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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (May)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

The Top 20 under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. This month I selected 13 wines from Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

With all of the wines on promotion, now is a great time for value wine shopping. There are six new wines on the Top 50 for you to try and for the next four weeks there’s another seven wines already on the list that are on promotion i.e. have Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) that apply or are on sale (LTO), making these wines even more attractive; all this will surely make your May/June drinking more affordable.

To make up the balance of this report’s Top 20 I added another seven wines, all with BAMs, that make them good choices. Though none of them quite made it on to my standard Top 50, they were all close.

The discount period runs until June 21st. So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I was able to ensure that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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

Reds

Casal Thaulero Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Terre Di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy ($7.75) New to Top 50 – A balanced dry red with a lot going on for the money.

Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2013, Abruzzo, Italy ($7.75) New to Top 50 – A midweight dry vibrant red that is great with tomato sauces.

Casal Thaulero Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2013 Yellow Tail Reserve Shiraz 2012 Tini Sangiovese Di Romagna 2012

Yellow Tail Reserve Shiraz 2012, Southeastern Australia ($8.95 was $15.95) New to Top 50 – A charming wine with perfumed aromas, that’s full bodied with ripe sweet blackberry fruit. Grab an armful at this price before it is all gone. There were over 1300 bottles left when we published.

Tini Sangiovese Di Romagna 2012, Sangiovese Di Romagna, Italy ($8.95 was $10.95) Top 50 May – A very drinkable lightweight Italian red for pizza and meaty pasta sauces. Best to chill a little.

Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot 2013, Rapel Valley, Chile ($10.95 was $12.95) Top 50 May – A lot of depth and complexity for such an inexpensive wine. Its clean and lively with pure aromas and flavours and very good length.

Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot 2013 Mountain Fish Agiorgitiko 2012 Borsao Garnacha Selección 2012 Thelema Mountain Red 2012 Faustino V Tempranillo Rosado 2014

Mountain Fish Agiorgitiko 2012, Peloponnese, Greece ($11.10 was $13.10) Top 50 May – Agiorgitiko is one of Greece’s best indigenous red grapes; grown widely in the Peloponnese region. This is a deep purple red with lots of fruit and food friendly acidity. Try with lamb cutlets.

Borsao Garnacha Selección 2012, Campo De Borja, Spain ($11.95 + 4BAMs) – A lightly oaked fresh young Spanish red that’s quite full bodied with a soft warm finish. Chill lightly and enjoy with pizza.

Thelema Mountain Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa ($12.90 + 6BAMs) – This delightful blend of shiraz and five other grapes comes from high mountain vineyards above Stellenbosch. It is very smooth and quite dense. Try with pizza or burgers .

Faustino V Tempranillo Rosado 2014, Rioja, Spain ($12.90) New to Top 50 – This deep fuchsia pink rose is almost a light red. Match with mildly flavoured meat dishes.

La Posta Cocina Tinto Blend 2013, Mendoza, Argentina $12.95 plus 8BAMs Top 50 May – An easy drinking well balanced red with juicy berry fruit lively acidity with just enough tannin and a mild spicy tone.

La Posta Cocina Tinto Blend 2013 Guardian Reserva Red 2013 Errazuriz Estate Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir 2013

Guardian Reserva Red 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($13.60 + 6BAMs) – A complex red cabernet blend finely balanced and fruity long lingering finish with some fine tannin. Try with a steak.

Errazuriz Estate Series Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($13.95 + 9BAMs) – A midweight juicy cabernet with aromas of plum and raspberry fruit, with pencil shavings and herbal tones. Not as powerful as some, but has some charm.  Very good length.

Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir 2013, Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($13.95 plus 8BAMs) Top 50 May – This is a delicious Chilean pinot with a good depth of colour, a fragrant nose and a well balanced complex palate.  Try with seared tuna.

Whites

Citra Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2013, Abruzzo, Italy ($7.75) New to Top 50 – A ripe fruity white with a good depth of flavour and good palate length for such an inexpensive white.

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

Citra Trebbiano D'abruzzo 2013 Cono Sur Bicicleta Chardonnay 2013 Fleur Du Cap Chardonnay 2013

Fleur Du Cap Chardonnay 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($10.80 was $12.80) Top 50 May – A rich smooth intense old style chardonnay with well integrated oak spice. Try with fish and chips.

Mascota Vineyards O P I Chardonnay 2014 Argentina ($10.95 was $12.95) Top 50 May – A rich flavourful chardonnay with just a touch of oak and a firm dry finish.

Villa Wolf Riesling 2013 Pfalz, Germany ($14.80 + 8BAMs) – A juicy flavourful well balance riesling thats almost dry with lovely racy acidity and very good length. A very versatile food wine with seafood, pastry and white meat dishes.

Mascota Vineyards O P I Chardonnay 2014 Villa Wolf Riesling 2013 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2014 Pocketwatch Chardonnay 2013

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2014, Padthaway Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($14.95) New to Top 50 – An elegant fresh lightly oaked chardonnay with very good length.

Pocketwatch Chardonnay 2013, Central Ranges, New South Wales, Australia ($15.00 + 10BAMs) – Expect an enticing nose of lemongrass, peach and ripe pear aromas with well integrated oak spice and lovely patisserie vanilla, like a baker’s shop. The palate is juicy, midweight and very creamy with elegant fruit.

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

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

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

In addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 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 us. And if you think our reviews are accurate, send us some feedback since it’s good to hear that you agree with us.

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

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


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Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2014

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What’s New at the LCBO – May 2015

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

Everything’s Coming Up Rosés
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

It is spring at last in my part of Canada, and summer will not be far behind. So that means one thing at the LCBO – it’s time for rosé wines. Most places in the world enjoy rosé wines all year round but we are programmed by the LCBO only to seek them out for the few months of the year that comprise our summer. As a consequence the vast majority of rosés now arriving in the stores are seasonal listings and will disappear from the shelves come fall.

Rosés are light red wines. Usually they are made from red or black grapes with minimal skin contact between juice and skins after pressing. Hence you get the flavour of the wine grape, with only a splash of red colour and a hint of the vegetal flavours and tannin that comes from the skins. They can be sweet or dry, just like red wines. The dry ones, for me, are perfect for alfresco dining, slightly chilled, with mildly flavoured meat dishes.

Rosé wines are increasingly popular and there is a record number of new ones this year. WineAlign colleague, Sara d’Amato has already highlighted several pinks from recent VINTAGES releases and I have tasted and reviewed about 40 from the LCBO’s general list in the last few weeks alone. Sadly many failed to impress despite some beautiful packaging which will help some no doubt sell well. However those of you who care about quality and value will zero in on the six that I have selected 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. In addition to my six rosé picks I have chosen to highlight another seven new wines that have refreshed the system out of the more than 70 that I have tried since I last reported. Most are on shelf already; the rest will arrive over next few weeks.

I suggest that you read on, pick a few that appeal and 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 or bottle images highlighted below. 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!

Rosés

Citra Cerasuolo Rosé d’Abruzzo 2014, Abruzzo, Italy ($8.45) – A great price for a nice fresh rosé. Try with baked salmon or seared tuna. Best 2015 to 2016.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir Rosé 2014, Bio Bio Valley, Chile ($9.95) – Delicate rhubarb and cherry fruit aromas lead to finely balanced palate with very good length. Try with roast chicken. Best 2015 to 2016.

Bodega Volcanes Summit Reserva Rosé 2014, Central Valley, Chile ($9.95) – A very fruity rosé with a lot of flavour and creamy smooth rich palate. Enjoy with baked ham. Best 2015 to 2017.

Citra Cerasuolo Rose d'Abruzzo 2014 Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir Rose 2014 Bodega Volcanes Summit Reserva Rose 2014 La Vieille Ferme Cotes Du Ventoux Rosé Faustino V Tempranillo Rosado 2014 Henry Of Pelham Rose 2014

La Vieille Ferme Cotes Du Ventoux Rosé 2014, Rhone Valley, France ($10.95) – This is a typical Rhone rosé with lots of flavour and a long dry fruity finish. Try with roast chicken or veal. Best 2015 to 2016.

Faustino V Tempranillo Rosado 2014, Rioja, Spain ($12.90) – This shocking pink rosé is hard to miss on the shelf in its distinctive tall bottle, so grab a few and enjoy with mildly flavoured meat dishes. Don’t overchill or you might miss the good stuff! Best 2015 to 2016.

Henry Of Pelham Rosé 2014, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($12.95 until May 24th was $13.95) – Consistently this is a good rosé every year with a dried herbal tone to red fruit flavours. It is vibrant in colour and mouthfeel. Lots going on for the money, so pick up a few while on offer. Best 2015 to 2017.

Reds

Mcguigan Black Label Shiraz 2013, South East Australia ($10.90 and 1500mL $19.85) – I know this well-balanced fruity shiraz has been on the shelves for years but the 1500mL format is new and makes for even better value if you can find enough friends to help you enjoy all that wine. Best 2015 to 2016.

Luccarelli Primitivo 2013, Puglia, Italy ($10.95 and 1500ml $19.95) – The 750mL bottle is joined on the shelf by a 1500mL version making this full-bodied ripe lively opaque wine even better value. Best 2015 to 2016.

Mcguigan Black Label Shiraz 2013 Luccarelli Primitivo 2013 Cliff 79 Cabernet Shiraz Norton Barrel Select Malbec 2013 Dominio Del Plata Crios Limited Edition Red Blend 2013

Cliff 79 Cabernet Shiraz, South East Australia ($10.95) – This non-vintage red blend is quite drinkable when lightly chilled despite being a little sweet, since there is enough mild tannin and acidity for balance. Very good length. Try with mildly spicy meaty sauces. Best 2015 to 2016.

Norton Barrel Select Malbec 2013, Mendoza, Argentina ($12.95) – Lots here for the money. Deeply flavoured with fine tannin and soft acidity, though sweetish it is balanced. Chill a little and enjoy on its own or with mildly flavoured cheese. Best 2015 to 2017.

Dominio Del Plata Crios Limited Edition Red Blend 2013, Mendoza, Argentina ($14.95) – A cellar worthy red that needs an hour or two in a decanter if consumed now to fully open up. It is an opaque purple-red with loads of flavour with a sweetish fruity appeal, though the tannins kick in big time on the finish. Best 2016 to 2020.

Nobilo Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Nugan Estate Third Generation Chardonnay 2013Whites

Nugan Third Generation Chardonnay 2013, New South Wales, Australia ($11.95) – A rich powerful fully oaked chardonnay with very good length and a long intense fruity finale. Try with strongly flavoured white meats like roast pork or veal.

Nobilo Regional Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough, New Zealand ($16.95) – A very harmonious fairly typical Kiwi sauvignon with a zesty lemony fruit palate and very good length. Try with rich creamy cheese sauces.

*****

We would love to get your feedback on this report. Meanwhile check our my list of Top 50 wine values by dipping into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste. In two week’s time I will be back with a look at the updated Top 50 list in our WineAlign’s Top 20 Under $20 report.

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

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


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Bottega Prosecco

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LCBO Announces First Regional Specialty Store

by John Szabo MS, WineAlignMay 3, 2015

 

There will be some happy Greeks on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue!

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The LCBO, in a progressive move, has confirmed it will be moving ahead with a pilot project to create regional specialty stores across the GTA. LCBO Executive VP Dr. George Soleas shared the development with WineAlign, revealing that the concept will be trialled in store 4, the flagship location on the Danforth in the heart of the Greek community, starting May 25th.

According to Soleas, “90-100 Greek wines and spirits will eventually be stocked in their own prominent section, including up to 50 pulled directly from the consignment program, ranging in price from about $15 to $50″.

This nearly triples the current offering in LCBO stores, and several of the consignment wines recently reviewed by WineAlign will soon be on shelves. It’s the first time that wines from the consignment warehouse, restricted to case lot sales and often subject to delays and delivery charges, will be incorporated into LCBO stocks. Mr. Soleas says, the move is designed to increase the selection in under-served categories, in the demographic areas where demand is highest.

According to Steve Kriaris of the Kolonaki Group, Ontario’s largest importer of Greek wines & spirits, “the additional benefit is not only larger selection, but also, finally, that premium Greek wines will be available by the bottle. Until now consumers have had to buy most of the premium offerings in full case lots, which, of course, is limiting”.

Dr. Soleas revealed that Portugal is scheduled next, and if the pilot proves successful, other stores will be designated to carry a deeper selection, including consignment products, from specific countries and regions. He said he has been working on this initiative for some time and is pleased that it is going ahead.

For me, while it’s not as progressive as fully privatized specialty shops, it’s a welcome move, opening up consumer access to the vast range of wines available in the province that fly under the radar in consignment. WineAlign will endeavour to review as many of these wines as possible, especially through our new consignment wine review program called “Buy the Case” that is launching imminently.

Over 30 Greek wines carried by the LCBO were reviewed and posted to WineAlign last week, many of which are featured in my report called Confident wines from Original Vines: Reasons to Drink Greek. Many will also be available for tasting by trade and media at the annual Wines of Greece fair May 5 in Toronto.

Cheers,

John Szabo, MS

John Sazbo, MS


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Confident wines from Original Vines: Reasons to Drink Greek

Text and Photos by John Szabo MS
(with poetic quotes from Michael Godel)

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Wines that fulfill the original purpose of fermented grapes are rare birds. If you discount it as a water substitute (wine was a much safer alternative to dodgy water sources before modern municipal services were introduced), wine’s preeminent raison d’être has always been to show up at mealtime, as a counterpart to food, contrasting, complementing or simply rinsing between bites, occasionally fueling conversations or sparking poetic soliloquies around the table.

Yet many producers today feel compelled to make their wines a meal in themselves, isolated monuments, seeking not only to earn a living but also make a personal statement. Such wines can surely be impressive, stuffed full of everything, ageworthy, expensive. Others, at the opposite end of the spectrum, focus on blatantly commercial offerings, pandering to our primal love of easy, soft and sweet, making wines that seem designed to fulfill the role of a guilty, mid-afternoon muffin or unneeded dessert (and make lots of money).

Fewer, it seems, are those making wines to satisfy a simple but vital role at the table. Neither soft and easy nor intended to induce genuflection, these are wines of fervent character that don’t look to steal the show. They’re comfortably moderate in every way, confident enough to leave the house without makeup, and seek to be monuments to nothing other than a tradition or a grape or a place. They’re anything but one-note songs and not necessarily inexpensive (cheap), but by my definition need to make financial sense on a Tuesday night. These are the wines I want to drink while I’m eating. And I do that a lot.

If you share a love for such wines, then we probably already “align” on WineAlign. And if so, you’ll want to consider some of the recommended Greek wines coming out over the next couple of months in LCBO and VINTAGES Greek-themed releases.

Greece is after all a country steeped in the traditions of wining and dining. In fact, a glass of wine (or ouzo) on an empty table is a heretical modern phenomenon, sure to inspire a conspiracy theory, which the Greeks are expert at dreaming up. Greek wine producers have the domestic market to contend with, and in order to win over local consumers, wines need to deliver their pre-destined, food friendly character. Besides, anything else would be counter-nature, considering that Greece’s impressive collection of native grapes has been winnowed over millennia through natural selection aimed at delivering desired characteristics: vibrant acids, moderate alcohol and the sort of savoury, herbal, umami-rich, faded fruit flavours that resonate with food. How often do you see fresh fruit on your main course plate?

Despite domestic difficulties, or perhaps because of, Greek wineries are reporting strong export gains over the last couple of years. This coincides, not coincidentally, with the gathering worldwide momentum behind wines with high drinkability factor and some unique regional or varietal proposition. Greece is a rich source of original vines with singular flavours. Add in the Tuesday night pricing and the offer is strong.

Buyer’s Guide: Greece

(Note: the following wines are, or will shortly be available at the LCBO or consignment. Check WineAlign for current inventory or contact the agents for details.)

To find more Greek wines available at a store near you, please click here.

The Peloponnese 

Nemea

The angular vine-and-olive-grove-covered hills of the northern Peloponnese are home to Greece’s largest red wine appellation, Nemea, and one of its most significant and charming varieties: agiorgitiko. The Boutari Agiorgitiko 2013 is a fine introduction, delivering plenty of exuberant strawberry and raspberry fruit, and big smiles, for the money. Also on the lighter side and best served with a light chill, the Mountain Fish Agiorgitiko 2012 is the sort of honest and lively, fruity and savoury type of wine I’d hope to encounter at this price, free from obtrusive wood flavor and focused on food-friendly acids and an herbal-resinous twang. The product is considerably better than the kitschy label would imply.

Boutari Agiorgitiko 2013 Mountain Fish Agiorgitiko 2012 Gaia Agiorgitiko Nemea 2013

A window on the potential grandeur of the grape is offered by the Gaia Agiorgitiko Nemea 2013 – a more genteel, polished red from a regional leader. The texture is all silk and the wine fills the mouth nicely with dark fruit and floral flavours on a back beat of salinity.

Other producers in Canada to watch for: Domaine Tselepos, Lantides Estate, Cavino, Parparoussis

Mantinia

Tselepos Classique Mantinia Moschofilero 2013 Boutari Moschofilero 2014The most celebrated white wine region in the Peloponnese is called Mantinia, the appellation named after the 650 meter-high plateau where the grape moscophilero delivers its most fragrant expression. This is Greece’s slightly more exotic equivalent to pinot gris/grigio, light, crisp and fragrant, as demonstrated by the ever-reliable Boutari Moschofilero 2014. This is perfect for al fresco dining.

When fully ripe, the skins of moscophilero turn pinkish-red (like pinot gris), and top examples often have a slight pinkish hue, as with the Tselepos Classique Mantinia Moschofilero 2013. Like Yiannis Tselepos himself, this is a forceful, boisterous wine, particularly aromatic with an almost muscat-like perfume, and uncommonly rich, mouth filing palate (this has 13% alcohol declared, a good 1% higher than the regional average). It’s perfect with lightly spiced, aromatic fare, southeast Asian-style. “An example for racing Moschofilero against Pinot Grigio and passing it on the stretch from the outside lane”, suggests Michael Godel. “World turning acidity and length as long as the Nestani’s walk to Demeter’s Temple.”

Other producers in Canada to watch for: Spiropoulos

Northern Greece

Naoussa (Macedonia) 

As an introduction to northern Greece and its more earthy, angular reds, try the Kir Yianni Paranga 2012, a blend of local xynomavro complemented by syrah and merlot. It’s a consequential, firm and plummy wine with uncommon depth and concentration for under $15, ideal for roasts and BBQs. From the same producer but a step up in complexity and structure, the Ktima Kir Yianni 2011 is an assertive, powerful estate blend of 60% xinomavro and 40% merlot. It’s redolent of freshly turned earth, savoury herbs, and dusty red fruit, in other words, very much like a modern Tuscan sangiovese blend. But the texture is firm and puckering – there’s definitely no pandering to commercial soft and cuddly tastes here. An authentic and tight, chewy and rustic red wine in the old world style.

For a taste of xynomavro is its pure and traditional form, Boutari does it as well as anyone else. The Boutari Grande Reserve 2008 is crafted under the watchful eye of chief winemaker Yiannis Voyatzis, who has xynomavro planted in his own small project and knows it intimately. Anyone used to paying $30+ for Barolo or Barbaresco should take note: this is a terrific bargain for fans of distinctive, leather-bound, old world reds with its dusty, herbal flavours and firm tannins and acids. Considering the bottles I’ve had from Boutari back to the mid-1980s, this will age very well.

Kir Yianni Paranga 2012 Ktima Kir Yianni 2011 Boutari Grande Reserve 2008 Kir Yianni Akakies Rosé 2013

West across the mountains from Naoussa is Amyndeon PDO, the only appellation in Greece for rosé. Xynomavro is called to action again, a grape supremely well-equipped to produce versions in the dry, tart and herbal spectrum, as in the spunky Kir Yianni Akakies Rosé 2013.

Other producers in Canada to watch for: Thymiopoulos, Domaine Karydas

Epanomi (Thessaloniki)

The vineyards of Epanomi south of the city of Thessaloniki would remain largely unknown in the broader world were it not for the pioneering, and ongoing work of Vangelis Gerovassiliou. Widely acknowledge as one of Greece’s top winegrowers, he rescued the now much-admired malagousia grape from near extinction (or, “resurrected it like a Greek Jesus”, in Godel’s vision) and continues to produces its most distinctive version, the superb Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia Vieilles Vignes 2013. This terrific old vines cuvée is an intensely aromatic, pungent, floral, viognier-like white wine with full body and stacks of tropical fruit. It’s for fans of rich and thick whites, though marked salinity and a streak of underlying acids keep it lithe and lively. “It would be hard not to fall for this Adonis of Greek whites, a strikingly beautiful Phoenician whose drops of liqueur turn to liquid alloy in a glass”, continues Godel.

Malagousia gets palate-stretching drive and an acid kick from assyrtiko in the Domaine Gerovassiliou White 2014 – a very fine, weighty, fleshy and fruity 50-50 blend. Some barrel notes are still marked for the time being, but there’s ample fruit intensity to ensure full integration in time, another 6 months-one year should be sufficient.

Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia Vieilles Vignes 2013 Domaine Gerovassiliou White 2014 Domaine Glinavos Primus Zitsa 2013

Zitsa (Ioannina, Northwestern Greece)

Zitsa PDO near the northwestern border of Greece is obscure even by Greek standards. Domaine Glinavos is the standard-bearer for the region, and the Domaine Glinavos Primus Zitsa 2013 nicely captures the lightly floral and herbal, resinous (terpenic) notes of the local debina grape in a crisp and dry style. For the money, this is a more than adequate food friendly white.

The Aegean Islands

The Caldera, Santorini-0127

Santorini

Of all the Greek wines that have made it to international markets, none have equalled the impact of Santorini. These are whites of majestic power and frighteningly electric, salty-minerality, the kind that catches the uninitiated completely unawares. They’ve caused more than a few sprained palates along the way. If you’ve yet to experience the forces of nature that are distilled through a few drops of assyrtiko grown on the pure volcanic rock and pumice soils of the island, ease your way in through the Argyros Atlantis White 2014. The vines for this assyrtiko-based wine with a splash of athiri (another indigenous Santorini grape) are from the “younger” parcels on the island, less than 50 years old (many vines on the island are speculated to be over two centuries old), yielding a wine focused on freshness with a streak of salty character that highlights white-fleshed grapefruit flavours.

Argyros Atlantis White 2014 Santo Assyrtiko 2014 Argyros Santorini Assyrtiko 2014

A middle ground is provided by the Santo Wines Assyrtiko 2014 an excellent example from the much-improved cooperative, the largest producer on the island. This is crafted in a lighter, fruitier style than the mean for Santorini, relatively speaking of course, but still highly distinctive. Michael Godel describes it more evocatively as “Assyrtiko seemingly dredged in volcanic tuff erosion and tightly wound by straight-shooting citrus smack.”

Then when you’re ready to step it up, introduce your tongue to the searing, razor-sharp, bone-dry beauty of the Argyros Assyrtiko 2014 Santorini. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly open, fragrant and pretty aromatics buoyant fruit – the wine is not yet ready for you and will change. A couple more years are required for the volcanic smoke to clear and for the crackling acids and marine flavours to mellow, morphing into a dopplegänger of your favorite white wine (think Chablis, Mosel or Alsatian Riesling, Wachau grüner veltliner… you can fill in the blank).

Other producers in Canada to watch for: Domaine Sigalas, Gaia Estate

To find more Greek wines available at a store near you, please click here.

GreeceJSYianni Paraskevopolous, Gaia Estate, and a very old vine, Santorini-0261

For more exciting news for Greek wines, the LCBO has announced a pilot project to create regional specialty stores. The first one is planned for the flagship location on the Danforth in the heart of the Greek community. Read more here: LCBO Announces First Regional Specialty Store

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

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!

Sunset from Imerovigli, Santorini-0231


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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO, part 2

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

The LCBO has started a second promotional period this month  this one running until May 24th. So here’s Part 2 of my April report that includes these new offers. The Top 20 under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection.

In this report, nine of the wines selected are wines that are also on Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. (You can read in detail how the Top 50 works below).

To make up the balance of the Top 20 I added another eleven wines, all will Bonus Air Miles (BAMs), that make them good choices. Though none of these quite made it on to the Top 50, they were all close.

This promotional period runs until the May 24th, so don’t miss your chance to make these wines even more affordable. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I was able to ensure that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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

Reds

Casal Thaulero 2013 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon, Terre Di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy ($7.75 + 3BAMs). A balanced dry red with a lot going on for ther money.

Citra 2013 Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy ($7.75 + 4BAMs). A midweight dry vibrant red that is great with tomato sauces.

Latin Lover Passionately Red 2013, Rapel Valley, Chile ($8.95 was $14.95). New to Top 50: This red from Concha y Toro was listed for Valentine’s Day and is now discounted to clear inventory. It’s a powerful opaque red blend that’s soft and fairly rich.

Casal Thaulero 2013 Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2013 Latin Lover Passionately Red 2013 Fuzion Alta Reserva Malbec 2013

Fuzion Alta 2013 Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($9.95 + 5BAMs). A soft light to midweight red that should be great with pizza or meaty pasta sauces.

Beso De Vino 2011 Old Vine Garnacha, Carinena, Spain ($9.95 + 6BAMs). A fresh vibrant soft juicy red ideal for grilled meats made from grenache (aka garnacha).

Luccarelli 2013 Primitivo, Puglia, Italy ($10.95 also new 1500ml for $19.95). Top 50 April: Known as zinfandel in California, this is a full-bodied succulent red great with a rack of lamb.

Beso De Vino Old Vine Garnacha 2011 Luccarelli Primitivo 2013 Santa Carolina Merlot Reserva 2012 K W V Roodeberg 2012 Ogier Cotes Du Ventoux Red 2013

Santa Carolina 2012 Merlot Reserva, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($10.95 was $12.95). New to Top 50: A bright fresh merlot with pure aromas and flavours. It is deliciously vibrant with the juicy fruit balanced by soft tannin. Try with bbq meats.

K W V 2012 Roodeberg, Western Cape, South Africa ($11.15 was $12.65). New to Top 50: A medium bodied Cape classic that’s been great value for years. Try with rack of lamb.

Ogier 2013 Cotes Du Ventoux Red, Rhone Valley, France ($11.95 + 7BAMs). A peppery red with bright cherry fruit that’s midweight with soft tannin and zesty fresh dry finish. Try with cheesy pizza.

Santa Carolina 2013 Carmenère Reserva, Cachapoal Valley, Chile ($12.95 + 4BAMs). A complex balanced carmenere from the Peumo region of the Cachapoal Valley. Fragrant, full bodied and elegant with lots of ripe fruit flavour.

Taylor Fladgate First Estate Reserve Port, Douro Valley, Portugal ($16.50 + 5BAMs). A very good reserve port made from fruit from several recent vintages with the thick fruit well supported by soft acidity and mild tannin.Try with dark chocolate desserts, nuts or blue cheese.

Santa Carolina Carmenère Reserva 2013 Taylor Fladgate First Estate Reserve Port Santa Rita Medalla Real Carmenere Gran Reserva 2011 Stoneleigh Pinot Noir 2013

Santa Rita 2011 Medalla Real Carmenere Gran Reserva, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($16.90 was $17.90). New to Top 50: A complex powerful red that it also elegant with youthful aromas. Very cellar worthy.

Stoneleigh 2013 Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95 + 10BAMs). A ripe modern pinot with juicy fruit and aromas of ripe red cherry, raspberry and plum fruit with mild oak spice with some earthy tones. Lots of charm and very drinkable.

Whites

J J McWilliams 2013 Pinot Grigio, South Eastern Australia ($6.95 was $9.95). New to Top 50: A clean fresh fruity grigio with lots of flavour and delicate aromas of melon and lemon fruit.

Cono Sur 2014 Bicicleta Viognier, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($8.95 was $9.95). Top 50 April: Was already the best value white in Ontario; now a $1 off. It’s time to stock up on this fragrant juicy white.

J J Mcwilliams Pinot Grigio 2013 Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2014 Periquita White 2013 Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2014

Periquita White 2013, Portugal ($8.95 plus 5BAMs). Top 50 April: This blend of three white grapes is a delicious delicate wine for seafood and mildly flavoured chicken dishes.

Monkey Bay 2014 Pinot Grigio, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand ($13.95 + 4BAMs). Top 50 April: A good basic pinot grigio with a fragrant, floral, peachy nose with some minerality. It is clean, fresh with a crisp almost dry finish.

Caliterra 2014 Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, Central Valley, Chile ($9.95 + 4BAMs). A juicy very ripe sauvignon blanc with lots of balancing acidity.

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2014 Santa Julia+ Chardonnay 2013 Brancott Estate Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Santa Julia+ 2013 Chardonnay, Mendoza, Argentina ($10.90 + 10BAMs). This is a big chardonnay with a good depth of flavour, elegantly oaked so as to add complexity and structure without overdoing it.

Brancott Estate 2013 Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc, Southern Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95 + 10BAMs). A classic Marlborough sauvignon that is elegant fresh pure and mouthwateringly delicious.

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

Top 20 Under 20There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection.

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

In addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 41 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, dip into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

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


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Yellow Tail Sangria

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The beautiful frustration that is Burgundy

The Caveman Speaks
By Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I am in Burgundy as I write this column. While I am gorging myself on some exceptional chardonnay, I’m here for the pinot noir. It is a bit of the holy grail. While most winemakers I talk with as I travel the globe might reference another place when talking about their wines, most seem happy to pursue an expression of where the grapes are grown. However mention to the vast majority of those winemakers who make pinot noir that their wine is “Burgundian” in style, and you will see even the most serious crack a smile.

What I like to call  “proper pinot” are wines that show a combination of fruit, acidity, minerality and tannin that are at once exceptionally delicate, and profoundly deep and lengthy. And I have tasted a number of very good pinot noirs from around the world, but few, if any, reach the heights of the best in Burgundy.

Why is that? Pinot noir requires a cool climate and a slow ripening period, which maximizes the aromatics and allows the grape to keep its acidity while at the same time developing ripe flavours and phenolics: tannins and colour. If the weather is just a bit too hot, the grapes can ripen too fast and you are left with grape juice. But too cool and the grapes don’t ripen fully and the resulting wines can be green and acidic. This is why the very best pinot noirs come from a relatively thin latitudinal band on the extremes of where grapes can be grown in both the northern and southern hemispheres.

While the mix of limestone and clay in the soils have something to do with it, Burgundy is home to very old vines. Add to that the accumulated wisdom of close to a thousand years of growing the grape, and you can understand why this place has it dialed.

But it is not without its hazards. Between 2011 and 2014, vignerons have had to deal with frost and/or hail every year. In some appellations, over 90% of the crop has been lost. Maybe that is why they are so humble. They are used to getting their butts kicked by Mother Nature.

There is something different about pinot noir people, those who collect and drink these wines. And for those of you who aren’t one of us, it might be a bit difficult to understand. But if they can be characterized by one word, I will borrow the characterization uttered by a wine writer friend of mine, Stuart Tobe: masochists.

Maxime at Domaine Georges Noellat makes a killer Echezeaux

Maxime at Domaine Georges Noellat makes
a killer Echezeaux

What’s it like to be a devoted pinot drinker? For me, it is more often than not a case of unrequited love. It might seem strange to spend inordinate amounts of cash on wines where you always expect to be disappointed in one way or another. Despite having drunk hundreds of pinots from around the world, I have to say that I have yet to have 100% satisfaction from any of these bottles. It’s not unlike having kids. Despite that they drive you absolutely nuts most of the time, nothing they can do will really stop you from loving them. And one, albeit brief, moment of joy is ample payback for all the annoyance and occasional disappointment.

Believe me, I have been close. Drinking pinot noir is about nuance, requiring patience and attention. When the wines are at their peak, and the vast majority of the best require at least a few years to reach that point, they are as fun to smell as to drink. The bouquet can be intoxicating, and if I tend to associate this with some sort of sexual act, it is because it can be a sensual experience.

I remember drinking one Vosne Romanée that was sooo close. I compared drinking it to having the lips of my truest love so close that I could feel her breath, yet we remained separated by the thinnest of veils. The closer we got to the end of the bottle, the more sensual the experience became. It smelt of a liquified rose, perfumed, delicate. My nose was so close to the wine in my glass, I almost inhaled it. We took over an hour to drink the bottle, and as I got to my last sip, I swirled and swirled my wine. Please, I thought, just give me one perfect sip. But no, the wine coated my mouth like satin, so complex, so rich, and then just as I was getting that shiver, it cut short.

I wrote in my tasting note: “You stick your nose in the glass, it draws you closer but there is a thin veil of tannin and acid that keeps pushing you away. It is why we drink Burgundy. To on one hand be given a glimpse of perfection, only to be denied by the other.” It’s a beautiful frustration and if that experience did anything, it was to add fuel to the fire: to buy, cellar and drink even more of these wines.

So why do we do it? Marq deVilliers, in his book about pinot noir, The Heartbreak Grape, nailed it for me. “They called it (pinot noir) the heartbreak grape because it was so stubborn, so particular, so elusive, so damn difficult to get right. And also because when it was at its best it made the most sublime wine of all. The heartbreak grape? You cannot break a heart without having captured it first.”

Burgundy is expensive. Over the past week I have tasted so many great wines, from such fabled Grand Crus like Musigny, Richebourg. But these wines are unaffordable and even if you could pay for them, they are incredibly hard to find. So I have found some good, relatively inexpensive example for you to try.

There are some excellent generic Burgundies on the market. If you want a more classic style, with bright acidity and crunchy fruit, try the 2013 Ursuline from Jean-Claude Boisset, or the 2012 Le Chapitre from Rene Bouvier.

Jean Claude Boisset Bourgogne Les Ursulines 2013 Domaine René Bouvier Bourgogne Pinot Noir Le Chapitre 2012 Domaine Des Perdrix Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2012

If you want a richer style, with darker fruits and a more Cote de Nuits style, the 2012 Bourgogne from Domaine des Perdrix is very good.

One of my favourite inexpensive Burgundies is from the Mercurey appellation. The 2012 Chateau de Chamirey is a beautiful wine that shows impeccable balance between power and finesse. In Ontario you pick up the 2012 Domaine Faiveley also from Mercurey.

Château De Chamirey Mercurey 2012 Domaine Faiveley Mercurey 2012Nicolas Potel Santenay Vieilles Vignes 2011 Maurice Ecard Savigny Les Beaune 1er Cru Les Narbantons 2009

Part of what I love about pinot noir is the aromatics. If you want a nose full of beautifully ripe fruit try the 2011 Vieilles Vignes Santenay from Nicolas Potel. If you are in BC, you can find the lovely 2009 Savigny Les Beaune 1er Cru Les Narbantons from Domaine Maurice Ecard.

For more selections. Set your “Find Wine” filter to “Pinot Noir” from “Burgundy” and let us help you find the best examples at stores near you.

Bill

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

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


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Louis M. Martini Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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Margaret Swaine’s Spirits Review – April 2015

Fashionable Spirits
by Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

Margaret Swaine

In my constant travels around the globe, I often come across hot new trends in drinking. Sometimes the connection with the place seems natural such as the prohibition style bars (a password required to enter) in North America and the growing farm to shaker movement among mixologists in the hip hoods in America. Other trends are head-scratchers.

How did the mania for Gin-Tonic bars in Spain start? England surely has top claims to that drink – but no. Spain is now the world’s biggest gin consumer per capita, with demand increasing at an average of 18 percent over the past five years. (The Philippines consume the largest volume of gin: the local Ginebra San Miguel celebrates its 181 birthday this year.) I’ll write more about this trend when we finally head into warmer weather.

In Charleston when I saw a flight of Grand Marnier on the drink menu in Belmond hotel’s Charleston Grill, I got curious. Grand Marnier, a cognac based orange liqueur first created in 1880, is a fine French tipple but to offer three versions of it in a flight is unusual.

Locals informed me that Charleston has such a craze for Grand Marnier that the city is the number one consumer of it per capita in the world. They call it GrandMa and mostly drink it like a shooter. I tracked down this trend to an odd law and a chef.

A South Carolina law restricted bars and restaurants to serving liquor from mini-bottles until 2005. Chef Bob Carter, at the helm of the highly popular Peninsula Grill in the late nineties (until 2011) used to show up at events with minis of GrandMa and cajole colleagues into taking shots with him. He started a mania that is only now beginning to slow.

Fireball, a Canadian whisky punched up with a strong hit of cinnamon, is fast becoming the shooter of choice not only in Charleston but throughout North America: it’s one of the most successful liquor brands in decades. Sales have reached the million cases level and it all started in Canada.

Fireball Cinnamon Whisky Liqueur 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Barrel Select Kentucky Straight Bourbon

It began as a Dr. McGillicuddy’s brand but really took off when it was renamed Fireball. It’s now owned by Sazerac North America Inc which also owns well-loved bourbons such as Buffalo Trace, Blanton’s, Eagle Rare and “1792” Ridgemont Reserve. I’ve met recently with the master distillers and blenders in the company and tasted through a lot of their products, but no one presented Fireball to me at that time. Now having just tasted it – I can see why. It’s so powerfully cinnamon with a burning finale it would kill the palate for their more “subtle” whiskies.

As to the Kentucky whiskies, Buffalo Trace’s first official registration of still 113 was in 1787 though it’s very likely they were distilling before then. By the mid 1800’s there were over 300 registered stills in Kentucky. Almost all were forced to cease during Prohibition between 1919 and 1933. Only four, including Buffalo Trace, were allowed to continue distilling for medicinal purposes. People must have been mighty sick at the time. Over six million prescriptions were written during Prohibition entitling the bearer to a pint of whiskey.

Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight BourbonEagle Rare Single Barrel 10 Years Old Kentucky Straight BourbonW. L. Weller 12 Year Old Kentucky Straight BourbonSazerac 6 Years Old Straight Rye Whiskey

Buffalo Trace gets its name from the pathway taken by buffalo on their ancient Westerly migratory route. The company claims to be the only producer using five recipes for whiskey products: three rye recipe bourbons, one barley and one wheat bourbon. These five recipes create a matrix under which the individual brands are made.

For example Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare and George T. Stagg all are made according to Buffalo Trace rye recipe #1, the key difference is length of time in wood which changes the balance and flavour profile of them. Buffalo Trace rye recipe #2 is used to make Elmer T. Lee, Hancocks Reserve and Rock Hill.

The wheat bourbon recipe make W.L. Weller and Pappy Van Winkle. The wheat gives a mellower, softer profile which softens the wood effect allowing Pappy to be aged more than 20 years without being overly oaky. The straight rye recipe, a spicy, peppery brew, is used for Sazerac and Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13 Year Old.

Master Blender at Buffalo Trace, Drew Mayville (a Canadian who started at Seagram’s in Waterloo about 34 years ago) told me the key to the success of the company is innovation. They continually try out new ways to make whiskey to come up with an ever better product. One example is a “cured oak” whiskey aged in barrels made from oak staves that have been aged (seasoned) outdoors for 13 months instead of their average of six. They have micro-distilleries to try out for example brown rice bourbon recipes and the like.

Ken Pierce, Director of Distillation at Barton, said that the Sazerac Company has a good eight to nine ideas to innovate the Canadian whiskey category. I doubt that will mean more Fireball type recipes, despite that liquor’s runaway success. We can only bid our time like a barrel in a warehouse until the big reveal.

Cheers,

Margaret Swaine

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

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


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WineAlign Bus Tour - Prince Edward County


VINTAGES Presents: Primum Familiae Vini

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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (April)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

The Top 20 under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. This month, most of the wines selected are wines that are also on Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. (You can read in detail how the Top 50 works below).

There are many wines on promotion in April, such that eight on today’s Top 20 list have Bonus Air Miles (BAMs) that apply or are on sale (Limited Time Offer), making these wines even more attractive for the next four weeks or so. You may notice that two wines come from the VINTAGES section of the store. I normally don’t include wines from here, except for VINTAGES Essentials, since they rarely offer as much value as those in the LCBO’s general list section and they tend to sell through very quickly. However, I made an exception here since there are large stocks and they both offer great value. I was in Chile and Argentina for the last three weeks leading a wine tour and had the chance to re-taste both of them.

April’s promotional period runs until the 26th, so don’t miss your chance to make these wines even more affordable. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I was able to ensure that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

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

Reds

Apelia Agiorgitiko 2012 (1000ml), Greece ($10.15 + 4 BAMs). New to Top 50: Agiorgitiko is one of Greece’s best red grapes. This is a clean fresh red wine that is fruity, midweight and well balanced making it a good everyday red.

Spadafora Terrano Rosso 2012, Calabria, Italy ($8.50 + 3 BAMs). Top 50 April: A recent listing that shows plummy fresh aromas with no oak and a midweight juicy palate. Try with burgers.

Portugal Ramos Loios Red 2013, Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal ($9.30). New to Top 50: This is a ripe, fleshy, clean, easy-drinking wine with soft tannins and fresh red berry fruit flavours with some complexity and good depth of flavour.

Apelia Agiorgitiko 2012 Spadafora Terrano Rosso 2012 J. Portugal Ramos Loios Red 2013 Hardys Stamp Of Australia Shiraz Cabernet 2013

Hardys Stamp Of Australia Shiraz Cabernet 2013, South Eastern Australia ($9.85 + 5 BAMs). A  fresh pure syrah/cabernet blend, very linear with great focus. Good depth of flavour with lots of fruit and very good length.

Fuzion Alta Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Mendoza, Argentina ($9.95 + 5 BAMs). Top 50 April: A soft flavourful and well structured cabernet for a good price.

Pessoa Da Vinha Reserva 2010 Douro Valley, Portugal ($11.20 was $12.20). Top 50 April: An opaque full-bodied purple wine with a fragrant pure nose of blackberry fruit with well integrated oak spice plus vanilla and herbal tones. Decant for an hour and enjoy with a steak.

Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($11.45). New to Top 50: An aromatic carmenère with just the right amount of ripeness. Very good length.

Carmen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($11.45). New to Top 50: A well priced fragrant caberent that’s full-bodied and deeply flavoured. Try with lamb cutlets.

Fuzion Alta Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Pessoa Da Vinha Reserva Douro 2010 Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013 Carmen Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2013 Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2012

Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2012, Mendoza, Argentina ($12.95 was $14.95). Top 50 April: A fruity malbec with herbal and floral tones and, though full-bodied, seems lighter due to vibrant lemony acidity. It finishes firm and dry with very good length.

Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot 2013, Rapel Valley, Chile ($13.05 + 8 BAMs). New to Top 50 EARTH DAY SPECIAL DURING APRIL: A lot of depth and complexity for such an inexpensive wine. Its clean lively with pure aromas and flavours and very good  length.

Santa Carolina Specialties Dry Farming Carignan 2010, Cauquenes Valley, Chile ($17.95). VINTAGES EXCEPTIONAL VALUE: A beautiful full-bodied vibrant red that’s elegant with a wild character. Try with lamb cutlets.

Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot 2013 Santa Carolina Specialties Dry Farming Carignan 2010 Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Santa Ynez Valley, California, USA ($19.90). New to Top 50: An elegant refined cabernet that’s ripe without being overripe with just enough oak, finely balanced with excellent length.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, South Australia ($27.95). New to Top 50 from VINTAGES Essentials: First a disclaimer. This is more than $20. But it is so awesome and such great value that it got into my Top 50 list this month and I wanted to tell you all about it. So if you want to splurge a little and enjoy, this is a superb, very drinkable, very classy cabernet with layers of flavour and a refined very appealing pureness. Finely balanced with excellent length.

Whites

Apelia Moschofilero 2013 (1000ml), Greece ($9.95 + 4 BAMs). New to Top 50: Moschofilero is one of Greece’s best indigenous grapes. This is a fresh dry white that pinot grigio adherents should try.

K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014, Western Cape, South Africa ($9.45 + 4 BAMs). Top 50 April: Clean well made white at a great price. Good depth of flavour and palate length. Try with seafood or mildly flavoured chicken dishes.

Apelia Moschofilero 2013 K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2014 Frisky Beaver White 2013 The Wolftrap White 2013

Frisky Beaver White 2013, VQA Ontario ($13.95). New to Top 50: An aromatic off-dry white which is smooth and juicy. A nice aperitif or try with seafood. Don’t be misled by the wacky packaging; there is some quite serious wine inside.

The Wolftrap White 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95). New to Top 50: A very aromatic intensely flavoured pure white, that is rich and very creamy. Try with pork chops.

Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2014, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand ($13.95). New to Top 50: A good basic pinot grigio with a fragrant, floral, peachy nose with some minerality. It is clean, fresh with a crisp almost dry finish.

Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2014 Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Santa Carolina Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2012

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, Spain ($14.45). New to Top 50: Best value bubbly under $15 at LCBO. Fresh nose with pure apple pear flavour, a soft creamy texture and very good length.

Santa Carolina Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2012, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($15.95). VINTAGES EXCEPTIONAL VALUE: Fantastic value for a serious very bold chardonnay for rich white meat dishes.

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

Top 20 Under 20There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection.

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

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

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

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

I am pleased to tell you that we have now worked through the massive recent delist at the LCBO, such that none of the wines currently on the Top 50 list rely on a delist price to be there. In addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 33 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, dip into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

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

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

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

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

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


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Montresor Soave Classico 2013

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What’s New at the LCBO – March 2015

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

by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I am writing this from my hotel room in Chile’s Colchagua Valley. It is nighttime and very dark outside, but from my window I can still hear a machine harvesting merlot from the Laura Hartwig vineyard nearby. It is quite noisy so I hope that they will finish before it is time for sleep. If not, I suppose this is one downside of sleeping among the vines that I will tolerate. I’ll bring you more about Chile’s newest wines next month, but for now let me highlight the current LCBO focus which seems to have most of the new wines coming from the Pacific North West wine regions of Canada and USA.

Outside of special VINTAGES releases, we do not see a large selection of wines from British Columbia in the stores in Ontario and, if it was not for Mission Hill Winery, there would be next to nothing. I have picked two of their new wines from the Five Vineyards series. The other new wine picks come from Washington State and Oregon in the USA. These new wines from the Pacific NW, though good, are premium priced at more than $15. Time will tell whether consumers are happy to pay the extra few dollars.

I did spot a couple of new bargain wines from Italy and Germany. These two stood out among many new entrants, which though they were deliciously packaged, left much to desire on nose and palate.

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 have chosen to highlight eight new wines that have refreshed the system out of the more than 40 that I have tried since I last reported. Most are on shelves already with the rest to arrive over next couple of weeks. Anyway, I suggest you read on, pick a few that appeal and 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!

REDS

Spadafora Terrano Rosso 2012, Calabria, Italy ($8.40) – An easy drinking and pure, quite yummy red with decent length and structure. Enjoy with burgers.

Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Cabernet Merlot 2012, VQA Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada ($16.95) – A well-balanced flavourful Bordeaux style blend with very good length. A big improvement over some recent vintages.

The Velvet Devil Merlot 2012, Washington, USA ($18.95) – This is a delicious plummy very fruity merlot that is midweight to full-bodied with very good length. Quite classy and nicely balanced for food. Try with a rack of lamb.

Spadafora Terrano Rosso 2012 Mission Hill 5 Vineyards Cabernet Merlot 2012 The Velvet Devil Merlot 2012 Erath Pinot Noir 2012 Amity Pinot Noir 2011

Erath Pinot Noir 2012, Oregon, USA ($24.95) – A well-balanced juicy ripe pinot with a perfumed nose of cherry jam that is midweight with good length. Chill a little and enjoy on its own or with mildly spicy crab cakes.

Amity Pinot Noir 2011, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA ($25.55) – This is quite Burgundian in style with its lean earthy herbal tinged palate and cranberry and red cherry fruit. Its light to mid-weight with very good length. Enjoy with roast beef.

WHITES

Rethink Dry Riesling 2012, Mosel, Germany ($12.80) – A well-balanced almost off dry riesling with firm balancing acidity and a good depth of flavour that finishes almost dry. Try with Asian cuisine.

Mission Hill 5 Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2012, VQA Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada ($15.95) – A bold highly extracted white with lots of flavour and excellent length with the power nicely tamed.

Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2013, Evergreen Vineyard, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA ($18.95) – This is a rich and powerful riesling with lots of nervy tension between the ripe tropical fruit and a mineral lemony undertone.  Try with Asian cuisine as indicated by the packaging.

Rethink Dry Riesling 2012Mission Hill 5 Vineyard Pinot Blanc 2012Kung Fu Girl Riesling 2013

~

We would love to get your feedback on this report. Meanwhile check our my list wine values by dipping into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste. In two week’s time I will be back with a look at the updated list in our WineAlign Top 20 Under $20 report.

Cheers!

Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20
Top 50 Value Wines

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


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Luccarelli Primitivo 2013


California Wine Fair - 2015 Canadian Tour

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES March 21st – Part One

Icon Wines Demystified
By David Lawrason with notes from John Szabo and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

“Icon comes from the Greek word eikenai, meaning ‘to seem or to be like.’ In certain religions, statues of religious figures are referred to as icons – because they are prayed to as if they were the thing they represent.” So goes one definition plumbed from the web.

So what do icon wines represent? We assume they are wines – often made in the image of Bordeaux from cabernet, merlot and their disciples – that have reached some awe-inspiring, mystic, spiritual pinnacle of perfection and grace. But often icon wines are simply the most expensive wines that a producer can get away with stuffing into an overly heavy bottle, in the hope that the consumer will be so besotted by the gravitas of it all that they won’t notice that the wine itself is only very good, not great.

South Americans, Americans and yes some Canadians are particularly fond of the term, and it’s all about hype. Which is certainly the case of the California wines that VINTAGES has chosen to call icons in its March 21st release, that leads up to the 36th annual California Wine Fairs in Ottawa April 10th and Toronto April 13. And the fact that some soar past $100 adds to their sense of gravitas. I am not saying most are not excellent wines; I have scored several 90+ (my threshold of excellence). But at $100 or more they should be jaw-droppingly outstanding at 95 points +, which they are not.

For many, my protest will not matter a fig. These wines will sell quickly because there are enough buyers with enough money who choose to pay more to assure they will get quality. And that reason is just fine. I only want to temper the expectations of those who might venture a pile of money on an icon and expect the moon, only to find out they are looking into the glare of a streetlight – hardly a celestial, spiritual or unique experience.

Below we focus on the California “icons” that actually come closest to delivering somewhere near greatness, 92 or 93 points. At the same time we put forward some Bordeaux on the same release that also deliver quality very nicely. Some are just as expensive as the Californians (but Bordeaux wines ironically are rarely called icon wines). And then we scatter in some true values as well for those who just want an honest bottle.

Just before we get there, I have another observation from this tasting that relates to vintage variation. The Californians include 2011s and 2012s, and there is quite a difference between the two years. The 2011s are less ripe, with more Bordeaux-like leanness and greenness but they do have terrific energy. The 2012s are riper, softer and frankly a bit understated and lacking some energy. They may open and rev up with more bottle age, but they fail to ignite at the moment. Over on the Bordeaux side, the 2011s are also of lighter stock. Not green necessarily but lacking some depth of flavour (length) for their price tag. While beside them, a clutch of minor, less expensive, good value 2010s show the class and structure of that great vintage.

California “Icons”

Cade 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley ($112.95)

Dominus 2011

Dominus Napanook 2011

Cade Cabernet Sauvignon 2011David Lawrason – Cade is a recent arrival on the slopes of Howell Mountain, an off-shoot of the famous Plumpjack Winery created in part by former San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom. The winemaker is Danielle Cyrot, a woman of French descent who has managed to bring considerable elegance and a complex weave to Howell Mountain fruit more commonly known to make blockbuster, masculine cabs. This contains non-estate fruit; the Cade Estate cab rings up at $300US at the winery.
John Szabo – If you’re going to spend big in Napa, spend it on a “mountain” wine like this one. The 21-acre Cade estate was established in 2005 high on Howell Mountain, and vines are farmed organically. The 2011 is a grand success for the vintage, no doubt in part to the vineyard being above the fog line and thus maximizing the benefits of the scarce sunlight. It’s a densely packed wine, as savoury as it is fruity, with the expected grip and firm dusty texture of hillside Napa wines, in need of another 4-6 years in the cellar. Best 2020-2030.
Sara d’Amato – Power and refinement are distinctive features of the volcanic, higher elevation plantings of cabernet on breezy Howell Mountain. The cooler 2011 vintage is surely responsible for the wine’s terrific acid structure, fine tannins and lovely purity of fruit – a real standout for collectors.

Dominus 2011, Napa Valley ($176.95)

David Lawrason – If fame is the foundation of icon-hood, storied Dominus is perhaps most deserving of icon status. I have often found Dominus rather simple and almost boring for the price it garners, but something in this vintage turned my expectations on their head. I immediately thought of a fine, traditionally made Bordeaux, perhaps because the cooler 2011 vintage has imparted some tension. Very nicely constructed and focused, with excellent to outstanding length.
Sara d’Amato – It is no surprise that some of the best wines in this feature come with a hefty price tag but here is one worthy of attention. This old world, cabernet-focused blend from the Bordelaise Moueix dynasty offers immediate appeal, huge structure and a wide breadth of flavours.

Dominus 2011 Napanook, Napa Valley, USA ($76.95)

John Szabo – Admittedly I loved the 2011 Dominus (above), but for pure value Napanook, the second wine of the estate, is the one to buy. It’s very nearly as good with its lovely and savoury, earthy and complex profile, firmly in the old world stylistic camp as Dominus has been from the start. Best 2015-2026

Ridge Three Valleys 2012

Ridge 2011 Estate Cabernet SauvignonRidge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Monte Bello Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains ($61.95)

John Szabo – Just about everything from Ridge is worth a look, and in the context of top California cabernet, this is an outright bargain. Forget what you’ve heard about the 2011 vintage – top producers like Ridge made some of the most compelling, balanced wines in the last two decades. This is all class, firm, succulent, zesty and ripe, still tightly wound and closed up, but this unquestionably has the balance and stuffing to evolve beautifully over the next 2-5 years. Best 2018-2030.
David Lawrason – Ridge is perched high on the crest of a mountain south of San Francisco – the Silicon Valley in view to the east, the Pacific Ocean to the west. The wines have never lacked structure. In this cooler vintage you will indeed detect some greenness and firmness, but it is a cabernet-lovers cabernet. Excellent length.

Ridge 2012 Three Valleys, Sonoma County ($35.95)

Sara d’Amato – Only a warm California vintage can perfect fruit ripening like in this Sonoma zinfandel and carignan dominant blend. Ripe red fruit abounds on the palate featuring peppery spice along with refreshing notes of pine and menthol. Clean and succulent with a very authentic, un-manipulated feel.
John Szabo – A fine vintage for the Three Valleys, Ridge’s Zinfandel-led blend, with firm and honest, woolly tannins, a nice mix of ripe and sour fruit, red and black, along with a range of savoury wild herbs. Best 2015-2027.

Clos Pegase 2012 Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay, Carneros, Napa Valley, ($29.95)

Calera Chardonnay Mt. Harlan 2013 Clos Pegase Mitsuko's Vineyard Chardonnay 2012Sara D’Amato – There is a real traditional California feel to this well-balanced and beautifully integrated chardonnay featuring a great deal of presence, ripened tree fruit, oily viscosity and creamy malolactic texture. Mitsuko’s Vineyard is a large, 365-acre site in the cooler climate of Los Carneros named after proprietor Jan Shrem’s wife. The site’s varying degrees of slope, of elevation and soil types create great diversity in the grapes harvested often resulting in rather complex and compelling wines.
John Szabo – Mitsuko’s Vineyard is a sprawling 365 acre parcel on the Napa side of the Los Carneros AVA with diverse soils and aspects, all of which builds complexity. This substantial chardonnay doesn’t sacrifice freshness despite ample richness, and while oak influence is abundant, there’s also impressive fruit extract to compensate. To be cellared another 2-3 years; best 2017-2022.

Calera 2013 Chardonnay Mt. Harlan, Central Coast, USA ($49.95)

John Szabo – This is a serious bottle of wine. The Mt. Harlan Chardonnay Vineyard was planted in 1984 on own roots (un-grafted) using cuttings from errant vines found among the pinot noir of Josh Jensen’s original vineyards. The site is naturally low yielding, which shows in this generously proportioned wine. There’s a real sense of chalky-minerality, and while wood is very marked for the moment, this will surely knit together beautifully in time. Best 2018-2025

Bordeaux

Château Pontet-Canet 2011, Pauillac 5eme Cru ($150.00)

David Lawrason – Riding a Parker 100pt rating the previous 2010 vintage of Pontet-Canet sold at VINTAGES last month for $300. So it’s decent of them to have cut the price by half for this less good vintage. (You won’t see Napa doing this). The 2011 remains a firm, reserved and well-built young Pauillac, but it does not have the depth or wow you may expect if this is your first brush with one of the most talked about properties of Bordeaux.
John Szabo – Pontet-Canet is perhaps the most progressive Château in Bordeaux. Alfred Tesseron converted to organic/biodynamic farming some years ago, and vineyards are worked by horse. Clay amphorae were introduced in 2012 in an effort to decrease wood influence – all things that would have seemed impossible a decade ago. The efforts have been worth it, for although ’11 was a challenging vintage, this wine is a marvel: explosive and concentrated, full, dense and rich – a real honest and solid mouthful of wine. Cellar at least 4-6 before opening, or hold a couple of decades. Best 2020-2035.

Château Malescot St. Exupéry 2011, Margaux, 3eme Cru ($89.85)

David Lawrason – This is a lovely blend very much in the Margaux vein; which to me is all about charm and refinement. The blend here is 50% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot, 10% cabernet franc and 5% petit verdot. A very fine effort in a lesser vintage.

Château Clerc Milon 2011, Pauillac, 5eme Cru ($89.85)

John Szabo – 2011 is a nicely polished, full but firm, succulent and vibrant vintage for Clerc Milon, perfect for enjoying while waiting for the 2009s and 2010s to come around. But don’t drink it right away – give it another 3-4 years to fully knit. This is classy wine, full stop. Best 2018-2031.

Château Pontet Canet 2011 Château Malescot St. Exupéry 2011 Château Clerc Milon 2011 Château Bel Air 2010 Les Charmes De Magnol 2010

Château Bel-Air 2010, Haut-Médoc ($28.95)

David Lawrason – For one bottle of Chateau Pontet-Canet you could buy five bottles of this firm, well structured mid-weight Medoc cabernet-based red – that I rated the same as Pontet-Canet in terms of quality. What a difference a vintage can make? And with five bottles you could open one to test drive then stick the rest into the cellar, for another ten years. It’s textbook Bordeaux.

Les Charmes De Magnol 2010, Médoc ($18.95)

David Lawrason – This is very good value – a nicely balanced, ripe and decently structured Bordeaux for under $20. It is a second label from the grand (and also large) Château Magnol, a showpiece property and hospitality centre just north of Bordeaux’s city limits.

Other Bordeaux-Styled Reds

Pondview Reserve Cabernet Merlot 2012

Tahbilk Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Chakana Estate Selection Red Blend 2012Chakana 2012 Estate Selection Red Blend, Mendoza, Argentina ($29.95)

David Lawrason – This is a fairly new winery based in Lujan de Cuyo, but focused on wines grown in stonier alluvial soils whether in Agrelo or in Altamira in the southern Uco Valley. Increasingly revered Chilean viticulturalist Pedro Parra has helped Chakana map its vineyards. The winemaking consultant is Italian Alberto Antonini, who also works his minimalist, terroir-first magic at Altos Los Hormigos. This compiles 60% malbec, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 20% syrah into a quite fragrant, savoury young red. It’s quite dense, elegant and refined.

Tahbilk 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Nagambie Lakes, Victoria, Australia ($22.95)

David Lawrason – This is not a cabernet with gravitas, but it does have complexity, vitality and pretty good depth. It’s a bit more cool, curranty and spare than many Aussie reds, and I could drink a bottle with ease; especially around rack of lamb.

Pondview 2012 Cabernet Merlot Reserve, VQA Niagara Peninsula Canada ($18.95)

John Szabo – This is an enjoyable wine from Pondview, an honest and juicy, Bordeaux blend with sweet-tinged fruit and decent depth and structure. This should please fans of cool climate cabernet at the price. Best 2015-2022.

And that is a wrap for this edition. John leads off next week with the wines of Southwest France and other sundry picks from the March 21st release. Meantime also look forward as John and Sara d’Amato both report on this year’s Cuvée event for the Ontario Wine Report. I will be on holiday and travelling for the rest of March and will not be covering any of the April 4th release; but we have asked Michael Godel to offer some of his recommendations. Michael’s often lyrical reviews are fascinating, and he is in there tasting constantly – which to me is the pre-requisite to being a successful, objective critic.

Cheers,

David

From VINTAGES March 21, 2015:

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
John 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!


AdvertisementPenfolds Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz 2011


California Wine Fair - Canadian Tour 2015

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