1.Stratus Kabang Red 2011 VQA Niagara, + $: another juicy cabernet blend from JL Groulx, winemaker behind Stratus. The blend is largely Bordeaux-style (cabernet sauvignon 28%, cabernet franc 15, merlot 24, petit verdot 9, malbec 4, with syrah at 21%), and the usual fine tuning of French oaking (247 days) with 13% new oak. Results are mostly black fruit tones and wood spices at 14.8% ABV in a twist top bottle. As the winery says, it is ready to go. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
2.Stratus Wildass Rose 2013 VQA Niagara, +71712, $17.95: another top notch Groulx blend with merlot, cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, and semillon in the mix. It's been in used French oak for three months, and tops out at 13.9% ABV in a twist top bottle. The 2012 was a much darker red colour but its alcohol was only 12.5% ABV. The pale red tones, the dried fruit tones, and the garrigue tones strongly suggest the south of France. Ultimately, this wine is better with food (first course, salad) than with sipping. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
3.Sileni Cellar Selection Chardonnay 2013 Hawke's Bay New Zealand, +358994, $15: a fairly basic chardonnay, MVC for the region, brimming with orchard fruit and some oak tones (due to partial French oak barrel fermentation). And there was some partial malolactic fermentation. 12.5% ABV, twist top. Good price-point. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
4.Poquito Moscato NV Valencia Spain, +377143 seasonal $5.95: a nifty idea – a half-bottle (375 mL) of a fizzy moscato, but here from Spain. 5% ABV, crown cap for ease of opening, great price for two people to finish off a meal. It's the Muscat of Alexandria grape, known far and wide as the grapey sweet wine under 140 other different names such as moscatel and zibibbo. Lots of oranges and peaches, and a nice fizz component. At this price it should fly off the shelves! Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
5.Jackson-Triggs Chardonnay Grand Reserve 2012 VQA Niagara, +593996, $19.95: I was a fan of the 2011 vintage when it arrived at the LCBO last year, and this one continues the orchard fruit with a lemon finish complexity, aided by creamy butterscotch. It's a bit lean, but the toastiness promotes a long finish on the mid-palate. I quite like it just as much as the 2011, but like the 2011, it could use a bit more bottle age. Full malolactic in French oak, then aged 5 months on the lees in one year old barrels. 13.5% ABV. Unfortunately, the price has gone up two bucks over the 2011 (which of course was underpriced). Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
6.Chateau des Charmes Vidal Icewine 2013 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake,
$25.95 for 200 mL, +565861: a compact icewine with apricot as the defining aroma and flavour, followed by honey tones. Ready now, but should be aged – but then it will taste different and, in my opinion, taste better. 9% ABV. Perfect for gifting (comes in a handsome box). Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
7.Chateau des Charmes Pinot Noir Old Vines 2013 VQA NOTL, +256834, $18.95: I think that this is the first de Charmes' "Old Vines" Pinot in some time. Quite a powerful wine (the 2007 was a Cuvee winner), lots of forest floor (mushrooms, earth) to complement the red fruit. Needs time. 13% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
8.Saint Clair Family Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2013 Marlborough, +237255, $15.95: full of ripe fruit and cut grass, with zesty kiwi savvy tones (herbs, grapefruit). 13% ABV. Twist top, best with anything grilled (e.g., veggies). Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
9.Two Oceans Pinot Grigio 2014 WO Western Cape South Africa, +295022, $10.25: my first 2014 wine this year, typical with crisp lemon tones, finish suggests first course foods. 12.5% ABV, Twist top. Quality/Price rating is 87 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
10.Nugan Estates Alfredo Dried Grapes Shiraz 2012 SEA Riverina, McLaren Vale, NSW, +376707 Vintages, $26.95: a limited release of an Oz amarone style (dried shiraz grapes) then done up in US and French oak for a year. Plums and peppers (savoury), both black and red fruit, dark chocolate and mocha, underbrush. Dense and chewy at this point, needs back-and-forth decanting. 14.5% ABV, twist top. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
11.Nugan Estates Alfredo Second Pass Shiraz 2012 SEA, +368811, $15.95: a limited release of an Oz ripasso style (the wine is pressed onto the pomace and yeast lees of Dried Grape Shiraz, noted above) and then into French and US oak (the reverse of the Dried Grapes Shiraz above) for a year. The label suggests tones of rhubarb, cherry, tobacco, but I could also add some earth/underbrush and mocha.14% ABV, twist top. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.