Feel free to scroll through this list and see everything we've been sampling but, if you're in a hurry (or very thirsty), you can just click on any of the following words to be whisked electronically to the category of your choice:
Dry White Wines
Dry Red Wines
An FB Special Report: Sonoma Merlots!
Everything Wine Express recommends is in the Liquor Control Board of Ontario’s regular stores, unless marked (v) for Vintages stores, or (c) on Consignment, by the case through an importer.
Call the LCBO's Infoline 416/365-5900 for the store nearest you that has the wine. If your local store doesn't have it, the manager will order in the wine at no extra cost and notify you.
Oh, and by the way, if you need a refresher on our rating system (the ratings are in red), just flip back to the main Wine Picks main page for a quick refresher -- in helping you choose a refresher quickly!
Gato Blanco Sauvignon Blanc 87
Lontué Valley, Chile
219048 LCBO; $7.95
From Chilean powerhouse winery Viña San Pedro, a seductively tropical Sauvignon, accented with herbaceous melon, lychee-guava notes, midweight with a crisp freshness.
Great value, as is its sibling, easy-drinking Gato Negro Cabernet Sauvignon, another new listing, $8.45, showing soft tannins, blackberry-blackcurrant fruit and good mouth-feel (86). Made by talented enologist Irene Paiva, who's also helped develop the Caliterra and Seña wines of Errazuriz.
Triomphe Sauvignon Blanc '01 88
Southbrook Winery, VQA Niagara Peninsula
593632 (v); $17.40
Very Loire grassy-asparagus-grapefruit style, rich yet crisp, with a razor’s edge of fine acidity to nettle and refresh the palate. Perfectly ripe fruit flavors and full body.
Poully-Fumé '02 88
J-C Châtelain, Loire Valley
958801 (v); $23.95
Perfect tasting partner with the Triomphe. Sauvignon shootout. Which do you prefer? More lemongrass, floral notes here, no oak, all fruit, vibrant and delicious. Roasted poultry, tangy cheeses, freshwater fish.
Forrest Estate Sauvignon Blanc '02 92
Marlborough, S. Island, NZ
966820 (v); $19.95
Capturing every available ray of sunshine from a tricky vintage, here’s a tropical, guava/passionfruit/pineapple flavor bomb! Pretty, aromatic, and pretty aromatic. Oriental and spicy dishes.
Chateau Chavrignac '02 86
912725 (v); $12.95
Very low sulphur levels (good for allergy sufferers), balanced crisp, grassy, green-apple, green-plum flavors with a touch of pea-pod. Light, elegant, refreshing. Aperitif, white fish, seafood.
Tuk Tam Oaked Chardonnay '99 92
Vinprom Targovishte, Bulgaria
905760 (v); $8.55
A dollar-stretcher! The smoky, tarry, oaky-cedary attack (the label is a tip-off) is offset against delicate apple/citrus flavors and the outcome’s still undecided. A pleasant everyday quaffer.
Vauroux Chablis '01 89
908152 (v); $23.50
Steely, bright, clean, austere, aristocratic. Pure unoaked Chardonnay, as far away as you can get from Tuk Tam, whose very name would bring a distinct chill to a Burgundian dinner party. This is the real thing.
Riesling Spätlese '95 92
Winkeler Hasensprung, Schloss Schönborn
905653 (v); $19.85
This Rheingau Riesling is a classic: peach, citrus, melon, petrol and mineral notes as far as the eye can see. Medium sweet with a cut of steely acidity, fresh and lush on the finish. Pork and ham roasts, lobster, mushroom risotto.
Riesling Auslese '01 95
Nackenheimer Rothenberg, Gunderloch
722405 (v); $43.50
Not cheap but a bargain. One of the world's great white wines, owing nothing to oak cosmetics, simply transmitting its terroir, Riesling at its best, from a superb vintage and a top producer. Bravo!
Etchart Cafayate Torrontés '02 87
Bodegas Etchart, Argentina
283754 LCBO; $9.45
Highly fragrant, aromatic and seductive, hints of rose petals, orange blossom, flowers and peaches, from a grape variety well below the radar. Torrontés is indigenous to Argentina, typically made soft and dry, layered with lush flavors and finishing crisp and dry in the mouth. Great as aperitif, with appetizers, chicken, seafood, Asian cuisine, especially sushi! From the Etchart estate, founded in 1850, now part of Pernod Richard.
The companion Cafayate Cabernet Sauvignon, $9.95 at the LCBO, is all blackberries and spice, smooth, light and agreeable for immediate enjoyment (86). Good value Argentinian reds are finding favor in Ontario, as sales grow 10% a year.
Mederaño Tinto '01 87
Freixenet, Castilla-La Mancha, Spain
636951 LCBO; $9.95
A new General List of berried treasure! Light, fresh, easy-drinking pleasure, a slice of cassis,cherry, blackberry, versatile as aperitif or partner to light red meat dishes, grilled salmon, spicy cheeses. There’s also a sibling pink Mederaño Rosado, more cola-candy-raspberry-red fruit in style with a dry finish (86).
Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot '99 91
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
395855 (v); $24.95
Typical of the fabulous small-batch wines smart folks go to this winery to taste and buy! Big, bold, Bordeaux-like in the extreme (from a good year!). A babe but poised for greatness, good grip, full of mocha, toast, oak, blackberry-cassis fruit and supple tannins. Grilled roasts and vegetables. The crew at Pelham are hot!: also worth buying now are Pelham’s luscious, spicy black-cherry '02 Gamay, $18.95 (v); the rich, plummy-smoky '02 Cab-Merlot Meritage, $14.95, General List, and very elegant Unfiltered Merlot '02 (v) $24.95.
Sandalford Cabernet Sauvignon '00 92
Sean District, Margaret River, W. Australia
103846 (v); $28.40
A perfect roast lamb partner, this Cab is flavor-packed: cassis, cedar, blackberry, mulberry and more. Still a little closed and needing time, but huge potential, 5-10 years.
Baron d'Ardeuil '00 87
446187 (v); $16.90
A great value subtle red from SW France: hints of currants, blueberry tobacco leaf, cherries, cloves and oak. Ready now and will improve 2-3 years.
Naoussa Grande Reserve '97 86
743658 (v); $12.45
From a technologically hip wine co-op in the reliable Naoussa region, tarry-smoky, with cherry-berry and mulberry components and a drying oak finish. Lamb, veal, kebabs, grills.
Eloquenzia Copertino '00 87
Masseria Monaci, Puglia, Italy
732610 (v); $13.00
Somewhat rustic, slightly leathery, toasty, oaky dry red with good spicy fruit aromas and flavors, perfect for pizza, pasta, BBQ, charcuterie.
Chianti Classico Carpineto '99 88
358689 (v); $37.75
Sour cherry, saddle leather, sturdy tannins and sweet oak are the core of this attractive Chianti from the heart of the appellation. Steak Florentine, please.
Riddoch Shiraz '00IDDOCH SHIRAZ ’00 87
Katnook Estate, Coonawarra, S. Australia
940239 (v); $17.95
Sweet American oak, mocha, coconut and chocolate meld with raspberry, strawberry-vanilla in this good-value Shiraz (it's owned by Freixenet of Spain).
Terra Mater Shiraz Reserva '01 90
Central Valley, Chile
909507 (v); $19.50
Espresso, coffee beans, raspberry and tar are the dominant notes on this unfiltered (that’s good) red from the ambitious and competent Canepa family.
Guigal Gigondas '00 89
331900 (v); $28.50
Very soft, round, plush, easy on the palate. Ripe plums, cassis, black cherries, fresh capsicum, wet earth and black peppers take up the theme, and it’s a hit tune.
Château De Beaucastel '00 94
711317 (v); $65.95
There's a half-bottle at $33.95, too! Collectors will line up for this exceptional wine, from top producer Pierre Perrin. Raisins, red currants, nuts, toast, licorice, black olives, from a blend of all the indigenous Rhône grapes including Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Syrah, Counoise, et al.
Segura Viudas Vintage Brut '88 88
If you like the regular LCBO $11.45 Brut Reserva, you'll love this! Antonio Banderas vs Mr. Bean! More sophisticated, rounder, fuller-bodied, smoother, it's a single-vintage upgrade. Dry, toasty, apple, melon, brioche notes. More value Cava from Spain.
Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Brut 89
VQA Niagara Peninsula
616441 (v); $27.95
Classy local entry with complex nuances of brioche, toast, baked green apples and citrus, ready for salmon caviar and Malpêque oysters, or contemplative sipping.
Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs 89
(v); $29.95 Nov. 15
From Freixenet, who know bubblies (Cava from Spain). The aromas are Chardonnay: fresh apple, pear, citrus, and it's clean, crisp and refreshing. Sibling Blanc de Noirs is $32 from Airen Imports, 416/604-4076, shows good structure from Pinot Noir grapes, a hint of honey, and apple blossom (90). A new batch hits Vintages for Valentine's.
Krug Grande Cuvée Brut 96
349688 (v); $176.90
I once bought a car for not much more than this! However, this is the granddaddy of 'em all, and Christmas is coming...Ooomph is its middle name, fresh-baked brioche, mocha, leather, grilled nuts, coconut, citrus, spring flowers... It's a biggie. With a glass of this, every oyster works!
Croft Original Fine Pale Cream Sherry 88
73452 (v); $14.95
A sweet fino is the best analogy. Delicate, ethereal, with hints of fresh almonds, vanilla bean, citrus, toasted nuts and brown sugar with a warm glow of alcohol. Great value.
East India Solera Sherry 93
Emilio Lustau, Jerez, Spain
713636 (v); $15.95 375mL
Sweet raisins, fresh figs, grilled hazelnuts, oakvanilla, limes, with a very walnutty finish and a lingering aftertaste. Sipping nirvana.
Graham's Fine White Port 88
192377 (v); $14.95
Anise, white plum and fresh grape flavors, to be enjoyed well chilled as an aperitif/sipper on the porch of an evening.
Dow's Vintage Port '00 94
Silva & Cosens, Oporto, Portugal
633057 (v); $77.80 Nov. 15
Brilliant example of the classic 2000 vintage. Opaque blue-black, powerful, packed with complex black and red fruit components, still a baby but already showing licorice, flowers, walnuts, elegant tannins. Cellar 5-25 years. In a minor key, try the Porto Poças '00, $48.95, in the same release (88). Softer, rounder, simpler, but well made and enjoyable
right now for its cassis-blackberry fruit.
Grappa Di Moscato 92
Gagliano Marcati, Veneto, Italy
918755 (v); $28.95 700mL
A grapey glassful with a fiery blast of hay, straw, fresh mushrooms and alcohol to clear head, soothe palate with aromatic Muscat fruit. Great digestif. For $79.95 you can choose the noble Tignanello Grappa from Antinori (90), refermented/distilled from the pomace (residue) of the (Cab Sauvignon/Sangiovese) grapes crushed for Antinori's marquee Tuscan red, 918714 (v) 500mL/gift box.
Isle of Jura 16-Year-Old Single Malt 91
901314 (v); $88.90 700mL
For the folks who don't like Lagavulin! Smooth, without that notoriously tarry peat of neighboring Islay malts, yet mellow, complex and intriguing, a seaweed, iodine, tobacco and malt symphony. From the wee island's only distillery.
To order, call 416/365-5767, 1-800/266-4764.
Grosset Reisling Polish Hill '02 94
Clare Valley, S. Australia
One of the great New World Rieslings! Dry not tart, plush, wonderfully fruity and subtle citrusapple vanilla notes, under screwcap like all Clare Valley wines, without the petrol aromas of German Rieslings but none the worse for that. A big (13% alcohol) wine from Riesling virtuoso Jeff Grosset.
Montevertine Riserva '99 94
From a top vintage at a beautiful estate in Chianti Classico, at Radda, between Florence and Sienna, tar, oak, smoke, pine needles, black fruits on the nose, rosemary, strawberries, bright cherry, mocha, 12.5% from Sangiovese and Canaiolo grapes and starting to drink well now but good for a decade. 24 months in Slavonian oak.
A Frank Baldock Special Report: Sonoma Merlots
Sonoma County is famous for its Merlots, Here's a buyer's selection tasted at the recent Sonoma Winery Tour of Canada:
Murphy-Goode Alexander Valley Merlot '01 93
$30.10 (c); Rob Groh @ The Vine 416/693-7994
M-G is famed for its reds and here's a complex mocha-vanilla Merlot with huge fruit, truffles and Christmas cake spices, sourced from the hillside Murphy Ranch and Robert Young Vineyards, and from benchland vines in the southern Valley.
Matanzas Creek Sonoma Valley Merlot '00 92
$79.95 (v); 932806
Gentle, ripe, blueberry-plum, rich cassis, cherry tomato, herbal, oak soft tannins waves of flavor, cedar and spices Extended maceration plus "coldsoaks," a Burgundian technique: 85% Merlot, 8% Cabernet, 4% Syrah, 3% Cabernet Franc. Matured over 18 months in French oak, 71% new. To drink now or over the next 6 to 8 years.
Sebastiani Sonoma Couty Merlot '99 89
$21.95; Private Order @ Select Wines 416/367-5600
Best vintage since '94, Indian Summer, small crop, small grapes! Best fruit batches from Bedford Ranch in Dry Creek, from Rancho Miguel and Lyon Vyds in Alexander, from Batto Ranch and Madrone Vyd in Sonoma Valley. Blueberry, black cherry and mocha, herbal-truffle, a touch of vanilla and barrel-char, age-worthy, full-bodied, from red volcanic soils. Vinted by Mark Lyon who included 11% and 10% Cab Sauvignon and Cab Franc. Spent 15 months in new and used French and American oak. The '98 is currently at Vintages for $24.95 (the Loonie was weaker then!) An ultra-premium, Secolo, will be released for Sebastiani's centenary in '04.
Schug Carneros Sonoma Valley Merlot '00 91
$36; Private Order @ Lifford 416/440-4101
Spicy bouquet, deep color, powerful yet elegant Bordeaux-style Merlot. A touch of oak, supple tannins, blackberry and spicy cherry complexity from an infusion of Cabernet. Sourced from Carneros and Marin County, cooler microclimates with the longer growing season necessary for Merlot to ripen slowly and develop maximum flavor. Try it now with grilled fish, pasta, lamb and steaks, or cellar 5 to 7 years. Schug found fame as the creator of Joseph Phelps Insignia wines.
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