Winter 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


Spirited Sippers

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:

Henry of Pelham Sauvignon Blanc ’02   89
VQA Niagara Peninsula
430546 (v) $14.95
Cool Niagara was always a logical home away from home for this classic Bordeaux-Loire white wine: and, hey, the kid’s growing up fine, thanks to smart growers and winemakers. Twixt New Zealand’s signature hyper-gooseberry/rhubarbiness and California’s signature tropical-floral exuberance, the Ontario version is elegant, more Bordeaux, more food friendly, fresh, zesty and balanced. Pelham’s ’02 is medium-bodied, with ripe gooseberry and stony mineral tones. Enjoy as an aperitif, with goat cheese, shellfish, seafood.

Honig Sauvignon Blanc ’02   90
Napa Valley, California
928952 (v) $23.95
Very California: warm region wine, higher alcohol, full-bodied, fleshy, full fumé style (resulting from partial barrel fermentation), with oak-smoke-toast notes, rich, ripe fruit. From a rapidly improving winery. Serve with grilled white meats, poultry and creamy sauced pasta.

Château de Roque ’02   90
AC Bordeaux, France
920108 (v) $14.95
Very good value in a light, crisp Bordeaux Blanc and 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Perfect wine to pair with one or both of the above as a palate calibrator for this grape variety. Lime zest the dominant flavor note, with green grass, green apple, and just a hint of mandarin/mango on the finish. Serve with Dover sole, crab cakes, or grilled chicken breast

La Giustiniana Gavi di Gavi ’02   88
DOC Lugarara, Italy
920116 (v) $18.95
Apple crisp, caramel, mineral, with kind of sweet and sour notes, from the village of Gavi itself, hence the double name/name...

Banrock Station Unwooded Chardonnay ’03   89
S. Australia
455022 LCBO $10.55
Bare-naked value! Very well priced, clean and fresh, showing off its apple-pear fruit unadorned, and brightly repackaged to reach (the many) folks who’ve had enough oak for one lifetime. Grown in Riverland region of Oz, Banrock supports wetland conservation worldwide (a $20,000 cheque just went to Toronto Zoo’s Adopt-a-Pond program. Ducks everywhere thank them.

Perantonie Chardonnay ’01   87
IGT del Veneto, Italy
912733 (v) $14.95
From the cellars of Fasoli Gino, an organic white, low in sulphur, and useful for allergy sufferers. Almost austerely stony, clean and fresh, with hints of green apple and minerals with a supporting cast of oak, smoke, toast and vanilla. Indicazione Geografica Tipica approximates France’s Vin de Pays, wines typical of a region, rather than the rigid Denominazione di Origine Controllata (think Appellation Controlée). Low end of the official totem pole is Vino da Tavola (table wine).

Quails Gate Chardonnay ’02   86
Family Reserve VQA Okanagan Valley
559625 (v) $25.95
Big-time toasty, smoky oak frames this attractive apple/white peachy, fruit compote, buttered popcorn entry from Bountiful BC. The oak manages not to upstage the fruit and the nice acidity that refreshes and tickles the palate. As a result, this is a versatile food wine, with seafood, poultry, veal, and fusion cuisine.

Grove Mill Chardonnay ’01   87
Marlborough, South Island, NZ
925792 (v) $17.95
Affordable and versatile with summery flavors of butter, cream, vanilla and toast, overlaying ripe peaches, figs and pears. Napped in French oak barrels, it has good structure and reasonable complexity. Good value.

Henry of Pelham Barrel Fermented Chardonnay ’02   90
VQA Niagara Peninsula
268342 (v) $18.95
Un-screw it! In a Canadian VQA first, from the Speck brothers, the innovative approach of introducing screw-caps rather than traditional (unreliable) cork stoppers on their top-end wines first works very well with their elegant new Chardonnay. Fresh and lively, it shows well in tastings against the same wine under cork. Very Burgundian, quite complex and nuanced, with a long, pleasing aftertaste. "Traditions are good ideas that work," says Paul Speck. "Modern screw-cap technology eliminates cork defects while allowing the wine to age gracefully." Early adopters, take note: no more musty wines...twist and shout!

La Segreta Bianco ’02   88
IGT Sicilia, Italy
581546 (v) $15.95
From the very trendy Sicilian winery Planeta, this snazzy newcomer is green-gold, fresh and grapey, with floral and apple-pear notes. Not even close to meeting the official DOC regulations with its grape base of local Grecanico lavishly supplemented with Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier, hence Indicazione Geografica Tipica, and not too tipica, either! More Internazionale... Garlic prawns, scallop risotto.

Domaine des Guyons Saumur ’01   90
Clos de l’Ardil, Loire
927996 (v) $14.95
Bright gold hue, from 100% Chenin Blanc, sweet honeyed pear, apple, apricot, fresh-cut mushrooms and mandarin notes, smoky, crisp and full-bodied, finishing dry on the palate. Seafood, shellfish, feathered game.

Karl Lingenfelder Riesling Spatlese ’01   90
Grosskarlbacher Osterberg, Pfalz, Germany
928192 (v) $19.95
Medium dry with a complex and intriguingly elegant array of Bosc peach, lime zest, sour plum and grapefruit nuances. From one of Germany’s finest and most brilliant winemakers, in the warm southernmost wine region, in a very good vintage. Wonderful with lobster, crab or crayfish.

Erbacher Marcobrunn Riesling Kabinett ’02   91
Langwerth von Zimmern, Germany
919399 (v) $23.95
Spicy peach, grapefruit and petrol aromas and flavors, with aristocratic elegance and quite good concentration, from an even better vintage than the Pfalz wine, as a result scoring big points for a simpler Kabinett-level Riesling.

Dry Reds:

Domaine de la Madone ’02   86
AC Beaujolais-Villages, Le Perreon
981175 (v) $15.95
From the capable cellars of Jean Berard and son, purple-violet, with raspberry, cherry, beets, vanilla and toast. Serve and quaff chilled.

Anjou Rouge Terra Vitis ’01   88
Domaine les Grandes Vignes, Loire
700161 (v) $13.95
Light, dry tannins, and the pleasant tobacco, roasted pepper and mulberry character of Cabernet Franc grapes. Midweight and not likely to tire out the palate with hefty alcohol.

Lindemans Pinot Noir Reserve ’99   87
Padthaway, S. Australia
335513 (v) $14.95
Resin-cedar and pine aromas, and then berried treasure. A tad short on the aftertaste but ready to enjoy right now. New release partnered with Lindemans Merlot Reserve ’01 (87) 588715 (v) $14.95, which delivers pure pleasure in a style that’s fruit-forward, slightly grassy, with big stewed-plum notes and a clean edge of oak.

Argyle Valley Pinot Noir ’01   85
Willamette Valley, Oregon
909499 (v) $22.95
Lighter style, delicate spicy berries, cherries/plums, slightly candied fruit finish, for immediate consumption with subtly flavored dishes.

Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir Reserve ’99   93
Napa Valley, California
726737 (v) $74.95
Very Burgundian, lovely fruit, elegant, subtle, silky, full and firm, a classic. In the same release as the excellent Mondavi Napa Valley Zinfandel ’01 (91) 990713, $33.95, toting spicy tannins, a hint of black olives, with ripe raspberries, cran-apple and cherries.

Masi Passo Doble Rosso ’00   90
La Arboleda, Tupungato, Argentina
996439 (v) $16.95
Smooth, rich, lively fusion of Argentinian-grown Malbec, Corvina from the Veneto (Valpolicella), and a smidge of Merlot. The Corvina grapes are partially dried on mats, pressed then added to the fermented wine, triggering further fermentation. The result: smoother, stronger, silkier wine, like a Ripasso. Passo Doble, see!

Princesse Emilie ’99   89
Cave de Rabastens, Gaillac
913830 (v) $18.95
Rarely seen Gaillac regional wine in Canada: pleasantly rustic with toasty oak, smoky slightly earthy cherry notes, saddle leather gaminess in the background. From the excellent local grapes Fer Servadou or Braucol grown in France’s Deep Southwest, (far) upriver from Bordeaux, within sight of the Pyrenees, an hour north of Toulouse. Serve with foie gras, cassoulet, and confit of duck or goose.

Pedroncelli Bench Vyd Dry Creek Valley Merlot ’00   90
$19 (c) Caroline Gibson @ 416/763-1457
Respected family winery doesn’t disappoint with this lively cherry, plum, strawberry and clove spice Merlot, with supple texture, firm tannins. The finish is balanced with hints of tea, black olives and anise from 20-year-old vines on gravel terraces draining into Dry Creek. It’s a fast-mover and there’s a handy half-bottle, too, @ $10.15.

Rodney Strong Sonoma Merlot ’00   90
$25.95 (c) Mark Anthony @ 905 238 6731
Tight, dense, herbal, smoky blueberry, cherry, plum, sun-dried black olives, cola and a hint of licorice. Good with meat-sauced pasta and toasted sourdough garlic bread, says the winemaker, Rick Sayre.

Château Roquetaillade La Grange ’00   87
AC Graves
193102 (v) $18.95
From two young Bordeaux winemakers, Bruno Dominique and Pascal Guignard, cedary, clean, elegant, vanilla and spice, approachable for price and pleasure.

Leasingham Magnus Shiraz/Cabernet ’00   86
Clare Valley, Australia
995787 (v) $16.96
Tannic and very dry, perfect with very rare steaks and roasts.

La Vite Lucente ’00   88
IGT Toscana, Frescobaldi/Mondavi
747030 (v) $39.95
A marriage (more a society wedding, really) between noble Napa/Tuscany wine families, the first, many centuries in the biz, the second, more Nouveau Monde. This is the second wine of the partnership, big brother is Luce, and it’s a decent-value Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet blend from Montalcino and the Florentine Hills of Chianti. Aged in 45% new French barriques for 12 months, it’s a SuperChianti with lots of personality, aging power and cherry, new leather, mulberry flavors, with supple tannins. With steak Florentine in 2008.

Rocca della Macie Rubizzo ’02   89
IGT Toscana, Sangiovese di Toscana
913780 (v) $14.95
Nicely fruity, midweight, with fine tannins, ripe cherry-berry-plum fruit, and a suggestion of leather and roasted meat. Softened and mellowed by the inclusion of 5% Merlot.

Terriero Primitivo ’01   87
Puglia, Italy
612689 LCBO $9.45
No-nonsense, warm, cuddly, easy-drinking everyday pleasure, for pizza, BBQ, pasta or meatballs with tomato sauce, from the Deep South of Italy, and bursting with fresh red fruit brio. There’s also a sibling white, Grecanico, 612697 LCB0, $8.95, (86) that no fridge should be without.

Bull’s Blood ’00   85
Szeksardi Bikaver, Hungary
927921 (v) $10.95
It’s baaaack! An almost forgotten name from your early poverty, lava lamp days... fondly remembered as “Sex on Saturday”. Same old stewed plums, ancient oak, earthy tannins and hints of saddle leather.

Quinta da Abrigada Tinto ’00   86
DOC Alenquer, Portugal
948083 (v) $15.95
One of a rapidly improving generation of modern wines from Portugal: showing tasty berry flavor with interesting hints of earth, leather, oak and cedar. With robust stews, rabbit, well-seasoned roasts or pizza.


Montelliana Prosecco di Valdobbiadene   86
DOC, Veneto, Italy
927202 (v) $12.95
Very very apple, lemon and elderberry, no bitterness. Good value everyday bubbly

Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut   89
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Henry of Pelham
616458 (v) $27.95
Full-bodied, clean, elegant flavors, spicy with a hint of ginger and whiffs of brioche and vanilla, made using selected clones of traditional French grapes adapted to Niagara conditions and vinified the way Dom Pérignon used to do it. Can be enjoyed with robust white meat dishes or seafood, especially salmon.

Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir   90
Sonoma County, California
925735 (v) $28.95
From Carneros, just north of San Francisco, here’s a Californian with a Catalan accent, owned by Freixenet, world’s biggest bubbly house. This white wine from black grapes, (92% Pinot Noir: 8% Chard) is a flavor bomb of strawberry, black cherry, vanilla, cherry, lemon and cola, with small lively bubbles, a creamy, persistent finish, and a touch of ginger, to enjoy now through 2006. Outstanding with crab, Thai cuisine, roast pork, quail, foie gras or semi-sweet desserts. And proposing toasts!

Spirited Sippers:

Gonzalez Byass Nutty Solera Oloroso   90
Jerez, Spain
35204 (v) $11.95
Toasted walnuts and hazelnuts, honeycomb, a whiff of vanilla and spicy citrus in a silky, medium-dry style, superbly underpriced. Spanish sherries are one of the last great wine bargains. Sip and smile!

Soberano de Jerez   91
Jerez, Spain
600544 LCBO $32.95
Aged 5 years in American oak sherry barrels to pick up hints of vanilla and caramel, this smooth 100% distilled wine spirit is given a smidge of real oloroso for natural flavor and color. With a hint of sweetness, it’s great on its own, over ice, or with cola, ginger ale or lemonade.

Guimaraens 1986 Vintage Port   94
Fonseca Guimaraens, Oporto, Portugal
467902 (v) $63.45
Deep, potent, majestic, and starting to show its stuff now, without the need for further keeping. Not a "declared" vintage year for the flagship Fonseca wine but grown in the same three vineyards and of very high quality. Enjoy its spicy plum, saddle leather and red licorice panache now while your Fonsecas slumber.

Quady Essensia Orange Muscat   90
299552 (v) $14.85 375mL
Marmalade Central! Aromatic to the power of 3. Andrew Quady continues to work his magic with this exotic clone and it’s a dinner party lifesaver to match with tangy-sweet desserts like Key lime pie, Crepes Suzette, Tiramisu and anything chocolate.

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling Icewine ’01   92
VQA Niagara Peninsula
447441 (v) $59.95 375mL (with gift cylinder)
Exotic floral-honeyed pear-vanilla aromas tickle your nose. Peach, mango, jasmine, nectarine, sweet apricot and honey tango on your tongue. And the magical mid-sweet medley pampers some deep pleasure centres of your brain. A lovely example of Ontario’s Icewine, class of 2001. Dip your biscotti here or sip by itself with your sweetie. From the 2002 vintage, the Pelham Riesling Icewine, 430561, $54.95, is ripe, citrusy, and melony with hints of hazelnut, vanilla, tropical fruits and fresh acidity (91).

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