Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES November 13th Release

Review of VINTAGES Nov 13th Release

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

‘Tis the Season to Give Good Wine

The big push to stock up on Holiday gifting wines at VINTAGES is in full swing, perhaps given more urgency because everything seems more urgent these days, even Christmas shopping. I don’t usually buy in to Christmas until about December 10, but I am feeling the tug now. After a bleak 2020 Christmas and very challenging 2021, including a (gratefully mild) bout of COVID, I am ready to be awash in the holiday spirit.

In the November 13 VINTAGES release, there are almost 150 wines and spirits, and in the upcoming November 27 release, another infusion of about 160. It is the time of year that people will open their wallets to more expensive wines, so both releases have plenty of big names and excellent wines, although the best go fast.

I am certainly of the persuasion that I will spend more on a bottle if it is a gift than I would if buying it for myself. And I would bet most people think the same way. I am in the very fortunate position to be able to try so many wines, and discover where the real values lie, and I am quite happy to buy and enjoy those for myself. I also know which of the more expensive wines are really worth giving as a gift, and might take the giftee off into a surprising and enjoyable new direction, which is a focus of our selections.

In recent years, VINTAGES’ big fall releases have featured the well-established big-name California and Tuscan wines, and I would bet a bottle of good Burgundy (only two minor ones in this release) that these two regions anchor the cellars of most Canadian collectors today. I make this bet because I have been doing some private cellar consultation and purchasing strategy work in recent weeks, a fascinating glimpse into how different people think about, purchase and use wine. They say that pets often resemble their owners…

But that’s a tangent for another day, because I want to return to the dominance of Napa cabernets and Super Tuscans and Brunellos in the collector’s repertoire, and why they make great gifts. They are so often talked about and highly rated by critics that there is a built-in “comfort of the known” factor that takes the stress out of purchasing. There is also the prestige and largesse inherent in giving big name labels. And lastly, they are indeed excellent wines, even if overpriced. The problem in the LCBO medium is that most are strictly allocated and sell out on the day of the release, with no other way to buy them.

Some have already been released in October and are now gone (eg Sassicaia, Tignanello and Luce), as I suspect is the case with the Nov 13 stars, which included the superb Luce 2016 Brunello di Montalcino and Masi Campolongo di Torbe Amarone 2012.  Coming up November 27 watch for Ornellaia 2018, Solaia 2018, Guado Al Tasso 2018, Antinori Pian del Vigne Brunello 2017, La Torre Brunello 2016, Caymus Special Select Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Grgich Hills Cabernet 2016, Ridge Geyserville 2019 and Chateau de Beaucastel 2018 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Safe, expensive, important wines.

We doubt that the WineAlign ‘cru’ will have an opportunity to taste them. From the perspective of the agents’ providing the samples these “sell themselves” so why slide them under the critics’ microscope? Well, it would be nice if consumers got to read about them from local critics they have come to know and hopefully trust, but I get that this is hardly a convincing argument for wines that are very expensive, with only reputations to lose, not gain.

So, this week, and when John returns for the upcoming November 27 release, we will attempt to provide recommendations for excellent gifting wine candidates, that may not be as obvious but will not disappoint.


Christophe Patrice Beauregard Chablis 1er Cru 2019

Christophe Patrice Beauregard Chablis 1er Cru 2019, Burgundy, France
$36.95, Nicolas Pearce Agency
Michael Godel – Gemstone cut, fine marbling and Kimmeridgian limestone chiseling. Terrific work once again from the Beines producer with more grape tannin and intensity than many.
David Lawrason –
Here’s a well-priced delicious, silky, ripe Chablis from yet another warm vintage. It has a classic if not effusive nose of yellow apple/peachy fruit with mineral/oyster shell, light lemon and crouton.

Cave Spring Csv Riesling 2018

Cave Spring Csv Riesling 2018, Beamsville Bench, Ontario      
$29.95, The Vine Agency                
David Lawrason – This is a study in elegance, poise and depth from one of most accomplished riesling producers of Niagara. And as riesling rarely achieves the price of rival chardonnay, this is excellent value as well. A very stylish homegrown gift.

Domaine Maire & Fils Grand Minéral Chardonnay 2018

Domaine Maire & Fils Grand Minéral Chardonnay 2018, Côtes du Jura, France
$19.95, Univins and Spirits Canada
Sara d’Amato –
Domaine Maire & Fils is one of the largest wineries in the Jura with 234 hectares of vines spread out between the region’s borders that extend from Switzerland and Burgundy. Chardonnay may not be native to the Jura but it has been grown here since the 10th century and Maire & Fils seemed to have sussed out ideal clay-limestone parcels that make for lively, characterful expressions. Pear, white peach and elderflower entice on the nose of this mineral-driven wine.

Robert Mondavi Oakville Fumé Blanc 2018

Robert Mondavi Oakville Fumé Blanc 2018,  Oakville, Napa Valley, California
$49.95, Arterra Wines Canada
David Lawrason – This is a robust, complete barrel-aged sauvignon from the Napa house doing it best. Mondavi is a big name but possession of a spectacular sauvignon vineyard for decades has enableD this distinctive, full bodied, spicy and savoury white.


Brigaldara Cavolo Amarone Della Valpolicella 2015

Brigaldara Cavolo Amarone Della Valpolicella 2015, Veneto, Italy         
$46.95, Rogers & Co      
David Lawrason – I love the lifted rosemary that permeates the nose of this wine – such a particular scent from some Amarones. There are also red strawberry-cherry jam notes, a certain meatiness and spice. It is medium-full bodied, very smooth and balanced.
Sara d’Amato – A surprisingly bright Amarone with a riveting nose featuring dried herbs, wildflower, black currant and red cherry. The alcohol is impressively balanced, and the oak treatment is notably elegant and well-meshed. Acidity and a slight bitterness lift the fruit and keep the palate from feeling heavy. A sophisticated showstopper that is sure to impress.
Michael Godel – Such a subtle and elegant Amarone can indeed be pulled from a wine at 16 per cent alcohol. Cavolo does so by distracting or rather inviting you into so many different aspects of its existence. Don’t touch this yet as so many forces are needing to find one another.

Stags' Leap Winery The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Stags’ Leap Winery The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Napa Valley, California  
$119.95, Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits
Michael Godel – The team and estate have proven what is real, right and necessary for a cabernet sauvignon to impress with full-throttle fruit, proper weight, density and length to see this groove well into the future. It would not be a stretch to say drink this through to the middle of the next decade.
David Lawrason – The Leap is a best barrels blend from the estate vineyard in the Stags’ Leap AVA. It has a gorgeous, fragrant Napa cab nose of ripe black cherry compote, violet, dried herbs. It is at once so appealing and charming, but by the time you get to the end its structure and longevity become apparent.

Seghesio Cortina Zinfandel 2017

Seghesio Cortina Zinfandel 2017, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, California   
$54.95, Andrew Peller Agency
David Lawrason – The Seghesio family are Sonoma zinfandel specialists. From a single site in the Dry Creek Valley, Cortina expresses classic, unadulterated aromas of raspberry jam, fresh cedar grove and subtle spice and vanillin. It is polished, plush and warm yet has a sense of linearity and equilibrium. If not available the slightly less expensive Seghesio Old Vines Sonoma County is a good stand in.
Michael Godel – There is a gravelly voice in Cortina, owing to the soils of the name and yet the luxe and lush aptitude is not left lost behind. A deeper structure, less elastic but more demanding than the old vines. Terrific zinfandel and along with the Old Vines, both are worthy of their pioneering spirit.

Vinosia Santandrea Taurasi 2014

Vinosia Santandrea Taurasi 2014, Campania, Italy             
$27.95, Majestic Wine Cellars    
David Lawrason – Taurasi is the touchstone appellation for the sturdy aglianico grape in southern Italy. This is a wine to tempt cabernet fans, with deep colour, lifted blackcurrant, plum, violet and arugula-like herbality., and wood spice. It is medium-full bodied, quite juicy, warm and firm. Starting to mature.
Sara d’Amato – Here’s one to keep on hand if you’ve been invited over during the holiday season. Gentle maturation in bottle has produced a ready-to-drink, harmonized and complex aglianico that features a compelling darkness and a wealth of salty-mineral-graphite goodness. Widely appealing but not pandering.

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2017

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2017, Beamsville Bench, Ontario     
$44.95, Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits
David Lawrason– This is a lovely vintage of Terroir Cachet, an organically grown estate blend of merlot, cabernet franc and malbec. The nose is lifted and very pretty with plummy/mulberry fruit, florals and fresh herbs. It is medium-full bodied, with good density and a certain Niagara buoyancy. A fine cellar addition.

Henry of Pelham Lost Boys Limited Edition Bin 106 Baco Noir 2020

Henry of Pelham Lost Boys Limited Edition Bin 106 Baco Noir 2020, Ontario
$34.95, Family Wine Merchants
Michael Godel – Lost Boys Bin 106 is like the most interesting man in the world, which could describe any of the three Speck brothers, the Baco Street Boys as David Lawrason once coined them. It’s also a wine akin to a rooftop appearance, just a few tunes in performance for performance sake. Get Baco to where you once belong.

Isabelle Et Phillipe Germain Le P'tit Léon Beaune 2019

Isabelle Et Phillipe Germain Le P’tit Léon Beaune 2019, Burgundy, France
$33.95, Marchand des Ameriques Inc.
David Lawrason – Well done to land such an intriguing village Burgundy in Ontario under $35. It a nicely high toned, edgy pinot noir with lifted cranberry-cherry fruit, florality and fine herbs. It is slightly sour-edged and firm with impressive intensity and length.

Spy Valley Satellite Pinot Noir 2018

Spy Valley Satellite Pinot Noir 2018, Marlborough, New Zealand,
$23.95, Trialto Wine Group
Sara d’Amato – From Spy Valley’s entry level yet eco-friendly line-up, this elegant, silky pinot noir is refreshingly unfussy. In addition to partnering with Ecologi to donate a portion of every Satellite wine sale to planting trees in an effort to offset carbon footprint, the winery is also using proceeds to restore a spring-fed native wetland at their Area H vineyard. An all-around feel-good wine that offers a great deal of appeal for the price.

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino 2015

Tenute Silvio Nardi Brunello Di Montalcino 2015, Tuscany, Italy
$52.95, Majestic Wine Cellars
David Lawrason This is a textbook Brunello from an excellent vintage at a fair price. Starting to show some maturity and complexity. Lovely texture with ease yet fine structure and definition. The length is excellent to outstanding.

Tommasi Casisano Brunello di Montalcino 2015

Tommasi Casisano Brunello di Montalcino 2015, Tuscany, Italy
$49.95, Univins and Spirits
Sara d’Amato – An aromatically gifted Brunello that overdelivers for the price. Offering the complexity one would expect with flavours of black cherry and iron, dried flower, licorice and gentle spice. The tannins are beginning to loosen their grip but still offer some appealing tension to the palate. Drink now after briefly decanting or hold another 3-4 years for more bottle aged complexity.

Poças Reserva Red 2016

Poças Reserva Red 2016, Douro, Portugal
$29.95, Majestic Wine Cellars
Michael Godel – Nearly at a perfect drinking window now, meat proteins and fats rendered, acids calming, baking spices melted, chocolate tempered and tannins waning.

And that’s wrap on this Gifting issue. As mentioned there will more suggestions when John returns to round up the November 27 release. He sends his regrets on missing out on this one. And there will be another special last minute gift guide before Christmas as well. 


David Lawrason

VP of Wine

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