Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES November 14th, 2020

Review of Vintages Nov 14 Release

Here Comes Gifting Season 2020
by David Lawrason, with notes from John, Michael and Sara

The Christmas season is apparently upon us. I am not feeling it, but Vintages is featuring Gifting Wines, which is all the proof I need.

In 2020 there is even more reason to gift and make people happy, but we also need to look at this year differently in terms of our holiday interactions. Not getting together may be the greatest gift. And maybe skipping some of the Holiday rituals might actually be refreshing, and provide opportunity to do things differently.  It is just one Christmas after all, not the end of Christmas.

There are many excellent wines on the Nov 14 release, that I would love to receive as gifts.
Of note for Champagne lovers is the release of Roederer Brut Premier, one of my go to Champagnes, in four formats depending on the size of your gathering – the 375ml half bottle to celebrate just about anything anytime even by yourself, the ‘regular’ 750ml for a romantic interlude, the 1500ml magnum for a Christmas meal within your bubble, and the 3000ml double magnum, which I suggest be saved for your COVID’s OVER bash.


In all, the WineAlign team has tasted over 80 of the wines on offer, with some focus on the more expensive wines and, as always, finding values and smart buys in the more affordable $20 to $40 range.  More and more agents are getting samples to us, or allowing us to purchase on their behalf upon release with reimbursement to follow.

One problem for us this year, because we are reviewing a week after release date, is that many of the most highly prized, trophy wines – like Italy’s Quintarelli Valpolicella and Luce Brunello – may by now have disappeared from the shelves.  I am also aware that Vintages is in the midst of issues that might make availability in a given store less reliable. Uncertain times here as well.

But we have put together a super solid list of recommendations

Premium Gifting Wines

Pieropan Vigna Garzon 2015 Amarone Della Valpolicella DOCG, Veneto, Italy
$63.95, Vonterra Enterprises
John Szabo – A perfect wine for collectors, with terrific ageing potential, comfortably into the ‘30s, and in need of at least 3-5 more years. Pieropan are leaders not only in Soave, but in Valpolicella as well, with grapes here from their Garzon vineyard, purchased as a virgin parcel high up in the Val d’IIlasi at near 400m, and planted in 2000 on pure limestone. This is a classic in the genre.

Brancaia Riserva 2015 Chianti Classico DOCG, Tuscany, Italy
$42.95, Trialto Wine Group
David Lawrason This is a mid-weight, nicely energetic and fairly intense, maturing Chianti with very pretty aromatics. It is both lively and rich on the palate, slightly sour-edged. Tannins are fine. Excellent length.
John Szabo – Premium Chianti Classico from a well-respected producer, showing really well now. The wood influence prevalent when last tasted in February 2019 has ceded way to a more classic expression: firm sangiovese in its blood orange essence. Drink or hold mid-term.

Domaine Chanson 2014 Les Chenevottes Chassagne-Montrachet 1er Cru, Burgundy, France
$89.95, John Hanna & Sons
David Lawrason – What a great opportunity to buy a very fine, maturing white Burgundy. It has all kinds of grip, structure and intensity. It is very firm, mineral and slightly tart with excellent to outstanding length.
Michael Godel – From a classic limestone strewn vineyard in Côte-d’Or, the winemaking has protected this chardonnay like a fortress and with some agitation the flinty streak gives way to pure Chassagne delicacy. A really terrific and properly structured example from a cool 2014 that drinks almost as fresh as the day it was bottled.
Sara d’Amato – Les Chevenottes (“the hemp field) shares many commonalities with that that of the Grand Cru Montrachet and although it is located a touch higher up on the slope, it is capable of producing breathtaking wines of remarkable richness. This wintry chardonnay is stylishly a bit reductive with an elegant toastiness to the palate complimented by salty drawn butter, peach and apple. A very fine oak treatment has meshed the flavours together beautifully. A memorable gift for the chardonnay lovers in your life.

Cristom Mt. Jefferson Cuvée 2017 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA
$57.95, Du Chasse Wines & Spirits
John Szabo – A wine for Burgundy drinkers disgruntled by tall prices and short availability. This is terrific pinot from Oregon, very much in a dark, spicy Côtes de Nuits style, made from a blend of biodynamically-farmed estate vineyards in the volcanic Eola-Amity Hills AVA and neighboring vineyards on a variety of soil types, elevations and aspects. The Cristom house style calls for a large percentage of whole bunch (almost 50% in 2017), hence the spice and structure on offer. Drink or hold into the late ’20s without concern.
Michael Godel – The house blend is so very specific to Cristom, a Mt. Jefferson Cuvée from es-tate pinot noir vineyards. The fruit is rich and celebrates a vintage; the flavours are well-rounded and generous; the structure is notable but not overly demanding.

Montes 2017 Purple Angel DO Colchagua Valley, Chile
$69.95, Profile Wine Group
David Lawrason  -Purple Angel is a blend of 92% carmenere and 8% petit verdot, both late-ripening Bordeaux varieties that have a found a home in Chile. This is a big luxurious red, yet detailed and well balanced, with almost creamy, warming core, firm tannin and excellent length.

Smart Buy Whites

Jules Taylor 2018 Chardonnay Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand
$19.95, Vinexx
John Szabo –
Lovely, fresh, oak-backwards, vibrant Marlborough chardonnay, with crunchy acids and good to very good length. This is a terrific value wine I must say, far over-delivering in the price category while displaying classic cool climate poise and freshness.
Michael Godel – Perfectly fresh, crisp and oh so drinkable chardonnay. Just a minor note of proper reduction and later on a feeling that wood is enriching the fruit with a gentle urge makes this bookended proposition a perfectly executed one and at the price makes it even more proper. Great value right here.
Sara d’Amato – Priced well enough for weeknight drinking but a cut above the norm. A textural wine with surprising concentration, balance and expression. Think of a buttery apple turnover with the perfect flaky crust.

Graham Beck Brut Sparkling, DO Western Cape, South Africa
$18.95, Vinexx
Michael Godel – The latest disgorgement of master Robertson sparkling wine blender Peter Ferreira is a chardonnay and pinot noir joint effort as fresh as it is luxe. Go to, as in you would be hard pressed to find this quality anywhere on the planet. What could this not be used for?

Whitehaven Greg Reserve 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, South Island
$23.95, E & J Gallo Wines
David Lawrason – Although Whitehaven is based in the Wairau Valley this is from a single vineyard in cooler Awatere. It is very impressive with a bright, clean nose of dill, pineapple, lemon and grapefruit. It is bright, bold and intense.

Mega Spileo Cuvée III 2019 White PGI Achaia, Peloponnese, Greece
$17.95, The Kolonaki Group Inc
John Szabo – Imagine if Marlborough sauvignon blanc, N. Rhône viognier and Chablis met in a bottle: it would taste something like this. (though it’s actually a blend of malagousia, assyrtiko, and chardonnay.) Clean and fresh, lively and fruity-floral-herbal, this is a compelling blend, well worth a look at the price, a delightful aperitif wine, or for all manner of light appetizers, or mezes, as it were.
Michael Godel –  One of Greece’s secret hidden whites, the Mega III is a blend is two parts Peloponnese (malagouzia, assyrtiko) and one part Bourgogne (chardonnay) all raised in arch professional acumen in Eigalia’s breathtaking hills. The opulence is thwarted by sweet bitters and a texture that swirls on the palate like bees in a hive. Must try, must buy.

Muré Orchidées Sauvages 2018 Gewurztraminer, Alsace, France
$22.95, Nicolas Pearce Wines
David Lawrason This is a somewhat restrained gewurz with a sense of delicacy that is hard to accomplish with such an aromatic and expressive variety. It is full bodied, soft and off-dry with nicely focused and classic flavours.

Smart Buy Reds

Penfold’s Max’s 2018 Shiraz/Cabernet, South Australia
$29.95, Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits
David Lawrason This is a relatively new label in the Penfold’s pantheon, offering great value Penfold’s full bodied, four-square yet elegant style. It misses the length of the much more expensive Bin wines but it is very impressive.
John Szabo – While Grange ($995) or even the Bin 389 Cabernet/Shiraz ($100) are not in everybody’s budget, here’s a smart way into the marquee Penfolds brand, with premium wine inside as a bonus. Indeed, it over-delivers in the Penfolds’ range in my view, a worthy homage to legendary winemaker Max Schubert, creator of Grange. Drink or better yet hold 2-3 years for a more complete expression.

Château Tayac 2016, AC Margaux, Bordeaux, France
$41.95, Mark Anthony Group
Michael Godel – Exemplary fruit concentration from an outstanding vintage with real guts to match the level of joy. Phenomenal value for Margaux and 2016 Bordeaux.

Cave Du Château De Chénas 2018 Cru Chénas AC, Beaujolais, France
$19.95, Vinexx
John Szabo – A cru Beaujolais made in the traditional method, without carbonic maceration, demonstrating the ripeness and power of the 2018 vintage. I’d suggest another year or two in the cellar to really celebrate the savoury-mineral side, or decant an hour or so before serving at 16ºc to bring out more fruit now.

Redbrook Estate 2016 Cabernet/Merlot, Margaret River, Australia
$39.95, Eurovintage Wines & Spirits
Sara d’Amato – Margaret River excels in growing wines that should balance, restraint and freshness. With a foot in both the old world and the new world, this aromatic Bordelaise style blend has a playful savory-sweet character, notes of dried herbs, blackberry and graphite. Luxurious yet sophisticated, this red is sure to please widely.

Frankland Estate 2017 Shiraz, Frankland River, Western Australia
$24.95, The Case for Wine
Sara d’Amato – This Frankland River shiraz is complemented by a touch of malbec, Marsanne and viognier giving impressive aromatic lift. A little fresher and more balanced than most shiraz of this price from Southern Australia, this intensely pepery, floral and black currant dominated is undeniably alluring.

Guigal 2016 Gigondas, Rhône, France
$42.95, Vinexx
Sara d’Amato – The 2016 vintage was one great vintage on the heels of another in the Rhône and southern blend shows the complexity of a long growing season. Quite hearty and muscular with a lovely salinity. Ripe red fruit, wild garrigue and excellent length.


And that’s a wrap for this edition. There are two more Vintages releases before Christmas so we will be back with many more recommendations. Cheers!

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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Lawrason’s Take
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