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Celebrating New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Text and photos by Steve Thurlow
(with introduction by Treve Ring)

It was the Steve & Treve show representing WineAlign in Marlborough earlier this year, crossing paths at the International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration along with 300 sommeliers, trade, producers and journalists from around the globe. Steve details the Celebration and Kiwi translation of Sauvignon Blanc below, but I wanted to start with a little primer into the distinctive grape itself.

SAUVIGNON BLANC {SOH-vin-yohn BLAHNGK; soh-vee-nyawn BLAHN}

also known as “Cat’s pee on a gooseberry bush.”

#SauvBlancThat was my initial introduction to sauvignon blanc. For a budding wine enthusiast this was at once terrifying (you want me to drink what?) and relieving (finally wine descriptors that make sense!), and now even as a gnarly vine wine enthusiast that description has stuck with me. Of course, sauvignon blanc is so much more than that memorable phrase. This green-skinned grape most likely hails from France’s Loire Valley, where it can blindingly shine in the Kimmeridgian limestone and Silex flint. As the third most planted white variety in France, sauvignon blanc (from the French for sauvage, meaning wild), is also comfortably at home in Bordeaux, blending in harmony with Semillon; as well as throughout Languedoc-Roussillon, contributing greatly to lean and tart Pays d’Oc IGP. The highly vigorous grape is widely adaptable, spreading as easily worldwide as its tangled and aggressive foliage. All things green are its hallmark: grass, hedge, meadow, asparagus, kiwi, green peppers, gooseberries, as well as passion fruit and elderflower in slightly warmer climates. Crisp, piercing acidity permeates all wines, save for those harvested in the hottest regions, and helps preserve freshness and zest in late harvest or oaked examples. As Steve writes below, the grape rocketed to fame over the past 20 years in New Zealand, finding a prime home for a concentrated, pungent, fresh and unoaked style.

May 6th marks the 7th annual International Sauvignon Blanc Day and celebrations will kick off in New Zealand and travel around the globe in restaurants and bars, and on social media. You can share in the celebrations by using the hashtag #SauvBlanc on Twitter and Instagram – all in fun to share the love for New Zealand’s most popular grape. May also brings us the Great New Zealand Wine Tiki Tour with trade and consumer events being held in Vancouver, Ottawa and Toronto. You can find complete details here, including a special offer for WineAlign members.

~ TR

Celebrating Sauvignon Blanc

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Marlborough sauvignon blanc has been a runaway success story. No other country has been able to enter the modern world of wine with a premium priced product and grow its market share like New Zealand. Other recent arrivals on the scene like Chile, Argentina and South Africa have brought us value wines, but are still struggling to get us to buy their premium priced products. No wonder everyone wants to emulate New Zealand’s success.

In Canada, New Zealand, and in particular Marlborough, has been the reference for sauvignon blanc for the last ten years or so and its very distinctive style has become the benchmark for producers across the world. Previously it was the steely, minerally sauvignon from Sancerre in France that winemakers were aiming to emulate, but that has been replaced by NZ as the benchmark by most of the New World producers.

I first visited New Zealand in 2004 and have been back there almost every year since, closely watching the growing success of this far-away wine producer. So I was delighted to be among 300 people from all over the world who gathered in Marlborough in February of this year at the first ever International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration (#SauvignonNZ). Since they are the current world leaders in this variety, it was appropriate that we all met there (and it was also a good time for me to escape a Canadian winter).

Before I recount what I discovered on this visit, let’s examine why Marlborough sauvignon blanc has been so successful. To start with, this grape has one good thing going for it. As Matt Kramer told us in his keynote address to the conference, “Sauvignon blanc is the world’s most reliably good dry white wine.” Notice he did not say it was the greatest white wine, just that it was reliable. An excellent go-to-wine when you just want something white to drink that is predictable.

But Marlborough sauvignon blanc is not just any sauvignon blanc; it has its own special distinctive signature. So distinctive that even those unblessed with great vinous skills are usually able to recognize it. It is this distinctiveness that is one of its greatest attributes and why it is emulated by winemakers around the world.

From the moment in life that you first approach a juicy succulent Marlborough sauvignon blanc you will always remember those gooseberry-tinged, green apple, passion fruit, green pepper, green grass, blackcurrant leaf aromas touched by honey that have become its signature. You will soon then notice that your palate is entranced by that lime or grapefruit mouthwatering acidity and its fresh, clean, slightly bitter finish, all wrapped with just enough sweetness to make it delicious.

New Zealand did not start making wine until around 1980, making its wine industry approximately 45 years old. Its success is totally tied up with the success of Marlborough sauvignon blanc, which represents nearly 80% of what they produce. With New Zealand population levels modest, it has, by necessity, been an export driven success.

Being distinctive and popular has facilitated the growth of a brand. I noticed about five years ago that there was a similarity developing within this brand. Every producer was aiming for the same thing and by 2010 they were mostly getting there. The wines were starting to taste and look the same and sell for about the same price, which is understandable when you have seen such success. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with this; the wines were delicious and it demonstrated the ability of growers and winemakers to deliver a consistent product to meet growing demand. And since no other region is able to replicate your brand, why not make hay while the sun shines?

At the conference I detected the sense that wineries were reaching a mid-life crisis. They need to be sure of the path to take to continue to be successful. There seemed to be two major pitfalls that will need to be considered, price and premiumisation.

In the last five years I have been tasting some sauvignons from elsewhere that are starting to replicate the Marlborough style. Some wines from the Leyda Valley and the coastal Aconcagua Valley in Chile, from Darling in the Western Cape in South Africa and Carcassonne in Southern France are getting there. These are not high cost producers so there is a vulnerability here for New Zealand to watch since it is a high cost producer. Another danger of such distinctiveness is the difficulty to establish more premium brand extensions. That is to say, how do you improve on the accepted norm and get people to spend more money, when they are happy with the status quo.

Wairau Valley Marlborough

Wairau Valley Marlborough

The conference and the weeks of personal travel that followed were a great opportunity to see where things were going. As in all successful wine regions that produce a single varietal wine, there has been a steady trajectory for more site-specific wines. The success of many of the early wines from the region was down to complexity created by blending grapes from different parts of the region. In Marlborough, somewhat simplistically, there were originally two basic regions: The cooler Wairau River to the north and the Southern Valleys holding the tributary rivers of the Wairau River to the south, where it is warmer and drier with different soils. Further south over the hills, there was little planted in the nearby Awatere Valley. It’s a different landscape now, with massive planting in the last ten years in the Awatere. So today, three places provide the fruit that goes into the regional blends to create the distinctive wine that we all know. And it’s a wine that is largely made with little manipulation by winemakers. It is the growers and those who blend the wines from different sources who have made  Marlborough what it is today.

There is a movement for more site-specific wines and the three large regions are being delineated as wineries bottle wines from these subregions. In time, I am sure people will start to put boundaries on viticultural maps and give these places names that we will come to recognize. I will look at some of these wine growing activities later on, but first let’s look at what winemakers are doing.

Marlborough sauvignon blanc is mostly made today without maturation in oak barrels and using cultivated yeasts. The techniques employed have been perfected to produce the fresh, clean, pure, flavourful and balanced wines that put the place on the map. So it is also a natural that winemakers are starting to experiment with new styles using natural yeast fermentation, oak maturation and other techniques to enhance what nature, soil and climate have so far delivered. I was most anxious to see these efforts and there were certainly some promising results.

However, I do want first to recognize and give credit to the big players who have put the region on the world map, as they inevitably do in any successful wine region. These are the companies with an international reach and established sales channels who can also, because of economies of scale, make very good, inexpensive wine. The success of Marlborough would not have been possible without their presence and they will continue to open new markets in places yet to experience the delight of Marlborough sauvignon blanc. They will also be able to make better blends and fight off any emerging international competition. Pernod Ricard New Zealand, with its Brancott and Stoneleigh wines, Constellation with Nobilo and Kim Crawford, Delegats with Oyster Bay and Villa Maria, along with others, have played a vital role in today’s success.

As well as continuing to develop new international markets, these big organizations are leading the search for the next big thing. They are bottling site-specific wines and providing resources to their winemakers to make even better wines. A recent development is surely designed to attract the drinkers of lightly sparkling wines – wines like Prosecco from Italy that are so popular recently. Lightly sparkling sauvignon blanc is being made by a few wineries now. These wines are very appealing, simple and sweetish and are very drinkable as a party or reception wine. This may be a hook to get these folks to try the more traditional brands.

Anyway let’s start looking at specific producers and wines that illustrate what I have been talking about. Most wineries these days are making more than one sauvignon blanc. There is usually an entry level wine, often a regional blend, and then others at a premium price that are from a single site, or have been enhanced by the winemaking techniques already mentioned.

Stoneleigh

This is one of the best known and most popular NZ brands in Canada. Their sauvignon blancs are mainly sourced from the Stoneleigh vineyard in the central part of the Wairau Valley region. The gravelly river soils in this region augment the stonefruit aromas and flavours and add mouthwatering grapefruit acidity to the Stoneleigh 2015 Sauvignon Blanc making it lively and exciting to drink. The Stoneleigh 2015 Latitude Sauvignon Blanc is more understated, maybe classier, with some complex aromas and more crunchy green apple flavours.

However it was the Stoneleigh 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Wild Valley that really excited me. Marlborough sauvignon blanc is traditionally made with a cultured yeast once the natural yeasts have been killed off following crushing. This wine, however is fermented naturally using the yeast that lives in the vineyard with the grapes. Winemaker Jamie Marfell uses this to give the wine added texture and enhanced flavour. The natural process is slower which allows the wine to develop texture along with more complex flavours.

More Stoneleigh wines reviewed here.

Jamie Marfell Winemaker at Stoneleigh

Jamie Marfell Winemaker at Stoneleigh

Brancott Estate

The southern side of the Wairau Valley, where the Brancott Vineyard is situated, has a higher clay content than the river bed soils further north. It is also warmer and drier with less stone and more nutrients. The Brancott brand is relatively new to Canada and the very impressive Brancott Estate 2015 Letter Series B Sauvignon Blanc has just arrived at the LCBO. It is a complex wine that has benefited from an elaborate winemaking process. About 20% of the fruit is handpicked and then wild fermented. The other 80% is machine harvested, which seems better at preserving the components that yield the elevated passion-fruit, grapefruit and tropical aromas (thiols) that characterize Marlborough sauvignon blanc. A small percentage of the machine picked fruit is matured in oak vessels. It is a delicious well priced white that is elegant and complex with a mineral tone and lovely lively fruity palate.

More Brancott Estate wines reviewed here.

Brancott Estate Marlborough

Brancott Estate Marlborough

Villa Maria

Villa Maria was founded by George Fistonich in 1961. It has been a major contributor to the wine industry ever since and seems to win more awards for its wines than any other winery. As one travels around New Zealand one meets countless winemakers and viticulturists who at some time in their careers have worked at Villa Maria. Everyone has phenomenal respect and admiration for the founder and his winery which remains a family business.

Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc has always been one of the best value sauvignons and it is deservedly one of the most popular. The Villa Maria 2015 Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc is consistent and faithful to the successful distinctive style with classic aromas of gooseberry, passion fruit, grapefruit, white pepper and delicate fresh herbal notes of green peas and dill.

For a few dollars more one can upgrade to the Villa Maria 2015 Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanca very classy Marlborough sauvignon with lifted classic aromatics. The nose and palate are pure and fresh with a rich creamy texture.

Villa Maria 2015 Lightly Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc is a charming well-made, pure, fresh bubbly with aromas of passion fruit with grapefruit, mint and nettles. It is creamy smooth with a hint of sweetness and is very refreshing. Not that complex but quite delicious as a party or reception wine.

More Villa Maria wines reviewed here.

Villa Maria Auckland Winery2

Villa Maria Auckland Winery

Whitehaven

Whitehaven winery was founded in 1994 by the late Greg White. His widow, the energetic Sue White, manages the operation which has expanded considerably in recent years. They make two wines from sauvignon blanc. Whitehaven 2015 Sauvignon Blanc is a classic fresh, fruity style, quite herbaceous with a nice mineral salty tang and excellent length.

Whitehaven 2015 Greg Reserve Sauvignon Blanc is a single vineyard wine from the Alton Downs Vineyard in the Awatere Valley. It is well structured and quite mineral with aromas and flavours of gooseberry and guava fruit with spearmint, peapod and lemon tones. Designed for short term ageing, it still needs another year or two of bottle age before it hits prime time.

More Whitehaven wines reviewed here.

Awatere Valley

Awatere Valley

Dog Point Vineyard

This winery was founded by two veterans of the NZ wine business, James Healy and Ivan Sutherland. These pioneers met at Cloudy Bay where they worked together for many years, Ivan growing the grapes and James making the wines. In 2004 they decided to create Dog Point and since then have become a beacon of excellence in the region. Several family members are actively involved in the affair and they now export their wines to over 40 countries – pretty remarkable for a 30,000 case winery founded so recently. When you sample their wines it soon becomes clear that this is a haven for high quality wine produced by passionate people.

They produce two wines from sauvignon blanc. Dog Point 2015 Sauvignon Blanc was the best traditional sauvignon that I tasted this spring in New Zealand. It is textbook Marlborough, made 80% from cultured yeast with stainless steel maturation. The palate is lively and brimming with mouthwatering grapefruit acidity and juicy tropical fruit. The other wine is made 100% from sauvignon blanc but it is called Dog Point 2013 Section 94 after its source in their vineyard. It is fermented with wild yeast in oak barrels and has intense flavours and full bodied fruit. This is another powerful wine best sampled in a few more years when it will become better integrated and age has softened some of its hard edges.

More Dog Point wines reviewed here.

Greywacke

This winery, owned by Kevin Judd, shares the winery facilities of Dog Point. Kevin is another veteran winemaker who also spent many years perfecting his technique at Cloudy Bay. Additionally, he is one of New Zealand’s best vineyard landscape photographers and his pictures are widely used to celebrate the beauty of the NZ wine regions. I have been tasting his wines for many years and have almost always been mega-impressed. The Greywacke 2014 (Kevin Judd) Sauvignon Blanc is in stores in Ontario at present. Quebec and BC also buy this wine each year.

He has another wine in stores in Ontario currently, the Greywacke 2012 Wild Sauvignon Blanc. This is a very impressive and beautiful sauvignon blanc made using wild fermentation in a mixture of new and used oak barrels. The majority also goes through malolactic fermentation and it spends its life prior to bottling on its lees. In effect, it’s made like many chardonnays and as a consequence is a long way from traditional Marlborough style. Complex, elegant and subtle and highly recommended. I also tasted the 2014 vintage of this wine and it was one of the best sauvignon that I tasted on my latest visit. Made largely the same way except very little went through malolactic fermentation and only 7% spent time in new oak. Such was the difference between the 2014 and 2012 harvests. We will have to wait and hope that this vintage also comes to Canada.

More Greywacke wines reviewed here.

Before I conclude, there is need to mention sauvignon blanc produced elsewhere in New Zealand. The Sacred Hill, Craggy Range, C.J. Pask and Sileni wineries located in Hawke’s Bay on the North Island produce sauvignon blanc in both Hawke’s Bay and in Martinborough, as do many other wineries, though the total quantity is small compared to Marlborough. Many of these wineries also have vineyards in Marlborough and so it interesting to compare the pairs of wines from the same vintage and same winemaker.

The other regions tend to be warmer and so the fruit is more tropical, the greenness less strident and the acids softer. For me, the non-Marlborough sourced wines do not have much of a distinctive character such that in blind tastings I have often been unsure of their origin, whereas I think that Marlborough’s  unique signature leads me to guess their origin more surely. Though maybe in future a Leyda Valley or Darling wine might throw me in the wrong direction.

Marlborough sauvignon blanc is one of the great successes of the New World wine industry over the last few decades. It is distinctive, pure and easily recognizable and will, I am sure, remain the go-to wine for many. Provided costs and prices remain reasonable, it will continue to prosper and be the backbone for the entire NZ wine industry.

Innovation and site selection, as we have seen, are being applied to make more interesting and hence more premium wines. There isn’t a formula for these, as there is for the basic brand, and there doesn’t need to be. I will keep watching closely and look forward to returning in 2019 for the next edition of #SauvignonNZ. Meanwhile, I will be focusing on January 2017 which sees the next edition of the Pinot Noir NZ Celebration.

Next week Treve will report on the New Zealand Sparkling and Chardonnay Symposium.

Steve Thurlow

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!

Whitehaven Vineyard

Whitehaven Vineyard


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Buy The Case: The Vine’s Hidden Gems

A Report on Consignment Wines in Ontario
Written by WineAlign

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

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

The Vine Agency

Sometimes we fantasize about Ontario being populated with fine wine shops owned by some of the top wine importers and Ontario wineries – people who love wine, select their portfolio’s with pride, and sell them with diligence and the utmost in customer service. While there are many “agencies” that we can envision in this role, we suspect that The Vine Agency would end up being among the most popular and successful. Owner Rob Groh founded The Vine with the goal of bringing Ontario wine drinkers and restaurateurs a fine selection of wines from Italy and California (primarily). We tasted a selection of new arrivals for this feature, and it was a delightful experience.

The Vines mantra (taken from their website) is “Authenticity, Distinction, Character” and for a glimpse into how this is achieved consider their approach to their relationship with their suppliers. “When we take on representation, our view is long term. Because we insist on the highest standards, we visit the wineries and get to know the people. We look for relationships where we connect both personally and professionally, and only work with those who meet these criteria”. We suspect they deal with their customers with similar sincerity and thoroughness.

Sometimes you buy a product because it is specifically the product you want; sometimes because you like and trust the store. Here are our critics picks from current Consignment offerings at The Vine.

Podere le Boncie Le Trame 2012, Tuscany, Italy ($59.95)

Tenuta Cocci Grifoni Le Torri 2010

Podere Le Boncie Le Trame 2012Michael Godel – Giovanna Morganti makes Le Trame, from southeastern Tuscany in San Felice just outside of Castelnuovo Beradenga. It is essentially Chianti Classico but labeled IGT, known as “the intrigues” and that it surely is. It will drink into longevity up there with some of the best Brunello, Vino Nobile and Gran Selezione. A Cellaring Wine
John Szabo
– Fans of elegant/delicate sangiovese should line up for this gorgeous example, organically/biodynamically farmed in the heart of Chianti Classico. It’s elegant, an expression of pure finesse, all ripe and vibrant red berry fruit flavoured, exhaling faded roses and spice. A supremely pretty wine with soaring grace all in all, to enjoy now or forget for a decade.
David Lawrason – This is an estate grown sangiovese with great energy and fruit depth. Balanced to drink now but will stretch beyond 2020. It is available in six packs, so just go for it. It is so good that you might regret splitting it with friends. It’s also an ideal size for trying it out on a wine list.
Sara d’Amato – An authentic Tuscan blend from an organically farmed vineyard planted at high density. Predominantly wild yeast fermented sangiovese, this sophisticated find is absolutely captivating. Drink on its own but best with roasted pork.

Tenuta Cocci Grifoni 2010 ‘Le Torri’ Rosso Piceno Superiore, Marche, Italy(21.95)

John Szabo – A leading estate from Le Marche, Cocci-Grifoni’s montepulciano-sangiovese blend is an engaging, dark, earthy-spice, roasted coffee, and bitter chocolate flavoured red, succulent and satisfying. It’s a big and robust mouthful of wine perfect for big cuts of roasted/grilled meat.
David Lawrason – It’s a bit rustic and may not appeal to all tastes – so I would be wary of buying for by-the-glass pours or occasions where you don’t know your guests tastes. But this is delicious in its way; ready to drink and a great match for stews. Buy a case for autumn and winter drinking and split with like-minded friends. Great value from one of the best estates of the region.
Steve Thurlow – This is quite delicious with a delicate nose of black cherry fruit with mineral, herbal and spicy notes. It is complex on the palate also with the delicate fruit finely balanced by soft acidity and gentle tannin. This is ready for fine dining with roast meats or bold mature cheese. Buy a case and enjoy a bottle from time to time over the next few years.

La Mozza I Perazzi Morellino di Scansano 2014, Tuscany, Italy ($24.95)

Valdibella Kerasos Nero D'avola 2014

La Mozza I Perazzi Morellino Di Scansano 2014Michael Godel – One of the freshest and most exciting examples of Morellino di Scansano to come across the consignment channels of the Ontario market. A project of Mario Batali and the Bastianich family, this is one of the best examples of humble decadence in their portfolio. Should very much be considered when bringing tutta la famiglia al tavolo. Consider wine pooling.
David Lawrason – From a modern estate in the southwest corner of Maremma this good value is a blend 85% Morellino (the local name for Sangiovese in Maremma), 5% Syrah, 5% Alicante, 2% Colorino and 3% Ciliegiolo. Sangiovese turns in a riper, darker performance in this area, with a certain plushness and richness. But it’s also quite lively and fresh. It could be my Tuscan house wine, or a decent pour by the glass in an Italian restaurant.

Valdibella 2014 Kerasos Nero d’Avola, Sicily, Italy (19.95)

John Szabo – Here’s a particularly lovely, lively, floral and vibrant version of nero d’Avola, organically grown. I love the energy and tension, the vibrancy and genuine flavour concentration. Dark spice, earth and ash flavours linger.
Michael Godel – Truly modern Sicily here from Valdibella, a.k.a. the “cherry tree”. Its wide ranging flavours make it a limitless match for so many different foods and because it’s amenably virtuous in so many ways. Restaurant pour by the glass. 

Château de Saint Cosme 2013 Gigondas, Rhône, France($57.95)

Von Strasser Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Chateau De Saint Cosme Gigondas 2013David Lawrason – Of all the Cotes du Rhône villages Gigondas often produces wines with the most finesse. Power too, but there is a textural evenness thanks to limestone marl in the soils. It becomes Chateauneuf-like, and is priced in that realm as well. But still good value for fans of southern Rhône. It comes in a six-pack, ideal for a home or restaurant cellar.
John Szabo
– Saint Cosme has crafted a savoury grenache-based masterpiece here in 2013, massively concentrated, but not heavy, structured and full of black pepper and spice. This has enough of an acid lift to keep fruit and spice focused, with abundant but fine and dusty tannins that lend grip. I’d love to see this again in another 3-5 years; there’s more than enough stuffing to see this blossom.
Sara d’Amato – A very old, revered and consistent producer. Grenache and very peppery syrah make up the majority of this spirited and well structured blend. Many great Gigondas keep step with the best of Chateauneuf du Pape and here is a spot-on example.
Steve Thurlow – There is great finesse to this wine with a very fresh pure yet complex nose of black cherry fruit with some sweet herbs a hint of licorice and a floral hint. It is midweight and delicate on the palate with the fruit well balanced by acidity and fine tannin. Excellent length.

Von Strasser Winery 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, California (89.95)

John Szabo – This is another terrific vintage from Rudy von Strasser, making the most of his superb volcanic terroir on Diamond Mountain. It’s a classic Napa ‘mountain’ cabernet, which is to say dark and swarthy, ripe and firmly structured to be sure, with serious depth and length, and significant black fruit extract. Broad shouldered but flexible, this has all angles covered, best after 2018.
David Lawrason – This has terrific presence and structure with lifted aromas of blackcurrant, green cedar/conifer, earth, mineral and dusty, spicy oak – all well integrated. It’s full bodied with some heat and tannin to be sure, but fine acidity as well. The focus and length are excellent. I would age it another three years to calm the tannin. Best 2019 to 2030. Split a case with cab collecting friends.

Groth Hillview Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, Napa Valley, California ($56.95)

De Conciliis Selim Spumante Brut

Groth Hillview Vineyard Chardonnay 2014Michael Godel – From a 44-acre Yountville vineyard founded in 1982 and (mostly) re-planted in 1996. This is a perfect and prime example of all the right directions Napa Chardonnay has taken in the last 10 years, with kudos to Suzanne Groth for embracing the ideal, from restraint, for elegance and in balance. Gifting Wine.
Sara d’Amato – If you are suffering chardonnay fatigue, this ought to spice things up! Whole cluster pressed, fermented in fine French oak but offering youthfully exuberant fruit. A chardonnay worth its weight in coin.
Steve Thurlow – This is a beautiful classic California chardonnay that’s fine now but will improve in integration and complexity with a few more years in the cellar. Expect aromas of pineapple and cantaloupe melon, with smoky, nutty and buttery tones with hints of caramel. It is full bodied but feels slimmer due to soft lemony acidity. Excellent length.
David Lawrason – This is a very classy, rich and well honed chardonnay that’s delicious now but could also age nicely for five years. Agree with Michael that it would be a great gift item for chardonnay fans, or introducing casual California chardonnay drinkers to the real thing!

De Concilis Selim Spumante Brut, Campania, Italy ($32.95)

Sara d’Amato – Here is something you don’t come across that often, a tank method sparkler from Campania based on local fiano and aglianico grapes. Pricey for a curio find but the result of this winemaking effort is most definitely rewarding. Available in a six bottle case.

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


This report was sponsored by The Vine Agency. WineAlign critics have independently recommended the above wines based on reviews that are posted on WineAlign as part of this sponsored tasting. The Vine has provided the following agency profile.

About The Vine Agency

The Vine AgencySince we took the leap to start The Vine in 2000, our goal has never been to be the biggest, most all-encompassing wine agency in the province or the country. Instead, we set out to offer a focused selection of wines that reflect our personal taste and interests. We believe that smaller wineries – estate oriented and family-owned – provide the best source of characterful wines that deserve our attention. We also place a high value on trust: yours.

To that end, we strive to deliver outstanding customer service, trustworthy recommendations and informed conversation. But ultimately, the portfolio speaks for itself – this is a collection of great wines, selected and supported by people who know the people behind the wines. Most of the winery owners we represent in Ontario are people we are proud to consider friends.

Join our Mailing List

If you wish to have your name added to our mailing list (to be notified of featured wines, tastings or events) please call 416-693-7994, email wine@thevineagency.ca or write to The Vine, 105 – 625 Queen St. East, Toronto ON M4M 1G4

All the wines are sold in cases of 12 bottles, unless noted otherwise. Unfortunately, mixed cases are not possible due to LCBO regulations. We quote prices per bottle, excluding
Refundable Bottle Deposit. HST is included in Retail prices. Delivery charges may apply.

EXPRESS PICK-UP SERVICE
Nobody home to receive your delivery? No problem – just give us 36 hour’s notice — we’ll have your wine ready for drive-by pick-up. You’ll barely have to slow down. Our office is on Queen St. East, immediately opposite the ramp to northbound DVP. Call as you drive up, we’ll run your wine out to the car, and load it in while you stay warm & dry.

 


 

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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!


AdvertisementColio Lily Sparkling

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Top Values at the LCBO (April 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Spring has arrived in Ontario, believe it or not, despite the recent visit by a polar vortex. And there are many new vintages of wines appearing on the shelves at the LCBO. Some are better than last time and sadly some not quite as good. There are also some brand new listings that are fine buys. As a consequence wines have been joining the Top 50 Best Values list and others have fallen off over the last four weeks.

Those of you who follow me know I really enjoy discovering inexpensive gems. So for you bargain lovers – I have some great news. There are ten new wines on my list this month plus I also found other wines, that were already on the list, that are discounted or have Bonus Air Miles that apply, making these wines even more attractive and your spring drinking even more affordable. The discount period runs until April 23rd. 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.

Steve’s Top Values are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials collection which I select from wines on 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).

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

Astica 2015 Merlot Malbec, Argentina ($7.95) New to Top 50 – A juicy well structured red with appealing aromas. Not much complexity but for the money it’s a good everyday red for pizza and pasta.

Trapiche 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina ($9.95) New to Top 50 – Pretty amazing cabernet from Argentina at this price. It is midweight very juicy with very good length and nice structural tannin for balance. Try with bbq meats.

Casillero del Diablo 2014 Devil’s Collection Red, Rapel Valley, Chile ($11.90 was $14.90) New to Top 50 – This delicious red blend is full bodied and vibrant with soft mature tannin. It is quite new to the LCBO and at $3 off it’s a great buy at present.

Astica Merlot Malbec 2015Trapiche Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 Casillero del Diablo Devil's Collection Red 2014 Trapiche Malbec Reserve 2014 Les Jamelles Merlot 2014

Trapiche 2014 Malbec Reserve, Mendoza Argentina ($11.95) New to Top 50 – This inexpensive red would not be out of place in fine dining. Medium bodied and dry with soft mature tannin and well integrated acidity plus a gentle velvety smooth palate. Try with roast beef.

Les Jamelles 2014 Merlot, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($11.95 was $13.95) New to Top 50 – A juicy pure merlot brimming with red berry fruit. Enjoy on its own lightly chilled or with mildly spicy gourmet sausages.

Vila Regia 2013 Reserva, Douro Valley, Portugal ($11.95 +6 BAMs) – Excellent value for a fragrant elegant red that is an opaque purple with a soft nose of berry fruit and a midweight palate. Very good length. Try with roast beef or creamy soft cheese.

Montecillo 2010 Crianza, Rioja, Spain ($12.95 was $14.95) New to Top 50 – With its gorgeous classy packaging this is consistently a great, easy-to-drink, food-balanced red that is traditionally styled. Very good length. Try with a lamb or pork casserole.

Vila Regia Reserva 2013 Montecillo Crianza 2010 Goats do Roam Red 2014 Château de Vaugelas Le Prieuré Corbières 2013 The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014

Goats do Roam 2014 Red, Western Cape, South Africa ($12.95 + 5BAMs) – The 2014 vintage continues a long line of consistently great value reds that are close stylistically to a French Cotes du Rhone. Try with burgers.

Château de Vaugelas 2013 Le Prieuré Corbières, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($13.95 + 5BAMS) – The 2013 is a big improvement for this syrah grenache blend. Well balanced nicely structured with very good length. Quite classy for such an inexpensive wine. Try with a steak.

The Wolftrap 2014 Syrah Mourvedre Viognier, Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95 + 5BAMs) – Deeply coloured, fairly elegant red, with a fine balance and very good length. Try with grilled red meat.

Whites

Cono Sur 2015 Organic Chardonnay, San Antonio Valley, Chile ($11.05 was $14.05) New to Top 50 – At $3 off this is a great buy for a rich, fresh chardonnay that will be great with roast chicken or pork.

Domaine Jean Bousquet 2015 White Blend, Argentina ($11.90) New to Top 50 – This new LCBO listing jumps straight onto my Top50. It’s an aromatic white that’s midweight and deeply flavoured with the fruit well balanced by soft acidity. Try with roast veal or pork.

Cono Sur Organic Chardonnay 2015 Domaine Jean Bousquet White Blend 2015 Santa Rita Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015 Goats Do Roam White 2015 Villa Wolf Riesling 2013

Santa Rita 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, Casablanca Valley, Chile ($11.95 was $13.95) – A juicy nicely structured sauvignon with just enough sweetness to balance the acidity and not too much greenness. Try with sautéed seafood.

Goats do Roam 2015 White, Coastal Region, South Africa ($11.95 + 5 BAMS) New to Top 50 – The Goats white is a blend of three whites grapes, all of which originate in the Rhone Valley in France. It is an aromatic white with a good depth of flavour; quite classy considering its price. Enjoy as an aperitif with pastry nibbles.

Villa Wolf 2013 Riesling, Pfalz, Germany ($12.95) New to Top 50 – The price of this versatile food white has been reduced by $2. It’s racy and fragrant. Try with seafood pastry and white meats.

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 35 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you didn’t 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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Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2015

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Top Values at the LCBO (March 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 are ten new wines on my Top 50 Best Values this month, which in itself is amazing news, however I also found that another three, already on my Top 50, are discounted making them an even better deal. Plus another four on the list have Bonus Air Miles that apply, making these wines even more attractive for the next four weeks or so.

It is an exciting time for me since so many new vintages arrive this time of the year. Some of the new vintages I tasted were better and some not so good, so wines join the list and others fall off. As those of you who follow me know I really enjoy discovering inexpensive gems, so I am delighted to have found so many new great values at the LCBO this month.

The wines featured in this report are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials collection which I select from wines on 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).

The current discount period runs until March 27th, 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

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Castilla León, Spain ($9.45 was $11.45) – A juicy vibrant red with red berry fruit and just enough tannin for balance. Try with grilled meats or mature hard cheese.

La Casona De Castano Old Vines Monastrell 2014, Yecla, Alicante, Spain ($9.65) New to Top 50 – This is a bright ruby red with appealing berry aromas. It is a medium-bodied, full-flavoured wine with juicy ripe fruit, well balanced, with the fruit persisting well onto the finish. Try with meaty pasta sauces or pizza.

Caliterra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2014 Colchagua Valley, Chile ($9.95) New to Top 50 – A typical Chilean cabernet at a great price. Juicy full bodied and well balanced. More complexity than you would expect for such an inexpensive wine. Try with a steak.

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 La Casona De Castano Old Vines Monastrell 2014 Caliterra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2014 Santa Rita Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Santa Rita Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Maipo Valley, Chile ($11.95 was $13.95) New to Top 50 – A juicy rich well balanced cabernet with good varietal character. Its full bodied and nicely structured with very good length. Try with grilled meats or a creamy cheese like Brie.

Santa Julia Reserva Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina ($10.95 was $12.95) New to Top 50 – This is a rich malbec with a creamy texture and enticing aromatics. Flavourful with a long lingering very dry finish. Try with a rack of juicy ribs.

Thelema Mountain Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa ($11.00 was $13.00) New to Top 50 – This delightful blend of shiraz and 5 other grapes has a lifted nose that shows ripe blackberry and blueberry fruit. It is very smooth and quite dense with a degree of elegance. Try with pizza or burgers.

Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2013 Mendoza, Argentina ($12.95 was $14.95) – A consistently solid buy and at $2 off a fantastic deal. A rich, full flavoured malbec with aromas of chocolate, spices and berry fruits. Buy an armful while the deal lasts.

Santa Julia Reserva Malbec 2014 Thelema Mountain Red 2012 Trapiche Broquel Malbec 2013 Château De Vaugelas Le Prieuré Corbières 2013 Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Château De Vaugelas Le Prieuré Corbières 2013 Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($13.95) – The 2013 is a big improvement for this syrah grenache blend. Well balanced nicely structured with very good length. Quite classy for such an inexpensive wine. Try with a steak.

Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Santa Ynez Valley, California, USA ($19.90) – Lots of depth, flavour and complexity for a wine at this price, the 2013 is just as good as the superb 2012. Elegant and well balanced. Try with roast beef.

Whites

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015 Colchagua Valley Chile ($8.95 was $9.95) – At $9.95 it was already the best value white, so at $1off its time to stock up on this aromatic flavourful white. Enjoy on its own or with mildly spicy white meat dishes or rich poultry or with Swiss Gruyere cheese.

Dunavár Pinot Grigio 2014 Hungary ($8.95) New to Top 50 – This is a simple, fresh and lively pinot grigio, that is quite flavourful and very easy to drink.  It is midweight with a slight spritz adding to its freshness. At this price it provides plenty of basic refreshment.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015 Dunavár Pinot Grigio 2014 Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio 2015 Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Grigio 2015 Central Valley Chile ($9.95) New to Top 50 – The 2015 vintage is just as good as the excellent 2014. Aromatic and flavourful it is probably the best value grigio at LCBO. Chill well and enjoy with grilled calamari, cheesy pasta sauces or sauteed seafood. Why pay more when you have all you need here?

Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015 Casablanca Valley, Chile ($9.95) New to Top 50 – Consistently one of the best white wine values at LCBO. Good varietal character with lots of flavour. Try with cheesy pasta sauces or roast chicken.

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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Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , , ,

Top Values at the LCBO (February 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

I am writing to you from Marlborough in New Zealand, where I am attending the first ever International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration. As many of you know, Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is a distinct, very drinkable, usually unoaked white wine that has been recognised all over the world for its uniqueness. It has for at least a decade now been the benchmark by which most producers measure their savvys, as the grape is fondly referred to downunder. I will write more about my trip to New Zealand in March when I get home.

I am not surprised that there a nine new wines on the Top 50 list this month. So much wine is sold in the last six weeks of every year that many new vintages always arrive about now. Some of the new vintages I tasted were better and some not so good, so wines join the list and others fall off. Anyway I am delighted to have found so many new great values at the LCBO this month.

The wines featured are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the Vintages Essentials Collection which I select from wines on 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).

The discount period runs until February 28th, 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!

A Dozen Best Value Wines

Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2014 Abruzzo Italy ($7.95 + 4 BAM) – This red is a little rustic with a savoury herbal nose. Try with mildly flavoured red meat dishes or a mild hard cheese like cheddar.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2014, Central Valley, Chile ($10.95) New to the Top 50 – Probably the best value pinot in the LCBO. It has classic aromas and  is fresh on nose and palate. Lively red berry fruit and a long lingering finish make it very appealing.

Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2014Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2014 Cono Sur Sparkling Pinot Noir Rose Montecillo Crianza 2010

Cono Sur Sparkling Pinot Noir Rose, Bio Bio Valley, Chile ($11.95 was $13.95) New to the Top 50 – This is my pink bubbly Valentines pick. It is a fawn pink sparkling rose made from pinot noir brimming with aromas and has a delicate creamy dry palate. Very good length with long lasting fine bubbles. Chill well and enjoy on its own.

Montecillo Crianza 2010 Rioja Spain ($12.45 was $14.95) New to the Top 50 – With its gorgeous classy red label this is consistently a great, easy-to-drink, food balanced red that is traditionally styled. Very good length. Try with a lamb or pork casserole.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2014, Swartland, South Africa ($13.95 was $14.95) New to the Top 50, VINTAGES Essentials – Already huge value so even better at $1 off. This is a lively savoury red brimming with fruit yet balanced with some elegance. Try with smoked or grilled meats.

Cave Spring Cabernet Merlot 2013, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($14.95 was $15.95) New to the Top 50 – This is an excellent vintage for this midweight well balanced red with some elegance. This comes from the fine acid balance not often found in such an inexpensive wine.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2014 Cave Spring Cabernet Merlot 2013 Graham's Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009 Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Graham’s Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009, Douro Valley, Portugal ($16.95) New to the Top 50 – A beautiful fragrant quite fresh LBV that’s full-bodied, velvety smooth and finely balanced with the alcohol well tamed and integrated. Enjoy on its own or with dark chocolate and nuts.

Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Santa Ynez Valley, California USA ($16.90 was $19.90) – Lots of depth, flavour and complexity for a wine at this price; a good deal normally it’s now stunning value at $3 off. Elegant and well balanced. Try with roast beef.

Are You Game? Chardonnay 2012 Victoria Australia ($8.75 was $14.95) Delisted – A soft, elegant, cool climate chardonnay with only a hint of oak. It’s midweight and finely balanced. Try with sautéed seafood. Stores are running out quickly.

Stoneleigh Chardonnay 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand ($9.95 was $15.45) New to the Top 50, Delisted – I am saddened to see this delisted since it is a very fine, well balanced, delicious chardonnay with just a touch of oak and lots of aroma and flavour. Under 1000 bottles left, so hurry before they are all gone.

Are You Game? Chardonnay 2012Stoneleigh Chardonnay 2014Chateau D' Eternes Saumur Brut Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava

Chateau d’Eternes Saumur Brut, Loire Valley France ($14.95) New to the Top 50 – This is a very classy sparkling wine at a great price that is made using the traditional method from chenin blanc and chardonnay. A great aperitif but also a wine for pairing with delicate seafood dishes.

Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava Spain ($13.95 was $14.95) New to the Top 50 – This batch of this non-vintage classy sparkling wine is especially good with its fresh nose, elegant delicate soft mousse and long lingering finish. Lots of flavour and super creamy texture. A great aperitif.

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 Top50 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 38 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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Gabbiano Chianti Classico 2013

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Top 20 under $20 at the LCBO (January 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 are seventeen new wines on the Top 50 list this month. This is not surprising since so much wine is sold in the last six weeks of every year that many new vintages always arrive about now. Some of the new vintages I tasted were better and some not so good, so wines join the list and others fall off. Anyway I am delighted to have found so many new great values at the LCBO this month.

Additionally three wines already on my Top 50 Best Values list are discounted and a some have Bonus Air Miles that apply, making these wines even more attractive and affordable for the next four weeks or so.

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 all from wines on 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).

The discount period runs until January 31st. 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

Tini Sangiovese di Romagna 2013, Emilia Romagna, Italy ($7.75) New to Top 50 – This is excellent value for a very drinkable Italian red for pizza and meaty pasta dishes. It is soft and fruity with enough tannin and acidity for balance and good length. Chill a little and try with tomato pasta sauces. Not recommended for quaffing since the finish is quite austere.

Beso de Vino Seleccion Red 2011 Carinena, Spain ($7.95 was $9.95) New to Top 50 – This ripe structured red has a nice lemony tone to the nose and palate to give it freshness. It is full-bodied with good length. Try with sweet juicy ribs.

Citra Sangiovese Terre Di Chieti 2014 Abruzzo Italy ($7.95) New to Top 50 – This red is a little rustic with a savoury herbal nose. Try with mildly flavoured red meat dishes or a mild hard cheese like cheddar.

Tini Sangiovese di Romagna 2013 Beso de Vino Seleccion Red 2011 Citra Sangiovese Terre di Chieti 2014 Spadafora Terrano Rosso 2014

Spadafora Terrano Rosso 2014 Calabria Italy ($8.55) New to Top 50 – 2014 is another good vintage for this juicy, well balanced red from Calabria. It is easy drinking, vibrant and pure with not much complexity or depth, but it is very drinkable. Good length. Enjoy with pizza and meaty pasta sauces.

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Castilla León, Spain ($9.45 was $11.45) Top 50 January – 2014 is the best vintage yet of this juicy, vibrant, clean red with very good length. Chill lightly and enjoy with grilled meats.

La Casona De Castano Old Vines Monastrell 2013, Yecla, SE Spain ($9.65) New to Top 50 – Mourvèdre is the French name for this grape that is grown widely in SE Spain. It is deep purple and very aromatic with a midweight palate and very good length. Try with spaghetti and meatballs in a tomato sauce.

Santa Carolina Merlot Reserva 2014, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($10.95 was $12.95) New to Top 50 – This is a lively, clean, very fruity merlot with just enough soft tannin for balance. Enjoy on its own or with hard mature cheese.

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 La Casona de Castano Old Vines Monastrell 2013 Santa Carolina Merlot Reserva 2014 Santa Carolina Carmenère Reserva 2014 Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Santa Carolina Carmenère Reserva 2014, Cachapoal Valley, Chile ($11.95 was $12.95) Top 50 January – This is a dense, powerful wine with a complex perfumed nose. Full bodied but still very juicy with dense ripe fruit and fine tannin.

Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Stellenbosch South Africa ($11.95) New to Top 50 – Excellent value for a juicy, full bodied red with spicy berry aromas and ample fruit. It is balanced by soft tannin and soft acidity. Good focus and very good length. Try with lamb kabobs.

Ogier Cotes du Ventoux Red 2013 Rhone Valley, France ($11.95) New to Top 50 – 2013 is a good vintage for this soft, white pepper spiced, southern Rhone red. The fruit is well balanced with crisp, juicy acidity, blueberry and pepper notes and plenty of zip and zing.

Vila Regia Reserva 2013, Douro Valley, Portugal ($11.95) New to Top 50 – Excellent value for a fragrant, elegant red. Opaque purple, a soft nose of berry fruit and a mid weight palate, this has very good length. Try with roast beef or creamy soft cheese.

Ogier Cotes du Ventoux Red 2013 Vila Regia Reserva 2013 Goats do Roam Red 2014 Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir 2014

Goats do Roam Red 2014 Western Cape, South Africa ($11.95 was $12.95) Top 50 January – The 2014 vintage continues a long line of consistently great value reds that are close stylistically to a French Côtes du Rhône. Try with burgers.

Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir 2014, Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($13.95 + 8 BAMs) New to Top 50 – One of the best value pinots at the LCBO. It is quite Burgundian in style with ripe fruit aromas and flavours balanced by herbal and earthy tones. The palate has nice structural tannin and some vibrant acidity, keeping it lively.

Whites

Cono Sur Sparkling Brut, Bio Bio, Chile ($7.95 was $13.95) New to Top 50, Delisted – I am sorry to see that this elegant bubbly has been discontinued. Over 800 bottles remain so jump in quickly before it is all gone. It is quite flavourful and very smooth with a honeyed hazelnut apple nose and very persistent bubbles.

KWV Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2015, Western Cape, South Africa ($7.95 was $9.45) New to Top 50 – South Africa can make good inexpensive chenin like this with a good depth of flavour, well structured, and for a great price. The palate is midweight with ripe fruit balanced by lemony acidity. Very good length and just a little bitter on the finish. Try with seafood or white meats.

Cono Sur Sparkling Brut K W V Contemporary Collection Chenin Blanc 2015 Are You Game Chardonnay 2012

Are You Game? Chardonnay 2012 Victoria Australia ($8.75 was $14.95) New to Top 50, Delisted – A soft, elegant, cool climate chardonnay with only a hint of oak. It’s midweight and finely balanced. Try with sautéed seafood. Over 1300 bottles remain.

Hardys Stamp Series Riesling Gewurztraminer 2014, Southeastern Australia ($8.95 was $9.95) New to Top 50 – This white has been a constant at the LCBO for years and always offers great value.  It is mouthwatering with peach, spice and candied lemon aromas and flavours, a smooth texture and very good length.

Brumont Gros Manseng Sauvignon 2014, Cote De Gascogne, SW France ($10.75 was $12.95) New to Top 50, Delisted – Gros manseng is a white grape native to southwest France. Here it is blended with sauvignon blanc to make a creamy white wine with herbal melon aromas and flavours. Very good length. Try with roast chicken.

Hardys Stamp Series Riesling Gewurztraminer 2014 Brumont Gros Manseng Sauvignon 2014 Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2014

Santa Carolina Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015, Leyda Valley, San Antonio, Chile ($11.95) New to Top 50 – Leyda Valley is now recognized as one of the best places for this variety in Chile. This is a complex, ripe sauvignon with beautiful aromas and a rich creamy palate.

Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2014, Coastal Region, South Africa ($14.80) New to Top 50 – A rich, full bodied, creamy chardonnay with the oak well integrated and adding complexity. It is full bodied and creamy smooth with lots of flavour balanced by ample acidity. Excellent length. Try with rich poultry dishes or creamy veal escallops.

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

Top 20 Under 20

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

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

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

– Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top50 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

In addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 3o 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 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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Catena Malbec

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , ,

16 Value Wines for The 12 Days of Christmas

by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

The Twelve Days of Christmas, with a gift for each day like a partridge in a pear tree (among other bizarre gifts), is supposed to start on Christmas Day; my Twelve Days starts on Christmas Eve.

Moreover, since I am not good at choosing gifts for the twelve days, I thought instead I would select wines for you for these days of feasting with family and friends. After checking my current Top 50 Best Value wines at LCBO I have chosen 16 wines to get you through the holidays. So here we go.

On Christmas Eve I imagine many will be giving or attending parties with nibbles, hors d’oeuvres, cheese plates, sausage rolls and the like. This calls for easy drinking, lively fresh wines like Santa Carolina 2015 Chardonnay Reserva ($11.95) which is a creamy, fresh and very juicy white with just a touch of oak for added complexity. For a red selection, let me recommend Goats do Roam 2014 Red ($12.95) from South Africa. It is a consistently great value midweight red with vibrant acidity and juicy red berry fruit and soft tannin.

Roast turkey will be on the menu for Christmas Day Dinner in many homes. It is often a rich meal with the turkey and stuffing served with a rich, thick gravy. It is tough to find a white wine for this, however dry aged fortified whites from Jerez in Spain are usually up to the task. Try Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Los Arcos ($15.35). It is a very complex powerful wine with a rich intensely flavoured palate that lingers forever. It comes with 18.5% alcohol yet it’s finely balanced and is fantastic value. You will find it in the fortified wine section near the ports. Errazuriz Estate 2013 Pinot Noir ($13.95) from Chile would be another good choice for this occasion. It’s midweight and very fruity with mild tannin and some nice spicy complexity.

Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2015 Goats Do Roam Red 2014 Lustau Solera Reserva Dry Amontillado Los Arcos Errazuriz Estate Pinot Noir 2013

On Boxing Day we traditionally organize a beef dish for the main meal. So it’s time for some full-bodied reds. Wynns Coonawarra Estate 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon (now $24.95 for a limited time, was $27.95) is an elegant, pure, very smooth, complex cabernet. It is not a big red, so look elsewhere for power but treasure the creamy texture and pure fruit. There are about 30 very positive reviews for this superb Aussie cabernet on WineAlign so please give it a try – plus it’s $3 off at present. Another choice could be Santa Carolina Reserva da Familia Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 ($18.95). You will be enthralled by this opaque purple wine with its perfumed aromas of berry fruit, mint, herbal and dark chocolate complexity.

Sunday is often the day for leftovers from the turkey dinner. I often conjure up a risotto with turkey meat and some of the vegetables, stuffing and sauces that are in the fridge. The Frisky Beaver 2013 White from Niagara ($13.95) is an aromatic blend of five white grapes, quite rich with fruit sweetness that’s well balanced by acidity. Firestone Vineyard 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon from California ($19.90) is an elegant well priced cabernet from the cooler Santa Ynez Valley just north of Santa Barbara. It has a fragrant nose, vibrant palate and excellent palate length.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Santa Carolina Reserva De Familia Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Frisky Beaver White 2013 Firestone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Monday comes and it’s back to work for three days, and a break from feasting for many, but the festivities will recommence on Thursday, New Year’s Eve.

New Year’s Eve is the day when many will be toasting the start of a new year with sparkling wine. It does not need to be an expensive affair. For example, why not choose Veuve Ambal Cremant De Bourgogne Grande Cuvee Brut ($17.95) a fresh creamy bubbly from Burgundy in France. It is a nice sipping wine that goes well with pastry nibbles. If you are looking for a nice sipping red for party food then Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot 2013 ($12.95) from Chile would be a good choice. It’s a polished organic merlot with clean, lively, bright aromas and flavours.

New Year’s Day is often another occasion for a long lingering lunch with roast or grilled meats. This year we will be having a hearty beef casserole with a thick meaty dark brown sauce and root vegetables. A good choice for wine would be the superb Pascual Toso Limited Edition 2012 Malbec ($16.05) from Argentina. It is full bodied with powerful aromas and flavours, a very even palate and excellent length. As an alternative, a midweight selection could be Lavau 2011 Cotes du Rhone Villages ($13.50) from France. The red berry fruit with sweet oak spices is well balanced by some fine tannin that will stand up well to the rich stew.

Veuve Ambal Grande Cuvée Brut Crémant De Bourgogne Emiliana Adobe Reserva Merlot 2013 Pascual Toso Malbec Limited Edition 2012 Lavau Cote Du Rhone Villages 2011

Once Saturday rolls around it will be time for a change of pace and a rest from kitchen chores. Chinese delivered to the door gets my vote. Lots of variety here and many dishes to choose from but I have two wines in mind for two of my frequent selections. The Wolftrap 2014 Syrah Mouvedre Viognier ($13.95) is great with Chinese beef and broccoli. This deeply coloured Rhone-style blend is midweight and quite savoury with soft ripe fruit supported by fine tannin. For Chinese shrimp with cashew nuts I love the Wolf Blass 2014 Yellow Label Chardonnay ($14.95). It is a modern, fresh, minerally chardonnay with just a touch of oak and a long, fruity finish.

Sunday brunch, with some seafood on offer, could be accompanied by Monkey Bay 2014 Pinot Grigio ($13.95). It comes from the warmer Hawke’s Bay region in New Zealand. It’s fresh, pure and fragrant with pear and melon fruit toned by minerality with hints of lemongrass. A good choice for a lively fresh red for brunch would be Chateau des Charmes 2013 Gamay Noir ($13.95 ) from Niagara. It’s light to mid-weight, juicy and fresh with good acidity and very good length. Great value.

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014 Wolf Blass Yellow Label Chardonnay 2014 Monkey Bay Pinot Grigio 2014 Château Des Charmes Gamay Noir 2013

After all that the holidays will be over. In case I did not select a wine for your occasion, remember that there are another 34 other wines on my Top 50; many less than $10. So check out more wine values by dipping into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste. In the New Year, I will be back with a look at the updated list in our Top 20 Under $20 January report.

Best wishes to all for Happy Holidays with family and friends and I hope the New Year will bring you every desire.

 

Steve Thurlow

Top 20 Under $20 for December
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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Wynns Connawara Black Label Cabernet

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

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

We are now well into the busiest season of the year for wine sales, so there are lots of wines with big discounts and even more with Bonus Air Miles on my Top 50 to tell you about. While already great values, these incentives make my picks even more attractive this month.

Plus I am delighted to have found many new great values at the LCBO. This month, I have found eight wines to join the Top 50. All this should make your holiday season drinking more affordable.

The Top 20 under $20 are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the Vintages Essentials Collection. I select most from wines on 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).

The current discount period runs until January 2nd 2016. 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

Trapiche Astica Merlot Malbec 2014, Cuyo, Argentina ($7.95 + 5 BAMs or $12.25 for 1.5L) Top 50 December – An inexpensive wine that offers a lot. Could be good for holiday entertaining of big crowds at say a cheese and wine reception.

Citra Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2014, Abruzzo, Italy ($8.25 + 4 BAMs) Top 50 December – An honest good value red with a fragrant herbal raspberry nose. It is mid-weight and well balanced with just enough acidity and soft tannin to give it the structure for food. Great with pizza or grilled sausage.

Tatty Rd Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, South Australia ($8.50 was $14.80) Delisted. New to Top 50 December – Not your typical Aussie cabernet with a structure and acidity that might make one think it was European. Great sale price. Over 1100 bottles remain.

João Portugal Ramos Loios Red 2013, Alentejo, Portugal ($9.30) New to Top 50 December – This is a ripe, fleshy, clean, easy-drinking wine with soft tannins and fresh red berry fruit flavours. For a wine at this price there is more complexity than you might expect with herbal and spicy notes to the aromas and flavours. Try with roast lamb.

Trapiche Astica Merlot Malbec 2014Citra Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2014Tatty Rd Cabernet Sauvignon 2012João Portugal Ramos Loios Red 2013Fuzion Alta Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Fuzion Alta Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Mendoza, Argentina ($9.95 + 5 BAMs) Top 50 December – This is a soft flavourful yet well structured cabernet for a good price. It is mid-weight and juicy with the fruit well balanced by fine tannin and soft acidity. Very good length. Try with grilled meats.

Trapiche Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina ($10.45 + 6 BAMs) – There is a degree of pureness and elegance here not often found in such inexpensive wines. Good depth of flavour and palate length make it a great buy for pasta, pizza or burgers.

Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Castilla León, Spain ($11.45) New to Top 50 December – 2014 is the best vintage yet of this juicy vibrant clean red with fresh raspberry and red cherry aromas plus spicy and jammy tones. Chill lightly and enjoy with grilled meats.

Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($11.45) New to Top 50 December – This aromatic red with fresh black cherry and plum fruit aromas is well balanced and juicy with good to very good length. Full bodied but feels lighter. Try with grilled meats.

Trapiche Malbec 2014Solaz Tempranillo Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2013Cusumano Syrah 2013Argento Reserva Malbec 2013

Cusumano Syrah 2013, Sicily, Italy ($11.95 + 5 BAMs) Top 50 December – This is stunning value for a cool climate syrah. It is fresh with aromas of red grapefruit, blueberry and prune with a smooth palate. It’s well balanced and lively with soft tannin and very good length. Try with rack of lamb.

Argento Reserva Malbec 2013, Mendoza, Argentina ($12.95 +6 BAMs) – A rich pure smooth malbec with all the essentials of a good malbec especially the black berry fruit aromas and mild oak treatment. Very good length. Try with grilled meats.

Montes Twins Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($12.95 + 6 BAMs) – A classy very approachable red with ripe berry fruit aromas and flavours. Even though full bodied it feels lighter. Try with grilled meats.

Goats Do Roam Red 2014, Western Cape, South Africa ($12.95 + 5 BAMs) Top 50 December – The 2014 vintage continues a long line of consistently great value reds that are close stylistically to a French Côtes du Rhône. Try with burgers.

Montes Twins Malbec Cabernet Sauvignon 2013Goats Do Roam Red 2014Château Des Charmes Gamay Noir 2013Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Château Des Charmes Gamay Noir 2013, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario ($13.95 + 5 BAMs) Top 50 December – There is a distinctly European feel to this wine with its somewhat rustic nose of berry fruit, beetroot and mushroom. Well focussed with very good length.

Wolf Blass Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Langhorne Creek, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($13.95 was $16.95) ) New to Top 50 December – The 2013 vintage of this very popular Aussie cab has more depth and is better structured than recent vintages. It is a balanced cabernet with the same ease of drinking as always, ripe fruit and tannin and a touch of oak on the finish.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra, South Australia ($24.95 was $27.95) Top 50 December – It was already stunning value; now at $3 off its time to pick up a case. Checkout the reviews at Wine Align there are over 20 of us that love this excellent very drinkable very classy cabernet. It’s Christmas; spend more than $20 and see what you can get.

Whites

Emu Oloroso Cream Sherry, Australia ($7.50) ) New to Top 50 December – Ample aromas of orange marmalade and floral apricot mingle with fine herbs on the nose. The palate is rich and sweet yet light due to soft lemony acidity. It finishes sweet but not cloying with very good length. Try with fruitcake or mincemeat pie, or simply enjoy on its own lightly chilled with a quarter of an orange.

14 Hands Hot To Trot White Blend 2011, Washington State, USA ($8.75 was $14.95) Delisted. New to Top 50 December – It is a nice vibrant fresh white blend with fine aromas and bright lively fruit. It is well balanced and mid-weight with a nice juicy finish. Try on its own as an aperitif or with sautéed seafood or creamy brie. Great sale price; around 2000 bottles remain.

Montalto Pinot Grigio 2014, Sicily, Italy ($9.45 + 4 BAMs) Top 50 December – This offers surprising – amazing – character for the price with lots of aroma and flavour and more complexity than one would expect from such an inexpensive wine. Give it a try; it is a big improvement over recent vintages.

Emu Oloroso Cream Sherry14 Hands Hot To Trot White Blend 2011Montalto Pinot Grigio 2014Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014Mascota Vineyards OPI Chardonnay 2014

Errazuriz Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Aconcagua Valley, Chile ($10.95 was $12.05) New to Top 50 December – A lively fresh sauvignon with aromas and flavours of tropical gooseberry and passion fruit with lemon and freshly cut grass notes. Very smooth. Try with a creamy goat’s cheese salad.

Mascota Vineyards OPI Chardonnay 2014, Argentina ($12.95 + 6 BAMs) – A juicy fruity lightly oaked chardonnay with lovely creamy acidity, lots of flavour and very good length. Try with creamy pasta sauces.

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 34 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 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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Canto Apalta WineAlign ad Dec 2015

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Buy The Case: Treasury Wine Estates

A Report on Consignment Wines in Ontario
Written by WineAlign

BuyTheCaseLOGOimageIn this regular feature WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single importing agent. Our critics independently, as always, taste, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted to WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in our Buy The Case report.

Importers pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to each critic, as it is with our reviews of in-store wines.

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

Treasury Wine Estates

Treasury Wine Estates is one of the world’s largest premium wine producers. They grow, vinify and market wines, mostly from world renowned estates in California and Australia, such as Stag’s Leap, Beringer, Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Rosemount. They also have estates in New Zealand, Argentina and Italy. Many of their wines can be found at the LCBO and VINTAGES but others are available by the case through their consignment program.

The WineAlign Toronto team recently unearthed the following gems during a late November Buy the Case tasting of wines offered by Treasury Wine Estates.

Two of the wines tasted were selected by all 5 writers, so if you are looking for a couple of great wines to have on hand by buying or splitting a case then check out Stags’ Leap 2012 Napa Valley Petite Sirah and Wynns 2013 The Gables Cabernet Shiraz.

Most also thought that Stags’ Leap 2012 Napa Valley Merlot would be a great addition to anyone’s cellar.

If you are selecting wines for a restaurant list, three wines Chateau St. Jean 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Pepperjack 2013 Shiraz and Gabbiano 2012 Solatio would all be good wine-by-the-glass selections.

Below are recommended picks and suggested reasons why you might consider buying by the case.

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

2015-12-03_16-57-25David Lawrason – As the black colour indicates this is very full bodied, dense, tannic and chewy. And like so many petite sirahs the nose is nothing to write home about – closed and curmudgeonly, with overripe dark fruit, raisiny fruit, damp wood and chocolate. But it has very good concentration and complexity. Needs some time (maybe three to five years). A winter warmer with game, stews and roasts. Split a case with like-minded lovers of big red.
Steve Thurlow – I have always liked this wine from Stags’ Leap for its elegance and pureness. The nose like many petite sirah (aka durif) is not that interesting with aromas of dusty black cherry but the palate is super smooth and very finely balanced with a wonderful poise and very good length. Try with roast beef. Best 2015 to 2020.
Sara d’Amato – Petite sirah can often be overwhelmingly the opposite of petite – dark, intense and tannic. Despite the black, smoky fruit notable in this example, it is also refreshingly open and there is a lightness here that makes it ready to drink and inviting. Pretty, elegant and with complex aromatics.
Michael Godel – A clear distinction can be ascertained from the Stag’s Leap house style across the varietal reds, even in an example like the devilishly rich Petite Sirah. This is quite restrained for the expatriate French variety (called durif), balanced and alcohol gentle, relatively speaking. The Stag’s Leap achieves that rare combination of big and easy. Would make for a good change of pace, either as a curio or a split a case selection.
John Szabo – A perennial favourite of mine from Stags’ Leap, this savage and savoury petite sirah offers a fine mix of earth, fruit, resinous herbs and dark fruit character. Tannins are still firm and burly, but there’s more than ample fruit to ensure proper integration in time. A cellar selection, best after 2018.

Wynns The Gables 2013 Cabernet Shiraz, Coonawarra, Australia ($19.95)

Steve Thurlow – This is a very fine classic Coonawarra cabernet shiraz blend with appealing aromas of blackberry and blueberry fruit with prune, lemon, tobacco and earthy tones. The palate is very pure with clean firm lines and juicy blackberry fruit finely balanced by finely divided tannin and lemony acidity. It will gain in complexity as the tannins fold into the wine if given further bottle age developing more savoury notes in the future. Best 2015 to 2025. Very good length. Though drinking well now this is a great cellar candidate and is awesome value.Wynns Coonawarra Estate The Gables 2013
Sara d’Amato – Possibly the best value of the lot, “The Gables” cabernet sauvignon offers wild and savoury flavours consistent with cabernets produced in the region’s rich, terra rossa soils. A touch of eucalyptus and pine on the finish adds typicity and charm.
Michael Godel – In ode to one of the architectural icons of the Wynns estate, this has classic Coonawarra looks and suave charisma. It’s also electric and alive and represents terrific Cabernet Sauvignon value from an Australian region where that continues to become the norm, not the anomaly. Would make an excellent restaurant pour by the glass with rich winter braises.
John Szabo – There’s nothing from Wynns I wouldn’t happily drink, and this well-priced cabernet offers fine character and genuine depth, complexity and balance. I appreciate the fresh mint-tinged cassis fruit and brambly pine needle flavours. A highly versatile wine to have around the house for all occasions.
David Lawrason – Great value for a modest home cellar and weekend drinking with steaks. This is a generously flavoured yet compact cab-shiraz with black cherry, pepper, cedar and vaguely iron-like minerality typical of Coonawarra. It’s medium-full bodied and vibrant with considerable tannin. Australia can do this grape combo better than most, and Coonawarra leads the pack. Best 2017 to 2022.

Stags’ Leap 2012 Merlot,Napa Valley ($39.95)

David Lawrason – Merlot always plays second fiddle to cab in Napa, but this highly structured version rises up to cab stature – for less. It is a full bodied, fairly firm and dense merlot, with excellent length. Some grit and tension here so worth cellaring. Best 2020 to 2025.
John Szabo – A well crafted example from a reliable Napa name, Stags’ Leap’s 2012 Merlot is a dense and plummy, fruity and spicy wine, with bright, lively acids and moderate, lightly grippy tannins. All elements are in proportion and harmony, and length and depth are superior to the mean. A premium selection to gift to, or share, with special friends.
Steve Thurlow – An elegant classy mid-weight merlot with aromas of plum and red berry fruit with mild nicely integrated oak plus some earthy tones. The palate is juicy and mid-weight with fine tannins and vibrant acidity. Very good length. Try with roast beef. Best 2015 to 2019.

Stags' Leap Winery Merlot 2012Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Chateau St. Jean 2012, Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95)

Michael Godel – Composed from fruit drawn out of the North Coast and Central Coast, this Cabernet Sauvignon works in the simplest, apropos ways. Highly aromatic, well-structured, righteously crafted and respectfully restrained. Would proudly pour any night of the week as a house wine.
Steve Thurlow – This is a pretty very appealing cabernet with some nice floral tones to the cassis fruit and oak spice. The mid-weight palate is soft and juicy and dry with some mild tannin on the finish. Good to very good length. A good wine by the glass selection.

Pepperjack Shiraz 2013, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($24.95)

David Lawrason – Here’s a great wine for a premium by-the-glass pour. It’s authentically Barossa, deep and even yet not as brutish as some, making it enjoyable as a sipper or with food. Love the sultry nose of cassis, vanilla cream, mossy earthiness, subtle ginger and chocolate. It’s full bodied, fairly dense yet elegant.
Sara d’Amato – A very peppery Barossa shiraz, dense with a terrific concentration of black fruit. Firing on all cylinders here, there is no shortage of bang but with less oak than expected. The delicate smokiness compliments the fruit. Rich, savoury, and dry with notable balance. Very good length.

Pepperjack Shiraz Saltram Of Barossa 2013Gabbiano Solatio 2012

Gabbiano Solatio 2012, Tuscany, Italy ($16.95)

David Lawrason – This delivers basic Tuscan character and some charm at a fair price, so consider a case for by-the-glass pours, banquets or larger home or office gatherings. It is light to medium bodied red with vague floral notes, some grainy/malty character, plus some nougat and chocolate. Quite sleek with fresh acidity and fine tannin. Approachable now.
Steve Thurlow – This is a red blend of 50% syrah, 45% cabernet franc and 5% sangiovese with aromas of black cherry fruit with prune, lemon and mild oak spice. It is mid-weight and soft with the ripe fruit balanced by soft tannin and gentle acidity. The finish is a little hot from alcohol but the length is very good. A powerful wine for hearty stews. Best 2015 to 2018.

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

This report was sponsored by the Treasury Wine Estates. WineAlign critics have independently recommended the above wines based on reviews that are posted on WineAlign as part of this sponsored tasting. Treasury has provided the following agency profile with more details on their consignment program and delivery options.

Consignment at Treasury Wine Estates:

treasury_wine_estatesWe are passionate about providing our clientele with the very best wines and service in the industry. We provide daytime delivery to your residence or office within the Greater Toronto Area. This service is completely complimentary, regardless of the volume purchased. We strive to ensure that all orders are delivered within five business days.

Our consignment program has been designed to make the procurement of our fine wines simple and bespoke. Wines can also be delivered to an LCBO store of your choice at no additional cost. This service usually takes two to four weeks however, could take longer based on the geographical location of the clientele’s LCBO of choice. The cases arrive pre-paid and we simply email an invoice or credit card slip in advance. The store will then call to notify you when the requested wine has arrived.

Throughout the process, your personal consignment concierge is only a phone call or email away if there are any questions.

Phone: 905-337-6217 | Mobile: 416-358-0177

leslie.gray@tweglobal.com | orders.consignment@tweglobal.com

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