Summer 2008

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

Just Desserts

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:

Arguëso San León Manzanilla Clásica    94
DO Manzanilla, Jerez, Spain
070066 (v) $14.95
Stunningly dry, crisp and refreshing Sherry aged on the coast with typical fresh-mown hay, sea salt, camomile and dried apple notes: a brilliant aperitif or match with soups, bouillon, shellfish, seafood, roasted almonds or hazelnuts.

Alvarinho Deu La Deu Vinho Verde '06    86
Co-op Regional de Monçao, DOC Sub-Regiao de Monçao, Portugal
0040642 (v) $18.95

Lightly spritzy white from the grape called Albariño in Spain grown in cool, hilly northern Portugal. Very dry Riesling in character with earth, wet stone, mineral and faint olive notes framing citrus-grapefruit and faint peach notes. Super dry and crisp as a palate cleanser or shellfish, seafood match.

Muralhas de Monçao Vinho Verde '07   87
Co-op Regional de Monçao, DOC Sub-Regiao de Monçao, Portugal
From the warmer '07 vintage, showing more tangerine peach aromas and flavors but still the racy acidity and slight effervescence you'd expect, equally food versatile and refreshing. Drink soon as you like, on the dock, deck, patio.

Lucien Albrecht Riesling Reserve '06   87
AC Alsace, France
0745000 (v) $19.95

For the crustacean fanciers in the crowd, here's a dry, crisp, fruity companion white with nuances of peach, white grapefruit-lime zest, white flowers and stony minerals. Cleansing acidity bodes well for lobster, crayfish, oysters or grilled shrimp. The Albrechts have been doing this meticulously since 1425!

Attems Pinot Grigio '07  90
Friuli, Italy
0707950 (v) $19.95

Multi-layered PG with nods to pink grapefruit, banana, peach, Golden apple and vanilla, fruit-driven yet elegant and stylish with a crisp, dry finish. Serve with warm salads, white meats, seafood or shellfish.

Bortoluzzi Pinot Grigio '06   87
Borgo Tintor, IGT Venezia-Giulia, Italy
0717330 (v) $19.95

Slightly more austere than the Attems yet distinctive and elegant with a stony-citrus core, herbal-mineral and tree-fruit notes and tons of character, again from the heartland of great PGs in Italy's northeast. Equally food versatile and delicious.

Castello Montauto Vernacccia di San Gimignano '07  92
Agr. Villa Cerna, DOCG Tuscany
0070847 (v) $15.95

Vernaccia is a native Italian grape that makes a wonderful crisp, dry summer wine. This handmade example is barrel-fermented and complex with scented, floral notes, creamy on the tongue and ripe lemon-melony with soft, spicy grace notes. Seafood, freshwater fish or aperitif.

St Supery Sauvignon Blanc '06  92
Napa Valley, California
0339663 (v) $24.95

Delicate and lacy with heady aromatics of pink grapefruit canteloupe and fresh herbs, zesty and fresh with tropical notes of pineapple, nectarine, lemon grass, ripe rhubarb, pineapple and lime-lemon, ready to go with light, healthy summer cuisine.

Mahi Sauvignon Blanc '07  88
Marlborough, S Island, N Zealand
0063941 (v) $19.95

In contrast, here's a classic Kiwi Sauv, with a dusty mineral, white grapefruit, fresh-cut grass persona, citrus to the fore and a hint of toasty French oak astern. More austere and less tropical as you'd expect, great with white fish, herb-roasted chicken and summer salads.

Frescobaldi Castello di Pomino '07  88
DOC Pomino Bianco, Tuscany, Italy
0065086 (v) $18.95

Lightly toasty with vanilla and balsam fragrances, oaky again on the palate along with peachy, pear, apple flavors, and finishing on an oak-toast note. Treat it like a light red for food matching, especially with grilled white meats, planked salmon or smoked fish.

Flat Rock Cellars The Rusty Shed Chardonnay '06   91
VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula
0001552 (v) $24.95

No rust notes but a complex and harmonic fusion of barrel-fermented and -aged wine with integrated vanillin oak, concentrated tropical pear, melon and apple fruit and fine citric acidity and an afterthought of cedary smoke. Ageable and up to handling char-grilled fish and white meats.

Château des Charmes Viognier 2006   90
VQA St David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
432948 LCBO $25.95

With the warm weather and a thirst for fresh, intriguing white wines, you could confidently start with this intriguing Rhône varietal with its subtle melon, citrus, dried apricot and white peach aromatics and fine racy acidity for food friendliness (1,530 cases made). Another superbly aromatic white from the Château is Chardonnay Musqué '06, LCBO 322016, $16.95 from Clone 809 pioneered in Canada by Paul Bosc that fuses unoaked Chardonnay elegance with the exotic nuances of spicy honeysuckle, apricot and subtle muscat flavors and fragrances (91). Silver at the Ontario Wine Awards (486 cases made). Taking Gold at that event, the Château's Riesling '06 Estate Bottled, LCBO 277228, $16.95 is a showstopper (93). Essentially handmade, it expresses the mineral elegance of its terroir in a concentrated lime-lemon style with hints of Delicious apple and steely acidity. The Château's Sauvignon Blanc Estate Bottled '06, LCBO 453423, $15.95, is an elegant aperitif, or soulmate for white meat or grilled fish (89).

Michel Gassier Les Piliers Viognier '07   89
Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
0669531 (v) $18.95

For a more exotic, tropical take on Viognier, from the Midi with a touch of French oak, here's a good value crisp, slightly peach-muscatty version with nectarine, apricot and hints of vanilla in the mix. Quite dry, creamy on the palate, and food friendly.

Batasiolo Bosc dla Rei Moscato d'Asti '07  94
DOCG Piemonte, Italy
0028175 (v) $19.95

Speaking of Musqué... here's a low-alcohol sparkling Muscat that's patio-perfect and just a medium-sweet charmer from Serralunga d'Alba. Orange blossom, rose petals and floral with an overripe fruit and slightly fizzy character, delicious with fresh fruit or not-so-sweet dessert. Drink very well chilled now, only 5.5% alc!

Dry Red Wines:

Rodney Strong Merlot '04   90
Napa Valley, California
0497933 (v) $24.95

Beautifully crafted Merlot from this consistent producer's own estate, rich in black fruits like plums, blueberry and cassis, with spicy red licorice and hints of creamy vanilla finishing in a whiff of toasty oak. Forget Sideways... it's delicious!

Casa Silva Reserva Syrah '05   85
Colchagua Valley, Chile
0014456 (v) $14.95

An easy-drinking, undemanding but pleasurable quaffer for burgers off the barbie, has some spicy aromas and raspberry-blackberry complexity in a crowd-pleasing style.

Château Pech-Latt '06   88
AC Corbières, France
0076513 (v) $17.95 Organic

Pech-Latt's first vines were planted around 780 AD by monks from nearby Lagrasse Abbey, founded by Charlemagne, and today's Grenache, Syrah and Carignan varieties, tended by Philippe Mathias, are farmed organically. Light on the planet, rich on the palate, the spicy, smoky red is blueberry-blackberry fruit-forward with herbes de Provence notes and enough heft for char-broiled red meats, robust casseroles and Mediterranean cuisine. It's $25 in BC!

Hecht & Bannier Minervois '05   87
AC Corbières, France
0017764 (v) $21.95

From a small but reliable négociant-éléveur, here's a tasty cranberry-redcurrant and cherry mini-Rhône style of red with gentle tannins and elegant poise, from a good vintage. Great with herb-roasted poultry, poached salmon.

Domaine Jaume Altitude 420 '05  89
AC Vinsobres, France
0073924 (v) $19.95

Lovely Rhône from a recently created appellation grown at 420 metres above the Med and packed with peppery, spicy red fruit flavors, cedar and graphite, with coffee and tobacco leaf notes, nicely tannic and fleshy. With pissaladière, pizza and lamb now and to 2012.

Domaine de Beaurenard '05   90
Paul Coulon & Fils, AC Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France
0324822 (v) $46.95

That's the going rate for these thoroughbreds: a terrific vintage with immense concentration of sunbaked herbs, warm earth, cherries, raspberries, leather, black pepper, mocha and chocolate, best cellared 3-4 years and good for another 10-15. Serve at your anniversary or for a romantic dinner.

Cavas y Almas del Amancay Malbec '03   88
Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina
0661439 (v) $21.95

Chunky, broad-shouldered but friendly dry red sporting dark-fruit, herbal, spicy tobacco and tar notes with fine tannins. Grown a long way west of its Cahors, France homeland, this is an athletic Malbec that carnivores adore. Fire up the grill!

Finca Sophenia Reserve Malbec '06   88
Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina
0066837 (v) $16.95

Big, chewy, berry-rich and fruity with a smooth touch of Michel Rolland, France's roving über-consultant, inky black with black cherry and blackberry notes and a hint of new leather.

Navarro Correas Gran Reserva Malbec '05   92
Mendoza, Argentina
0028928 (v) $18.95

Perhaps the best of this big Malbec release and terrific value, rich, sweetly ripe and lush with black fruit and wild berries, cedary-coffee aromas and satisfying herbal-leather nuances. A complex and finely crafted red from a wine family dating back to 1798.

Domaine Laougué Le Clos Camy '05   87
AC Madiran, France
0078733 (v) $17.95

Tarry tannins give away the voluptuous Tannat grape component, softened with Cabernet grown at the foot of the Pyrenees in SW France that offers a succulent, spicy, very ripe black fruit, raisin-tobacco note and excellent acid balance. Ageable and ready to take on the most robust casseroles, roasted meats in wine sauce, duck, cassoulet, lamb, game.

Hacienda Araucano Reserva Carmenère '05   86
Central Valley, Chile, Jacques & François Lurton
0061325 (v) $12.95

From the rare old Bordeaux grape Carmenère, also known as Grande Vidure, grown widely in Chile by the likes of the well-regarded Lurtons (of Bordeaux) who know plenty about good reds. Always a slightly vegetal (green bean) and earthy wine, this dark red has a herby-jammy character with a smoky tar note. Very good value and food friendly.

Cremaschi Furlotti Ltd. Ed. Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah/Carmenère '04   86
Maule Valley, Chile
0014183 (v) $15.95

A mouthful already! A smoky spicy blend with a hint of tar and green bean, earth and leather, quite full-bodied and tailor-made for anything red and grilled, or with strong, tangy cheeses.

Amadio Cabernet Sauvignon '05   90
McLaren Vale, S Australia
0063784 (v) $24.95

Herbaceous, fresh and clean from cool vineyards that lend a crisp refreshing acidity, here's a fine Cab with plum, berry, cassis, chocolate and eucalyptus aromas and flavors to pair with finer cuts of beef, furry game and ribs.

Château des Charmes Cabernet Sauvignon '05   92
VQA, St David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula
935957 LCBO $25.95

BBQ-ready with an attractive dark chocolate, spicy raspberry and cassis flavor profile, medium weight and with a lovely fresh berry core. Midweight and food friendly at 13% alcohol and only 491 cases produced, like all the Bosc wines, using sustainable agricultural methods "to let the wines shine through in the glass", as they say.

Ebenezer Cabernet Sauvignon '03   89
Barossa Valley, S Australia
0039537 (v) $39.95

Well-structured and elegant Cab from a consistent, quality-oriented growers' co-op around the village of Ebenezer in the north Barossa. Midweight with cassis, mulberry and chocolate notes, should get even better with some cellar time.

Château le Raz Cuvée Grand Chêne '05   89
Vignobles Barde, AC Côtes de Bergerac, France
0718932 (v) $18.95

You don't need a nose like Cyrano to appreciate this Bordeaux-style beauty, made of Merlot, Cabernet and Malbec. Ageable with black cherry, pipe tobacco, blueberry and new leather notes framed by mild tannins and a subtle toasty oak. Serve any time soon with mushroom dishes or anything truffled. Reserva '04   90
Adega Cooperativa de Borba, DOC Alentejo, Portugal
0080606 (v) $20.95

Another reason modern Portuguese wines are so vastly improved: from a quality co-op that makes wines from native and international grapes. In this case, the website/wine name ( says Aragônes (alias Tempranillo in Spain) and Cabernet Sauvignon from chalky clay and schist sites. This huge winery has 89 fermenters and NASA-like technology. The wine is sleek, berry-fruit forward with a hint of oak and fine tannins. Enjoy with boar, venison, lamb, spicy sausage and a hunk of broa bread. Two more Alentejo wines to try are: Herdade de São Miguel Colheita Seleccionada '06, 0070703, $16.95, sweetly ripe spicy cherry, leather and earthy minerals (86) and Herdade do Perdigao Vinha do Almo '05, 0081752 (v) $18.95, more complex with elderberry, plum and spicy oak napped with silky tannins (89). From the Dão region comes Cabriz Reserva '04 made by Dão Sul, 0021410, $18.95, using the traditional Port grapes (without brandy fortification, of course) to achieve a black cherry, blackberry-plum, wild berry, forest-floor earthiness that will enhance a fine roast (87).

Beronia Tempranillo Elaboración Especial '06   88
DOCa Rioja, Spain
0723643 (v) $18.95

Barrel fermentation in American oak has added a fine coconut-vanilla dimension to the lovely berry character of this classic grape variety, with nuances of smoky toastiness, cedar, spicy plum and star anise. Think mushroom risotto, paella, Mediterranean cuisine and herb-roasted poultry.

Dominio Basconcillos '04   90
DO Ribera del Duero, Spain
0067371 (v) $21.95 Organic

From this fine emerging region beside the river that becomes Portugal's Douro, here's a finely balanced, almost sulphur-free red that has gentle breeding and tastes sexy. Black fruit, pencil-lead graphite, vanilla, mineral and spicy toasty oak aromas come in waves, it's food friendly and good for 8-10 more years.

D'Angelo Aglianico del Vulture '04   91
DOC Basilicata, Italy
09071689 (v) $20.95

Pronounced Allianico, predating the founding of Rome by 1,000 years and loving the volcanic slopes of Mount Vulture, this is a historic grape of Greek origin. Grab a glass at your local prosciutteria and it'll have hints of herbs, chocolate, licorice, cinnamon, black cherries and mocha with plump tannins to welcome smoked or grilled meats and tangy cheeses.

Ceravolo Sangiovese '06   86
Adelaide Plains, S Australia
0058123 (v) $16.95

Friendly quaffer with the cherry-leather typical of this grape, the backbone of Chianti. Not the greatest of Sangiovese's many clones but clean, fruity and refreshing, especially with tomato-sauced pasta, pizza or BBQ ribs.

Argiano Non Confunditur '05   91
IGT Toscana, Italy
0072397 (v) $26.95

A blend of 40% cassis-toned Cabernet and 20% each of earthy Sangiovese, sweetly ripe Merlot and fruity Syrah, all vinified separately, of course this fails to meet the appellation requirements for Chianti! No problem: a New World style for early to midterm drinking, with mild tannins, fresh plum-cherry and licorice on the nose, and smoky, mocha-strawberry-vanilla on the tongue, with a backdrop of toasty oak. Calls for Steak Fiorentina.

Saggio Chianti Governato '06   90
Le Chiantigiane, DOCG Chianti, Toscana, Italy
0073460 (v) $18.95

Very much a proper Chianti, made by the ancient Governo method of adding the sweet juice from a sun-dried portion of the harvest to the fermenting wine, softening and enriching the result, dry, complex and voluptuous with new leather and cherry top notes. Well priced.

Château Reynella Basket Pressed Shiraz '05   90
McLaren Vale, S Australia
0510628 (v) $34.95

Upscale Shiraz, made to improve with age, from carefully selected fruit, gently pressed and aged 18 months in French and American oak, brimming with smoky berry fruit notes, tar, earth, spice and cigar leaf. For your best filet and prime ribs until 2015.

De Bortoli DB Selection Petite Sirah '06   86
SE Australia
0694802 (v) $14.95

For immediate pleasure with burgers, dogs and ribs right off the grill! A quite long-lived and deep-colored distant relative of Shiraz (alias Syrah), simpler and less intense with a kirsch, Bing cherry, cola profile, mild tannins and hints of vanilla and oak. Very good value.

Devil's Lair Red '03   92
Margaret River, W Australia
0543454 (v) $49.95

Pricey but interesting Cab Sauvignon/Franc and Merlot from the bottom left of Oz, cool-climate and all. Quite elegant and subtle with dark chocolate, vanilla and wild strawberry/forest floor notes, eucalyptus and cassis. Now to 2015 with roast duck, quail and venison.

Sebastiani Zinfandel '06   86
Sonoma County, California
0672667 (v) $18.95

Party-perfect, fruit forward and easy to love: wild strawberry-blueberry-black plum core with a frame of mild, chewy tannins and balancing acidity, a hint of raisin pie and blueberries on the finish. Tasty value with ribs, beef and barbie.

Batasiolo Barolo Vigneto Boscareto '00   94
DOCG Barolo, Italy
0073932 (v) $65.95

Very good value! Boscareto, one of the Dogliani family's nine vineyards, at 420 metres, overlooks Serralunga village, and its wines are rich, layered, and show the rose petal and violets signature of great Barolos, ageable, complex, nuanced with truffle and black plum notes. Truly a keeper!


Sparkling Gems:

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs '04   90
Carneros, California
0914648 (v) $26.95

Cool-climate sparking dry white made like Champagne from 100% Chardonnay that's elegant, light and refreshing in a floral, steely, mineral style with riffs of green apples and citrus, designed for crab, lobster, calamari off the grill. Good value.

Allimant-Laugner Crémant d'Alsace Brut   91
Hubert Laugner, AC Alsace, France

Fresh, creamy, floral and a lovely pale-gold hue, this classy fizz offers racy vanilla, ripe pear, melon and citrus perked up with a fine mousse and zippy acidity for food friendliness. From the famed Haut Koenigsbourg hill in France's picturesque northern wine region. Mostly Pinot Blanc with Riesling and Pinot Gris.


Just Desserts:

Cave Spring Riesling Icewine '06   92
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
447441 (v) $59.65, 375mL

Thoroughbred tropical fruit-driven Icewine that's elegant, with fresh, clean acidity, and luscious. Pair this with foie gras, fresh figs or white chocolate or enjoy as dessert in a glass by itself. More elegant than Vidal grape versions. Drink now or keep for up to 5 years.

Quinta de Ventozelo LBV Port '98   91
Douro, Portugal
660159 (v) $21.95

Spice cake aromas and ripe fruit and dried fruit flavors – cherry, plum, mulberry and fig – herald the arrival of this delicious, ready to drink Port. Four years in oak barrel and 6 in bottle have mellowed the tannins and polished the profile of this ethereal sweetie picked in '98, bottled in '02. Great with chocolate desserts.

Quinta do Noval Tawny Reserve Port   92
Douro, Portugal
687608 (v) $19.95

Much more nutty and creamy from six years in barrel, this amber-colored, wood-aged Port shows forest floor, fig, Bing cherry, roasted hazelnut and vanilla character and, like the LBV, does not need decanting. High quality.

Bacalhôa Moscatel de Setúbal '01   90
DOC, Portugal
0996181 (v) $11.95

A generous medium-sweet dessert sipper from this lovely sea-girt peninsula 40k from Lisbon, a fortified Muscat equivalent to Port and Madeira, aromatic and subtle with nuances of roasted nuts, honeycomb, and honeyed apricot for a giveaway price! With fine blue cheeses or sabayon.

The Macallan Amber Liqueur   90
0001974 (v) $49.95

Intriguing new single malt liqueur made with maple syrup and pecan, showing strong vanilla, toasted nut and Sherry notes, smooth and not too sweet. Sacrilege in a glass, maybe, but a great mixer base or dessert pacifier or over ice cream! Nothing like the Scotch! Whatever happened to Lochan Ora?


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