Winter 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

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:

Hope Estate Verdelho '06     88
Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
048520 (v) $16.55
Verdelho is an underrated native workhorse of a white grape from Portugal (Verdejo in Spain) that does well in Australia, generally unoaked for better freshness and racy lime-lemon acidity, with a tropical-fruit spectrum of flavors, floral, grass and stone notes. Quite dry and very food friendly.

Kanu Chenin Blanc '06    85
WO Stellenbosch, S Africa
907089 (v) $11.55

Kanu, as in 'paddle your own' is a wine S Africa does well, and inexpensively: pear, melon with a citrus core. The signature white grape of the Cape with a spritz of Sauvignon and Chardonnay, has a creamy, fresh and lightly fruity tang that's hard to dislike. Great value!

Domaine Allimant-Laugher Pinot Gris '06    87
AC Alsace, France
061317 (v) $16.85

Tropical, floral aromas with an attractive light smoky-resin note which all echo on the palate with a creamy, full-bodied texture. A bigger style of PG than Italy's Pinot Grigio that can handle white-fleshed fish, feathered game, risotto and cream- or cheese-sauced dishes.

Bottega Vinaia Pinot Grigio '06    86
DOC Trentino, Italy
051623 (v) $15.85

Fresh, racy PG with lime-lemon panache, mineral highlights and dry, refreshing acidity to marry with moules marinières, grilled fish, veal and roast chicken.

Borgo Conventi Pinot Grigio '06    88
DOC Isonzo del Friuli, Fiori del Borgo, Italy
013276 (v) $16.85

Steely pear-peach and white flower aromas segue into a creamy, slightly tropical range of fruit flavors for a quite elegant, balanced and upscale PG at a great price. Ready to party or serve at the wedding feast!

Alois Lageder Pinot Bianco '05    87
DOC Alto Adige, Italy
07691 (v) $20.85

Ripe Granny Smith, white grapefruit and white pepper on the nose, rich, succulent and tropical on the palate, with a mineral, stone fruit undertone and good concentration of flavors. From the cool-climate home region of great Pinot Grigio. Think sunny spring days on the patio in the near future!

W. Gisselbrecht Pinot Blanc Reserve Spéciale '06    87
AC Alsace, France
955872 (v) $12.75

Vanilla, pear and spiced apple perfumes with a silvery, racy acidity make this an amazing $13 sipper from Willy G, elegant and yet undemanding, from a fine producer at the top of his game. Food friendly, too

Joseph Balland-Chapuis Le Chatillet '06    86
AC Sancerre, Loire, France
061432 (v) $22.85

Sauvignon-based white expresses subtle grassy grapefruit, mineral and herbaceous notes but the distinctive tone is fresh spearmint! Sip, serve with green salads and herbed roast chicken.

Château Jolys Jurançon Sec '05    86
AC Jurançon , Terrae Escencia, France, Domaine Latrille
061614 (v) $15.85

Rarely seen (in this market) from the almost unheard of Gros and Petit Manseng grapes grown on clay-based soils within sight of the Pyrenees in SW France by the Jolys family, and vinified in steel tanks, unlike their Moelleux (sweet) whites that you could mistake for Sauternes, which enjoy some barrel time. Just off-dry with wildflower, mineral, smoke and spicy peach compôte-kiwi-melon characters. Well-priced, well made, and food friendly - now.

Weingut Pfeffingen Scheurebe Spätlese '05    89
QmP Ungsteiner Herrenberg, Pfalz, Germany
014837 (v) $19.85

Full-bodied, fruity white from the lovely and somewhat rare grape variety created by Georg Scheu from Silvaner and Riesling: lush, full-on flavors of black currants, melon and tangerines with richness and finesse. Great with Asian and spicy fare or as an aperitif.

Armand Riesling Kabinett '05    90
QmP Pfalz, Germany, Reichsrat Von Buhl
060905 (v) $16.85

Off-dry with luscious grapefruit-mineral and lime zest attack, fuller, more tropical fruits on the palate and an elegant lanolin-petrol component that's truly Riesling. Good now, better 2009-2011.

Henschke Julius Riesling '05    93
Eden Valley, S Australia
945055 (v) $36.75

Terrific stuff! Lovely fruity lime-lemon and melon attack and classic oily, lanolin, petrol texture in the mouth, stone-slate mineral underpinning and zesty finish. Very good value.

Stella Bella Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc '06    85
Margaret River, W Australia
048546 (v) $18.85

Very grassy, herbaceous, gooseberry style with a creamy mouth feel and elegantly balanced acidity. However, the bottle I tasted had a faint mustiness, surprising under a screwcap, that brought its score down. Versatile food wine and aperitif. The Stella Shiraz '05, 048553 (v) $21.85, rates a delicious 92.

Jackson-Triggs Proprietors' Grand Reserve Meritage    90
A marriage of Sauvignon Blanc (87%) and Semillon (13%) with grape skin contact with the pressed juice for 6 hours, cold fermentation with selected yeasts, and two months of French barrel aging. The result: succulent pear, melon, grapefruit, and pineapple notes, nicely balanced in a creamy-textured elegant Bordeaux-style white. Great with shellfish, seafood, bacon wrapped scallops and lobster.

Sterling Sauvignon Blanc '06    87
Napa Valley, California
056325 (v) $19.75

Very tropical fruit impression of Key limes, citrus and muskmelon, with silky, slightly hot mouth feel from a robust 13.5% alcohol, crisp acidity and very California! Food friendly.

Martin Ray Chardonnay '05    91
Russian River Valley, California
057067 (v) $23.75

For the hyper-oak crowd: barrel-fermented and barrel-aged and it shows: full-flavored, too, with melon, limes and sweet apples, herbaceous grace notes and crisp, refreshing acidity. Serve with food as you would with a light red wine.

Grant Burge Summers Chardonnay '06    90
Eden Valley/Adelaide hills, S Australia
057315 (v) $18.75

Lip-smacking good, fruity Chard with enough toasty oakiness to satisfy the most demanding fan of barrel-fermented wines: the flavor core is apple-pear with buttery notes and a touch of pineapple. Drinking well now and best within three years, with herb-roasted chicken, planked salmon and mild cheeses.

Dry Red Wines:

Alamos Pinot Noir '06    90
Mendoza, Argentina, The Wines of Catena
507822 (v) $14.25

In the value division of Pinots, Alamos delivers a surprisingly elegant and classy example: the requisite cassis, blackberry, black cherry and strawberry flavor components in fine style, slightly floral with supple tannins and a whiff of good French oak. By the case!

Clos Henri Pinot Noir '05    90
Marlborough, S Island, new Zealand
056556 (v) $37.85

Bone dry but with the sweetness that comes only from perfectly ripe fruit picked at its best: cassis, blackberry, raspberry and fragrant spiciness, concentrated and finely poised with moderate tannins and a hint of oak. Now but will peak in 2012. Owned by Henri Bourgeois of Sancerre.

Henry of Pelham Reserve Pinot Noir '06    90
VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara
268391 (v) $24.75

Classic light red color with complex and concentrated Pinot power: violets, cassis, beets and blackberries in the glass, light youthful tannins, a dusting of vanilla notes from new oak, and a good future ahead. Now to 2013, will develop beautifully.

Eric Lois Sancerre Rouge '06    87
AC Sancerre, Loire, France
066613 (v) $22.85

A lighter, slightly chalkier style of Pinot so typical of the Loire, with a charming bouquet of Asian spices, violets and fresh raspberries, fine-grained tannins and food-friendly acidity. Ready now.

Lieu-Dit Les Poyeux '05    90
AC Saumur Champigny, Cave de Saumur
052639 (v) $16.85

A very fine take on Cabernet Franc, not coincidentally the best red wine grape in Ontario's cool climate, and a super value for black cherry, black plum, red currant and tobacco leaf notes, black olives and cocoa. Midweight and right for roast chicken, veal and grilled salmon.

Casa La Ermita Crianza '03    89
DO Jumilla, Spain
956334 (v) $18.55

From a fast-rising wine region of Spain, broad-shouldered, muscular and ready to do the heavy lifting with major red meats and furry game, yet polished and not overblown, showing black cherry, red plum, blackberry and vanilla-oak complexity. Ageable 10 years.

Cyan 12 Meses '03    90
DO Toro, Spain
066936 (v) $16.75

Striking package, striking wine for a fair price: lots of barnyard and smoky bacon aromas with smoky blueberry liqueur, supple tannins and refined toasty oakiness. Another example of Spain's ascendency into the foremost ranks of high calibre reds - without too much oak. Will improve with 2-4 years of cellaring.

Château Jean Voisin '01    90
AC St-Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux
061804 (v) $31.85

Right Bank claret with understated elegance and years of life ahead. Showing typical cedar-graphite lead pencil nuances, nicely chewy tannins, here's a good example of a petit chateau red. Fine-tuned for a porterhouse or striploin, now to 2015.

Château Puy Castéra '03    90
AC Haut-Médoc Cru Bourgeois, M.M. Marès
972463 (v) $19.55

Toasty oak with cocoa and mocha notes, small red berry fruits and nicely cedary-oaky mid-palate. Supple tannins and muted acidity give structure and finesse. Very good value.

Pillar Box Red '05    88
Henry's Drive Vignerons, Padthaway, S Australia
685941 (v) $17.40

Only about two steps away from Ruby Port in alcoholic strength, Pillar weights in at 15%! Not a lunchtime Shiraz, Cab, Merlot red... (A Parker fave, naturally). But, for the price, it's silky and packs a pile of red fruits, spice and minerals. Sip over the next 2-4 years with large steaks.

Château de Sérame Reserve du Château '05    90
AC Minervois
651125 (v) $22.85

Big, rich, smoky contender from the Deep South of France, black cherry, kirsch and elderberry up front with mocha and chocolate on the finish. Very good value and food friendly, now to 2014.

Goats Do Roam In Villages '05    88
WO Coastal Region, S Africa
566851 (v) $15.75

Another impudent finger in the eye for the Côtes-du-Rhôners, along with The Goatfather '05, 011072, same price. Two more deliciously inexpensive faux-French reds with enough berry, cocoa and smoky character to pass muster. Imitation is still the sincerest form of flattery...

Domaine de l'Ameillaud Cairanne '06    88
AC Cotes du Rhône-Villages, France
660605 (v) $14.75

The Real Thing: Brit Nick Thompson's been making terrific wine in the southern Rhône for 15 years, producing blends of luscious concentration. The fruit is from 40 to 60-year-old Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvèdre, fermented in concrete tanks and there's not an oak barrel to be found on the estate!

Perrin et Fils Les Christins '05    92
AC Vacqueyras
973453 (v) $23.85

From vineyards at the feet of the Dentelles de Montmirail in the Rhône, this Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre beauty is a potent warm-climate flavor fusion of morello cherries, licorice and wildflowers, silky and elegant with plenty of grip and complexity. Try now until 2011 with rabbit, tournedos, strong cheeses.

Domaine de Cristia '05    90
AC Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Alain & Baptiste Grangeon
067878 (v) $42.75

Organic and inspired by Rudolf Steiner, this family property borders superstar Rayas and is made from 90% Grenache and a dash of Syrah. Black pepper, smoky bacon and barnyard notes complement the raspberry and black fruit driven flavor palette. The tannins are soft, and there's a nice cedar-oak component. Good for a decade.

Château Leoville Poyferré '04    91
AC St-Julien, 2nd Cru Bordeaux
664144 (v) $69.00

A Super-Second in a good vintage is always good to find: black cherry, mulberry, smoky raspberry and mocha with sturdy tannins for long life and the pursuit of happiness. Elegant, full-bodied and collectable. Needs 2-3 years to meld and then watch out!

Piping Shrike Shiraz '05    90
K Cicky & Son, barossa Valley, S Australia
048504 (v) $19.75

Blueberry, vanilla and cloves roar through the aromatics and the tongue discovers milk chocolate, spice box, cedar and smoky, tarry raspberryness. Very good value indeed. Enjoy over 4-5 years with 'roo tail - or any grilled red meats.

Glen Eldon Dry Bore Shiraz '04    92
Barossa, S Australia
054197 (v) $27.75

What a name! Perhaps inspired by some especially pompous wine snob... But boring it's not: lovely chocolate, raspberry, vanilla, black pepper and blackberry notes greet the nose, chewy mouth filling echoes flatter the palate. Big and beautiful, now to 2014 with robust meat dishes.

Possums Willunga Shiraz '06    86
McLaren Vale, S Australia
017517 (v) $18.85

Light, bright, juicy and delicious - especially with a rib-eye or toad in the hole. A touch of barnyard, bacon fat, wood smoke and tarry summer roads doesn't hurt. You, too, can play possum!

Lirica Primitivo di Manduria '04    91
DOC Puglia, Italy
669580 (v) $15.75

From Italy's southern tip, one of the best Primitivos I've ever tasted: would put its offspring California Zinfandels to shame in a blind tasting. A wonderful blast of spicy, smoky magnificent Mediterranean red fruit flavors for that early spring BBQ time.

Just Desserts:

Emilio Lustau Fino del Puerto    94
DO Jerez, Spain, solera-matured by Jose Luis Gonzalez Obregón
048157 (v) $12.85 375mL

Stunningly light, fresh, ultra-sophisticated, bone-dry fino fuses saltiness, minerals, steel, green olives and herbes de Provence complexity. The world's greatest aperitif or shellfish wine. Superb. The medium-sweet Lustau Deluxe Cream Capataz Andres Solera Reserva, 048132, $9.90 has walnut skin, vanilla and cream with figs, dates, prunes and fruitcake notes. A stunning après sipper (94).

W & J Graham Six Grapes Reserve Port    89
DO Oporto, Portugal
208405 (v) $22.75

Chalky and not over the top sweet, a high end Ruby with class, with bitter chocolate, plums, figs and cassis. In France this would be an aperitif. Graham's Quinta dos Malvedos Vintage 1998, 066795, $52.75, from Graham's finest vineyard, is elegant with graphite, spice and fine tannins to ensure a long and happy life (90).

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