1.Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2014 VQA Short Hills Bench Niagara, +268342 Vintages, $19.95: a really fresh tasting chardonnay, tempered by oak notes from barrel fermentation (90% French oak, one-quarter new) and some short aging in barrels for about 8 months. It typifies deftness at 13.5% ABV: ripeness, balance of oaking and fruit, integrated style in place, while wood integration produces creaminess in the finish. Cork closure. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
2.Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2010 VQA Short Hills Bench Niagara, +268391 Vintages, $24.95: part of a burgundian-styled pair with the chardonnay at the April 16 release. Here is another deft wine, with cherry-berry tones, some toast, mildly opulent sty, not cool climate at all. Fermented in stainless and aged in "European" oak (30% new). Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
3.Miguel Torres Cordillera de los Andes Special Reserva Carmenere 2009 Curico Valley, +301432 Vintages, $21.95: a warmer climate wine, with 14.5% ABV reflected in the cherry-berry flavours with spices (including anise and some mint). Aged a year in French oak (30% new). Still needs time. Quality/Price rating is 87 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
4abc.I tasted some mid-weight mid-priced Italian chardonnays from north Italy, offered by Majestic Wine Cellars as part of their consignment stock, to compare and contrast in an evaluation. This is an area of intense competition, the mid-point of $15 a bottle. We make a nice chardonnay in Ontario at that price point, but so do others in the world. I started with Cantina Valpantena Veneto Chardonnay IGT 2015 ($10.60 Majestic private stock, plastic cork). It's a definite antipasto wine since it was light lemons with lively acidity, some tart apples, 12% ABV, and a longer finish than I was expecting (87 points). Quite pleasant. I moved on to Albino Armani Claps Chardonnay Friuli Grave Sequal 2014 ($14.15 Majestic private stock, composition cork) at 12.5% ABV, a more mellow, rounder wine with less acid (more sweet apples) by a longer finish in the mouth (88 points). I next tasted Albino Armani 1607 Chardonnay Trentino 2014 ($16.75 Majestic private stock, composition cork) which had sweet apples, limes and citrus, and a brightness from the stainless steel (89 points), a definite pre-prandial wine.
5.Southbrook Vineyards Seriously Cool Red 2013 VQA Ontario, $15.95 Winery: an interesting blend of pinot noir (65%), gamay (25%), zweigelt (8%) and syrah (2%) from sustainable vineyards. The label is touted to be suitable for vegans. It is all stainless steel, with twist tops, at 12.5% ABV. Expect classic Ontario red fruit (cherry-berry) plus some tart cranberry for refreshment and finish. The back label has little description; it would have been nice to know the grape names and proportions. (Union does this on their front label). Quality/Price rating is 87 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
6.Southbrook Vineyards Serious Cool Chardonnay 2015 VQA Ontario, $15.95 Winery: a closely knitted blend of chardonnay musque (65%), chardonnay (26%), and riesling (9%). Yet residual sugar is 5 g/l, less than the comparable Seriously Cool Red. The winery notes that 80% of the grapes were harvested from vineyards transitioning to organic, so the source vineyards are at least "sustainable plus".A good quaffer or social wine or even a first course white wine, displaying Ontario orchard fruit (apple, peach, et al) and some vanilla tones from subtle oaking. The back label has little description; it would have been nice to know the grape names and proportions. (Union does this on their front label). Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
7.Calamus Estate Steely Chardonnay 2013 VQA Niagara Peninsula, +210062 Vintages, $14.95: steely indeed, fresh and crisp still at this point. Twist top, 12.5% ABV, like a softer (it has some partial malo treatment) Chablis-style at a good price. My impression is that it has improved in the bottle. First course wine, especially good with a winter salad. Loaded with orchard fruit from start to finish. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
8.Calamus Estate Riesling 2013 VQA Vinemount Ridge, +158642 LCBO, $14.20: from 13 year old vines, typical of Ontario riesling but more appley and citric, off-dry mode (some peaches), 11.6% ABV. Try as an aperitif social wine for its fruity finish, or spicy first course such as seafood. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
9.Calamus Estate Cosmic White 2013 VQA Niagara Peninsula, +255893 LCBO, $14.95: every Ontario winery by now has a white blend and a red blend, doubling as social drinking or as a house wine for restaurants. Most of these are sold on pricepoint alone. This one has 43% riesling, 43% chardonnay, and 14% gewurztraminer (although the proportions may vary from vintage to vintage, and some wineries even add or delete grape varieties). It is a very popular drink style and as an Ontario Wine Awards judge I have found it hard to blindly pick through the wines. Invariably, I always give the highest marks to what turns out to be the most expensive wine. But that is not the point of the winemaking. In all circumstances, while the winery wants to sell its wine, it has to have an appeal to the customer at a great price for retail or licensee. Here, we have a mix of value, from three highly regarded grapes (two very aromatic and one with structural backbone). Done up in stainless, coming in at 12.1% ABV, and showing multiple orchard fruits. It is a good social wine at a fair pricepoint. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
10.Calamus Estate Calvin's Cabernet 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula, $17.50 Winery Only: Ontario needs a good Cabernet for under $20, and here is one candidate. It is a definite BBQ wine, with 83% cab sauvignon and 17% cab franc done up for 26 months in French and US oak. Twist top with 13.4% ABV, winner of a Best Value award from Intervin in 2015. Typical MVC of cassis, smoke and other wood tones and vanilla. Long finish. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
11.Calamus Estate Meritage 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula, $32.20 Winery Only: another Bordeaux-styled red from the glorious 2012 vintage, possibly the finest for Ontario, especially for cabernet family. And here we are with 58% cabernet sauvignon, 33% merlot, and 9% cabernet franc, making it a "Meritage" wine since it uses at least three of the Bordeaux varieties. Stored in French oak for 21 months, and 13.2% ABV. Wood tones are getting more pronounced (I tasted this wine over several days) so that means a certain leafiness augmented by light vanilla and cedar from the oak. Black cherry-berry fruit dominates, cassis, along with merlot plumminess. Long, long meaty finish from the integration and aging so far. With a twist top, the wine could age differently than Bordeaux. One to check in with later....save me a bottle. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
12.Cloudline Pinot Gris 2014 Willamette Valley Oregon, +159988, $24.95 Vintages: I've always preferred pinot gris over pinot grigio, and this is a classic gris from Domaine Drouhin Oregon. Its long dry finish is preceded by light floral and good aromatics of citric fruit, posed with a concentrated body of flavours with texture. Definite first course wine. One for the advanced pinot gris and grigio lover. 13.9% ABV with twist top. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
13. Fratelli Branca CARPANO ANTICA FORMULA VERMOUTH, $47.95 litre; $18.95 for 375 mL
Ontario by Majestic Wine Cellars: a revelation in the vermouth world, created in 1786. This is red vermouth, numbered in hand-blown glasses, emphasizing vanilla, dried fruit, dates and orange zest. Bitter-sweet, with some gentian root notes. 16.5% ABV, long persistent finish, best on the rocks as an aperitif or after a meal straight up. Many Toronto bars use it in their cocktails, such as Negroni or Manhattan. Quality/Price rating is 93 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
14.Morgan Bay Cellars Chardonnay 2013 California, $14.15 Majestic private stock, which had well-rounded texture meant to appeal to the US palate. There were lemons and green apples, but also the softness and taste of a creamy caramel. 13.5% ABV. The label says California (which to many means "off-dry" or a sweetness reminiscent of at least some sugar), but there is also enough finishing acid for a first course. Otherwise, sip away; I was expecting more food bite and stainless steel at this price level.
Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
15.Rutherford Ranch Lander-Jenkins Chardonnay California 2013, +162651 Vintages, $19.95: a typical mid-priced California chardonnay, just under $20 but sure to go up with the exchange rate (like all the other $19.95 American wines) to maintain that quality. Expect caramel and cream and citric tones on the finish, as well as a concentrated body. 13% ABV, well-made. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
16.Rutherford Ranch Chardonnay 2014 Napa, (2013 was +136382, $22.95 Vintages): a soft wine full of orchard fruit, creamy, bright, some vanilla but modest oak. Aperitif or with seafood. 13.5% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
16.Puklus Pinceszet Sweet Tokaji Szamorodni 2009, +179374 Vintages, $18.95 for 500 mL:
a second-tier Tokay wine, usually medium-sweet and done naturally with no added puttonyos. Botrytised grapes would vary from vintage to vintage and from producer to producer. The last Puklus we had was 2006 vintage; this current version (2009) seems to also offer bitterish dried apricot flavours and oxidative notes. A good dessert wine, certainly affordable, and perhaps best with egg dishes such as custards. 13.5%
ABV. 100% Furmint. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.