Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES October 16th Release

Review of VINTAGES Oct 16th ReleaseMore Producer Themed Features, Please

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

During the 45 minutes I spent last Saturday shopping at the Vintages Kingsway store in Toronto for samples from the October 16th release, about a dozen people bee-lined to the back of the store where Sassicaia 2018, at $250 per bottle, was being doled out two per customer from behind the tasting bar. At that rate, I am certain it is now sold out around the province, but we review it here for you anyway, as folks are always curious. I just hope those who bought it know they are paying more for its history (Tuscany’s first cabernet-based super Tuscan) than the wine itself. And, that the thrill of ownership will likely eclipse the thrill of drinking a glass or two (you will be sharing that bottle no doubt).

As our reviews make clear, it is an excellent to outstanding wine, but to me the attraction is the detailed elegance it delivers, rather than some sort of sensory jolt or enrapturement. And, I got that same feeling of detail and fine pitch from the other two wines from Tenuta San Guido released simultaneously. Guidalberto and Le Difese are scoring just a point or two below Sassicaia, again largely based on the sense of elegance and linearity.  I would easily spend $250 on three bottles of Guidalberto or six bottles of Le Difese before buying one bottle of Sassicaia. You can read the full reviews of all the WineAlign critics by following the links.

Sassicaia 2018

Sassicaia 2018, Tuscany, Italy
$249.95, Sylvestre Wines & Spirits

Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2019

Tenuta San Guido Guidalberto 2019, Tuscany, Italy
$66.95, Sylvestre Wines & Spirits

Tenuta San Guido Le Difese 2019

Tenuta San Guido Le Difense 2019, Tuscany, Italy
$38.95, Sylvestre Wines & Spirits

I commend Vintages (and importer Sylvestre Wines) for releasing these three at the same time, for the educational opportunity on Tenuta San Guido that it offers. There are two other such themes baked into this release, with one of course being the Australian feature, and the other being the simultaneous release of three southern ‘cru’ Rhone reds by Famille Perrin.


More in a moment on these, but first, a suggestion that Vintages should and could do better to feature certain producers from around the world with multiple, simultaneous releases.  Why they don’t do that is a mystery, but I think it has to do with a culture that the LCBO is our wine nanny, always to be broadminded and fair to everyone in the global village, rather than being the gutsy retailer who can buy and sell aggressively to the few who might be really interested. Why not build one producer profile into every Vintages release?  Still sounds fair to me.

Take Penfolds of Australia, for example. The Australian selection features just one (excellent) Penfold’s wine – Kalimna Bin 28 Shiraz – which was actually first released last October.  Penfolds has a stunning collection of “Bin” Series wines that are released as an ensemble at roughly this time of year in markets around the world.  Why not here and now in Ontario?  The Australian feature is also disappointing in that it is a round up, or “sizing up” as the catalogue puts it, with a lot of familiar mid-priced brands.  Vintages did do a more off-beat Aussie collection recently, but what I really wanted here was a more upscale, focused selection rather than a splish-splash based on grape varieties and regions, at Vintages trance-like price zone of $18 to $25.

The other pleasant surprise – that really brought my attention to this simultaneous release idea – was three Famille Perrin wines from village cru in the southern Rhone, the Perrin family’s sandbox. I am a big fan of the fairly priced, always interesting grenache and syrah based reds emanating from this ‘right bank’ stretch of villages at the base of the Dentelles, a toothy mountain formation that is an out-runner of the Alps (with Mount Ventoux always a guide post). I am still sifting through the differences in the various villages from north to south – Valreas, Visan, Vinsobres, Roaix, Cairanne, Rasteau, Serguret, Sablet, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and Beaumes de Venise.  But I am really enjoying the journey, with Vacqueyras being my personal favourite. The Perrin selection does demonstrate the differences nicely.

So, onto our other picks and recommendations, from a very large release of which we have tasted about 60% present and past.


Hewitson Baby Bush Mourvèdre 2019

Hewitson Baby Bush Mourvèdre 2019, Barossa Valley, South Australia
$24.95, Wilson Wine & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo – So named since this wine hails from 1998 plantings of massale selections (cuttings) of mourvèdre from Hewitson’s Old Garden Vineyard planted in 1853, literally, the “babies from the parent vineyard grown as bush vines”. It’s a juicy, firm, fruity mourvèdre, finding comfortable balance for the variety’s often angular tannins, as well as succulent acids. There’s an ease of drinking and juiciness here that invites you back.
Sara d’Amato – This mourvèdre is an absolute treat and surprisingly accessible. The tannins are much finer than you might expect and the lavender-tinged plum on the palate intertwined with sweet anise is a dynamo flavour combination. Not to be missed.

Langmeil Prime Cut Shiraz 2018, Barossa Valley, South Australia

Langmeil Prime Cut Shiraz 2018, Barossa Valley, South Australia
$21.95, Breakthrough Beverage
David Lawrason – This dark shiraz shows very lifted, deep and fetching aromas of blackcurrant, eucalyptus, pepper and dark chocolate. It is full bodied, dense, rich and a touch sweet edged with very fruit focus and depth. Tannins are notably low key and fine brushed.
Michael Godel – A most excellent value because fruit and backbone are one in the same. So ideal for prime rib, juices running, meaty and rare.

Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles 2019

Torbreck Cuvée Juveniles 2019, Barossa Valley, South Australia
$29.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
David Lawrason – This youthful grenache-shiraz-mourvedre blend shows very pretty, pure aromas of lifted spiced plums, fresh mint, pepper and spice. It is medium-bodied, juicy, jammy and lively yet seriously structured as well.

Longview Vista Shiraz/Barbera 2019

Longview Vista Shiraz/Barbera 2019, Adelaide Hills, South Australia
$19.95, Azureau Wines & Spirits
Sara d’Amato – A fresh and inspired blend of shiraz and barbera that complement each other remarkably well. Floral, pepper, meaty and refreshing, all at once, the palate is upbeat with supple tannins and impressive length. A well-priced curio find from an Italian specialist in the cooler Adelaide Hills.

White Wines

Clos Pegase Mitsuko's Vineyard Chardonnay 2019

Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2019, Napa Valley, California       
$44.95, Azureau Wine Agency               
John Szabo – A deep and generous, classic Carneros chardonnay, from the Mitsuko Vineyard on the Napa side of the appellation, which takes its name from founder Jan Shrem’s late wife. It blends California sun and cool Carneros fog to great effect. Solid quality, superior wine, attractively priced.
Sara d’Amato – Exhibiting the classic freshness of Carneros grown fruit, this iconic chardonnay is bold but balanced with impressive length. Citrus is juxtaposed by buttery richness on the palate and the texture is both chalky and lightly oily. Memorably dynamic with excellent length.

Tommasi Paternoster Vulcanico Falanghina 2019

Tommasi Paternoster Vulcanico Falanghina 2019, Basilicata, Italy
$18.95, Univins And Spirits Canada Inc.
David Lawrason – Falanghina has emerged has a leading white variety of southern Italy. This is a fairly deeply coloured, hefty example with a fairly generous, almost tropical nose. It is medium-full bodied, quite firm and almost stony, with very good to excellent length.
John Szabo –
Falanghina from the slopes of Monte Vulture, an extinct volcano on the border between Campania and Basilicata, made by one of the region’s most storied estates now owned by the Tommasi family of Valpolicella fame. It’s unusually (and pleasantly) perfumed for the variety, while the palate delivers an impressive freight of flavour in the price category.

Vignerons De Buxy Buissonnier Montagny 2018

Vignerons De Buxy Buissonnier Montagny 2018, Burgundy, France
$20.95, Vinexx
John Szabo – A lovely, white flower and white orchard fruit-scented Montagny from the excellent cooperative at Buxy in the Côte Châlonnaise, a fine source of value in the region. Acids are softer than the mean (thanks to a warm vintage), making this a wine for more short term enjoyment.
David Lawrason – This delivers year after year. Not great depth or complexity but the poise is almost perfect, delivering fairy ripe yellow apple/peachy fruit with subtle toast and vanillin. It is mid-weight, fresh yet creamy with fine, firm minerality at its core.

Flat Rock Cellars Unplugged Unoaked Chardonnay 2020

Flat Rock Cellars Unplugged Unoaked Chardonnay 2020, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$17.95, Flat Rock Cellars
Michael Godel – Oh my just an ideal vintage for Flat Rock’s oakless chardonnay. Clean, crystal clear and fresh.

Le Vieux Pin Ava 2018

Le Vieux Pin Ava 2018, Okanagan Valley, B.C.
$43.95, Les Grappes Inc.
David Lawrason – Ava is a blend of roussanne, marsanne and viognier by Severine Pinte who began her career in the south of France and has expertly translated the genre to the Okanagan. It was fermented and aged in French oak, new tulip shaped concrete vats and stainless steel. It is a very fine nuanced and balanced wine, quite rich yet elegant. (Flagship Stores Exclusive).

Forager Western Cape White 2020

Forager Western Cape White 2020, Western Cape, South Africa
$14.95, The Case for Wine
John Szabo – An Impressively deep and complex South African white blend of chenin blanc and grenache blanc for the money. I like the ripe, yellow fleshed orchard fruit, the pineapple and baked pear flavours, the zesty acids and the very good length. For short term enjoyment.

Red Wines

Famille Perrin La Gille Gigondas 2019

Famille Perrin La Gille Gigondas 2019, Rhône Valley, France
$29.95, Charton Hobbs Inc.
Sara d’Amato Rich and enticing but not showy, this Gigondas features great bones but also sensual aromatics that are characteristic of the region. Clean and fleshy with velvety, voluminous tannic presence. This appears to be an early maturing vintage for the La Gille Gigondas so no need to wait.
John Szabo – A wine that lives up to the reputation of the appellation and vies comfortably with many Châteauneuf-du-Pape at higher prices. It’s a big, fleshy Gigondas, with dense, liqueur-like fruit flavours, raspberry jam, plum pudding and similar, with high tannic extract and excellent length and depth.

Casa Silva Gran Terroir De Los Andes Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Casa Silva Gran Terroir De Los Andes Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Valle De Colchagua, Chile       
$22.95, The Case For Wine               
Michael Godel – Terrific example, parochial, in glossolalia, uttered in speech like sounds, appreciated and followed. Great linger here and naturally curative.
John Szabo – From the Los Lingues Estate in the Andean foothills of the Colchagua Valley and its volcanic-derived soils, this is bright, juicy, fresh but structured, appealingly lively and firm cabernet from Casa Silva. Drink or hold mid-term.

Famille Perrin Les Christins Vacqueyras 2018

Famille Perrin Les Christins Vacqueyras 2018, Rhone Valley, France
$24.95, Charton-Hobbs Inc.
David Lawrason – This is a 75-25 grenache-syrah blend from clay and sand terraces in the most southerly Rhone cru village, and one of my favourites. Not effusively aromatic but I like the deep ripe blueberry/plummy fruit with violet, light pepper and some shrubby garrigue character. It is quite full bodied, plush and dense with fine tannin.

Château Font Barrièle Les Vignes D'Héloïse 2019

Château Font Barrièle Les Vignes D’Héloïse 2019, Costieres de Nimes, Rhone Valley
$17.95, Profile Wine Group
David Lawrason – This is a 60-40 syrah grenache blend from a region on the west bank of the Rhone River near its mouth. It is medium-full bodied, fairly dense, smooth and rich with fine tannin. Wanted a bit more length but at the price it is just fine, and overall a great bargain for syrah lovers.

Tawse Quarry Road Pinot Noir 2018

Tawse Quarry Road Pinot Noir 2018, Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$35.95, Tawse Winery Inc
Sara d’Amato – Bright, crunchy and lively, this Quarry Road pinot noir feels authentic and unmanipulated yet clean and well-balanced. An excellent vintage with a generous aromatic character. Slowly accumulating complexity from maturity with great potential for longevity.

Morandé Gran Reserva Carmenère 2019

Morandé Gran Reserva Carmenère 2019, Maipo Valley, Chile
$16.95, Majestic Wine Cellars
David Lawrason This is a single vineyard carmenere aged in 18 months in French oak foudres. The nose is not highly effusive but it is quite fine with blackcurrant, pepper, violet, fresh herbs and some graphite. Not excessively green! It is full bodied, fairly dense yet streamlined; very appealing and excellent value.

Rustenberg John X Merriman 2019

Rustenberg John X Merriman 2019, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa
$24.95, Woodman Wines & Spirits
Michael Godel – One year ago we tasted the 2016 John X Merriman and so to assess 2019 at this stage is like reading the small print without the help of magnification. But we look for signs and this JKM will act out the greatness of Rustenberg reds no less than four years forward.

Dievole Novecento Chianti Classico Riserva 2016

Dievole Novecento Chianti Classico Riserva 2016, Tuscany, Italy
$33.95, Vin Passion (The Case For Wine)
Michael Godel – Last tasted 28 months ago and the present contention states that 32 to 36 remains the number to see this ’16 Riserva reach peak. Sangiovese, the vintage and this Vagliagli born Riserva forge a trifecta in requiem to see late winter 2022 as a time to revel in what is possible.

San Felice Il Grigio Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2016

San Felice Il Grigio Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2016, Tuscany, Italy
$48.95, Charton Hobbs Inc.
John Szabo – A superb wine from this important estate on an upward arc of quality, one of the best yet. It’s maturing and intensely perfumed, gently smoky, with plenty of resinous herbs and dried earth in the classic Tuscan idiom, with perfectly ripened tannins and succulent acids. Best 2022-2030.

Sparkling, Sweet & Fortified Wines

Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez Dulce Sherry

Gonzalez Byass Nectar Pedro Ximénez Dulce Sherry, Andalusia, Spain
$25.95 Woodman Wines & Spirits
John Szabo
Outrageously concentrated, sweet, liquid prune, honey, maple syrup, treacle and chocolate-flavoured PX here. Wow, it’s hard to imagine stuffing more flavour into a wine – it’s like drinking syrup, yet has excellent acids, and shape is provided by some tannic extract. What more can one ask for in this style?
David Lawrason –
This pours cloudy mahogany brown. The nose is very intense and dripping with molasses, prune, coffee bean and walnut aromas. Amazing! It is virtually a syrup and sweet to the max. But what lovely gloss and richness and the flavours glide to outstanding length. Very special.

Disznókó Late Harvest Tokaji Furmint 2017

Disznókó Late Harvest Tokaji Furmint 2017, Tokaji, Hungary
$26.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo – Classic, textbook late harvest tokaji from the historic, former imperial Disznókö estate, dripping with botrytis character, saffron, dried quince and apricot, so floral, honeyed and inviting. The palate is sweet but balanced beautifully buy ripe acids. At the price, it’s a steal.

Bella Sparkling Red 2019

Bella Sparkling Red 2019, Ontario             
$18.95, Pelee Island Winery
David Lawrason – Sparkling red wine is an increasingly important style, if producers of Lambrusco in Italy have anything to say about it. The style makes sense in Ontario as well and this just off-dry version catches the spirit nicely. Based on hybrid chambourcin with some pinot noir, it is lively, balanced – avoiding pastiness – and quite delicious.

Juve Y Camps Pinot Noir Brut Rosé Cava

Juve Y Camps Pinot Noir Brut Rosé Cava, Penedès, Spain             
$24.95, Profile Wine Group
Sara d’Amato – A highly perfumed traditional method fizz that offers an abundance of fresh, summer berry fruit on its dry, but not stark, palate. Youthful and brimming with tender rose, strawberry and cherry with just a hint of toastiness from limited lees contact. Excellent value.

And that’s a wrap for this time. John will be back with a round-up of the October 30 release during the first week of November. Watch this feed in the days ahead as we begin to roll out the results of the National Wine Awards of Canada, with new categories every day.


David Lawrason,
VP of Wine

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