Wine of the Week for December 25, 2006

La Puerta "Chardonnay" 2005 - $8.95
tyle: W3

The nose here shows a slight resemblance to a ripe gewurz, with a rich honey, mango, apricot and apple peel mix. The palate is finely textured with peach and citrus flavours atop a solid acid spine. A delight but not all that Chardonnay like -- perhaps they've tossed in a bit of Torrentes. For the gewurz lover, this is one terrific bargain, and it shows enough chardonnay character to work on that front as well. Could be a good match for that left-over turkey or perhaps a bit of ham roast. (LCBO 614693)

Wine of the Week for December 18, 2006

Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2004 - $12.95
Style: R3


This unassuming wine shows good blackberry, green pepper and cardamom aromas with a bit of oak at the tail end. Rather light for a cab, with blackberry, vanilla and milk chocolate flavours supported by fine tannins. This is the cab to open on a Tuesday night with pizza, spaghetti or a simple chicken dish. (LCBO 275925)

Wine of the Week for December 11, 2006

Strewn Semi-dry Riesling VQA 2005 - $10.95
Style: W3
Canada: Niagara

My mission lately is to find good, reasonably priced riesling -- not an easy task with shelves dominated by cheap chardonnay in tetra-pak. This one, from Strewn in Niagara-on-the-Lake, is understated, but totally authentic, with aromas of citrus and dried peaches, plus nuances of petrol, beeswax and cold cream. The palate is like fine silk, and I would say closer to off dry, with just a whisper of sugar, crisp acidity and delicate citrus/apple flavours. Very good body and length with a tangy close. Wonderfully refreshing and a great match for pork, or anything spicy. (LCBO 616599)

MADD as Hell ...

I was very disappointed on the weekend to see a report on MADD Canada. Apparently, of the $12 Million they collect every year, only 19% actually goes to the cause. A 'good' charity can direct as much as 80% of their fund-raising to doing what they set out to do. I think the next time that MADD calls and asks me for a $100 donation, maybe I'll give them what they seem to really need: $19.

One more bubbly to consider

Ch. De Montguere Cremant de Loire Brut NV - $18.95
Style: Off Dry
Francemoke on the finish. Very good body and length, and you can get two bottles for the price of a co

Rich mousse, slightly short-lived, with a fine almond-lemon colour. Rich, ripe citrus, apple and spice aromas with a trace of toast at the rear. Creamy, round, crisp and spicy on the tongue, with a full mousse, the merest hint of sugar, and a wave of smparable champagne. (LCBO 621896)

Note: If you didn't get my December newsletter and list of recommended bubbly wines, you can subscribe at

Wine of the Week for December 4, 2006

Casillero del Diablo Carmenère 2005 - $12.55
Style: R2

Not everyone is enthusiastic about Chile's signature grape, but this perennial favourite is a good argument for its success. With an inky black cherry colour in the glass, it shows rich aromas of green pepper, dark chocolate, black raspberry and spicy oak. Rich and creamy on the palate, verging on sweet, it has huge berry flavours, soft tannins and a solid backbone. Very good body, long, with an authoritative tannic close. In a word, yummy, and a solid partner for beef stroganoff, chilli, or moussaka. (LCBO 620666)

Wine of the Week for November 27, 2006

Chateau Bonnet Entre-deux-mers 2005 - $12.95
Style: W2

After a couple of years absence from LCBO shelves, it’s nice to see this tried and true performer back. Made from sauvignon, semillon and muscadelle, in the Bordeaux manner, it shows rich aromas of grapefruit, gooseberry and mineral with a trace of rose petals. Soft and easy on the palate with a light acidity and a continuation of the grapefruit and gooseberry. A bit on the light side, making it a good partner for brie/camembert, Thai, fish with dill, grilled peppers, or shellfish. (LCBO 83709)

Wine(s) of the Week for November 20, 2006

There's a significant amount of hype associated with "Beaujolais Day", which signals the release of nouveau wines -- the season's first wines -- on November 16th. But regardless of the marketing push, the wines are typically high quality and not automatically frivolous stuff. Nouveau is food flexible and can work well with pork chops, veal, sausage, poultry, paté, cured meats, charcuterie, fresh cheeses, and flavourful fish.

Here are the current offerings at LCBO stores -- both Beaujolais and other nouveau styles -- and will most likely to be found close to the checkout.

Geo. Duboeuf Gamay Nouveau 2006 - $8.95
France: Burgundy
Why is this Gamay and not Beaujolais? Simple: the grapes are sourced from just outside of Beaujolais proper. Look for a full, fruity nose of black currant and blackberry. The palate shows traditional nouveau flavours of cherry and strawberries with a firm acid core and moderate tannins showing up at the tail end. What you expect from the style, and a bargain. (LCBO 891846)

Cantina de Negrar Novello Del Veneto 2006 - $8.95
Italy: Veneto
The nose shows attractive strawberry and spice with an intriguing chemical note. Rather substantial in the mouth, with firm tannins, strawberry and sour cherry flavour and a repeat of the chemical impression. Not for everyone, and possible a challenge with food, but will appeal to the adventurous. (LCBO 899955)

JeanJean Syrah Primeur 2006 - $9.95
France: Languedoc
Bright, light ruby colour. On the nose: rich raspberry, vanilla and a bit of licorice. Certainly syrah-like on the palate, with the crisp acidity of youth, light tannins and cherry flavour. Crisp, clean and refreshing. (LCBO 899948)

MezzaCorona Novio Novello 2006 -$9.95
Italy: Alto Adige/Trentino
Delicate aromas of citrus and dried berries with a soupçon of spice. Rather full in the glass, with a solid backbone, moderate tannins and bright red currant flavour. Made from Teroldego and Lagrein grapes, this one shows substance and refreshment. (LCBO 669275)

Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau 2006 - $13.45
France: Burgundy
Full, ripe berries, perfume and a trace of vanilla. Opens with a fresh, crisp acidity, followed by dried berry flavours and light tannins. This is good mainstream stuff with a bit of extra stuffing. (LCBO 897934)

Pisse Dru Beaujolais Nouveau 2006 - $13.95
France: Burgundy
This one is a rather simple affair, showing nuances of floral, sweet cherry and vanilla. The palate is a bit rough around the edges but decent enough. May be a good idea to set it aside for a few months, but the rule is “no later than Easter”. (LCBO 669259)

Geo. Dubeouf Beaujolais Nouveau 2006 -$15.95
France: Burgundy
A deep ruby colour here. Look for basic cherry and strawberry aromas, but the palate is a fruit bomb -- rich and juicy with substantial tannin. The price seems justified. (Not found on the LCBO system, but it is in stores)

Wine of the Week for November 13, 2006

Bellingham Founder's Sauvignon Blanc 2005 - $13.95
Style: W2
South Africa

Done right, and with the proper terroir, sauvignon can be one of the most intriguing wines. This is a terrific rendition, showing rich asparagus, grapefruit and honeysuckle aromas, plus a touch of grass. Rather mouthfilling, with a crisp, forward acidity and grapefruit throughout. Very good body and length. Try with fish with dill, grilled peppers or as a foil for hollandaise sauce. (LCBO 665315)

Wine of the Week for November 6, 2006

Calliga Agiorgitiko 2004 - $ 11.95
Style: R3

I was challenged recently to find out why this is called the “St. George” grape. Well, it’s named after the town of Agios Georgios (which is now called Nemea). Whatever the name’s origin, this is one of Greece’s great indigenous grapes. The colour shows a deep garnet with beginnings of mahogany. There is a pleasant port-like aroma off the top that gives way to pepper and perfume with nuances of vegetal and caramel. Rich, smooth and juicy on the palate, with cherry, raspberry and vanilla, all supported by solid tannins, and a silky finish. I’d go with rich cheeses, beef stew or grilled portobellos. (LCBO 619262)

Wine of the Week for October 30, 2006

Mission Hill Five Vineyards Pinot Grigio VQA 2004- $ 13.95
Style: W3
Canada: BC

The gray pinot is continuing its run of prominence. This Okanagan issue is rife with upfront aromas of apple, citrus and quince with a touch of celery. The palate is oh-so smooth, showing ripe apple flavour atop a gentle acidity. With good body and length, this is an easy-going wine that will be food friendly. Try with lighter fish, schnitzel or cheese fondue. (LCBO 614289)

Wine of the Week for October 23, 2006

Chat-en-Oeuf 2003 - $ 12.95
Style: R1

Watch for more bottles coming out of France with a non-traditional approach to naming and labeling. This light ruby-garnet coloured wine shows modest aromas of raspberry, cedar and pencil lead. Light but flavourful, with just a hint of sweetness and soft tannins. This pleasant blend of Grenache and Syrah is more in the style and weight of Beaujolais, and would work well with stews, sausages or something off the grill . (LCBO 21113)

Wine of the Week for October 16, 2006

Baron Philippe De Rothschild Viognier 2004 - $10.95
Style: W3

After a period of, frankly, lack-lustre performance, Rothschild’s entry-level wines appear to be back. Look for luscious aromas of citrus, spice, melon and mineral. The palate is quite big, showing more spice, a whiff of grapefruit (pun intended) and mineral. Quite big in the mouth, and long, this one is rich and elegant and perhaps even a bit brash. I’d go with seafood, gazpacho or something Middle Eastern. (LCBO 619221)

Wine of the Week for October 9, 2006

Sogrape Vila Regia Reserve 2001 - $12.00
Style: R1

From the folks who brought you the ubiquitous Portugese rosé, we have a delightful little red made from indigenous grapes. Deep black cherry in colour, it shows aromas of tobacco, dried cherry, leather and an earthy note. Light but tasty, with an impression of sweetness on the uptake finishing dry, with a repeat of the earthy note at the end. Medium body and length, it's a very friendly wine suitable for pork roast, Antipasti, or firm cheeses. (LCBO 613950)

Wine of the Week for October 2, 2006

Deakin Estate Chardonnay 2005 - $10.05
Style: W1

Wow, they're giving away Chardonnay. That was my reaction to this delectable wine when I saw the price. There's lots of ripe apple and lemon on the nose along with a good bit of spice and just a touch of caramel. Full and juicy on the palate with spicy notes, lemon and baked apple flavours, soft acidity, and a smokey close. Very good body and length. A great package that will go well with salmon, cream sauces or BBQ chicken. (LCBO 588418)

And now, the bad news…

It’s getting a lot tougher to find decent wine at a decent price on LCBO shelves these days. I was at a tasting of General List products last week and tasted nearly 100 products. I came away with 1 white wine under $14 that I felt I could recommend. The rest were $14 - $16 dollars. There are a number of reasons for this, some of which I have addressed in my newsletter. The main culprits, I think, are the agency's emphasis on cheap bulk wines (house brands, tetra-paks) and so-called “premium” wines – those priced around the $15 level. This leaves the $9-$12 range pretty lean. I’ll keep looking, but my guess is I’ll have to raise my ceiling from $12 to $15.

Wine of the Week for September 18, 2006

Henry Of Pelham Cabernet-Baco VQA 2004 - $12.50
Style R1
Ontario: Niagara

Rich ruby-garnet colour. Mellow dark plum, cherry, spice and smokey oak. Very easy on the palate, in a beaujolais weight, with dark berries, plum, smoke and spice, with modest tannins and a firm spine. Good body and length. A wonderful mid-week quaffer, showing lots of distinctive character. Try with vegetarian chilli, pizza or tomato sauces. (LCBO 252882)

Cellar of Shame
Where I pay tribute to the general free-fall in quality
on LCBO General List shelves.

Domaine Vincon Feteasca Neagra

This one was a first for me. Aside from being an outright palate-killer, this wine was so coarse, so nasty, that I actually went rifling through my briefcase to see if I had anything resembling a red flag to hang on the bottle as a warning to others. This wine should be sold with a warning label or, better still, packaged up and sent back to its country of origin where even the distillers may have second thoughts about it. Avoid at all costs!

Wine of the Week for September 11, 2006

Lindemans Bin 85 Pinot Grigio 2005 - $10.95
Style: W3

The gray pinot is still on a roll, although the field is getting a bit over-crowded. Look for lemon and grapefruit aromas, with nuances of pine bough, ripe apple and spice. The palate is a bit raw, but pleasant enough, with a brisk acidity, apple and baked lemon flavour and a slightly sour tail end. Body and length are quite good. A tad in-elegant but decent and would work well with roast chicken, medium-flavoured fish, or sushi. (LCBO 668947)

Wine of the Week for September 4, 2006

Four Emus Shiraz 2004 - $13.95
Style: R2

Since the LCBO started pushing 1-litre "premium priced" tetrapaks, there seems to be a shortage of decent bottled wines in the under $12 category. This one, from Hardys, shows an inky black cherry colour. The nose presents subtle aromas of dark chocolate, dark plums and rosemary. Rich and juicy on the palate, with blueberry and dark chocolate flavours, firm tannins and a solid acidic spine. Almost big, with very good length. A real comfort wine, not too big, with plenty of character, that would go well with BBQ or tomato sauces, or any bigish roast. (LCBO 614347)

Wine of the Week for August 28, 2006

Kressman "Solo" Viognier 2005 - $11.15
Style: W3

Although the label says Viognier, this comes across more like a good gewurztraminer. The nose is rich with dried mango, sweet grass, mandarin orange and a touch of floral. Quite rich and smooth on the palate, with a crisp acidity, orange zest flavour and a whiff of musk on the back palate. Good body and length. A delightful wine that would go well with BBQ chicken, risotto or Sichuan. (LCBO 619304)

Wine of the Week for August 21, 2006

Errazuriz Chardonnay Valley de Casablanca 2005 - $11.65
Style: W1

The colour here is a medium lemon-straw. On the nose look for ripe lemon, apple and quince with nuances of butter and toast. This is a very modern -- almost racy -- style, with a poignant spritz from sur lie ageing. The palate shows nice lemon and apple flavours with a crisp acidity and a bit of buttered toast on the somewhat tart finish. With good body and length, this is a good mid-week wine that is soft-spoken and elegant, although you might find the acidity a bit forward. Try with fish with lemon sauce or cream sauce, BBQ chicken or tempura. (LCBO 318741)

Wine of the Week for August 14, 2006

Stormy Bay Cabernet Sauvignon 2004 - $11.55
Style: R2/R3
South Africa: Western Cape

Deep black cherry colour with traces of purple. Rich and fruity on the nose, with plum, cherry, ripe berries plus traces of dark chocolate and mint. Full and rich on the palate, reminiscent of malbec, with dense dark fruit flavours, firm acidity and friendly tannins. Quite big, with very good length and a shot of green pepper on the back palate. Quite a mouth filler that might become more interesting with a bit more age, but is yummy right now. Try with a gooey rack of BBQ ribs. (LCBO 665299)

Wine of the Week for August 7, 2006

Chateau Bel Air 2004 - $10.95
Style: R3
France: Bordeaux

The robe here is a rich ruby garnet. Look for classic Bordeaux aromas, albeit of the 'price adjusted' variety, including dark berries, dried fruits and cedar with a modest gamey note. The palate is subdued but serviceable, with young tannins, medium body and length. This is a good mid-week wine and may improve over 6 months to a year in the cellar, or throw a steak or ribs on the BBQ and settle in with a good book. (LCBO 665430)

If you happen to be within an easy commute of a Colio store (there are 14 in Ontario), there is a bargain to be had in their current offerings.

Colio Riesling VQA 2005 - $9.99
Style: W3, Off-dry
Ontario: Erie North Shore

Light steely straw colour. The nose here is complex, showing perfume, floral, citrus, green apple and traces of petrol. Soft, round and creamy on the palate, with mainly citrus flavours and a pleasantly tart acidity on the close. With good body and length, this bodes well for Erie North Shore rieslings. May have the potential to age well.

Wine of the Week for July 31, 2006

Soluna Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie IGT (1-litre Tetrapak) 2005 - $12.95
tyle: W3

I’m not a fan of wine in tetrapaks – most of what I’ve sampled has been little better than jug wine -- but here’s one that's actually worth looking at! With a light straw colour, it shows a good citrusy nose with nuances of melon and vanilla and just a touch of herbaceousness. The palate is quite tasty, with flavours of baked lemon and apple and a crisp acidity -- but some noticeable SO2. Would go well with BBQ chicken, fish kabobs or mushroom risotto, and if you happen to drop it on the concrete patio, no need to worry. (LCBO 614412)

Wine of the Week for July 24, 2006

Sogrape Vila Regia Reserve 2001 - $11.95
Style: R1

Light reds can be the prefect summer weight wines, and the quality of this one belies its humble price. The nose shows lively aromas of cedar, tobacco and vanilla with just a touch of barnyard down deep. The palate is rich with juicy berry flavours, with a solid core of acidity and a suggestion of berry sweetness, giving way to soft tannins. Very good body and length. A good candidate for anything off the grill, but I'd hold out for ribs. (LCBO 613950)

Wine of the Week for July 17, 2006

Hungaria Grand Cuvee Brut NV - $10.85
Style: Sparkling

Don't let the price throw you off -- this friendly sparkling wine is an amazing bargain. It's light straw in colour, with a hint of copper, and a mousse that is somewhat coarse. The nose has a nice yeasty note, with aromas of citrus and asparagus and just a touch of vanilla. Quite tasty, with citrus and vanilla notes and nice lees aromas at the tail end. Lightish, and with good length, it would be an ideal casual wine for an impromptu celebration. (LCBO 619288)

Wine of the Week for July 10, 2006

Beringer Merlot Rosé 2005 $ 10.95
Style: Z (Rosé)

This bright candy-apple pink quaffer has a rich strawberry nose accompanied by red licorice and traces of lemon peel and spice. It's rather soft and gentle -- barely off-dry -- showing raspberry and apple in the mouth. The body and length are both good. Somewhat MOR, but a good candidate for a casual BBQ. (LCBO 622183)

Wine of the Week for July 3, 2006

False Bay Shiraz 2004 - $11.95
Style: R2
South Africa

What I find amazing about these huge, jammy reds is that they can be ideal summer wines. This one has an inky black cherry colour. The nose is true shiraz, right down to a suspicion of pinotage at the hind end. Aromas include black raspberry, leather, earth and vanilla. Rich and juicy on the palate, silky smooth with mild tannins, crisp acidity and gobs of dark berry flavours. Quite big and with very good length, it's something of a fruit bomb that gets an attractive lift from what must be some added pinotage. Pour over ice cream? (LCBO 665307)

Wine of the Week for June 26, 2006

Roberts Rock Chenin Blanc-Chardonnay 2005 - $9.95
Style: W1/W2
South Africa

Better check the price of this one. The LCBO database pegs it at $7.95 (current on special at $6.95) but I know I paid $9.95. The colour is a full honey-straw. The nose presents honey, peach, citrus and baked apple aromas. The palate is crisp yet full, round and creamy smooth, dominated by grapefruit and somewhat reminiscent of chablis. Body and length are both good. I'd suggest pairing it with full-flavoured fish or pork tenderloin. (LCBO 501304)

Wine of the Week for June 19, 2006

Rene Barbier Tempranillo-Merlot 2004 - $8.95
Style: R3
Spain: Penedes

Tempranillo is the grape behind Rioja, Ribera del Duero, and other Spanish delights, and it lends itself well to a paring with Merlot. With a rich garnet colour, this one shows aromas of pepper, cardamom and cherry. Rich and juicy on the palate, very round and mellow yet character filled, showing dark berry flavours and soft tannins, and good body and length. This is a terrific value and would go well with lamb, portobellos or poultry straight off the grill. (LCBO 640193)

Wine of the Week for June 12, 2006

Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc 2005 - $10.75
Style W2
South Africa

There's oodles of oomph here. The nose is dominated by ripe grapefruit and passionfruit, with a hint of asparagus. The palate is wonderfully juicy and mouthfilling, dripping with grapefruit flavour, with a solid acidic core. Rather full with excellent length, it would partner well with quiche, grilled tuna or vegetarian dishes. (LCBO 382713)

Wine of the Week for June 5, 2006

Cave Spring Gamay Noir VQA 2003 - $12.95
Style: R1
Ontario: Niagara

The challenge was to find a red wine that would go with stuffed peppers and pork tenderloin. This spicy gamay turned out to be an inspired choice. Heady aromas include pepper, raspberry and sweet cherry. It’s quite crisp on the palate, with a firm acidity, pepper and cherry flavours, and a fine rib of tannin. Medium-plus body with excellent length. Given what you'd pay for a comparable beaujolais, they're practically giving this one away. (LCBO 228569)

Wine of the Week for May 28, 2006

Penmara Five Families Shiraz 2002 - $12.85
tyle: R1/R2

This one nicely fits between the Lean & Fruity and the Rich & Juicy categories: perfect for this long overdue backyard weather. The nose shows loads of spice, red currant and spiced crabapple, with traces of wood and cardamom. The palate is a bit reserved relative to the nose, yet is spicy and juicy with a fresh acidity and little tannin. Pretty good body and length, this is definitely a vin du porch for warm weather or one to take to a casual party. Burgers bbq chicken would be good choices. (LCBO 565929)

Wine of the Week for May 22, 2006

KWV Chenin Blanc 2005 - $7.45
Style: W2
South Africa

Don’t be put off by the low price here. This wine is a perennial bargain that seems to always deliver. The colour is rich lemon-straw. Upfront aromas show ripe lemon and apple with nuances of grass down deeper. The palate is somewhat laid back, but it's plenty tasty, showing ripe grapefruit, a touch of lemon and traces of apple and spice. Somewhat on the light side, but with good length. Good food candidates include seafoods, mild fish and schnitzel. (LCBO 18689)

Cellar of Shame – Where I pay tribute to the general free-fall in quality on LCBO General List shelves.

Banrock Station Shiraz Tetrapak - $13.90
(1000 mL)
It’s disappointing to see an otherwise good company put out something like this. There’s a bit of mineral and a trace of cardamom, but that is ruined by an over-riding aroma of wet cardboard. It’s grotesquely sweet even for a shiraz, hollow and remarkably tasteless. Not even suitable for party plonk.

Wine of the Week for May 15, 2006

Angoves Stonegate Cabernet/Shiraz 2003 - $9.60
Style: R3

The Cabernet rides on top here, with aromas of spices, wood, dried cherry and iodine. Very firm on the palate -- well structured -- with blackberry flavour, lightish tannins and firm acid core. Very good body and length. Quite a bargain and well suited to lamb, quail, or hunter stew. (LCBO 618447)

- Bonus VQA Feature -

Willow Springs Baco Noir 2005 - $9.95
Style: R2
Ontario: Stouffville

This one comes from the LCBO’s “craft winery” program, which features a small number of selections from lesser-known wineries (although there appears to be lots of this one at LCBO stores). The Testa family grow their own grapes in Stouffville and also bring some in from Niagara. Their Baco shows a riot of cherry, dried cherry, black currant and blueberry aromas. It’s very smooth on the palate, with negligible tannins, a solid acid core, and plenty of berry and cherry flavours. With good body and length, this may be the ideal BBQ wine. (LCBO 620112)

Wine of the Week for May 8, 2006

Masi Modello Delle Venezi Bianco 2004 - $9.95
Style: W3

Based on the native Garganega grape, this is not your usual Italian white quaffer. With a light green straw colour, it shows a rather gewurztraminer-like nose with rich orange zest, musk and a touch of dried cherry. The palate is round and mellow with a perfectly balanced acidity -- not obvious, but very full and flavourful and with good body and very good length. A total bargain, it would work well with roast poultry, stir fry or turkey burgers. (LCBO 564674)

Wine of the Week for May 1, 2006

Bolla Rosso Di Sicilia 2003 - $10.95
Style: R2

You may have to work at ignoring the tall blue botte but inside is a delightful surprise. The deep garnet robe is showing beginnings of brick. The nose is rich and smokey, with aromas of dried fruits, leather and tobacco. Rather substantial on the palate -- juicy, with dried fruit flavours plus more of the leather. With firm acidity, solid tannins, a full body and very good length, it's quite stunning for the price. A good partner for roasts, hard cheeses or just about anything in a red wine sauce. (LCBO 621128)

Wine of the Week for April 24, 2006

Badischer Winzerkeller Baden Gewurztraminer 2003 - $9.95
Style: W3

My initial impression of this one was a bit modest, but it grew on me. It shows upfront aromas of baked apple, white peach and traces of spice. The palate has a honey-like texture, with peach and blood orange flavours and solid acid core plus good body and length. A bit shy, but full and flavourful, and who can argue about the price? Would work well with smoked salmon, swiss-type cheeses or schnitzel. (LCBO 336735)

Wine of the Week for April 17, 2006

Two Oceans Pinotage 2005 - $9.55
Style: R2
South Africa

This one is for fans of this funky South African original. The aromas suggest salami, plums, dark berries and vanilla. There's lots of presence on the palate, with a crisp acidity, firm tannins and blackcurrant flavour, and just a hint of gaminess at the tail end. It's a bit tamer than some -- quite juicy and yummy -- but still with that touch of gaminess. Try it with chilli or cannelloni. (LCBO 592378)

Wine of the Week for April 10, 2006

Argento Pinot Grigio 2005 - $10.15
Style: W2

The “grey pinot” has been enjoying centre stage lately, and it may very well be because of bargains like this. The full straw colour shows the merest hint of copper. Forward aromas include spice and melon, with nuances of stone fruits and floral. The crisp acidity leads to understated citrus, melon, more spice on the palate. Quite good body and length, with a pleasant bitterness on the close. A great way to usher in warmer weather. Try with flavourful fish, schnitzel or BBQ poultry. (LCBO 620492)

Wine of the Week for April 3, 2006

Hoya De Cadenas Reserva Vicente Gandi Tempranillo 2001 - $10.45
Style: R3


Here's a very nice example of this classic Spanish grape. With a medium black cherry colour, it offers up lush aromas of spice, dark berries, vanilla, ripe cherries and a hint of tobacco. More cherry shows up on the palate, followed by blueberry and blackberry, a solid acid core and rather rustic tannins. Try with roast beef, chilli or firm cheeses. (LCBO 620989)

(Note: There are some 1999 bottles floating around. Stick with the 2001 unless you want to experience "just over the hill".)

Wine of the Week for March 27, 2006

Goundrey Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon 2004 - $11.95
Style: W2

The nose on this standard blend is huge -- heavily laden with spice, grapefruit, lanolin and crushed leaves. Full, round and smooth on the palate, it completes the picture with gobs of grapefruit and a spicy, lemony close. Quite big and with very good length. If this were a radio station, it would be "Jack FM". Would be a good match for roast pork or big-flavoured fish. (LCBO 621631)

Wine of the Week for March 20, 2006

Stoney Ridge Bench Pinot Noir VQA 2004 - $12.95
Style: R1
Canada: Niagara

As we watch Pinot Noir prices disappearing into the ozone, it's nice to see one priced for the rest of us. The colour here is a pale ruby-garnet, while the nose suggests leather, currents and green tobacco, with a slight pickled impression. Quite light but flavourful, with currants and wood flavours supported by light tannins and firm acidity. Good body and length. A bit young at this stage so you may want to lay down a couple to see how it develops. Otherwise, pair it up with any white meats -- preferably roasted -- shepherd's pie or cold cuts. (LCBO 240903)

Wine of the Week for March 13, 2006

Banrock Station Chardonnay 2005 - $9.00
Style: W1

It’s nice to see Aussie Chardonnay coming in below the $10 mark without giving up much of its character. With a rich lemon-straw colour, this one delivers delightful aromas of baked lemon, spiced apple, toasty oak, and clarified butter. The palate is crisp with a cleansing acidity, more butter and a lemony bite. Quite round, leaning toward mellow, with good body and length. This is classic New World stuff that would work well with asparagus risotto, roast chicken or chicken stir fry. (LCBO 463943)

Wine of the Week for March 6, 2006

Cantina de Negrar Bardolino Classico 2004 - $ 9.85
Style: R1
Italy: Veneto

We don't see enough Bardolino on store shelves, an under-rated wine that always delivers a great price: performance ratio. This Classico edition shows a rich nose of blackberries and bing cherries with hints of tobacco, cedar and dark chocolate. Quite fruity on the palate, somewhat forward, with a fresh acidity, light tannins and cranberry and blackcurrant flavours. Medium bodied and with very good length, it would be an ideal mate for antipasti, chili or tomato sauces. (LCBO 039701)

Wine of the Week for February 27, 2006

Les Fumées Blanches Sauvignon Blanc 2003 - $9.95
Style: W2

Seems like a bit of a mixed metaphor here. Whether Fumé Blanc or Sauvignon, what you get is a character filled wine that shows delicate citrus, canned bean, lanolin and mineral aromas, with a silky smooth palate. Loads of citrus and a crisp acidity on the palate, supported by good body and length. Would be a good partner for ocean fish, schnitzel or chicken Caesar. (LCBO 472555)

Wine of the Week for February 20, 2006

Castillo de Molina Merlot 2002 - $12.95
Style: R3

I don’t usually find much to recommend in Italian Merlot, but I keep looking hoping that I’ll find something like this. With deep black cherry colour, it shows huge aromas of licorice, leather and dried berries with a hint of vanilla and a touch of barnyard. Very good on the palate, showing smoke and plums, with firm, dusty tannins. Quite full bodied with good length, a splendid nose and a food friendly palate. Try with grilled tuna, a Sunday roast or a rich bean stew. (LCBO 237818)

Wine of the Week for February 13, 2006

Peller Estates Dry Riesling VQA 2005 $ 10.25
Style: W3
Ontario: Niagara

Here's more proof that Ontario is one of the great terroirs for Riesling. With a medium straw colour, this example shows pleasant aromas of peach and perfume and just the right touch of petrol. Very rewarding on the palate, with a fresh and crisp acidity, juicy fruit flavours and a slightly tart close. Medium bodied, with very good length, it offers an authentic Riesling profile at an attractive price. A good partner for quiche, ocean fish, or pork roast with cloves. (LCBO 582817; Also available at Vineyards stores)

Wine of the Week for February 6 2006

Unfortunately, major technical difficulties prevented me from getting out my wine of the week. It took most of the week for the Sympatico tech swat team to track the problem down to a temperamental modem. By the time it was replaced, the week was history. Oh well...


Wine of the Week for January 30, 2006

Angove Bear Crossing Cabernet-Merlot - $10.95
Style: R3

Here's another entry in the "cute animal" arena. However, this wine doesn't need a cuddly label to be yummy. Rich ruby red, it shows delicate aromas of spice, dark fruits, plums, and a touch of vanilla at the close. Quite crisp with firm-but-yielding tannins, and flavours of plum and vanilla, closing with a hint of sweetness. Quite full, with very good length. Would do well alongside chili, grilled tuna or mushroom sauce. (LCBO 592766)

Wine of the Week for January 23, 2006

Folinari Pinot Grigio - $23.95 (Magnum)
Style: W3
Italy: Veneto

We're skirting the $12 ceiling here. The tasted bottle was a magnum, which is nicely discounted form the $13.05 for a 750 mil. The colour is brilliant almond-straw. Look for heady aromas of spice and citrus with traces of pinesap and almond. The palate is lively and juicy, showing lemon, orange and spice, with a crisp acidity. Very good body and length. It's quite a mouthful and would go well with full flavoured fish, BBQ chicken or roasted pork. (LCBO 621821; also in 750, 229542, at $13.05)

Wine of the Week for January 16, 2006

Creekside Black Label Cabernets 2002 - $12.95
Style: R3
Ontario: Niagara

One of the advantages of living in Ontario is wines like this. With a full black-cherry garnet colour, its huge, spicy oak aromas override the whole show, leading eventually to black currant, vanilla and a hint of lemon grass. Rather mouthfilling, showing good integration on the palate, supported by cherry flavours, firm tannins and a lightly tart acidity. A bit of a showpiece in the oak department, and it may seem better balanced in a year, but open it now if you want to revel in that spicy new wood. Literally screams out for a leg of lamb. (LCBO 620708)

Wine of the Week for January 9, 2006

Deinhard Hans Cristof Liebfraumilch 2003 - $9.95
Style: W3

Here's a recommendation you probably thought you'd never see. Wasn't Liebfraumilch that cheap jug wine we turned to when we tired of Baby Duck? The regulations say that it must be a "quality" wine, but typically that was no guarantee of a "good" wine. Thankfully, most wines have improved over the years. The nose here shows goodly amounts of honey, peach and ripe macintosh apple with a hint of leafiness. Very soft on the palate, but with good apple and stone fruit flavours. Just off-dry with a lightish body and good length. Could this revive an entire class of wine? Hard to say, but this is a pretty decent showing. A good match for delicate fish or to warm up the room. (LCBO 3269)

Wine of the Week for January 2, 2006

Casillero del Diablo Carménere 2004 - $11.95
Style: R2

The French winemakers have all but abandoned this grape, but in Chile they've taken up the cause with terrific results. This one shows rich aromas of plum, chocolate, cherry and vanilla. Soft, round and creamy on the palate, delivering sweet fruit flavours and "delayed action" tannins. It's still a youngster and would benefit from a year or two more age, but is perfectly enjoyable now. Treat as a meaty merlot and pair with bean stew, tuna, or rich stews. (LCBO 620666)