Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES November 19 Release

Canadian Stars, Chilean Gems, Critics Picks and Ontario’s Best Sommelier

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

The VINTAGES November 19 release catalogue is once again gleaming with wines that the LCBO marketing department thinks make great gifts. A few weeks ago, John Szabo penned a brilliant piece on wine gifting etiquette and psychology, so I am going to avoid the whole topic, if you don’t mind. Instead, I am going to cherry pick two regions that further my interest — and hopefully yours.

Canadian Stars

This release features top-rung Canadian wines from both Ontario and B.C. And if you are already a fan of our best wines this might be a moment to share the love by gifting to those still on the fence. During a recent launch event of Le Clos Jordanne’s 2020s, winemaker Thomas Bachelder spoke of the need to better market Canada’s best wines, and how that bottle-by-bottle word of mouth, although slow, is the very best way. If you are a believer now is a good moment to share.

Two very worthy Le Clos Jordanne wines are on this VINTAGES  release, and two other less-expensive wines are still available in dwindling quantities. The National Wine Awards 2022 Platinum Award winning Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2019 is re-released, and comes highly, personally recommended as one the most elegant, rich and deep chardonnays in Ontario. The partner Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir 2020 is also on shelf, a quite rich if reserved pinot that needs about three years in the cellar. There are also less than 200 bottles of the Le Clos Jordanne Jordan Village Chardonnay 2020 in the VINTAGES system now — very much worth searching out at $27.95.  And there are 500 bottles of Le Clos Jordanne Jordan Village Pinot Noir 2019, which all WineAlign critics have rated 91 plus, also at just $27.95. Burgundy can’t touch it at this price.


Other top Canadian wines this release include a wonderful pair of Stewart Family Reserves from Quails’ Gate in British Columbia. They are Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2019 and the Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2019. They are named for the family that pioneered grape growing in Kelowna with plantings in the 1950s and have maintained quality while expanding production. These Reserves reach into fine levels of complexity, depth and elegance.  

Also, from B.C., Burrowing Owl is releasing a trio of its famous big reds from the 2018 vintage in the South Okanagan: Cabernet Franc, Meritage and Athene, and cabernet-syrah blend. My reviews on all three are posted but not all of the WineAlign Crü have not been able to taste. And there are B.C. and Ontario wines of note as well.

Canadian Wines

Burrowing Owl Meritage 2018

Burrowing Owl Meritage 2018, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
$64.95, Wyse Wine Agency
John Szabo – Burrowing Owl’s premium red blend (37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc, 10% Petit Verdot, and 3% Malbec), is rich and unctuous, well-balanced and voluptuous, easily the equal of premium bottlings from further south in California. It could still use another 2-4 years to unwind, while high quality oak influence should continue to fold into the ensemble. Deeply satisfying all in all; best 2024-2034.

Quails' Gate Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2019

Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Pinot Noir 2019, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
$64.95, Family Wine Merchants
David Lawrason – This is a vibrant, elegant and delicious north Okanagan pinot that needs just a year or two to soften, but expresses lifted, classic cran-cherry fruit, sage and this hot rocks/reductive edge intrinsic to pinots coming off the slope of Mt. Boucherie. Oak is an afterthought. It is medium bodied, refined, lively yet creamy with fine tension.

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir 2020

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir 2020, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$39.95, Arterra Wines  
Michael Godel – Here are some of the lower escarpment’s finest tannins of an ilk rarely risen through the host of pinot noir. Fineness achieved like Marsannay. 

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2018

Hidden Bench Terroir Caché 2018, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$44.95, Mark Anthony Group
David Lawrason – This blend of 46% merlot, 32% cab franc and 22% malbec has a rich, classy nose raspberry/mulberry, peony florality, fine herbs/evergreen, cedar and spice. It is medium-full bodied with good density, although rather rigid and sturdy with a dusty/earthy ambiance. Flavour depth is excellent. Put this aside for at least three years.

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2019

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2019, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$47.95, Arterra Wines
Megha Jandhyala – This is a perfumed chardonnay with an utterly beguiling nose. Notes of apples, pears, honey, cedar, and toast are accompanied by mineral tones and a distinctly floral scent that reminds me of the strings of fresh jasmine flowers with which I would sometimes adorn my hair, growing up India. The palate is creamy but firm with flavours of lemon cream, crunchy orchard fruit, vanilla, and delicate spice.

Black Hills Estate Alibi 2021

Black Hills Estate Alibi 2021, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
$29.95, Andrew Pellar Limited
John Szabo – A classic blend of mostly sauvignon blanc with 15% semillon, Black Hills’s latest Alibi release is top notch wine in the price category, firmly on the riper, tropical fruit side of this spectrum, with no obvious wood influence, save for the rounded texture, the integrated lees, the complex evolution that one can rarely achieve in stainless steel. I love the creamy texture, the excellent length. Drink or hold another 3-6 years.
Sara d’Amato – An undeniably compelling white blend of estate grown sauvignon blanc and semillon inspired by the greats of southern Bordeaux. Alibi was the first white wine ever produced at Black Hills back in 2003. This most recent incarnation features simmering acidity with delicate leesy notes, lemon curd, honey, apple and hay with moderate alcohol and notable complexity. Tuck this away for another 2-3 years for an even more intriguing expression.

Cave Spring Estate Chardonnay 2019

Cave Spring Estate Chardonnay 2019, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$19.95, Cave Spring Cellars
John Szabo – Here’s a superb value from Cave Spring, a winery going from strength to strength. They’ve really nailed the excellent 2019 vintage, such a classy and poised wine for the money, showing an attractive mix of green and white fruit, minimal oak influence, well-defined acids, and very good length. Drink or hold 2-4 or so.

13th Street June's Vineyard Riesling 2020

13th Street June’s Vineyard Riesling 2020, VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$19.95, The Thirteenth Street Winery Corp.
Megha Jandhyala – Fragrant with the scent of elderflower honey, green apples, and pears, this is an engaging and delicious riesling. The palate has a mellifluous quality to it, while a subtle impression of sweetness is balanced by zesty, citrusy acidity. It should pair well with spiced, creamy sauces like shahi paneer.

Chile Takes a Bow

There is a strong batch of Chilean wines on this release, especially from estate-based winery Perez Cruz in the Maipo Andean foothills. My interest was tweaked in the last release by the release of dandy Perez Cruz 2021 Garnacha, which John featured on the Season 9 premiere of “Think you Know Wine” on Nov. 19. It is followed this release by the Perez Cruz Cabernet Franc and the excellent Petit Verdot reviewed below. 

Chile is thoroughly dominated by cabernet sauvignon, a grape it inherited from Bordeaux emigres in the late 19th Century, and does very well indeed — there may not be a more perfect fit. But I am as interested in what it is doing with other red wines. That was my focus when I attended the return of the Drink Chile Wine Fair at the Arcadian Court in Toronto. I tasted reds only, and began with a few pinot noirs, then syrahs, then carmeneres, then worked into carmenere blends that might include cabernet.  I particularly liked Santa Rita 2021 Reserva Pinot Noir and Santa Rita 2021 Gran Reserva Syrah, so somehow the agent for these wines needs to get them into our market. 

What I found overall was solid, modern winemaking in Chile, emphasizing fruit purity and authenticity across the varieties, with very good balance without reliance on sweetness (of California). There is also a brightness and acid balance expressing Chile’s maritime climate (compared to Argentina). I also found that the particular, very green/shrubby local garrigue or “boldos” was less prevalent than I expected, but perhaps because I was not tasting cabernet sauvignon. And of course, there was a huge value quotient. Chile is clearly making wine way beyond its historical third-world price slot.

I want to highlight one winery in particular which displayed the power and poise potential of Chilean reds across the price spectrum, even though some of their top wines (like Outer Limits Pinot Noir) are not available. Montes is a legendary, pioneering producer who presented its full range at the Toronto fair, and every single one is worthy of your consideration if and whenever they are in market. The terrific Purple Angel 2020 ($85) is coming on the Dec. 5 release, so don’t miss our full review, while the terrific Montes 2020 Folly ($85) is in the December Classics Catalogue release.

Chilean Wines

Dagaz Carmenère 2018

Dagaz Carmenère 2018, Valle De Colchagua, Chile
$24.95, Profile Wine Group (Barrique)
Michael Godel – These aromatics are visual, like northern lights in purples and blues. Smooth, suave, silken and eerily perfect, my oh my carmènere rarely achieves such a level of quality without being two or three times the price

Pérez Cruz Chaski Petit Verdot 2018

Pérez Cruz Chaski Petit Verdot 2018, Valle Del Maipo Andes, Chile
$29.95, Charton Hobbs Inc
Michael Godel – Head of the petit verdot Chilean class right here, meaning for the grape and Maipo Valley, Big time violet floral entry, more richness than power and really all about fruit. Drink while youthful and fresh.
David Lawrason – Petit Verdot is a late ripening original Bordeaux variety not often found in Chile. This estate grown version from the Andean foothills shows great potential with very concentrated, intriguing cassis, violet, fresh evergreen, graphite and background oak. There is a nice sense of purity. It is full bodied, dense yet streamlined and well balanced.

Primus Carmenère 2019

Primus Carmenère 2019, Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile
$19.95, Family Wine Merchants  
David Lawrason – This is a seriously fragrant and rich carmenere with lovely, lifted aromas of blackcurrant, evergreen and fresh herbs and spearmint. It is quite full bodied, dense and a bit chewy but not overly astringent. The flavour concentration and length are very impressive.

Emiliana Coyam Los Robles Estate 2019

Emiliana Coyam Los Robles Estate 2019, Colchagua Valley, Chile
$29.95 PMA Canada (Vintages Essentials)           
David Lawrason Coyam is a great value – high end but well priced – biodynamically grown blend dominated by syrah and carmenere. It was voted among the top ten organic wines in the world by the Global Organic Wine Masters. Accolades aside, this is a lovely, very poised, complex and refined red with finely tuned dark blackcurrant/cherry fruit, subtle fresh greens/mint, spice and graphite. It is medium-full bodied, fairly dense and youthfully tannic. Nicely centred and balanced.

Other White and Sweet

Holdvölgy Signature Tokaj Édes Birtokválogatás 2007

Holdvölgy Signature Tokaj Édes Birtokválogatás 2007, Hungary
$47.95, Vin Passion  
John Szabo– Perfect for special occasions, this is Holdvölgy’s (“Moon Valley”) signature house blend of sweet wines from each harvest, which includes various winemaking techniques used in Tokaj (late harvest, Szamorodni, Tokaji Aszú and Esszencia). With 124 grams/liter of residual sugar, it’s approximately the equivalent of a 5 puttonyos Aszú, super intense and clean, a pure expression of botrytis (peach, apricot jam, Chinese 5-spice, quince paste, marmalade and more), with remarkably few signs of evolution. All in all, an exceptional value sweet wine, the equivalent of top-notch Sauternes, but with Mittleuropa exoticism. Drink or hold another 10-15 years.

Domaine Du Haut Bourg Muscadet Côtes De Grandlieu 2019

Domaine Du Haut Bourg Muscadet Côtes De Grandlieu 2019, Loire, France
$18.85, Carto Enterprise
David Lawrason – This tips to richer side for Muscadet, the result of the warmer vintage. And I like the effect of the plumped up, riper yellow pear fruit, with underlying essences of lemon blossom and fine fennel-like herbs. There is very little ‘sur lie’ breadiness, but it is adding some richness to the texture.
Sara d’Amato – Not simply light and bright, this sur lie aged Muscadet offers volume and texture despite low alcohol. A few years in bottle has notably benefitted this wine that has an almost aged semillon-like character. Honeyed notes, white flower, fresh yellow apple and grapefruit linger memorably on the finish.

Donatien Bahuaud Les Terroirs 2019

Donatien Bahuaud Les Terroirs 2019, Anjou Chenin, Loire, France
$22.95, Profile Wine Group (VinVino)
Sara d’Amato – Another fine selection out of the Loire valley in this release, this time made from the chenin blanc of Anjou. Just off-dry with exceptionally balance, this organically certified find showcases nervy acidity that is juxtaposed by generous viscosity. I love the textural and interplay and vibrant flavour profile of this well-priced chenin from one of the Loire’s largest and most eclectic appellations.

Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2019

Cloudy Bay Chardonnay 2019. Marlborough. New Zealand
$40.95, Charton Hobbs
Megha Jandhyala – Rich and almost impossibly silky, yet taut and firm, this is a refined, especially elegantly structured chardonnay. Replete with ripe orchard and citrus fruit and well-integrated notes of vanilla and spice, it is concentrated and complex, finishing on a subtly saline note that reverberates pleasingly on the palate.

Domaine Bègue Mathiot Vaillons Chablis 1er Cru 2019

Domaine Bègue Mathiot Vaillons Chablis 1er Cru 2019, Burgundy, France
$34.95, Mondo Vino
Megha Jandhyala This is a rich but fresh Chablis from the morning-sun-drenched vineyards of Vaillons, with notes of ripe lemons, peaches, and apples, alongside toasted breadcrumbs, white flowers, and a subtle but distinctly mineral finish. I like the indulgent, supple, and rounded palate supported by firm acidity.

Other Reds

Riccitelli Viñedos De Montaña Cabernet Franc 2018

Riccitelli Viñedos De Montaña Cabernet Franc 2018, Los Chacayes, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
$42.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
John Szabo – Deeply coloured and intensely perfumed, this is a wild ride of a cabernet franc and an excellent discovery from this innovative producer in the Uco Valley, for those who believe Mendoza begins and ends with malbec. I love the floral perfume and green/herbal notes, the vibrant dark fruit, black cherry, and black raspberry, while tannins are like raw silk, providing guardrails for the fruit. A premium cabernet franc to be sure.
David Lawrason – This is a profound, delicious and surprising cab franc grown in calcerous soils in the highest altitude Gualtallary sub-region of the Uco Valley. It this is a deeply coloured, full-bodied red with a fine, fairly intense, fragrant and precise aromas. It is full, soft, plush yet elegant and drenched with flavour. Tannins are very fine.
Michael Godel – Massive aromatic attack in cabernet franc which in fact sets this Los Chacayes example above the pack. Luxe expressive and expertly swarthy. Nothing lost in translation here, from a wine that gets it so right.It is full, soft, plush yet elegant and drenched in favour.
Sara d’Amato – A tasting room fave of the day among us at the WineAlign office, this cabernet franc could come from nowhere else than Argentina. This modern and lightly reductive style is notable well fruited with length for days. Not wholly characteristic of this variety, one might guess a syrah in a blind tasting but there is some serious attention to detail here in terms of winemaking and it is sourced from notably high-quality fruit on various soil types in the high elevation Los Chacayes region of the Valle de Uco.

Altos Las Hormigas Reserve Malbec 2019,

Altos Las Hormigas Reserve Malbec 2019, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
$39.95, Thompson Vintage Trade Ltd.
David Lawrason – This organics-based winery owned by an Italian oenological dream team draws fruit from higher altitudes and limestone soils in the Uco Valley. This is very refined, lively and well balanced, expressing fruit, vegetation and minerality rather then ripeness and oak.

Richard Hamilton Little Road Shiraz 2019

Richard Hamilton Little Road Shiraz 2019, Mclaren Vale, Australia
$20.95, Terra Firma  
Sara d’Amato – The road might be little but the flavour here is big but thankfully not blousy or overtly jammy. For those who love pepper and licorice in their shiraz, you’ll appreciate this flavourful fine with impressive depth of flavour for the price.

Xavier Vignon Côtes Du Rhône 2020

Xavier Vignon Côtes Du Rhône 2020, Rhône, France
$17.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo – Plump and juicy-fruity, ripe but balanced, easy-drinking and enjoyable CdR here from Xavier, ticking all of the necessary boxes, and exceeding expectations in the category. A nice option to have at the ready over the holidays.

Aurelio Settimo Rocche Dell'annunziata Barolo 2017

Aurelio Settimo Rocche Dell’annunziata Barolo 2017, Piedmont, Italy
$54.95, Vin Vino Wine Merchants Inc. (Profile)
John Szabo – Tiziana Settimo’s style has long appealed to me, one that captures tradition and restrain without falling too far into the rustic past. This 2017 is a case in point, a vintage that in many cases slipped into raisined fruit over-ripeness, but here continues to display an almost leafy, herbal freshness alongside vibrant red fruit, strawberry and currants. As usual, a reliable and fine value
Michael Godel – Classic styling, as grippy as it is generous and as savoury as it also delivers the fruit of vintage. Warm, nurturing and of an unctuous level not always noted but clear as a wine from 2017.

Sallier De La Tour La Monaca Syrah 2018

Sallier De La Tour La Monaca Syrah 2018, Monreale, Sicily
$34.95, Vin Passion (The Case For Wine) (Online Exclusive)
Megha Jandhyala – If you are intrigued by the prospect of trying a syrah from Sicily, this is an intense, plush, and balanced expression of the variety. I really like the open, inviting ambience of this wine and its vivid flavours of dried savoury herbs, ripe plums, and black cherries, framed by cedar, vanilla, and spice.
Michael Godel – A rare opportunity to taste syrah from this Sicilian outpost and are we not richer for it? A poised and powerful wine with plenty of flesh and really suave tannins.

Castello Fonterutoli Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2019

Castello Fonterutoli Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2019, Tuscany, Italy
$59.95, Roy + Co. Selections Inc.
David Lawrason – This is what I expect of Gran Selezione, the relatively new category for top wrung single vineyard Chianti. It is not over-oaked or plush, but captures sangiovese’s foundation nerve and currant/cherry, herbal expression with real alarcity. It is medium-full bodied, firm and dry.
Sara d’Amato – A cellar worthy find than deserves another half decade in bottle. Features an impressive aromatic profile that includes botanical notes, delicate peppery spice and a hint of mint. There is a lovely linear quality to this wine with a progressive unveiling of flavours on the palate with a lingering echo.

Terre Nere Campigli Vallone Brunello Di Montalcino 2016

Terre Nere Campigli Vallone Brunello Di Montalcino 2016, Tuscany, Italy
$64.95, Ian J Campbell & Associates
Megha Jandhyala – This Brunello is drinking splendidly right now but will continue to evolve. It is a mesmerizing labyrinth of flavours, including kirsch liquor, black cherries, red plums, dried rose petals and resinous herbs, cloves, nutmeg, and earth. I really like the elegance of the palate, supported by polished tannins, taut acidity, and a subtle, diffused warmth. 

Ontario’s Best Sommelier
By John Szabo

WineAlign congratulates Justin Madol, sommelier at Toronto’s Michelin-starred Don Alfonso, for taking the most recent title at the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers’ Best Ontario Sommelier Competition 2022. Following preliminary competitions across the province to identify the five finalists, the final was held on Nov. 14 at the Liberty Grand Entertainment Complex in Toronto. The #BOSC22 live competition challenged the semi-finalist sommeliers in a series of skill-testing scenarios including blind tasting, service and theory. Madol edged out runner-up Nathan Hooper (Somm Factory, Don Alfonso 1890; Toronto) and Cristian Perreault Hamel (Pompette and Pelican Wines; Toronto) and Christophe Reitz (Quatrefoil Restaurant; Dundas, Ontario). The fifth competitor, Connor Gallagher (Atelier; Ottawa) was unable to attend.

Madol was awarded numerous prizes for the win, including a trip to Chianti Classico, and a hot seat on the next episode of WineAlign’s Think You Know Wine. We look forward to matching blind tasting wits with the champion! Mr. Madol will go on to compete in the Best Canadian Sommelier Competition (BCSC) next year.

And that’s a wrap for this release. We will back to help stock your holiday wine rack with suggestions from VINTAGES December 3 release. And watch for the annual WineAlign Fizz Guide on December 8.

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.

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Selections
Megha’s Picks

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