Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES June 7th – Part Two

A Bevy of Best Buys Under $25
By David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Part One of our June 7 release preview published last week found considerable alignment among our critics in the featured Australian wines and Italian whites that hit VINTAGES shelves in Ontario on Saturday. Both are strong categories, with Australia mounting a comeback (see my new blog for 10 reasons why this is happening).

In Part Two we align on five wines that offer excellent value below $25 (most actually below $20) and go on to individually recommend another 13 value picks by our critics as well.

But I don’t want to leave the impression there are no fine collector wines – especially to be considered if that collector is your father. As a first time grandfather I would be personally thrilled to receive the stunning Bassermann-Jordan 2008 Deidesheimer-Hohenmorgen Riesling Auslese;  the adventurous Burrowing Owl 2010 Athene from B.C.; the delicious and refined Ridge 2011 Geyserville from Sonoma County and the sensuous Maison Roche De Bellene Vieilles Vignes 2011 Chambolle-Musigny from Burgundy. I also concur with John Szabo on the Pintas 2011 Character from Portugal as being “an example of just how good red Douro wines can be: dense and full, richly extracted and balanced”.

Here are the rest of our budget minded values.

The Stars Align

Villa Wolf Pinot Blanc 2013Château Manon La Lagune 2010Loveblock 2012 Sauvignon BlancLoveblock Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Marlborough, New Zealand ($25.95). John Szabo – The “original” Crawfords, Erica and Kim, took the money from the sale of their successful eponymous brand and patiently planned their next move: a spare no expense homage to Marlborough terroir, and specifically the cool Awatere Valley, a vineyard which Erica called her “Loveblock”. This sauvignon was picked very late yet still offers gentle green pepper flavours in a restrained, Loire-like style, yet I see this more as a textural wine, with much more weight than the average. David Lawrason – Flavours are very well focused and run to excellent length. I like the sense of containment without sacrificing flavour depth.

Château Manon La Lagune 2010, Côtes de Bordeaux – Blaye ($21.95). David Lawrason – This is exactly what I want from Blaye, a large unheralded appellation on the right bank of the Gironde Estuary. It’s a light, fresh yet characterful merlot without pretension, ambition, and perhaps no oak ageing either, and if so very little. Sara d’Amato – A generous blend made in an honest and appealing fashion. The oak is keenly integrated on the abundantly flavourful palate.  An exceptional value.  Accessible enough for immediate consumption or cellar for another 2-3 years.

Villa Wolf 2013 Pinot Blanc, Pfalz, Germany ($14.95). John Szabo – From Ernst Loosen’s Pfalz estate (home base is in the Mosel), this pinot blanc is wildly aromatic, at once fruity and grapey, with more than a nod to muscat, dry and widely appealing. It’s not too complicated but the price is attractive, and the elegant packaging will make it look like you pulled out the expensive stuff. Sara d’Amato – A striking pinot blanc with big aromatics and an engagingly tense palate. Certainly not your typical pinot blanc but one that will undoubtedly prove engrossing. The Pfalz region tends to produce drier styles of wine that benefit from greater ripeness and this rich pinot blanc is expressive of just that. David Lawrason – Must debate here; this is definitely lifted and arresting wine, but it is also very green wine that tastes like sauvignon, not German pinot blanc which, by the way, is a source of some great values nowadays.

Carignanissime De Centeilles 2010Massaya Classic Red 2011Clos Centeilles 2010 Carignanissime De Centeilles, Minervois, France ($18.95). Sara d’Amato –  A really stripped down, authentic  feeling southern French carignan that is produced from very old vines (60-100 years), handpicking, carbonic maceration and no use of oak. This relatively light treatment is befitting of this expressive and lively wine from a sunny terroir. John Szabo – I was immediately bowled over by this pure and engaging wine,  given full carbonic maceration à la Beaujolais and fermented with wild yeast and bottled after a year in stainless with no added sulphites. Think of a wild and a slightly savage cousin of sturdy cru Beaujolais and you’re in the right style zone. Don’t leave this too long in the cellar, but rather enjoy its juicy, unsullied fruit now or over the next year or so. A value that shouldn’t be missed.

Massaya 2011 Classic Red, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon ($15.95). John Szabo – It’s not surprising that this fine value red from Lebanon is reminiscent of the southern Rhône Valley, considering both the blend (60% cinsault with 20% each of cabernet and syrah), the Mediterranean climate, and the involvement of the Brunier Family (owners of Vieux Télégraph in Châteauneuf-du-Pape), investors in Massaya since 1998. At $16, it’s an attractive proposition, especially with its iron-like minerality – worth a look. Best 2014-2021. Sara d’Amato Massaya, meaning “twilight”, is a winery with a relatively recent but curious history. The Ghosn family (current owners) was forced to leave their estate and country in the mid-70s due to Lebanon’s civil war. Seventeen years later, the two brothers returned to revitalize their family’s war ravaged estate. This entry-level label is lush, easy to appreciate and offers a great deal of flavour and intrigue for the price.

Lawrason’s Other Picks

Lanzerac 2011 Chardonnay, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($16.95). Those who do not like big, oaked chardonnay may want to take a pass, but those who can find a place for it on their deck table, with grilled poultry, pork, veal and even steak, will be amazed by its complexity, tension and depth for $16.95. I ceased being amazed by the price/complexity/concentration ratio of Cape wines after drinking them for three weeks in South Africa in March.  I have had $50 chardonnays less concentrated and structured than this.

E. Guigal 2012 Côtes Du Rhône Blanc ($18.95). Those who would prefer elegant,  unaoked fruit driven white on the patio, to refresh yet coddle a more subdued, perhaps creamy recipe should visit this lovely, classy southern Rhone white. With 70% viognier it has plenty of bloom but three other grape varieties including 8% marsanne add nuance and character. It’s different, it’s well made, and it’s a summer evening in a glass.

Königschaffhauser 2013 Vulkanfelsen Pinot Noir Rosé ($13.95). Rosé is in full flood now, and there are another seven landing on this release; most being quite good. This however was the stand-out value, from pinot noir grown on the slopes of the Kaiserstuhl – the ancient volcano that dominates the Rhine Valley in southern Baden. The volcanic soils seem to give the wines added energy, which this nicely expresses amid its lighter frame.

Lanzerac Chardonnay 2011E. Guigal Côtes Du Rhône Blanc 2012Winzergenossenschaft Königschaffhausen Pinot Noir Rosé 2013Finca Flichman Expresiones Reserve Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2011Leone De Castris Riserva Salice Salentino 2010

Finca Flichman 2011 Expresiones Reserve Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon, Mendoza, Argentina ($15.75). And then there will be those grilling steak, and more steak, this summer. I have always been a Flichman fan, and find their Expressione blends based on cabernet to be particularly good value, with complexity, density and girth far beyond their price. And they are not just another jammy malbec; they are bit more linear and herbal and meaty – generously but not overly oaked in French and American barrels.  I think the richness stems from their location in the Barances sub-region of eastern where it is just a bit warmer.

Leone De Castris 2010 Riserva Salice Salentino ($19.95) – One of the most highly regarded producers from the heel of Italy, delivers a very flavourful, rich yet compactly structured red from 40 year old negroamaro vines.  It will work around the BBQ as well but  I would be tempted to age it a year or so.  It delivers its origin very well, and the length is excellent.

Sara d’Amato’s Picks

Arnaud Aucoeur Côte De Py Morgon 2012Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel 2012Winzer Krems 2012 Edition Chremisa Grüner VeltlinerWinzer Krems Edition Chremisa Grüner Veltliner 2012, Niederösterreich, Austria  ($24.95). The premium “Edition Cremisa” line was created by Winzer Krems, one of Austria’s largest cooperatives, to pay tribute to the city of Krems – first mentioned in the year 995 as “urbs chremisa”. How’s that for some obscure knowledge? What will certainly not fall into obscurity in this release is this riveting grüner veltliner with a mouth-filling texture, brimming with spice and tropical fruit.

Cline 2012 Ancient Vines Zinfandel, Contra Costa County, Central Coast, California ($20.95). A seductive, feminine old vines zinfandel that I would be remiss in not calling a guilty pleasure – a Cline specialty. Despite its rich, enveloping nature, the wine achieves a feeling of pillowy lightness and more complexity than meets the eye.

Arnaud Aucoeur 2012 Côte De Py Morgon, Beaujolais, France ($19.95). This wine expresses classic Morgon with depth, density and abundant charm. The estate is named after its current owner and winemaker, a 4th generation vigneron whose lovely family, wife and three young children, make the operation a family affair. Cote de Py is the most revered of the Morgon climats and this example certainly lives up to that reputation of quality.

John Szabo’s Best Buys

Malivoire 2012 Pinot Gris, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95). A highly successful pinot gris in my view, bringing together richness and freshness, fruit and minerals, acids and structure – in short, all of the food groups are well represented. This hits a fine midway point between the Alsatian and Italian styles, and should appeal widely.

Chavet & Fils 2012 La Dame De Jacques Coeur Menetou-Salon Blanc, Loire Valley, France ($19.95). A terrific example of Menetou Salon from the reliable Chavet & Fils, who have never failed to deliver in the many vintages that I’ve tried. Perhaps not as searingly mineral as top Sancerre, but I enjoy the slightly fleshier and richer palate. Best 2014-2018.

Volcanes De Chile 2011 Pomerape Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley, Chile ($14.95). As the name of the bodega implies, this is a project to highlight the volcanic terroirs of Chile, a country with close to 2000 volcanoes, a very fine idea in my view. This is a dry, very crispy and lively sauvignon from the cool Leyda Valley within site of the Pacific; you could easily add another $5 to the price for similar wines from, say, Marlborough, NZ.

Malivoire Pinot Gris 2012Chavet & Fils La Dame De Jacques Coeur Menetou Salon Blanc 2012Volcanes De Chile Pomerape Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc 2011Ramos Pinto Duas Quintas 2011Palo Alto Winemaker's Selection 2010

Adriano Ramos Pinto 2011 Duas Quintas, Douro, Portugal ($19.95). This classic two-vineyard blend, from the Quinta de Ervamoira (low altitude schist soils yielding very ripe grapes) and the high altitude granitic Quinta dos Bons Ares (contributing freshness and liveliness) is a well-proportioned red from a fabulous vintage. This hits all of the right notes for harmony, and I’d say it will be superior in 2-4 years. Best 2016-2024.

Palo Alto 2010 Winemaker’s Selection, Maule Valley, Chile ($18.95). A dense, deep, dark blend (shiraz, cabernet sauvignon, carmenere) with a very distinctive Chilean personality. Wood is a prominent feature, but then again so are the savoury-herbal, bay leaf and resinous herb flavours – a wine of genuine concentration and depth at a nice price. Best 2014-2020.

Between now and our next meeting I hope to see some of you at our sold-out WineAlign dinner at Parts and Labour in Toronto June 9 that features four winemakers from South Africa. I also hope to be at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival in Picton on Saturday, sampling over 125 cheeses from across the country along with wines from 15 Ontario wineries and cideries. Purchase tickets at and use the promo code CF14ALIGN for a discount. It runs both Saturday and Sunday June 7/8 from 11am to 4pm. And watch for Sara d’Amato’s imminent report on Prince Edward County and some new releases.

When we meet again in this space I will be in British Columbia hours away from the opening bell for the National Wine Awards of Canada.

Until then, Cheers

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES June 7th Release:

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Selections
All Reviews
June 7th – Part One
Lawrason’s Take – Australia 2014

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!