The Nov 18 2023 LCBO Vintages Release has lots in store, particularly for Rhône wine lovers. Whites are in short supply but there are a couple of note.
Welcome to my wine recommendations for the LCBO's Vintages Releases.
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!
Cheap and Cheerful Wines
The white wine winner in the 'cheap and cheerful' category this release:
GÉRARD BERTRAND RÉSERVE SPÉCIALE VIOGNIER 2022 Vintages # 147975
$14.95 Viognier is about the weight of an unoaked Chardonnay for those not familiar with it. Look for peach and pear notes with a bit of nuttiness and some minerality on the finish. My experience with this wine is that it is fairly low acid so I would expect a 'round' mouthfeel here. (As opposed to racy acidity.) Enjoy with soft cheeses or Cornish Hens with Apricot Glaze. (XD - 5 g/L)
The red wine winners in the 'cheap and cheerful' category this release:
CHÂTEAU DU GRAND CAUMONT CUVÉE TRADITION CORBIÈRES 2020 Vintages #540831 $13.95 (seems to be on sale for $12.25!) Another value from Southern France. This is scoring 89 and got Gold at Concours des Vins Macon, 2023. It is widely viewed as a Best Buy. Look for warm climate ripe black cherry with a hint of prunes and earthiness. Best enjoyed with protein to tame the tannins. Try it with hearty charcuterie or Wine Braised Oxtail Stew. (XD - 2 g/L)
MONASTERIO DE LAS VIÑAS RESERVA GARNACHA/TEMPRANILLO/CARIÑENA 2018 DO Carinena, Spain Vintages #166579 $15.95 This Garnacha, Tempranillo, Carinena and Cabernet Sauvignon blend delivers year after year. James Suckling gives it a 90 and describes notes of licorice and plums with bright strawberry and cherry on the palates. Tannins are chalky tannins so should be an easy pour. (XD - 3 g/L)
SALENTEIN PORTILLO PINOT NOIR 2021 Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina Vintages # 19274 $16.95 James Suckling gives this a 91 and describes sour cherry and redcurrant aromas with some spice. Crisp acidity and 'sleek tannins', juicy and a fresh finish. Enough structure to enjoy now or for the next couple of years. Enjoy with Beef Bourguinon. (XD - 2 g/L)
Sweet Wine Recommendations
PONDVIEW GOLD SERIES VIDAL ICEWINE 2021 Vintages #390351 $19.95 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario. 200 mL Wow! Icewine under $40 is unheard of... And Natalie Maclean gives this a 93 so this is perfect if you are new to Icewine and want to try it, give it as a gift or what a stocking stuffer! It comes in the typical 200mL bottle which is perfect to feature with a charcuterie board of blue cheese, dried apricots and almonds or after dinner with a simple Burnt Basque Cheesecake. Look for sweet, rich citrus notes with honey and apricots. Drink now through 2030! Stock up! (S - 231 g/L)
Sparkling Wine Recommendations
JOSEPH CATTIN BRUT CRÉMANT D'ALSACE Vintages # 281329 $18.95
Traditional method, AC, Alsace, France Anne Krebiehl, MW of Wine Enthusiast gives this a 91 and describes hints of ripe apple with bread-y notes followed by juicy yellow plum on the palate. All traits are subtle to add up to a fruity, frothy, dry Sparkling. Enjoy with Balsamic Pear Tarts or brunch. (D - 9 g/L)
PERE VENTURA PRIMER RESERVA BRUT CAVA Vintages # 32273 $18.95 DO, Penedès, Spain To quote Amy Wislocki of decanter.com 'There are some cracking value Cavas to be had if you know where to look, and this is one of them..' Traditional method with 15-18 months ageing on the lees lending some toasty notes. It is 'fresh and harmonious' with subtle red apple and citrus. (D - 13 g/L)
Good Value White Wine Recommendations
BOECKEL RIESLING 2021 AC Alsace, France Vintages #29823 $17.95 Fans of dry Rieslings will be happy to see this one. It is scoring 90-92 among respected critics. Look for good acidity with citrus notes, some minerality and a fresh, dry finish. Enjoy with Creamy Shrimp Tarte. (XD - 4 g/L)
VILLA MARIA CELLAR SELECTION SAUVIGNON BLANC 2022 Marlborough, South Island NZ Vintages #974527 $19.95. Any of the NZ Sauvignon Blancs offered this release would be a reliable choice but the value award goes to the Villa Maria. Sam Kim of wineorbit.co.nz gives it a 94. (This is $8 less than the Seifried Nelson that he also gave a 94). Look for green apple, kiwi and citrus aromas tht lead to a lively juicy palate.
He calls it 'Upfront and splendidly appealing'. Enjoy with Salmon with Citrus Cream on Angel Hair Pasta. (XD - 5 g/L)
CATENA HIGH MOUNTAIN VINES CHARDONNAY 2022 Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina Vintages # 918805 $20.95 This gets a 93 from Zekun Shuai of jamessuckling.com. He describes a creamy nose of tropical fruit, citrus and almonds. Fresh with a very textured palate. Pair with Roast Lamb with White Wine and Major Grey's Chutney glaze. (XD - 2 g/L)
JOEL GOTT SAUVIGNON BLANC 2022 Calfornia USA Vintages # 191593 $21.95 This wine ranks #31 on The Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2023. MaryAnn Worobiec of winespectator.com gives it a 91 and describes it as 'juicy and fragrant' with lime, tangerine and green apple. Mouthwatering with hints of ginger and a long, flavourful finish. Best Value. (XD - 3 g/L)
SOUTHBROOK TRIOMPHE ORGANIC CHARDONNAY 2019 VQA Niagara Peninsula, ON, Canada Vintages #172338 $26.95 Southbrook never disappoints and this is one of my personal favourites! Rick VanSickle of winesinniagara.com gives this a 91 and describes intense aromas of pear, apple, bergamot with a hint salinity and flint. The palate is creamy with ripe orchard fruits, citrus and 'understated oak spices'. Add a juicy, bright finish and you are in for a treat! Enjoy with Chicken Marsala. (XD - 4 g/L)
MARQUES DEL ATRIO 2 CEPAS BLANCO DE GUARDA VIURA/TEMPRANILLO BLANCO 2019 DOCa Rioja, Spain Vintages #32215 $26.95 White Riojas are full of character and this one is no exception. 50% Viura and 50% Tempranillo Blanco this scored 96 at Decanter World Wine Awards, 2022. Look for ripe stone fruit, toast and smoke on the nose. The palate is complex with baked apple, stone fruits. There are also some herbal notes and spicy vanilla oak. An elegant wine with a 'Fantastic finish and aftertaste'. Will mature very gracefully. (XD - 2 g/L)
Good Value Red Wine Recommendations
VIA CARITATIS VOX ANGELORUM 2020 AP Ventoux, Rhone, France Vintages #35622 $17.95
This represents Exceptional Value at this price. Jeb Dunnock gives this a 93 and describes elegance and purity. Red and dark fruits with pepper and violet on the nose lead to a rich, concentrated wine. Integrated acidity and a 'seamless mouthfeel' add to the elegance. Medium -bodied and fruity, enjoy with Mushroom Marsala Lasagna. (XD - 3 g/L) 750mL
SISTER'S RUN OLD TESTAMENT CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2021 Coonawarra, South Australia Vintages #478271 $17.95 Sister's Run is alway good value and a reliable choice. Vintages notes say to look for 'intense black fruit, spice and chocolate notes' with all of the complexity expected of a Coonawarra wine. Enjoy now through 2030s with Red Wine Braised Beef. (XD- 3 g/L)
BORSAO BEROLA 2018 DO Campo de Borja, Spain Vintages #371518 $17.95 A Grenache/Syrah blend 80/20. This gets a 92 from Peñín Guide to Spanish Wine. Look for jammy fruit and spice on the nose. The palate is fruity and powerful with a good finish. (XD - 2 g/L)
GÉRARD BERTRAND HERITAGE AN 1886 LES ASPRES GRENACHE/MOURVÈDRE/SYRAH 2019 AP Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, France Vintages #413245 $18.95 Another good value from Southern France scoring 91 from Joe Czerwinski of robertparker.com. Look for leather, licorice and black cherry notes. Medium to full-bodied, it is supple and 'easy-drinking'. Enjoy with Pizza or Burgers. (XD - 3 g/L)
CHÂTEAU MAYNE-VIEIL 2019 AC Fronsac, Bordeaux, France Vintges #14469 $21.95
I stocked up on the 2016 that was released last year at this time and have been enjoying a bottle every few months. It got rave reviews and so does the 2019. In fact 2019 is being touted as perhaps one of the greatest Bordeaux vintages, right up there with 2016. This gets a 91 from Roger Voss of Wine Enthusiast who describes it as dense and rich with blackberry flavours. Well structured with smooth tannins and a juicy aftertaste. Enjoy with Sirloin Top Roast with Bordelaise Sauce. (XD - 2 g/L)
P. FERRAUD & FILS DOMAINE FERRAUD LES CHARMES MORGON 2020 AC Morgon, Beaujolais, France Vintages #268052 $24.95 Sometimes you just feel like a Beaujolais... while still conisdered light-bodied Morgon wines are a bit earthier than many of their counterparts. Roger Voss of Wine Enthusiast gives this a 90 and describes juicy black fruit that 'mask the tannins'. This has the structure to age but you can enjoy now with Montreal Spice Lamb Chops. (XD - 3 g/L)
WYNNS COONAWARRA ESTATE THE SIDING CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2021 Coonawarra, South Australia Vintages #333229 $24.95 Campbell Mattinson of winecompanion.com.au calls this a Special Value and scores it 92. It is an elegant wine with redcurrant, tobacco, cedar and mint characters. Coonawarra and Wynn's -what more can you ask of a Cab Sauv? (XD - 2 g/L)
ELDERTON BAROSSA SHIRAZ 2020 Barossa, South Australia Vintages #713024 $24.95 This is an 'entry level wine for Elderton but it still delivers the quality and craftmanship of their line. Sam Kim of wineorbit.co.nz gives this a 94 and calls it upfront, generous and immediately appealing. Look for dark black and blue fruit, cloves, chocolate and cedary oak on the nose. The palate is velvety and opulent. Enjoy now thorugh 2035 with Pasta alla Zozzona. (XD - 2 g/L)
If you can't find the above and you really want a Classic Coonawarra Cab look for RYMILL COONAWARRA CLASSIC CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2018 Vintages #10541 $29.95 Special Value. Score - 95 of Jane Faulkner, winecompanion.com.au.
PLANETA PLUMBAGO NERO D'AVOLA 2019 DOC Sicilia, Italy Vintages #19491 This gets a 92 from Michael Godel of winealign.com. Expect this to be rich and smooth with plum and black cherry, fresh yet complex. Enjoy with Pork Osso Buco . (XD - 3 g/L)
ARGENTO FINCA ALTAMIRA ORGANIC MALBEC 2021 Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina Vintages #27302 $26.95 The 2019 got a 95 from the Decanter Panel and was nominated by Decanter as one of the Top Value Wines of 2021. I am expecting no less of the 2021.
This got a 95 from Descorchados 2023. The nose has black cherry with floral notes. Look for energetic flavours and vibrancy. Enjoy with Steak with Peppercorn Sauce. (XD - 2 g/L)
GABRIEL MEFFRE SAINT-BARTHÉLÉMY VACQUEYRAS 2020 AP Vacqueyras, Rhone, France Vintages #479691 $28.95 This Chateaunuef-du-Pape wannabe from just down the road is 70% Grenache/30% Syrah. It gets a 95 from Decanter World Wine Awards, 2022 who calls it a 'stellar wine with liquorice, smoke, floral and red cherry aromas'. The palate is fresh and ripe with black olive, blackberry, chocolate, fig, tobacco and beautifully integrated oak. Throw in a long finish too. (XD - 3 g/L)
Premium Wine Recommendations
Château Maucamps 2006 AC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France Vintages #22950 $37.95. This same vintage was on offer a year ago (at $35.95 so you are in luck if you put a couple in your cellar). Here is what I said last year and it holds true: When John Szabo of winealign.com gives out anything 90 or above I pay attention. So this one's 94 score has me fired up! A left bank Bordeaux (Cab dominated bend), he says its flavours, aromas and complexity compare with more expensive cru classés. He calls it 'stately and aristocratic' and amazing value. At or near its peak in 2021 when he tasted it, it will still keep another 4-5 years.
ROCCA DELLE MACÌE RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2020 DOCG Chianti Classico, Tuscany Italy Vintages #930966 $24.95 This gets a 93 from Bruce Sanderson of
winespectator.com. Some vegetal tomato leaf, juniper and lavender on the nose along with cherry and earthy notes. Palate is lingering with fruit, some minerality and savory notes. Best from 2025 through 2042. (XD - 3 g/L)
DOMAINE DE FONT-SANE TRADITION GIGONDAS 2020 AP Gigondas, Rhone, France Vintages # $31.95 This is getting very high praise among critics. It gets a 92 from Josh Raynolds of vinous.com who describes cherry and berry aromas with some herbal notes that carry to the palate. Juicy and appealing with good energy. The finish is long and spicy. (XD - 3 g/L)