Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES November 28th, 2020

John Szabo’s Vintage’s Preview November 28th: Smart Buys Over and Under $30

By John Szabo MS, with notes from David Lawrason, Michael Godel, and Sara d’Amato

Plenty of wine continued to flow from glass to palate to spittoon this past month, including 860 wines for the Guide to Canada’s Best Wines, along with many dozens to fill the WineAlign Exchange subscription boxes with the best wines outside of the LCBO, and of course the Vintages Release tastings, which have become more comprehensive than ever. We also successfully dusted off the Think You Know Wine tasting series, for which Sara, David, Michael and I put our blind tasting skills to the test from the discomfort of our living rooms via Zoom and Facebook live, with hilarious, entertaining, informative and occasionally correct results. Last Saturday, nearly 500 people tuned in to watch and taste along with us, though you can always catch the video replays. Join us at 5pm on December 12th for the next episode; sign up early to learn which wines we’ll be tasting so you can buy and taste as well (just don’t tell us!). Our pens have also been flowing for special features: catch David’s latest Canadian Wine Insider discussing value and new and emerging regions and varieties. Sara gives us an opportunity to Rediscover the Médoc, that famous sliver of Bordeaux where things aren’t as motionless as you might think, and brings us up to speed on the general Vin de France category. I go deep on my new favourite topic, sustainability, in both Austria and New Zealand with a look at what these two leading countries are doing for environmental and social good. And lastly, Wine Thieving podcast partner Sara and I launch a three-part series on the next generation of the Médoc. And finally, in this newsletter, we give you our top over and under $30 wines from the November 28th release, a collection of sharp values and smart splurges.



Vintages Buyer’s Guide November 28th: Under $30 White

Jardin Inspector Péringuey 2019 Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa
$17.95, Abcon Wine Merchants
David Lawrason – Five-star value chenin, capturing the grape’s essential pear/quince fruit, linden flower and a certain waxiness and spice. It is medium bodied, rounded with a hint of sweetness, firm almost crunchy acidity and excellent length.

Greystone Barrel Fermented 2018 Sauvignon Blanc, Waipara Valley, New Zealand
$26.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo – This sauvignon from North Canterbury is a world apart from classic Marlborough examples, given wild yeasts, full barrel fermentation and ageing (all old wood) and 40% malo. It has evolved nicely since last tasted at the winery in July of 2019, now a superb bottle of wine for $27 – you’d pay far more for anything similar from Bordeaux or California. Drink or hold another 3-5 years.

Westcott Estate 2019 Chardonnay VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$29.95, Westcott Vineyards
John Szabo – This is a lovely chardonnay from Westcott, the best yet in my view. It combines the finest of Ontario fruit, ripe and peachy, with a firm streak of stony character and really well integrated barrel spice. The balance is effortless and the texture beguiling. Terrific value in the world context. Drink or hold mid-term.

Tinel Blondelet 2018 Génetin Pouilly Fumé, Loire, France
$29.95, The Case for Wine
Sara d’Amato – An arch-classic Pouilly-Fumé with exuberant notes of flint, chamomile and dried wild herbs. Almost dramatically nervy on the palate with notable complexity. Refreshing and authentic with great length.

Vintages Buyer’s Guide November 28th: Under $30 Red

Palacio Quemado 2018 Vendimia Seleccionada, DO Ribera del Guadiana Spain
$13.95, FWM Canada
John Szabo – From the Alvear family of Montilla-Moriles fame, Palacio Quemado in Extremadura on the Portuguese border is a progressive, exciting property, one to watch. This is the entry level tempranillo-garnacha blend, with plenty of character on offer for $14.

Alceño 12 Meses 2016 Monastrell, DO Jumilla Spain – Jumilla
John Szabo – Here’s a really fine, balanced and concentrated monastrell from Jumilla, with ripe but still fresh red and black berry fruit, and plenty of Mediterranean herbs, a sharp $16 value.

Monasterio De Las Viñas Special Selection 2016 Old Vine Garnacha, Carinena, Spain
$16.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits
David Lawrason – From 40+ year old vines this is a full, soft and delicious mash up of red fruits, florals and pepper. It is full bodied, warm, rounded and a touch sweet, but works well. A great cozy winter sipper that wants to be port when it grows up.
Sara d’Amato – This 12-month aged monastrell (mourvèdre), is juicy and vibrant despite having spent 4 years in bottle. Dry farmed, low-yielding vineyards resulted in great concentration. The wine was carefully aged both in new French and American oak whose presence is rather subtle on the palate. Great value.

Château Hauchat 2018 Fronsac, Bordeaux
$17.95, Connexion Oenophilia
David Lawrason – This preview of the ripe 2018 Bordeaux to come is very impressive the price. A nicely ripe and fairly rich merlot from the right bank with black raspberry, violet, vanillin and cedary spice. Quite smooth, dense and warm. Age it a couple of years.

Tedeschi Capitel Nicalò 2018 Valpolicella Superiore, Veneto, Italy
$17.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits
David Lawrason – I have flagged this wine before – always such good value, easy-drinking, balanced and fairly concentrated with red fruits, rosemary herbality and spice. Balanced, fresh and lively, with fine tannin. Good depth at the price.

El Enemigo Los Paraisos 2016 Bonarda, Mendoza, Argentina
$21.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits
Michael Godel – High-toned, well-oaked and spiced like few others. The success is in the survival and in terms of structure a good bet would be to see this open up more and more with two, three or four days. Impressive weight, balance and grip.

Odfjell Vineyards Orzada 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley, Chile
$24.95 Azureau Wine Agency
John Szabo – Organically and sustainably certified, also Vegan, this cabernet from the Maipo under Odfjell’s Orzada line made by French winemaker Arnaud Hereu is aged half in wood, though is not impacted noticeably. Solid, honest, well-made stuff.

Paddy Borthwick 2018 Paper Road Pinot Noir, Wairarapa, New Zealand
$24.95 Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
John Szabo – This is a lovely pinot, well priced and stylish, from Paddy Borthwick, his 2nd label. Chill lightly for maximum enjoyment.

Jim Barry 2017 Barry Bros Shiraz, Clare Valley, South Australia
$19.95, Family Wine Merchants
Sara d’Amato – Wine pioneers of the Clare Valley, Jim Barry winery has a notable reputation for riesling and cooler climate syrah. This entry level shiraz offers surprising aromatic complexity for the price. Lavender, licorice and pepper stand out amidst a low dose of oak. Upbeat and effortlessly drinkable.

Xavier Vignon 2018 Côtes du Rhône, Rhône, France
$17.95, Nobles Estates Wines & Spirits
Xavier once again hits the mark when it comes to well-priced Côtes-du-Rhône that overdelivers. Sara d’Amato – A very peppery, juicy and refreshing despite its full-bodied nature with youthful grenache taking center stage.

Perrin & Fils 2017 Les Cornuds Vinsobres, Rhône, France
$17.95, Charton Hobbs
Sara d’Amato – A steal at this price, Perrin consistently excels in the cooler village appellation of Vinsobres. Clean, taught and relatively modern in style, this syrah-grenache based blend is impressively seductive.

Vintages Buyer’s Guide November 28th: Over $30 White

Trimbach 2016 Réserve Pinot Gris AC Alsace, France
$31.95, Woodman Wines & Spirits
John Szabo – Reticent, earthy, but oh so dense and spicy, cumin-scented, Trimbach’s 2016 Réserve pinot gris is a classic in the genre, dry, neither soft nor acidic. Stately, not showy, reserved. Best now-2026.

Jean-Max Roger Cuvée Genèse 2018 Sancerre,  AC France, Loire
$33.95, Connexion Oenophilia
John Szabo – This is a fine and fresh, particularly lively and riveting 2018 Sancerre, defying the warm summer and coming up trumps in acids and vivacity. One of the best Sancerre’s I’ve tried from this vintage.

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos 2018 Chardonnay, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula
$44.95, Arterra Wines
David Lawrason – The second vintage since Le Clos Jordanne was resurrected, this has a certain grace, harmony and energy that is very sophisticated. Oak a bit overt and spicy now but should settle in.  It is medium weight, creamy yet buoyant with firm acidity, warming alcohol and considerable minerality.
John Szabo – The 2017 Grand Clos chardonnay was already off to a flying re-start, more so than Le Clos’s 2017 pinot noir, benefitting from a weird growing season that has quite inexplicably led to some of Ontario’s finest chardonnays to date. Yet the 2018 is immensely satisfying as well, a fine follow up, aromatically still reticent, but I love the subtle saline-salty caramel note on the finish that draws you inexorably back for another sip. I’d begin to enjoy this after 2021, or hold late in the ’20s without concern.
Michael Godel – Thomas Bachelder’s second vintage since the reprise of Le Clos Jordanne’s chardonnay and pinot noir is perhaps the most nurtured (and nurturing) in its attention to detail. Perfectly easy to drink right now and imperfectly set up for aging, but that’s just not the point.


Selbach-Oster Wehlener Sonnenuhr 2018 Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany
$45.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits
David Lawrason From one of the most prized vineyards of the Mosel this late-harvest spatlese offers detail and complexity, with peach, honey, orange/lemon blossom and subtle candied ginger. It is medium weight and medium sweet a rich yet poised palate with a trail of minerality.
John Szabo – An exceptional spätlese 2018 here from Selbach, dripping with ripe fruit per the vintage, but also fixed with riveting acids and a minty freshness. This was evidently designed for the long term, and indeed the sulfur is still a touch high to protect the considerable residual sugar on the palate. Best after about 2024 I’d say – there’s a lot of stuffing here to ensure future development.
Michael Godel – The triad of producer, appellation and vineyard gets no more arch classic than this with a riesling in spätlese form from the hands of Selbach-Oster. The pitch and sway in this Wehlener Sonnenuhr vineyard is 2018 dance card perfect, tight and fluid.
Sara d’Amato – A showstopping Spätlese that is above the norm in unctuous texture and fruit. Medium-sweet, full-bodied with compelling natural spice and tangible tension due to excellent balance. Highly memorable. Enjoy on its own or with soft ripe cheeses.

Domaine Du Vieux Lazaret 2018 Châteauneuf-Du-Pape Blanc, Rhone Valley, France
$46.95, Univins and Spirits Canada
David Lawrason – Wonderful to see a rare white CDP – like sighting a white rhino in these parts. It is a fine example if a bit restrained with vague melon, spice, vanillin and florals and some flinty reduction. Full and fairly firm with precise balance. A cellaring white.
Michael Godel – Traditional excellence is a beautiful thing when it comes to Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe Blanc and this by Lazaret is a symbol of that credibility. The blend forms an unbreakable bond. They create unction, textural oneness and a spice component that renders or melts right in. Lovely balance and elegance.

Vintages Buyer’s Guide November 28th: Over $30 Red

Marchand Tawse 2018 Bourgogne Cote d’Or Pinot Noir, AOC Bourgogne, France
$33.95, Burgundy Direct
Michael Godel – Fruit is from Nuits Prémeaux plus Marsannay and then Côtes de Beaune. Rich to nearly decadent with that swarm of volatile compounds and delicious stemmy-ness (likely some whole bunch inclusion) that raises the bar, the game and the hunter’s gaminess of this wine.

Boekenhootskloof 2018 The Chocolate Block, WO Swartland, South Africa
$39.95, Univins And Spirits Canada
John Szabo – 2018 is a fine vintage for the Chocolate Block, becoming ever-more savoury and edgy (and less chocolatey) it seems with each vintage. There’s a real ferrous-iron quality to this wine, with plenty of dark fruit and scorched earth, a hugely satisfying wine all in all. Also available in magnum (cellar for another 3-5 years; the 750ml should be ready a year or two earlier). 69% syrah, 13% grenache, 9% cinsault, 8% cabernet sauvignon, and 1% viognier.

Le Saint-Estèphe 2015 De Cos Labory, St. Estèphe, Bordeaux
$41.95, Mark Anthony Group
David Lawrason The second label of one my favourite St. Estèphe châteaux in an excellent vintage. Terrific nose of blackcurrant/blackberry, cedar, fine spice, leather and a ferrous minerality I associate with St. Estèphe.  Full bodied, dense and balanced if still firmly tannic. A reasonably priced window into what good Bordeaux is all about.


Tenuta Sette Ponti 2017 Oreno, IGT Toscana, Italy
$86.95, Trialto Wine Group Ltd.
John Szabo – 2017, a hot year in Tuscany, has yielded a super concentrated, intense and luxuriant edition of Sette Ponti’s Oreno, weighing in at 15% alcohol declared. It’s a massive mouthful of quality wine, tame enough to enjoy now with a good splash decant, but also cellar-worthy for another couple of decades. A great success for the vintage.

Signorello 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, Unfiltered, Napa Valley, California
$124.95, Profile Wine Group
Michael Godel – Truly lucky to have a Signorello release here in Ontario and that can’t be taken for granted. From 1990 plantings on Silverado Trail hillsides, by now some of Napa Valley’s most prized and important fruit. There is no hiding from the lush and suave rush of this pristine fruit.

That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo MS

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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