Welcome to my wine recommendations for the LCBO's regular 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!
Sparkling Wine Recommendations
ELYSSIA GRAN CUVÉE BRUT CAVA Penedès, Spain Vintages # 392548 $24.95 I gave this Traditional method Sparkling from Freixenet a 90 when I reviewed it a couple of years ago, which is in line with most reviews.
'The bubbles were a bit coarse but there was a lovely fresh, lively, citrus profile to it on the palate. It is sturdy enough to pair with stronger foods, cheeses, meats. Medium finish. A great bubbly for lunch, dinner, appetizers!' (D- 8 g/L)
In today's environment, I would like it better if it was a few dollars less but the wine trade has been hit hard with inflation, supply chain issues etc so -such is life...
DUFOULEUR PÈRE & FILS BRUT CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE 2019 Burgundy, France Vintages #207993 $26.95 Crémants are some of the best value Sparklings outside of the Champagne region. Made in the traditional method, they offer elegant bubblies at a fraction of the price of Champagne. The highly respected David Lawrason of winealign.com gives this a 90 and calls it generous and balanced. Look for crisp apple, citrus and those bread-y notes that are the hallmark of a traditional Sparkling. According to David's notes this is light, crisp, fresh with excellent length (length being another determinant of high quality wines.) Enjoy with all kinds of pastry appetizers or even your turkey dinner. (XD - 6 g/L)
FERRARI BRUT SPARKLING Trento, Italy Vintages #352153 $28.95 This is scoring 91-92 consistently among respected critics. Monica Larner of robertparker.com call it an Italian classic and 'terrific value'. Traditional method, 100% Chardonnay - look for citrus, with peach, pastry and some crushed mineral notes. It has 'easy drinking appeal' so it would be great for celebratory toasts on its own or serve with appetizers.(XD - 8 g/L)
Cheap and Cheerful Wines
The white winner in the 'cheap and cheerful' category this release:
CREW RIESLING 2020 VQA Lake Erie North Shore Vintages #483834 $16.95 Previous vintages of this hover around the 88/89 level but 2020 was a great vintage for Ontario so the 2020 seems to be cresting 90, at least according to Jacky Blisson, MW, winealign.com. BTW the MW stands for Master of Wine so she knows a thing or two about wine. She describes this as 'vibrant' with citrus and herb aromas and 'juicy orchard fruit flavours'. Note the sugars are 16 g/L but the palate is also 'racy, acid-driven' so if they are in good balance this will be slightly off-dry. Enjoy it with soft, creamy cheeses or Italian Milk Braised Pork with Fennel.(D - 16 g/L)
For 'Cheap and Cheerful' Reds we have:
CASA DE CAMBRES RESERVA RED 2017 DOC Douro, Portugal Vintages #470377 $14.95 I can tell you how well this goes with Lasagne and a Caesar salad! Best Buy! Score - 91 from Roger Voss of Wine Enthusiast. It is rich and balanced. Ripe with blackberry flavors. Drink now! (XD - 4 g/L)
RAVANAL GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2019 Valle de Colchagua, Chile Vintages # 542183 $15.95 Ranked #64 in James Suckling's Top 100 Wines of Chile 2021 Score 93. (I gave the 2017 an 89 back in 2019 so it's possible this Vintage tops the 2017.) At any rate there is no questioning the value quotient here. Medium to full bodied with dark fruit and chocolate. Fine tannins and fresh acidity. Enjoy with Red Wine Braised Beef (because you can afford to put it in the pot and on the table). (XD - 4 g/L)
VILLA PUCCINI RISERVA CHIANTI 2019 DOCG Tuscany, Italy Vintages # 573519 $15.95 tasting.com gives this a 94; others are in the 89/90 range. But still a Best Buy if you are a Sangiovese lover. Tasting.com says 'A truly pleasant, no nonsense, and direct expression of Sangiovese; enjoy frequently.' Notes are strong on tomato aromas, oak & tobacco, leather with some tart cherry. Tannins are 'grippy' so this is probably best enjoyed with food - either a hearty charcuterie (sausage/salami kind) or Fennel and Sausage Pasta. (XD - 4 g/L)
Good Value White Wine Recommendations
TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA RIESLING 2021 VQA Niagara Peninsula, On Canada Vintages #89029 $19.95 Score - 92 National Wine Awards of Canada, 2023 (Awards did not have a tasting note). Vintages notes call this a 'pure expression of the Niagara terroir'. 'This wine sings on the palate with notes of lime, apricot, green apple, and flinty minerality.' Note sugars are 26 g/L so Medium sweet category. This would be great for sipping with soft cheeses, dried apricots and cashews.
PIERRE SPARR GRANDE RÉSERVE GEWURZTRAMINER 2021 Alsace, France Vintages # 747600 $19.95 If you have Gewurztraminer lovers in your household (like I do!) you will be stocking up on this one. A perennial favourite - look for classic lychee, pineapple, grapefruit, rose petal and spice. It is off-dry with honey hints but well balanced. This is great on its own or serve with Asian foods like Szechuan Green Beans or Chinese Sticky, Spicy Chicken. (D - 14 g/L)
MADRE BECCO REALE BIO PECORINO 2021 IGP Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy Vintages #31380 $19.95 Italian white wines are under rated IMHO. But- that also means they are many well made wines out there at very reasonable prices! This gets a 94 from Rod Phillips who says 'This is a really gorgeous organic pecorino that speaks quality from start to finish.' If you are new to Pecorino wine (bet your mind filled in the cheese Pecorino Toscana..) check out this Everything you need to know about Pecorino wine from VinePair. It's like a Pinot Grigio or Sauv Blanc but with more citrus and honeysuckle. Enjoy with wait for it... Pecorino cheese or Seafood Risotto. (D - 7 g/L)
MOUNTADAM EDEN VALLEY CHARDONNAY 2019 Eden Valley, South Australia Vintages #10411 $18.95 This is scoring 89-93 with the 93 from Tyson Stelzer, winecompanion.com.au. It is lighter and tauter than a typical Australian Chardonnay. Look for bright citrus, with peach and just a hint of oak and a long finish. Enjoy with Creamy Seafood Pasta. (XD - 2 g/L)
PADDY BORTHWICK PINOT GRIS 2021 Wairarapa, North Island NZ Vintags #555516 $21.95 Cameron Douglas, MS of camdouglasms.com gives this a 93 and describes aromas of ripe pears and apples with baking spices. Texture is creamy but with fresh acidity and energy. Balanced and well-made with a fruity finish Enjoy with Ginger Crusted Pork Roast. (D - 5 g/L)
CLOS HENRI ESTATE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2022 Wairau Valley, Marlborough, South Island NZ Vintages #927186 $25.95 Another 93 from Cameron Douglas, MS of camdouglasms.com who describes layers of spice and minerality. Balance and length are both excellent. A classic NZ Sauv Blanc but with a bit of lees aging for 'fatness'. (XD - 3 g/L)
ALOIS LAGEDER PINOT GRIGIO 2022 DOC Südtirol-Alto Adige, Italy Vintages #35198 $24.95 From one of Italy's leading biodynamic producers from one of the best DOCs for Pinot Grigio, this is being well received. Look for lots of citrus and peach notes. It is dry with a bit more weight than your typical Pinot Grigio thanks to 4 months spent on the lees adding texture. Enjoy with Herb Crusted Salmon. (XD - 2 g/L)
Good Value Red Wine Recommendations
EL ESTECO MALBEC 2021 Valle de Cafayate, Salta, Argentina Vintages #113191 $18.00 This scores well year after year. James Suckling gives it a 93 and describes aromas of blackberries and blueberries with violets with a juicy, concentrated palate. Tannins are 'creamy'. Enjoy now with Lamb. (XD - 3 g/L)
BASTIDE MIRAFLORS SYRAH/VIEILLES VIGNES GRENACHE 2020 AP Côtes du Roussillon, France Vintages #320499 $19.95 This is another perennial favourite; a 70/30 blend of Syrah and Grenache. Joe Czerwinski of robertparker gives it a 90 which is consistent with other reviewers. Look for blueberries with notes of plum and dark chocolate. Full-bodied, fruity and smooth. "Easy to drink now'. Enjoy with Spicy Black Pepper Beef . (XD - 5 g/L)
PASCUAL TOSO RESERVA MALBEC 2021 Mendoza, Argentina Vintages #183897 $20.95 Another perennial favourite and solidly scoring 90s. I am (delightfully) amazed that wine this good from so far away can sell for this price. From 30-year-old vineyards, the nose is intense aromas-toasty, nutty and black fruit. The palate is spicy with 'clingy' tannins so plan to enjoy with food. How about Dutch Oven Brisket. (XD - 2 g/L)
KILIKANOON KILLERMAN'S RUN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2019 Clare Valley, South Australia Vintages # 675223 $22.95 You could argue that Kilikanoon Killerman's Run is always a Best Buy but this one is getting special attention. Christina Pickard of Wine
Enthusiast gives it a 92. It is very aromatic with mint, pepper, blueberry and chocolate on the nose. The palate is 'powerful', lengthy and balanced with some cool climate 'lift'. Drink now through 2027 with Grilled Flank Steak. (XD - 3 g/L)
Both of the Zonte's offerings from Australia are scoring low 90s across the board and offer good value. The Shiraz/Cab blend edges out the Shiraz by a hair for value but just pick which varietal you want and enjoy!
ZONTE'S FOOTSTEP SUPER TROOPER SHIRAZ/CABERNET 2019 Fleurieu, South Australia Vintags #23782 $21.95 Stuart Knox of therealreview.com describes blackberry and dark fruits on the nose and a palate with complex savoury notes including tobacco leaf and black olive. Tannins are persistent so enjoy this with food. (XD - 3 g/L)
ZONTE'S FOOTSTEP HILLS ARE ALIVE SHIRAZ 2021 Adelaide Hills, South Australia vintages #522342 $21.95 Look for cassis, milk chocolate and black pepper. Bold but harmonious. (XD - 3 g/L)
VIDAL PINOT NOIR 2019 Marlborough, South Island NZ Vintages #595546 $21.95 Wow... a NZ Pinot Noir under $22? Scoring 91 from Michael Godel of winealign.com? And he is not alone in his 90 score... stock up if you are a fan of robust NZ Pinot Noir. Look for bright fruit from cherry to raspberry and a vibrant palate. This calls for Roast Lamb. (XD - 2 g/L)
CHÂTEAU PEY LA TOUR RÉSERVE DU CHÂTEAU 2018 Sustainable, AC Bordeaux Supérieur, France Vintages #349308 This is scoring low 90s consistently. James Suckling gives it a 92 and describes a spicy nose of black cherry, cloves and chocolate. Medium to full-bodied; fruity with firm tannins. Go classic and pair with Sirloin Roast with Bordelaise Sauce..
NOZZOLE CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2019 Tuscany, Italy Vintages # 11109 $24.95 This is outscoring some of the other Chiantis in the release at higher prices. James Suckling gives it a 93 and it is certainly solidly in the low 90s among respected critics. Look for spices and floral notes on the nose. Medium bodied and firm, the palate is dense and concentrated with walnut notes on the finish. Why not try with Walnut Aglio Olio Spaghetti? (XD - 2 g/L)
Good Value Premium Wine Recommendations
There are a couple of premium wines in this Release that have some distinctive qualities meriting a few wine dollars more.
R. LÓPEZ DE HEREDIA VIÑA CUBILLO CRIANZA 2014 DOCa Rioja, Spain Vintges #692780 $33.95 This aged Rioja is scoring mid 90s across the board. This is an entry level wine from a traditional producer. James Suckling gives it a 94 and describes it as 'an earthy well-aged Rioja'. Look for complex citrus, plum, mushroom and tobacco on the nose. The palate is bright with 'citrusy fruit' and juicy tannins. Lovely to drink now but will also hold through 2028 and beyond. (XD - 2 g/L) I would be looking to make Beef a L'orange with this!
COUDOULET DE BEAUCASTEL CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2020 Rhone, France Vintages #48884 $32.95 This is from Famille Perrin who are well established Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers. The vineyard Coudoulet is just across the road from the famous Beaucastel vineyard. Coudoulet soil has the same Molasse seabed covered with pebbles called Galets Roulés. All this to say.. this wine is a 'baby' Châteauneuf at a fraction of the price. To be clear it isn't quite Châteauneuf but it's on the way with more structure than many Côtes-du-Rhônes. Matt Walls of decanter.com gives it a 92 and calls it easy-going, juicy and fresh. Drink now through 2030.(XD - 4 g/L)