Autumn 2004

Value for money is what counts. You won't find any wines here that aren't worth buying. 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

Rosé Wines

Sweet Wines

Sparkling Wines


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!

Dry Whites:

West Brook Sauvignon Blanc ’03   90
Marlborough, S Island New Zealand
985994 (v) $18.95
A lush, tropical, not so grassy version of Sauvignon, more guava, pear and melon profile, without that intense asparagus note of so many Kiwi entries. Perfect for white fish, crab, lobster bisque. For early drinking.

Cave Spring CSV Riesling ’03   91
VQA Niagara Peninsula
28677 Winery Only $30.00
Estate-bottled, slightly off-dry, with citrus-accented fruitiness, honey, minerals, fine acidity and silky texture, from the limestone-rich Cave Spring Vineyard on the Beamsville Bench. The winery’s best Riesling, produced by its oldest vines (25-29 years), yielding a mere 2.75 tonnes/acre and capable of cellaring 10 years. Perfect with sushi, trout, crab, lobster, pork or veal. 530 cases only. Worth the trip to Niagara!

St. Urbans-Hof Riesling Spätlese ’02   90
Mosel, Germany
995712 (v) $29.95
Wild yeast fermented with aromas of blackcurrant, fig, mushroom, pear, beeswax, petrol, lanolin and spice. Medium dry, complex, layered with a ton of character. Medium to full-bodied with a very long finish. Very enjoyable now, but will benefit from 5 years cellaring. The spicy, delicious ’03 Spätlese (91) – from one of the best (hot, dry) vintages since 1976! – is available now through Rogers & Co., 416/961-2294. St. U’s Hermann Weis founded Ontario’s Vineland Estates winery and his nursery supplied the Weis 21 clone to the best vineyards in Ontario and BC. Son Nik is one of Germany’s best young vintners.
The elegant lime-peach-melon St. Urbans-Hof Ockfener Bockstein ’02 (91), just released at Vintages, 945535, $16.95, is a classic Mosel Riesling with a sensational off-dry fruit-sweetness-acid balance. Great value, too.

The Little Penguin Chardonnay ’03   86
SE Australia
598904 LCBO $10.95
Let’s not be formal: chill out with this easy-sipping, uncomplicated quaffer: peaking now with clean, fresh melon, tropical, vanilla and pineapple notes and a hint of toasty oak. Very good value, with seafood, mild cheeses, white meats, salads. Don’t even think about terroir, mate... The range will include fruit-forward Shiraz, Merlot and Cabernet. Penguins abound, apparently, along Australia’s southern (wine-growing) shores. In the last 12 months, Ontarians have downed 37 million bottles of Oz wine, and counting!

Spires Chardonnay ’01   86
Barossa Valley Estate, S. Australia
598136 LCBO $12.95
Chardonnay is leading the Oz export charge, with volumes up 26% in Ontario, and Spires is one of the reasons: affordable, easy drinking, refreshing citrus and tropical fruit aromas, stone fruit and tangy lemon-lime flavors, versatile alone or served chilled with fresh green salads, quiche or creamy pasta dishes. Enjoy within 3 years. The Spires Shiraz, another General Listing, $15.10, delivers rich, smooth black pepper, mulberry-raspberry spiciness and hints of vanilla (87). Both for early consumption.

Henry of Pelham Chardonnay Barrel-Fermented ’03   89
VQA Niagara Peninsula
268342 (v) $19.95
Classy, multi-faceted, upscale New World Chardonnay, creamy and full bodied with layers of fresh toast, vanilla bean, musky melon and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Perfect with lobster, crab, grilled salmon, feathered game and cream-sauced dishes. Well priced.

D’Arenburg The Olive Grove Chardonnay ’03   88
McLaren Vale, S. Australia
702845 (v) $16.95
Hand-pressed in traditional wooden baskets, here’s a sophisticated Chard that ranges from apple to cashew to fig to honey and tropical fruits, with hints of vanilla, fresh bread, smoke and cedarwood. The mid-palate is buttery, finishing with a white grapefruit acidity. Will age 5-8 years.

Penfolds Thomas Hyland Chardonnay ’02   89
S Australia
611228 (v) $18.95
A Vintages Essential, consistent, refined and pleasurable, from cooler climate Eden Valley and Adelaide Hills, with French oak, lemon zest and lees notes and layers of creamy, yeasty and citrus/melon on the palate. Seafood, chicken and Asian dishes cry out for this.

Dry Reds:

GanYmed Pinot Noir Spätburgunder ’99   95
Weingut Lingenfelder, Pfalz, Germany
947895 Classics Catalogue $36
In Germany, Spätburgunder is to red what Riesling is to white. This example is very French, very good, and very Rainer Lingenfelder (rebel, iconoclast, wine magician). That is to say, superb, individual and innovative. Elegant, velvety with a bouquet of bitter almonds and blackberries. The excellent ’99 is a deep ruby color and has a thick, unctuous texture. Aged in new, small barriques it has the structure to age for a few years. Pair with steak, rabbit, or cassoulet. From the hand of the 13th generation and 500 years of winemaking.

Wolf Blass Pinot Noir ’01   87
Yarra Valley, S Australia
611509 LCBO $16.95
Quite an elegant cool-climate Pinot Noir: all wild raspberries, plums, black cherries, wet earth, truffles, tobacco leaf, cocoa and strawberry jam, with toasty nuances of French and American oak barrel aging. Serve with roast duck or rabbit and cellar up to 3 years

The Little Penguin Merlot ’03   86
S.E. Australia
598912 LCBO $11.95
This bird’s a party animal: pleasant enough quaffing, with tasty pomegranate, blueberry, elderberry, plum and strawberry aromas/flavors that tend towards the jammy and soft. All fruit, minimal oak, at its peak now, with pizza, beef, cheeses and lamb.

Jackson-Triggs Proprietors’ Reserve Merlot ’02   89
VQA Niagara Peninsula
618421, Winery and Wine Rack only, $12.95.
Rich, concentrated, ageable Merlot (2-6 years), plump and spicy with blackberry, cassis and black cherry fruits, vanilla and toastiness from a year aging in barriques.

Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot Meritage ’02   90
VQA Niagara Peninsula
504241 LCBO $14.95
A blast of rich, ripe smoky blackberry and herbal aromas melts on the palate to luscious blackcurrants, mulberries and a hint of plum. Drinking well now, perfect with a rare roast beef or Mediterranean fare, and will gain complexity over 5-8 years. Pelham’s Gamay ’03, $13.95 at Vintages, is grapeliciously wonderful now, fresh and gulpable, brimming with pomegranate, black cherry, black pepper, and tangy mineral notes. Pizza perfect (89)!

Château des Charmes Cabernet-Merlot ’02   89
VQA Niagara Peninsula
454991 LCBO $14.25
Classic red Bordeaux blend of 39% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Cab Franc and 16% Merlot. Midweight, elegant, perfect partner with many dishes, showing subtle flavors of spicy green peppers, ripe red berries, wild raspberry and blackcurrant. Drinking well now and will improve for 4-6 years, to flatter red meats or tomato-sauced pasta.

Mount Langi Ghiran Cabernet-Merlot ’99   92
S Australia
715698 Classics Catalogue $35
Mocha, cassis, new leather, licorice, and spicy berry heaven: superb now or for the next five years. Deep color and concentrated fruit after 26 months in new barriques (70% French/30% American). Dense, mouth-filling, from an incredible year for Cab and Merlot with very dry conditions that produced low crops and small, concentrated berries. About 180 km west of Melbourne, it’s pronounced Langee Jeeran, Aboriginal for home of the yellow-tailed black cockatoo. Honest!

Château Canada 1999   85
Bordeaux Supérieur, France
559468 LCBO $13.95
For the patriotic/thrifty: from Cubzac-les-Ponts north of Bordeaux city, 70% Merlot plus 30% Cab Sauvignon, six months in oak, quite elegant, with licorice, minty berries, toasty oak herbal notes, good acidity and concentration. Owned by the Quancard family who also own Château Margaux. Or, you could spring for the more elegant Château Montlabert ’00 at $23.60, from St-Emilion, 179846 (v) $23.60, all plums, black fruit, tobacco, leather, new oak, vanilla and toast (88) in a higher snack bracket. Both cellarable 5-8 years.

Yering Station Shiraz Viognier ’01   89
Yarra Valley, Australia
(v) $20.95
From this historic old cattle ranch, Victoria’s first vineyard, near Melbourne, with Yarra’s strong Swiss immigrant connections, here’s a very mocha Shiraz offering, with a smidge of Viognier: a flavor bomb of violets, spice, smoky bacon, fresh road tar and a blast of ripe raspberries Cellar 3-10 years. Very Côte-Rôtie. Yum! There’s also a very poised, flinty Chardonnay ’02 (an exceptional vintage) coming in at $19-ish at Christmas and a Reserve at $35 I didn’t try yet.

Penfolds Thomas Hyland Shiraz ’02   90
S Australia
611210 (v) $19.95
From Australia’s most famous wine name, a generous, robust, rich red with a spicy, chocolate, vanilla and stone fruit bouquet, and a palate of plum, blackberry, friendly oak and supple tannins, to enjoy now or lay down for five years. Great with an elegant beef, lamb or pasta dish. Blended from Barossa, McLaren and Adelaide fruit, 14.5% alcohol.

Hardy’s Oomoo Shiraz ’02   88
McLaren Vale, S. Australia
(v) $19.95
Coming early next year, and they tell me Oomoo is aboriginal for ‘good’. Sounds like Moopoo to me, but the wine’s fine. Fleshy, soft, mellow, full of red fruits, led by smoky plums, raspberries and a touch of spicy strawberry, napped with chocolate fudge, toasty vanilla oak and prunes. Drinking well now and until 2010. The regular LCBO Hardy’s Crest Shiraz ’01 is no slouch at $14.95, either, and it’s in stores now (86). Minty cassis, mocha and cigar box with hints of pudding spices.

Casa Silva Colección Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz   88
Colchagua Valley, Chile
588749 LCBO $13.10
From a pioneer winery founded in 1892, and one of Chile’s best today, comes a spicy-elegant, well-priced red that’s rich, smooth, packed with sweet, ripe berry fruit and quite delicious. Perfect for fall stews, roasts and hard cheeses.

Marqués de Riscal Rioja Reserva ’99   86
La Rioja, Spain
32656 LCBO $21.80
Cherries, new leather, licorice, medium-bodied with a discreet hint of oak, from Tempranillo grapes plus 10% each of Graciano and Mazuelo, the reservas come from vines over 15 years old. They’re aged two years in American oak and have a good tannic structure, color and acidity. The new Riscal HQ, designed by Canada’s Frank Gehry, unfortunately looks like something Hurricane Ivan whacked really hard (and I love the Guggenheim in Bilbao)!

Masi Campofiorin ’00   89
Rosso del Veronese IGT, Italy
155051 LCBO $16.95
This “supervenetian” starts out as Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara grapes from Verona, home to Valpolicella. This vintage is the 30th of Campofiorin, pioneered using a technique Masi calls “ripasso”. The wine is refermented on the dried grapes originally used for Amarone, thus enriching Campofiorin’s alcohol, color, extracts and tannins, as well as giving new flavors and perfumes. Goes with pasta with meat or mushroom sauces, grilled red meats, game and cheese. Serve at 20°C and cellar up to 10 years.
Employing another old technique, apassimento (raisining), Masi has introduced Grandarella ’00, $28.95 (v), raisined Refosco, Carmenère and Corvina grapes from Latisana vineyards. Deep ruby, its intense, gamey bouquet shows aromatic herbs, tobacco, licorice and spices, along with stewed cherries. In the mouth, it’s round with chocolate, plums and cherry tones. Dry and austere, great with red meats, strong cheeses.

Pink Pearls:

Secession Rosé of Cabernet
Margaret River, W. Australia
587790 LCBO $11.95
Everyday dry rosé pleasure in the French manner: a pale salmon-pink Cabernet Franc from Western Australia. Red berry and delicate floral aromas, medium-bodied with spicy cherry/raspberry guava, and pink grapefruit acidity. Try with roast turkey or spicy oriental dishes, and drink up within a year. The late 1800s Secession art movement in Austria aimed to be ‘an art of the soul’ that would provide endless enjoyment. The Secession Shiraz Cabernet ’02, $15.20 also at the LCBO is a quaffable briary, juicy mouthful with wild blackberry-like fruit, white pepper, licorice and baking spices (86) to marry well with tomato-based pasta or lamb dishes.

Tavel ’03   90
AC La Forcadière, Domaine Maby
701318 (v) $17.95
Dry, refreshing, crisp and balanced: what the French drink daily by the container-load with food. Bing cherry, strawberry, cassis, mulberry and licorice notes with a soupçon of tannin and lots of character. Versatile with a spectrum of mains, including grilled white meats.

Sweet Dreams:

Samos Vin Doux Naturel ’02   90
Union des Coopératives Vinicoles de Samos, Greece
997536 (v) $8.95 375 mL
Medium-sweet Muscat from the island of Samos, yellow gold with aromas of orange marmalade, honeysuckle, vanilla, mango, citrus and butterscotch, lively on the palate. Medium-bodied with a long, elegant finish, 15.0%. Greek and Roman writers called Muscat the grape of the bees, from the Latin musca, meaning fly. A steal.

Pineau des Charentes Rémy Martin   93
Cognac, France
265686 (v) $ 26.95
Fortified aperitif from unfermented grape juice and Cognac, very fresh and very fruity, to be served chilled as a long drink, especially with a splash of soda water. Keep in the fridge: sip and chill!

Pretty Bubbles:

Champagne Bonnaire Brut Blanc de Blancs ’97   93
Cramant Grand Cru, France
924571 (v) $48.95
Fresh, zippy with pinpoint spirals of tiny bubbles, pale-gold with green glints, seductive aromas of vanilla bean, fresh-baked brioche, a buttered toast mid-palate and a tangy farewell of limes and lemon drops. 100% Chardonnay: from the chalky Côte des Blancs, 6km SE of Epernay.

Champagne Deutz Brut Classic   87
Champagne, France
710038 (v) $46.95
Well-priced elegant bubbles with an attractive lemon drop, toast, vanilla, apple and lime profile, quite intense and racy. Poached salmon, white meats.

High Spirits:

Roullet EOS   90
Cognac, France
669306 (V) $39.95
From a 9th generation distiller, for the cool crowd, here’s the youngest Roullet, a light, subtle, elegant and easy-drinking Cognac, showing a zingy-fruity pear-lemon main theme with tobacco leaf and vanilla embellishments. Nuances of fine old oak are not its thing: freshness is. Very good value. For the serious snifters, there’s a Roullet XO Blue Label with decanter, a silky, oaky, dried fruit and truffle symphony of 22- to 25-year Cognacs that rates a stellar (94) at $154.95. Your choice: it’s not Russian Roullet!

Take me back to the top of the page, please!