Winter 2012

(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

Sparkling Gems

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:

Thatched Hut Sauvignon BlancThatched Hut Sauvignon Blanc ’11        91
Marlborough, S Island, New Zealand
262782 (v) $17.95
Old fashioned 1990s Kiwi-style in-your-face gooseberry, rhubarb and fresh-cut hay and grass Sauvignon with a generous heart of tangy citrus and tropical fruits. Bone dry on the palate and able to withstand and enhance the spiciest Thai-Oriental dishes.

Dry Creek Vineyard Fume Blanc ’10        87
Sonoma County, California
277715 (v) $14.95
Lovely bouquet of Johnson’s baby powder, lemongrass and fines herbes with an exotic smoky oaky undertow. There’s a luscious whack of passion fruit, pink rapefruit and wet stone on the palate and an interesting dusty texture on the finish. Dry Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon ’07 at $24.95 (a blend of all five Bordeaux grape varieties) is also a good buy for claret fans.

Les Grands Groux Sancerre ’09        90
Domaine Fouassier, Loire, France
267948 (v) $24.95
A new entry in Ontario, this excellent Sancerre has a lovely cut of fresh citrus acidity behind its straw, Delicious apple and Anjou pear fruitiness. The finish has a touch of smoky flint that’s typical of these magnificently dry Loire whites.

The Formula Viognier ’08        89
Small Gully, Barossa Valley, S Australia
269332 (v) $19.95
Very good value Viognier (a native grape of southern France) with an intense pear-white pepper and honeyed peach attack, honeycomb and citrus on the palate and a stony minerality that lends some elegance to what’s quite a big, potent wine.

Borgo Conventi Pinot Grigio ’10        90
Ruffino, DOC Isonzo del Friuli, Italy
13276 (v) $16.95
Dry, fresh and well structured Pinot Grigio (alias Pinot Gris) from Italy’s far northeast in an elegant and lean, zesty and somewhat stony, austere style that’s ideal with seafood or shellfish or as aperitif. Great value to be enjoyed now to 2014.

See Ya Later Ranch Pinot Gris ’09        90
VQA Okanagan Valley, BC
263699 (v) $18.95
Quite a tropical fruit vintage here from Canada’s Left Coast: papaya, lychee and white pepper with a melange of citrus-nutmeg spiciness that chimes right in behind. There’s a touch of smoky oak and yeastiness, too. Good as a starter or with a spring salad.

Dr. Loosen Blue Slate Riesling Kabinett ’10        91
Pradikatswein, Mosel, Germany
160846 (v) $19.95
Medium dry with a racy acidity and superb nuances of white peach, nectarine, spy apple, honey and white grapefruit with more than a hint of smoky flint. From a top producer in good form in a very good vintage. Serve confidently with Asian dishes or seafood pastas.

Pondview Riesling 2010Pondview Riesling ’10        88
VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula
271148 (v) $16.00
Nice entry from one of Ontario’s newest wineries: properly aromatic, peachy and oily-textured Riesling in the classic Rhine Valley style. Nuances of newly baked apple pie, nectarine and star anise spiciness add greatly to the interest.

Vieil Armand Medaille Gewurztraminer ’09        91
AC Alsace, France
260158 (v) $16.95
A classic Alsace Gewurz at an everyday price! Full of lychee, rose petal, grapefruit-lemon, honeyed peach and star fruit character with a hint of cinnamon. Born to serve honorably with elegant Thai and Chinese dishes. Enjoy now.

Cave de Vire ’09        86
AC Vire-Clesse, Burgundy, France
243782 (v) $16.95
Lean, vibrant naked Chardonnay with nary a stitch of oak, displays its pure apple-peach character with none of that fancy butter-vanilla hokum! Stainless steel has been its entire world until bottling. Grand with shellfish and delicate seafood.

Domaine Jean Collet & Fils Vaillons ’08        89
AC Chablis 1er Cru, Burgundy, France
650804 (v) $28.95
Utterly typical Chablis stoniness osmosed from the prehistoric limestone reef (a paleolithic ocean bed) the vines occupy. This earthy chalkiness is carefully harnessed to an awesome grapefruit and lime zest acidity with a hint of roasted hazelnuts. From a top vineyard, an elegant partner for scallops, oysters or mussels.

Falchina Vigna a Solatio ’10        88
DOCG Vernaccia di San Gimignano, Tuscany
994012 (v) $16.95
Size matters, in San Gimignano, apparently. The taller your tower, the bigger your, er, prestige. This towering white is the best Tuscany has to offer. Stony, flinty, crisp, citrusy and dry with a minerality approaching Chablis, it’s an interesting comparison for your dinner conversation over seafood, shellfish or a pork roast.

Voga Italia Moscato        91
Provincia di Pavia, Italy
267781 LCBO $13.95
Think cheery springtime thoughts as you sip the refreshing essence of orange blossom, orange marmalade and honeycomb and enjoy the spritz of delicate Muscat grape fruitiness easing into a naturally off-dry finish. Low in alcohol, 7.5%, and as fresh as the day the grapes were picked! Drink immediately and save the stylish bottle to hold your favorite cologne!

Ghione Piccole Gioie ’10        87
DOCG Moscato d’Asti, Piedmont
192443 (v) $15.95
A spicily sweet, lightly fizzy version of this exotic grape variety to be served well chilled. Again, low alcohol but high flavor quotient, mainly nectarine, lemon, lime and peach and orange blossom with a whiff of ginger. Fun for a party of one or with 50 friends.

Dry Red Wines:

Oyster Bay Pinot Noir ’10        90
Marlborough, S Island, New Zealand
590414 (v) $19.95
A very elegant, light, fresh, lively Burgundy-ish Pinot from New Zealand’s premier red wine district. Lean and svelte with a supermodel’s body and an athlete’s symmetry. Now to 2014 with poached salmon, herb-roasted chicken and soft cheeses.

Mission Hill Reserve Merlot ’08        89
VQA Okanagan Valley, BC
553313 (v) $25.95
Herbal dry red berry flavors and black fruit nuances suffuse this rich, full chocolatey red with its hints of cola and tannic cedar bass notes. Ready to enjoy now with pork tenderloin or steak and kidney pie.

181 Merlot 2008181 Merlot ’08        89
Lodi, California
226530 LCBO $$16.95
From a Pomerol clone of the Merlot grape variety grown sustainably in Lodi, here’s a plump, luxurious spicy cherry-vanilla and stone fruit California take on the traditional Bordeaux red. Drink copiously and ASAP with roast lamb, herbed chicken or spicy kebabs.

Antoine Moueix Merlot ’10        88
Bordeaux, France
245860 LCBO $12.95
The perfect everyday Bordeaux red at a no-brainer price. Bottled by a highly regarded Bordeaux negociant, this dry, mid-weight Merlot hits all the right notes of cherry-plum fruit, silky tannins, a touch of oak and vanilla and food-friendly fresh acidity. Enjoy now, with steak frites! Keep one on the kitchen counter.

Angel Nero d’Avola Organic        90
By Giorgio & Gianni, Sicily, Italy
254888 LCBO $9.95
From the remarkably good native Nero grape of Sicily, this dark angel is packed with velvety black berry fruit intensity and spicy layers of tastiness. Smooth tannins frame a lively, crisp red that’s well made and well priced to match red meats, pasta, pizza.

Bricco del Perg Barbera d’Asti Superiore ’08        93
Bricchi Astigiani, DOC Piemonte
234922 (v) $16.95
By the case! Saddle leather, intense (raspberry,strawberry) fruit blast, chewy tannins, raspberry, violets and vanilla-cherry notes galore. Incredible value and great food partner with cassoulet, roast duck, or regular old pizza!

L.A. Cetto Cabernet Sauvignon ’09        88
Guadalupe Valley, Baja California, Mexico
114066 (v) $11.95
Buy this by the case! A crowd-pleaser from Mexico, the land with oldest winery in the Americas, circa 1521. Easy-drinking, low tannin, high fruit, high pleasure stuff to enjoy with any red meat dish, pasta, pesto, pizza or even Mexican food! Now to 2014.

Sebastiani Cabernet Sauvignon ’07        90
Sonoma County, California
640573 (v) $19.95
Tasty, toasty, deep and deliciously aromatic, covering all the Bordeaux grape varieties in glory, this is a value Cab that you can enjoy now to 2015. Best with slow-cooked beef, rib roasts, lamb and grilled sausages.

Duckhorn Decoy Cabernet Sauvignon ’09        93
Napa Valley, California
186171 (v) $32.95
A brilliant Cab from the Duck people! Robust and hefty in a good way, it’s classic California: big, full, rich and smooth. No tight tannins here. It’s a black fruit compote for the cognoscenti anxious to enjoy rare beef. The Duck’s Pinot Noir ’10 is OK at $29.95 although the fruit spectrum is cramped by a little sulfur. Decant early and all will be well. SO2 blows off quickly.

Albino Armani Egle Ripasso ’08        86
DOCG Valpolicella Superiore, Veneto, Italy
247916 (v) $15.95
Good everyday red, for the cook and the guests. Nicely framed red fruits, cocoa and plums, seriously dark chocolate and cooking spices. Have on hand for your pasta, pizza and muffaleta.

Villa Trasqua Chianti Classico 2008Villa Trasqua ’08        89
DOCG Chianti Classico, Tuscany
1211160 (v) $17.95
Black fruit, saddle leather and earthy tannins – typical young Chianti. Wait a while and it’ll soften into a berry compote of fruit with spicy cedar and truffle notes. That’s what cellar time will contribute to a feisty young Chianti, loaded with tannins and acidity. Worth the wait or serve now with a very rare steak!

Amantis Sangiovese Montecucco ’06        91
DOC Tuscany, Bernardetta Angela Tacconi
234930 (v) $29.95
Gamey, leathery, raspberry – do I have you attention so far? –here’s a wine with character and depth, not to be messed with! Think big time Chiant with personality. Steak Florentine comes to mind, as does Kobe beef. Now to 2017.

Don Nicanor Malbec ’08        91
Don Nieto Senetiner, Mendoza, Argentina
178657 (v) $17.95
Blackberry, violets, black cherries framed in cedar, toasty oak and silky tannins. The carnivore’s dream wine! Pull out that special steak tonight with a glass or two of Nieto’s magic Malbec. Buen provecho!

Finca Nueva Reserva ’04        87
DOCa Rioja, Spain
268425 (v) $19.95
Tempranillo, the Rioja grape, is remarkably like Pinot Noir, soft, cuddly and easy to love. Here the winery has conjured up a crowd-pleasing red, nicely aged for you, to match with feathered game, herbed chicken or grilled lamb chops. Delish!

Maetierra Dominum Quatro Pagos ’05        89
DOCa Rioja, Spain
246660 (v) $19.95
Tighter than the Finca Nueva, with slightly more pronounced tannins, here’s a more French influenced (new barriques) red with intense berry, pomegranate and vanilla-oak notes. Cellarable to 2015.

L’Excellence du Chateau Bladinieres ’08        90
AC Cahors, France, Le Vignou
254671 (v) $16.95
The Malbec grape in its new stomping ground of Argentina is terrific but here, in its birthplace, Cahors, it’s great! Herbaceous, dry, crisp, complex and elegant, its power focused on blackberry, raspberry old leather and smoky spices, it’s an eye-opener for the nose to tail set. Meat your maker!

Ravenswood Old Vine Zinfandel ’09        90
Lodi, California
942599 (v) $19.95
The standard bearer for California Zinfandels (the state’s official wine) for years, Ravenswood offers a rich, earthy, spicy, blackberry-raspberry, black cherry and cola extravaganza yet again. Now to 2014 with ribs and rib roasts.

Olivier Ravoire Plan de Dieu ’09        86
AC Cotes du Rhone-Villages, France
252171 (v) $15.95
Raspberry-nuanced magic with caramel, toasty oak, plum-pear and soft tannins, here’s a crowd-pleaser at the right price. Try it with a grilled steak, or rack of lamb. Tasty and delicious.

Chateau Complazens Syrah ’09        86
Vin de Pays d’Oc, France
104752 (v) $15.95
A rather Australian style of Syrah! From a warm vintage, of course, and showing cola, Zinfandel, crispy bacon, black pepper and black cherry fruit characters. In a good way! The south of France is the world’s largest vineyard and we’re all the better for that!

Muratie Shiraz ’07        88
WO Stellenbosch, S Africa
663278 (v) $24.95
A little pricy but interesting. Pure strawberry fruit and lovely chocolate-cocoa notes sandwiched between black cherries and violets. Exotic and sensuous and drinkable now to 2016 with smoked or barbecued meats.

Tapestry BG & V Shiraz ’09        92
McLaren Vale, S Australia
247155 (v) $17.95
Spice, tar, smoke, the signature of a fine Aussie Shiraz. Here with a hint of dark chocolate and black olives. Yum! Haul out the barbie, cobber. Fine value in a wine that’s more elegant than you would expect.

Xavier Chateauneuf-du-Pape ’09        90
Rhone, France
244814 (v) $39.95
In Chateauneuf you can use any and all of a dozen grape varieties. It’s amazing that the appellation as a whole is so regularly consistent in its raspberryish, earthy, leathery wines. Grenache is the alpha grape and here the low acidity and fresh fruitiness are front and centre. Cassis, cherry and raspberry are the main players on the palate, and a fine dance they do! Now to 2018.

Sparkling Gems:

Il Prosecco        89
Mionetto, DOC Veneto, Italy
588053 LCBO $11.95
The everyday social tipple of Italy, Prosecco is finding increasing favor among Canadians, too, up 16% in sales here last year. And that really is a crown cap on the bottle! (in Champagne, that’s the normal closure while the much more expensive fizz matures in the cellars of northern France). Fresh, bubbly and lightly fruity. Think ripe pears, apples, peaches. The perfect off-dry (well chilled) aperitif. Don’t even think about cellaring it!

Entourage Silver Series Brut Methode Classique 2006Entourage Silver Series Brut Methode Classique ’06        90
Jackson Triggs, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
234161 (v) $22.95
High quality 100% Canadian fizz with a smoky, yeasty, bready nose, subtle layers of wet stone, lemon zest and brioche flavors in a lacy texture of fine bubbles. There’s just a hint of roasted almond on the nice, long finish. Celebrate Canada Day every day!

Argyle Brut ’07        90
Willamette Valley, Oregon
258160 (v) $31.95
Citrus and fresh-baked apple combine to kick off the show with a bang, supported expertly by ripe white peach, pear and brioche on the palate, finishing with a lively floral note. Fine mousse, balanced acidity. Good value.

Les Graimenous Brut ’09        89
AC Cremant de Limoux, Domaine J Laurens, France
183608 (v) $18.95
Rounder and softer and more accessible than Brut Champagne this deliciously tasty fizz is packed with pastry, key lime and floral character. Dry, crisp and perfect with fish, seafood or all by itself.

Codorniu Seleccion Raventos Brut Cava        90
DO Metodo Tradicional, Cava, Spain
521773 (v) $14.95
The largest and one of the best of Spain’s sparkling wine specialists, making millions of enjoyable bottles every year, Codorniu Raventos, just west of Barcelona, consistently produces fine value and quality. Here’s a rich, balanced bubbly with tempting brioche, citrus and toasted hazelnut flavors and excellent, food-friendly acidity.

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