1.Chateau des Charmes Chardonnay 2014 St. David's Bench Vineyard VQA St David's Bench, +430991, $19.95 Vintages: one of several chardonnays at different price points from Chateau des Charmes. My last vintage tasted was the 2012. Barrel fermented and barrel aged in French oak for almost a year, with lees stirring. 25-year old vines. Expect soft balance with nuances of minerality and some muted tropicality, served up with orchard fruit. Cork closure. Long finish. One of my fave chards, but do not serve overchilled. 495 cases. 13% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
2.Chateau des Charmes Cabernet-Merlot Old Vines 2012 VQA NOTL, $21.95 +222372 Vintages: a substantial wine made from plots planted beginning in 1983-1985 and then again in 1992-1996 (all four of their vineyards) – about a third each of cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot, coming in at 13.5% ABV after 10 months time in non-new French oak. Expect medium mocha, cedar, vanilla and cassis, but double-decant the bottle before serving. The extra airing will help soften it and give it a longer length from the older vines. Tasted successfully over a number of days. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
3.Chateau Devise d'Ardilley Haut-Medoc 2012, +642512, $29.95 Vintages Dec 10: this popular brand is useful for the mid-Atlantic style for North American Bordeaux drinking. Composed of 45% merlot, 50% cabernet sauvignon, and 5% petit verdot, 13% ABV. Lots of black fruit with a strong wood component, lingering but mild finish. A first course wine? Haut-Medocs are really "good buy" in wines. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
4.Gerard Bertrand Grand Terroir Tautavel 2013 Cotes du Roussillon Villages, +272575, $18.95 Vintages Jan 7, 2017: one of the real few values in the opening January release at Vintages. It's a blend typical of the south Rhone – with syrah, grenache, and carignan - and coming in at 14% ABV. Grand Terroir is Bertrand's range of specific vineyards in the Roussillon region. A third of the wine is aged in French oak barrels for nine months; the rest goes into vats. Red fruit and black fruit dominate with nuances of aging and wood. Some garrigue too. Best with food. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
5.Ferraton Pere & Fils Samorens Cotes-du-Rhone 2014, +168708, $14.95 Vintages Jan 21/17: a good Rhone blend of grenache (85%), syrah (10%) and cinsault (5%). It's matured in vats as a simple Rhone, at 13.5% ABV. Aromas and texture are basically a grenache papery sensation, with dark berry complexity and modest spicing. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
6.Maynard's Port Encyclopedia, vol. II, $54.95, +464917 LCBO Gift Purchase: this is a great introduction for tasting port, a sort-of tutorial. And very useful for a Christmas gift at that price range. Here are six of the Barão de Vilar's fine Ports for this sampling set. They have been in the business of port for 16 generations; the LBV concept was originated by them in 1954. The six tubes are 60 mL each: 12 ounces in total. Just perfect for 2 – 3 persons, say about $18 each. There are notes on the inside of the box (which looks like a book), and if you want more, there is always Wikipedia. The first three may not seem much like a bargain (white, ruby, LBV 2012) but the latter three are bargains in this context (10-, 20, 30-year old tawnies). There are tasting notes provided (the tawnies regularly get over 90 points just about everywhere) as well as suggested pairings with food. Unfortunately, the food pairings are difficult since the quantity of wine is so small: by the time a couple have tasted and enjoyed the ports, there is little left but the aromas. But it is worth a shot if you go at it alone. One suggestion: the package will cost a bit more, but it may be appropriate to just keep the ports on the dark side by dropping the white port and adding a colheita after the LBV, a sort-of comparison with the tawnies. White ports are about $17 a full bottle, colheitas are twice that. My fave, of course, was the 20-year old tawny, with its complicated nose and dried fruit tones on the palate. Quality/Price rating of the package is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.