Pinot Noir lovers are going to love the Oct 21 2023 LCBO Vintages Release. High scoring Pinots from around the world offer a real opportunity here to compare different styles. There is also lots for the rest of us!
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.
Wines in the Best Buy category without a score 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.
Fortified Wine Recommendations
GUERRA ROJO VERMOUTH Bierzo, Spain Vintages #542852 $22.95
If you are fan of Vermouth, this will be of interest to you. John Szabo of winealign.com gives this a 91 and describes an interesting profile of a classic vermouth with a strong savoury (artichoke) aspect, then more traditional notes of cinnamon, nutmeg and warm spices appear It is a sweet vermouth but the savoury notes keep it from being cloying. He describes 'great complexity overall' and suggests it could be served on its own over ice, as a cocktail mixer as well as an after dinner digestif. Triple duty for $23! If you don't know Vermouth this is an inexpensive way to try it! (S - 144 g/L)
Sparkling Wine Recommendations
NEGRONI ASOLO BRUT PROSECCO SUPERIORE DOCG, Italy Vintages #32261 $21.95 James Suckling gives tihs a 92 and describes a lively mousse, lots of lemon on the nose and palate and some creamy, chalky notes. He calls it 'a very fine Prosecco'. This will shine at a party with seafood appetizers. (XD - 7 g/L) 750mL
KIM CRAWFORD EXTRA DRY PROSECCO 2021 DOC, Italy Vintages #25374 $23.95
This is being well received among critics and fans of Kim Crawford. Pair the solid winemaking expertise of Kim Crawford and the growing popularity of Prosecco and we have a winner. This shows crisp orchard fruit, green apple, zesty lemon and a fruity mousse. Pair with cocktail amuse-bouches or perhaps a Shrimp and Salmon Sandwich Cake for lunch/brunch? (D - 15 g/L)
EMILE BEYER EXTRA BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS CRÉMANT D'ALSACE AC, Alsace, France Vintages #16605 $23.95 Score 91 So many things intrigue me about this one. Traditional method Sparkling (2nd bottle fermentation); Blanc de Blancs (Chardonnay); Extra Brut (0-6 grams sugar/L).... This is well received scoring low 90s consistently among critics. Anne Krebiehl of Wine Enthusiast gives it a 91 and describes it as 'shining with lemon freshness' with some slight chalkiness. She also calls it 'understated, bright, elegant and bone dry'. I personally am looking for that wonderful tension and focus that is so typical of Alsatian winemaking techniques in this one. This medium-bodied Sparkling is probably best served with appetizers as opposed to toasting. It has enough weight to take you through and entire meal as well. Try it with Champagne Chicken as an entree. (XD - 2 g/L)
GRAHAM BECK ULTRA BRUT CAP CLASSIQUE CHARDONNAY 2016 WO Robertson, South Africa Vintages #435453 $29.95 This is in Premium category since it is a Vintage Sparkling and a 'Blanc de Blanc' (all Chardonnay). Many, many Sparklings are blends so declaring a Vintage is an indication of quality. Blanc de Blanc is a nod to the more traditional Champagne. Tim Atkin gives this a 93 in his South Africa Special Report 2022. He describes a complex combination of stone fruits, nutty notes, fresh acidity and hints of oak. Enjoy now through 2025. This would pair nicely with pastry palmiers or Cornish Hens with Apricot Glaze. (XD - 2 g/L)
Cheap and Cheerful Wines
There are two white winners in the 'cheap and cheerful' category this release:
AVELEDA LOUREIRO 2021 DOC Vinho Verde, Portugal Vintages #646067 $14.95 This just off dry, light and crisp white might be becoming familiar by now. It is a refreshing, light summery pour but it would also suit a calamari appetizer or Pomegranate salad. It scores 89/90 among many respected critics and is recognized as very good value. James Suckling gives it a 90 and describes green apples, citrus notes and stony minerality. Fresh, polished with a medium finish. (It is unusual to even have mention of the 'finish' for a $14.95 wine!) (D - 8 g/L)
UMANI RONCHI VELLODORO PECORINO 2022, IGT Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy Vintages # 289553 $17.95 You may be less familiar with the Pecorino grape than you are with the cheese. You can expect a dry, aromatic wine with floral and mineral notes. This is being well received in the low 90s. James Suckling gives it a 92 and describes bright lemon and lime notes with the expected floral notes and savory mineral character. It is medium-bodied and has a respectable finish. Try it with Fettuccine Lemoncello. (XD - 5 g/L)
For 'Cheap and Cheerful' Reds we have:
GUARDA RIOS RED 2020 Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal Vintages # 25257 $10.95 Yep.. you read it right folks... that $10.95 is not a typo. This got 97 Points, Platinum Medal and Best of Show distinction at the 2021 Decanter World Wine Awards. Remember at the Decanter Awards wines are rated within a price range category (as opposed to a Panel rating which is against the gold standard - period),. So that means this is one of the very best possible wines for this price. Having said that it is scoring mid 80s on the regular 100 point scale. Look for ripe, dark fruit, (somewhat stewed), vanilla with some tobacco and savoury notes. Full-bodied and smooth. Have it with burgers or nachos. Or add a couple of bucks and go for more of a sure thing....
NORTON D.O.C. MALBEC 2020 Mendoza, Argentina Vintages #618348 $14.95 This is scoring reliably 90ish and universally recognized as a Best Buy. James Suckling gives it a 91 and calls it bright and juicy with silky tannins, cherry and spice and a 'cherry-flavored finish'. Enjoy with Spicy Blackberry Ribs. (XD - 2 g/L)
OGV OLD GARNACHA VINES 2019 DO Calatayud, Spain Vintages #13633 $16.95 While saying it's 'not terribly complex', Luis Gutiérrez of robertparker.com gives this a 90 and it is being recognized among critics as very good value. Jame Suckling even featured it in an article called '$15 Wines That Taste Like $50'! It may be because when Catalan says 'Old Vines' they mean old vines! Many vineyards have vines in the 75-100 year old category. Gutiérrez says it is ripe and juicy, soft and balanced with fine tannins and ' a long, dry finish'. Enjoy with Brisket with Leeks and Onion. (XD - 3 g/L)
Good Value White Wine Recommendations
CHATEAU STE. MICHELLE CHARDONNAY 2021 Columbia Valley, Washington, USA Vintages #232439 $19.95 Chateau Ste. Michelle is always a good bet. This one is scoring 90 among critics. Look for ripe fruit yet fresh balance with pear and vanilla. Oak is 'well-handed'. Enjoy with homemade Chicken Pot Pie.(D - 6 g/L)
SUGAR LOAF SAUVIGNON BLANC 2022 Marlborough, South Island NZ Vintages #410001 $21.95 This gets a 94 from Sam Kim of wineorbit.co.nz who describes it as ripe and inviting with ripe peach, apple and citrus. 'Terrific fruit power and vibrancy' for 'fabulous drinking'! Enjoy with Pork Scaloppini with Prosciutto, Sage and Caramelized Lemon.(XD - 4 g/L)
Good Value Red Wine Recommendations
LUIS CORREAS GRAN RESERVA MALBEC 2017 Mendoza, Argentina Vintages #31965 $19.95 This Gran Reserva is scoring low 90s across the board. James Suckling gives it 92 and call it juicy with good tension. Full-bodied, smooth and filled with juicy blue fruit flavours. Throw in a long finish too. Enjoy with Lamb Ragu.(XD - 3 g/L)
PETER LEHMANN THE BAROSSAN SHIRAZ 2020 Barossa, South Australia Vintages #522235 $21.95 Peter Lehmann is another reliable bet for quality and this one is no exception. Natalie Maclean gives it a 92 and describes it as 'plush with lots to love'. This is a big bold wine with lots of ripe blackberry, plum, cherry, black pepper and toasty oak spice. Look for a delicous long finish as well! Enjoy with Top Sirloin Roast. (XD - 5 g/L)
If you can't find that one look for ZONTE'S FOOTSTEP NATURE'S CRUX SHIRAZ 2020 Vintages #33367 $21.95 which is scoring low 90s as well.
SONS OF EDEN KENNEDY GRENACHE/SHIRAZ/MOURVÈDRE 2020 Barossa Valley, South Australia Vintages #558692 $24.95 This is consistently scoring mid 90s among reviewers. James Suckling gives it a 94 and describes it as a savory red with berry, citrus and nutty aromas. It is round with creamy tannins and lots of spice and complexity. Enjoy now through 2030. (XD - 2 g/L)
There are a few Pinot Noirs this release. The first below is from Australia.
RIPOSTE THE DAGGER PINOT NOIR 2022 Adelaide Hills, South Australia Vintages #508226 $25.95 Sam Kim of wineorbit.co.nz gives this a 93 describes ripe cherry, floral and spicy aromas that lead to silky, juicy beautiful palate. Fine tannins and good length round out the picture. Enjoy with lamb chops with Montreal Spice. (XD - 3 g/L)
If you are more in the market for a classic NZ Pinot then look for CLOS HENRI PETIT CLOS PINOT NOIR 2019 Marlborough, South Island Vintages #19621 $25.95 A great producer and a great year put this on the Editor Choice list according to Christina Pickard of Wine Enthusiast. Score 94 Look for generous berry and floral aromas that extend to an 'exuberant' palate. Tannins are 'textural'. Enjoy now through 2028. (XD - 2 g/L)
WESTCOTT ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2019 VQA Niagara Escarpment, On, Canada Vintages #427500 $31.95 This is scoring consistently 90-92 including a 90 from 2021 National Wine Awards of Canada. Rick VanSickle of winesinniagara.com has high praise for this one noting a 'gorgeous nose' with berries, spices and 'seductive Pinot perfume notes'. It is well made, nicely integrated and structured. Look for bright berries, anise, spice and an earthy note on the palate. Tannins are fine with a long finish. Sounds like classic cool weather Pinot Noir. (XD - 2 g/L)
ELDERTON CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2021 Barossa, South Australia Vintages #9175 $28.95 Elderton is always a reliable choice for quality. This one gets a 94 from Sam Kim of wineorbit.co.nz. He desccribes an inviting nose with blackcurrant, subtle tobacco and spicy oak notes. The palate has 'succulent fruit intensity and fine texture'. Chalky tannins with good structure and a long finish round out the picture. Drink now through 2036. I think this one deserves a Steak with Peppercorn sauce. (XD - 3 g/L)
Good Value Premium Wine Recommendations
There are a couple of premium wines in this Release that are normally outside of the <$40 snack bracket. These will be entry level wines but they are scoring consistently in the 90s and are recognized as good value wines. Here is your chance to enjoy some classic wine without breaking the bank.
CHÂTEAU DE SANTENAY VIEILLES VIGNES MERCUREY 2020 Burgundy, France Vintages # 668202 $39.95
In order to give you the context for this wine I have included the full tasting note from Vintages below.
Mercurey is an AC in the Cote Chalonnaise of Burgundy and enjoys one of the highest reputations in the region. There are not many reviews for the 2020 version of this Pinot Noir but previous vintages score consistently in the 90ish range. This is your chance to see what all the hype and mystique is about around classic Burgundian wine. And what to serve with this but Beef Burgundy!
Vintages TASTING NOTE: This wine is from an historical estate once owned by Duke Philippe le Hardi, who in 1395 signed into law that Pinot Noir be the primary red grape grown in Burgundy. It has excellent character and balance, with a strong backbone of dark fruit and supple tannins behind a delicate, inviting floral aroma. Enjoy it tonight after a good decant or cellar for at least a decade. (XD - 3 g/L)
LA PIEVE BAROLO 2019 Barolo, Piedmont, Italy Vintages # 213132 $39.95
You rarely see a Barolo <$40 either so here is another chance to try a top tier varietal at a reasonable price. Barolo is often likened to the 'Pinot Noir' of Italy - so there seems to be a theme here at the LCBO this release....
Again there are not a lot of reviews for the 2020 so we are going on the consistency of previous releases always scoring 90/91. This is famously served with Beef in Barolo. Based on general Barolo aging requirement I would cellar this until about 2025 and drink within a few years of that.
Vintages TASTING NOTE: This hefty, dense Barolo overdelivers year after year. A favourite among Vintages Barolo connoisseurs, it's an excellent representation of the Nebbiolo variety, showing plush tannins, bracing acidity, and notes of sour cherry, rosehip, iris, and Italian leather, with a chalky minerality on the finish. (XD - 2 g/L)