Summer 2014

(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

Pretty in Pink

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:

Gilles Joannet Crème de Cassis                95
Burgundy, France
383794 (v) $31.95
The essence of perfectly ripe blackcurrants and born to be the base for Kir and Kir Royale with white Burgundy and Champagne, respectively. Cheapos, like me, can get by with Ribena but there’s really nothing to beat this. Felix Kir, by the way, was a mayor of Dijon. Kir can also be made with (usually white) wine and blackberries, peaches, raspberry, hibiscus, even cider…

Toucas Alvarinho 2012Toucas Alvarinho 2012                89
DOC Vinho Verde, Portugal
380790 (v) $19.95
Portugal is synonymous with good value and this excellent Vinho Verde sizzles with lime zest, yellow plum and grapefruit notes, dry and slightly frizzante, to be served well chilled for aperitif or first courses. Like a bone dry Riesling.

Monopole Blanco 2013                90
DOCa Rioja, CUNE, Spain
66951 (v) $16.95
From the Viura alias Macabeu grape that also helps make sparkling Cava in Spain, this super-crisp, floral, citrusy Rioja white and packs a friendly toasted nut element for complexity.

Domaine Cauhape Chant des Vignes 2013                88
AC Jurancon, Henri Ramenteu, France
385724 (v) $16.95
From the lesser known Gros Manseng and Camaralet grape varieties (huh?) of southwest France, comes a great everyday sipper (even at 14%). A peppery citrus kind of character that’s easy to enjoy, right now.

Domaine Le Verger 2012                91
AC Chablis, Burgundy, France
181289 (v) $22.95
For an everyday Chablis this is pretty darned good, and that’s excellent. Chalky minerality, crisp citrus acidity and intense floral-orchard fruit grace notes. Pan-fried trout or calamari would be nice!

Domaine du Chardonnay Vosgros 2011                89
AC Chablis 1er Cru, Burgundy, France
382895 (v) $29.95
Austere and naked, as in no oak! Heavy underlying stony minerality supporting razor-fine citrus and lime zest acidity. Fantastic seafood-shellfish wine.

Vinyasa White 2013                90
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Mike Weir Winery
379131 LCBO $13.95
Fresh, fruity and 70 calories per 137mL glass. Canada’s most lo-cal premium white. Can’t beat that! A light, crisp and delicious floral-citrus harmony of fully ripened Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. Yoga fans will recognize the Vinyasa name and relax and enjoy this 9.5% sipper. Profits, of course, go to Weir’s foundation that helps kids in need. So, breathe a little easier! Namaste!

Muri-Gries Pinot Grigio 2013                90
DOC Alto Adige, Italy
270983 (v) $19.95
Speaking of Pinot Grigio, one of today’s hottest varietals, here’s a bright palette of flavors, colorful and tasty: lime zest, wet stones, yellow apple and honeycomb, dry and refreshing and well priced.

Saint Clair Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013                88
Marlborough, New Zealand
237255 LCBO $15.95
Light, crisp and bone dry with intense grassy gooseberry-rhubarb, grapefruit and blackcurrant flavors, elegant acidity and lime zest on the aftertaste. Finely crafted by one of the region’s premier wineries. Perfect with grilled vegetables, seafood or antipasti.

Robert Oatley Sauvignon Blanc 2012Robert Oatley Sauvignon Blanc 2012                91
Margaret River, Western Australia
186106 (v) $18.95
Nicely modulated in more of a Loire than Kiwi gooseberry fashion! Tending towards tropical passion fruit and papaya than grassy yet showing a smoky asparagus and citrus undertone. Food friendly and delicious.

Bernard Reverdy & Fils 2012                91
AC Sancerre, Loire, France
200055 (v) $25.95
This is Sauvignon Blanc heaven that our Vintages friends describe charmingly as “a garden party in a glass”. That would be … green bean, herbaceous, fruit salad and chicken a la king…?” Crisp, vivid and great with salads or shellfish. Goat cheese, anyone?

Domaine de Vaugondy 2012                90
AC Vouvray, Loire, France
189142 (v) $16.95
Floral, orchard-fruit driven, especially baked apple and peach, with touches of mushroom and olive oil spiciness – a very food-friendly full, rich white from old Chenin Blanc vines.

Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2013                90
VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula
268342 (v) $19.95
The fermentation in oak barrels sets the stage for a highly Burgundian style of Chardonnay – at a non-Burgundian price! Buttered brioche and grilled toast lead the charge as we go rich apple-pear on the palate. Fresh, balanced and refreshing

Sileni Cellar Selection Chardonnay 2013                88
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
358994 LCBO $15.90
An easy-drinking food-friendly Chard with cantaloupe, stone fruit, ripe peach and mildly oaky butter flavors that would have pleased the original Sileni, the drinking buddies of Bacchus, god of wine. Serve with seafood, poultry, soft cheeses or cream sauces.

Nugan Estate King Valley Chardonnay 2012                88
Victoria, Australia
288191 (v) $19.95
A single vineyard wine from a cool climate area that’s been delicately handled and not over-oaked, allowing fresh attractive white peach, apple, pear notes to shine. A hint of roasted hazelnuts and clean acidity make this well-balanced wine a great value.

De Buxy Buissonnier Cru 2011                90
AC Montagny 1er, Burgundy, France
382879 (v) $19.95
Stylish oak notes as you would expect, yet very good value in elegance and harmonious ripe fruit such as white peach, yellow apple and lemon zest over a limestone minerality. Rich and well made.

Stags’ Leap Winery Chardonnay 2012                90
Napa Valley, California
655381 (v) $34.95
More of a cool climate wine than you’d expect: showing aromas of peach, nectarine, orange zest and buttered toast. Apple-grapefruit and stone fruit on the palate with nicely integrated toasty oak that will improve with a little cellaring. Stags’ Leap Viognier 2013, 597369, $34.95, is more floral with pink grapefruit, dried apricot and white peach to the fore (91).

Dry Red Wines:

Sperling Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012Sperling Vineyards Pinot Noir 2012                88
BC VQA Okanagan Valley
382283 (v) $27.95
Aged in casks and hand bottled after 12 months, highly concentrated and still very much a baby! Needs time in bottle to show off ultra-Burgundian elegance. Raspberries, toasty oak and fresh herbs now, its tartness will mellow to perfection. From Southbrook’s star winemaker, Ann Sperling.

Chateau des Charmes Estate Bottled                91
Old Vines Pinot Noir 2010

VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
256834 (v) $18.95
Concentrated as only wine from old vines can be, nuanced and balanced, with sweet cherry-mocha and earthy-beet and truffle notes, well-structured with silky tannins and fine fruity acidity. Enjoy now with fine rare meats or hold in the cellar for a few years.

Familia Schroeder Saurus Select Pinot Noir 2012                88
Patagonia Argentina
55442 (v) $19.95
No, it’s not the-saurus, it’s bronto-saurus from the prehistoric past in this southern tip of South America. I figure that the brontos were the first creatures to ever tread grapes! This Pinot fruit has yielded cherry pie, earthy beets and raspberry fruitiness. Ready now and priced to move.

Fog Head Highland Series                88
Reserve Pinot Noir 2012

Delicato Family, Monterey County, California
212944 (v) $19.95
For a sunny California experience, here’s fruit-forward juicy big Pinot. Easy drinking with blackberry and a touch of cola, very soft tannins and palate-flattering traces of residual sugar. Impossible to dislike and crowd-friendly.

Innocent Bystander Pinot Noir 2012                91
Yarra Valley, Australia
178897 (v) $21.95
Once you get past the weird label (and the intriguing name) you have a juicy plummy, raspberry and cassis quaffer that’s a real crowd-pleaser. Great with charcuterie, bbq, tomato based dishes and pizza.

Schubert Block B Pinot Noir 2011                93
Wairarapa, Martinborough, New Zealand
66985 (v) $55.95
Priced like, grown like and tasting exactly like a fine Burgundy. Created by uber-winemaker Kai Schubert and hailed as the top NZ Pinot, it explodes with blackberry, plum, blueberry and mocha, hints of dry tea and fresh truffles. Tiny production, great future.

Jekel Cabernet Sauvignon 2012                89
Arroyo Secco, Monterey County, California
967893 (v) $19.95
Full and smooth, richly fruity with mocha, vanilla and plum notes, soft tannins and gulpable acidity for BBQ or grilled meats. Still a baby but beautiful now.

Kabang Red 2011                88
Stratus Wines, VQA Niagara Peninsula
380022 (v) $19.95
An explosion of exciting bright red fruit flavors from its combo of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Cab Franc and Petit Verdot! In the vivid Stratus tradition of outrageous names (see Wildass Red, for example) here’s a BBQ friendly red to rock your summer world. Extra dry, 14.8% alc and smooth tannins.

Chateau de Ricaud Reserve des Coteaux 2010                87
AC Cadillac Cotes de Bordeaux, France
365643 (v) $18.95
Complex, intriguing and delicious, a young claret with a future: smoky black plum, mulberry, black cherry and bitter chocolate that’s light and spicy with chewy tannins. Enjoy now to 2024.

Chateau Fourcas-Borie 2010                91
AC Listrac, Bordeaux, France
361048 (v) $29.95
Merlot-driven with some Petit Verdot and 10% Cabernet showing black berry fruit, chewy tannins, cake spice and layers of mocha and vanilla. Already quite voluptuous, it will hold and improve for a few years. Rare roast beef would be great!

Cantina del Dolcetto di Dogliani 2011                91
DOCG Dolcetto di Dogliani Superiore, Piemonte
378547 (v) $19.95
Tannins, earth and blood…hello Dolcetto! Oh, and dried figs, licorice, sour cherries and raspberry. That’s a lot of wine for the money and perfect with savoury dishes, steaks and pork chops.

Chakana Malbec 2013Chakana Malbec 2013                87
Mendoza, Argentina
3509 (v) $14.95
Magical Malbec from Mendoza: the hottest new red combo on the international scene today! Simply a blast of brambly red berry fruit with a twist of mocha and toast that lends enough complexity for smoky bbq fare. Great value.

Chateau du Port Cuvée Prestige Malbec 2010                90
AC Cahors, France
380683 (v) $16.95
From the home of Malbec grapes on the limestone massif of SW France, showing bright berry and black plum fruit with poised tannins and food friendly acidity. Think casseroles, stews, hard cheeses, now to 2024.

Catapereiro Escolha 2011                88
Companhia das Lezirias, Vinho Regional Tejo, Portugal
380808 (v) $16.95
Simple, inexpensive pleasure: full of red berry juiciness and smooth tannins, made by a huge agro-forest firm that happens to make good wines. This one, from Alicante and Aragonez grapes, happily matches the game raised on its own equestrian tourism estates: dove, pigeon, snipe, rabbit and boar.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah/Viognier 2012                91
WO Swartland, Boekenhoutskloof, S Africa
79442 (v) $16.95
Smoky, juicy and ready for slow-cooked stews and winter soups when the snow flies, this meaty, broad-shouldered Syrah has a smidge of Viognier and enough heft to handle savoury fare.

Serego Alighieri 650 Anniversario 2009                90
Masi, DOC Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Veneto
661306 (v) $23.95
This estate near Lake Garda was bought in 1353 by the poet Dante (Divine Comedy) Alighieri’s son, and is still in the family. Its traditional cherry wood barrels impart a woody, herbal spiciness to the plummy, gently tannic wine. Drink or hold.

Compania Vinedos Iberian Yaso Tinto 2012                89
DO Toro, Spain
377499 (v) $19.95
Tinto alias Tempranillo is the preeminent grape of Spain’s dramatic Duero (upstream from Portugal’s Douro) producing a kind of Rioja on steroids, which is a good thing: licorice, cassis, raspberry, chocolate, pencil lead, and beefiness. Certainly a food wine that’ll improve with cellaring.

Nugan Alfredo Dried Grape Shiraz 2012                90
New South Wales, Australia
376707 (v) $26.95
Amarone-style, made from premium grapes set aside to slowly air-dry into raisins before being pressed, this is a big wine with big flavors: bitter chocolate, licorice, blackberry, plum, cracked black pepper and Kirsch. Nugan Estate Alfredo Second Pass Shiraz 2012 is fermented then pressed onto the pomace and lees of the Dried Grape Shiraz (the second pass!) for extra depth and complexity (89). $15.95, LCBO 368811. Medium bodied and fruity, it has slightly less heft but the same lovely smoothness as its big brother. Think serious carnivore or tomato pasta thoughts for both!

Pretty in Pink:

Bodega Norton Malbec Rosado                87
Mendoza, Argentina
367110 LCBO $10.80
The LCBO calls this easy-going and fruity and who am I to argue – since there’s total agreement! A no-brainer lightly chillable fridge-dweller for ten bucks. Won’t rock your world but will make it a little cheerier with strawberry-cherry and cola nuances, soft tannins. Completely undemanding and great value.

Graham Beck Brut Rosé                88
Methode Cap Classique, WO West Cape, South Africa
175588 (v) $20.95

Great value pink bubbles from the Cape. Sweet cherry, toast, citrus and strawberry nuances mingle and meld here. Oak-aged Chardonnay partners Pinot Noir in a creamy fizz that’s perfect for poached salmon, foie gras or chicken sandwiches. From one of South Africa’s leading quality/price producers.

Gaston Chiquet Brut Rosé                90
AC Champagne, France
362574 (v) $54.95
Light and lively with a fragrant whiff of forest floor, wild strawberries, red currants and buttered buns. Deliciously pink color and refreshing citrus acidity that’s great for aperitif or with light dishes. Unusually, a 40-30-30 blend of Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. PM is a fifth wheel in most blends.

Miraval Rosé 2013                91
AP Cotes de Provence, France
342584 (v) $22.95
Floral, fresh and delicate as rose petals, here’s the fruit of the Beaucastel winemaking Perrins’ expertise and the stunning estate owned by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Better and more fairly priced than anticipated, it’s a gorgeous example of crisp, dry French rosés.

Sparkling Gems:

Poquito Moscato                88
Valencia, Spain
377143 LCBO $4.95, 375mL

A sweet little peachy-grapey sparkly aperitif that’s just so much fun! Party perfect, low alcohol (like a beer, at 5%) with honey-orange blossom on the palate and just enough citrus to avoid being cloying. Handy green crown cap to pop! Mojito, anyone? Would you believe it’s made by a Scotsman? Norrel Robertson MW.

Bricco Riella 2012                88
DOCG Moscato d’Asti, Cascina Pian d’Or, Italy
378380 (v) $13.95
Tangy, low alcohol fizz, 5%, with a grapefruit-like acidity, white plum fruitiness and lively bubbles and tangerine aftertaste. It’s a lot of fun for the bucks and will be the toast for many a wedding!

Billecart-Salmon Brut Reserve                90
AC Champagne, France
81976 (v) $64.95

A great aromatic, leesy, cut hay, ripe pear and toasty nose on this beauty. Fine bubbly mousse and flavors of ginger, citrus, pineapple and dried apricot on the tongue, finishing with long aftertastes of brioche.

Just Desserts:

Stratus Red Icewine 2012Stratus Red Icewine 2012                93
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
56689 (v) 200mL $39.95
This blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Mourvedre is classic J-L Groux. The Stratus weinmeister has conjured up outrageous strawberry-jammy lusciousness that’s napped in a layer of vanilla and silky tannins.

Offley Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009                92
DO Douro, Portugal
70086 (v) $19.95
Baron James Forrester, a partner in Offley was the first to chart the Douro River, and pioneer port quality in the C19th. His heirs today produce a wonderful LBV, bottled after three years, that will make Vintage Port fans very happy. Chillable, midweight and multi-layered in its elegant fruitiness.

Jacopo Poli Cleopatra Amarone Oro Grappa                95
Veneto, Italy
367664 (v) $80.95
From a metre away this smells like a meadow of sun-kissed hay strewn with dried fruits – peach, apricot, plum and raisins – and newly baked pastry. From the distilled pomace of Orange and White Muscat grapes, 40% alcohol yet silky smooth. Made by artisans who have lived in the Veneto for 600 years.

Port Charlotte Scottish Barley Heavily Peated                94
Bruichladdich, Islay Single Malt, Scotland
368183 (v) $109.95
I know, a hundred bucks! But it’s like an actual trip to Bonnie Olde… Fine and intense and really reminiscent of the very smoky, peaty malts of the southern coast of Islay. The name kind of gives it away. Smooth and spicy and a little goes a long way. Nose it from a distance then sip and enjoy.

Take me back to the top of the page, please!

Take me back to Wine Picks, please!