Winter 2009

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

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:

Pieropan Soave Classico ’07    89
DOC Veneto, Leonildo’s 40th vintage, Italy
0946848 (v) $19.95

An oft-overlooked but versatile white, Soave has made leaps in quality these last few years: earthy, smoky with hints of black olives, white peaches, wet stones and silky mouth feel. Pieropan is a quality leader in the region and here’s good value.

Prime Brume Lessini Superiore ’07    87
DOC Veneto, Italy, Cantina di Gambellara
0101204 (v) $15.95
From one of Italy’s many indigenous grape varieties, Durella, a Veneto local, this user-friendly entry offers peach, melon, pear and tangerine notes and is a great match with Thai dishes.

Hugel Riesling ’07    92
AC Alsace, France
0042101 (v) $24.95

This classic from one of the finest producers, shows bright refreshing acidity with a flavor chicane of stone fruit, white grapefruit, lemon zest, and the typical oiliness or waxiness of petrol. Serve this with spring/summer cucumber soup, spicy shrimp risotto or duck confit.

Benwarin Semillon ’06    90
Hunter Valley, NSW, Australia
0683235 (v) $17.95
Lovely silky, sinuous citrus-grassy stuff with a long, elegant pleasure profile. Age worthy, full-bodied and very good value! Made from the stalwart golden grape variety of Bordeaux, Sauternes and Graves, one of the widest planted in the New World and exceptional in Australia, especially in the Hunter.

Cleebourg Prestige Cuvée Pinot Gris ’08    89
AC Alsace, France
0108530 (v) $17.95
Made from the stellar PG of Alsace once labelled Tokay, here’s a fine example of an elegant non-oaked dry white: dominated by nectarine, lemon oil, peach and beeswax with a flinty mineral core. Great with roast duck, Thai or Chinese, or pan-fried trout.

Mission Hill Family Estate Reserve Sauvignon Blanc ’06    91
VQA Okanagan Valley, BC
0057430 (v) $19.95
Perfect with fresh shucked oysters! A lot of Savvy for the money: richly wrought with passionfruit, persimmon and nectarine aromas over a silky mineral and steel frame, finishing grassy-herbal and refined.

Clos Du Val Chardonnay ’06    89
Carneros, Napa Valley, California
0297499 (v) $29.95
Lots of brand new expensive toasty oak in here, front and back, book-ending scents of grapefruit, pear and vanilla that dance on the palate before the oakiness kicks right back in. Serve with food as you would serve a light red wine.

Château des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc St David’s Bench Vyd. ’07    93
VQA St David’s Bench, Ontario
430991 (v) $19.95
Creamy, fresh, green gooseberry, lemon-citrus and lime zest, complex and intense, fine and poised. Smooth on the palate, with herb notes on the finish. Food friendly and a great aperitif. For a simply delicious sweetie with the profile of an Icewine without being over the top, the Chateau’s amazingly consistent Late Harvest Riesling ’06, $19.95, 375mL, 432930, is a melange of orange marmalade, dried apricots and lemon curd. Sumptuous now and will easily keep 4-5 years (93). Dessert in a glass, or with crème brûlée, pumpkin pie, soft cheeses, fresh berries.

Silverado Vineyards Miller Ranch Sauvignon Blanc ’07    88
Napa Valley, California
0001644 (v) $27.95
A warm region’s more tropical take on Sauvignon, this has heft and richness while still dry, crisp and midweight with melon flavors and hints of lemon grass, fresh figs and honeycomb. Now to 2011.

Casa Lapostolle Sauvignon Blanc ’08    91
Rapel Valley, Chile
0396994 (v) $13.95
Another lush, tropical version but with a steely-stony core surrounded by sensuous peach-melon and mineral flavors. The inclusion of 10% Semillon adds silkiness to the mouth feel Very good value to enjoy now.

Sticks Sauvignon Blanc ’08    88
Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia
01009363 (v) $17.95
A first-timer at Vintages, Sticks has a profile of ripe peach, passionfruit, gooseberry and a field of dry summer grass. Food versatile and well priced. Sticks is one of many wineries hit by terrifying bush fires, losing vines and property in the Yarra.

Cathedral Cellars Sauvignon Blanc ’08    87
WO Western Cape, S Africa
0662718 (v) $11.95
Amazing value from powerhouse KWV, packed with fresh-cut grass, pea pod, pink grapefruit and lemon grass nuances in an attractive style midway between austere New Zealand and plush California.

Laloue Sancerre ’07    90
AC Loire, France
0744086 (v) $23.95
Cream, citrus and flint in the prototypical Loire style, with subtle grassiness and minerality, lime zest and grapefruit, fresh, dry and refreshing. Food friendly and priced to move you.

Château de Maligny Le Carré de César Chablis ’07    90
AC Chablis, France
0708339 (v) $22.95
Austere Chardonnay elegance in a bone dry, chalky, stony mode balanced by floral, citrus zest, seaweed and iodine grace notes. Chablis is the ultimate food wine, especially with shellfish and seafood. Maligny’s 1er Cru Chablis Fourchaume ’07, $34.95, has additional complexity from barrel aging and adds heft to elegance (92). Serious oak fans will look towards Meursault and Domaine Michel Caillot Meursault La Barre Dessus Clos Marguerite ’05, $59.95, with sawmill-like toastiness and super-concentrated buttered pear, pineapple, vanilla and hazelnut cargo (94).

Chartron & Trébuchet Saint-Romain Blanc ’08    90
AC Burgundy, France
0110296 (v) $24.95
Good value alternative to the celebs of Burgundy, from a just-off-Broadway village appellation. With just the right amount of subtle oak and concentrated buttered apple, pear, vanilla and hazelnut flavors. Now to 2012.

Colio CEV Chardonnay Musqué ’07    87
VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario
0116509 (v) $15.55
Made from a creamy, complex, Muscat-nuanced clone with perfumed peach, orange blossom and cantaloupe notes and fresh lemon-lime acidity on the tongue. Serve with herb-roasted chicken or grilled white fish.

Alamos Torrontés ’07    91
Salta, Argentina
0081539 (v0 $13.95
The quintessence of ripe, floral Muscat grapes, this is like a Gewurztraminer on steroids. Exotic value! The racy spiciness of the Torrontés variety is appealing and is best served well chilled as aperitif or midday sipper.

Mission Hill Family Estate Perpetua ’06    94
VQA Okanagan Valley, BC
Private Order, $32.95
For the finest Mission Hill wines, the hand-made Legacy Series, previously unavailable in Ontario, there’s a special allotment including the Select Lot Collection (SLC) and Reserve wines via One of them is Perpetua, a lacy-elegant Chardonnay fettled in toasty new oak with spicy pear, melon and pineapple notes, intense yet ethereal: Burgundy redux. For red wine fans, Quatrain ’05, $47.95 (94) is a berry-spicy silky mellow assemblage of Merlot, Syrah, Cab Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon aged in French oak 15 months. Extremely elegant and complex with mocha, licorice and roasted meat notes (92).


Señorio de Sarría Viñedo No. 5 ’07    89
DO Navarra, Spain
0094821 (v) $18.95
A perfume of roses, cranberry and pomegranate echoes on the palate and collects additional strawberry and golden raspberry tastes on the tongue. Rich, full and fleshy, a substantial and versatile food wine from old Garnacha vines.

Dry Red Wines:

Wolf Blass Gold Label Pinot Noir ’07    91
Adelaide Hills, S Australia
0599787 (v) $28.95
Cool-climate velvety Pinot Noir grown from very good clones. Excellent value to cellar 2-4 years, showing a red cherry, black raspberry, cassis and cumin profile. Bring on the rabbit stew, game birds and even paella!

Willi Opitz Saint-Laurent ’07    90
Illmitz, Austria
0111724 (v) $19.95
Local hero: a breakthrough grape for the varietally adventurous. No Schwarzenegger, the Saint Laurent in Austria is more of a Pinot-Merlot with floral, berry-fruited traits and an affinity for moderate oak, hence the vanilla and toastiness, soft and yielding. Arnie would like it!

Humberto Canale Estate Merlot ’07    86
Rio Negro, Patagonia, Argentina
0094326 (v) $15.95
Chewy supple tannins, hints of vanilla and oak, Bing cherry, golden raspberry and ripe mulberry lead into the characteristic blueberry signature of a typical Merlot. Well priced and ready for a rack of ribs or duck confit.

Wakefield Merlot ’07    90
Clare Valley, S Australia
0683201 (v) $16.95
Ripe blueberry and damson jam, smoke and flowers, dark chocolate, pudding spices and sweet grass, softly oaked and finishing with nutmeg, allspice and vanilla. Can’t be bad!

De Bortoli DB Selection Petite Sirah ’06    86
SE Australia
694802 (v) $14.95
Immediate pleasure with burgers, dogs and ribs off the grill! A long-lived and deep-colored relative of Shiraz (alias Syrah), Petite Sirah is simpler and less intense, with a kirsch, Bing cherry, cola profile, mild tannins and hints of vanilla and oak. Very good value.

Saltram of Barossa Mamre Brook Cabernet Sauvignon ’06    89
Barossa, S Australia
0048579 (v) $21.95
Lush, edgy and quite a powerful Cab from a fine producer, currently showing concentrated cassis and ripe mulberry, like a good St-Emilion but richer and more exotic. Try with a thick Porterhouse or a tomato-based stew.

Concha y Toro Terrunyo Carmenère ’06    89
Cachapoal Valley, Peumo Vyd Block 27, Unfiltered
0562892 (v) $29.95
Exceptional for Carmenère which I normally can’t stand...(it’s often early cropped, green and tasting like rusty nails) here’s a ripe, full, smoky, spicy, juicy red with berry, berry sensual fruit character and silky texture. Cheers!

Piping Shrike Shiraz ’06    89
Barossa Valley, S Australia, K Cimicky & Son
0048504 (v) $18.95
A restrained version of Shiraz for an Aussie, with a spectrum of cocoa, brioche, chocolate, raspberry and blueberry jelly, and none of the real jamminess that plagues some Oz Shiraz. Now to 2013.

Graham Beck Shiraz ’05    88
WO Coastal Region, S Africa
0607796 (v) $16.95
Very good value. Midway between Rhône and Australian styles: light, fresh, yet ripe and savory with clean, intensely flavored fruit and very food friendly to marry with a spicy stir-fried beef dinner.

Bremerton Tamblyn ’06    90
Langhorne Creek, S Australia
0108050 (v) $18.95
Very good value. Light, fresh, clean pure fruit: mulberries, raspberries, strawberries and plums: Cab, Shiraz, Malbec and Merlot have every pleasure button bracketed and then some. With kebabs, grilled sausages or pizza de luxe.

Château Haut-Sarpe ’04    92
AC Saint-Emilion grand Cru, Joseph Janoueix
0959882 (v) $49.95
Concentrated, elegant and waxy on the tongue, with a long vanilla, berry and toasty flavor profile softened by the plummy-blueberry dominance of Merlot in the blend. A Sunday wine to lay down and enjoy best from 2011-2016.

Clos Du Grand Puceau ’04    88
AC Saint-Emilion
0112680 (v) $27.95
Not quite so grand but better priced, this cellarable Saint-Emilion alternative is more forward and ready to enjoy now, already revealing its enticing fruity charms (raspberry, mulberry, blueberry and strawberry). Steaks, burgers, duck or grouse.

Devil’s Lair Red ’03    92
Margaret River, W Australia
543454 (v) $49.95
Interesting Cab Sauvignon/Franc and Merlot from the bottom left of Oz, cool-climate and all. Elegant and subtle with dark chocolate, vanilla and wild strawberry/forest floor notes, eucalyptus and cassis. Now to 2015 with roast duck, quail and venison.

Domaine Michel Caillot Beaune 1er Cru Les Avaux ’05    93
AC Burgundy, France
0116111 (v) $39.95
Young but with good bones, powerful and clean, fresh fruit, smoke, oak and truffles. Made using wild yeasts and low sulphur, moved gently by gravity, the result is a mouth-filling but elegant understated collectible. Worth the bucks!

Petit Mars ’06    91
AC Côteaux du Languedoc, La Clape, Mas du Soleilla
0107185 (v) $23.95
Lots of vowels for the money and lots of flavor, too! Chewy tannins, a core of Kirsch-like richness, plum, cherry and black pepper. Very elegant for the price.

Bodegas de los Rios Prieto Maximus Roble ’06    87
Pesquera de Duero, DO Ribera del Duero, Spain
0103432 (v) $15.95
Upstream from the Douro in Portugal, they make vibrant dry reds with plum, mocha, cedar, slightly resinous from American oak casks, with whiffs of cocoa and wood spice. Delicious now to 2013 with stews, steaks, pizza.

Campillo Reserva ’02    91
DOCa Rioja, Spain
0094870 (v) $23.95
A big beauty from one of the world’s most stunningly beautiful wineries, this complex, elegant Tempranillo red is rich in ripe strawberry-blueberry fruit, delicate oak and mild tannins for a match up with fine steak, rare roast lamb, venison or boar, now to 2015.

Finca Allende ’05    91
DOCa Rioja, Spain
0954560 (v) $34.95
Worth it, every cent for the 100% Tempranillo and its spice box, hot earth plum-wild strawberry finesse, and a whiff of new french oak, a departure from the Rioja tradition of long aging in older American barrels, a step in the right direction. Ageable or enjoy now as a Sunday wine.

Jean León Terrasola Tempranillo/Monastrell Crianza ’05    90
DO Catalunya, Spain
0114298 (v) $16.95
From over Barcelona way, in Penedés, this wine has come a long way. Its creator was a waiter who founded a celeb restaurant in Beverly Hills with James Dean, returned home to pioneer French grape varieties in Spanish wines and become a vinous superstar: this traditional blend has flavors of chocolate-dipped plums, black cherries, cocoa and blackberries to showcase a fine casserole or confit this weekend.

Lealtanza Crianza ’04    90
Bodegas Altanza, DOCa Rioja, Spain
0114835 (v) $19.95
Complex, subtle and balanced, this silky-smooth traditional Rioja has a signature of perfectly ripe Tempranillo, almost sweet, reminiscent of a fine red Burgundy (Riojas as they age do closely resemble old vintages of Burgundy). Perfect now with osso bucco or braised beef.

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