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:
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 www.lcbo.com 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!
Lícia Albariño ’07 87
DO Rias Baixas, Spain
114397 (v) $19.95
Steely dry like a dry German Riesling, from which it is distantly descended via the pilgrim monks who traversed the Camino de Santiago long ago, with a strong zesty, fruity apple-mineral, stony charm: subtle on the nose and long on the aftertaste, very food friendly, especially with seafood and shellfish or aperitif.
Camelback Pinot Grigio ’08 88
Galli Estate, Sunbury, Victoria, Australia
108134 (v) $17.95
Tasting a little more Sauvignon Blanc than Pinot Grigio, here’s a fresh, aromatic, wine for spring, with a mineral, slightly salty take on the citrus, green apple, melon standard for this popular, versatile light white. By comparison, the Westend Richland Pinot Grigio ’08, $13.95, from warm climate Riverina, NSW, is far more floral, soft and fruity and just off-dry (88). Drink both now to November. A better choice might be the Gerard Neumayer Le Berger Pinot Gris ’07 from Alsace, $18.95, much more complex and intriguing (90). Intense, packed with mocha, ripe pear, lemon oil, lanolin and coffee ground nuances to match grilled white meats and fish and tangy cheeses.
Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc ’08 90
WO Western Cape, S Africa
933424 (v) $18.95
This old favorite just gets better, solid, fleshy with lime zest, summer grass, wet stone and rhubarb notes and great refreshing acidity to go with food: seafood, shellfish and herb-roasted chicken especially. Now to 2012.
Château Roquetaillade La Grange ’07 89
BD & P Guignard, AC Graves, Bordeaux
240374 (v) $14.95
Fantastic value! Pale gold, nuanced and steely with a herbal, stony core, great bright acidity. Hints of green apple skin, greengage plum and fresh green grapes. A 60,20,20 ratio of Semillon, Muscadelle, Sauvignon grapes and a superb food wine especially with crustaceans. Now to 2014, by the case.
Domaine de Aubuisières Cuvée de Silex ’08 91
Bernard Fouquet, AC Vouvray, Loire, France
57042 (v) $17.95
Terrific Chenin Blanc-based white with honeyed pear and floral persona and a vibrant, dry flinty acidity that refreshes. Ready to enjoy this spring as a patio pleaser or match with light salads and BBQ chicken or pork, shellfish and goat cheeses. Not designed for long cellaring.
Jean-Max Roger Cuvée Les Caillottes ’07 90
AC Sancerre, Loire, France
65573 (v) $27.95
For a different take on the Loire, this 100% Sauvignon Blanc shows a classic grapefruit-lemon, gooseberry, mineral and asparagus profile to the world. Mellower and less in your face grassy than New Zealand’s more pungent whites. Pair with asparagus, pan-fried trout, quail and guinea fowl.
Saint Prix Bourgogne Aligoté ’07 87
AC Burgundy, France
112250 (v) $17.95
The much racier, in your face second white grape of Burgundy has a refreshing apple-citrus acidity and steeliness and this fine version also has an intriguing silky mushroom-truffle aromatic component that really bring fresh oysters and seafood alive. Enjoy this summer.
Daniel Lenko Chardonngay ’07 90
VQA Niagara Peninsula
Winery direct $19.95 (905-963-7756)
Not a typo: the rainbow-hued label says it all! Made to celebrate and support Canada’s diverse gay/lesbian community, this excellent unoaked white from some of Canada’s oldest Chardonnay vines is fresh and inviting with bright flinty acidity framing luscious tropical pineapple, lime, apple, peach-pear fruit. And $1 from each of the 8,400 bottles made is being donated to AIDS research. Serve it with pride. The Reserve Riesling ’07 is a steal at $19.95: rich, elegant, sophisticated with warm, tropical aromas of pineapple, grapefruit, honey and nectarines (93). The Gewürztraminer ’07, $29.95, is a lacy, spicy sure-footed honeysuckle charmer sure to fly. Only 80 cases (91). The bigger Viognier, $39.95, is rounder, fuller, with barley sugar, papaya and mango notes and slaty acidity (92). The Old Vines Merlot ’06, $29.95, is a thing of beauty, with classic blueberry, strawberry and plum shading over to mocha and dark chocolate. Graceful tannins and vanilla round out the package (93). Ask about the taster pack selections.
La Crema Chardonnay ’07 90
Sonoma Coast, California
962886 (v) $29.65
Big complex, buttery Cal Chard packed with pineapple, nectarine lemon grass and honeysuckle charm. Now to 2014 with pork roast, feathered game, grilled white fish and Asian fusion. Has the edge over the decent Scott Family Estate Dijon Clone Chardonnay ’06 (88) from Monterey even at 5 bucks more. The reliable Sterling Chardonnay ’06 from Napa, $24.95, packs more toasty oak and tropical fruit heft and is also good value (88).
Henry Lagarde Chardonnay Reserve ’07 87
98087 (v) $17.95
New entry from the awakening giant of South America: rich, fresh, lively Chard proving the gauchos don’t only make great Malbec! On the tropical side, more California than Chablis, with grapefruit zest, honeyed cantaloupe and peach tendencies. Now to 2012 with lobster, chicken, shrimp masala.
Bernard Defaix Côte de Lechet Reserve Chablis 1er Cru ’06 91
AC Chablis, Burgundy
17541 (v) $36.95
A bit of a mouthful all around, powerful and opulent, much more Meursault than Chablis with tons of toasty brioche and vanilla on the palate from oak barrel fermentation and aging. Not your stainless steel Chablis! Great with grilled white meats and smoked mussels or smoked salmon. Now to 2018. Another good white Burgundy is the Delorme & Fils Vieilles Vignes Pouilly-Fuissé ’06, $32.95, more subtle on the oak and apple-melon fresh to match cream-sauced dishes and delicate white fish (90).
Château Val Joanis Tradition Syrah Rosé ’08 90
Famille Chancel, AC Lubéron, Rhone, France
707281 (v) $15.95
Dry, elegant and packed with spicy berry flavors (mostly strawberry and smoky cherry) and food-friendly racy acidity. A very grown up wine to greet the fresh spring cuisine.
Domaine Corne-Loup Rosé ’08 90
AC Tavel, France
71209 (v) $16.95
Hints of vanilla and raspberry-melon compote herald crisp flinty-mineral notes on the palate and lingering, lively acidity. Serious enough for grilled dishes but a great aperitif, too.
Viña Aljíbes Syrah Rosé ’08 89
A parade of Cherry, plum, mulberry, nectarine and kiwi flavors dance seducingly across your nose and palate. This Spanish charmer is worth more than its weight in tapas, it’s extremely food friendly and well priced.
Sileni Cellar Selection Cabernet Franc Rosé ’08 89
Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand
599951 (v) $16.95
Sweet tobacco, lemon zest, vanilla bean and spicy raspberries are the main performers here in a mid-weight 100% Cab Franc that shows just how far pink wines have risen in quality and renown in recent years. Yes, you could serve this with spring lamb!
Dry Red Wines:
Bouchard Père & Fils La Vignée Pinot Noir ’07 89
605667 LCBO $17.95
Fresh, lean, clean and heady with a smoky cherry bouquet mild tannins on the mid-palate and a refined personality, for a very fair price. To go into the Burgundy stratosphere, try Bouchard’s Volnay Clos des Chênes 1er Cru ’06 at Classics, 974600. It’s $69 well spent, for an ethereal Pinot Noir, a silky rendition of perfectly ripe cassis, raspberry and black cherry, framed in melting tannins with a hint of vanilla (94).
Domaine Debray Hautes-Côtes-de-Beaune ’06 92
112219 (v) $21.95
From the hills just above the renowned Côte d’Or, this Pinot Noir over-delivers on flavor, finesse and value, framed by soft tannins with aromas of roses, vanilla, cran-raspberry and cassis that echo brightly on the tongue. A match for pricier rivals including the Louis Latour Marsannay ’06 at $26.95, lighter but still elegant, well made and rewarding (88).
Navarrsotillo Magister Bibendi Crianza ’04 90
DOCa Rioja, Spain
0118125 (v) $19.95
A good red for the wedding feast: easy to like yet offering complexity and quality to the wine buffs in the happy crowd. Whiffs of black olives, subtle oak and strawberry-blueberry compote, from a good recent vintage and ready to strut its stuff. Bonus is very low sulphur, great for the allergic.
Ontañón Reserva ’01 92
DOCa Rioja, Spain
0725895 (v) $24.95
A very grown-up Rioja, lean, light, elegant, lightly oaked and layered with smoky berry, cherry, marzipan and anise components. Fairly priced, to drink or hold.
Château Hauchat ’05 92
Vignobles J-B Saby & Fils, Fronsac, Bordeaux
123489 LCBO $15.00
Small is beautiful! Just beside superstar St-Emilion and Pomerol, this well-drained, sunny clay-limestone plateau above the Dordogne produces elegant reds that are food- and wallet-friendly. Hauchat’s 100% Merlot shows ripe red berries, pepper, spices and vanilla with supple tannins and subtle toasted oak. Perfect with grilled steaks, feathered game, rabbit in mustard sauce or a piece of nutty, creamy Cantal or Brie. Now to 2018.
Château Le Bourdieu ’03 90
Guy Bailly, Medoc, Bordeaux
85084 (v) $19.95
A lovely New World-style claret from Europe’s heat wave harvest, fully ripe but still elegant and finely structured. From Cabernet and Merlot vines that can “see” the Gironde River, the well-matured fruit is gently oaked and nuanced. A steal and drinking well now! There’s also a cozy gîte that sleeps four for 450 euros a week, perfect for Bordeaux, the Atlantic Coast villages and local markets.
Eberle Steinbeck Vineyard Syrah ’05 90
Paso Robles, California
106146 (v) $28.95
Wonderfully pure spicy plum-raspberry and blackberry fruitiness and with hints of mocha, cedar and sandalwood, juicy and refreshing. Now to 2014.
Jim Jim (The Down-Underdog) Shiraz ’07 87
Hugh Hamilton Wines, S Australia
682005 (v) $14.95
Impressive value in a smooth, fruit bomb sour cherry, blackberry and elderberry with a lick of vanilla and allspice. This dog is definitely a party animal! Walkies... If your budget runs to $37.95, try the Loan Shiraz ’04 from Barossa, S Australia, hand-crafted, organic, opulent and highly impressive (95).
Santa Julia Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon ’07 90
Familia Zaccardi, Mendoza, Argentina
93781 (v) $13.95
Recession-priced, New World-style and quite delicious with cassis, vanilla and spicy oak framing high quality cassis-blackberry, elderberry fruit on the palate. Skip the cellaring and share it with short ribs!
Alamos Malbec 07 86
Catena, Mendoza, Argentina
0467951 (v) $13.95
Another super offering from Argentina: Old leather, spice, earth, dried figs and chocolate cake compete on the palate in this juicy and sensuous dry red, that’s poised to pair with red meat on the barbie.
Line Shack Cabernet Sauvignon ’05 90
Central Coast, California
105965 (v) $23.95
An old cowboy shack is now the tasting room for this hefty Cab, and you can almost taste the saddle leather behind the massive berry fruit. Haul out the steaks, pardner!
Alkoomi Cabernet Sauvignon ’05 87
Frankland River, W Australia
904227 (v) $17.95
Weighing in at a whopping 15.4% alc., a surprise from this cool region, here’s a fairly complex and tasty Cab offering layers of delicious blackberry, cassis, sour cherry and dried herb notes, a good tannic grip to match the char from your barbie grillings. Now to 2015.
Domaine Berthoumieu Haute Tradition Madiran ’05 91
AC Madiran, Didier Barre, France
0102996 (v) $ 18.95
Big, dry lush full bodied, broad shouldered and ready for the big game as in bison,
Gloria Colheita Seleccionada Tinto ’04 90
DOC Douro, Portugal
82933 (v) $18.95
Pleasing blend of Tempranillo and Touriga with judicious oak age for toastiness and a hint of vanilla. Still youthful but ready to tango with fine roasts and tangy cheeses.
Saggio Chianti Governato ’06 90
Le Chiantigiane, DOCG Chianti, Toscana, Italy
73460 (v) $18.95
Very much a proper Chianti, made by the Governo method of adding the sweet juice from sun-dried grapes to the fermenting wine, softening and enriching the result, dry, complex and voluptuous with new leather and cherry top notes. Well priced.
Sebastiani Zinfandel ’06 86
Sonoma County, California
672667 (v) $18.95
Party-perfect, fruit forward, easy to love: wild strawberry-blueberry-black plum core with mild, chewy tannins and balancing acidity, a hint of raisin pie and blueberries on the finish. Tasty value with ribs, beef and Barbie. The newly released Cab Sauvignon ’06, $39.95 is sweetly ripe and very oaky with a black cherry, pomegranate and earthy/toasty profile (88).
Rodney Strong Knotty Vines Zinfandel ’06 89
Sonoma County, California
363358 (v) $26.95
In a higher snack bracket, silky-smooth and reminiscent of a fine Beaujolais with its generous fruit and succulent texture. A carnivore’s dream to open now until 2015.
Marcarini Barolo La Serra ’04 92
DOCG Barolo, Piemonte, Italy
007807 (v) $68.95
A subtle bouquet includes small red berries as well as the traditional saddle leather of a good Barolo following through with intense flavors of sweet raspberries, sour cherry and a shot of crushed craisins. Needs cellar time and will repay keeping to serve with boar, venison or osso buco.
Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain 92
AC Champagne, France
959643 (v) $62.95
Creamy with a bouquet of white flowers, vanilla, honey and sweet butter and a fresh grapefruit/lime zest core, from three years on the lees in the cool, chalky cellars at Reims. Racy and elegant, Henriot’s entry-level wine, sourced from some of the best terroirs, equals many high-end wines from other Grandes Marques.
However, where this 200-year-old family winery really hits the big time is with its iconic Cuvée des Enchanteleurs 1995, a Classics Catalogue wine that costs $195. This great vintage tastes like Mozart con brio from an orchestra that adores its conductor.
Complex, layered, and polished by 10 years of patient aging, this gem melds fresh-made brioche, wild berry, walnut and mocha notes, caramel, minerals and citrus in a tour de force caviar wine (95). Seven generations of dedication have paid off. Henriot is on more Michelin-star lists than you can point a cork at.
Tarlant Zero Brut Nature Champagne 91
AC Champagne, Disgorged May ’08
0996264 (v) $49.95
The driest of all bubblies, with no added sweetness (the liquid cane sugar dosage) whatever: just a racy style with fine, tangy acidity just below a flavor rainbow of brioche, grapefruit, freshly toasted bread and a core of raspberry and citrus fruit.
Flat Rock Cellars Sweet Revenge Vidal Icewine ’07 90
VQA Short hills, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
0047803 (v) $44.95
The sweetest revenge is best served ice cold, with this accompaniment: exquisitely elegant with alternating layers of honeyed pear, white peach and dried apricots. A noble effort from winemaker Marlize Beyers.
Cave Spring Riesling Icewine ’06 92
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
447441 (v) $59.65, 375mL
Tropical fruit-driven, elegant, with fresh, clean acidity, and luscious. Pair with foie gras, fresh figs or white chocolate or enjoy as dessert by itself. More elegant than Vidal grape versions. Drink now or keep 5 years.
Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez Dulce Sherry 90
DO Jerez, Spain
0087577 (v) $18.95
Liquid toffee the color of mahogany, here’s a heavenly dessert wine made from raisined PX grapes and oak aged for years, tinged with cocoa, wood smoke and honeyed chocolate. The ultra-sweet end of the vast Sherry spectrum, caramelísimo!
Samos Vin Doux ’07 87
AOC Greece, Co-op of Samos
0106658 (v) $9.95 375mL
Lychee, fresh hay, floral, citrus and honeyed pear pour out as the Muscat grapes release their fresh aromas and the palate feasts on the almond-peach unctuousness. Medium sweet, maximum intensity dessert in a glass.
Té Bheag 94
Prabàn Na Linne, Scotland
949172 (v) $37.95
Té Bheag (chey vek, not tea bag!) means Little Lady (the ship on the label, or “wee dram” in colloquial Gaelic), is a delicious blend of 8- to 11-year-old malts from Islay, Highland and Speyside. It has a soft style, with the richness of honey and caramel and delicate peaty tones and a long warm finish. There s a nuance of fine sherry from the aging casks. An enthusiast’s dram, it’s one of the Scotch world’s best values. Prabàn is one of the few remaining family distilleries. No peaty monster this, but a refined tipple for the discriminating palate.
Nonino Monovitigni Single Grapes Grappa 93
11361 (v) $40.95 500mL
From Pinot Blanc, Tocai and Malvasia, a stellar example for the connoisseur or the curious. Incredible aromas of dried hay under a summer sun, flavors of vanilla, pastry dough and fresh toast.
The Macallan Amber Liqueur 90
1974 (v) $49.95
Intriguing single malt liqueur with maple syrup and pecan, showing vanilla, toasted nut and Sherry notes, smooth and not too sweet. Sacrilege, maybe, but a great mixer or dessert pacifier or over ice cream! Nothing like The Macallan! Whatever happened to Lochan Ora?