single vineyards (and sold for much more) – a reflection of the current German obsession for totally dry wines. – Agent: Univins and Spirits, Robert Walcot, rwalcot@univins.ca

Weingut Heitlinger, Baden

Heitlinger is a well-funded operation in Baden, with a brand new winery featuring all of the current cutting edge wine producing technology. It shows in the precision spot-on profile of the wines, as in the 2013 Pinot Noir, Baden ($21), a light, pleasantly spicy-stemmy wine with perfectly polished, light tannins and bright red fruit. The top white available in consignment is the 2013 Riesling dry Husarenkappe GG ($58) from a predominantly limestone site with depth, crackling acids and excellent length. – Agent: Halpern Enterprises, Elizabeth Sinclair, Elizabeth@halpernwine.com

Königschaffhausen Cooperative, Baden

For sheer value it’s tough to beat the finely-tuned Königschaffhausen co-op located in the southern Baden region. On LCBO shelves now is the 2016 Vulkanfelsen Grauer Burgunder (pinot gris) (VINTAGES $16.95), an aromatically subdued and delicate wine, elegant and notably salty-saliva-inducing, with fine, lingering finish, versatile at the table.

Dr. Loosen, Mosel, Pfalz

The best value red wine at the fair was hands down the delicious and dangerously drinkable 2014 Villa Wolf Pinot Noir (LCBO general list, $12.95) from Ernst Loosen’s estate in the Pfalz. It’s a pinot in the pale, light, fruity, easy-drinking style best with a light chill, but, by God, it tastes like pinot noir. And at $12.95, that’s a rarity indeed. When you can’t decide on white, red or rosé, choose this.

Wish List Germany: Calling Ontario Importers!

Weingut May, Franconia

Benedikt MayAmong the unrepresented wineries showing their wares at the wine fair, there was plenty of excitement around the table of Weingut May (rimes with “eye”), a family operation launched in 1998 but with 300 years of grape growing history and plenty of old vines in the Franken region. May joined the highly respected VDP in 2014, an association of some 200 of Germany’s top producers that is as close as it comes to a genuine seal of quality in the wine world – it’s a clear indication that the estate is entering the big leagues. The family farms without insecticides, herbicides or chemical fertilizers, and ferments are carried out with wild yeasts. In the Franken silvaner is king, and occupies nearly 2/3rds of May’s 13.5ha of vineyards, including many old parcels, on predominantly muschelkalk soils (shell limestone). From the lovely, fun and fruity 2015 Silvaner Orstwein (“village” wine) in the classic flagon-shaped bocksbeutel (reportedly modelled after a goat’s scrotum – yes you read that right) to the superb 2013 Silvaner dry Rothlauf, from a VDP-designated grosses gewächs or grand cru vineyard with substantial weight and striking flinty minerality, the range is excellent. Pricing is attractive, too. Contact Rudolf May, info@winegut-may.de

Weingut Frey, Rheinhessen

Young Christopher Frey was in Toronto for the first time to present the wines produced by him and his brother Philipp in the equally limestone-rich southern part of the Rheinhessen near the Pfalz border. 2014 was the first vintage under the Frey label, a new name for an old family grapegrowing/winemaking affair. The house style leads toward very rich and ripe wines, all harvested at spätlese level but vinified dry with wild ferments. Reds are still a work in progress, but rieslings are a strength. The entry-level 2015 Riesling Dry is a classy, firm but giving and succulent example (approximately 3.5 euros ex-cellar). 2014 Hangen-Weisheim Riesling ‘village’ steps up the concentration, shifting into the riper peach spectrum, while top-shelf 2014 Sommerwende Riesling from the estate’s oldest vines (30 years) strikes the palate with sharp flinty-stoniness, aged for the most part in large, 80 year-old wooden casks. Contact: Christopher Frey, weingut@bechtel-frey.de.

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John Szabo MS

 

Josefine Schlumberger and her home region Canada-Germany


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Time for Summer White

Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review – May 2016

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Summer is finally about to arrive. Time to stock up on neat white spirits, ciders and perhaps one or two of the latest whiskies for late evening contemplation. Here follows are recommendations to tempt your taste buds.

Out of Norway comes a vodka made from ecologically farmed Norwegian potatoes called Norvegia Vodka. I like potato based vodka for their creamy texture and this well priced version is so good I’d keep it in the freezer and drink undiluted. Grays Peak Small Batch Vodka from the US uses five time distilled premium American corn as its base which it then charcoal filters. Cîroc from France is not technically a vodka as it’s made from grape spirit, but it sure tastes like a good one. 

Five seems to be a magic number as all the above spirits are five times distilled as is Pinnacle Vodka, which is made from a base of 100 per cent French wheat. Tag No 5 Vodka is guess what? Also distilled five times – from a base of Ontario sweet corn – and then filtered for five days through Ontario birch charcoal.

Skyy Vodka, didn’t seem to get the memo, as it’s quadruple distilled and triple filtered but that doesn’t stop it from being a silky fresh tipple.

Norvegia Vodka Grays Peak Small Batch Vodka Cîroc Original Pinnacle VodkaTag No.5 VodkaSkyy Vodka

SoCIAL LITE is a new vodka based beverage with an adult appeal (no sugar or sweeteners), low calories (just 80) and refreshing flavours such as SoCIAL LITE Ginger Lime and SoCIAL LITE Lemon Cucumber Mint. These are terrific to have on hand for a quick, all natural ‘healthy’ cocktail.

What’s summer without a G&T? Boodles Gin is a cocktail friendly, nicely balanced, London Dry Gin infused with rosemary and sage among its nine botanicals. As for tequila, I’m just loving Siempre Tequila Plata a fusion of single estate blue weber agave from the Highlands of Arandas and the Lowlands of Jalisco.

Social Lite Lime Ginger Boodles Gin Siempre Tequila Plata Ouzo BabatzimSkinos Mastiha Liqueur

I just came back from a tour around the Mediterranean and while on the Greek islands, sampled as much as I could of the various artisanal ouzos to enjoy the refreshing licorice-like hit of anise seed. Available here is Babatzim Ouzo with a really strong and delicious taste of anise and fennel. It freshens up the mouth so well. Another Greek specialty is mastiha based spirit (made from the sap of mastiha trees cultivated only on the small Mediterranean island of Chios) and Skinos makes an excellent version.

From France Jacoulot Crème de Cerise-Gingembre Liqueur is a fresh way to jazz up a sparkling wine or cocktail. The tangy sour cherry and spicy ginger really come through well.

Jacoulot Crème De Cerise Gingembre Liqueur Canadian Club Chairman’s Select 100% Rye J.P. Wiser's Last Barrels Canadian Whisky The Quiet Man Traditional Irish Whiskey The Quiet Man 8 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey

New on the whisky front is Canadian Club Chairman’s Select 100% Rye which is tailor-made for a terrific Manhattan or Old Fashioned. J.P. Wiser’s Last Barrels, aged 14 years, has the complexity to make it a serious sipping style whisky.

Coming in this summer in limited quantity from Ireland are The Quiet Man Traditional Irish Blend Whiskey and The Quiet Man 8 Year Old Single Malt. Both are great additions to the whisky inventory.

Ernest Dry Cider Strongbow Gold Cider Molson Canadian Cider

This is also going to be the summer of ciders with new Canadian cideries popping up across the country and imports flowing in. Ernest Cider, sourced from Ontario apples, is slow fermented for months to achieve 6.4% alcohol and much less sugar than the average cider. Strongbow, the number one cider brand in the world has come up with new variants such as “Strongbow Gold” which has an extra hit of golden apple flavour. Molson Coors has a growing cider portfolio starting with Molson Canadian Cider.

Okay beer drinkers, how do you like them apples?

Margaret Swaine

To find these and other picks at stores near you, click on: Margaret’s Whisky and Spirits

Editors Note: You can find Margaret’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great spirits!


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – May 28, 2016

Commemorating the 40th Year Anniversary of the Arrival of New World Wine
By David Lawrason with notes from John Szabo MS & Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

On May 24, 1976 eight California wines hand-picked by British wine merchant Steve Spurrier faced off with top Bordeaux and Burgundy in a blind tasting by French experts. It was dubbed the Judgment of Paris. And to the shock of not only the judges, but the entire wine drinking world, they did extremely well. Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay beat a Meursault Premier Cru for first place; Stag’s Leap Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon topped Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1970. A thorough reading of the results, with California nicely intermingled with the French wines, proved the top victories were no fluke.

It was of course an enormous coup for California, but really for a whole generation of pioneers and cowboys who were just beginning during the early seventies to create the foundations of the New World wine wave in places like Oregon, Australia, New Zealand and right here in Canada. Just look at where New World wine is today – 40 years later – by viewing VINTAGES catalogue and considering that here in Ontario – one of the most international markets in the world – New World wines are being consumed by a majority of consumers.

My interest in wine had germinated in 1975 when, on vacation in California, I visited my first winery, in Monterey County. I remember reading the Time magazine piece on the Judgment of Paris soon after, and being so excited that California had done so well. In the late 1970s I visited California wine country at least three more times, then in 1984 spent three months tasting and researching California wine, visiting most wineries in existence at the time (about 200) including those on the Judgment of Paris roster. I then spent two months in France that same year, cementing an understanding of where New World wine had come from, and how different it was at the time.

But times have changed. There will likely always be debate about New World wine versus Old World wine, but nowadays it is debate about style. Climates and regions create wine character and style, while good vine-growers and winemakers who have the vision, understanding of their regions and experience create quality. And viticulture, winemaking and quality have improved so much since the Judgment of Paris that the two worlds are not so much colliding, as slipping into each others arms. This makes modern attempts to repeat such tastings as the Judgment of Paris almost meaningless – at least in terms of officiating quality and declaring one country or region better than another. They become mere popularity contests.

Unquestionably the Judgment of Paris did launch California on the global scene. It is now as globally important as Bordeaux or Burgundy, that for so many years it has striven to emulate. Wines from both regions are highly respected, highly priced and sought after. And many other regions around the world have achieved this as well. Wine is in a much better place now than it was before 1976, thanks partially to that one judgment in Paris.

Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to be invited by the California Wine Institute to attend VINTAGES Judgment of Paris dinner at George restaurant in Toronto. I tasted 32 wines that night, from the eight Napa wineries that had competed in Paris. Eight of those wines are being released on May 28, which I re-tasted in the LCBO lab. The remainder are now included in a VINTAGES on-line offer at : Judgment of Paris. This edition of VINTAGES preview features WineAlign team picks from the on-shelf eight, plus my highlights from the rest of the pack. Because the latter were not tasted in proper review conditions they are not rated or fully reviewed.

 

 

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES May 28th Selections

Ridge Monte Bello 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains ($191.95)
David Lawrason – At VINTAGES Judgment of Paris event, then again in the tasting lab, this towered above, and outlasted the pack in terms of length of finish. It has stupendous cabernet aromatics; so lifted and pure with cassis, mint, background meat, conifer. Great structure and depth. Deep into the cellar for now.
John Szabo – The 2013 iconic Montebello from Ridge stands in its own league in this Judgment of Paris revival, an arch-classic, monumental wine of staggering structure and proportion. A lovely savoury-mineral note sits out on the leading edge, while the palate shows epic (a word I don’t use lightly) concentration allied to balance in this vintage of pitifully low yields, driven by a second straight year of drought stress. Length is simply outstanding. This is really nowhere near prime drinking – I’d speculate another 5-7 years minimum to relax, soften and shift into the mature flavour spectrum that is the joy of drinking properly aged Montebello. Best 2023-2033.
Michael Godel – From a serious drought vintage, dry, warm and demanding, the 2013 Montebello’s Draper perfume is as heady as ever, to such effect that after one whiff this is where daydreaming takes over consciousness. Montebello is a classic, lithe and restrained blend of sheer, utter exceptionality in balance.

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2013 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2014 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2013

Chateau Montelena 2014 Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($75.95)
David Lawrason – This is one of the most impressive chardonnays in recent memory, combining a sense of opulence in terms of flavours, plus power, intensity and restrained finesse. And compared to the prices of its peers on this release, as well as top white Burgundies to which is still compares today, it is actually a good buy.
John Szabo – The 1973 Château Montelena, made by a young Mike Grgich, took top spot in the 1976 tasting, and remains one of the classiest whites in northern California. The fruit source has changed (most aren’t aware that 40% of the fruit for the ’73 came from the Bacigalupi estate in Sonoma County, which recently began bottling its own wine), but I love the perfectly pitched nature of this 2014, anchored on tight, bright acids but still delivering an impressive dose of citrus-orchard fruit and beguiling floral notes. But it’s really the length and genuine depth of flavour that seals the deal here, plumbing the depths of this wine requires minutes, not seconds, to reach the bottom. A terrific wine all in all, drinking surprisingly well now, but surely better in another 2-3 years. Best 2018-2026.

Grgich Hills Estate 2013 Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($67.95)
John Szabo – Having just turned 93, Mike Grgich is involved a little less in the day-to-day operations of the business he co-founded in 1976, though his figure looms large. Nephew Ivo Jeramaz has shepherded the estate into organics/biodynamics, and crafts one of the tightest chardonnays in the Napa Valley from vineyards in cool American Canyon and Carneros in southern Napa, made, unusually, without malolactic and designed to age. This 2013 seems a little less flinty (reductive) than previous vintages, coming across as gently ripe and sensibly wood-influenced, relatively round, soft but balanced on the palate, with toasty-honeyed orchard fruit lingering alongside caramel on the finish. Admittedly I miss the intense mineral-flint note of the last vintage, but this will surely appeal more widely. Best 2016-2023.
David Lawrason – This is an organically grown nervy and powerful chardonnay with lifted slightly reductive/matchstick notes amid pineapple fruit, toast and vanilla cream. It’s full bodied, quite fleshy and warm yet dry – a big chardonnay for the cellar.
Michael Godel – Stylistically consistent yet somehow different and still the feeling remains the same. Another exceptional Chardonnay to further the winemaking legacy of Mike Grgich, maker of Chateau Montelena’s 1976 Judgment of Paris chardonnay winner.

Clos Du Val 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($59.95)
David Lawrason – Since my first visits to California in the late 70s I have had a fondness for the light more French leaning style of Clos du Val. Founder Bernard Portet was from Bordeaux. This is the most approachable of the cabernets at the moment, with pretty, soft, ripe fruit driven aromas, and lighter, quite elegant styling.
John Szabo – For more immediate pleasure, Clos du Val’s pleasantly dark and savoury, lightly herbal Napa cabernet is your best option. The estate has always favoured a more reserved, less exaggerated style, and here the palate is attractively mid-weight, with light but still grippy tannins, and lingering finish. A fine vintage for the estate, best 2016-2023.

Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Heitz Chardonnay 2014 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Heitz Cellar 2014 Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($49.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very fine, tender and elegant chardonnay – more refined than most from California. It has generous if subtle aromas of lemon, vague blanched almond nuttiness, crisp apple and lightly warmed bread. Feels slender on the palate, but in any case wonderfully refined.
Michael Godel – When the Napa Valley name Heitz is mentioned it is Cabernet Sauvignon that comes to most minds, 99 per cent of the time. Chardonnay is a Heitz thing, dating back to 1961. Wound tighter than a wire around a boat winch, this 2014 just needs some time to settle in.

Ridge 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Monte Bello Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains ($74.95)
David Lawrason – Offered as a Flagship In-Store Exclusive, this too is excellent, and great value compared to the Montebello above. Also more evolved and ready to drink. It’s full bodied, dense, yet lifted and superripe. Great tension and richness.

Freemark Abbey 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($54.95)
David Lawrason – This is a bit of a sleeper – not as showy as those above, but worth cellaring. It is a big, brawny cab with reserved aromas of ripe blackcurrant, earth, considerable oak and dried herbs. It’s full bodied, dense, powerful and a touch warm. Into to the cellar now and out in 2020. Tasted May 2016

David’s Recommendations from VINTAGES Special Offer

Judgement of Paris

Chardonnays
Ridge Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, $80
Mayacamus 2013 Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $96
Freemark Abbey 2014 Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $37

Cabernet Sauvignons
Heitz 2005 Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $310
Heitz 2004 Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $310
Chateau Montelena 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga Napa Valley, $193
Chateau Montelena 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga Napa Valley, $203
Grgich Hills 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $117
Mayacamus 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, $187
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 2013 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $279
Stag’s Leap 2010 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $280
Clos du Val 2012 Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, $126
Cheers!

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES May 28, 2016

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Michael’s Mix
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!


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Bonus Buyers’ Guide to New Zealand

Sustainability, Low Alcohol, the Rise of Rosé and Profiling Unique Sub-Appellations through Speed-Dating
By Sara d’Amato

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

The New Zealand Wine Fair’s 2016 Tiki Tour through major centers across the country made its final stop on Wednesday at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Never failing to draw a large crowd, this trade tasting attracts consumers, media and sommeliers alike. However, a peculiar invitation I received several weeks ago inviting me to speed-date several travelling winemakers was hard to pass up.

Several hours before the show, a select group of media arrived to be set up at individual tables across from seats that would soon be filled by a winery principal and their local representative agent. We were given 15 minutes of face time to get to know each winery. This forum not only gave us the opportunity for an impressively focused look into the ideology of a particular producer but helped paint a picture of the changing landscape of New Zealand wine. Four noteworthy points are worth sharing from this efficient and perspective changing hour: New Zealand’s unity when it comes to sustainable production, the low alcohol movement sweeping the nation, the importance of rosé and the desire to profile unique sub-appellations.

Sustainability
New Zealand is not a bulk wine producing nation, which is an important consideration when trying to get your head around the fact that 90% of the country’s wine is sustainably produced and another 5% is either biodynamically or organically focused, reports Whitehaven’s Simon Toneycliffe. Undeniably, New Zealand has a world leading sustainability program that is both standardized and certified. In addition, the country derives 70% of its power from renewable energy sources with a goal of 90% by 2025. Given the fact that there is no polluting land mass nearby and even the rain from Australia is barred from entering the country due to the Southern Alps, New Zealand is as clean as it gets.

In appurtenance to those impressive numbers, I was in admiration that so many producers were able to come to a unified conclusion that environmental impact was of utmost importance. When asked how this kind of overreaching consensus could have been reached, Te Pā’s haysley McDonald pointed out that both isolation and climatic conditions ripe for sustainability were most influential.

Low Alcohol
The idea behind the low alcohol movement is impressive and one which New Zealand’s government has invested nearly 20 million dollars to research and market. Obviously, health and safety is impacted but there is more depth to this investment, one that is banking on the global change in attitude towards lighter, more food friendly and most expressive wines. In this context, New Zealand is most favorably positioned.

The producer leading the low alcohol charge in New Zealand is that of Forrest Wines. Dr. John Forrest was my date #3 and I was fortunate to have the opportunity to monopolize his attention for 15 minutes. His research on the topic has been extensive and after many years, he has been able to establish a sound formula for mitigating the leanness of low alcohol wines. This valuable information has been widely shared within the country and has resulted in the production of relatively complex low alcohol wines with texture and mouthfeel. The majority of wineries support the initiative and more and more low alcohol wines are popping up in the market. Keep your eye out for wines that use the “low alcohol” term on their label or declare their alcohol percentage front and center.

Rosé
More rosé appeared on the tables at the fair this year than I can ever remember. Toneycliffe of Whitehaven has noticed that rosé is on the rise in popularity within the country and there is a focus on pinot noir based examples which are dry and fresh in style. Here’s hoping we see an influx of those before the end of the summer!

Sub-appellations
Diversification is not just a trend in wine; it is one that is typically the result of a deeper understanding of terroir and sensitivity to the unique properties of defined parcels of land. It is a consequence of a region growing up and into itself.  The sub-appellations which we are beginning to see appear on the labels of NZ wines are not particularly recent but are now comfortably exported. Over the course of the hour, I was especially intrigued by the premium growing region of Bridge Pā in Hawke’s Bay, producing exceptional syrah such as that of Ngatarawa, and the Wairau Valley of Marlborough producing more fleshy, slightly tropical examples of sauvignon blanc such as those of Te Pā.

Profiles of the four “dates” are listed below: 

Te Pā Family Ltd 

Te Pā Family LtdTe Pā is the oldest family estate in New Zealand but was planting potatoes until 2003. Proprietor Haysley MacDonald sees a growing demand for diversification within the realm of New Zealand sauvignon blanc and favours promoting regional differences.

The ocean flanked site in the Wairu is very fertile which would have originally dissuaded producers from vinifera growth here. However, it turns out that the nitrogen rich soil gives more structure and weight to the wines. Expressive single vineyard sauvignon blanc is the hallmark of Te Pā whose characteristic style is riper and more tropical than most would expect from Marlborough.

Try: Te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough ($19.95)

Whitehaven

WhitehavenGeneral Manager Simon Toneycliffe also recognizes the importance of defining sub-regions and produces both single vineyard styles of sauvignon blanc with unique expression, experimental versions and cross-regional wines of character. Wild yeast and some oak usage has been experimentally successful thus far. A 100% pinot noir rosé will hopefully nudge its way into our shelves before long. Due to demand, the range of Whitehaven wines has been steadily increasing to better express the diversity of Marlborough. Low alcohol approach is generally but not explicitly taken.

Try: Whitehaven Rosé 2015, Marlborough

Forrest Wines

Forrest WinesLow alcohol style from “The Doctor’s” line of wines has set the innovative Forrest Winery apart. Owned by Dr. John Forrest, it is a leader in research and innovation and is known for having been a great instigator in the screw cap closure movement that subsequently swept the nation. Dr. Forrest has noticed that low alcohol wines tend to age better and longer than their standard counterparts. Look for “The Doctor” line of low alcohol wines in the upcoming May 30th release.

Try: Forrest Estate The Doctors’ Pinot Noir 2015, Marlborough

Ngatarawa 

NgatarawaEstablished in 1981, is one of the oldest families in New Zealand wine, previously making wine in Lebanon. The winery was named after the famous racing stable now part of the winemaking facilities in their Hawke’s Bay home. The region is known for a slow growing season moderated by maritime influences. The wines are soft and approachable but with great depth. John Mackinder of Ngatarawa also supports the low alcohol initiative and produces 10% of crop in this fashion. The pinot noir and the northern Rhone-like syrah are worth particular attention and are surprisingly expressive.

Try: Ngatarawa 2015 Stables Syrah, Hawke’s Bay

New Zealand was also the mini feature of the May 14th VINTAGES release. John has already highlighted his favourite sauvignon blanc in his VINTAGES Preview, so listed below are the additional picks from the rest of the team.

New Zealand May 14th Buyers’ Guide
with notes from Sara d’Amato, David Lawrason & Michael Godel

3 Stones Premium Selection Pinot Gris 2015, Marlborough ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – Dry and elegant with great purity of fruit and a salty, mineral edge. Widely appealing but still quite complex and ponder-worthy.

Te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough ($19.95)
Michael Godel – After tasting the winery’s Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc back in 2014 I wrote “If Te Pā can find a way to get their wines into VINTAGES stores, I will buy them by the case and hand them out on Halloween as adult treats.” Why wait for October?
David Lawrason – This is intense, almost searing sauvignon blanc hails from sea level vineyards on a sand bar where the Wairau River meets Cloudy Bay.  Expect complex passion fruit, persimmon, green pepper and lime cordial aromas. Chill well.

3 Stones Premium Selection Pinot Gris 2015 Te Pā Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Kim Crawford Small Parcels Rise & Shine Pinot Noir 2013 Thornbury Pinot Noir 2014 Elephant Hill Le Phant 2014

Kim Crawford Small Parcels Rise & Shine Pinot Noir 2013, Central Otago ($29.95)
Michael Godel – This is a characterful, high-toned and slightly rustic Pinot Noir from Kim Crawford’s Small Parcels program in Central Otago. It will begin to show its best just around the bend.

Thornbury 2014 Pinot Noir, Central Otago ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This is not as structured and deep as the top Otago pinots but it does show the deeper colour and ripe black cherry fruit of the region, framed by oak vanillin, spice and smoke.  Nothing dramatic but it nicely expresses NZ pinot charm, freshness and has drinkable appeal.
Sara d’Amato – Thornbury produces wines over 5 regions on the north and south Islands. This zesty, peppery example from Central Otago shows less characteristic weight and more finesse.

Elephant Hill 2014 Le Phant, Hawke’s Bay ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – A rich and savory blend of merlot, syrah and cabernet sauvignon harvested from Gimblett, Te Awanga and Triangle vineyards. A captivating and stylish wine from a solid producer.
David Lawrason – This is an unusual but effective blend of cabernet, merlot and syrah, with the latter delivering peppery, meaty character. The fruit is quite ripe cherry and the oak is very notable, with chocolaty, smoky character. It’s quite smooth and supple, for current drinking.

Cheers!

Sara d’Amato

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – New Zealand Sauvignon, A Volcanic Duo & More
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES to Their Favourites, Our Favourites
All May 14th Reviews

Celebrating New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

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!


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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – May 14, 2016

New Zealand Sauvignon, A Volcanic Duo & More
Text and photos by John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

David led last week with the team’s Buyers Guide to Customer Favourites, which was the main feature of the May 14th release. So I’ll get straight to my top picks. The selection is laudable, featuring a smart range of “next generation” Marlborough sauvignon blanc, which is to say distinctive, characterful, and original wines that step outside of the standard industrial mould.

The rest of the release also has some hidden gems, including a pair of terrific value volcanic wines from Italy, an outstanding Croatian white, classic Saar Riesling and a local pinot that’s currently singing.

May is New Zealand wine fair month and our WineAlign coverage reflects it – see Treve Ring and Steve Thurlow’s thorough report from their recent travels and read the bonus feature from Sara d’Amato on her speed dating experience at the NZ trade event.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

If you were under the impression that all Marlborough sauvignon comes out of the same massive vat, then try these three distinctive examples.

The Auntsfield Single Vineyard 2015 Sauvignon Blanc from the unofficial Southern Valleys sub-region of Marlborough ($22.95), is a perfect bridge between past and future, still recognizably Marlborough in style though far riper, denser and better composed than the mean. David Herd planted the region’s first grapes here in 1873 – Marlborough’s pioneer winemaker – and vine material from those original plantings still grows on he same site. The 2015 splits the line nicely between tight citrus, riper tropical and lightly pungent-vegetal notes, with superior flavour depth and length.

The founders of Dog Point Vineyards clearly get it: Ivan Sutherland and James Healy were behind the wine – Cloudy Bay – that put Marlborough sauvignon on the map in the 1990s. Dog Point takes a more radical tack however, and I happen to love their distinctive, flinty style born from wild ferments and no nonsense winemaking. The 2015 Sauvignon Blanc ($24.95) is perhaps little less edgy than previous vintages, and with more fruit than usual (I suppose that’s not a bad thing), but it’s is nonetheless still an original expression with terrific length and depth and quivering acids.

Auntsfield Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Villa Maria Southern Clays Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014

It’s heartening to see one of the region’s largest and oldest players, Villa Maria (est. 1961) pushing the quality envelope in their top tier. The 2014 Southern Clays Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc ($29.95), from the Maxwell Vineyard nestled in the gentle north facing foothills of the Ben Morven Valley, plays on this slightly warmer and more clay rich corner of Marlborough, also associated with the region’s most serious pinot noirs. This wine shows that a bit of bottle age can bring out an entirely new dimension in the genre, here delivering intriguing honeyed/bees wax aromatics, subdued relative to the typical Marlborough style, but all the more interesting and subtly complex for it. And I really love the texture: taught and tightly spun but smooth and seamless, with exceptional depth and length. It’s well worth the premium price, and is also capable of ageing another half dozen years no doubt.

Aromatic Whites

Fans of Mosel riesling will find extreme happiness in the arch-classic Bischofliche Weingüter Trier 2013 Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett, Mosel ($23.95). It’s an exceptional example from one of the Saar’s top vineyards that hits all of the right notes. I love the impossible balance of fully ripe stone fruit framed by electric acids, the perfectly pitched pinch of balancing residual sugar and the excellent length. Drink or hold a decade+.

Further afield in less trodden territory, I’d urge you to take a punt on the Ilocki Podrumi 2013 Traminac, Croatia ($14.95). Ilocki Podrumi has one of Croatia’s oldest cellars next to one of the most modern in the northeastern corner of the country. Traminac (aka gewürztraminer) is rendered here with a distinctively green-gold colour and an amazing perfume of marmalade and rosewater, delivering superb complexity at the price. The rich and creamy palate offers more honey and ripe/dried stone fruit flavours inflected with ginger and star anise – a terrific tour de force of flavour all in all. Try with lightly spiced south East Asian foods.

Bischofliche Weingüter Trier Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett 2013 Ilocki Podrumi Traminac 2013 D'angelo Sacravite 2013 Antichi Vinai Il Mascalese Nerello Mascalese 2013 Domaine Queylus Tradition Pinot Noir 2012

Duo of Italian Volcanic Reds

Is there something distinctive about volcanic wines? You bet. They can best be summed up by the word savoury – don’t come to the volcano looking for plush fruit. You can read all the details in my book publishing this September, but in the meantime enjoy these two superb value entry points into volcanic reds from two of Italy’s most celebrated volcanoes: d’Angelo’s 2013 Sacravite, IGT Basilicata, Italy ($15.95) is a pure aglianico from the slopes of the extinct Vulture volcano in Basilicata, made from younger vines and aged for a shorter period than the estate’s DOCG version. It’s crafted nonetheless in the traditional style, which is to say marvellously floral and full of pot pourri and dried fruit, succulent and firm with bright acids and fine, dusty-grippy tannins. Oh, and you could forget this is in the cellar for a half dozen years and fear little.

Volcanic Wines - by John Szabo MSMonte Vulture-2111

Sicily’s alarmingly active Mount Etna is the origin of Antichi Vinai’s 2013 ‘Il Mascalese’ Nerello Mascalese, IGT Terre Siciliane ($16.95). Etna has written one of Italy’s runaway success wine stories over the last decade, captivating drinkers with the wild strawberry, smoke and porcini dust flavours of indigenous nerello mascalese. Antichi Vinai, founded in 1877, preserves the variety’s character with just a short ageing period in stainless steel. Tannins are relatively soft and yielding, while acids remain bright and fresh. This is the sort of wine I’d love to sip with a nice chill alongside strips of simply grilled beef or lamb skewers with a generous squeeze of lime and dusting of resinous herbs.

Mount EtnaAlberello Etneo, Fessina-7710

Primed Pinot

And lastly, much is made of the right ‘drinking window’ for wines. Woe unto him who cracks a bottle too early or too late, and misses out on its maximum expression. The trouble is there’s no formula for figuring it out, aside from experience and a little guessing mixed with luck. I was delighted thus to find Thomas Bachelder’s Domaine Queylus 2012 Tradition Pinot Noir, Niagara Peninsula ($29.95) singing this week, clearly in a happy place. It has reached a fine stage of evolution with its silky texture, taught and fine-grained tannins, and expansive range of flavours in the delicately spicy, red fruit and earth spectrum. So grab it while it’s on; next week it may stop singing.

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

johnszabosignature

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES May 14, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
All May 14 Reviews

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Their Favourites, Our Favourites

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!


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – May 14, 2016

Their Favourites, Our Favourites
By David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The May 14 release features 23 “Customer Favourites”, as selected by VINTAGES without any explanation of the reasoning. One can only assume they have impressive sales history – but this is not explained to us in the magazine. Do you need to know? Maybe not, but there is comfort and sway in buying something others consider favourites. We go our own way to present our picks, and explain why (hint, quality/price relationship is a rather critical element).

John has been travelling in recent days and will return with his top smart buys in next week’s report, which will also focus on New Zealand and include a report by Sara d’Amato on the New Zealand wine fairs being held in Ottawa (May 9) and Toronto (May 11 – sold out).

So right to it with our release highlights, with a reminder that you can click on David Lawrason, Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel to see the complete list of our most recent reviews.

The Whites

Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Blanc 2015, Costières De Nîmes, France ($17.95)
Michael Godel – Unctuous floral white blend in which viognier lifts grenache blanc, marssanne and roussanne. Really special vintage from Mr. Marès – the most ethereal yet.
David Lawrason – This is a very fine southern French white blend. Lovely aromas of orange blossom, star fruit, lychee and wood. Quite creamy but not overblown with some fine acidity. A summer patio winner. Great value.

Rodney Strong 2013 Chalk Hill Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Sonoma is California’s bastion for refined chardonnay, and for many vintages now Rodney Strong’s Chalk Hill has been a classic motif of the genre. This is a very elegant and complex chardonnay with lovely scents of vanilla, orange Creamsicle, Crème brûlée, spice and tobacco. Priced well for the quality delivered.

Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Blanc 2015Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2013 Bischofliche Weingüter Trier Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett 2013 Gehringer Brothers Classic Riesling 2014

Bischofliche Weingüter Trier Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett 2013, Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany ($23.95)
Michael Godel – This is a ripe to ripping off-dry wow release with a searing tang. Wait and watch it develop for many years.

Gehringer Brothers 2014 Classic Riesling, British Columbia ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – Brothers Gordon and Walter have trained in top institutions in Germany and bring their riesling expertise to Okanagan’s Golden Mile Bench. Their focus for several decades has been on aromatic whites from dry to Icewine. This particular riesling shows a real respect for terroir exhibiting riper characteristics and more of an unctuous quality than your typical Mosel brand but still retains a lively vein of acidity keeping it balanced and focused.

Pinks

Louis Bernard Tavel Rosé 2015

Rollier De La Martinette Rosé 2015

Fielding Rosé 2015Fielding Rosé 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($15.95)
David Lawrason – Quietly Fielding has become one of the leading Niagara wineries for offering expertly made, good value VQA wines. This is a beautifully composed, balanced and fresh rosé with just the right acid-sugar balance. Sip all summer long.
Michael Godel – Some rosé just rubs the wrong way. At first sniff and sip you just know this Fielding ’15 is not one of those. In its fresh and spritely youth this is one of the most pleasurable rosés from Ontario.

Rollier De La Martinette 2015 Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France  ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Whiter Shades of Pink seems to be the new anthem for serious producers of rosé around the world, and they are looking to Provence for inspiration. This very pale Provencal rosé packs more flavour intensity than its appearance suggests. The nose shows subtle, pure sour cherry/currant fruit, rosewater, grapefruit and herbs. It’s mid-weight, firm and dry with a warm, spicy finish. A dinner wine.

Louis Bernard 2015 Tavel Rosé, Rhône, France ($21.95) (450833)
Sara d’Amato – It’s not spring without a great rosé and this classic Tavel fits the bill. To call it bottled Provence is a bit romantic but it certainly exudes typical notes of lavender and wild herbs. The fruit is nicely concentrated and there is a slight tannic edge that makes it suitable for pairing with red meat.

Reds

Domaine Courbis St Joseph 2013

Joie Farm Pinot Noir 2013

Viewpointe Focal Pointe Cabernet Franc 2010Viewpointe 2010 Focal Pointe Cabernet Franc, Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Lake Erie North Shore is the warmest VQA region in Ontario, well suited to reds made from Bordeaux varieties. We see too few prime examples! This is a quite substantial, complex and deep cab franc that is maturing into prime time but holding some vitality. Expect lifted aromas of red currants, raspberry, wood smoke, capers and spice. Scores on depth and complexity.
Michael Godel – Wine Country Ontario’s Lake Erie North Shore appellation flashes onto the radar here with Viewpointe’s very youthful and soulful 2010 Cabernet Franc. A huge accomplishment and so worth the side trip.

Joie Farm Pinot Noir 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – Despite a challenging vintage in the Okanagan, this more delicate style of pinot noir is not short on complexity or length. Very expressive with great definition and real purity of fruit – for pinot noir traditionalists.
Michael Godel – A dark berry and mineral pinot noir that will drink well for five years or more though I’m not sure there can be any reason to wait.

Domaine Courbis St Joseph 2013, Rhône, France ($36.95)
Michael Godel – Note the deft touch and dearth structure from this powerful yet elegant northern Rhône syrah. So much berry and tannin, with everything structure requires in between.

Pierre Amadieu 2013 Romane Machotte Gigondas, Rhône, France ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – The wines of Pierre Amadieu are widely recognized as having a “Burgundian” appeal and focus on balance, respect for terroir and purity of fruit rather than boldness, power or muscle. There is no heaviness here in this 2013 incarnation but certainly a great deal of flavour and focus. Pepper and Provençal garrigue add a great deal of charm and typicity to this blend.

Tüzkö 2012 Cabernet Franc, Tolna, Hungary ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – Under the management of the Antinori family, Tuzko Estate produces noteworthy whites along really interesting reds such as this unexpected find. Interestingly, the rolling hills of Pannon surrounding Bátaapáti in Tolna are said to resemble those of Tuscany.  The pleasant cool herbal notes compliment the fruit on the palate while the firm tannins give this cabernet franc structure and longevity. Excellent value.

Pierre Amadieu Romane Machotte Gigondas 2013Tuzko Cabernet Franc 2012 Rendola Rosso Di Montalcino 2009 Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec 2012

Rendola 2009 Rosso Di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – At this price grab a handful for everyday drinking with your favourite Italian dishes, or to sip with mild, firm cheeses. From a ripe, softer vintage, this has evolved to prime, and has developed lovely of sweet cherry/tomato fruit, cedar, dried rosemary and licorice aromas. Smooth, warm and delicious if not deep.

Fabre Montmayou 2012 Gran Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Here is an impressive, beefy and complex malbec that I would cellar for future grilling events. It is approachable now but has the structure to live well into the next decade. It’s full bodied, fairly dense and juicy with considerable alcohol, but dense fruit, licorice and intriguing vermouth-like spices carry the day.

And that’s a wrap for this week. Tune in next time for the up and down, north and south of New Zealand. If you need an excuse to have a glass of wine today, you should know that it’s International Sauvignon Blanc Day. Just use the hashtag #SauvBlanc and you’ll be sharing in good company from around the world.

Cheers!

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES May 14, 2016

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Mix
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!


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – April 30, 2016

Global Chardonnays, Springtime finds and What it takes to be The World’s Best Sommelier
By Sara d’Amato with notes from David, John and Michael

Click here for more from Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

From Tasmania to Washington to the Côtes de Provence, there are so many gems in this weekend’s release that we each had difficultly narrowing down our top five picks. Thankfully John Szabo covered the two main features of this VINTAGES release, that of the Pacific Northwest and rosés last week. In addition to those spotlights, this release offers a substantial selection of quality wines from both BC and Ontario as well as very fine global chardonnays of which we have several double alignments. An out-of-this-world Chilean sauvignon blanc was also successful in charming more than one of our palates.

Although some interesting rosé finds from the south of France where previously highlighted, we couldn’t resist recommending a few more from this twelve bottle springtime release. Hoping for warm days ahead, you’ll find plenty of fresh, nervy offerings to tantalize your senses as well as some rich, comforting reds in case the beau temps doesn’t arrive.

Buyers’ Guide to Whites & Rosés

Quinta de Couselo 2014 O Rosal, Rías Baixas, Spain ($23.95)
David Lawrason – The albarino-based whites of Spain’s northwest Galician coast can range from dull and weak to overly tropical and blowsy. I like them somewhere between these two extremes, as delivered here. The property once belonged to Cistercian monks but it has been a family winery since 1864, and there is a sense of this pedigree in the bottle. It is a lovely example of Rias Baixas – elegant, a touch floral, complex and well balanced.
John Szabo – A serious version of Rias Baixas, crisp, crunchy, bone dry, genuinely concentrated and richly flavoured. I like the lick of white pepper (“stony, mineral”), and the sharp, well-chiselled acids.

McGuigan 2015 Bin 9000 Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales Australia ($14.95)
John Szabo – Hardly a wine of earth-shattering complexity, but this fits the bill for fans of crisp, bright, saliva-inducing unoaked whites, simple but highly quaffable, ready to enjoy. Think of it as a dry riesling/unoaked chardonnay sort of wine, at a nice price.

Josef Chromy 2014 Pepik Chardonnay, Tasmania, Australia ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato – A crisp but leesy chardonnay with a northern Burgundian feel. The vibrant, floral and delicate flavours of cool climate chardonnay are beautifully expressed here.
John Szabo – Chromy makes a fine representation of cool Tasmanian terroir, zesty and lively, unoaked, and bearing more than a passing resemblance to Chablis. It’s all citrus and green apple fruit, enlivened by tight acids and a pinch of CO2 on the palate. An ideal oyster/patio sipping, aperitif wine.

Quinta De Couselo O Rosal 2014McGuigan Bin 9000 Semillon 2015 Josef Chromy Pepik Chardonnay 2014 Norman Hardie Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay 2014

Norman Hardie 2014 Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($39.00)
Sara d’Amato – Norm’s Niagara chardonnay offers more plumpness than its County’s counterpart without sacrificing elegance, verve and focus. Drink now and don’t chill excessively.
Michael Godel – It’s hard not to compare Norman Hardie’s Niagara Chardonnay side by side with his County-grown and produced estate counterpart but this much I know. A Hardie Niagara Chardonnay is meant to be enjoyed in its early youth. This 2014 is so good right now.

Vignerons de Buxy Les Chaniots Montagny 1er Cru 2013, Burgundy, France ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – A real steal, this chardonnay from the white only appellation of Montagny in the Cote Chalonnaise is skillfully produced with terrific intensity and structure. Despite its technical correctness, it still offers an abundance of ready-to-drink pleasure.

Montes 2015 Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc, Zapallar Coast, Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($19.95)
Michael Godel – This is an exciting hyperbole of Chile, a Sauvignon Blanc from the coast with wild flavours and singing aromatics. Job well done with this newly directed Montes.
John Szabo – The Zapallar D.O. is a new, cool coastal region in Chile pioneered by Aurelio Montes on the far out Pacific coast at the end of the Aconcagua Valley. And this is very pungent and zesty sauvignon to be sure, like jalapeño purée with lime zest and lemon juice, all good things, offering good density and weight.

Vignerons De Buxy Les Chaniots Montagny 1er Cru 2013 Montes Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Domaine Maby La Forcadière Tavel Rosé 2015 Gassier Sables D'azur Rosé 2015 Villa Maria Private Bin Rose 2015

Domaine Maby La Forcadière Tavel Rosé 2015, Rhône, France $18.95 (701318)
Sara d’Amato – Longing for hot, sunny days, this most sophisticated of French rosé appellations is a terrific way to take a mental vacation. A spot on, very distinctive Tavel offering rich colour, a dry palate and some tannic presence giving it the ability to stand up to meat such as pork and lamb.

Gassier 2015 Sables d’Azur Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France ($15.95)
Michael Godel – Consistently and unquestionably pure and classically reasoned Rosé from Gassier. A dictionary entry rendering from Provence.

Villa Maria Private Bin Rosé 2015, East Coast, New Zealand ($17.95)
Michael Godel – Villa Maria produces one New Zealand’s most consistent portfolios across a wide range of whites and reds. It is no surprise to see the same high quality with this lively Rosé. It possesses palpable aridity and true red fruit aromas.

Buyers’ Guide to Reds

Featherstone 2013 Red Tail Merlot, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A red blend that is ageing remarkably still with an abundance of fresh fruit and a plump, fleshy palate. Offers everything an affable textbook merlot should including flavours of Christmas cake, chocolate and deep plummy fruit.

Le Gravillas 2014 Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône Villages, Rhône, France ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Known for fairly average wines, Plan de Dieu can surprise every once and awhile. Due to lack of wide recognition, this southern Rhône region offers approachable pricing. Lavender, tapenade, black pepper and sundried tomatoes evoke Provence and its sunny warmth.

Featherstone Red Tail Merlot 2013 Le Gravillas Plan De Dieu Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2014 Lamadrid Single Vineyard Reserva Malbec 2012 Pata Negra Reserva 2010 Tenuta di Capraia Chianti Classico 2013

Lamadrid 2012 Single Vineyard Reserva Malbec, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina ($17.00)
David Lawrason – One of my main beefs about Argentine malbecs is that many are released too soon, and come across as too blunt and coarse. This is still youthfully tannic but it is also fresh and juicy with lifted mulberry, herbs and graphite aromas and flavours. But the real attraction was the very good concentration for the money. The length surprised me.  The style immediately suggested a barbecue.

Pata Negra 2010 Reserva, Rioja, Spain ($17.00)
David Lawrason – There is a very traditional school of winemaking in Rioja that reveres textural richness and length, even if the flavours are not bright and fruity. Indeed some can be downright farmy.  This maturing example is chock full of cured meat, leather, peppery spice and cedar but so smooth and complex. Very impressive depth of flavour for the money and great balance.

Tenuta Di Capraia 2013 Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($21.95)
Michael Godel – Red fruit forward, leather and spice. These are the hallmark characteristics of classic, charming Chianti. This is Capraia’s 2013. A six days a week Chianti Classico.

Tabalí Reserva Especial Syrah, Limarí Valley, Chile ($17.95)
David Lawrason – From an underrated, emerging Pacific cooled region well north of Santiago, this is a deep, dark syrah with quite lifted aromas of tar, licorice, stewed blackcurrant/cherry fruit. I would like to see a bit more linearity and finesse but it is very impressive in terms of flavour depth, complexity and genuine syrah-ness.

Tabali Reserva Especial Syrah 2012 De Grendel Shiraz 2013 Château Bouscassé Vieilles Vignes 2006 Sordo Rocche Di Castiglione Riserva Barolo 2008

De Grendel 2013 Shiraz, Coastal Region, South Africa  ($24.95).
David Lawrason – Syrah/shiraz is the most exciting red from the Cape nowadays. I had several stunning examples on a recent visit.  This is from a vineyard in the Durbanville Hills only 7kms from and 200 metres above the cold Atlantic Ocean. It is a classic with all kinds of complexity, verve and depth. The ferrous minerality and acidity is very mindful of the northern Rhone, and it boasts amazing complexity and depth for the money.

Château Bouscassé 2006 Vieilles Vignes Madiran, France ($38.95)
John Szabo – This is clearly a superior, ambitious wine of class and pedigree, from the sister property of regional leader Château Montus. At this stage it’s pretty much fully mature, with a taste reminiscent of porcini mushroom broth – a big hit of umami. Yet it’s also still very structured, tannic even, with puckering astringency, so serve with assorted salty protein dishes. Terrific length and complexity overall. Best 2016-2026.

Sordo 2008 Rocche di Castiglione Riserva Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($49.95)
John Szabo – A fine and savoury, now nicely mature nebbiolo from the village of Castiglione Falletto, crafted in a rather classic style, complete with leathery and tarry red fruit, liquorice, dried herbs and more. The palate is medium-full bodied, filling and washing over the taste buds, with excellent length, depth and complexity. Best 2016-2025.

~

The World’s Best Sommelier

He’s Swedish, 31 and loves hip-hop music. The title of World’s Best Sommelier was bestowed upon the unconventional Arvid Rosengren this month in Mendoza, Argentina. Fifty-six countries participated in this “Olympics of Wine” including our Canadian champion, Elyse Lambert of Quebec.

What does it take to achieve this most coveted of titles? Over the course of five days, the competitors are whittled down to 15 and then to 3 finalists. Rigorous theory exams, blind tasting and identification of spirits and wines, locating errors in wine lists, pouring a magnum of Champagne into 15 different shaped glasses, menu pairing and convincing a table of guests to buy expensive wine are among the many tasks. All of this must be diligently and calmly performed in a timed setting in front of thousands of of spectators in a language other than your mother tongue.

The-fifteen-semi-finalists-of-the-Best-Sommelier-of-the-World-Contest-Argentina-2016

The fifteen semi finalists of the Best Sommelier of the World Contest Argentina 2016

It is not unusual for competitors to train five to ten years for this very competition. All candidates are national champions before they are offered a seat on the world stage. This year, three of the top five finalists were women including Elyse Lambert. A substantial Canadian delegation attended the competition made up of members of the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers, a national organization with chapters in BC, Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and the Atlantic provinces. Celebrated winemakers and great supporters of Canadian Sommeliers, Peter Gamble and Ann Sperling (producers of both Sperling Wines and Versado among others) offered their Mendozian home to Canadian delegates over the course of the week.

The results are clear, Canada has a wealth of talent and our sommeliers rank among the world’s best. This international recognition of our Canada’s wine savvy community is the reason it has been chosen as the location for the Pan American Best Sommelier Challenge in 2018 which will take place in Montreal. Raise a glass to those who make a living serving others, and in particular, making sure that we are only served the best of wine!

Santé,

Sara d’Amato

From VINTAGES April 30, 2016

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Szabo’s Smart Buys
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!


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Top Values at the LCBO (April – 2nd Edition)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

When I wrote to you a few weeks ago, I thought that spring would soon be here; I was so wrong. So to console you I have found some great value wines to drink while we all wait for the weather to improve.

For you bargain lovers I have some great news. Although there are only three new wines on my Top 50 Best Values this month there are another six, that were already on the list, that are either discounted or have Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) that apply, making these wines even more attractive and your spring drinking even more affordable.

There are also some new listings that are fine buys. As usual wines have been joining the Top 50 Best Values list and others have fallen off over the last 4 weeks. Those of you who follow me know I really enjoy discovering inexpensive gems. I have also included in this report four wines that almost made it onto the Top 50. I am writing about them because they all have lots of BAMs for the next 4 weeks.

Steve’s Top 50 is a standing WineAlign best buys list based on quality/price ratio of the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The current discount period runs until May 22nd. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine highlighted.

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!

Reds

Citra 2014 Sangiovese Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy ($7.95 +5 BAMs) – This red is a little rustic with a savoury herbal nose, but quite tasty with mildly flavoured red meat dishes or a mild hard cheese like cheddar.

Santa Carolina 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Rapel Valley, Chile ($8.95 + 5BAMs) – This is a pure and very even red with a good depth of flavour. Not a lot of complexity but then it is under $9. Try with roast meats.

Santa Carolina 2015 Merlot, Chile ($8.95 + 5 BAMS) – Great value for an exuberant fruity merlot. The palate is brimming with lively bright fruit with enough tannin for balance and good to very good length. Enjoy on its own or with cheese and meat dishes. Very versatile.

Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2014 Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Santa Carolina Merlot 2015 K W V Paarl Cape Ruby Bodegas Castaño Hécula Monastrell 2013 Château Canteloup 2012

K W V Paarl Cape Ruby South Africa ($9.85 + 6BAMs) – This is a fullbodied fortified red made in similar way as ruby port. It is medium sweet well balanced with decent length. Try with blue cheese, semi-sweet dark chocolate or dried fruit and nuts.

Bodegas Castaño 2013 Hécula Monastrell, Yecla, Spain ($10.45) New to Top 50 – The monastrell (mourvedre) grape in southeastern Spain makes many delicious juicy full bodied reds like this. The palate is very smooth with a good depth of flavour and it finishes dry with some fine tannin for grip. Very good length. Try with roast meats.

Château Canteloup 2012, Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($19.65 + 10 BAMs) – This is great value for a good quality Bordeaux with the aromatics of a great wine. Though the structure is not that of the best, it is still very impressive for the money. It’s medium weight with a silky mid-palate, then a firm tannic finish. Excellent length.

Whites

Periquita White 2013, Portugal ($8.95 + 5 BAMs) – A juicy blend of three white grapes with a very smooth palate and a good depth of flavour. Enjoy with mildly flavoured seafood.

Domaine Jean Bousquet 2015 White Blend, Argentina ($11.90 + 4 BAMs) – This is an aromatic white that’s midweight and deeply flavoured with the fruit well balanced by soft acidity. Try with roast veal or pork.

Periquita White 2013 Domaine Jean Bousquet White Blend 2015 Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015

Santa Rita 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($11.95 + 7BAMs) – A juicy nicely structured sauvignon with just enough sweetness to balance the acidity and not too much greenness. Try with sautéed seafood.

Marqués de Riscal 2014, Rueda, Spain ($12.70 + 6 BAMs) – This is a pure fresh crisp white with an aromatic nose of grapefruit, passion fruit, white pepper with some honey notes. Since it is lively and juicy with very good length and is so refreshing, it is a great selection for seafood and mildly flavoured white meats.

Wolf Blass 2014 Yellow Label Chardonnay, Padthaway/Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($12.95 was $14.95) – This is a well balanced fruity lively chardonnay with a touch of oak; quite elegant for such an inexpensive wine. Try with rich seafood dishes, roast pork or sautéed veal.

Marqués De Riscal 2014 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2014 Riverlore Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Riverlore 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($13.90 was 15.90) New to Top 50 – This crisp very juicy kiwi sauvignon shows classic Marlborough aromas and flavours. It is midweight and well balanced with a creamy rich palate and crisp dry herbal lemon finish. Try with grilled calamari or creamy goat cheese.

Peter Yealands 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($13.95 was $15.95) New to Top 50 – There is a soft appealing mineral tone to the aromas and flavours of this juicy vibrant mouthwatering sauvignon. Nice concentration and very pure with very good length. Try with seafood dishes.

How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesIn addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 37 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, dip into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

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!


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