The Wine Lover’s Picks LCBO Vintages Release Nov 24, 2018

Insider tip – check out 2 Ontario Sparklings under $35 that consistently outscored a Champagne priced at $97.95.  Happy New Year – you’re welcome!

The parade of premium wines for the Holidays continues.  Some are truly iconic and some are chronically over-priced.   I can help!  There are standouts values in varietals from various countries in the under $35 category!

Use this link to check out availability of wines closest to you – LCBO store locator. Just enter the product number in the search field in the upper right corner. When the product page comes up click on the Select Store button on the right margin.  A dialogue box will come up. Add your postal code to get a list of stores closest to you that have it in stock.

Or you can now order LCBO products on-line  .  Of late LCBO have indicated all release wines are available for on-line  ordering.

Here are my picks for some of the best value wines under $35 in this release.


Reviews for the Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Extra Brut Rose Champagne 2009 has a rather erratic rating history.  While some critics have scored it in the mid -nineties there area various other respected reviewers who place it in mid-high 80s.  I don’t doubt that the Moet & Chandon would be an interesting wine experience but, based on the erratic ratings I question the value for the  $97.95  price tag. Thus… the sparklings below have been rated consistently by multiple reviewers at various time above 90.

(VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada)

363655 750 mL (D)   Score 91    $34.95

Gold Medal winner at both the 2018 National Wine Awards of Canada and the 2018 All Canadian Wine Championships.

Michelle Bouffard of describe  ‘100% Pinot Noir. Delicate and rich with crunchy notes of cranberry, morello cherry and orange zest supported by a creamy texture and notes of toast and a hint of honey. The slight tannic hint is very pleasant.’  Medium-bodied & Flavourful

FLAT ROCK RIDDLED SPARKLING 2011 Traditional method ( VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada)

75383315    750 mL (D)      Score 91   $34.95

Gold Medal winner at the 2018 National Wine Awards of Canada.

Sara d’Amato of says ‘A very fine Blanc de Blancs sparkling made with Chardonnay in the traditional Champenoise method. Beautiful sensations of bubbles in the mouth with a creamy and fine texture. Delicate and elegant but I would have preferred more dosage for a better balance. Very persistent in the finale.’  Medium-bodied & Flavourful

White Wines

DOG POINT SAUVIGNON BLANC 2017 (Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand)

677450    750 mL (XD)     Score 94       $26.95

Bob Campbell MW of describes ‘Bright, fresh and reasonably concentrated sauvignon blanc with capsicum, lemongrass, gooseberry, wet stone, mineral and subtle tropical fruit flavours. Impressive purity and length,
this high energy wine could develop well in bottle. Drink: 2017 to 2021’.
Aromatic & Flavourful

(VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ont, Canada)

581603 750 mL (D)   Score    92     $22.95

Gold Medal winner at the 2018 National Wine Awards of Canada.

Rhys Pender, MW of says ‘A fabulously complex nose showing
wax, grilled lemon, sage and honeyed fruit. The palate starts dry and rich and almost thick in texture before the acidity builds through the honeyed, mineral and ripe tree fruit notes, finishing long and full of intrigue.’
Aromatic & Flavourful

HENRY OF PELHAM SPECK FAMILY RESERVE RIESLING 2016 (VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ont, Canada)

643361   750 mL (D)   Score   92 $24.95

David Lawrason of says ‘Harvested from the oldest vineyard
planted in the 1980s, and harvested at low yield under two tonnes per acre, this is a quite full bodied, rich yet dry and intense riesling. Look for fairly lifted
aromas of yellow pear/peach fruit with lemon/grapefruit citrus, florals and spice. It is medium bodied, with quite concentrated and intense fruit on the palate. Considerable lemon as well, with some bitterness on the finish. The length is excellent. Should age well through the mid 2020s.’
Aromatic & Flavourful


295626   750 mL (XD)   Score 91    $18.95

Anne Krebiehl, MW, of Wine Enthusiast says ‘ A touch of yeast and sage emerges amidst lime peel scents on the nose of this wine. The palate reinforces those flavors, while white pepper and lime notes tingle around the edges. It’s lean but concentrated and finishes with such a clean and refreshing zip that you just want to sip more.’
Aromatic & Flavourful

SIMI CHARDONNAY 2017 (Sonoma County, California, USA)

673806   750 mL (XD)     Score 91      $19.95

Natalie MacLean of describes ‘A full-bodied chardonnay with sunshine ripened fruit offering aromas of green apple, peach and pear wrapped in toasty oak. Some spices and cedar smoke on the finish. Try it with
roast chicken. Drink: 2018-2022. ‘
Full-bodied & Rich

TIEFENBRUNNER PINOT GRIGIO 2017 (IGT Vigneti delle Dolomiti, Italy)

474742    750 mL (XD)   Score 90         $19.95

Alison Napjus of says ‘This balanced, light-bodied white
offers a lively mix of peach, passion fruit, floral and pink grapefruit zest notes, with tangy acidity and a floral finish. Drink now through 2021. Smart Buys.’
Light & Crisp

Red Wines


SONVIDA RESERVE MALBEC 2015 (Paraje Altmira, Mendoza, Argentina)

458240 750 mL (XD)      Score 94    $29.95

Vic Harradine of says ‘This showcases complexity,  succulent flavour, persistent purity of fruit, well-integrated oak, deft balance and satin-smooth texture throughout. Piquant spice aromas mingle with dark berry fruit and pencil shavings on the nose of this full-bodied, full-fruited malbec. It coats the palate with flavours of spice-laden, ripe dark Bing cherry, black currant and juicy tang. It finishes in a blaze of red crunchy fruit – currant and cherry – deftly balanced with the dark fruit of palate replays’
Full-bodied & Smooth

(DO Maipo Valley, Chile)

018721      750 mL (XD)    Score 93    $17.95

James Suckling, describes ‘A dense and rich cabernet yet in a more Rhone style. Earthy character. Hints of herbs, tobacco and spices. Medium-to-full body, juicy and round tannins and a flavorful finish. Cool climate undertones to this. Drink or hold.’
Full-bodied & Firm

WYNNS COONAWARRA ESTATE SHIRAZ 2016 (Coonawarra, South Australia)

433060  750 mL (XD)    Score 92      $23.95

Ned Goodwin of describes ‘Medium-bodied, savoury, slinky and long, with perfectly measured doses of oak, peppery acidity and moderate tannins. Coonawarra genetics unravel across a myriad of darker fruit tones and bramble, while giving a dutiful nod to syrah’s floral lift. Delicious stuff and even better, given the price. Superlative value! Drink By: 2024.’
Full-bodied & Smooth


CHÂTEAU SIGNAC CHUSCLAN 2015 (AP Côtes du Rhône-Villages, France)

537878     750 mL (XD)    Score    91         $18.95

Decanter Asia Wine Awards, 2016 notes:   60% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 10%
Mourvedre. Dark fruits abound on the nose, with herbal, spicy notes lending complexity. Medium-weight, with impressive, persistent tannins on the finish.’
Medium-bodied & Fruity


625376    750 mL (XD)    Score    91     $23.95

Luis Gutiérrez of says “The 2012 Quizás is still quite toasty
after all these years. However, the fruit seems to have the concentration and inner balance to withstand the oak regime imparted to the wine, which comes
through as powerful and still a little young for its age. There are sweet spices over a core of ripe red fruit and a full-bodied palate with plenty of fine-grained,
slightly dusty tannins. One for powerful food. I guess this should develop further nuances and get more polished with additional bottle time. Drink Date: 2018-2022.’   Full-bodied & Firm


943613     750 mL (XD)   Score  90    $24.95

Kerin O’Keefe of  Wine Enthusiast says ‘Red-skinned berry, dark spice  and balsamic aromas are front and center on this structured red. The firm, savory palate offers dried black cherry, licorice and grilled herb alongside fine-grained tannins. Drink through 2024.’ )
Medium-bodied & Fruity

Cellar Suggestions

CHÂTEAU HYOT 2014 (AC Côtes de Bordeaux – Castillon, France) 

526954  750 mL (XD)    Score 91   $16.95

Roger Voss of  Wine Enthusiast says ‘This is a ripe, fruity wine with its black-currant fruit and balanced sweet tannins. It has a fine elegant texture and juicy acidity. All these elements promise a wine that will be delicious to drink
from 2019. The daughters of owners Bernadette Faure and Alain Aubert oversee vineyards, winemaking and marketing. Editors’ Choice.’
Full-bodied & Smooth

QUEYLUS TRADITION PINOT NOIR 2015  (VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ont, Canada)

392738  750  mL (XD)    Score   94   $29.95

Jamie Goode of  ‘Very fine aromas of red cherries, herbs and spice. The palate has lovely freshness with a density to the cherry and raspberry fruit. There’s real concentration here with dense fruit but also some
elegance. Has good acidity and some structure. This is a big wine that’s lovely, but will need time to come round.’
Medium-bodied & Fruity


964221   750 mL (XD)     Score 92     $29.95

Bruce Sanderson of says ‘Black currant, blackberry and mint aromas and flavors mark this firm, linear red. Fruity yet savory, ending with a dense, wide swath of dusty tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese. Best from 2021 through 2030.’
Full-bodied & Firm


Good Bets

The wines highlighted below may not have been rated by critics but are wines that come from consistently high quality producers or regions that epitomize the characteristics of a certain varietal or style. In other words… good value wines that I would gravitate to without hesitation!

TWLK: This looks like an interesting offering – Canada’s answer to dessert wine that is not ice wine?  or answer to Port?

UNION FORTÉ 2012  (VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada)

361758     500 mL (S)     Score 4 1/2/5  $17.95

André Proulx of  says ‘There is a lot of people experimenting with fortified wines in Ontario, but the Union Forté sits above everyone else. This wine offers something very different from the nose until the finish. The nose is candied cherry, plum and spice. There is nice rich intensity to the fruit when you take your first sip. Fruit flavours of plum, dark cherry, raisin followed through with a bit of cocoa and spice. The spice notes in this wine have me thinking of Christmas already because this just feels like liquid fruit cake. Now the finish on this wine offers a bit of a nuttiness
that lingers.’

TWLK:  This is a perfect unassuming riesling perfect for lunch or sipping on its own.

LOOSEN BROS. DR. L RIESLING 2017 Qualitätswein (Mosel, Germany)

599274      750 mL (MS) $14.95

This popular, classic Mosel Riesling is always a superb value. It’s made with a gentle sweetness that is kept in balance by Riesling’s firm natural acidity.
You can expect to find lemon, apple, peach and touches of tropical fruit alongside the pure minerality that is such a defining characteristic of the Mosel. Pair with a spicy Thai pork dish, or breaded calamari and jalapenos.
Aromatic & Flavourful

TWLK:  I gravitate to this one because Rieslings from Alsace are iconic. It is a chance to enjoy a classic profile at a reasonable price.

JOSEPH CATTIN RIESLING 2016 (AC Alsace, France)  

259788     750 mL (XD) $15.95

Gold Medal winner at the 2017 Concours de Vins Macon.

Expect this classy wine to offer up notes of orchard flowers with peach, lemon and lime. It will be dry and crisp with a vibrant acidity. Enjoy with poached
white fish. Aromatic & Flavourful

TWLK:  Old vines and Rhone have to be a solid combination!


561365     750 mL (XD) $15.95

TASTING NOTE: This blend of Syrah, Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre comes from specially selected vines between 30 and 80 years of age. There’s good depth and concentration to the flavours here, with ripe red fruit, vanilla, dried orange peel and earth tones. A great value, this wine has the breadth to be a fine match for anything from a charcuterie platter to a roast beef
dinner. ‘
Full-bodied & Smooth

TWLK:  Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire – clean, crisp and fantastic value.

(AP Loire, France)

561522    750 mL (XD) $16.95
TASTING NOTE: Sourced from hillside sites with clay and limestone soils, this wine leads with delectable lime citrus followed by classic herbal notes and a
profound minerality. It has good length and an easy disposition. Enjoy with seafood appetizers or brie. (Vintages panel, Oct. 2017)
Aromatic & Flavourful

TWLK:  This makes the list because I am a fan of Vinho Verde wines – light, crisp and sometime aromatic which this on promises.

(DOC Vinho Verde, Portugal)
40814 750 mL (XD) $16.95
TASTING NOTE: This is a bone-dry and rich wine, with a warm, rounded texture that is cut by the intense acidity of the cool climate Vinho Verde region. It is
perfumed, flavored with lime, green apples and juicy apricots. Drink this wine now. Best Buy. (Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast, Oct. 1, 2018)
Light & Crisp

TWLK:  I have never had a Sister’s Run wine that I didn’t like.  Always a solid offering in the  $17-$10 range.

(Barossa, South Australia)

360636  750 mL (XD) $18.95
The Barossa is best known for Shiraz, although wines like this one prove it can also grow spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon. Gold Medal winner at the 2017 Melbourne International Wine Competition, this comes from a single vineyard block in the heart of the Barossa. Expect a big, juicy, structured Cabernet
brimming with cassis and evoking a touch of cedar.
Full-bodied & Smooth


Insider tip - check out 2 Ontario Sparklings under $35 that consistently outscored a Champagne priced at $97.95.  Happy New Year - you're welcome!

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