Summer 2011

(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

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:

Bodegas Argueso San León    94
Manzanilla Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain
703066 (v) $16.95
Driest of the dry, the most fabulous aperitif in the world, the Sherry with the hint of chamomile, brine, black olives and bitters. Wonderful lightly chilled with cashews, pecans and olives.

Domaine Bois-Malange ’09 89
Gilbert Chon & Fils, Muscadet Sevre & Maine, France
224246 (v) $13.95
Fresh-cut limes, sea breeze saltiness and fresh, pure mineral acidity. The citrus top note comes in on the palate and flows into a green apple food-friendly raciness. Lovely with shellfish, seafood and on its own.

Abad Dom Bueno Godello ’09    88
DO Bierzo, Spain
154302 (v) $15.95
Melon, pear and dried fruit aromas tempt the nose and there’s a mineral, citrus core with a slight fizz that’s lively and enticing. From the indigenous Godello of Galicia known as Gouveio in Portugal. Seafood friendly, serious and drinkable right now.

Domaine La Gemiere Cuvee Initiale ’09    90
Daniel Millet & Fils, Sancerre, Loire, France
225177 (v) $20.95
Gently pressed Sauvignon Blanc grapes from chemical free vineyards, careful handling in the cellars, and lots of TLC in the rearing of this fine dry Loire white with its white pepper, peach, gun flint, citrus fruit and razor sharp finish. Break out the scallops, goat cheeses and herb-roasted chicken.

Wayne Gretzky Estate Series Riesling '09Wayne Gretzky Estate Series Riesling ’09    86
VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Peninsula
209841 (v) $18.95
Listed as Extra Dry although I find it slightly sweet, here’s a pleasurable mix of tropical fruit aromas and flavors including red grapefruit, green apple and ripe pineapple. Nothing to furrow the brow over. Sip and enjoy.

Julien Schaal Riesling ’08    88
Les 5 Pierres, AC Alsace, France
225151 (v) $15.95
Not sure whether this is made by 5 winemakers called Pierre or crushed with 5 stones, but it tastes good! Simple, clean, fresh and lightly fruity, shades of citrus and pear. Serve chilled with white meats, delicate fish dishes.

Hoffmann-Simon Riesling Spatlese ’09    94
Pradikatswein, Piesporter Goldtropchen, Mosel, Germany
216499 (v) $19.95
For elegant dessert or contented contemplation: silky honeyed sweetness balanced against fine peachy-tropical fruit acidity and a touch of pineapple on the finish. Drink or hold.

13th Street White Palette ’10    87
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
207340 (v) $14.95
This aromatic super-blend of seven (7!) white grape varieties yields a luscious pot-pourri of pear-peach, nectarine and herbaceous-floral flavors with good acidity. I’d serve it pretty well chilled and it’s great with Asian dishes.

Fielding Pinot Gris ’10    90
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
251108 (v) $21.95
Grapefruit, floral, pineapple aromas leap from the glass: this lightly fruity white has a tinge of pink from its Pinot heritage and the flavors are sensuous. Delicate seafood dishes are its forte.

Henry of Pelham Pinot Blanc ’10    89
VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula
618827 (v) $14.95
Consistency is next to godliness at Pelham and that’s a good thing! One of their strong suits, Pinot Blanc is fresh, mineral-driven and delicious. Think orchard fruit, grapefruit and limestone with a finishing acidity to die for. Drink now.

Concha y Toro Trio Reserva Sauvignon Blanc ’10    88
Casablanca/Rapel/Limari Valleys, Chile
678656 (v) $13.95
Sourced from a trio of valleys and displaying satisfying complexity: floral, citrus, Granny Smith and a tang of white grapefruit. Versatile with food and well priced for early enjoyment. That means before and with dinner!

Burrowing Owl Chardonnay ’09    91
VQA Okanagan Valley, BC
208694 (v) $32.95
Socially responsible, eco-aware, wine you can live with – if you can find it in Ontario! Tiny production, warm sun, careful husbandry produce a somewhat tropical Chard here: think coastal California. Ripe, rich and toasty for lobster, crab, rich sauced dishes.

Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay 2008Flat Rock Unplugged Chardonnay ’10    87
VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula
68015 (v) $15.95
Unoaked Chardonnay at its freshest and most appealing. These folks do great things with oaky Chard, too. A stellar vintage captured in stainless steel before bottling. Expect apple, ripe pear and citrus with a lovely aftertaste. Enjoy now.

Montes Alpha Chardonnay ’09    90
Casablanca Valley, Chile
390203 (v) $19.95
Consistently excellent cool-climate Chard with subtle nectarine, orchard fruit and butterscotch notes and a refreshing tang of star fruit on the tail. Great with chicken Marengo or grilled fish.

William Fevre Chile Gran Cuvee Chardonnay ’09    87
Pirque, Maipo Valley, Chile
45146 (v) $16.95
Lightly oaky toasty with spicy and vibrant apple-peach notes, a touch of Anjou pear and agreeable minerality. Fresh, skilfully made and easy on the wallet for a wine with true Burgundian heritage. Serve with pan-fried scallops or cod.

William Fevre Chablis 1er Cru ’08    94
AC Chablis, France
169805 (v) $29.95
The real thing! From Chablis’ leading domaine, a wine with breathtaking poise and raciness. These wines are made in the vineyard, not by the winemaker and this vintage shows intense minerality with hints of flowers, smoke and candied fruit. Superb with seafood, shellfish, poultry and white meats, grilled or in a cream sauce. Good value, too.

Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes 2010Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontes ’10    90
Salta, Dominio de Plata, Argentina
1834 (v) $11.95
Delicious, spicy, orange blossom and grapefruit fragrance. Torrontes is a comer in the grape world, somewhat akin to Viognier with a white pear, orange-blossom citrus character, dry and delicate. Great with smoked meats, sushi and tangy cheeses.

Anakena Lilen Single Vineyard Viognier ’10    88
Arco Iris, Requinoa, Chile
45138 (v) $13.95
Speaking of Viognier... Here’s a cool-climate exotic version: peachy-melon and apricot notes to the fore, nicely balanced and full flavored to match veal Marengo, chicken Marsala and grilled chicken breast.

Chateau des Charmes Gewurztraminer 2008    91
VQA St David’s Bench Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
453472 (v) $19.95, 50 stores, $19.95, and at
Tiny production (540 cases), huge pleasure factor! Lush yet stylish citrus-tropical fruit, nectarine, mango with a long sensuous finish of white pepper and white peaches. Simply summerlicious. Perfect with spicy mango- or lime-sauced Thai or Asian stir fries. From mature (1996) vines with no oak to mask them.

Tramin Gewurztraminer ’09    90
DOC Sudtirol-Alto Adige, Italy
117028 (v) $18.95
Quietly restrained white-peppery spiciness with a whiff of jasmine and lavender morphs into a tropical fruit bowl of flavors led by ripe mango. Will be great with Asian dishes. Pad Thai, anyone?

Dry Red Wines:

Two Vineyards Cabernet Franc ’08    90
Inniskillin Winemakers Series, VQA Niagara Peninsula
241539 (v) $22.95
Leather, earth and barnyard... so far, so good. Oh, and there’s lovely ripe wine with red and black fruit and raspberry, tobacco leaf and oriental spices. Here’s a wine looking for Ontario lamb, thank you! Now to 2013 and delicious.

Chateau des Charmes Cabernet Franc ’07Chateau des Charmes Cabernet Franc ’07    90
VQA St David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula
451415 (v) 50 stores, $25.95, and at
Small production (500 cases) showing black fruits, mocha, new leather, soft tannins and violets at this stage although still in the flush of early development. Fully ripe and very concentrated with nowhere to go but up. Now with roasted red meats and tangy cheeses, or cellar for 4-5 years more.

Wayne Gretzky No 99 Estate Series Pinot Noir ’07    91
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
129056 (v) $18.95
A delicious mouthful. Wild strawberries, the right kind of barnyard flavors, soft tannins, rich full fruitiness and nice texture. This is more than OK at $18 bucks. Serve with duck magret, salmon on the Barbie, aged cheeses.

Zolo Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon ’06    90
Fincas Patagonicas, Mendoza, Argentina
54098 (v) $15.95
Spicy with light tannins and hints of cedar, spice, blackcurrant, vanilla, leather and berries, here’s an elegant bargain from the wilds of Mendoza, 4,300 feet above sea level. You could get happily high on this!

Bogle Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon ’08    87
904565 (v) $17.95
Name always makes me think of Wiener dogs. Don’t know why! Or maybe it’s beagles. Anyway, another crowd-pleaser for a wedding or BBQ bash. Especially the latter, where the spicy-herby Cab Sauv can strut its stuff. Nicely herbaceous and elegantly fruity vino can weave its magic here. Serve your friends now!

Grand Juan du Chateau Haut-Rieuflaget ’08    90
Dominic Petit, AC Bordeaux Superieur, France
226134 (v) $13.95
Really good value Bordeaux in an elegant restrained little package. Highly concentrated and beautifully balanced in that incredibly understated way only the French can do. Fruit, tannin, oak, yes. But how well they do it.

Seigneurs d’Aiguilhe ’09    92
Comtes de Neipperg, Castillon, Cotes de Bordeaux
195172 (v) $19.95
A thoroughbred of impeccable credentials. Complexity is the first characteristic but not the most important. That would be the serene melange of subtle fruit flavors that meld into the elegant impact on the palate. Vive Bordeaux!

Chateau La Gontelle ’10    88
Chateau Les Alberts, Blaye, Cotes de Bordeaux
230508 (v) $15.95
From an unlikely spot, a star of the wine fashion runway. Merlot-driven as most Bordeaux is, here’s a delicious fruity-spicy red to sip or chug with a vast array of your favourite foods.

Kaiken Corte Malbec/Bonarda/Petit Verdot ’08    88
Mendoza, Argentina
236463 (v) $16.95
Crowd pleaser, easy drinking and casual companion. Nothing to dislike about this wine. Soft ripe red fruit, soft tannins, gentle acidity, nirvana! Even the pros don’t spit this one out when they’re checking it out. Now, with pizza, pasta.

Zuccardi Organica Malbec ’10    88
Mendoza, Argentina
236224 (v) $13.95
From the wizards who bring you Fuzion, here’s an almost sulphur-free robust dry red that’s packed with beefy almost malty oomph. Carnivores are lining up now with BBQ tools in hand!

Luis Felipe Edwards Reserva Malbec ’09    88
Colchagua Valley, Chile
236497 (v) $14.95
There’s a wonderful aromatic spiciness to this overachiever, like being in a lavender field before the dark chocolate, black fruit and blueberry flavors appear. Conjure up some smoky kebabs or herbed steaks before it disappears!

Café Culture Pinotage ’10    87
KWV, WO Western Cape, S Africa
72710 (v) $13.95
Just for its sheer weirdness, try this mocha lookalike. Definitely a breakfast wine, molded into near latte-ness by the use of heavily-toasted casks to age the fermented native Pinotage grapes. Cold cuts, charcuterie, morning toast.

Domaine Armand Soleiador ’09    89
Cairanne, Cotes du Rhone-Villages, France
237560 (v) $16.95
Sour cherry, black pepper, boudin noir, black tea and forest floor earthiness, robust and gluggable with anything from the grill or smoked. The juicy tannins will go with a rare steak, too.

Domaine La Roquete 2008Domaine La Roquete ’08    90
Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone, France
70862 (v) $39.95
Silky smooth on the tongue as nuances of new leather, crushed red plums and ginger-anise spiced bread (what the English call Parkin) herald flavors of fresh fig, pencil lead and supple tannins (like black tea). If it had the facial features of a person they’d be chiselled. The Brunier brothers (also of Vieux Telegraphe) have yet another winner. Now to 2020.

Terredora Rosso ’08    90
DOC Lacryma Christi del Vesuvio, Campania
93088 (v) $18.95
Enter, new leather, crushed pepper, fresh grilled toast and then a whack of black cherry, sun-dried tomato and black licorice take centre-stage – to lots of merry applause. Pasta, pesto, pizza – pronto!

Casetta ’05    86
DOCG Barolo, Piemonte, Italy
4523 (v) $24.95
From the “Little House in Piemonte” – maybe the cheapest Barolo I’ve seen in a while and it’s pretty good, and hefty. Has all the right rose petal, new leather, mulberries, red plums and black berry fruit notes in a slightly rustic frame. Red meat, heavy pastas, rich risottos, now to 2018.

Sparkling Gems:

Cattier Brut Champagne    89
AC Champagne, 1er Cru, France
919464 (v) $39.95
Good depth and flavor for a real Champers at this price: nicely toasty, lightly fruity with pear, apple, melon notes. Cattier, famed for its spectacular bottle formats, is a consistent and good value producer. Drink now.

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 2010    88
Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia
256289 (v) $25.00
Described by a colleague as “fizzy mint sauce”, this is slightly spritzy and reminds me of Italy’s Moscato d’Asti, that lovely summer sipper of tiny alcoholic content and major orange blossom flavor. Nova’s 7.5% alcohol is 3 higher but they’re Muscat twins separated at birth. Fruit salads, patio sipping, this summer.

La Maison du Cremant Brut    89
AC Cremant de Bourgogne, Burgundy, France
127811 (v) $16.95
For great value outside Champagne, visit here: Burgundy, not noted for bubbles, can deliver. Toasty, toasted-almond and dried fruit flavors, amazing price. What’s not to like? Now to Christmas.

Bottega Prosecco Superiore    89
DOCG Conegliano Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy
235044 (v) $16.95
Straw, hay, green apples, ripe pears and fine acidity. That’s a start. From the very heart of Prosecco country, this aperitif-seafood partner doesn’t let the side down. Now.

Entourage Silver Series Brut Methode Classique ’06    91
Jackson-Triggs, Ontario, Canada
234161 (v) $22.95
Seriously good bubbly in the Champagne manner. Deep straw color, fine bubbles with the classic brioche, grilled toast on the nose. Lively lemony flavors with warm hazelnuts and yeasty-honey accents. Versatile with food.
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