Spring 2004

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 Pleasures

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:

Ken Forrester Sauvignon Blanc ’03   86
Stellenbosch, S. Africa
971945 (v) $13.95
Very zippy, fresh and racy bone-dry white with herbaceous, grassy intensity and food-friendly fruity acidity perfect with freshwater fish, shellfish or asparagus or as an aperitif.

Delheim Sauvignon Blanc ’03   88
Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, S. Africa
927509 (v) $12.95
A much more tropical fruit version of S. Blanc: still light, dry, crisp and elegant but the core fruit flavors veer to sensuous guava, passion fruit, pineapple tones rather than grassy-herbal. More of a sipper or accompaniment to fruit-accented salads and sauces.

Leth Gruner Veltliner Classic ’02   87
Donauland, Austria
907113 (v) $16.95
Speaking of tropical flavors, here’s an interesting oddity: an aromatic white wine from the dark-skinned Roter Veltliner, a rare mutation of the green-gold ubiquitous Gruner Veltliner, that’s positively peachy-passion fruit, apricot and white pepper. The GV is Austria’s signature grape whose most successful (and highly perfumed) white wines generally come from the Wachau and Vienna. There are points for spotting the even rarer Brauner Veltliner!

Henry of Pelham Riesling Dry ’02   89
VQA Niagara Peninsula
268375 LCBO $11.45
Appealing ripe Granny Smith apple, citrus and rose petal aromas that echo in taste tingles on the palate, and pleasantly, crisply, fresh and dry. Versatile aperitif/food wine with ham, goat’s cheese, salads, grilled white fish or poultry.

Balthasar Ress Riesling Kabinett 2001
Hattenheim, Rheingau, Germany
722363 $14.95
Full of honey, apricots and flowers with enough acidity to keep focused and clean with a very long finish.

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Riesling ’02
Barossa Valley, Australia
925776 LCBO $20.95
One of Australia’s best-loved brands, and the key here is “Reserve”: from a healthy vintage that delivered great fruit flavors and natural acidity. Ripe, green fruit, limes, citrus, apples and spring flowers predominate and there’s a chalky, mineral spine. Serve with shellfish, seafood and white sauced pasta.

Inniskillin Servos Vineyard Viognier ’02   87
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
626382 (v0 $19.95
Pencil lead, cedar and pear notes here rather than the white pepper/lychee perfumed profile of many Viogniers and none the worse for that. Solid citizen, more to the Roussanne side of the aromatic spectrum than the Gewurztraminer end. Enjoy this wine young and prosper, especially with grilled white meats, pasta, and baked white fish.

Rodney Strong Chardonnay ’01   87
Sonoma County, California
226936 (v) $19.95
Creamy, plush texture on the tongue, vanilla and crème brulée/butterscotch flavors and soft mid-palate with gentle apple-pear nuances make this a wine-highway cruiser rather than a roadster. Crowd-pleaser with nothing to dislike or get wildly excited about.

Fetzer Five Rivers Chardonnay ’02   88
Monterey County, California
641449 (v) $18.95
Attractive, lighter style Chard, fresh, clean and elegant with peach/apricot and soft citrus core, gently smoky-toasty backdrop, and dry, refreshing aftertaste. Good value, with freshwater fish, shellfish, roasted chicken and tarragon.

Te Kairanga Chardonnay ’02   91
Martinborough, New Zealand
727024 (v) $19.95
Very, very Burgundian, and that’s a good thing, Martha. Complex, elegant, layered and nuanced with minerals, oak, intense pear/apple core and lovely texture on the palate. Ageable and a good example of the very fine ’02 vintage in this promising North Island region. Moules marinières, chicken salad, smoked turkey.

Goldwater Roseland Chardonnay ’02   89
Marlborough, S. Island, N. Zealand
991463 (v) $19.95
Big, four-square, fruity, Falstaff to Prince Hal kind of wine, with a whack of toasty-smoky oak and a mineral cornerstone to the citrus-white grapefruit main course. Fans of the charry-oak persuasion will love this, with bloaters, smoked mussels/oysters, BBQ-ed anything.

Beaumont Chenin Blanc ’03   85
Walker Bay, South Africa
927491 (v) $12.95
A whiff of sulphite (harmless preservative that smells like a burnt match) blows off fairly quickly (you can decant white wines, too, and this helps!), leaving a good, lively fruity wine with a lime-cordial herbal, melon/vanilla and lime zest profile. Made from the signature white wine grape of the Loire, known in S. Africa as Steen, food friendly: esp. chicken, white fish, veal.

Goats Do Roam White ’03   86
Western Cape, S. Africa
943167 (v) $11.95
From “Charles Back and the Fairview Team”, this spoofy (Côtes du Rhône) knockoff drives the French crazy. The South African winery is locally famous for its herds of goats/goat cheeses, internationally notorious for its cheeky French lookalike labels complete with Gothic script. Made from locally grown Rhône grapes Grenache Blanc, Clairette and Viognier and the S. African Crouchen, it’s a decent, fleshy, easy-drinking dry white with a stony, mineral and baked apple character. There’s a red sibling, Red ’02, also $11.95 that’s a quaffer that includes Pinotage grapes, which give an unmistakable iodine, rusty nails note that you love or hate (86). Goat-Roti ’02 at $19.95 (90) is much more elegant, silky, smoky with hints of grilled bacon and red fruits. This blend of Shiraz, Grenache, Carignan and Viognier is a good value Perfect with roti! Even better with a Côte-Rôtie, but that’ll cost you!

Dry Reds:

Château des Poupets ’02   87
Georges Duboeuf, Juliénas, Beaujolais
715656 (v) $16.95
Wine from a small, family-owned estate in a good location: delivers a delicious blast of raspberry, cherry, and wood smoke on the nose but is weighed down by perhaps a little too much oak on the palate. Would be perfect with grilled or roasted red meats cooked rare, or grilled salmon. Also in a handy half-bottle, $8.95.

Fetzer Five Rivers Syrah ’01   88
Central Coast, California
641431 (v) $19.95
Black fruit, leather, licorice, tarry-smoky plums and white pepper: smooth and sleek with good tannins for longevity and fine acidity to refresh the palate with roast lamb, rib roasts, tomato-sauced pastas.

Cathedral Cellar Shiraz ’00   90
Western Cape, South Africa
$16.95 LCBO
A powerhouse with finesse, named for the vaulted ceiling of KWV Wines’ barrel cellar. Delivers a jazzy session of fresh berry fruits, black cherries, plums, black pepper, juniper, smoky leather, and spice. Accessible now but will become more complex with a few years of maturing. 14.5% alc. Great with duck and wild game. There’s also a new Cathedral Cellar Merlot 2000, 522219 (v) $16.95 (90), noteworthy for its intense, smoky-tarry blueberry, bitter chocolate and spicy-toasty oak character. Quite delicious and excellent value.

Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon ’01   90
Sonoma County, California
226944 (v) $24.95
[Don’t you get sick of all these $.95 price points? Who are they fooling?] Richly layered and complex Cab, with wonderful nuances of cassis, blackberry, crème brulée, charry oak and ripe tannins. Complex and intriguing. Perfect with a filet, rare roast beef or venison.

Mildara Cabernet Sauvignon ’00   91
Coonawarra, S. Australia
919548 (v) $19.95
Gorgeous, ageable, or to enjoy now. Strong chocolate, minty, blackberry notes with a steady blackcurrant and cedar back beat. Very elegant, albeit slightly chunky and charming at this price point. Vintages’ "wine of the month" and deservingly so. Lamb shoulder, prime ribs, rib eye.

Clos Pegase Cabernet Sauvignon ’00   92
Napa Valley, California
268235 (v) $57.95
Yup. I know. $60. But you should see the winery! One of the most glorious sights in the wine world. And the wine... Beautiful, swelegant, smooth. S’more, please. Herbs, exotic spices, ripe black fruit, plums, oak and fine tannins, gorgeous with a rack of lamb, filet mignon, all by itself...

Wyndham Estate Cabernet Merlot ’97   87
Hunter Valley, Australia
925750 LCBO $23.95
From Oz’s oldest operating winery, founded in 1828 on the banks of the Hunter, here’s a silky-smooth, elegant New World-style Bordeaux blend that drives the French ga-ga! Concentrated, balanced fruit, oak, fine tannins and natural acidity with the patina that comes from a little bottle-aging. Serve with filet, roast lamb, spicy-sauced pastas and a big grin.

Te Kairanga Pinot Noir ’02   91
Martinborough, North Island
744946 (v) $28.95
An exciting example of this emerging new red wine star from New Zealand: elegant, complex and multi-layered Pinot with a blast of black raspberry, cassis, black cherry and a hint of earth and beets. Burgundians would be impressed! Feathered game, roast lamb, grilled salmon.

Château Brillette 2000   88
Comte de Périer de Larson, Moulis
998617 (v) $39.95
A good-value Cru Bourgeois from the Haut-Médoc from the stellar millennium vintage, tight, clean, compact and pretty, with fragrant tobacco, mulberry and red currants, needs cellar time (3-5 years) to really shine.

Château de Malleret 2000   90
Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois
995647 (v) $34.95
Mocha, rich, fresh-brewed coffee, toasty oak and black currant, currants, wood smoke and cedar, well balanced. A little heftier than Brillette but poised and sophisticated.

Château du Taillan 2000   87
Cuvée des Dames, Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois
984427 (v) $22.95
Black cherry and black currant aromas lead the attack, well supported by fragrant oak and a hint of cedar, echoing perfectly on the palate. Still tight and closed, of course, but worthy of aging and terrific value.

Blackwood Ridge Shiraz ’01   89
Plunkett Wines, Victoria
507277 (v) $21.95
A big Oz red with finesse: plenty of potent ripe black and red fruit aromas and flavors, toast/vanilla oak and supple tannins with fragrances of camomile, mint, clove and cedar. Very agreeable and fresh on the palate. Serve with elegant roasts, prime rib.

Woodstock Shiraz ’99   89
Limestone Coast/McLaren Vale
985416 (v) $19.95
A lusher, jammier, more mainstream Oz Shiraz with a juicy blackberry/new leather and floral profile. Quite smooth and mouth filling. Serve with steaks and anything grilled on the barbie.

Les Garrigues ’01   88
Pierre Clavel, Côteaux du Languedoc
748814 (v) $16.95
Very good value from the Deep South of France: Syrah, Grenache and Carignan grapes combine like the Three Graces to offer an intense, sensuous, smooth red with suggestions of black fruits, tarry, smoky, new leather, violets and licorice. With small game, lamb, spicy pasta or cheese souffle.

Château Lacapelle-Cabanac ’01   87
Cuvée Prestige, Simon & Verax, Cahors
711119 (v) $13.95
This inky-purple, muscular French country wine focuses the appealing aromas/flavors of strawberries, apples, cloves, charry toasted oak and chunky tannins, with a hint of violets and licorice. Will take on more leather and autumnal notes with age. Made from Malbec grown on the high, rugged limestone plateau that dominates the Lot Valley. Malbec, known locally as Côt Noir and still permitted in Bordeaux, is more widely grown in Cahors, the Loire, across SW France and in Argentina.

Domaine de Poujo ’99   86
Claude Lanux, Madiran
719674 (v) $14.95
Another husky red from Gascony, SW France, from traditional Tannat grapes. Like a sturdy claret, with blackberries, black plums and black cherries leading the way, and licorice, tar, tannins and fresh tobacco fragrances kicking in, too. Cultivated since Roman times and later ruled by the Black Prince, Madirans were carried into Spain by the pilgrims foot slogging to Compostela as well as north by boat to thirsty Brits.

Montepulciano d’Abruzzo ’01   89
Terra d’Aligi, Abruzzo
981399 (v) $11.95
Buy this one by the case! A wonderful, versatile, everyday Italian red to go with anything spicy, rich or savory, from bangers to burgers, pizza to pasta. Juicy flavors of sour cherry, blackberry, smoky black olives and plums.

Negroamaro ’01   90
Leone de Castris, Salento
995696 (v) $16.95
Another case of this one, please! Big red plum-cherry fruit, clean ripe acidity, fresh and food-friendly with spicy mocha and fig in the mid-palate. Meatballs, macaroni, moussaka, stews and casseroles.

Gran Sangre de Toro ’00   87
Miguel Torres, Catalunya
315648 (v) $14.95
Easy-drinking, gentle flavors of raspberry-strawberry, sandalwood and cherry-vanilla, suitably cast to be Fred to your barbecue’s Ginger. There’s a half-bottle, too.


Henry of Pelham Dry Rosé ’03   87
VQA Ontario
395897 (v) $11.95
Pretty in pink: soft scents of apple blossoms and rose petals, vivid flavors of fresh cherries and cranberries, made from a medley of grapes including Zweigelt, Gamay, Cab Sauvignon and a pinch of Pinot Noir. Serve with salade composée, or desserts of strawberries and mangos.


Cuvée Catharine Brut NV   90
Henry of Pelham, VQA Niagara Peninsula
616441 (v) $27.95
Bookmark this super June release: the pure, delightful fruit flavors are stunning, like the grapefruit, lemon-barley you loved as a kid! Fresh, balanced, bone-dry and quenching, great with food or as an aperitif. A 60/40 blend of Chardonnay/Pinot Noir, whole-cluster pressed and given 30 months aging on the lees. Ready right now but will hold 2-3 years and kick start any combo of caviar, oysters and seafood.

Sweet Pleasures:

Stoney Ridge Vidal Icewine ’99   88
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
314682 (v) $34.95 375mL
From the workhorse Vidal grape as opposed to the rarer Ontario-grown Riesling, here’s a warm puppy of a wine, the color of a Golden Lab, all eager peachy, honeyed flavors, refreshing streak of peach-pineapple fruity acidity. Will improve with stoic self-denial or you can enjoy it tonight, over fruit pie or solo.

Solera 1847 Oloroso Dulce   95
Gonzalez Byass, Jerez, Spain
972109 (v) $15.95
“Medium Sweet” (in LCBO-speak) is to this wine as “horseless carriage” is to BMW. MS, yes, but also a sensory symphony of freshly grilled hazelnuts, toasted bread, and fresh and dried fruits, too. The solera system allows wines to be drawn from the lowest (oldest) layer of barrels, but this wine is top of the heap! And cheap! There may even be a few drops of the original 1847 wine in the mix. A wine of mellow contemplation, to enjoy solo or with dried fruits, nuts, smoky olives, Spanish cheeses.

Churchill’s Vintage Port ’94   94
Oporto, Portugal
999300 (v) $54.95 375mL
Big wine in a small bottle. Fabulous vintage, superb port. For the rich and the avid. A blast of dark chocolate, small sweet red fruits, raisins, honey, leather and firm tannins, yet starting to show some of its stuff now. A good anniversary wine for the class of ‘94 since it will keep and improve for easily another 20 years, although half-bottles do mature much faster than large (higher air to wine ratio inside the bottle).

Dalva Vintage Port 2000   92
C. da Silva, Oporto, Portugal
998559 (v) $69.95
Speaking of anniversaries: the millennium was kind to Port and this one is a goodie that will seem wildly inexpensive by the time you decide it’s ready to open in 2025. Round, full, plush, and packed with sexy blueberry, raspberry, raisin fruit on the nose and on the palate. Like all vintage ports, bottled after two years so that it develops slowly but surely without exposure to air, unlike Tawny Ports that evolve their delicate amber color and dried fruit/grilled nutty character from long contact with oak and oxygen.

D’Arenberg Fortified Shiraz 2001   88
McLaren Vale, S. Australia
943050 (v) 17.95 375mL
Made in a similar manner to Port, adding grape brandy during the fermentation to retain residual sugar and increase the alcoholic strength (to 19%), but using only the local Shiraz grape so rightly prized in Australia. Bottled early like a Vintage Port and capable of long aging: doesn’t have the complexity of Port but is a delicious, fruity après anything sipper. Should be laid down for a year or four. The very good thing is they’re not trying to call it "Port".

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