Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES September 5th, 2020

A Bushel of Good Buys for The First Real Fall Weekend

By David Lawrason with Picks from Sara, Michael and John

The week after Labour Day week is always one of the most intense and stressful of the year, all amplified here in 2020 of course.  So, I want to keep this newsletter almost completely stress and issue free. You really just want to grab onto interesting, very good quality and good value wines as you stop to breathe this weekend. We really enjoyed this batch, and overall sensed a higher quality than in the summer releases.


Before moving to our picks, I want to let you know that we are rebounding nicely from the COVID cancellation of Vintages tastings. We have been able to taste over 60 wines from this release, (with another dozen or so previously reviewed) which is now a higher number than we were tasting at Vintages lab pre COVID.

Dozens of importers are delivering samples to our office or giving us permission to buy their wines with reimbursement to follow, and I really want to thank them for stepping up. It speaks to a certain respect for what we are doing. They know that they are not necessarily getting better reviews or ratings by providing samples. Some non-participants don’t bother for this reason.  But the vast majority that do participate understand that an objective local press, which tastes that very wine on the LCBO shelf at the time of release, and which speaks directly to thousands of their customers in Ontario, is providing a real service to their base.

So, without further adieu, here we go with our bushel of good autumn buys from the Sept 5th release.

Review of Vintages Sept 5 Release


Lafazanis Geometria Moschofilero 2018, Pgi Peloponnese, Greece
$17.95, Eurovintage Wines & Spirits
John Szabo – A classically fragrant, floral expression of moschofilero, a variety reminiscent of pinot gris, here very much in the Alsatian style, fleshy, ripe, round. There’s a vague impression of sweetness from ripe fruit, also lightly honeyed and waxy flavours, while length and depth are excellent in the price category. There’s a lot of wine here for the money.
Michael Godel – More than just aromatic moschofilero from the Peloponnese here in fact this floral and waxy example is downright expressive. Just a joy to swish and swirl, then of course swallow. Enjoy the love out of this Greek speciality.

Bachelder Wismer Wingfield Ouest Vineyard Chardonnay 2017, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$47.95, Lifford Wines and Spirits
Michael Godel –  At first Thomas Bachelder bottled this Bench chardonnay in 2010 and 2011 as “Wismer,” then the interim “Wingfield” and by 2015, “Ouest.” Bachelder is activating the Burgundian paradigmatic shift in the pinpointing of specific vineyard rows and spots. He champions the altitude (163m) and relative proximity (8.6 km from the lake). One more year will really pull out the nuance maybe missed right now.

Seifried Old Coach Road Sauvignon Blanc 2020, Nelson, New Zealand
$21.95, Azureau Wines
David Lawrason – Seifreid is a pioneer in Nelson, a cool climate enclave on the northwest tip of the South Island that delivers very zesty sauvignon. Brimming with intense green lime and caper flavours this almost electric with surprising length.

Kahurangi Mount Arthur Reserve Riesling 2017, Nelson, New Zealand
$24.95, Rare Earth Wines
Michael Godel – This is wonderfully if seemingly dry (even at 12 g/L residual sugar) and spirited vegan riesling from (Upper) Moutere clay off of a South Island’s oldest single Nelson vineyard at reasonable alcohol and more than a shake of potential to become something all together new in just a few years time.
Sara d’Amato – A riesling lovers riesling, this dry, zesty number is peppery and reductive offering almost over-the-top minerality and is brimming with flavours of fresh squeezed lime and passion fruit. Goosebump-enducing.

Glenelly Estate Reserve Chardonnay 2018, Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa
$18.95, H.H.D. Imports
John Szabo – Glenelly is the property of May de Lencquesaing, former owner of Pauillac’s cru classé Pichon-Lalande, and this is uncommonly classy, complex, sub-$20 chardonnay that would put many much more expensive wines to shame. It’s genuinely sophisticated, with measured oak influence.

Decelle Côtes du Rhône Villages Blanc 2018, Rhône, France
$15.95, Marchands Des Amriques Inc.
Sara d’Amato – Decelle is made under the auspices of Lavau, a family estate now run by Frédéric and Benoît Lavau that have built a respectable wine empire in the Rhône Valley. A real treat to find such a delightful Côtes du Rhône white from the village of Valréas at this price. It offers a salty, vibrant profile with head-turning notes of peach, violets and lavender.


M Minuty Rosé 2019, Ap Côtes De Provence, France
$26.95, Mark Anthony Group
John Szabo – Clean, clear and fragrant, this is another sophisticated rosé from Château Minuty, a family affair on the Saint Tropez peninsula. Expect classic peach and tart-sweet red berry flavours, crisp acids and balanced alcohol with exceptional length and depth – a fine rosé to be sure.

Château Val-Joanis Tradition Rosé 2019, Luberon, Rhone Valley, France
$16.95, The Vine Agency
David Lawrason -This is a very pale, typical Provencal styled rose with fine, subtle aromas of red currant, saffron and herbs. It is very well balanced, which is the key to success when making these delicate wines.


Tyrrell’s Hunter Valley Shiraz 2017, New South Wales, Australia
$24.95, Select Wine Merchants
David Lawrason – Hunter shiraz always play lighter and leaner than Barossa or McLaren Vale, with some minerality as well. Intriguing blueberry-pomegranate fruit, juniper-sage herbality, pepper and an echo of oak spice from ageing in 2700 litre old casks. This is a classic!
Michael Godel – Now here is just how the gift of Hunter Valley shiraz can drift with hypnotic purpose, to draw you in and make you swoon in anticipation. Deep red fruit under a reductive spell, so meaty and scenting in aromatic reveal. The family recipe has done it. Really done it. Thank you to the Tyrrells once again.
John Szabo – I’m a fan of Hunter shiraz, generally more savoury than examples from South Australia, as in this balanced, perfumed, black pepper-inflected bottling from arch-classic producer Tyrrell’s. Length and depth, and especially complexity, far exceed the mean in this category – a wine of sophistication and elegance, and genuine character.

Ferraton Père & Fils La Matinière Crozes Hermitage 2017, Rhône Valley, France
$26.95, Family Wine Merchants
John Szabo – A classic northern Rhône syrah, complete with cold cream/zinc oxide, black pepper and cassis fruit in spades. Textbook stuff.
Michael Godel – The savoury accent to the aromatics and the meaty, marbled to cured flavours are classically Crozes-Hermitage so double bonus points for this Matinière being both honest and correct.

Bachelder Wismer-Parke Ouest Vineyard Pinot Noir 2017, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment
$44.95, Bachelder Wines
David Lawrason – This is a classic nervy Niagara pinot from the vintage that best defines what Niagara pinot is all about.  Sure handed, complex and nuanced with judicious 12.5% alcohol.

Paolo Conterno Anforti 2016, Igt Toscana Tuscany, Italy
$24.95, Lifford Wine & Spirits
John Szabo – This is my first look at Piedmontese producer Paolo Conterno’s Tuscan offerings from the Tenuta Ortaglia overlooking Florence, and it is impressive. Anforti is a blend of merlot and sangiovese from the excellent 2016 vintage, and I love the nose off the top, that classic Tuscan dusty road and wild resinous herbal character, more sangiovese than merlot, save for the adjunct of darker, plummier fruit brought by the latter. All in all, a really well-made, table friendly bottle that will make many friends no doubt.

Enrico Serafino Barbaresco 2016, Docg Piedmont, Italy
$31.95, Majestic Wine Cellars
John Szabo – Alert for fans of Nebbiolo – this is a superb deal, from the excellent 2016 vintage. Serafino, over-delivers in the category, with all of the perfumed varietal character and an extra measure of depth and ripeness. Drink or hold 5-6 years.

Ama Chianti Classico DOCG 2016, Tuscany, Italy,
$35.95, Halpern Enterprises
Michael Godel – Ama is, as it is known, like Prince or Bono, a really rich and full ’16. Quite substantial for 2016 and for Annata CC as a category. Tells us that these Gaiole vineyards are some of the finest in the territory.

Domaine Lafage Cuvée Nicolas Vieilles Vignes Grenache Noir 2018, Côtes Catalanes, Roussillon, France
$19.95, Glencairn Wine Merchants
David Lawrason – This is old vine grenache in a hot vintage from the warmest corner of southeast France on the Catalonian frontier. It’s a textbook grenache, delivering a fine sense of garrigue and minerality and excellent length for the money.

Vasse Felix Filius Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Margaret River, Western Australia
$24.95, Breakthru Beverage Canada
David Lawrason – Here’s a classic, youthful, exuberant yet poised Margeret River cabernet! Expect very generous almost perfectly ripened blackcurrant fruit with juniper/eucalyptus greens, dark chocolate and graphite. It is medium-full bodied, dense and superbly balanced, with refined if firm tannin, and excellent length. This is superb value and classic New World cabernet.

El Angosto La Tribuna 2018, Do Valencia Spain
$13.95, Brand New Day Wines & Spirits
John Szabo – Super sharp little value here in a red GSM blend that walks the line between old world swarthy, savoury character and new world sweetness and fruit. Tannins are soft and velvety, alcohol a generous but balanced 13.5% declared and length exceeds expectations in the category. If you don’t mind a vague impression of sweetness, this is a terrific everyday red with complexity that’s hard to come by sub-$15.
Sara d’Amato – A delicious, crunchy juicy Valencian blend of monastrell, syrah and garnacha at an excellent price. Featuring stylish packaging and a wealth of fruit, this youthful number makes for a perfect end of summer red and offers great versatility with food.

El Escocés Volante Manga Del Brujo 2017, DO Calatayud, Spain
$16.95, Kylix Wines
David Lawrason – Made by Scottish MW Norrel Robertson now living, making wine and writing in north-east Spain, this is a creative blend of old vine garnacha (grenache) plus syrah, tempranillo and mazuelo (mourvedre). Almost an Australian ambiance – but drier and more savoury. Excellent value

Tenute Salvaterra Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2016, Veneto, Italy
$18.95, Vino Luna
Sara d’Amato – Unexpected but delightful. Although this Valpolicella Ripasso has more similarities to a northern Rhône syrah than its rich Corvina-based counterparts, its pepper, licorice and black currant notes make for an undeniably sensual aromatic profile.

Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir 2016, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand
$49.95, Charton Hobbs
Sara d’Amato – Don’t be concerned about the vintage because this pinot noir is fresh as a daisy. A top-notch vintage for pinot noir due to warm, dry conditions yielding complex wines with above average depth – notably exemplified in one of Marlborough’s best, Cloudy Bay.

And that’s a wrap for this edition. Watch for review of the Sept 19 release on September 24.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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.

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Mix
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys

New Release and VINTAGES Preview


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