Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Dec 10th

Grab and Go – Straight to The Best Buys
by David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Busy, busy, busy – it’s that time of year when life speed ratchets up a notch or three. We have less time to do more. And if you are out there in the aisles of LCBO stores – perhaps with a long list in hand and the prospect of longer cashier lines – your wine selection will become more hurried. Grab and go. I sometimes wonder if the LCBO is not somehow counting on less discerning and more distracted clients at this time of the year. The last release of the year is historically rather pedestrian, with a lot of average quality/value wines. The big gun gift items have largely already been and gone in November.

So without forcing you to spend valuable time reading, Sara, Michael and I offer our advice on the best value wines of this release. (John supplied his picks last week). Most are priced for stocking stuffers and casual entertaining, and they represent a variety of styles. Take the time to create your shopping list here so you can get in and out of the store asap.

Top Picks from December 10th Release:


Stratus 2013 White, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($38.20)
David Lawrason – This is a gorgeous, intriguing and complex blend of four varieties (see Michael’s review) each of them managing to exert themselves. If that weren’t enough to provide great flavour complexity, the wine was also in barrel. It’s full bodied, satiny, lush and a touch hot (13.8%). A nice price fit as a unique Christmas gift. Could also work with the Christmas bird.
Michael Godel – In 2013 viognier is back in the varietal mix, in reprise of its earlier role in support of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and riesling. A different sort of vintage here for the White, seemingly led by a circular turning of chardonnay and viognier, like a cat chasing its tail. This really goes round and round with no obvious signs of where it will stop. Quite fleshy and lime juicy with stone fruit flavours in righteous abound. Really amalgamated and seamless even for itself. It is here that I think of it as THE WHITE. Niagara’s White. Lake Effect™.

Tawse Limestone Ridge North Riesling 2014, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment ($23.95)
Michael Godel – Of a northern song on the far side of the Limestone Ridge, a cooler negociant to obviate negative savour and cut in kind of positive citrus to go blessedly along with tonic and gin. A stonking taut vintage for this Tawse riesling that while firm and demanding is blessedly delicious. If this isn’t a classic doppelgänger to less than off-dry Mosel Kabinett than please show me what is. Full on and all in. One of the best Limestone’s ever produced.

Stratus White 2013Tawse Limestone Ridge North Riesling 2014Louis Moreau La Vigne Blanche Chablis 2015

Louis Moreau 2015 La Vigne Blanche Chablis, Burgundy, France ($21.95)
David Lawrason – The 2015 vintage has produced somewhat riper, fleshier Chablis. Combined with bright, modern style of Louis Moreau, this Chablis will appeal to chardonnay lovers of all stripe. And there is just enough Chablis tension, with a touch of chalk on the finish, to preserve authenticity. A fine, upscale holiday sipper.

Poplar Grove 2014 Pinot Gris, Okanagan Valley, BC ($23.95)
Sara d’Amato – A fleshly and expressive pinot gris from BC’s Naramata Bench. Poplar Grove is one of the original five wineries established on the Bench and pinot gris is one of two white varieties produced by the winery. This example is wholly Alsatian in style with only a hint of sweetness that is kept in check by firm structural acidity. Its impressive complexity is in part due to a quadruple yeast inoculation at the onset of fermentation. Holiday party friendly!

Poplar Grove Pinot Gris 2014Tahbilk Marsanne 2015Ruppertsberger Linsenbusch Gewürztraminer Spätlese 2015

Tahbilk 2015 Marsanne, Nagambie Lakes, Victoria, Australia ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – The world’s largest planting of marsanne can be found in the heritage vineyard of the family-owned Tahbilk Winery in Victoria. I was particularly taken by this fresh and nervy expression from old vines in a relatively cool climate. Impressively complex with notes of cucumber, tangerine, sweetgrass and honey dotting the palate. Carbon neutral and a terrific value.

Ruppertsberger 2015 Linsenbusch Gewürztraminer Spätlese, Germany ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This would be a fine little surprise to have up your sleeve for sweeter moments during the holidays. It’s a very fine, elegant subdued but not at all weak gewurz with lychee, melon, woodsy spice/nutmeg and vanillin. It’s medium bodied, medium sweet yet poised with fine acidity and very good length. Very good value.

Rosé, Reds and a Port

Château La Tour de L’Evêque 2015 Rosé, Côtes De Provence, France ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A wintry rosé release is rare but appreciated as these wines make for versatile pairings at the holiday table. The Château was formerly used as the summer residence of the archbishops of Toulon, located outside the picturesque village of Pierrefeu in the Var, surrounded by the gently rolling hills of Maures. The wines have all been organically certified since 2005 with biodynamic practices in play. The grapes are hand-harvested and fermented with their stems adding a slight tannic edge and a touch of bitterness for optimum balance.  Although grenache, cinsault and syrah make up the majority of this blend, small additions of semillon and rolle (vermentino) add to the wine’s complex tapestry of flavours.

Zuccardi Serie A Malbec 2014, Mendoza ($16.95)
Michael Godel – Quite the floral little number this Serie A malbec from Zuccardi with blueberry and boysenberry fruit and an absence of teeth chattering, ass-kicking tannin. I really like and appreciate the honesty of freshness and drink me now sincerity with contributions from Tupungato, El Peral, Gualtallary, Vista Flore and La Consulta.
Sara d’Amato – A great value in this release, Zuccardi’s Series A Malbec seems to increase in complexity and appeal with every vintage incarnation. Fiery and vibrant, this high altitude malbec is a breath of fresh of air among those available at this price point. Impressively dynamic and all class. Enjoy on its own but best with company.

Château La Tour De L'évêque Rosé 2015Zuccardi Serie A Malbec 2014The Lane Vineyard Block 14 Basket Press Shiraz 2013Quinta Do Quetzal Guadalupe Winemaker's Selection Red 2012

The Lane Vineyard 2013 Block 14 Basket Press Shiraz, Adelaide Hills, South Australia ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – A gently pressed syrah with cool climate attitude. Hugely expressive but offering all the richness of fruit expected from Aussie shiraz. Here is a red that walks the line between sophisticated and widely appealing with ease.
Michael Godel – From winemaker Michael Schreurs out of a single vineyard set on ancient soild. Nothing but a delicious smack of shiraz from The Lane, juicy with that je ne sais quoi red fruit marked by liquorice and bokser. It’s not savoury so much as it is spiked but does not feel boozy at all. Very different sort of Adelaide or perhaps exactly what it needs to be.

Quinta do Quetzal 2012 Guadalupe Winemaker’s Selection Red, Alentejano, Portugal ($15.95)
David Lawrason – This dandy, unoaked bargain is made from hand harvested trincadeira, aragonez and alfrocheiro grown of schist soils in the hot, southern region of Alentejo. It’s quite dense, elegant and warm – much better structure than expected, with lovely aromas of eucalyptus, rosemary and currants. It has depth, gravitas and charm. And winter drinking appeal.

The Chocolate Block 2014, Wo Western Cape ($39.95)
Michael Godel – Ambitious Cape winemaker Marc Kent is the vintner equivalent of an air force pilot. Thrill seeker, pioneer, risk-taker, restless soul and difference maker. Kent works tirelessly to champion Syrah and continues to express a longing for the northern Rhône, though his wines fall into their own, unique category. To a red, the sanguine, savoury, warm climate, mountain and maritime sensation is always present. Syrah of liquid white pepper sprinkled over a periodic table of elements. This three-quarters blend of syrah with a decimetre of grenache and cabernet sauvignon (plus a minutia of cinsault and floral viognier) is a slice of mud pie in 2014, dense, vivid, vicid and lucid. It is unmistakeable as Western Cape.

Joel Gott 2013 815 Cabernet Sauvignon, California, USA ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – Although Joel Gott is now part of Napa’s Trinchero portfolio, Gott began as a garagiste winemaker who was quickly noticed by respected wine publications after his first wine sourced from purchased grapes. After two vintages, his immense and immediate success allowed him to purchase 12 vineyards of his own and his wine has become more a household name than a cult wine. This drought affected, 100% cabernet sauvignon offers mouthwatering salinity, musk and black pepper that enhance the generous fruit in this dry red.

The Chocolate Block 2014Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013Sartori Montegradella Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2012Dow's Colheita Tawny Port 2002

Sartori 2012 Montegradella Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Veneto, Italy ($17.95)
David Lawrason – I must say that I am finding Valpolicella a vexing category these days, with wild style and quality variation. The ripasso technique is muddying the middle ground. Is there or is there not ripasso technique in this wine, for example. Tastes like it, but there is no indication. However, I do like the wine and it is good value, with ripe red cherry, fine oak and some meaty character. It’s medium weight and quite smooth and packs a lot of flavour for the money.

Dow’s 2002 Colheita Tawny Port, Portugal ($39.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s 14-year-old single vintage port with all kinds of class. A perfect holiday tippler with a cavalcade of heady, soothing aged wine aromas.  It’s very smooth and creamy if rather hot with some walnut bitterness on the finish. Pass it around with chocolate and nut treats.

And that’s a wrap for VINTAGES releases for 2016. In the days ahead we have a series of gift guides and end-of-year articles coming your way, including John Szabo’s Annual Fizz Report.

I want to personally thank all our readers for your support in 2016 – so many who have been with us for so long, and all the new folks who have joined us in recent months. Best of the season to all, and may good wine prevail in your home over the holidays and make your good times better.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

Use these quick links for immediate access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release.

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Mix
Szabo’s Smart Buys
All December 10th Reviews

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium 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!


Beringer Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012