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Turkey time with bill zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Thanksgiving weekend folks. Time to pull out they sweaters and tuques, rake the leaves and stick that Turkey in the oven. But what to drink? A few weeks back I spent a day in the kitchen putting together a pre-Thanksgiving, traditional turkey feast for the purpose of trying out different pairing ideas. There was roast turkey, stuffing, mushroom gravy, cranberry sauce, brussel sprouts and mashed potatoes.

Aside from being a great excuse to pack back some Champagne and other refreshers during the day, my aim was to test drive some wines and see what are the range of options we have when it comes to matching wine with the big bird. The results? While it confirmed what I usually suggest, there were a few surprises.

Big Bird theory

Now I am not a turkey hater, but like most poultry, turkey is a rather neutral meat. Okay, the dark meat can have a touch more flavour, but all in all, there’s not much there. So the more flavourful stuff tends to come more from what it is served with the meal than from the bird itself.

So the pairing is about the accompaniments. For most of us that means cranberry sauce (which adds fruit, sweetness and acidity), stuffing and sauces (both which can add richness and flavour). We want our wines to either add something or support what’s on the table.

The first wine style that we can dismiss are young tannic red wines. Turkey is low in fat which is why when it is cooked it can get a bit dry. Because there is little fat, there is nothing for the tannins of a very young red wine to grab on to, so I would leave the powerful, more tannic wines for another meal. This does not necessarily mean that your favourite Bordeaux and high-octane Californian cabernets are out, but they had better have a bit of age under their belts.

One of my favourite wines was a pink Champagne. It had the body for the bird, the acidity to match up the cranberry and was just plain fun to drink. One of the best value Champagnes at the SAQ is from Ayala, so if you want to go classy this weekend, try the Rosé Majeur.

Ayala Rosé MajeurChâteau Laffitte Teston Ericka 2012Hugel Gewurztraminer 2012

If you aren’t big on cranberry, but love lots of gravy, then a rich white can also do the trick. Most chardonnay will work, but if you want something more exotic, especially with aromatic stuffing, then try the 2012 Pacherenc du Vic Bilh Ericka from Lafitte Teston.

If you like lots of cranberry as well as stuffing, then a gewurtraminer will do the trick. Hugel’s 2012 is exceptional.

But most of you want red. The best wines too choose are lighter styled reds – Beaujolais and pinot noir, which have bright fruit, low tannin and good acidity to play off the cranberry sauce. So any light fruity wine will do, but as it’s a holiday, it’s the perfect time for Burgundy.

Jean Claude Boisset Bourgogne Les Ursulines 2012Domaine René Bouvier Bourgogne Pinot Noir Le Chapitre 2012Hoya De Cadenas Reserva Tempranillo 2010Tardieu Laurent Les Becs Fins 2012Fattoria Casa Di Terra Mosaico 2010

I tasted two excellent and well priced generic Burgundy recently. Try with the 2012 Ursuline from Boisset or La Chapitre from Rene Bouvier. Both are under $25 and work exceptionally well with everything on the table.

If you have a lot of people, this can be a pricey affair if you are paying for the wine. At under $13, the 2010 reserva from Hoya de Cadenas blew me away for its finesse. Pinot noir-esque in many ways despite being made with tempranillo.

If you want more substance and pinot isn’t your thing, then try the 2012 Les Becs Fins from Tardieu Laurent. Fruit driven Cote du Rhone where freshness is up front and then tannin is ripe and round.

And finally, if you want a wine that incredible elegance and finesse, but still juicy and will work at the table, splurge on the Mosaico from Fattoria Casa di Terra. The 2010 might be one of the best wines I have tasted over the past few months.

Enjoy the long weekend folks!


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

Editors Note: You can find Bill’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. Premium subscribers to Chacun son vin see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see newly posted reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Oct 11th – Part One

Piedmont and Miscellaneous Top Whites
By John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The VINTAGES October 11th release features Sonoma County and Piedmont. But since the Sonoma County Vintners will be in town next week and we’ll be out tasting many more wines beyond what’s on offer at the LCBO, we’ve decided to hold off on that theme to bring you more market coverage – David will lead off with that next week.

Piedmont is one of the regions in which you could lock me up for a long time with little hardship felt, except if I could only drink the wines hitting LCBO shelves on October 11th. This week we’ll cherry pick the best of a middling release. We’ll also highlight a handful of miscellaneous but superior white wines, with reds to come next week.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images. You can also find the complete list of each VINTAGES release under Wine >> New Releases. Remember, however, that to access this list and to read all of the reviews you do need to subscribe (only $40/year). Paid subscribers get immediate access to new reviews, while non-paid members do not see reviews until 60 days later. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Buyer’s Guide VINTAGES October 11: Piedmont

Borgogno 2012 Langhe Freisa, Piedmont, Italy ($21.95)
John Szabo – If there’s one wine from Piedmont worth buying in this release, this is it, especially for fans of traditional and authentic regional specialties. Freisa is a rare local variety, a relative (likely a parent according to DNA) of nebbiolo, and the stylistic similarity is obvious. The colour is pale, the texture is firm and dusty, acids are juicy and the flavours run in the fresh tobacco red berry (freisa means strawberry) spectrum. It’s the sort of wine I could sip all evening with a wide variety of food based on protein, fat and salt, like charcuterie. Best 2014-2018.
Sara d’Amato – There’s more to the reds of Piedmont than nebbiolo and barbera and if you’ve never heard of freisa, this example is not to be missed. The variety is similar to nebbiolo in its bitter and tannic character and is known for its polarizing effect among wine drinkers and critics alike. Regardless, this version delivers serious impact and great complexity for only a small investment.

Sobrero 2009 Ciabot Tanasio Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($37.95)
John Szabo – This reasonably priced Barolo is assembled from three cru sites in Castiglione Falletto: Ornato, Piantà and Valentino, aged in large Slavonian botti in the traditional style. The warm 2009 growing season is reflected in the ripe, supple fruit, even if the palate delivers significant structure, firm and dusty tannins; power and length are impressive. Best 2016-2023.
Sara d’Amato – An absolutely breathtaking Barolo at a steal of a price – I imagine this will fly off the shelves. This compelling find features graceful maturity, near perfect harmony and real elegance. David Lawrason – It’s not the ringer of the year by any means, but it’s certainly decent value in the pricey Barolo category – a maturing 100% nebbiolo from a more approachable vintage aged two years in 50hl barrels.

Borgogno Langhe Freisa 2012 Sobrero Ciabot Tanasio Barolo 2009 Prunotto Mompertone 2011 Prunotto Mompertone 2011 Dolianum San Maté Dogliani 2011 Gaja Sito Moresco 2012

Prunotto 2011 Mompertone, Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy ($18.95)
David Lawrason – I have also been a fan of the reds from Monferrato, a verdant region of eastern Piedmont where Italian and French varieties blend effortlessly. This 60% barbera, 40% syrah blend has verve and style – a little less edgy than its nebbiolo neighbours but still energetic. Excellent value from a great house.

Travaglini 2008 Gattinara, Piedmont, Italy ($29.95)
David Lawrason – This is about the only wine we ever see from Gattinara, one of a handful of small appellations northwest of Milan in the Novara Hills region where nebbiolo presides. Barolo and Barberesco are from further south in the Langhe hills. I find the aromatics to be absolutely emblematic of Piedmont reds with reserved but complex sour currant, tomato leaf, cinna-clove spice, chinoot and fresh herbs. Ready to drink.

Dolianum 2011 San Maté Dogliani, Piedmont, Italy, ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – A delightful, solo-sipping crowd pleaser with easy appeal. This is a wonderful expression of the soft, fruity dolcetto grape and a very good value.

Gaja 2012 Sito Moresco, Langhe, Piedmont, Italy, ($61.95)
Sara d’Amato – This sophisticated but unusual nebbiolo, merlot and cabernet blend offers a great deal of fruit, elegance, structure and succulence. Beautifully balanced with lovely notes of rose and black pepper on the youthful but approachable palate.

Buyer’s Guide VINTAGES October 11: White Wines

Argyros 2013 Assyrtiko, PDO Santorini, Greece ($19.95)
John Szabo – I highlighted another wine from Argyros, the outstanding 2013 Santorini Estate, in a recent posting on Greek whites, and this wine is very nearly as compelling. Yields were down at the estate in 2013 resulting in wines of singular density and weigh, and there’s palpable astringency from tannins even though this is made from free-run juice (according to the estate manager, the dry extract here is off the charts). At the same time, acids are extraordinarily fresh and crisp, almost electric, and the finish quivers on a mineral-salty string. So tightly wound, this will last 10+ years without any stretch, and really shouldn’t be touched for another 2-3 years.

Studert-Prüm 2012 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany ($28.95)
John Szabo – A gorgeous, lively, slatey, classic Mosel riesling with that inimitable pitch-perfect balance of acids and sugars (this is an off-medium-dry wine) that keeps you coming back for more. Best 2016-2024.

Argyros Assyrtiko 2013 Studert Prüm Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2012 Jean Max Roger Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre 2012 Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 André Blanck Et Ses Fils Altenbourg Gewurztraminer 2013

Jean-Max Roger 2012 Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre AC, Loire, France ($25.95)
John Szabo – A step up from the 2011 in intensity and ripeness, as well as complexity, the 2012 Les Caillottes (named for the particular soil type in which these grapes grow), is a marvellous wine of place rather than grape. It’s full of very organic, natural wet wool and decaying stone aromas, and waxy, lanolin and honeyed notes. Best 2014-2019.

Le Clos Jordanne 2011 Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Chardonnay VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($40.00)
John Szabo – The 2011 Clos Jordanne chardonnays (and pinots) have taken some time to come around, but are showing plenty of purity and finesse at the moment. This wine is all about filigree texture and fine length, without the drive and power of some vintages, but all the more refined for it. Cellar for another 2-3 years for a fully mature, savoury, integrated, old world style expression.

André Blanck Et Ses Fils 2013 Altenbourg Gewurztraminer AC Alsace, France ($19.95)
John Szabo – The Altenbourg is a great site for gewurztraminer, and this example from André Blanck captures the depth and the richness potential nicely at the price.

Cave Spring 2012 Estate Bottled Gewürztraminer Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($17.95)
John Szabo – Very nearly as good as the above, and in a similar vein, Cave Spring’s 2012 gewürztraminer is a full, lush, exuberant example, off-dry but balanced by both acids and a pleasant phenolic bitterness, one of the region’s best.

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Gewürztraminer 2012 Solar Das Bouças Loureiro 2013 No Unauthorized Reproduction @Jason Dziver Albert Schoech Réserve Gewurztraminer 2012

Solar Das Bouças 2013 Loureiro, Vinho Verde, Portugal ($13.95)
John Szabo – For pre-dinner sipping it’s hard to beat the top stuff coming out of Vinho Verde, Portugal’s most improved region in the last decade. The keenly priced Solar das Bouças, belonging to the Van Zeller family, comes from south facing vineyards on the north banks of the Cávado River. The floral loureiro variety speaks loudly in this wine, offering an enticing bouquet of citrus and apple blossom alongside tart green apple fruit.

Nk’mip Qwam Qwmt 2012 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada ($22.95)
David Lawrason – Nk’Mip finished a strong third overall in the 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada (it’s consistently in the top ten), and this great value took home a silver medal.  Winemaker Randy Picton and his assistant winemakers from the Osoyoos Band are doing some great work and this bright, ripe and rich peachy chardonnay is a case in point – and very good value.

Albert Schoech 2012 Réserve Gewürztraminer, Alsace, France ($17.95)
David Lawrason – Alsatian gewurz gets snapped up a great rate – whenever I go looking for textbook examples to pour in my WSET classes, the shelves are bare. I expect this new arrival to suffer the same fate. Great value in a very fine gewurz that is not as oily and rich as some but has great aromatics and freshness. Welcome Albert Schoech to Ontario for the first time – and come again.

That’s all for this week. For those of you in Toronto, don’t miss the chance to join the WineAlign team at the ROM on October 16th. It’s WineAlign’s inaugural Champions Tasting where you get the opportunity to taste only the top award wining wines from The Nationals and The Worlds.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES Oct 11th:

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews

Celebrating Wolf Blass

Champions Tasting

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Sept 27th – Part Two

Big Bird Reds & Rhône FindsSept. 25, 2014

by David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo MS

David New 2014

David Lawrason

I have written before that the Thanksgiving feast may not be the ideal place to enjoy wines of great nuance and subtlety. There is a lot of competition from plates heaped high, the hubbub of assembled family young and old, and the family dog, denied scraps, whimpering in the corner. And certainly among a larger group of diners there will be some that could care less what they are drinking. So unless you have Thanksgiving dinner completely under control I would lean to more mid-priced priced, vibrant, juicy and flavourful wines. And despite turkey being a bird – I would go with reds to wade into the gravy, savoury dressing and especially the dark meat. So please see some of our selections from our critics below. But if it’s white you are after read John Szabo’s Part One preview here, plus reviews from the Portugal feature and an unexpected line-up of decent Bordeaux.

Sometimes we follow VINTAGES themes in these reports, sometimes not. There was nothing to add to the magazine’s “Groundbreakers” theme, so we strike off on our own, having found a wine or two or three from a region that just can’t be ignored. This happened for Sara, John and I in this release, when we tasted two terrific Rasteau from the southern Rhône, plus others from nearby appellations. These Rhône villages – dotted like stones on a necklace below the jawline of the toothy Dentelles Mountains on the eastern flank of the valley – continue to offer great values. Alas the Rasteau are In-Store Discoveries only to be found in a few larger stores, but they are very much worth seeking out.

And again, as you create your shopping list I want to remind you that wines we highlight below are by no means the only wines worth considering from this mammoth release. Subscribers can check out our complete takes – critic by critic – by clicking here.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images below. You can also find the complete list of each VINTAGES release under Wine >> New Releases. Remember, however, that to access this list and to read all of the reviews you do need to subscribe (only $40/year). Paid subscribers get immediate access to new reviews, while non-paid members do not see reviews until 60 days later. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Thanksgiving Reds

Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 2012

Burrowing Owl 2012 Cabernet FrancBurrowing Owl 2012 Cabernet Franc, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia  ($43.95)
David Lawrason – The fruit ripeness, the savoury sage notes and the plush feel of this fine cab franc should make it a turkey shoe-in. Burrowing Owl reds continue to be a go-to. But you may be interested and chagrined to know this wine is selling for $33 at the winery. LCBO policy that treats BC wines as imports are a major reason why BC wines are not better represented here. This behaviour by a government agency in Canada is just not right.

Hamilton Russell 2012 Pinot Noir, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa ($44.95)
John Szabo – For those seeking a more gentle Thanksgiving red that still has enough plush fruit and spice to manage the most overcooked of turkeys, try this pinot from the Walker Bay pioneer. Nearly thirty years on, Anthony Hamilton-Russell still leads the pack in the region crafting in 2012 a pinot of distinctive fruit intensity, depth, length and concentration. Best 2016-2024.

Errazuriz 2012 Aconcagua Costa Syrah, Chile $24.95
David Lawrason – I am still not universally smitten by Chilean syrah, and it is a wine still evolving. I think that new vineyards in the cooler coastal regions are the right direction. This has a hugely lifted aroma of blackcurrant, mint and chocolate. It’s slimmer than many Chilean syrahs but loaded with flavour and very bright. So very juicy!

Vignerons De Bel Air Hiver Gourmand Morgon 2012

Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Syrah 2012Vignerons De Bel Air 2012 Hiver Gourmand Morgon, Beaujolais, France ($17.95)
Sara D’Amato –
Sensually spiced and light enough to pair with bird of any kind, this well-priced Morgon is a sophisticated addition to a Thanksgiving table. A fine expression of gamay’s versatility and wildly appealing nature.

Alto Moncayo 2011 Veraton DO Campo de Borja, Spain ($29.95)
John Szabo – Riffing off of a similar theme, this old vine grenache, some over 100 years old, from northern Spain is a terrific bargain for those who like it big. The bodega is a joint venture that includes US wine importer Jorge Ordoñez, and the stylistic direction clearly takes it’s cue from the new world. Massive concentration, high 15.5% alcohol, and a year and a half in America oak combine to create this rich, sweet, mouthfilling wine that manages to retain miraculous balance and appeal. Best 2016-2021.

Guenoc 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lake County, California $19.95
David Lawrason – From a large but hidden gem property in Lake County north of Napa, this has some stuffing; as cabernet should – and the classic, cassis fruit, roasted red pepper, tobacco and cedar will work well with turkey. Great value, precisely because it’s not from somewhere more famous, but this is a wonderful site.

Plowbuster 2012 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA ($25.95)
John Szabo – Named to honour the challenge of farming vineyards in the Willamette Valley strewn with large basalt boulders, Plowbuster’s 2012 is a fine and well-priced pinot. It straddles the old/world stylistic divide, showing lightly oxidative character and firm tannins further tightened by high acids, yet also succulent and concentrated, juicy fruit. Best 2015-2022.

Alto Moncayo Veraton 2011 Guenoc Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Plowbuster Pinot Noir 2012 Badia A Coltibuono Chianti Classico 2010 Stoney Ridge Cranberry Wine 2011

Badia A Coltibuono 2010 Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy ($24.95)
John Szabo – For a cranberry meets cranberry pairing, try this simple but classy, regionally representative example of Chianti Classico made from organically-grown grapes. I appreciate the zesty acids and light dusty tannins in the Tuscan idiom. And if you need a story to tell around the table, you can mention that Badia a Coltibuono has been around for a while, since 1051 to be precise. That was the year in which the monks of Vallombrosa began construction on this property, named literally “the abbey of good harvests”. Best 2014-2020.

Stoney Ridge 2011 Cranberry Wine, Ontario, $17.95
Sara D’Amato – A long-time producer of fruit wines, under the direction of former winemaker and fruit wine enthusiast, Jim Warren, Stoney Ridge continues to produce its most popular fruit wine just in time for the holidays. The winery claims that this release is “better than ever” and I would have to agree. It isn’t sweet nor is it too tart or intense. It is light, very flavourful and nicely balanced. With an alcohol level at just over 10%, this lighter wine can help you keep pace throughout your celebration and will nicely compliment that turkey.

Rhône Finds

Domaine Les Aphillanthes 2012 “1921” Côtes Du Rhône-Villages Rasteau, Rhône Valley, France ($37.95)
Domaine Grand Nicolet Les Esqueyrons Rasteau 2012 Domaine Les Aphillanthes 1921 2012John Szabo – Plush, spicy, grenache-based reds from the southern Rhône are terrific with roast turkey, and there’s no better example in the release than this one. From a biodynamically certified estate (Biodivin since 2007), this is exceptional Rasteau made by the husband and wife team of Danielle and Hélène Boulle is a powerful and complex wine, easily the equal of many Chateauneufs at 1.5x the price. Drink during this thanksgiving dinner, or anytime over the next decade.
David Lawrason – This is a refined, generous and delicious. Ambitiously priced for Rasteau and some may want a bit more structure but it is precisely appointed with florals, fruit and spice and has great concentration. Yet there is an almost airy feel unusual in the Rhône.

Domaine Grand Nicolet 2012 Les Esqueyrons Rasteau, Rhône Valley, ($35.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very impressive Rasteau, by a family domain with 16 ha in the appellation. Les Esqueyrons is a southeast facing site on clay limestone, comprised of 50% grenache from 60-year-old vines, and 50% syrah from 30year old vines – harvested at a very low 20 hls/hectare.  The nose is a bit shy but it somehow still oozes fruit richness with plum, olive and even some cranberry lift. What focus and concentration!

Domaine Jean Deydier & Fils Les Clefs D'or Châteauneuf Du Pape 2010

Domaine Brusset Tradition Le Grand Montmirail Gigondas 2012

Domaine Des Andrines 2012, Côtes Du RhôneDomaine Des Andrines Côtes Du Rhône 2012, Rhône Valley, France  ($17.95)
Sara D’Amato – Located just outside Avignon, the city of Popes, Domaine des Adrines grows their old vine syrah, grenache and carignan on premium terra rossa soils topped with the large galets common to the top sites of the south.  With very little notable oak, fine balance and appealing peppery fruit, this affable blend is an excellent value.
David Lawrason – Straight up great value in a young approachable Rhône

Domaine Brusset 2012 Tradition Le Grand Montmirail, Gigondas, Rhône Valley ($29.95)
Sara D’Amato – Planted on the foothills of the “Dentelles de Montmirail” at 250 meters, this traditional, handpicked grenache based blend offers lovely freshness, pepper and garrigue. Exhibiting an authentic sense of place, this solidly built Gigondas shows excellent focus and age-worthiness.

Domaine Jean Deydier & Fils 2010 Les Clefs d’Or Tradition Vieilles Vignes, Châteauneuf Du Pape, Rhône Valley ($44.95)
Sara D’Amato – Grenache reigns supreme in this traditional Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend. Ripe fruit, savory notes and big perfume make for an intense blend that is still quite youthful.

And that’s it for this issue. We return next week with Part One of another sprawling release that features Sonoma, dovetailing with VINTAGES Sonoma event at the Royal Ontario Museum on October 9th. If you are looking for Ontario wine country action this weekend head to Prince Edward County Saturday for TASTE community grown as some of the region’s finest chefs, winemakers, craft beer producers and farmers gather from 11am to 5pm at the Crystal Palace in Picton. Newly named (formerly Taste the County) it is broadening its appeal beyond the wineries, and includes seminars on starting a brewery, foraging the County, mixology and more.

I look forward to seeing many of you at the Rarer Than Unicorn event on Oct 8th at Crush Wine Bar where agent Alto Vino will showcase some examples of the rare wines they represent. (Find out more about their wine and get your tickets here)


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES September 27th release:

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews
Sept 27th Part One – Thanksgiving Whites, Value Portugal & Bordeaux

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

AdvertisementsBeringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Sept 27th – Part One

Whites for Thanksgiving, Value Portugal and Bordeaux for the Cellar
By John Szabo MS with notes from David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The September 27th VINTAGES release is rich with choice, like a groaning table at a Thanksgiving feast. And with Thanksgiving around the corner, we’ll look at some of the best white wine options to consider for the holiday, with reds to follow next week.

I’ll still be in Portugal by the time this report is published, a trip that coincides unintentionally with VINTAGES mini-thematic on this outer sliver of the Iberian Peninsula. I’ve long considered Portugal fertile hunting ground for value thanks to the confluence of numerous factors, not least of which include a wealth of little-known but high quality indigenous grapes, the tremendous stylistic diversity born of multiple terroirs from the scorching Alentejo to the cool, green Minho in the north, the technical proficiency acquired in the post Salazar, post coop-dominated era, and the complexity of untangling it all which slows commercial success and results in lower price to quality ratios. There are a couple of enticing values that are worth your attention in this release.

And finally, we’ll cover a particularly strong range of Bordeaux red hitting the shelves on the 27th, highlighting some top candidates for mid or long-term ageing mainly from the excellent 2010 vintage. The 2010s seems to once again be revealing their true potential after an initial “closed” period when they were obviously angry for being awoken prematurely from their slumber. You can of course spend really big money on 2010 Bordeaux, into triple digits and beyond, but we’ve found a handful at $60 or under that should satisfy the most discerning palates. But, patience required.

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images. You can also find the complete list of each VINTAGES release under Wine >> New Releases. Remember, however, that to access this list and to read all of the reviews you do need to subscribe (only $40/year). Paid subscribers get immediate access to new reviews, while non-paid members do not see reviews until 60 days later. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Buyer’s Guide VINTAGES September 27th 2014:

Thanksgiving Whites

I find that whites with just a pinch of sweetness, or at least the impression of sweetness (not fully desert-style), make for some of the best pairings with a traditional Thanksgiving Turkey. All those side dishes often have a sweet taste of their own, like the sweet-sour tang of cranberry sauce, or that sweet potato mash, which will turn most bone-dry wines sour and hard. Then there’s the turkey meat itself: lean, dry (often too dry from over-roasting), in need of an acid snap and some succulence and fat from the wine. Enter the perfectly balanced, off-dry genre.

Try one or more of these recommendations out, either in the off-dry, floral/fragrant/ fruity, or rich and satisfying categories, each with engaging character.


Wegeler 2012 Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau Germany ($24.95).
Clos Le Vigneau Vouvray 2012 Wegeler Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett 2012John Szabo – One of the great vineyards of the Rheingau, this example of the Berg Schlossberg is terrifically mineral, fresh, crisp and off-dry, with great length and depth. Everything is in picture-perfect balance. Best 2014-2022.

Clos Le Vigneau 2012 Vouvray, Loire, France ($19.95).
John Szabo – Made by well-respected winemaker Alexandre Monmousseau, this is a Vouvray of superior complexity and balance. I appreciate the purity and freshness, the fine-tuned balance between a modest pinch of sugar and tight acids, and the lingering finish. Classy and elegant; best 2014-2020.


Tegernseerhof 2012 Grüner Veltliner Bergdistel Smaragd, Wachau Austria ($24.95).
John Szabo – “Smaragd” is a regulated term in the Wachau which refers to ripeness at harvest and finished alcohol – it’s the richest category after Steinfeder and Federspiel (it comes from the word “emerald”, which in turn describes the colour of the lizards that sun themselves on the warmest rocks of the region). Tegerseerhof has mad a terrific 2012, evidently ripe and concentrated, full-bodied and plush yet briskly acidic. This has layers and layers of flavour, and superior complexity. Best 2014-2020.

Tegernseerhof Smaragd Bergdistel Grüner Veltliner 2012

Castello Di Neive Montebertotto Arneis 2012

La Guardiense Janare Senete Falanghina 2012Castello Di Neive 2012 Montebertotto Arneis, Piedmont, Italy ($18.95).
John Szabo – Castello di Neive regularly over-delivers (they make a fine Barbaresco for the money, too), and this is a pleasantly fragrant example of the aromatic arneis variety. I enjoy the vibrant apple and pear flavours, slipping over into an engaging floral range. Enjoy now.

La Guardiense 2012 Janare Senete Falanghina Sannio, Campania, Italy ($14.95)
David Lawrason – I was very taken with this wine; with it’s fine sense of florality and freshness. But its southern hot climate weight and richness should make if a good candidate for heaviness of a Thanksgiving meal. Sannio is new appellation (est 1997) that confines viticulture to cooler hillside locations to ensure better structure in the wines.

Rich and Satisfiying

Bonterra 2012 Viognier, Mendocino & Lake Counties, California, USA ($19.95).
Shafer Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay 2012 Gloria Ferrer Chardonnay 2011 Bonterra Viognier 2012John Szabo – An intense, very floral and ripe viognier dripping with peach and apricot jam, violets, apple purée and ginger spice – tailor made for Thanksgiving dinner. The palate is full and gives an impression of sweetness, while the finish is long. Enjoy now.

Gloria Ferrer 2011 Chardonnay, Carneros, California ($24.95)
David Lawrason – I wouldn’t hesitate for a minute to open two or three bottles of this for a Thanksgiving banquet, (as long as red (pinot) is open as well.  The richness and weight of California chardonnay is ideal in this setting. This is a somewhat mild mannered, very well balanced edition that will appeal widely before and during your Thanksgiving dinner.

Shafer 2012 Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay, Carneros, California ($67.95)
David Lawrason – If you want to go big with your Thanksgiving dinner – and also show some largesse –  this is a beauty. Not too fat and sweet; not to lean and green. Great balance and depth here. Very polished as well. Red Shoulder Ranch is large single vineyard of 68 acres near San Pablo Bay; and has long been one of my favourite California chardonnays.


Deu La Deu Alvarinho Vinho Verde 2013

Quinta De Pancas Selecção Do Enólogo 2010Deu La Deu 2013 Alvarinho Vinho Verde, Monção e Melgaço, Portugal ($19.95).
John Szabo – Albariño, as it’s known in Spain, has by now gained some mainstream traction thanks chiefly to the fine wines emerging from the Rias Baixas region of Galicia. But northern Portugal, and particularly the vineyards around the towns of Monçao and Melgaço that are just across the river from Spain, are quickly catching up on quality. This is a perfumed, lime and lemon-scented example, with apple blossom and other pretty white floral notes, more full-bodied and drier than the basic level of Vinho Verde. Sara d’Amato – A head-turner in the tasting lab at the LCBO last week, this terrific Vinho Verde is sure to have wide appeal. This fresh, vibrant wine’s release begs for an Indian Summer! Notes of Asian pear, green apple, starfruit and tender floral blossoms linger on the finish of this full-flavoured wine.

Quinta De Pancas 2010 Selecção do Enólogo, Lisboa, Portugal ($18.95).
John Szabo – A particularly spicy, black pepper scented blend of touriga nacional, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and alicante that could pass for syrah tasted blind. The palate is fullish and plush, ripe but balanced, with succulent acids and genuine depth. Drink now. David Lawrason – Quinta de Pancas is fine 50 ha property north of Lisbon that has been producing wine for over 500 years, most recently focused on combining native varieties like touriga and alicante with cabernet and merlot. This is packs notable complexity and depth for the money – great value!

Quinta Do Côa Vinho Tinto 2012

Casa Da Passarella 2010 Somontes RedCasa Da Passarella Somontes Red 2010, Dão Portugal ($13.95).
John Szabo – The Dão is one of my favourite regions in Portugal. It’s cooler here than in either the Alentejo or most parts of the Douro, and consistently yields wines of character, elegance and class. This is a cracking value blend of touriga nacional, tinta roriz (tempranillo), alfrocheiro and jaen (mencía), firm and juicy, fresh and pleasantly herbal. Best 2014-2017.

Quinta Do Côa 2012 Vinho Tinto, Douro, Portugal ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – Producer of the better known “Carm” series of wines, Quinta do Côa’s “estate” series is equally appealing as is exemplified in this expressive touriga nacional based blend. With the balance, weight, concentration and structure of a much more expensive wine, you’ll be sure to impress with this divine Douro.

Bordeaux For the Cellar

Château Rol Valentin 2010, Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France ($61.85).
John Szabo –  A big, full, solidly composed, densely structured and very ripe Saint Emilion here, with palate warming alcohol declared at 14%, and abundant but very ripe tannins. This is massive and concentrated, still years away from prime drinking. Try after 2018, or hold until 2030 or beyond.

Château Fonréaud 2010, Listrac-Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($30.95).
John Szabo – A classic and structured left bank Bordeaux from the less-celebrated Listrac AOC, and hence fine value, over-delivering on all levels. This should develop nicely over the next 2-4 years or so, and drink well into the mid-twenties.

Château Rol Valentin 2010 Château Fonréaud 2010 Château St. Georges 2010

Château St. Georges 2010, St-Georges St-Émilion Bordeaux, France ($39.95).
John Szabo – this is an evidently ambitious and ripe, concentrated “satellite” Saint Emilion, which could be mistaken for Napa cabernet out of context with its 14.5% declared alcohol and dense, ultra ripe dark fruit flavour. Yet there’s still acid and tannic grip underlying the ensemble, which should allow much better integration over the next 3-5 years. Best 2018-2030. David Lawrason – And while we are on the subject of venerable properties producing undervalued great wine, don’t miss Chateau St. Georges.  The chateau itself, which sits back on the plateau a few kms from St. Emilion the town, is one of the great monuments in all of Bordeaux.  And given the  class, depth and youth of this wine (thanks in part to the 2010 vintage) it clearly belongs in the company of the classed growths. Our gain price-wise that is not in the official hierarchy

Château Grand Corbin-Despagne 2010, Saint-Émilion Bordeaux, France ($46.85).
John Szabo – This wine is for the more classically-inclined, refined, old school drinkers. Admittedly I enjoy such structured and dusty examples, with firm texture and zesty acids. This should develop fine complexity over the next 3-5 years or more. Best 2018-2028.

Château Grand Corbin Despagne 2010 Château d'Aiguilhe 2010 Château Des Moines 2008

Château d’Aiguilhe 2010, Côtes De Bordeaux Castillon, Bordeaux, France ($42.85)
Sara d’Amato – A long time favourite of mine, this high end Castillon from the right bank gives the region the due attention it deserves. The price may appear steep but its quality easily matches some of the best in St. Emilion. David Lawrason – This large estate may not enjoy the luxury of sitting in St.Emilion but the property itself, as well as the current family owners –Count Stephan von Neipperg – has a lineage dating back hundreds of years. There are 50 ha of vines here (80% merlot) that sit on clay-limetone soils, which lends real elegance amid all kinds of fruit and barrel complexity. The great 2010 vintage also adds structure. If this wine was produced in St. Emilion I am sure it would be double the price.

Château Des Moines 2008, Lalande De Pomerol, Bordeaux, France ($21.95)
Sara d’Amato – In a right bank state of mind, here is another gem that holds merlot to high standards. Many estates in and around Pomerol have less ingratiated and historically prominent backgrounds. Chateau des Moines’ real wine-growing history doesn’t begin until the 1960s despite its proprietors’ ancestry of coopers. Its more humble beginnings (or reinvention) have forced the estate to work hard to achieve recognition among houses with greater status. As a result, an excellent value product is now on our shelves – sleek with great structure and longevity.

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

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES Sept 27th:

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews

Sbragia Monte Rosso Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

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Sara’s Sommelier Selections – Oct 12, 2013

Thanksgiving Picks

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Festive meals are the perfect occasion to show off your prowess at choosing the most delectable wines to match your celebratory table. A perfectly executed meal will be enhanced by a well-chosen bottle; and if dry turkey syndrome strikes your dinner table, you can distract with a terrific bottle of wine. In fact, Sommeliers have quite a few tricks up their sleeves in case of kitchen failures, most of which I cannot share with you today on pain of excommunication. But I can at least give you a few picks that could easily be the centre of attention should you need them to be, and that will be excellent companions to a Thanksgiving spread.

Cygnus 1+1=3 Organic Brut Nature Cava
Penedès, Spain, $19.95

Sparkling wine is a no-brainer when family assembles for Thanksgiving. Here is a sophisticated, traditional-method selection that won’t break the bank. To boot, this wine is organic, vegan and works well with both turkey and tofu.

Cygnus 1+1=3 Organic Brut Nature Reserva

Domaine Lafage Cuvée Centenaire 2011
Côtes Du Roussillon, France, $17.95

A wine that oozes class made from 100-year-old vines of grenache blanc, gris and roussanne. Originating from close the Spanish border, in a climate influenced by the Pyrenees, the 2011 vintage was particularly favorable for whites and has produced a wine of profound complexity and great presence.

Domaine Lafage Cuvée Centenaire 2011

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
South Australia, $27.95

Cabernet sauvignon from the red soils of the Coonawara in southern Australia is so delightfully distinctive and unique that it can’t help but wow, especially hailing from one of the region’s top producers. Although this wine will certainly satisfy those looking for a hearty red, it is more elegant than bold with a riveting progression of flavours.

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Château De Saint Lager Brouilly 2011
Beaujolais, France, $19.95

For those of you that won’t give up red in the face of a mild flavoured bird, here’s a terrific compromise made from the gamay grape – light in body but not in flavour. I love wines from the largest region of Beaujolais, Brouilly, not simply for their versatility but for their terrific value and often, surprising complexity.

Château De Saint Lager Brouilly 2011

Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2010
Campo De Borja, Spain, $19.95

Grenache is another one of those varietals that has a delicacy and gentle tannins that can pair well with a holiday, bird-influenced dinner. Juicy, flavour-packed but not overwhelming, here is a red with exceptional poultry compatibility.

Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha 2010

Best wishes this weekend!

Sara d’Amato

From the Oct 12, 2013 Vintages release:

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find Sara’s reviews by clicking on any of the wine links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines.

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Margaret Swaine’s Wine Picks: Turkey Wines

These enjoyable wines are a good match for your Thanksgiving turkey. Find these well priced pinots that deliver via

Rudolf Rabl Löss Grüner Veltliner 2011
$13.95 (88 Points)

From Austria’s Kamptal region, this grüner is gentle but fresh. Soft and rounded on the palate with floral and light pear notes, it has a pleasant acidity and touch of white pepper to perk it up. Nicely balanced with a smooth finish, it’s a match for roasted turkey with simple bread and onion stuffing, served with mashed potatoes.

Domaine de Vaugondy Dry Vouvray 2010
$14.95 (89 Points)

Entirely devoted to chenin blanc, the vines on this Loire domaine average 20 to 55 years old giving a lovely concentration to the wine. Great acidity yields a tangy, zesty white with flavours of quince, apple and pear. Perfect for turkey with a fruit-based stuffing, roasted root veggies and cranberry sauce.

Triacca Spadino Maremma 2010
$15.95 (88 Points)

From the coastal area of Tuscany, this medium-bodied red has a pretty, cedar-and-spice bouquet and an elegant, dry taste. Easy and smooth at first, it still has a good tannic grip. Sour cherry and plum flavours combine with savoury herbs on the palate and finish. Pair with turkey stuffed with sausages and spices served with savoury gravy.

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Thanksgiving Dinner with Sara d’Amato

Vibrant and Savory Selections Fit for a Thanksgiving Feast

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

If the chill in the air and the beautiful colours above aren’t indication enough, then the sudden cravings for pumpkin pie and tart cranberries are clues that the Thanksgiving season is upon us again. To most people Thanksgiving means entertaining, and entertaining brings forth either the delight or dread of choosing wine for a group of varied guests. In order to free ourselves from the chains of routine and tradition, this year, I propose a Thanksgiving without the usual suspects. By this I mean, freeing the table from the safety of chardonnay and pinot noir and looking towards less traditional varietals and regions.

Many people find choosing a wine for this occasion fraught with difficulty because one never wants to spend too much for fear that there will be several guests in attendance who won’t appreciate those choices but don’t want to disappoint those with more discriminating palates along with your own tastes (and if you’re reading this article, you have some interest in wines of quality). Keeping those aspects in mind, I will recommend a series of wines that are sure to fit the bill and keep everyone as happy and appreciative as they should be.

Rudolf Rabl Löss Grüner Veltliner 2011A grape that is not commonly associated with Thanksgiving feasts but should be is Austria’s star white, grüner veltliner. Its nose of quince and wildflowers and palate of spicy, white pepper and wild herbal notes make a perfect accompaniment to roasted bird. It is generally light enough to be served as a conversation-starting aperitif as well as less common addition to your holiday table. I love that a great example of this wine can almost play the role of a spice, seasoning or condiment to your dish – a completely integrated pairing. My suggestion is a lovely new release by Rudolf Rabl, the Löss Grüner Veltliner 2011, Kamptal, Austria ($13.95). Rabl is one of Austria’s most recognized producers of grüner veltliner and has been widely celebrated internationally. The “Loss” grüner is planted in loose, well-drained soils that are perfectly suited to the varietal and give the wine a supple approachability without sacrificing varietal traits – a superb value.

Domaine De Vaugondy Dry VouvrayAnother wine often missing from such celebrations is Vouvray. Made entirely from chenin blanc (otherwise known as pineau de la Loire) and a region known for its substantial network of underground limestone cellars, Vouvray produces distinct and memorable wines that range from sweet to dry to sparkling. Admittedly, the wine can be an acquired taste but it is well worth the effort. A little information for your guests with respect to its unique flavour profile will likely both be interesting and will lend greater appreciation to this fascinating and very food friendly wine. My particular recommendation, the 2010 Domaine De Vaugondy Dry Vouvray, Loire, France ($14.95), is dry and fresh with gorgeous dried herbal notes, a touch of honeyed flavour and is substantial enough to pair with rich sauces and gravies. The varietal is distinctively richly flavoured, with savory herbs, often an earthiness and a waxy mouthfeel. When planted in the varied soils of the Vouvray, chenin blanc can be either pleasantly fruity or mineral driven. This version has a great balance of both the above characteristics and delivers superb value.

Clemente Cossetti & Figli La Vigna Vecchia Barbera D'AstiBarbera is a fantastic grape to accompany a Thanksgiving meal as it is so approachable and most often reasonably priced. Its juicy, fleshy and satisfying nature make it an easy crowd pleaser while an example with good balance, characteristic medium-bodied weight and fresh vibrancy make it versatile at the table. Using descriptors like vibrant and food-friendly can make one shy away with the conclusion that the wine is tart, unfriendly and requires food. However, Barbera, in many situations, makes a great sipper as well as a smart food partner, because its acids are balanced by fleshy, generous fruit flavours. This recommendation showcases the best of the varietal with an exceptionally enticing nose: Clemente Cossetti & Figli La Vigna Vecchia Barbera D’Asti 2009, Piedmont, Italy ($16.95)

Terranoble Gran Reserva CarmenèreChile’s star export, carmenère, finds a comfortable place at the table any night of the week, but given the chance to be showcased at a festive occasion is surely its rightful place. Carmenère is a wonderfully versatile grape (the key word when it comes to pairing with a multitude of traditional menus) that exhibits a spicy, floral and earthy nose and boasts great intensity of flavours on a medium to full-bodied frame. Savoury umami, one of the more elusive of the basic tastes (distinct from ‘salty’ and often found in Asian foods and ripe tomatoes) also often makes up the flavour profile of carmenère. When I have difficulty pairing a red wine to food, I often look to this unique varietal. A terrific new release, the 2009 Terranoble Gran Reserva Carmenère, Maule Valley, Chile ($17.95),  demonstrates the great appeal of this distinctive and flavourful varietal.

Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuvée Maximilien CairanneMy final recommendation is a meaty wine that delivers the intensity that many red wine drinkers appreciate at the dinner table regardless of the meal. If you opt for prime rib or a roast instead of a bird, you will require a substantial, satisfying wine such as Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuvée Maximilien Cairanne 2010, Rhône, France ($21.95). Cairrane is a typical southern Rhône blend dominated by grenache, mourvedre, carignan and syrah. It is generally quite ripe and generous and grown on the flatter, hot plains which intensify the Mediterranean flavours often felt in wines of southern France. Notes of garrigue (wild, dried herbs, lavender, earth and underbrush) add another layer of complexity in this example. Thankfully it is also a very good value.

Acidity and savory herbal notes have been a theme in this year’s holiday recommendations. Remember that acidity doesn’t necessarily mean tart – in fact, in a balanced wine (best to accompany food), the result is a terrifically approachable wine that won’t leave you full. Acidity is also necessary to give the wine the edge and grip it requires to cut through rich flavours. And herbal does not necessarily mean green – in all of these examples, the herbal note lends a savory element to the wine that balances the juicy fruit and complements the big, aromatic dishes that often find their way to a holiday table.

Wishing you happy feasts and plenty of merriment this weekend,


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Bonnie Stern: Thanksgiving leftovers done right

We all have leftovers. But the trick is never call them leftovers. Food left over from holiday dinners can become delicious meals in its own right as long as you don’t put that leftover label on them. Here are lots of ideas and a few yummy recipes for the food in your fridge the day after Thanksgiving.

Puréed vegetable soups are very popular around the holidays. If you have leftover soups such as puréed squash, cauliflower, tomato or carrot, freeze it and serve it in shooter glasses for an appetizer at your next party. Even small amounts of puréed soup can be used to garnish other soups of contrasting colour — for example, picture a drizzle of brilliant squash soup on a neutral-coloured cauliflower soup. Leftover soups can also be thinned out with extra stock, cream or water and used as a sauce over chicken or pasta. Read the rest of this entry »

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WineAlign’s Picks for Thanksgiving

We asked our critics to select a few wines they’d enjoy with their Thanksgiving dinner.  Below are picks from David, John, Sara and Steve.

John – A Shotgun Affair

My approach to drinking over long thanksgiving meals is very simple: forget the straightjacket of specific wines with specific courses, and take the ‘shotgun’ approach instead. My analogy refers to the scattergun variety, un-rifled for less accuracy but greater coverage: lay out a bunch of different bottles on the table at the same time, and let family and guests taste whatever, and in whichever order they wish. If your shotgun is well loaded with buckshot and the spray wide enough, you’ll hit at least a bulls-eye or two. No matter if some innocent dishes or wines get hurt along the way – this is convivial family dining, not a matter of life or death. This works for me because at my place, a myriad of dishes are thrown onto to the table at the same time and my plate fills up with dozens of disparate and distinct flavours, making a single sniper shot tougher than picking off a wild turkey at 200 yards. I like to include a wide range of flavours and textures, while at the same time selecting wines that are versatile enough to play nice with most of the dishes. This means generally bright, fresh, palate-cleansing acidity, minimal oak (except in the fireplace, where it belongs), light tannins that won’t dry out that over-cooked bird any further, and occasionally a pinch of sweetness to take on that sweet potato or pumpkin pie.

Here are a four reasonably priced but respectable, versatile, virtually fail-safe Ontario wines that cover a wide range of styles. I’d be happy to have them on my table this thanksgiving:

13th Street Premier Cuvée, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Traditional Method $29.95
Cave Spring Riesling 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula, $14.95
Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Pinot Noir 2009, VQA Niagara $30.00
Château Des Charmes Late Harvest Riesling 2007, VQA Niagara On The Lake $21.95


Although there are many possible variations on the traditional Thanksgiving dinner most of them involve a bird of some sort and are certainly rich and filling. Full-bodied whites and lighter reds are therefore often the best choices to accompany this festive feast.

My white recommendation is a great value local wine from the highly acclaimed Tawse Winery. The Sketches of Niagara Chardonnay 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula, $19.95 is both rich and elegant. Unlike many bloated, oaky new world style Chardonnays, this example is clean, savory, exhibits beautiful minerality and has just the right amount of acidity to balance the wine leaving you feeling less full.

For a red, I choose a highly aromatic, silky red from the Beaujolais Cru appellation of Morgon. The Château De Bellevue Morgon 2009, Ac Beaujolais, France,  $19.95 is fleshy, juicy, slightly floral and is intensely satisfying despite its mid-weight character. A modern-inspired style which features clove spice, lavender, mixed berries and black cherries is sure to compliment stuffed turkey or roasted duck.


When I think of Thanksgiving I think of moist, juicy, roast turkey with roast potatoes and root vegetables. For this we need rich whites and soft fruity mid-weight reds. As I write this I am in Greece and so would like to recommend a delicious white made from the moschofilero grape that is great value in the LCBO at present. Boutari Moschofilero 2010, Mantinia Greece $11.95 is deservedly becoming Greece’s signature aromatic white and this is a great value ambassador with its orange blossom, apricot, peach and pear aromas. The palate is rich and creamy, yet it is soft, dry, well balanced and flavourful with the orangey acidity becoming more evident on the finish. Very good length.

It is mostly too hot for Pinot Noir in Australia but in the southern part of Western Australia in Pemberton it is cool enough due to southerly ocean breezes from the Antarctic. Thinking moist turkey again we need high acidity and mild berry flavour which Barwick White Label Pinot Noir 2010, Pemberton $15.95 delivers at a great price. It is a fruity vibrant pinot that is currently my household value pick. It is a pale red with aromas of cherry, raspberry and plum fruit plus some earthy tones and a hint of tobacco. It is midweight, well balanced with a solid yet gentle acid and tannin structure. It finishes well with the focus well maintained. Very good length.

For my third pick I am choosing a great value red from Ontario that is mostly cabernet franc blended with merlot. Pelee Island seems to be on a roll with its cabernet based reds. Their Alvar 2008 Cabernet Merlot 2008, Ontario VQA $12.45 is a delicious flavourful structured wine made from 60% cabernet franc, 30% merlot, 10% zweigelt. The nose shows delicate aromas of red berry fruit with a hint of tobacco and some beet notes. The midweight palate is velvety smooth and very fruity with crab-apple jelly and raspberry tea flavours and nice balancing acidity and grippy tannins and a notion of elegance. Very good length. This is way better than the price would indicate.

So invite many friends and family to join you for a Thanksgiving feast and impress them with these three value choices available at most LCBO stores. There is a wine here for most tastes and all three will be great with juicy turkey.

David – Go Big and Go Home

Thanksgiving dinner is one of the great family occasions of the year, a celebration of all that is close and personal. For that reason I always serve local wines.  Here in Ontario we are reminded constantly by our government agencies to “Go local”, to “Taste the Good” and that “Good things Grow….”.  I drink Ontario wines because many are now excellent and it is my way of saying thanks to those who have put so much time, effort and money to achieve that success.

But which Ontario wines?  First of all, do not limit yourself to one wine. Have at least one white and one red open so people can choose one, or both. The hubbub of a Thanksgiving dinner is not really the place to be submersed in the subtleties and dialogues of pairing.  That very funny Molson Canadian commercial about the anxiety of “whether the honeysuckle aroma of pinot noir goes with Aunt Mary’s maple candied yams” makes a good point (but I would serve something more characterful than Canadian).

Indeed I would serve Ontario wine that is very characterful. Thanksgiving dinner is after all a monumentally complex meal. So go more expensive in order to find wine of structure and complexity. Personally I have always loved pinot noir with turkey, for the same reason I like cranberry with turkey. Look for as generous a pinot as you can find – perhaps Norman Hardie from Prince Edward County, or Tawse or Flat Rock from Niagara. For white, try a bold, full on barrel fermented Ontario chardonnay, of which there are dozens that might work. Personally I would look to Tawse again, or Closson Chase, Hidden Bench, Ravine, Malivoire or Southbrook.

To find the best choices at an LCBO near you, register on and go to Find Wine.  Select pinot noir then chardonnay, select Ontario, and select a price of under $40. You will get a list with Ontario’s best at the top!  Enjoy!

Click here to find Ontario Pinot Noir under $40.

Click here to find Ontario Chardonnay under $40.

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John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for October 1st – A Turkey Shoot, Shiraz/Syrah School & Top Smart Buys

The Shotgun Approach to Thanksgiving, Two Schools of Syrah/Shiraz: Where do You Fit In?  & Top Ten Smart Buys

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Top Ten Smart Buys:  The Top Ten wines for savvy buyers this week includes a terrific $20 Niagara chardonnay from the winemaker who is setting the pace for the grape in Canada, a very fine 1er Cru Chablis for $26.95, a single vineyard Barolo from the great 2004 vintage for just $33.95, and a Chilean Malbec that will have the Argentines across the border questioning their South American domination of the grape. See them all here.

Thanksgiving Wine Menu

My approach to drinking over long thanksgiving meals is to dispense with the rigidity of specific wines with specific courses, and take the ‘shotgun’ approach instead (the scattergun variety, un-rifled for less accuracy but greater coverage): lay out a bunch of different bottles on the table at the same time, and let family and guests taste whatever, and in whichever order they wish. If your shotgun is well loaded with buckshot and the spray wide enough, you’ll hit at least a bullseye or two. No matter if some innocent dishes or wines get hurt along the way – this is convivial family dining, not a matter of life and death after all. I take this approach mostly because at my place, a myriad of dishes are thrown onto to the table at the same time and my plate fills with dozens of disparate and distinct flavours, making a single sniper shot impossible. I like to include a wide range of flavours and textures, while at the same time selecting wines that are versatile enough to play nice with most of the dishes. This means generally bright, fresh, palate-cleansing acidity, minimal oak (except in the fireplace, where it belongs), light tannins that won’t dry out that over-cooked bird any further, and occasionally a pinch of sweetness to take on that sweet potato or pumpkin pie. Here are four reasonably priced but respectable, versatile, virtually failsafe wines that I’d be happy to have on my table this thanksgiving, pulled from the October 1st VINTAGES release:

NV BRISEBARRE BRUT VOUVRAY AC Touraine, Méthode Traditionelle $18.95
2008 DR. HERMANN RIESLING KABINETT QmP, Erdener Treppchen $16.95

Brisebarre Brut Vouvray Dr. Hermann Riesling Kabinett 2008  Rosehall Run Cold Creek Cabernet Franc 2008 Royal Tokaji Blue Label 5 Puttonyos Tokaji Aszu 2006

Two Schools of Syrah/Shiraz: Where do You Fit In?

The feature this week is Syrah and Shiraz from around the world. Given the radical variations in style of which the grape is capable, it’s more than a little misleading to lop them all under the same category on a wine list, or put them side by side on a wine store shelf. Even the name used on the label, i.e. shiraz vs. syrah, can mislead you into expecting a certain style; remember the wine is often named by accidental geography or by the marketing department, not by the winemaker or after the most appropriate “style school”.

The variety in question may be identical, but it’s a long way from the northern Rhône Valley to the Barossa Valley, and the wines could hardly be more different, save for a couple of common features such as deep purple colour and a telltale whiff of black pepper. Beyond that, alcohol can range from 12% to 15+%, flavours from fresh black berry to fully jammy and medicinal, and texture from soft and cuddly to ferociously firm.

There’s little secret which style I prefer drinking, and if you’d like to ‘align’ your palate with syrah/shiraz schools from around the world, take this little taste test. Find some friends (ideally), pick up the 6 representative wines listed here below, open and put them in a paper bag (grab them at the LCBO checkout counter), have someone else number the bags at random so everyone is equally in the dark, then taste, compare and record the ones that set your taste buds racing.
Then it’s time for the revelation; if your top wines included the 2005 BECKETT’S FLAT MARGARET RIVER SHIRAZ Margaret River, Western Australia $21.95, the 2007 GUIGAL CROZES-HERMITAGE AC $24.95 or the 2008 DOMAINE LES YEUSES LES ÉPICES SYRAH Vins de Pays d’Oc $14.95, you’re a fan of what I call the “old school”: more reserved, spicy, fresh and firm syrah.

Beckett's Flat Margaret River Shiraz 2005  E. Guigal Crozes Hermitage 2007  Domaine Les Yeuses Les Épices Syrah 2008

If your top wines included 2007 FESS PARKER THE BIG EASY SYRAH Santa Barbara County $34.95, the 2009 PÉREZ CRUZ LIMITED EDITION SYRAH Maipo Alto, Maipo Valley $19.95 or the 2009 THORN-CLARKE TERRA BAROSSA SHIRAZ Barossa, South Australia $16.95, then you’re in the ‘new school’ camp, alongside lovers of rich, ripe, bold and heady shiraz. For some additional education, check out what I and the other WineAlign critics had to say about these wines, and you’re alignment (and ours) will become clearer.

Fess Parker The Big Easy Syrah 2007  Pérez Cruz Limited Edition Syrah 2009  Thorn Clarke Terra Barossa Shiraz 2009

From the October 1st Vintages release:
Top Ten Smart Buys
Three Old School Syrah
Three New School Shiraz

Thanksgiving Picks
All Reviews


John S. Szabo, MS
John Szabo, Master Sommelier

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