Summer 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:

La Val Albariño ’02   88
Bodegas La Val, Rias Baixas
699637 (v) $21.95
Austere yet elegant, bone-dry, crisp and cleansing. Like a spa in a bottle! Complex floral-peach, and water on stone character. Perfect for freshwater fish, shellfish, oysters or clams.

Bernkasteler Kurfurstlay Riesling Kabinett   ’02
J & H Selbach
994632 (v) $12.95
Very good value, old favorite in Ontario, peachy, floral, and perfumed with mineral and lime zest accents, quite concentrated and lingering. Only 8.5% alcohol, so it’s an all-night sipper.

Riesling ’02   87
Weingut Sander
927988 (v) $13.95
Organic wine with very low sulphur (universally used for wine cellar hygiene) to spare allergy sufferers those sudden sneezes! Refreshing light apple-pear and floral-mineral Riesling notes and that can’t be bad. Good value for current drinking.

De Neuville Sauvignon ’03   88
Touraine, France
626556 (v) $10.95
Delicate aromas of winter melon, greengage and spring flowers segue into lashings of white grapefruit and flint, finishing with blackcurrant and box tree. Extra value here. Great aperitif, sipper, seafood, roasted poultry.

Fransola Sauvignon Blanc ’02   86
Miguel Torres, Penedès, Spain
640797 (v) $24.95
Green coffee bean, white peach, greengage, melon, grapefruit and vanilla-new oak character, like a bulked up tropical Sauvignon Blanc! Paella, of course, but also with poultry and grilled white meats.

Kendall-Jackson Sauvignon Blanc ’02   86
Vintner’s Reserve
459552 (v) $19.95
Quite complex, tropical version of Sauvignon with melon-fig, lime zest and dried herb tones with a dash of residual sugar for a silky smooth fruity finish. Quite elegant and delicious.

Château Lamothe de Haux Blanc ’03   87
Premières Côtes de Bordeaux
Fabrice Neel & Anne Chombart
909341 (v) $14.95
From the improved Bordeaux Blanc category, which coasted for years before coming back to its commercial senses. Chateau de Haux delivers a sensual musky cassis-blackberry attack and zesty palate-cleansing citrus acidity, subtle and charming. Haux is an ancient fortified farm that was part of Bordeaux’s defences, but its equipment is state of the art and the wines have won kudos. Drink within four years.

Laurent Dupatis Chablis 1er Cru ’01   89
Montmain, Chablis
998310 (v) $34.95
For the purist. Steely-dry, non-oaked Chardonnay with the bone-dry, gun flint, apple and mineral quality and racy acidity typical of the Chablis terroir, closer to Champagne than Burgundy. Top rank is Grand Cru with seven named vineyards, lowliest is Petit Chablis. Soil is argilo-calcaire, clay-limestone, basically the fossils of billions of oyster shells. Perfect with shellfish, seafood, perfect aperitif.

Geyser Peak Chardonnay ’01   86
Sonoma County
343475 (v) $19.95
For serious oak fans and the entire barbecue season: lush, pear/apple/melon fruity, smooth as silk and ready to party! Sear a fat salmon steak or a posse of pink prawns on the grill and try not to smirk as the compliments fly over your wine/food matching.

Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay ’02   86
Russian River Ranches, Sonoma Coast
608653 (v) $29.95
Huge, fleshy, toasty-oak, buttery and full-bodied Chard from a pristine California vintage with a honeyed-pear, citrus blossom core and a finish of pink grapefruit to accompany mushroom dishes, smoked meats, poultry, freshwater fish and mellow cheeses.

Poole’s Rock Firestick Chardonnay ’02   87
Mount Compass, South Australia
713099 (v) $15.95
High-value sipper with a very New World style, all peachy-melon and vanilla with smoothly integrated oak and a buttery finish. Fresh and ready now and will hold for a couple of years.

Riverina Estate Semillon ’02   88
Warburn, New South Wales
954941 (v) $18.95
From Australia’s oldest wine state, an intriguing dry white with attractive floral, apple skin and green grape aromas and a tangy gooseberry, apple and spicy fruitcake taste tingle that gives an impression of subtle oak where none is used.

Mayer am Pfarrplatz Grüner Veltliner ’02   86
Wien-Grinzing Gutsabfullung
961557 (v) $14.95
Beethoven lived at the Mayer family home in 1817 while he worked on his 9th Symphony and the family still make wines from their 80 acres of vines in and around Vienna. This wine, form Austria’s signature grape variety, is fresh and fruity with a floral-spicy-peppery nose, ready to be enjoyed right now, well-chilled with schnitzel, sausage, poultry and mild cheeses.

Belleruche Blanc ’02   88
Côtes-du-Rhône, M. Chapoutier
960153 (v) $14.95
Delicate, musky, stone-dry with hints of pineapple, citrus and green grapes, austere and elegant to partner lake trout, salmon, oysters and white meats, even smoky BBQ fare.

Villa Giada Moscato d’Asti ’03   87
DOCG Ceirole, Piemonte
699900 (v) $16.95
Orange blossom, exotic muscat grapes, ripe nectarines and limes with a tickle of frizzante bubbles and a hit of residual sugar to savor nicely chilled as an aperitif or dessert sipper.

Dry Reds:

Inniskillin Pinot Noir Reserve ’02   86
VQA Niagara Peninsula
692681 (v) $16.95
Easy-drinking, gentle flavors of raspberry-strawberry, sandalwood and cherry-vanilla, suitably cast to be Fred to your barbecue’s Ginger. Summer sipper or with white meats, mild cheeses, mild curries, pizza. Can be served lightly chilled

Mercurey ’00   88
Hugues & Yves Suremain
627174 (V) $26.95
Elegantly restrained and impressive Pinot from the leading red wine village of Burgundy’s Côte Chalonnaise: fragrant raspberry-cassis with hints of beets and big cherries. Wine as charming as its father-son managed domain.

Kenwood Pinot Noir ’02   88
Sonoma County, Russian River Valley
943225 (v) $23.95
Enticing smoky raspberry, beets, strawberry and mineral traces in a smooth classic New World style of ripe Pinot with soft tannins and a more-ish finish. Delicious! Comes in half-bottles, too, $14.95.

Domaine Gauthier ’02   87
Morgon, Sylvain Fessy
735357 (v) $18.95
Chillable red for summer: Gamay, light, fragrant, fruity, low in puckery tannins, and quaffable. Quite concentrated cherry, apricot, plum notes with cedary-peppery punctuation. Patio-perfect.

Columbia Crest Merlot ’00   86
Two Vines, Columbia Valley
699348 (v) $15.95
Very sweet ripe berry fruit - mostly strawberry/raspberry and cherry/blueberry - some oaky spicy notes and a full, satisfying aftertaste. Good value.

Valentino Paladin Merlot ’02   86
925644 (v) $14.95
Buy this quaffer by the case! A versatile everyday Italian red to go with anything spicy, rich or savory, from bangers to burgers, pizza to pasta. Grapey, cherry, earthy flavors of sour cherry, blackberry, smoky black olives and plums.

Zilzie Cabernet/Merlot/Petit Verdot ’02   86
Mildura, Victoria
606715 (v) $15.95
Very Bordeaux grape blend, very Oz interpretation, very good. Mocha, cassis, ripe black fruit notes and quite robust. Intense flavors from a cool vintage. Zilzie’s Celtic for ‘first home’, for the Scots family Forbes who arrived in 1911, probably feeling a tad homesick. Now 4th generation, 1,500 acres, state of the art. Top value.

Château La Baronne ’00   87
Montagne d’Alaric non filtré, Corbières, Suzette Lignères
946871 (v) $15.95
Rumor is that Alaric, who battled the Franks in the 5th C, buried his treasure in the caves under this brooding outcrop overlooking the Aude. Great terroir is the real legacy, here in the scenic South near Narbonne. Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Carignan grapes carry a sexy tune of blackberry, menthol, licorice, smoke and hot earth. Great value.

Château Roubia ’01   87
Minervois, Grotti-Mestre
705632 (v) $13.95
Bacon fat, red berries, cassis and blackberry tart segue into smoky, tarry, slightly gamey notes in this organic offering, with minimal SO2 content. On the plain just north of the Canal du Midi, it’s a good example of modern Minervois winemaking.

Bonny Doon Syrah Sirrah ’02   88
Domaine des Blagueurs, Vin de Pays d’Oc
951848 (v) $15.95
Joking apart, California’s enfant terrible Bonny Doon always delivers value. In this case, importing Midi-grown Syrah with the typical plum, cherry, new leather and smoky bacon character of the terroir, and labelling it for fun. BBQ beauty!

Maglieri Shiraz ’01   87
McLaren Vale, South Australia
906933 (v) $19.95
Generous, buxom, plummy Aussie ‘Raz, with peppery-spicy smoky, almost tarry character and nuances of licorice and celeriac, produced by a Italian immigrant Giovanni and son Steve. They recommend it with "char-grilled rare kangaroo fillet with plum sauce and celeriac mash." Do your best! A benchmark McLaren Vale red.

Réserve Grand Veneur ’02   86
Cotes-du-Rhone, Alain Jaume et Fils
626663 (v) $14.95
What Bonny Doon would call a ‘Rhonefandel’, smoky-spicy, bacon bits and green pepper notes with big juicy berry fruits and a hint of fleshy tannin. Perfect with anything Man The Hunter might drag to the barbecue.

Pio Cesare Dolcetto ’02   87
Dolcetto d’Alba
928457 (v) $12.95
Seductively soft, dry red from Piemonte, quite spicy with overtones of plum, fresh grapes, raspberries, white pepper, currants and blueberries, with very soft tannins. Comes in half-bottles, too, $12.95.

Corbello Nero d’Avola ’02   89
IGT Sicily, oak matured
927905 (v) $18.95
Another case of this one, please! Big red plum-cherry fruit, clean ripe acidity, fresh and food-friendly with smoky mocha and fig in the mid-palate. Meatballs, macaroni, moussaka, stews and casseroles.

Tres Bagos ’02   86
Douro, Portugal
Lavradores de Feitoria Vinhos de Quinta
603761 (v) $17.95
A robust everyday red, packed with bramble berries, plum, game-leather, cassis and dried herb flavors. Stands up well to tomato-sauced pastas, grilled offerings and a strong cheeses.

Palacio de la Vega Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva ’99   86
Navarra, Spain
725887 (v) $19.95
A ruby-red, full-blooded, spicy, blackcurrant-scented, licorice-infused Cab, nicely aged in American oak with a firm, smooth structure and long, elegant berry flavors. Great with game and meat grilled on the BBQ.

Sweet Pleasures:

Downey’s Estate Winery Framboise   87
QC Ontario
692608 (v) $16.95
Very pure and delicious raspberry fruit aromas and subtle flavor nuances. Fruit Wine of the Year at the Canadian Wine Awards. Good value. Add a shot to a chilled dry white wine for a super summer sipper.

Madeira Wine Company Leacock’s Rainwater   89
699959 (v) $9.95 (375mL)
Roasted coffee bean, toffee and tea leaf aromas spill over into a liquid swirl of sweet apple crisp and chocolate tastes. Medium dry smooth sipper.

Graham’s Six Grapes Port   87
Reserve Unfiltered
208405 (v) $17.95
A fruit salad of spicy blackberry-elderberry and black cherry notes underpinned by a firm alcoholic backbone. Good value, uncomplicated pleasure.

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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