The Jan 20 2024 LCBO Vintages Release has some Sparklings worth stocking up on and a few reds solidly in the 90+ range well under $20!
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.
Also with the cancellation of the LCBO media tasting labs there are fewer and fewer wine reviews out there. And many that there are are behind pay walls. So you can get my best bets here for free! No pay walls 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!
Sparkling Wine Recommendations
CLEEBOURG CLÉROTSTEIN AUXERROIS CRÉMANT D'ALSACE Alsace, France Vintages # 32271 $19.95 Traditional method 100% Auxerrois. This gets a 96 from Decanter
World Wine Awards, 2022 who call it an exceptional wine and outstanding value. It is floral with the bread-y, yeasty notes of traditional Champagne. A fine mousse with a fresh and juicy palate of yellow apple notes. A long lingering finish. What more could we ask for? Enjoy on its own or with Creamy Shrimp Tarte at brunch.(XD - 11 g/L)
CAVE DE LUGNY BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE Burgundy, France Vintages #460865 $22.95 Traditional method. This 100% Chardonnay Sparkling has a lively mousse, with a fresh light palate of ripe apple and grapefruit. A tangy finish of note as well. Christelle Guibert of decanter.com gives it a 90 and calls it 'very complex for the price.' The holidays are behind us but you will be looking for light, refreshings Sparkling by Easter to go with Poached Chicken Salad With Champagne Vinegar Aioli so - stock up! (D - 10 g/L)
Cheap and Cheerful Wines
The white wine winner in the 'cheap and cheerful' category this release:
MARYNISSEN CHARDONNAY 2021 VQA Niagara Peninsula, On Canada Vintages #
907683 $16.95 From some of the oldest, if not the oldest Chardonnay vines in Ontario, all agree this wine shows good balance and expressive richness year after year. Look for pear and apple notes with caramel and vanilla and Niagara's signature minerality. Full-bodied and creamy, enjoy with Chicken Pot Pie. Previous vintages score 89 typically. (XD - 4 g/L)
The red wine winners in the 'cheap and cheerful' category this release:
KARL'S SCEPTER COONAWARRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2018 Coonawarra, South Australia Vintages #33732 $15.95 This is scoring solidly at 93 among respected critics! Of course, it is hard to go wrong with Coonawarra and Cabernet Sauvignon. Generous, gorgeous black fruit on the nose and palate. Tannins are fine making it approachable and appealing. Enjoy with lamb burgers or Ribs With Spicy Blackberry Sauce. (XD - 3 g/L)
MASSERIA BORGO DEI TRULLI PRIMITIVO 2022 Puglia, Italy Vintages #569988 $15.95 Critics agree this is a great value wine solidly in the low 90 scores. I have come to appreciate the understated fruit of Italian Primitivo. Gilbert Gaillard notes say to look for black fruit, pepper and graphite on the nose and palate and a long finish. Enjoy with charcuterie or Fennel and Sausage Pasta. (D - 12 g/L)
Fun Fact: A Primitivo di Manduria won the best value-for-money red wine in Italy, awarded by Gambero Rosso in their Berebene 2024 guide, dedicated to excellent Italian wines that cost no more than 20 Euros.
SAINT-ROCH CORBAROL SYRAH/GRENACHE 2021 Côtes du Roussillon, France Vintages #195107 $16.95 Saint Roch is always a good choice. From old vines this full-bodied Grenache and Syrah blend offers lots of blackberry and baking spices. Natalie Macleans gives it a 92 and says it is 'plush on the palate' so it should have wide appeal. Enjoy with Spicy Black Pepper Beef. (XD - 3 g/L) 750mL
ABBOTTS & DELAUNAY LES FLEURS SAUVAGES VIEILLES VIGNES CARIGNAN 2021 Languedoc, France Vintages #32949 $16.95 This wins Gold year after year from gilbertgaillard.com. Look for prune, black olive with pepper and clove notes on the nose. Medium bodied and fruity with tannins lending weight. Enjoy with Cassoulet or stew. (XD - 6 g/L)
Good Value White Wine Recommendations
REDTAIL RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2017 VQA Niagara Peninsula, On, Canada Vintages #37114 $19.00 Not a lot of reviews out there on this one but it seems to have a following who appreciate the rich, butteriness of this Chardonnay. Oaky notes are apparent but do not overpower the bright pear and citrus notes. Rich and complex with a long finish. Enjoy with Cornish Hens. (XD - 2 g/L)
SHEILD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2022 Nelson, South Island NZ, Vintages # 32553 $18.95 This is getting low 90s and being well received among critics. Sam Kim of wineorbit.co.nz gives it a 93 and says to look fora fragrant nose with apple and lemon, a 'succulent and lingering' palate. It is hard to go wrong with an NZ Sauvignon Blanc... enjoy with Greek Pork Tenderloin. (XD - 6 g/L)
MCBRIDE SISTERS COLLECTION CHARDONNAY 2022 Central Coast, California, USA Vintages # 36753 $21.95 This is getting 90 consistently among critics, including Wine Spectator. It's a rich, full-bodied Chardonnay with ripe apple and creamy notes. Enjoy with Mushroom Gnocchi Casserole. (XD - 0 g/L)
DIORA LA SPLENDEUR DU SOLEIL CHARDONNAY 2020 Monterey County, California USA Vintages #24293 $24.95 This gets a 90 from Matt Kettman of Wine Enthusiast and all user reviews are in the 4+/5 range. So its rich baked apple, oak and creamy notes seem to hold wide appeal. Rich, buttery and full-bodied; enjoy with creamy cheeses or Shrimp with Cafe de Paris Sauce. (XD - 4 g/L)
Good Value Red Wine Recommendations
Château Paul Mas Clos des Mûres 2021 Languedoc, France Vintages # 286393 $17.95 This Syrah/Grenache blend is getting low 90s among critics. James Suckling gives it a 93 and describes it as full-bodied but balanced, complex and intense. Look for dark fruit on the nose with herbal notes. The palate has 'vibrant' strawberry and cherry. Look for a long spicy finish too. . Enjoy with Pork Tenderloin with Prune Sauce (trust me... it will surprise you. It tastes way better than it sounds!) (XD - 3 g/L)
ALKOOMI GRAZING COLLECTION SHIRAZ 2021 Frankland River, Australie-Occidentale, Australia Vintages #33369 $17.95 This is getting solid 94 scores among critics! How lucky for us that it is well under $20!! A lot of attention to detail in the winemaking -
co-fermented with Viognier, matured in French oak (20% new). Erin Larkin of robertparker.com says to look for violet and black cherry on the nose with pepper and plum notes. The palate is vibrant, elegant and lithe. Enjoy this with anything!! Seriously... this might become your housewine so have it with burgers, pizza and your roast beef now through 2030! (XD - 3 g/L)
Brotte Grosset Création Cairanne 2020 Rhone, France Vintages # 33852 $18.95 Cairanne is right next door to Chateauneuf du Pape so I expect great things from it! Ratings show it is being well received. Kristen Bieler of winespectator.com gives it a 90 and calls it a Smart Buy. A classic Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan blend, look for fresh red currant, herbs and smoky sandalwood spice. Good tannic structure. Enjoy with Classic French Short Ribs now through 2025. (XD - 3 g/L)
VITE COLTE ROSSOFUOCO BARBERA D'ASTI 2021 Piedmont, Italy Vintages #36296 $18.95 Jeff Porter of Wine Enthusiast gives it a 92 and describes aromas of plum, cherry, violets and white pepper. Lots of juicy plum and cherry on the palate too. Enjoy with Osso Buco Milanese. Best Buy. (XD - 4 g/L)
SISTER'S RUN BETHLEHEM BLOCK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2021 Barossa, South Australia Vintages #360636 $19.95 The New World Wine Awards, 2023 gave this a Gold. And we know you can always count on a Sister's Run to deliver quality. Look for lots of juicy black currant, cedar, herb and 'luxurious' structured tannins. Enjoy with Marinated Flank Steak. (XD - 3 g/L)
Château Rombeau Elise Vieilles Vignes 2019 Rousillon, France VINTAGES#: 3594796 $22.95 This gets a 96 from Decanter World Wine Awards and high praise from user reviews. A typical 70% Syrah, 20% Grenache, 10% Mourvedre blend with aromas of dark berries, graphite and herbal notes. It has a complex, well-balanced palate with fine tannins and good length. Pretty much ticks all the boxes! Enjoy with Mushroom Risotto With Vermouth. (XD - 4 g/L)
TOMMASI I PIANETI RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2019 Veneto, Italy Vintages #32696 $22.95 The ripasso method of passing the wine over the skins of an Amarone batch lends richness and complexity at a decent price. This one gets a 93 from James Suckling who describes aromas of ripe berries with walnuts and species. The palate is lively with firm tannins. It is ripe and concentrated and fresh with a 'lingering finish'. Plan to enjoy with charcuterie or Veal Shells with Marsala and Vermouth. (XD - 6 g/L)
MOSQUITA MUERTA PISPI RED BLEND 2018 Mendoza, Argentina Vintages #31973 $23.95 This is getting solid low 90s among reviewers. It is 40/20 Malbec/Cabernet Sauvignon with Cab Franc and others rounding out the blend. Luis Gutiérrez of robertparker.com describes it as a powerful wine but very harmonious. Ripe but still fresh, clean and tasty! Enjoy with old cheeses or Mushroom Lasagne. (XD - 3 g/L)
DIORA LA PETITE GRACE PINOT NOIR 2020 Monterey County, California, USA Vintages #24294 $24.95 This is getting low 90s and high praise for drinkability in reviews. Vintages notes say it is balanced with 'crunchy' red fruit and brisk acidity. Look for some smokey notes and a long finish. Score - Gold (Mundus Vini, Summer 2022) Enjoy with Venetial Duck Ragu. (XD - 5 g/L)
THIRTY BENCH WINEMAKER'S BLEND RED 2020 VQA Niagara Peninsula, On, Canada Vintages #320986 $26.95 A Bordeaux style blend, this is a highly respected effort from a highly respected producer. Rhys Pender, MW of winealign.com gives it a 92 and describes it as elegant with juicy red fruits, sage and other herbal notes and showing some graphite minerality. Length is very good to excellent. Enjoy with Beef in Bordelaise Sauce. (XD - 2 g/L)
INTRINSIC RED BLEND 2020 Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley, Washington, USA Vintages #17014 $28.95 This blend is solidly in the 90-93 range year after year. James Suckling gives the 2020, a Cab Sauv/Malbec blend, a 93 and describes ripe dark fruit with vanilla, licorice and a hint of pine. Look for velvety tannins and a 'lingering' finish. Enjoy with Chateaubriand now or through the next five years. (XD - 5 g/L)
TALBOTT KALI HART PINOT NOIR 2021 Monterey County, California, USA Vintages #317693 $34.95 Matt Kettman of Wine Enthusiast says 'This is one of the most reliably delicious-while-affordable Pinot Noirs in California." (Note: It is $20 US in Costco in the US.) That may be why some credit it with expanding the Pinot Noir marketshare significantly in the US. Matt gives it a 93 and describes strawberry and crushed stone aromas with cherry and pecan on the palate. Tension and 'zippy' acidity keep it lively. Enjoy with Maple Mustard Salmon. (XD - 5 g/L)