1.Miguel Torres Santa Digna Syrah Reserva 2013 Central Valley, +480905, $14.95 Vintages: 80% of this wine was aged in French oak for 9 months, and then bottled at 14% ABV. This is a Fair Trade wine (Fair for Life) in which all the workers get a decent wage. The vines grow in Linares in poorly-drained soil with low-yields. This gives it a very syrah-like character of vibrant black fruits and violets. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
2.Quinta de Curvos Loureiro Vinho Verde 2015, +471284, $12.95 Vintages: 12% ABV, with lightly floral tones on the nose and on the palate, ending with aromatic softness. Loureiro is one of the vinho verde varieties used in blending. Best sipped or with appetizers. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
3.Gerard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres Syrah Mourvedre Grenache 2013 Cotes du Roussillon, +413245, $18.95 Vintages Feb 18: 14% ABV, GSM style all the way. One third of the wine is matured in barrels for 9 months and then blended with vatted wines. Jammy, upfront black fruit coupled with both mocha and subtle spice cake tones. Sip or with food. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
4.Gerard Bertrand Cote des Roses Rose 2015 Languedoc, +37895, $18.95 Vintages: out just in time for Valentine and then continuing through Easter. 12.5% ABV, but fresh and fruity with an excellent pale rose colour. The bottle has a bottom shaped like a rose in bloom (to view it, turn the bottle onto its side). It is a blend of grenache, cinsault and syrah, emphasizing both red and black currants with some candy floss on the finish. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
5.Puklus Pinceszet Tokaji Aszu 3 Puttonyos 2012, $20.95 (500 mL), +980805 Vintages: Hungarian nectar, full of apricot, dried peach and orange peel. 13% ABV. Try with blue cheese as an ending to the meal. No price increase over the 2010, last here at Vintages in 2015. There will not be many of these left as new Euro rules raise minimum sugar levels and increase the puttonyos to 5 or 6, eliminating all the 3 and 4 levels. Prices will rise too, through $50 a bottle. Quality/price rating 91 points by Dean Tudor.
6.Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2012 VQA Short Hills Bench Niagara, +268391 Vintages Feb 18, $24.95: Here is a deft Burgundian character pinot noir wine, with cherry-berry tones, some toast, mildly opulent style, not totally cool climate at all. Fermented in stainless and aged in "European" oak (30% new). Ready now, very food friendly. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
7.Henry of Pelham Baco Noir 2014 Speck Family Reserve VQA Ontario, +461699, $24.95 Vintages Feb 18: Low yielding grapes come from Short Hills Bench area which was planted in 1984. As with their previous baco noirs, HOP has maintained both the rich jammy black currant spicy character and the low price – at under $25. Aged in premium American Oak for more than 18 months, it's still young, needing another two years or so for proper aging, but with multiple decanting it can be enjoyed now. 13.5% ABV. One of the top bacos at the LCBO. Works best with pronounced meats such as pork, lamb, farmed or wild game – all either braised or grilled. And spicy foods. Speck Family Reserves are the top tier by HOP. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
8.THE KRAKEN BLACK SPICED RUM, 750 mL +225698, $30.95, 47% ABV: I rarely review spirits beyond brandies, but this one caught my eye, and it is a delicious drink on its own "neat" (as I usually have my Cognacs and Malts). It's a base of dark rum from Trinidad and Tobago, aged one to two years, and with 11 added spices (cinnamon, ginger, and clove dominate). The taste is rather on the nutty side, with tones of vanilla and mocha
and the spices, with a long peppery finish. There is no doubt it has strong flavours but it is mild on the attack. Physically, the black liquid rum comes in an attractive bottle with hoop handles and an interesting label that celebrates the giant sea squid nicknamed "The Kraken" (legend has it that a dark rum shipment from the Caribbean was once lost to the beast in the ocean). I grew up with the Jabberwocky, so I can identify with such myths. The rum was actually put together in Indiana (says the label), and it is now a Hot Brand in the USA. You could try a Black Mojito or a Perfect Storm (The Kraken plus ginger beer and lime wedge), but do try it as a sippin' neat drink. Also available in different formats at the LCBO: +389304, 50 mL $4.95; +366534, 375 mL $17.95; +318683, 1140 mL $42.95; +454710, $1750 mL $62.95; and as a Limited Edition ceramic bottle suitable for gifting (+427286, 750 mL $44.95). Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
9.Henry of Pelham Baco Noir 2015 Speck Family Reserve VQA Ontario, +461699, $24.95 at winery now: Low yielding grapes come from Short Hills Bench area which was planted in 1984. As with their previous baco noirs, HOP has maintained both the rich jammy black currant spicy character and the low price – under $25. Aged in premium American Oak for more than 18 months. It's still young, needing another two years or so for proper aging, but with multiple decanting it can be enjoyed now. 13.5% ABV. Works best with pronounced meats such as pork, lamb, farmed or wild game – all either braised or grilled. And spicy foods. Speck Family Reserves are the top tier by HOP. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
10.Chateau des Charmes Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2015 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, $14.95, +81653 LCBO: A consistent wine, year in and year out, my fave Ontario chardonnay at this price level. The labels have more info, stressing a lighter body and more fruity finish for 2015 (orchard fruit) with some buttery nuanced complexity from the barrel fermentation, and with a longer finish. Aged in oak for 9 months. The palate is richer than previous vintages, with more alcohol, buy it up. Cork closure, keep it around for awhile. 14.3% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 92 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures. [currently on sale at LCBO for $1 off until Feb 26]
11.Chateau des Charmes Cabernet Franc 2015 VQA NOTL, +162602 LCBO, $14.95: it has been two years since I tasted the entry level 2013 Cab Franc from Chateau des Charmes (I usually have access to their St David's Bench Vineyard Franc wines, costing twice as much), and they have a continual winner. It has some over-the-top full-bodied black spicy fruit while still retaining some cranberries and bell peppers, slightly augmented with some pine tones. Aged for 9 months in French oak with some toast. Sip or with first course food. Cork closure, keep it around for awhile. 13% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.