Fall 2016

(Hint: click on labels and photos for even more information!)

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

Sparkling Gems

Sweet Dreams

Everything WINE EXPRESS recommends is in the regular LCBO stores, unless marked (v) for Vintages stores, Boutiques, and Corners, or (c) Consignment, available by the case through the importing agent.

Call the LCBO’s Infoline 416-365-5900 or go to for the store near you that has the wine. If your store doesn’t have it, the manager will order in the wine at no 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:

Beronia Verdejo 2011                88
Rueda, Spain
461327 (v) $14.95
Crisp and citrus, lime zest, stony, mineral backbone and enormous freshness – very much in the classic herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc and Albarino range of super-dry aperitif and shellfish wine partnerships made in heaven.

Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2015                90
Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand
919514 (v) $19.95
It’s that old gooseberry and cat pee thing again! Super-aromatic grassy-herbaceous, in-your-face old style breakout Kiwi Savvy. Nothing wrong with that! To be fair, there are also threads of Key lime and nectarine citrus tracking through to keep things fresh and lively. Green-lipped mussels, oysters and kale salads are calling!

Willy Gisselbrecht Tradition Pinot Gris 2014                88
AC Alsace, France
641597 (v) $17.95
Medium-sweet, aromatic, flavorful and brimming with perfumed floral and bright lemon-citrus acidity and fruitiness. From this pink-skinned mutation of the Pinot Noir grape, it’s a gorgeous sipper or a charming accompaniment to lemon chicken or Thai dishes.

Domaines Schlumberger Kessler Riesling 2012                91
AC Alsace Grand Cru, France
61176 (v) $27.95
Great value in a super quality, elegant dry Riesling from one of France’s best vineyards. Melon, peach, orange, ginger, a thread of stony-sandstone mineral notes and racy citrus acidity underpinnings to keep everything edgy and finely balanced. Speaking of oysters…here’s your wine!

Seriously Cool White and RedSouthbrook Seriously Cool Chardonnay 2015                91
VQA Ontario
457481 LCBO $15.95
From star winemaker Ann Sperling, this new Chard offers aromas of green apple, poached pear, and tropical fruit. The midweight wine is layered with stone fruit balanced with lime-zest acidity. Lightly oaked, deliciously floral with the perfumes of a ripe fruit bowl, this is a grape trilogy of Chardonnay Musque, Chardonnay and Riesling that’ll make you think it’s spring again! Aimed at vegans and vegetarians, it’s breezy acidity will accent white bean spreads, light fish and chicken and things organic.

The companion Seriously Cool Red 2013, LCBO 453639, also $15.95, is a Pinot Noir, Gamay, Zweigelt and Syrah symphony, also under screw cap, juicy, chewy and earthy-black berry fruit forward. Cedar, strawberry and cherry take a bow, dry and ready to rock with red meats, frites and duck breast (90).

Rodney Strong Sonoma Coast Chardonnay ’14                89
Sonoma Coast, California
465724 (v) $29.95
Big, rich, fat and friendly: good qualities in a lovely Chardonnay that brings Key lime, pineapple, and crème brulee to the tasting. Lightly toasty, creamy in texture and full-bodied. Well priced for this quality.

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2014                89
VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula
256552 (v) $18.95
Lean and elegant with red apple-mineral, tangerine, butterscotch and toasty oak attributes. Inspired by the limestone-rich Niagara Escarpment, here’s a wine to match with shellfish and lightly sauced seafood, or serve as a palate-cleansing aperitif.

Nederburg The Winemasters Sauvignon Blanc 2015                88
W.O. Western Cape, Paarl, South Africa
382713 LCBO $11.95
From South Africa’s most awarded wine brand (since 1791) a lively white with tropical, crisp, and zesty notes. Gooseberry and passion fruit offset herbs, asparagus and fresh-cut grass. Crisp with tropical notes, white grapefruit and wet stone, great with a garden salad, steamed white fish, simple roasted poultry and as an aperitif.

The companion red Winemasters Cabernet Sauvignon,111526 LCBO $11.95 (90) is rich, bold and full-bodied, with juicy notes of berry and plum. Hints of vanilla and supple tannins. The Cabernet, grown on the foothills of the Simonsberg range, is great with roast lamb, meat casseroles, beef and venison, poultry and game birds.

Nederburg is one the world’s most admired wine brands, in the elite company of Australia’s Penfolds, French icons Yquem, Haut-Brion, Latour and Margaux, and Spain’s Campo Viejo.

Chateau des Charmes Chardonnay 2014                89
VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula. ON
430991 LCBO $19.95
Traditional Burgundian-style Chardonnay made the way Canadian wine pioneer Paul Bosc Sr. was taught in Dijon, barrel fermented, barrel aged with lees stirring. The 25-year-old vines tap the calcium-rich Niagara Escarpment and add distinctive minerality.

Meanwhile, the Chateau’s Old Vines Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Estate Bottled (222372 LCBO $21.95) has just been re-released: it’s the last of this vintage and a keeper. An equal claret-like blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cab Franc and Merlot from four vineyards that spent 10 months in older French oak (91).

Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2014                88
BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
467563 (v) $19.95
From those two entrepreneur magicians Allan Jackson and Donald Triggs, who founded J-T back in 1993, now producing fine and well-liked wines in BC and Ontario, this silky-smooth Chard has just the right touch of buttered toast and vanilla/oak aromas to showcase the peach and pineapple ripeness on the palate. Versatile with or without food.

Tawse Estate Chardonnay 2012                90
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
344804 (v) $38.40
Aromatic with ripe tropical fruits, honeydew melon and floral notes on the nose followed on the palate by fresh-cut melon, Gala apple and cinnamon spice, sourced from organic and biodynamic vineyards. Well rounded with gentle acidity and perfect with spicy fare.

Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay 2014                87
WO Western Cape, KWV, South Africa
328559 (v) $16.95
Pull out the old grill and pork chops/chicken wings and settle in for a juicy, smoky braai (barbecue to us non-South Africans). Red meats, red wine, yes, however, thanks to this powerhouse wine producer of the southern Cape, here’s a creamy, peachy, lightly oaked Chard white to match your lighter, whiter BBQ fare. As the snow starts to fall, remember, it’s high summer in the Western Cape.

Dry Red Wines:

13th Street Sandstone Gamay Noir 2013                90
VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, ON
130195 (v) $29.95
There’s a distinctive crushed black pepper and earthy spiciness here that showcases a subtle cherry cola fruitiness on the palate, thanks to some old vine intensity in this very Beaujolais-esque beauty. Croque monsieur, anyone?

Red Hill Estate Range Cool Climate Pinot Noir 2014                87
Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia
58073 (v) $23.95
There’s a lightly vegetal nuance to this delicious Pinot that’s either from early picking or a local varietal quirk – but it’s nice. Emphasizing its “cool” credentials, Mornington identifies vinously with the Rheingau, Napa and Burgundy: it certainly has one of the best views in the world. Wild strawberries dominate the flavor profile with hints of wood smoke and damp forest floor. Ready now or hold 3-5 years.

Elouan Pinot Noir 2014                91
Copper Cane, Oregon
420760 (v) $29.95
From the three main wine valleys of Oregon, Pinot grapes have been melded into a harmonic taste riff: cassis, dark Belgian chocolate, cherry-strawberry, cranberry, sweet tobacco and lightly smoky-oaky tones from discreet barrel aging. Pork loin, seared salmon, Peking Duck and cassoulet beckon.

Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Red Blend 2012Columbia Crest H3 Les Chevaux Red Blend 2012                90
Horse Heaven Hills, Columbia Valley, Washington
287425 (v) $19.95
From Syrah, Merlot and a bunch of other red grapes, here’s an easy-drinking fruity red with chocolatey-creamy charm and silky notes of black plum, blueberry and cherry, from the dry, high country east of the towering Cascade Mountains, pepper steak, stews, pates and strong cheeses. And, yes, H3 is Horse Heaven Hills – once home to hundreds of wild horses.

Robert Oatley Signature Series Shiraz 2014                90
McLaren Vale, South Australia
327387 (v) $19.95
Dark chocolate, ripe blueberries and cherry liqueur with a whiff of summer road tar and cinnamon spice tempt you into a world of sinful red fruit pleasure. Bob Oatley has always called for all wines to be a “darned good drink” and here’s a perfect example, at a fair price.

Pertimali Brunello di Montalcino 2009                91
DOCG, Livio Sassetti, Italy
474734 (v) $49.95
Sweet tobacco, cooking spices, old leather, prunes and blackberries, hints of raisins and sultanas and a haunting earthiness. 100% Sangiovese, the grape of Chianti, polished by generations of family wine-smarts here. Livio has wine going back to 1915 in his cellar. We should all be so lucky!

Wynn’s Coonawarra Estate Shiraz 2012                90
Coonawarra, South Australia
433060 (v) $22.95
A good everyday drop! Crushed black pepper, black cherry and lightly tarry-smoky notes deliver layers of gorgeous cherry-berry and boysenberry middle palate pleasure. Well priced, well made.

Salentein Reserve Malbec 2014                89
Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
640854 (v) $17.95
Bit of a steal at this price, a Malbec with old leather, ripe berry and red cherry complexity, from the up and coming Uco Valley. It’s a fruit-driven crowd pleaser that will impress even your wine nerd friends with its pleasurable sophistication.

Tinto Negro Malbec 2012                90
Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
364075 (v) $16.95
A more fleshy texture on the palate, chewy in a nice way: packed with black raspberry fruit notes, black licorice and toastiness from careful French oak barrel aging. Full bodied and smooth.

SonVida Malbec 2012                93
Mendoza, Argentina
458240 (v) $29.95
Hand-harvested lovingly from a single vineyard at 1000 metres in the up-and-coming Uco Valley, rich, elegant, ripe with complex and smooth nuances of exquisite cassis, blackberry, dark bittersweet chocolate, forest floor, French oak and herbal notes. Midweight and food friendly. Now through 2025.

Buenos Aires-born TV journalist Sonia Ruseler and ex-Reuters Brit David Smith built the vineyard from scratch and they’re neighbors and friends of the famed Nicolas Catena Zapata family, Argentina’s pioneering modern winemakers, whose cellar master lends them a helping hand and directs their winemaking. Sonia and David are now certified sommeliers, too, and busy writing a new and fully involved life in wine for themselves. Bravo!

Borsao Bole 2013                90
DO Campo de Borja, Spain
471565 (v) $15.95
After the recent triumph of Tres Picos, a warmly-received Garnacha wine (still a few around), welcome to another Borsao, (Bo-lay) blending Garnacha and Syrah. Perfect! Chocolate, vanilla, wet earth and spices with a thread of grilled red peppers and bright cherry fruit. Garnacha is in revival: It’s the most planted red in the world. Its aliases are Grenache, of course, and Alicante, Aragonés, Cannonau, Garnaccho Negro, Garnacha Negra, Garnacha Roja, Garnacha Tinta, Tintilla, Toledana, Uva di Spagna. And it’s a key grape in the Rhone, Italy and Sardinia.

Weinert Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Weinert Cabernet Sauvignon 2006                90
Mendoza, Argentina
656363 (v) $25.95
My first time with Weinert was in an Argentinian resto in Miami faced with a carnivore’s BBQ platter of every red meat on earth! Many bottles of Weinert were needed! This 10-year-old is a wine from another era of viniculture – involving huge casks and quirky winemaking. Unlike today’s fresh Argentinian reds, it delivers a slightly gamey, pruney and leathery experience: from smoky oak, toast plum, cherry and old leather, truffle, black licorice and ripe berry fruit. It’s in a time warp. Grab it now!

Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon 2013                89
291666 (v) $24.95
Creamy dark chocolate flavors with a vanilla-mocha swirl, mulberry, black tea and a tartful of cherry flambé and new oak – just for starters! Great with prime rib roast, sweet and smoky ribs, gourmet burgers and lamb chops. Drink now!

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2012                89
BC VQA Okanagan Valley
626325 (v) $44.95
Now becoming an iconic French wine made in Canada, this Bordeaux-designed, financed and inspired red is becoming a classic. An offshoot of Gruaud-Larose, it’s Merlot, Cabernet, Petit Verdot and Malbec and currently young, tight and tannic, as you would expect. Good for another 10 years or more, it’s now showing blackberry, cassis, old leather and mulberry nuances with firm tannins and good acidity. If you must open it now, match with very rare fine steaks.

Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2010                91
Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
616433 (v) $39.95
For a Canadian Bordeaux style red grown in Canada, try Speck: the right Bordeaux grape varieties, French oak barrels, great vintage, and ready to rock! The tannins have softened and it’s dense and almost chewy with ripe fruit and an almost cerebral hint of oak aging.

Sparkling Gems:

Graham Beck Brut Chardonnay/Pinot Noir SparklingGraham Beck Brut Chardonnay/Pinot Noir Sparkling                88
Methode Cap Classique, WO Western Cape, SA
593483 (v) $18.95
There’s a pleasing lemony freshness and fruitiness here with just a hint of roasted hazelnuts and haunting vanilla to make things interesting. Complex and rich with a fine mousse. Made from the two principal Champagne grape varieties and by the painstaking Champagne method of fermenting a second time and long-aging on the lees in the original bottle, this is a thoroughbred among bubblies.

Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2009                90
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
383315 (v) $29.95
Called Methode Traditionelle over here, another top-notch fizz that is essentially Champagne grown in Canada. Buttery and rich, bone-dry and elegant with notes of binned apples, fresh lemons and pie crust. New Year resolutions made with this are bound to succeed! Maybe. Riddled refers to the hand riddling that rids the bottles of the spent yeasts.

Oyster Bay Sparkling Cuvée Rosé                88
New Zealand
280172 (v) $21.95
Fresh and lively and all you’d want and expect in a twenty-buck fizz. Many’s the happy wedding toast that will be supped to the libations of this grand little pink bubbly. Not to mention the holiday festivities – Chardonnay and Pinot dance like Fred and Ginger here and so will you! Great value.

Domaine de Vaugondy                87
AC Brut Vouvray Methode Traditionelle, Loire
154567 (v) $17.95
Another French “Champagne” grown and vinified a full day’s drive away in the beautiful Loire Valley by the technique used in Rheims and Epernay and it’s great value. Green apple, pastry crust and citrus/vanilla with a whack of lime zest refreshes and tickles your palate, and spares your wallet.

Le Mesnil Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs                91
AC Champagne, France
460840 (v) $49.95
Toasted hazelnuts, camellias and a chalky mineral note. Creamy vanilla and buttered toast tease the palate and there’s a lively lemon-caramel dimension that’s just crisp enough to refresh and re-invigorate between mouthfuls of caviar or toasted cheese sandwiches.

Sweet Dreams:

Domaine Cauhape Symphonie de Novembre 2012                93
AC Jurancon, France
470344 (v) $38.95
November is the late-harvest picking date and the inspiration for this exotic off-dry beauty from the foothills of the Pyrenees. Think distant echoes of ultra-ripe Ontario Icewine style here. Tropical fruits, pineapple, apricot juice, mangoes and honey. Sweet but not cloying. Hits all the right notes and reputedly good for your sex drive!

Alvear Solera 1927 Pedro Ximenez                95
DO Montilla-Moriles, Spain
463034 (v) $19.95 375mL
No, it’s not actually a 1927 although there’s a molecular amount of the original 1927 in here, along with some amazing flavors of raisins, hazelnuts, toffee, caramel, grilled toast and mocha. That’s just on the nose! On the palate, there’s ripe dates, figs, golden syrup and vanilla bean. The PX grapes are sun-dried after picking and yield massively concentrated, unctuous dessert wines in this regional neighbor of Spain’s Sherry country. The impression is not simple sweetness. Rather it’s a rich nirvana of dried fruits, toffee and nuts. From a lovely family-run winery. Think Christmas cake. Bliss out!

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