Henry of Pelham Old Vines Baco Noir 2016 VQA Ontario, +459966, $19.95 LCBO General List: low yielding grapes come from 1984 and later plantings in the Short Hills Bench area. As with their previous baco noirs, HOP has maintained both the rich jammy black currant spicy character and the low price – under $20. Both new and older (one/two year old) US barrels are used for 14 months aging. It is still needs another year or two for proper aging, but with decanting it can be enjoyed now. 13% ABV. One of the top bacos at the LCBO. Works best with pronounced meats such as pork/boar, lamb, farmed or wild game – all either braised or grilled. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir 2016 VQA Niagara Peninsula, +13904 LCBO, $16.95: Here is a deft entry-level character pinot noir wine, with some cherry-berry tones, some nuances of wood, mildly opulent style, not totally cool climate at all. Fermented in stainless and aged in "European" oak (15% new). Expect also light cloves, fresh fruit tones, and oak vanillin which will mute over time. Ready now but will get better, very food friendly and drinkable. Maybe decant first. 13% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc de Blanc 2012 VQA Niagara Peninsula, +315200 Vintages TBD, $44.95: there is not much more to say about this wine than I haven't already said over the years – it's simply one of the top performing bottles of Traditional Method or secondary fermentation in the province. The price has not changed over the years, still $44.95, but the grapevines are older and producing quality material. This is estate grown (Short Hills Bench) chardonnay, the best juice selected for 20% barrel fermentation and then aged for up to 60 months in the bottle before being disgorged. Very close to champagne, with its elegance and smoothness plus citric overtones (especially in the finish) and that typical yeasty baked goods aromatics. 12.5% ABV, a personal fave of mine. Needs another six months for the disgorgement addition to come together. Gold Medal winner at 2017 All Canadian Wine Championships. Quality/Price rating is 93+ points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
Henry of Pelham Estate Fume Sauvignon Blanc 2016 VQA Short Hills Bench, $19.95 winery only: First time for this style at HOP. Very aromatic with nuances of toastiness both in the nose and on the palate, somewhat in a fume style started by Mondavi fifty years ago. Typical savvy zestiness is tamed by oaking and unctuous fruit tones. Medium finish accents lemon and vanillin character. Best as a classy sipper on its own, but also with a lightly aromatic first course. 13.5% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 89.5 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
Quinta de Curvos Loureiro Vinho Verde 2015, +471284, $12.95 Vintages: 100% Loureiro, 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. A Vintages re-order just in time for summer endings. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
Casa Vinicola Sartori Mont'Albano Refosco dal Peduncolo Rosso Venezie IGT 2015, +492546, $16.95 Vintages: from organic vineyards in the Friuli-Graves DOC zone. The name indicates a red-stemmed refosco grape that is indigenous to the region. The wine is ruby-ish, assertive with herbaceous complexities, and goes best with food, especially fatty salami and sausages. Reminds me of a leaner cabernet franc. Organic wine, 12% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
Baron de Hoen Cremant d'Alsace Brut Mausberg Blanc de Blancs NV, +171785 Vintages, $17.95: Limestone pebbles are responsible for the higher acid of the pinot auxerrois and pinot blanc grapes used in the blend here. Traditional Method is used, of course, without any ML. It is a pretty wine, with a bit of fruit, but is better as an aperitif or with first courses. My wife and I enjoyed this bottle with popcorn and a movie at home. It's sustainable agriculture in the region, and with a huge production of some 600,000 bottles (50K cases), there is an opportunity to keep the price down. This is a re-order by Vintages. 12.5% ABV, 3.8 g/L TA and 10 g/L RS. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
Chateau des Charmes Riesling "Old Vines" 2014 Estate Bottled VQA NOTL, at winery [+277228 older Vintages SKU], $18.95 Vintages: Made from vines largely planted in 1978, so it is now a mature vineyard. 12.4% ABV. Succulence like you would not believe, but off-dry Alsatian character (citric tones, spices), with now almost three years of aging. A beaut with spicy or higher acidic foods. Lots of character. Twist top. Silver Medal from this year's National Wine Awards of Canada. Quality/price rating 91 points by Dean Tudor.
Chateau des Charmes Aligote 2016 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, $15.95, +296848 LCBO: made from the rare French vinifera (seldom seen outside Burgundy) that Paul Bosc has cultivated since 1978, loaded with orchard fruit (apples and pears) and ending with a finishing crisp acidity suggesting food more than sipping. It was often used in Burgundy as the white wine base for Kir; now, almost any dry white is used in North America. It's refreshing for summer, and is unoaked. 12.5% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
La Crema Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2015 +962886 Vintages, $29.95: La Crema winemakers get a fairly consistent wine from year to year, with bottle aging being the main difference. Cool climate (as much as California could allow) from the coast in the evening and the early morning. Expect a combo of lemons, toast and orchard fruit tones, with a smooth finish from secondary malolactic fermentation. One of my really fave California chardonnays: balanced concentration. Mostly French oak with some US; 19% of the total is new oak. 13.9% ABV (from label). Excellent price. Better paired with food, from starters and apps through to cheese. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
Luigi Bosca La Linda Old Vines Malbec 2014 +507442 $15.95 LCBO: this is a high value wine, given its price, quality Old Vines (30 years average), and altitude (just under a kilometre). Half of it has been aged in once-used US oak for eight months, the other half stays in stainless. The final blend is then lightly filtered. 13.4% ABV. Quite a stuffing of floral aromas and vanilla, juicy plummy taste, longer finish, best with substantial food, and even better if it is cellared a few more years. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
Paololeo Passo del Cardinale 2014 Primitivo di Manduria DOC Puglia +496463 Vintages $18.95: this full-bodied red at 14% ABV, with a dried herbal character, shows also its warm ripe fruit and vanilla tones (three months in US oak barriques). It is very smooth in that California zinfandel manner, very BBQ friendly. Sip or drink with red-based food (sauces, meats, anything BBQ). Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
Berger Rive Manoir de Mercey Mercurey Chateaubeau 2014 +508002 $29.95 Vintages: from the Cote Chalonnaise, this is an old vines pinot noir Burgundy that is pretty consistent from yearv to year. After fermentation it goes into wood (about a quarter of the volume is put into new oak) for a year's aging. Typical ripe red fruit with vanilla wood, but also soft. Should be cellared another year. Smart buy at this price. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro NV Spain +642173 $16.95 500mL Vintages Sept 16: from the Moscatel de Alejandria grape, this is one of my fave fortified dessert wines, at 15% ABV. Torres has been making it since 1946, and in the 21st century it has been a consistent medal winner at the annual Muscats de Monde (France). Expect tons of muscat aromas and flavours emphasizing rose, lemons, peaches, apricots. It's usually stored a year in stainless and then bottled the following February for 2 – 4 months extra aging under cork. Quality/Price rating is 92 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
Ungava Premium Gin (Domaine Pinnacle, PQ), +374231, $34.95: at first sight an intriguing yellow colour bordering on green, reminiscent of yellow chartreuse. All of the flavour and the colour come from hand-picked Arctic ingredients from the Ungava Bay area. The northern botanicals include wild rose hips, cloudberry, crowberry, Labrador Tea, "Arctic Blend", and of course Nordic Juniper (which is pronounced but with diminished flavours). Labrador Tea and Arctic Blend are two plants within the rhododendron family. All six botanicals are used in Indigenous Inuit tea. See www.ungava-gin.com for further technical and botanical details. Entry is light and bracing with aromatics carrying through. Toned down juniper is noticeable, but other unique flavours are in play. Long finish, not hot. Tried straight and over ice, and as a Negronic Spritzer. Bottle and label also employ Inuktitut wording. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.