Wine Picks <$35 from LCBO Vintages Release April 29 2021

The LCBO Vintages Release April 29 2021 has a lot of familiar good value work horses. Hidden gems include a Sancerre wannabe and a poor man’s Amarone.

Fortified Wines

There is a Late Bottled Vintage Port from Fonseca on offer that is getting solid reviews. It will offer a solid fruit dominant pour for Port lovers. Fonseca Late Bottled Vintage Port 2015   VINTAGES#:  87551 $23.95 Douro, Portugal

Sparkling Wines

Chile has a well established Sparkling wine segment, dominated by Valdivieso. However Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are well established by many producers so the parts for decent Sparkling are there. Indomita Brut Sparkling 2019 VINTAGES#:  18561 $14.95 Casablanca Valley, Chile is a blend of the two and will be a tingly, fruity choice for a casual sipper or Mimosa base.

In the classic, traditional method Sparkling category Celene Bordeaux Améthyste Blanc de Noirs Brut Crémant de Bordeaux  VINTAGES#:  19031 $17.95 Bordeaux, France gets a 90 from Roger Voss who describes a rich, flavourfull wine with a fruity, creamy profile.

Rosé Wines

Rosés are on the uptick with the warming weather. My two picks for value for quality would be:

Famille Perrin Réserve Rosé 2020    VINTAGES#:  719062 $15.95 Rhône, France -medium bodied and dry with cherry, raspberry, wild herbs and fresh flowers.

Oyster Bay Rosé 2020  VINTAGES#:  493171 $19.95 Marlborough, New Zealand – 100% Pinot Noir with cherry, strawberry and melon. ‘Vibrant with food-friendly acidity’. Won Gold at the San Francisco International Wine Competition 2020.

White Wines

Château des Charmes St. David’s Bench Vineyard Chardonnay 2016 VINTAGES#:  430991 $24.95 Ontario, Canada is getting 90+scores from various reviewers. Attention to detail is paying off here with barrel fermenting and a year of aging on the leas. Expect creamy, rich, smoky, pear and toasty spice.

If you are in the mood for a ‘big, buttery’ California Chardonnay Tom Gore Chardonnay 2018   VINTAGES#:  458810 $17.95 California, USA should fit the bill. Full bodied and rich enough to drink now or over the next couple of years.

I am a fan of New Zealand Pinot Gris so my wish list this release includes Soho Ziggy Pinot Gris 2020   VINTAGES#:  536169 $19.95 Marlborough, New Zealand. Sam Kim or gives it a 93 and describes excellent fruit intensity and refreshing acidity. Look for rockmelon, pear, apple and floral character.

The Hunting Lodge Expressions Sauvignon Blanc 2019   VINTAGES#:  17667 $19.95 Marlborough, New Zealand gets a 93 from Sam Kim as well. He identifies passion fruit, lime, subtle musk. ‘Powerful..vibrant…fabulously drinkable’ Not bad for $19.95!

On to South Africa for this ‘superb value wine’. Strandveld First Sighting Sauvignon Blanc 2020  VINTAGES#:  18705 $14.95 South Africa. This is a Bordeaux style blend Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon showing tropical fruit, citrus and herbs, called both lifted and fresh.

Enjoy the elegance of French winemaking with one or both of the following:

Château Moncontour Demi-Sec Vouvray 2019  VINTAGES#:  16709 $20.95 Lo ire, France. Note this is an off-dry wine balancing lemon and sweet-ish notes. Roger Voss of Wine Enthusiast gives it a 90 and describes baked apple and light texture. ‘Perfumed and worth aging’.

Ohh! Poitou Sauvignon Blanc 2019   VINTAGES#:  635854 $16.95 Loire, France. I really enjoyed the 2017 vintage of this ‘little sister’ of Sancerre. I described it as ‘A slightly more subdued version but nonetheless an elegant and refined Loire Sauvignon Blanc. It has a restrained herbal, grassy nose. Silky and round in the mouth. The herbal palate is crisp and mildly flinty.  Nicely balanced.  This wine  tastes like you paid twice as much. Excellent value. Serve with salads, light fish, scallops, oysters.’ I am expecting/hoping for same from this one!

Red Wines

Hahn GSM 2018   VINTAGES#:  441568 $19.95 California, USA sits at #42 of Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Best Buys of 2020. Matt Kettman describes aromas of dark red berry and hibiscus along with dark berry, licorice and spice on the palate. ‘Lively in acidity and texturally engaging’.

d’Arenberg The Stump Jump Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre 2017  VINTAGES#:  173294 $15.95 South Australia, Australia seems to have been crafted as a crowd pleaser. Sam Kim gives it 90 and describes raspberry, plum, olive and toasted nut on a supple, juicy palate. Sounds like a dock or deck sipper to me.

Australia has a ‘category’ of its own this release with familiar bottles that we may take for granted but hold their own consistently among reviewers.

Sister’s Run Old Testament Cabernet Sauvignon 2018    VINTAGES#:  478271 $17.95 South Australia, Australia gets an impressive 91 from MaryAnn Worobiec of Sister’s Run wines are always a solid choice and this one is not exception. ‘Dense, detailed, wonderfully savory with herbal accents of sage and bay leaf… concentrated blackberry at the core… spice mahogany and white pepper on the finish. Drink now through 2031…. Again…. all this for $17.95? I am definitely in!

Wits End Luna Cabernet Sauvignon 2019       VINTAGES#:  921239 $19.95 South Australia, Australia gets a 93 from Sam Kim who describes gorgeous fruit power – cassis, cherry, cedar and spice on the nose. Excellent fruit intensity on the palate with long, flavourful finish.

Xanadu Exmoor Cabernet Sauvignon 2017  VINTAGES#:  18344 $19.95 Western Australia, Australia also scored 93 from They describe it as modern, bright and fruit driven with spicy oak. ‘Instant appeal’.

Roger Voss of Wine Enthusiast is call Best Buy for Château Les Tourelles 2017   VINTAGES#:  18573 $18.95 Bordeaux, France and gives it a 90. Opens to ‘great black fruit, rich tannins and acidity, well in balance’.

Here is a chance to enjoy a classic Burgundian Pinot Noir at an entry level price. Jean-Claude Boisset Les Ursulines Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2019   VINTAGES#:  408310 $24.95 Burgundy, France is showing classic Burgundian terroir with redcurrant, sour cherry and fresh cut roses. Most Jean Claude Boisset wines sell for north of the $50 benchmark so I am working on the theory that the most basic wines of elite producers will still display the results of good quality plantings, terroir and winemaking techniques. If you try this let me know what you think of my theory!

On the elite end of the Rhone scale Domaine de Font-Sane Tradition Gigondas 2017  VINTAGES#:  18557 $31.95 Rhône, France barrel tasting is getting a 91-94 range from Jeb Dunnock of who describes dark fruit, rare steak, violets and ground pepper. ‘pure, elegant and seamless on the palate and has a great finish.’ Many Gigondas don’t fit in the < $35 criteria here so this score and this price are a bit of a treat for this snack bracket!

In the name of a ‘poor man’s Amarone’ – Tommasi Graticcio Appassionato 2018  VINTAGES#:  338939 $15.95 Italy Not from the Veneto/ Valpolicella DOC but using the traditional blend of Corvina, Rondinella grapes and the air-drying method similar to Amarone this gets a 90 from Natalie Maclean of She describes it as ‘concentrated with spicy dried fruit, dark cherry, ripe plum , savoury herb and nutty flavours rich on the palate.’ At $15.95 this gets a ‘smoking hot value designation from me!

Cellar Suggestions

Susana Balbo Signature Malbec 2018   VINTAGES#:  79798 $20.95 Mendoza, Argentina Tim Atkins of gives this a 93 and calls it layered and profound with blackberry and liquorice …scented oak and impressive balance. 8% Cab Franc is adding length and freshness. I am continuously and pleasantly surprised at how wines of this caliber come in at the $20 mark. Drink 2022-2028

Wine Picks <$35 from LCBO Vintages Release April 29   2021

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