The Dec 2 2023 LCBO Vintages Release .
Welcome to my wine recommendations for the LCBO's Vintages Releases. Check out the Sauvignon Blanc that scored #10 on The Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2023. Both Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling fans are in luck this release.
As the holidays approach the LCBO is offering more and more wines of distinction, many beyond the $40 price point I focus on but there are gems to be had my friends!
There is a Recioto dessert wine that I will be snapping up. There is also a Port that any Port lover would be happy to enjoy or receive. Sparklings are getting pricier by the release but there is one good value this release.
A variety of reds but there is emphasis on Cabernet Sauvignons and Shiraz for value this release.
- What are LCBO Vintages Releases?
- Why You Want My Recommendations!
- Your Chance to be a Wine Critic...
- Fortified Wine Recommendations
- Sparkling Wine Recommendations
- Good Value Sweet Wine Recommendations
- Cheap and Cheerful Wines
- Good Value White Wine Recommendations
- Good Value Red Wine Recommendations
- Premium Wine Recommendations
- Cellar Suggestions
What are LCBO Vintages Releases?
Every two weeks the Liquor Control Board of Ontario releases a selection of special wines they have chosen from around the world. They are not part of the regular stock that is replenished regularly. So if you see something that is good value you need to order it or pick it up while you can. And the best value wines tend to go fast!
To make it easy for you, Ontario residents can click on the wine title and it will take you to that specific wine. From there, you can select your store and it will tell you how many your store has in stock or how many can be ordered in. If you are striking out there you can check for availability in a store near to you or anywhere in Ontario. I have been known to recruit friends and family in far corners of the province to pick up wine for me! (Thanks - you know who you are!)
For folks outside of Ontario, these wines are available world wide so you can search for them in your local outlets.
Why You Want My Recommendations!
I firmly believe good wine doesn't have to be expensive. If you wander around the store looking at labels, maybe a few scores displayed on the tags or just default to an American wine off the shelf- I can help you get better value for your wine dollars!
There are lots of wines scoring 90 and above in the regular LCBO Vintages releases. I use my experience as an LCBO approved media taster and my knowledge of regions and producers to highlight good value wines. I have the opportunity to taste wines from all over the word as showcased in industry Master Classes and winetastings. As you build up experience you get to know which producers in which wine regions are reliable bets for your wine purchases. You can see more about my experience and qualifications here.
Sometimes I highlight what I call 'cheap and cheerful' wines. These are wines that are hovering around the high 80s to 90 point mark. They are not going to win gold medals in competition but they should be a solid choice for week night sipping or dock or deck sitting. They also make for a good value choice if you are serving a crowd and your lively guests are too busy chatting to discuss the depth and length of their wine!
The Best Buy wines I recommend tend to be in the $20-$30ish range. These are wines that score 90 or above. I research the reviews, I know the styles of the reviewers and I can sort out which wines are scoring consistently in the 90 + range and it's not some outlier of a score. You can expect these wines to represent the characteristics of their varietal and region well; display some complexity, depth and length. I suggest food pairings for many of the recommendations because... that is what it's all about here at The Wine Lover's Kitchen.
Sometimes recommended 'Best Buys' are wines without a score. They are wines that I know come from consistent, highly regarded producers or up and coming regions that are showing well.
Premium Wine recommendations are edging up on my $40 limit. These may be wines at the 'entry' level of prestigious regions or producers. They may be cellar worthy and they will be wines that you want to pay attention to when you serve them to ensure you appreciate their complexities!
Why stop at $40? It is a rather arbitrary level, but if you are spending more then $40 routinely on a bottle of wine then you are probably doing your own research and are involved in various wine endeavours and communities.
Your Chance to be a Wine Critic...
If you try a recommended wine - this is your chance to be a critic! Please share your comments so others can benefit! If you find another gem you would like people to know about add that too!
Fortified Wine Recommendations
CROFT RESERVE TAWNY PORT Portugal Vintages # 538983 $18.95 This is incredible value for Port lovers - scoring 90+ among several respected critics. As many of you may know already I believe Port to be one of the biggest bangs for your buck period. Well crafted, complex Ports can be had in the $20-$30, Tawny Ports usually start in the $30+ range. I double checked to make sure this wasn't a 375mL .... John Szabo, MS of winealign.com gives this a 91 and describes it as fragrant, mature and nutty with good tannic grip and well balanced sweet/bitter notes (in a good way..) with 'very good length'. (S - 105 g/L)
For more info check out how to serve and what to pair with Port.
Sparkling Wine Recommendations
TALTARNI TACHÉ BRUT ROSÉ SPARKLING 2015 Traditional method, Australia Vintages # 967398 $26.95 Score - Gold -Champagne & Sparkling Wine World Championship, 2023. Taltarni Sparkling scores 90+ consistently year after year. Vintages notes say to look for a creamy mouthfeel with a strawberry, cranberry and rose petal delivered on a fine perlage. This would be great for toasting on its own or serve with cranberry Brie appetizers. (D - 9 g/L)
13TH STREET PREMIER CUVÉE SPARKLING 2017 Traditional method, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada Vitages # 142679 $39.95 This gets high praise and a 93 from John Szabo, MS of winealign.com. He describes intense autolytics (bread/yeast-y notes) over a fresh dry, firm, balanced Sparkling. This would carry through your holiday turkey or serve with Champagne Roasted Argentinian Shrimp. (XD - 3 g/L)
Good Value Sweet Wine Recommendations
HENRY OF PELHAM VIDAL/CABERNET ICEWINE 2018 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario Vintages #672402 $39.95 200 mL bottle Natalie Maclean of nataliemaclean.com gives this a 92 and calls it 'dessert in a glass.' A Vidal and Cab Franc blend makes for the Rosé of Icewine here. Look for cherry and raspberry with cakes spices and citrus.
This would be perfect with the showy Meringue Christmas Tree or easy Italian Christmas Pudding. (S - 228 g/L)
MASI ANGELORUM RECIOTO DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2018 Veneto, Italy Vintages # 33453 $38.95 375mL You don't see a Recioto on offer every day so put this on your Christmas list if you are a fan of Amarone style wine. Made in what is called the passito-style, this sweet red wine is made from dried grapes in a process similar to that used to produce Amarone but grapes for Recioto wines are dried longer (up to 200 days). This means greater concentration and the fermentation is stopped before the sugar is completely fermented. This is great now but will evolve through the mid-2030s and perhaps longer. This would be perfect with Burnt Basque Cheesecake or Tiramisu. (S - 85 g/L)
Cheap and Cheerful Wines
The white wine winner in the 'cheap and cheerful' category this release:
BERONIA RUEDA VERDEJO 2022 DO Rueda, Spain Vintages #461327 $15.95 James Suckling gives this a 91 and describes apple, pear and citrus notes. Medium body and bright acidity. I sampled some this past week and would agree, adding that it is bordering on a Sauvignon Blanc that leans toward a white grapefruit profile, without the grassy notes. A simple, straightforward pour that would go well with Grilled Pineapple Pecan Salad. (XD - 2 g/L)
Good Value White Wine Recommendations
I don't want to 'bury the lead' here so to speak so I will start with
GREYWACKE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2022 Marlborough, South Island, NZ Vintages #164228 $26.95 because it ranked #10 on The Wine Spectator Top 100 Wines of 2023. That is a pretty solid reason to make this a distinctive gift or holiday pour. MaryAnn Worobiec of winespectator.com gave it a 95 and describes it as 'wonderfully complex' with honeysuckle, ginger, citrus and floral notes. Add a long, spicy, 'expressive' finish. Enjoy with mussels or Sears Scallops with Fennel Cream. Drink now through 2027+. (XD - 5 g/L)
As always any NZ Sauvignon Blanc is a pretty safe be, but the value award this release goes to THORNBURY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2022 Marlborough, South Island, NZ Vintages #734798 $18.95 that scores 90+ consistently among critics Sam Kim of wineorbit.co.nz gives it a 93 and describes aromas of grapefruit, kiwi, citrus and
white flowers. The palate has good fruit concentration and intensity with juicy acidity. Drink now with Salmon in Puff Pastry (XD - 5 g/L)
Or for a few dollars more VILLA MARIA WAIRAU VALLEY RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2021 Vintages #536201 $20.95 and also scoring 90+ consistently. (XD - 5 g/L)
For those with an interest in expanding their palate, Decanter World Wine Awards, 2022 scored CASA SILVA COOL COAST SAUVIGNON BLANC 2021 a 96. Vintages #419812 $21.95 From Valle de Colchagua, Chile with its ool ocean spray they say it is 'stunning' with roasted pepper, fennel, grapefruit and gooseberry aromas. The palate is dense, and complex with great length. (XD - 2 g/L)
If you are in the mood for California Chardonnay HARKEN BARREL FERMENTED CHARDONNAY 2020 Vintages #16957 $23.95 is scoring consistently 90 or more. Jim Gordon of Wine Enthusiast describes toasty, oaky notes with pear and vanilla and toasted almonds. It's a pleasant 'unapologetic barrel-fermented wine' - Best Buy. This would a perfect pairing for your Holiday turkey. Drink through 2025+ (D - 7 g/L)
Two very interesting Rieslings coming out of Australia this release.
SONS OF EDEN FREYA RIESLING 2022 Eden Valley, South Australia Vintages #12652 $19.95 James Halliday of winecompanion.com.au gives this a 95 and calls it Special Value. From vineyards, some of which are 40+ years old in higher elevations of Eden Valley, hand picked , whole-bunch pressed and fermented cool to preserve the fruit; it offers aromas of white flowers and citrus blossoms. The palate is lime/lemon dominant with 'exemplary analysis and purity.' Drink now through 2042. (XD - 4 g/L)
Another Eden Vally offering -PETER LEHMANN WIGAN EDEN VALLEY RIESLING 2016
32570 $24.95 gets high praise from Tyson Stelzer of winecompanion.com.au and a 97 score. Besides Special Value he says ' For all it represents, this might just be the bargain of the year'. Look for fresh lime and green apple on top of buttery, spicy almond notes. 'Brilliant' acidy and an 'astonishing' finish.
The Wigan line is often call the king of Eden Valley and the Wigan Eden Valley Riesling has been voted Best Reisling in the world 6 times by the IWSC.
EL ENEMIGO CHARDONNAY 2020 Mendoza, Argentina Vintages #482984 $25.95 Tim Atkin of timatkin.com gives this a 93 and describes it as rich and textured from the 15% addition of previous vintages. Look for stone fruit and nuanced oak with a some salinity underneath. This would stand up well to the full Holiday table with turkey and dressing and herbs. (XD - 2 g/L)
Good Value Red Wine Recommendations
CAMILLE CAYRAN LA GRANDE RÉSERVE CAIRANNE CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2020 AC Cairanne Vintages #31693 $18.95 Decanter World Wine Awards, 2022 gave this a 96 (meaning this is almost as good as it gets for wines of this type in the $18 range). Cairanne is on the northern border of Chateauneuf-du-Pape and was elevated to Cru status in 2016. 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre. Tasting notes identify nice concentration of fruit on the palate. It is well balanced with good weight and lots of juicy blackberry fruit. Add 'superb length'. This will be an easy drinking pour that I will be stocking up on! Enjoy with Beef Bourguignon. (XD - 4 g/L)
3 RINGS SHIRAZ 2020 Vintages Barossa Valley, South Australia # 15495 $18.95 Sam Kim of wineorbit.com gives this a 93 and describes spicy black fruit and violets on the nose that carry to the palate. Excellent weight, fruit concentration and a silky, lingering finish. Enjoy with Balsamic Marinated Sirloin Steak. (XD - 3 g/L)
KNAPPSTEIN CLARE VALLEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2020 Clare Valley, South Australia Vintages #23905 $18.95 Sam Kim of wineorbit.com gives this a 93. I give it a 91 and found it to be very well balanced. There was lots of black fruit on the nose along with mint and violet notes. The palate is silky, smooth with very good fruit concentration and a respectable finish. This will have broad appeal for its elegance and approachability. Drink now to 2026. Enjoy with Ribs With Spicy Blackberry Sauce. (XD - 3 g/L)
KAIKEN ULTRA MALBEC 2020 Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina vintages #50849 $20.95 Descorchados, 2023 scored this 92. Kaiken is always a reliable choice and Kaiken Ultra is a step up. Tasting notes note that it is well balanced with lots of ripe fruit, high alcohol but acidity lends freshness. Pair it with a Caramelized Onion Pizza. (XD - 3 g/L)
PENNY'S HILL THE SPECIALIZED SHIRAZ/CABERNET/MERLOT 2019 McLaren Vale, South Australia Vintages # 15976 $21.95 Sam Kim of wineorbit.com gives this a 94. Scores vary widely on this one from 88-93 and Sam Kim's high of 94. The 2018 won Double Gold at New Zealand International Wine Show. So I think you are safe that it will be a good return on your $21.95 investment. Sam Kim calls it 'gracefully powerful and sumptuous'. Look for blackcurrant and dark cherry with herbal and floral aromas. The palate is plush with fine tannins and 'offering fabulous drinking'. Enjoy with Spicy Black Pepper Beef . (XD - 4 g/L)
CATENA APPELLATION AGRELO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2020 Valle de Uco, Mendoza Vintags #484303 $22.95 James Suckling gives this a 93 and describes pleasant aromas of black and blue fruit with some floral lavender notes, spices and a hint of graphite. It is medium bodied with firm yet velvety tannins. Enjoy with charcuterie. (XD - 4 g/L)
MONTES ALPHA SPECIAL CUVÉE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2020 Valle de Colchagua, Chile Vintages # 649160 $22.95 This is scoring consistently low to mid 90s. Montes is one of Chile's most prominent premium wine producers so this sounds very promising! Tim Atkins gives this a 94 and says is it serious and well structured - made to age in the bottle. Look for plum and black current with violets and herbs on the nose. Palate is plush with 'deftly integrated oak'. Enjoy 2024-2032 with Steak with Peppercorn Sauce. (XD - 4 g/L)
NEIL ELLIS SYRAH 2021 Groenekloof, South Africa Vintages #33289 $24.95 Critics agree this is an elegant and well made wine. David Lawrason of winealign.com gives it a 92 and describes pronounced black cherry on the nose with layers of smoke and pepper. Well balanced with smoke and tar notes on a long finish. Probably best enjoyed with charcuterie or BBQ.(XD - 2 g/L)
LEEUWIN PRELUDE VINEYARDS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2019 Margaret River, Western Australia Vintages #986133 $28.95 Erin Larkin of winecompanion.com.au gives this a 95 and calls it 'Unbelievable value for the money'. He calls it vibrant and intense with blackcurrant and pomegranate. Licorice, clove and graphite notes add complexity. Structured with balanced oak and acidity and a thread of 'saline acidity'. Enjoy now through 2036 with Pistachio, black olive crusted Beef Steak. (XD - 2 g/L)
BERTINGA SASSI CHIUSI 2017 Toscana, Italy Vintages #32688 $28.95 This is scoring consistently in the low 90s. This 85% Sangiovese/15% Merlot at a 93 from James Button of decanter.com. He describes aromas of black and red fruit with herbal and balsamic notes. The palate is 'rich and grippy' with elegant notes of menthol and spice. Enjoy now through 2032 with Lamb Ragù . (XD - 3 g/L)
Premium Wine Recommendations
LA VITE LUCENTE 2021 IGT Toscana, Italy Vintages # 747030 $32.95 Lucente is the 'second wine' of the iconic Luce brand. Luce branded wines move easily through the 3 and 4 digit price range. This is your chance to peak in to the world of Super Tuscans without breaking the bank. Zekun Shuai of jamessuckling.com gives this a 94 while others are in the 91 range. This Merlot/Sangiovese blend offers up rich cherry, blackcurrant enhanced with spices and hints of cedar. Look for fine tannins and excellent length. You can enjoy it now or through 2030 with Tuscan Ribs with Balsamic Glaze
SAN FELICE IL GRIGIO RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2019 Vintages #716266 $32.95 This is consistently scoring 91-92 among critics. Zekun Shuai of jamessuckling.com gives it a high of 94. Everyone agrees it is well balanced, silky and complex with plum, cherry notes enhanced with herbal hints. Some moderate oak notes with vanilla and spice. It promises more complexity will emerge so drink from 2024/25 with Braciole. (XD - 2 g/L)