Winter 2005

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 Wines


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:

Muscadet de Sèvre & Maine ’02   87
Sur Lie, Domaine des Quatre Routes, Henri Poiron
608893 (v) $13.95
Refreshingly crisp with a suggestion of lemons and grapefruit, a strong impression of oak and fleshiness from being cellared on the spent yeast (the ‘lie’ or lees) for extra flavor. Drink now, with seafood, shellfish, or as an everyday aperitif.

Vouvray ’03   87
Henry de Fontenay
653576 (v) $13.95
Sweetly grapey and lusciously delicious, here’s another good value Loire white, this time from the Chenin Blanc grape variety, grown further upriver. Chenins can age well but this will be best in its youth, with roast veal, poultry or crab cakes.

Sancerre ’02   90
Les Maulins Bâles, Fournier Père & Fils
651091 (v) $24.95
Sweetly ripe gooseberries, rhubarb pie, rich, elegant and scented, with a pleasant, slightly bitter finish. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc fans, take note, this is the original!

Réserve de Gassac Blanc ’03   89
Vin de Pays de l’Hérault, Mas de Daumas Gassac
608778 (v) $18.95
Steely, clean, earthy with fresh-grape, floral and grapefruit-mineral undertones. Well made shellfish-seafood wine. Sibling red from this respected Midi producer is Réserve de Gassac Rouge ’03 (86) 608760 (v), spicy, fleshy with a hint of cachou and long, smoky raspberry finish. Try them both!

St. Urbans-Hof Estate Riesling 2003   91
Mosel, Germany
886432 (c) $16.55
Even with the heat of 2003, winemaker and owner, Nik Weis, managed to produce high quality, balanced wines. Acidity and minerality, which is the hallmark of the St. Urbans-Hof wines is nicely retained but there is greater weight and complexity on the palate from harvesting such rich grapes. For such a modestly priced wine this received a fine review from the Wine Spectator and scored 89 points. "Aromas of mineral and smoke are matched by passion fruit and mango flavors in this broad, opulent QbA. It's balanced on the soft side, yet there's lasting intensity on the finish. Drink now." Buy a case now, via Rogers & Co 416-961-2294 or wait until July and get it by the bottle through Vintages (for $1 or so less!) The (v) code will be 995645.

Riesling ’03   86
AC Alsace, Martin Schaetzel
641647 (v) $17.95
Very dry, crisp Riesling with a dash of white grapefruit-melon and a hint of tropical lushness, a fleshiness of artichokes and a dry, refreshing finish. Classic Alsace dry white with style and panache! Seafood, poultry, aperitif, for immediate pleasure.

Stoneleigh Sauvignon Blanc ’04   90
Marlborough, New Zealand
293043 LCBO $14.95
No worries, mate! From an acclaimed cool, stony, well-drained area, showing lively aromas of fresh-picked, grippy gooseberry and succulent passion fruit, and grassy as all get out. Not a hint of oakiness. Classic Kiwi from a huge vintage: Screw-cap closure for freshness. Like a Loire white on steroids!

Deakin Sauvignon Blanc ’04   89
Red Cliffs, South Australia
560839 LCBO $9.95
From rolling red loam 500 k NW of Melbourne, the new 2004 vintage of this consistently popular wine tastes stony and elegant with a racy, mineral acidity. Also, there’s a brand new Deakin Chardonnay in Ontario worth trying: This 2003 is also clean, appealing and value-priced at $9.95, LCBO 588418. It’s a strapping 14% alc. wine with a rich, tropical melon, citrus, oak and peachy-pineapple character (89).

Château des Charmes St David’s Bench Chardonnay ’00   93
VQA Niagara Peninsula
430991 ((v) $19.95
Rich, deeply colored Chardonnay with intense, sophisticated flavors of lime-lemon, apple and mineral, backed by toasty oak-barrel aging and subtle hints of vanilla. Tasted blind, you might easily think Côte d’Or, Burgundy of a good year, for a fraction of the going rate for those wines! The ’99 Cabernet Franc 277236 (v) $18.95 is a rich, pure and well made red, from a grape variety that excels in Ontario’s cool mesoclimate (89), delivering a subtly herbaceous mid-weight mulberry and cassis flavor profile.

Robert’s Rock Chenin/Chardonnay ’04   84
South Africa
501303 LCBO $7.45
El stealo! An everyday, easy sipping plonk! Smooth, bland melon-pear profile, decently made without any pretension. What my mother-in-law would call an “ironing wine” or a TV wine or a crossword wine...

Jeanjean Arabesque Chardonnay ’03   86
Vins de Pays d’Oc, France
630681 LCBO $8.95
In the weird hula-dancer bottle! Decent plonk from the world’s biggest vineyard – the Languedoc-Roussillon area, between the Pyrenees on the Spanish border all the way to the Rhone Valley. Good Chardonnay typicity, no serious flaws, lots of pleasure triggers and a great price!

Antinori Orvieto Classico Dry ’03   86
Orvieto, Italy
18838 LCBO $10.25
Crisp, clean, fresh, pleasant and bone-dry. [There is also a sweet, ‘abbocato’ version of Orvieto.] So far so good: add in some stony-bitter-mineral notes that are quite refreshing and quenching, and you’ve got a good aperitif or reliable shellfish-seafood companion.

Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer Carte d’Or ’03   86
Alsace, France
373373 LCBO $14.95
Pillowy-soft, perfumed, lychee-scented exotic white that’s extremely well made for the money and born to marry your favorite delicately spicy Asian dishes. Alsace, NE, France, just across the Rhine from the Palatinate in Germany, is the centre of the known universe for Gewurz wines and this is a steal!

Balbach Riverside Riesling ’03   86
Rheinhessen, Germany
499814 LCBO $10.05
Just off-dry with a delicate crispness: another super-value, peachy, lemon-sherbet, sour lemon and zesty grapefruit everyday Riesling from Fritz and Agnes Hasselbach, owners of the magnificent red-slate Rothenberg estate right next door to this fine vineyard at Pettenthal in Nierstein. Lunch/picnic/aperitif.

Dry Reds:

Saint-Amour Cuvée St-Valentin ’03   87
Beaujolais, Georges Duboeuf
936120 (v) $19.95
If you cross the two gods Bacchus with Eros you’ll come up with...a wine just like this for Valentine’s Day! Lovingly made by powerhouse Duboeuf, this is a Cru Beaujolais, with a pedigree and lots of class. Bursting with fresh raspberry, cherry, beets and a hint of gun flint with a finish of sun-dried tomato and beets. A great mouthful! Think Tom Jones, here!

Quails’ Gate Gamay Noir Family Reserve ’02   92
VQA Okanagan Valley, BC
590679 (v) $29.95
I know, 30 bucks, but it’s a huge, wonderful wine, of amazing depth and complexity, the equal of a fine Burgundy in many ways. First impression on the nose is fresh toffee, then roses in bloom and steaming-hot cherry pie, and it gets better, plush and satisfying as the aromas echo on the palate. A keeper, 2-6 years.

Ladoix ’02   91
Joseph Drouhin, France
966200 (v) $26.95
From the north end of the Côte, just below the hills of super-star Corton, an affordable and lovely Pinot Noir from the promising Ladoix commune. Youthful with ripe raspberries, black cherries, a whiff of violets and strawberries and a creamy-smooth texture. Will develop more autumnal, slightly gamey character over 3-5 years. Match with rabbit, ham, lamb and feathered game.

Jackson-Triggs Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Merlot ’02   91
VQA Niagara Peninsula
563197 At the winery & Wine Rack stores $23.95
Saturated deep garnet color, black pepper aromas and concentrated lush blackberry, sweet plum, smoky bacon and cocoa, long glycerine legs. Great oak treatment from winemaker Tom Seaver. Big and cellarable. The J-T Proprietors’ Reserve Meritage ’02 (92) $24.95 594002 will wow you with its superb blackberry, raspberry, plum and toasty oak and mocha elegance. Another small production wine that’s worth the search!

Yellow Tail Merlot ’03   89
Casella Estate, Australia
625350 LCBO $11.45
Hot on the heels of the iconic and leaping (in sales) Y-T Shiraz and Chardonnay, here comes the softer, smoother sibling red, the ripe, spicy and cuddly Merlot. Serve with grilled salmon, lamb, roast poultry and soft cheeses. A little bird tells me Pinot Grigio will be next in the pipeline.

Wolf Blass Blue Label Merlot ’02   86
South Australia
538637 LCBO $17.95
Aromas of wood smoke, sweet oak, and flavor notes of blueberry pie and vanilla, here’s an easy-drinking everyday quaffer. Another reason those savvy Aussies are taking over the wine world! At least in their ever-expanding exports. The Wolf Blass Cabernet Sauvignon, 611483, $16.95, is rich and smoky with smoky bacon and cassis in the flavor profile. Highly acceptable as an everyday pleasure (87).

Christian Moueix Merlot ’01   85
AC Bordeaux
961227 LCBO $13.95
Good everyday claret from the man who also makes legendary Château Pétrus, in this case a simple but pleasant Merlot from an OK vintage. The Moueix Pomerol 2000 (v) 903013 $31.95, is plummier, creamier and more sophisticated Cab Sauvignon/Franc wine, even better in 3-6 years.

Château Coucheroy ’00   86
AC Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux
944983 (v) $17.95
From André Lurton a rich, ripe, easy-drinking claret with nice spicy, smoky red fruit and a shaving of delicate oak aging, to enjoy now and for the next two years. Very good value, food friendly. The companion white Château Coucheroy Blanc ’03 (v) 597708 $16.95, is a smoky, lush, pink grapefruit-Anjou pear style sipper, ripe and zippy to partner a lobster bisque or a stir-fried crab feed!

Château Moulin du Curat ’01   87
AC Puisseguin St-Emilion, Bordeaux
653162 (v) $18.95
A steal! Delicately flavored, elegant and balanced satellite of St-Emilion, a village to the NW of St. Emilion surrounded by wild, craggy hills, noted for lighter Merlot-driven style and good value. Plums, raisins, dark chocolate and oriental spices. Food friendly and versatile. Enjoy within two years.

Bertani Valpolicella Valpantena ’01   87
Veneto, Italy
12443 LCBO $14.90
Aromas and flavors of blackberry, cassis, toasty oak, with hints of game and roast beef. Mild tannins, medium-bodied, highly acceptable and delicious everyday red.

Les Brottiers Côtes du Rhône ’03   87
612150 LCBO $13.70
The basic Grenache-based Rhône appellation: rich, fruity-gamey aromas with hints of fresh mint, tons of red berry fruits and a whiff of bay leaves. Best drunk young, in large quantities, in loud gatherings.

Domaine d’Artois Rouge ’02   88
AC Touraine-Mesland, Guy Saget
694018 (v) $11.95
Crowd-pleasing Loire Cabernet Franc as it should be served, dry, herbaceous and light with just a hint of pencil shavings, plum, cherry and spice, perfect with backyard burgers, pizza and BBQ fare. For immediate pleasure. Chill a little before serving.

Château de Brézé Saumur Rouge ’02   86
AC Saumur, France
590554 (v) $14.95
Medium-light bodied fresh and appealing with a kiss of vanilla, red and black berries, not too much in the way of puckery tannins, and a refreshing acid balance to make a good food wine: roast chicken, light pastas or veal, for example. Drink within two years.

Les Piliers Cabernet Sauvignon ’01   90
Vins de Pays du Gard, Michel Gassier
653725 (v) $17.95
From the mouth of the Rhône Valley, a charming, fully ripe and tempting Cab, well priced with tons of character. Good everyday quaffer, ready for snacks, BBQ, pasta and pizza. Enjoy young.

Mas de Bressades ’02   91
Vin de Pays du Gard, Cyril Marès
712174 (v) $18.95
Sweetly ripe plums, raspberries, mulberries and black cherries, bone-dry, smoky with just a hint of road tar and fleshy tannins, a big, beautiful Cab/Syrah blend for now or the next three years. Sturdy stews, casseroles, hard cheeses and spicy sausages.

Unity Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot ’02   90
Niagara and Okanagan
989558 $29.95 Wine Rack stores, Royal York Hotel
Weaving together two distinct terroirs into a rich, firm, Bordeaux-style red with a Canadian accent, supple tannins, great aging capacity, bright fruit notes and subtle use of new oak. The ’02 Chardonnay, $24.95 at Wine Rack, is even better, (92) a blast of tropical melon pear, apple fruit with a dash of crème brûlée and vanilla. Sumptuous.

Colio CEV Carol Negri Signature Cabernet Sauvignon ’02   92
VQA Lake Erie North Shore (2,400 bottles made)
$49.95 at the Colio retail stores around Ontario
Aging well! Congratulations, Colio! On your 25 years of consistent, careful wine making with an Italian sensibility. Winemaker Carlo Negri has marked the anniversary with a very fine limited edition Cab and a Meritage, $69.95 (93). The warm 2002 summer was exemplary for reds and Carlo let the fresh-crushed grapes and juice macerate 14 days before fermentation, then aged the wines 22 months in new oak. They’re both rich, concentrated, complex and bone dry. No stranger to making premium reds, Colio’s CEV Merlot won a top award at Vinexpo ’03 in Bordeaux, where in a reciprocal deal, Colio agreed to represent the prestigious wines of Jean-Michel Moueix of Bordeaux in Ontario.

Château de Haute-Serre ’01   90
AC Cahors, Georges Vigouroux
693952 (v) $20.95
From this underrated area of SW France, here’s a Malbec-based oaky-toasty, potent red with prune-plum, menthol and cassis core, to lay down and await impatiently for a couple of years or try now with a spicy roast duck!

Pretty Bubbles:

Seaview Sparkling Shiraz   89
SE Australia
644054 LCBO $12.95
A red with bubbles! Cherries, spicy berries, vanilla and cola – and if that doesn’t get your attention you’re forgetting that spring-summer, and those warm, thirsty sunny days, are not too far away! Picnic wine in Australia, this is party perfect with BBQ and burgers, fried chicken, pizza and pasta, sangria and even chocolate desserts! Chill well and chill out!

Royal Seyssel Brut ’02   89
AC Seyssel, Varichon & Clerc
730390 (v) $16.95
Gun flint, brioche, fresh hay, honey and a pear-melon core. A pleasant way to get piste with a very affordable food-friendly fizz from an exotic locale in the heart of ski country, the Savoie.

Cuvée Catherine Rosé Brut NV   86
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Henry of Pelham
616458 (v) 29.95
Lemon-lime and pink grapefruit aromas/flavors lead the attack with floral, ripe berry mid-notes, all wrapped in a pretty salmon-pink with a finely beaded mousse. The lemony, bone-dry finish is a perfect foil for oysters, mussels or delicate seafood. Enjoy now.

Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve 91
Champagne, France
653634 (v) $49.95
Excellent value from a top producer: enticing vanilla and fresh toast notes on the nose, with a palate range of yeast, brioche, more toast and delicate honey. Vivid, light, elegant, and appealing. Fresh oysters, mildly spiced dishes and simple roasted poultry. Ready to enjoy now..

High Spirits:

Calvados Pays d’Auge XO  94
AC Calvados, Boulard
960773 (v) $64.95 500mL
Superb, essence of perfect apple cider transmuted into an elixir of the stature of single malt, smoky, intense, fiery and unforgettable. A snifter of superb pleasure as an alternative to that XO Cognac.

Framboise Sauvage   94
Raspberry Eau de Vie, Alsace, G.E. Massenez
740290 (v) $29.95
Superb after-dinner sipper that captures the finest, most delicate raspberry aromas and flavors. Quite a remarkable value and a ‘stealth’ addition to your liquor cabinet. Could be a secret ingredient in your personal version of Kir!

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