1.Chateau des Charmes Cabernet-Merlot Old Vines 2012 VQA NOTL, $19.95
winery +222372: a substantial wine made from plots planted beginning in
1983-1985 and then again in 1992-1996. Cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and merlot,
coming in at 13.5% ABV after time in French oak. Expect medium mocha, cedar, vanilla and cassis, but double-decant the bottle before serving. Maybe wait until next spring? The extra time will help soften it and give it a longer length from the older vines. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
2.Chateau des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2013 St. David's Bench VQA, +391300 $14.95 LCBO: last tasted by me in the 2010 vintage. Here, good balanced fruit, citric tones, zest, MVC typicity. Fresh but so far maybe too fresh. I thought 2010 was better. 12.8% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 87 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
3.Puklus Pinceszet Tokaji Szamorodni 2009, +179374 Vintages, $18.95 for 500 mL:
a second-tier Tokay wine, usually medium-sweet and done naturally with
no added puttonyos. Botrytised grapes would vary from vintage to
vintage and from producer to producer. The last Puklus we had was 2006
vintage; this current version (2009) seems to offer bitterish dried
apricot flavours and oxidative notes. A good dessert wine, certainly
affordable, and perhaps best with egg dishes such as custards. 13.5%
ABV. Quality/Price rating is 92 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
4.Puklus Pinceszet Tokaji Aszu 5 Puttonyos 2008, +47209 Vintages, $35.95 for 500 mL:
intense Hungarian nectar, full of apricot, dried peach and orange peel, tempered with caramelization. Long finish deserves foie gras as a starter, or quality blue cheese as an ending. Good value for the price, especially as this is a half-litre. 11% ABV. Hungarian Gold Medalist. Quality/price rating 94 points by Dean Tudor.
5.Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 VQA NOTL, $22.95, +193573 Vintages Essentials (also available at Marks and Spencer UK for 15.99 pounds): organic wine also certified as biodynamic by Demeter. Intense, well-developed cabby savvy, typically North American, with twist top and 12.9% ABV. The many times that I have had it, I gave it a ranking of 89 – 93 depending on the wine's development at the time. Lately, it has been higher. An obvious choice for Christmas. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
6.Southbrook Canadian Framboise NV, $15.95/375 mL, +341024 LCBO: jammy raspberry nose and palate, excellent on its own, with chocolate or (even better) as a Raspberry Kir with your bubbly of choice. 13.5% ABV. Twist top. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
7.Rutherford Ranch Chardonnay 2012 Napa, +136382, $20.95 Vintages: a soft wine full of orchard fruit, creamy, bright, some vanilla but little oak. Aperitif or with seafood. 13.5% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
8.Many times at Toronto Italian trade shows I have heard the words, "You don't go to Italy for white wine". So I am trying to find out if that is true. Wines from indigenous grapes such as found in frascati, orvieto, soave, grillo, pinot grigio – all have their distinctive tastes and fans. International grapes such as sauvignon blanc and riesling are easily obtainable in their country of origin. I decided to take a crack at some mid-weight mid-priced Italian chardonnays from the north, offered by Majestic Wine Cellars as part of their private stock, to compare and contrast in an evaluation. This is an area of intense competition, the mid-point of $15 a bottle. We make a nice chardonnay in Ontario at that price point, but so do others in the world.
I started with Cantina Valpantena Veneto Chardonnay IGT 2013 ($11.95 Majestic, plastic cork). It's a definite antipasto or pre-prandial wine since it was light lemons with lively acidity, some tart apples, 12% ABV, and a longer finish than I was expecting (87 points). Quite pleasant. I moved on to Albino Armani Claps Chardonnay Friuli Grave Sequal ($15.50 Majestic, composition cork) at 13.5% ABV, a more mellow, rounder wine with less acid (more sweet apples) by a longer finish in the mouth (88 points). I next tasted Albino Armani 1607 Chardonnay Trentino 2013 ($18.95 Majestic, composition cork) which had sweet apples, limes and citrus, and a brightness from the stainless steel (89 points). For international comparison, I tried Morgan Bay Cellars Chardonnay 2013 with a California appellation ($13.95 Majestic, cork disc closure) which had well-rounded texture meant to appeal to the US palate. There were lemons and green apples, but also the softness and taste of a creamy caramel. 13.5% ABV. It says California, but there is also enough finishing acid for a first course. Otherwise, sip away (89 points); I was expecting more food bite and stainless steel at this price level. All of these wines are consignment from Majestic, and all of them are well-priced and useful as restaurant house wines (or by the glass) to be marked up under $40 a bottle.
9.Fernet-Branca Amer/Bitters, +220145, $21.85 for 500 mL: from Fratelli Branca, this is one of the top bitters of the world. It comes in at Christmas here with a tin can for gifting and some historical reproductions on the can. Other than that, it is the same aperitivo or digestif. 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.