1.Henry of Pelham Baco Noir 2016 VQA Ontario, +270926 LCBO $14.95: As with their previous baco noirs at all levels, HOP has maintained both the rich jammy character and the price (it has been $14.95 for awhile). Both new and older US barrels are used for more than six months aging (24% new oak). It is still too young for today [only seven months old], needs another year or two. 13% ABV. One of the top General List bacos in Ontario. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
2.Gerard Bertrand Reserve Speciale Viognier 2015 IGP Pays d'Oc, +147975, $14.95 Vintages: aromatic but on the dry side, perfect as a social wine or for first course. Expect peachy and orange character, but of course no oak. Youthful and useful with nuances of orchard fruit and spicy nuts. Could go either way with or without food. Versatile. 12.5% ABV, cork closure. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
3.Torres Salmos 2014 Priorat, +450734 $35.95 Vintages: a delicious red fruit concoction like Chateauneuf-du-Pape with its carinena, garnacha and syrah blend. 14.5% ABV. Expect meatiness and berries, and extremely long finish. Aged in French oak for 14 – 16 months. Of course, much better in a few years (will hold a decade). Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
4.Concilio Pinot Grigio Trentino DOC 2016 +637595 LCBO: loaded as much as a PG can be with orchard fruit finishing dry on the palate. But uncomplicated. Fresh, fresh, fresh and plenty good for the patio/deck of the hot days ahead. Sip or with food – your choice (maybe both ways?). Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
5.Chevalier Monopole Rose Dry Methode Traditionelle NV +485920 Vintages $16.95: a veritable bargain since it is a sparkler at a still wine price. Champagne-method of secondary fermentation, aged nine months, 12% ABV, just perfect for the summer patio/deck campaign. If you like affordable bubbles, then this is it from southern France, with gamay, cinsault, cabernet and bobal grapes in the field blend. Nothing like red fruit in summer (black fruit in winter)....Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
6.Buena Vista Winery Chardonnay 2015 North Coast +396440 Vintages $24.95: it's hard to distinguish among California chardonnays at this price level, so go for the cool climate ones. The 2015 harvest here was early in August, so the wine has aged well with nine months in stainless and French oak (10% new). Expect the typical baked apple and fresh apple, vanilla, orchard fruit, and some citrus tones on the finish. Nuances abound, such as in smoke. A contemplative wine, don't waste it on the patio – there's enough finishing acid to pair with a first course. 13.5% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
7.Southbrook Vineyards Seriously Cool Red 2013 VQA Ontario, $15.95 +453639 LCBO: an interesting blend of pinot noir (65%), gamay (25%), zweigelt (8%) and syrah (2%) from sustainable vineyards. The wine is also suitable for vegans. It is all stainless steel, with twist top, at 12.5% ABV. Expect classic Ontario red fruit (cherry-berry) plus some tart cranberry for refreshment and finish. Can be either a sipper or foodwine or both. The back label has little description; it would have been nice to know the grape names and proportions. Other Ontario wineries do this. I actually like this wine a lot better than I did a year ago, so it is capable of aging, and I think next year it will be even better. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
8.Southbrook Vineyards Serious Cool Chardonnay 2016 VQA Ontario, $14.95 +457481 LCBO: a blend of chardonnay and chardonnay musque, 50% of each (last year's vintage had a dollop of added riesling). The residual sugar is 5 g/l, less than the comparable Seriously Cool Red. The winery notes that half 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) in a light mode, and some citric tones. Best with cheeses served on the patio. 11.8% ABV. The back label has little description; it would have been nice to know the proportions of the two chardonnay varieties used. Other Ontario wineries do this. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
9.Southbrook Vineyards Serious Cool Rose 2016 VQA Ontario, $14.95 Winery Direct: a blend of pinot noir and vidal [the latter transitioning to organic], with upfront strawberry and perfumed aromatics, finishing with a savoury bite suitable for sipping on its own as an aperitif or as a first course foodwine. Best in summer, of course. 11.5% ABV. The back label has little description; it would have been nice to know the proportions of the grapes used. Other Ontario wineries do this. Quality/Price rating is 89-90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
10.Huff Estates Pinot Gris 2016 VQA Ontario, $22 at winery: from vineyards in PEC (80%) and Tawse Winery (20%). Stress is on the old Alsatian style and uses the "gris" descriptor rather than the more-common "grigio". "Gris" usually indicates more white floral and white fruit aromatics, and floral consistency right through to an enticing finish. Body is firmer and colouring is more straw or yellowish. Useful as an aperitif or first course wine, but it is more demanding than a regular sipper. 12.5% ABV. 900 cases. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
11,Huff Estates Riesling Off Dry 2016 VQA Ontario, $20 at winery: I did not find this "off-dry" (RS 17g/l), but rather a typical Ontario Riesling with fruity body and finishing acidity. More a first course or aperitif than a sipper as the label may imply. Good balance of tropical fruit sweetness and citric acidity. 11.5% ABV. 1600 cases. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
12.Huff Estates Merlot 2016 VQA Ontario, $20 at winery: very fruity, maybe fruit gone wild, no oak or other aging – just stainless steel. Typically bright red and black fruit style, cherry-berry even. Slightly tannic finish at this point, expected to smooth out over the next year or so. One of the better merlot wines in Ontario. First course or cheese. 13% ABV. 700 cases. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
13.Huff Estates Rose 2016 VQA Ontario, $19 at winery: made totally from cabernet franc with 12 hours of skin contact during fermentation. Lovely pale colour, aromatics and first palate of strawberries and then the typical cranberry textures and finish for an Ontario wine. Light herbaceous suggests food on the patio or some first course app.
12.5% ABV. 900 cases. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
14.Cardone Archita Gioia del Colle Primitivo 2014 Puglia, $24.95 +488383 Vintages: there is a lot going on here that should also appeal to zinfandel lovers. Behind a sheen of chocolate and coffee (North American appeal), there is a range of stewed and jammy dark fruit, somewhat raisinated but tempered with a sweet toasted smoke feel in the long finish. Good bang for the buck. Others have noted that the 2014 vintage is the best ever for Archita. 14.5% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
15.Giuseppe B. CARPANO ANTICA FORMULA VERMOUTH, +360248 Vintages, $16.95 for 375 mL: a revelation in the vermouth world, created in 1786. This is red vermouth, 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 the Negroni or Manhattan. Quality/Price rating is 94 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
16.CARPANO BIANCO DRY, $22.95 litre, Private Order from Majestic Wine Cellars: a nifty vermouth to savour or to use in blends with cocktails. Expect peppery-like citrus, oily and fruity (nectarine) textures, and dry enough to show off herbs and botanicals. It has more vanilla tones than expected, but the sweetness has been mitigated (about RS 30 gr/L). It's even got Cretan dittany (hop marjoram) as an herb. Not for really dry martinis, but great as an aperitif on the rocks, on its own for a comfort drink, or as a cocktail. 18% ABV, long fnish like wine. It may be coming to the LCBO, so watch for it. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
17.Fratelli Branca Fernet-Branca Amer/Bitters, +220145 Vintages, $23.10 for 500 mL: this is one of the top dry bitters of the world. Here are 27 herbs and spices aged in oak for a year. It can be enjoyed with beer, mixed drinks, on the rocks, or with soda/pop drinks. But it is best straight. 40% ABV, with that characteristic gentian and vanilla/oak matured flavour. Quality/Price rating is 93 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.