Buyers Guide to Vintages April 27th Release Part Two

By David Lawrason

Last week we delivered a large batch of reviews from the VINTAGES April 27 release, including those in the Pacific Northwest feature. As the LCBO is no longer making all the wines available for preview – which gives them more control in pushing their own retailing agendas – our task of filling in the blanks involves coordinating samples from agents ahead of the release and also spills over into the days after the wines hit the shelves, when samples can more easily be obtained.

We also scour trade events for opportunities to taste the releases, which is how I spent my time at Monday’s California Wine Fair in Toronto. The task was made easier by the existence of a private media room that was thoughtfully stocked with recent and upcoming VINTAGES releases. Thanks to the California Wine Institute and the participating agents and wineries for making this possible. Some of them made it into my picks below, but several others from both April releases have been posted as well.

Before diving into the latest batch of picks, I want to also direct you to a report published this week wherein John, Sara and Michael highlight their favourite wines from the recent Cuvée Ontario event in Niagara. Each winemaker was asked to handpick wines they were most anxious to present, and our crew has not only picked their favourites, they have asked the winemakers to explain why they selected the wines they showed. It’s an interesting deep dive into what’s new and interesting in Ontario wine country.

Here are more recommended wines from the April 27th release.  Value at any price is the backbone of our selections, although sometimes we want to expose wines that are interesting for other reasons. Click on the link for full reviews and ratings.

Argentina Masterclass-in-a-box 


Freemark Abbey Chardonnay 2016, Napa Valley, California ($39.95)
David Lawrason – This fulsome, elegant, reasonably priced Napa chardonnay walks right down main street of St. Helena with complex banana custard and spicy flavours set within creamy texture and some alcohol warmth.

Willow Bridge Dragonfly Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2017, Geographe, Western Australia ($15.95)
David Lawrason More going on than price suggests, although not a mainstreamer. It’s unoaked, solid, even a bit clumsy but dry with green apple, lime, green fig tropicality and semillon’s waxiness.  Tuna poke bowl?

Jean-Max Roger Cuvée Marnes Et Caillottes Sancerre 2017, Loire Valley ($31.95)
David Lawrason – J-M Roger is producing some of the most complex, solid sauvignons of Sancerre. Juniper, gooseberry, sourdough and minerality flavours show excellent length, within a firm, solid, balanced frame.

Dr. Heidemanns-Bergweiler Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese 2016, Mosel, Germany ($28.95)
David Lawrason – Not the showiest Mosel spatlese but solid with complex and quite concentrated peach, honey, spice and slate. Medium sweet with good acidity, low alcohol and dancing CO2 spritz, that is perhaps not needed.

Freemark Abbey Chardonnay 2016, Napa Valley   Willow Bridge Dragonfly Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2017, Geographe, Western Australia   Jean Max Roger Cuvée Marnes Et Caillottes Sancerre 2017   Dr. Heidemanns Bergweiler Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Spätlese 2016, Prädikatswein


Château Des Jacques Moulin-À-Vent 2015, Beaujolais, France ($32.95)
David Lawrason – Beaujolais doesn’t come much bigger. Deeply coloured with black cherry-blueberry fruit, florals and gamay pepper. Very smooth yet refreshing. Substantive and age-worthy, but good now too.

Mayu Gran Reserva Carmenère 2015, Elquí Valley, Chile ($17.95)
David Lawrason – Huge value when weighing complexity, richness and depth against price. Made from late-harvested grapes in a really funky region, you just have to taste this to believe what it delivers for the money.

São Miguel Escolha Dos Enologos 2016, Alentejano, Portugal ($21.95)
David Lawrason – This is a touriga nacional-led blend from the sunny south, with lifted and floral aromas of blackberry, violet, subtle oak spice and vanilla. Medium-full bodied, smooth but firm tannins lurk.

Château Des Jacques Moulin à Vent 2015   Mayu Gran Reserva Carmenère 2015, Do Elquí Valley   São Miguel Escolha Dos Enologos 2016, Vinho Regional Alentejano

Sebastiani Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, California ($29.95)
David Lawrason – One of the better buys in a value-challenged category. No thing of grace but it shows cabernet’s basic instincts within a powerful, chunky framework. Worth ageing or aerating vigorously.

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley, California ($84.95)
David Lawrason – This is fascinating and impressive for the polish and plush modernity Napa cab is achieving in the techno age. Satiny and seductive. Delish but not a value pick.

Planeta Frappato Di Vittoria 2016, Sicilia, Italy ($25.95)
David Lawrason – A famous Sicilian producer amplifies a native variety in a charming wine with all kinds of fruit, mint and pepper. Medium bodied, low in acidity with oodles of fruit as the main event. Chill a bit.

Sebastiani Sonoma County Cabernet Sauvignon 2015   Stag's Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley  

Rustenberg RM Nicholson 2017, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This is a dark, deep Cape blend of shiraz, merlot and cabernet sauvignon with reserved, brooding blackberry/mulberry, some menthol greenness and subtle oak. Full, grippy and deep for the money.

Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2016, Canberra District, Australia ($34.95)
David Lawrason – So well balanced, complete and understated, which is the goal – to me – for Australia. Lovely generous f blueberry/cassis jam with florals syrah pepper, fresh moss, graphite and oak.

Garcés Silva Amayna Syrah 2015, Leyda Valley, Chile ($28.95)
David Lawrason – Deep opaque syrah with a huge inky nose of blackberry jam, roasted coffee, licorice, pepper and game meatiness. Amazing concentration and density yet balanced in its very big way.

Rustenberg Rm Nicholson 2017 Clonakilla Hilltops Shiraz 2016Garcés Silva Amayna Syrah 2015

Tune in next week as we have a look at the best bets from VINTAGES May 11 Release.  I will be travelling most of May but look forward to picking up the pace again in June.

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Lawrason’s Take
John’s Top Picks
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Sommelier Selections

New Release and VINTAGES Preview