Autumn 2005

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

Sweet (and Dry) Pleasures

Pretty Bubbles

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:

Peninsula Ridge Sauvignon Blanc ’04   91
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
592303 (v) $18.95
More Loire than New Zealand, elegant and restrained, tending to ripe Anjou pear, Delicious apple, watermelon rather than grassy, and with a beautifully poised acidity. Charming, good value. Food friendly.

Selaks Premium Selection Sauvignon Blanc ’04   90
Nobilo Wines, Marlborough, New Zealand
566935 (v) $16.95
Fresh and grapey, showing tons of tropical fruit, green apple-lime acidity and a whiff of gooseberry. Ready to rock as aperitif or with seafood/shellfish!

Te Mania Sauvignon Blanc ’04   89
Nelson, South Island, NZ
728048 (v) $17.95
Rhubarb pie, ripe gooseberry and zippy lime zest infuse on the nose and palate, finishing tart and refreshing. “Tay-Mannia” is how the Kiwis say it. Top Drop, I say!

Graham Beck Sauvignon Blanc ‘05   89
WO Coastal Region, South Africa
948620 (v) $13.95
Lime cordial, green figs, fresh-cut grass, green peppers and ripe gooseberries, no oak, very fresh, screw cap. It’s the South African approach to S. Blanc, and they have a delicious way of doing it. Distinctive, twixt NZ and California.

Menetou-Salon Morogues ’04   94
Henry Pellé, Loire, France
719757 (v) $22.95
Refined, aromatic and special. So silky-smooth it’ll make your mouth water, 180 degrees from New Zealand’s exuberance, the ultimate match for raw shellfish or seafood. Just tasted at a Parisian raw bar opposite Gare St-Lazare: it was killer! Very good value

Federspiel Kollmuetz ’03 Grüner Veltliner
Erich Mccherndl, Wachau, Austria
909630 (v) $14.95
Flinty, grapey, yet full of dried apricot and fresh grapefruit notes. From the hot and robust ’03 vintage and ready to pair with herb-roasted chicken or knackwurst.

Vigna a Solatio ’04   89
Falchini, Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Tuscany
994012 (v) $14.95
Winter melon, pear, gum arabic, and stony minerals on the nose. Here’s an austere, very dry, elegant white with plum skins, dried fruits, and especially apricots on the finish, ready for aperitif, antepasto, shellfish and seafood. Vernaccia’s the variety: A wine to “kiss, lick, bite and sting,” according to Michelangelo in his medieval poem Aione.

Pierre Sparr Riesling Reserve ’02   89
Alsace, France
959361 (v) $18.95
Fragrant, steely, ideal with fresh cooked crab, here’s a lemony-fresh, mineral rich, very good food wine to be consumed soonest.

Von Buhl Riesling Kabinett ’03   92
Forster Bischofsgarten, Pfalz, Germany
988527 (v) $18.95
Diesel oil, lime zest, slate-mineral and intense peach-floral notes permeate this terrific off-dry white that’s perfect for Asian, fusion, or just plain sippin’. Will keep five years.

Reichsgraf Von Kesselstat Riesling Kabinett ’02   92
Josephshofer, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany
989525 (v) $21.95
Tropical, rich, oily – and that’s good, Martha! – with a tangy mineral acidity, full, rich, fruity pear, banana, guava palette of flavors and a pedigree that goes back who knows how long? Well priced and a keeper.

DA Viognier ’04   88
Domaines Astruc, Pays d’Oc, France
656744 (v) $13.95
Spicy, aromatic, ripe and fresh with a blast of pear-apricot, white peach and white flowers. Very good value as an aperitif or easy-drinking dry white with rich seafood dishes.

Trio Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio/Pinot Blanc ’04   90
Concha y Toro, Casablanca Valley, Chile
433938 (v) $13.95
Fresh, lively and made with finesse, here’s a food-friendly, affordable white that’s a notch above the ordinary. The three grape varieties blend seamlessly for a small tour de force, crisp, silky and packed with tropical fruitiness. Grilled shrimp, white meats, Asian cuisine. The companion reds, Trio Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Cabernet Franc ’03 (88) and Trio Merlot/Carmenere/Cabernet Sauvignon ’04 (90), both $14.95, also show the fine touch of Ignacio Recabarrén, Chile’s leading winemaker. Ready now, they’re fruit forward, spicy and silky, with smooth tannins, for anything from pizza to roast beef.

Henry of Pelham Chardonnay Barrel-Fermented ’04   90
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
268342 (v) $19.95
The first VQA wine ever bottled under a screw cap, mouth-filling, complex and delicious: layers of creamy citrus, butter, tropical peach-melon fruit flavors with a flinty-mineral, caramel toasty finish. White Burgundy fans love this French-oak-fermented wine, ageable yet attractive now.

Dry Reds:

Hugel Pinot Noir ’01   89
Alsace, France
971820 (v) $20.95
A classic for the Pinophiles: earthy, spicy nose of beetroot, black pepper and raspberry, with a mild cherry fruit and cedar-soft tannin kiss on the palate. A far cry from the robust California take on this tricky grape, very food friendly, elegant and enjoyable right now, especially with roast fowl, white meats, grilled salmon, mild cheeses.

Terra d’Aligi ’03   87
Montalcino d’Abruzzo, Italy
981399 (v) 11.95
Plum, prune, menthol, and saddle leather, a wine to quaff and savor with pizza, pasta and burgers. Yum!

I Feudi di Romans Merlot ’02   88
Lorenzon, Isonzo del Friuli, Italy
658344 (v) $15.95
Very nicely made, typical northern Italian (cool-climate) Merlot, medium-weight, restrained, elegant and food-friendly with subtle plum-prune, cherry and leather notes, a hint of blueberry and gentle tannin-oak traces on the finish. Enjoy now to 2008 with beef stews, casseroles, rabbit and rich pasta dishes.

Terre Palladiane Valpolicella ’03   87
Zonin, Veneto, Italy
620559 LCBO $10.95
Ripe cherry, blackberry and a hint of shoe polish (in a nice way!) from a smooth, rich midweight red for everyday pleasure, versatile with white meats, BBQ, grilled salmon, spicy sausage. Drink now. Its shelf partner white, Terre Palladiane Soave, $8.95, LCBO 620567, is cleanly made, crisp and floral with a characteristic hint of bitter herbs and fine acidity. Food friendly value (88).

Amancay Cabernet Sauvignon ’02   88
Finca Eugenio Bustos, Uco Valley, Argentina
620518 LCBO $9.95
From a very ripe harvest and exploding with flavor: Argentinian reds are trending up 27.7% and here’s the reason: good flavors, good price – plums, prunes, chocolate, cedar on the nose, blackberry, elderberry and saddle leather on the palate, complex and attractive. With grilled red meats, hard cheeses.

Jackson-Triggs Delaine Vineyard Cabernet-Merlot ’02   90
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
989269 (v) $29.95
Slip this into a blind tasting of red Bordeaux/California Cab and watch the fun! Lashings of new oak add mocha-toast on the nose to blackberry, coffee, cassis, flavors and a whiff of crème brûlée on the finish. Lush, elegant and sleek: ageable 10 years. Delaine has also released its ’02 Merlot and its Pinot Noir, both $24.95 and both (90). The Merlot is very New World, blueberry and plum to the fore, with a dash of fresh black pepper. The Pinot shows menthol, eucalyptus and balsamic notes on the nose, along with earth, spice and beets, soft tannins and fresh acidity. All three are keepers.

Château Caronne Ste-Gemme ’96   88
Nony-Borie, Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France
659912 (v) $31.95
An elegant claret to enjoy now, a fully evolved Medoc, all the youthful edges rounded into the secondary and tertiary flavors of chocolate, truffle, tobacco, prune rather than plum, dried fruit and leafy notes. In other words, enjoy today!

Château Vieux Lartigue ’00   89
Dourthe Frères, St-Emilion, Bordeaux, France
659680 (v) $34.95
From the super-millennium vintage, ageable, packed with tobacco, red fruit, sweet oak, dry tannins, spice and mineral nuances. Best with rare red meat dishes now, or cellar 2-4 years.

Domaine de l’Ameillaud Cairanne ’03   89
Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, France
660605 (v) $14.95
Baked earth, raspberry, fresh-ground black pepper and ripe tannins call for robust Mediterranean dishes now or a couple of years in the cellar. Good value.

Viña Urbezo ’03   88
Cariñena, NE Spain
$15.75 (in Consignment, by the case of 6)
Wafts of new leather, red berries, cola and wild flowers seduce the nose, and a sip shows Beaujolais-like raspberry/strawberry (from whole-cluster fermentation) with bacon fat/baked earth on the palate. Well made/well priced, from the Cariñena D.O. zone in Spain’s arid Aragón region but, ironically, not from the Cariñena grape – a blend, in fact, of Garnacha (Grenache), Tempranillo and Syrah. A match for foie gras, mushrooms, roasts, feathered game and Manchego cheese.

Cariñena the grape (alias Carignan and widely grown in the Languedoc) is the core of a heftier, richer sibling wine, Urbezo Selección 2000, $19.75. The blend here includes Garnacha, Cab Sauvignon and Syrah, vinified separately then blended (90). This shows eucalyptus, rosemary, cocoa, tobacco, figs, cherries, vanilla and dried fruits. The winery uses American, French and Russian oak. Imported by Fernando García,, 416/888-7253

Muga Reserva ’01   94
Rioja, Spain
177345 (v) $19.95, 976928 375mL $12.75
Buy by the case: superb value, from the traditional Rioja grapes Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo and Graciano aged in French and American casks. Intense flavors and pure fruit and cinnamon notes. For a Old/New World comparison, splurge on two other Muga masterpieces: Prado Enea Gran Reserva ’96 and Torre Muga (being mulled for Classics Catalogue as we speak). Meanwhile, try the Joven Roble ’03 from Pago de los Capellanes, the superstar winery in Ribera del Duero. At $19.95, 718296 (v) in November), it’s lush, Merlot-ish, and a best buy. The icon single-vineyard El Picón from Capellanes costs $275 and could be in Classics 2006.

Ada Tinto ’03   88
Finca Zubastia, Navarra, Spain
657437 (v) $15.95
Supple, rich, blackberry-plum and elderberry notes from the Tempranillo/Garnacha/Cab/Merlot blend deliver a slinky-smooth, elegant red you can age or pour tonight, with rich red meats, savory stews, root veg casseroles and tangy cheeses.

Quinta da Cabriz Colheita Seleccionada ’03   86
Dao, Portugal
949974 (v) $11.95
A Port-like blast of fruit, berries, licorice and spices greets the nose, accompanied by whiffs of garrigue: lavender, tarragon, thyme and rosemary. Value priced, full-bodied and delicious from a consistent producer. Perfect with roast lamb.

J.P. Vinhos Só Touriga Nacional ’01   88
Terras do Sado, Portugal
662494 (v) $21.95
Só means ‘only’ or 100% Touriga Nacional, the über-grape in the Port blend, increasingly used today for unfortified red table wines in Portugal, and here TN delivers a mulberry, oaky-vanilla, pomegranate character to an ageable wine to match beef, lamb, pork, game.

Château Haut-Monplaisir Prestige ’02   90
Cathy & Daniel Fournié, Cahors, SW France
936534 (v) $20.95
Millennia ago, a vast limestone plateau, the fossilized bed of an ancient ocean, covered Aquitaine. The earth’s convulsions that created the Pyrenees and the Alps cracked the plateau, leaving great river valleys, and the upland plateau known today as the Causses. This rugged land, planted with vines by the Romans before Jesus was a lad, produces powerful vin de garde reds, like Monplaisir, with pure damson and black cherry fruitiness, a touch of oak, and “wizout ze edge” as Catherine Deneuve used to tell us. To enjoy with charcuterie, red meats, rabbit stew, hard cheeses. Serve with food or cellar 4-6 years.

Barolo Vigna La Volta ’00   93
Cabutto, Tenuta La Volta, Piemonte, Italy
586354 (v) $57.95
Aromas of elderberry, blackberry, tar and dried flowers, forest floor after rain, and integrated tannins. Here’s a silky Nebbiolo harvested in a very good year. Best cellared for 3-4 years, 14%. Highly recommended with beef and Portobello mushrooms.

Andrea Oberto Barolo ’00   89
Piemonte, Italy
717264 (v) $49.95
Sweetly ripe berries, especially Bing cherries and black plums, oak and vanilla. Very polished and surprisingly evolved, for current consumption or keeping a couple of years. An early glimpse of how the 2000 vintage will evolve.

Sweet (and Dry) Pleasures

Emilio Lustau Don Nuño Dry Oloroso   91
Jerez, Spain
532036 (v) $28.95
For the connoisseur. An elegant, complex and ethereal Sherry to remind us of the fabulous range of these under-appreciated, amazingly sophisticated wines. Pitched by the LCBO as a match for consommé, tapas, sashimi or sushi. How right they are!

Fonseca 20-year-old Aged Tawny Port   94
Oporto, Portugal
985366 (v) $35.95 375mL
Hazelnuts, dried red berries and vanilla to the fore, with the scents of forest floor and black earth after rain, chased by the fragrance of autumn leaves (very timely!) get this baby off the ground, and that’s only the bouquet. Bottled in 2004. Lovely stuff and a great example of wood-aged vs. bottle-aged port. Bless ’em both!

Quinta da Noval LBV Port ’99   92
Oporto, Portugal
677815 (v) $23.95
Already aged during its infancy in barrel until 2005, a pretty example of a late-bottled vintage, subtle wine, ready to roll! Unfiltered, so you might want to decant (filtering through a coffee filter or paper towel is OK) and luscious, with a hint of eucalypt to sip alongside fresh-cracked nuts or a mild blue cheese, or on its own.

Pretty Bubbles:

Cattier Brut Premier Cru   93
Chigny-lès-Roses, Champagne
919464 (v) $37.95 (1500mL $75.95, 375mL $19.50)
Great-value bubbly: pale gold, toasty with a hint of truffles, the acidity highlighted by a cut of citrus and grapefruit, with a back taste of smoke and lime zest . Not bad for a fraction of the regular going rate for Champagne.

Taittinger Brut Réserve   91
Champagne, France
814723 (v) $54.95
Lots of oak, smoke, flint, truffle, gunpowder and spent lees salute your nasal passages. The secondary attack is a smooth lime-zesty invasion of the palate with a long, enjoyable finish that’s clean and refreshing. Top-drawer bubbly.

Foss Marai Prosecco Extra Dry Blue Bottle   90
Veneto, Italy
729392 (v) $18.95
Seductive floral-melon aromas lead you into a marzipan, pear and citrus flavor combo with hints of white grapefruit and minerals... Not bad for a wine in a gorgeous blue bottle (collectors, please note!). Pre-party, anytime pleasure.

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