1.Chateau des Charmes Vidal Icewine 2015 Estate VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, +413732 Vintages, $45.95 for 375 mL: an aromatic unoaked Icewine (harvested Jan 4, 2016) with apricot as the defining aroma and flavour, followed by honeyed tones. Ready now, but could be aged – but then it will taste different and, in my opinion, taste better with some marmalade tones. 9.5% ABV. Perfect for gifting (comes in a handsome box) at that sweet point for under $50. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
2.Chateau des Charmes Aligote 2015 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, $14.95, +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); it is refreshing for summer and is unoaked. 13% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
3.Henry of Pelham Family Estate Cabernet-Merlot 2012 Speck Family Reserve VQA Short Hills Bench, $39.95, +616433: slated for release in 2017, this bottling continues the tradition of oak tank fermentation on the skins with manual cap punch downs over one month, followed by aging for 20 months in French oak (60% new and 40% 1 year old barrels). As with the 2010 before it, the emphasis is on black fruit in a heavy-heavy style that will require more maturing. It's made from cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc in the style of a Bordeaux blend, with yields of about one bottle per vine. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
4.Henry of Pelham Family Estate Chardonnay 2015 VQA Short Hills Bench, $19.95, +268342: slated for Vintages release in Spring 2017 [but now available online and at the winery], this bottling continues the tres elegante Burgundian character of earlier years. Some ripeness, pleasant balance of oaking and fruit, integrated style in place, wood integration produces some creaminess in the finish. Overall balance of fruit and wood, vanilla, modest spices. 13.5% ABV, cork closure, BF in 90% French oak (25% new), BA for 8 months. Tasted September 25, 2016. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
5.Henry of Pelham Riesling Estate 2013 VQA Short Hills Bench, +557165 Vintages, $17.95: intense riesling in a Rhine style of cool fermentation, with a very off-dry palate but a dry finish (good acid levels on the finish); broad grapefruit and lemons on the mid-palate, sip or food. 11% ABV, twist top, from HOP's oldest Estate vineyards (30+ year old riesling vines, handpicked). Try with fish that live in water but die in wine. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
6.Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2010 VQA Short Hills Bench Niagara, +268391 Vintages, $24.95: a re-release. 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. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
7.Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir Speck Family Reserve 2010 VQA Short Hills Bench, +657874 Vintages Oct 15, $34.95: top of the line pinot noir from Ontario, fruit-forward with enough black/dark tones of cherry-berry capable of long cellar aging (it's already six years old). The winery says "multiple clones play a role in the layered complexity of this wine". Oak tank fermentation with 10 months small barrel aging. Very, very food friendly. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
8.La Crema Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast 2014, +719435, $29.95 Vintages: this wine is cool climate, as much as California would allow, from the coast coolness in the evening and the early morning, and with fruit from six different vineyards. Expect a combo of cherry-berry, underbrush, balanced but low oaking, some mocha, spices. I had it with trout; it went very well. 100% French oak, 20% being new. Not a heavy pinot noir (only eight months in barrel), unlike many others from California. 13.5% ABV. This is a re -order of the original launch in March 2016 Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
9.Marchesi di Barolo Zagara Moscato d'Asti 2015 Piedmont, +168195 Vintages, $16.95: expect typical peaches and oranges from the muscat grape coupled with a light sparkle and a 5% ABV. One of my fave all-time refreshing drinks, like liquid sunshine in a bottle (but this bottle is very heavy: why?). Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
10.Casa Santos Lima Bons Ventos 2014 Vinho Regional Lisboa, +462051, $11.80 LCBO: a new add to the General List, with grapes such as camarate, castelao, and touriga nacional that have sold well here in Ontario. The wine was a Gold Medalist for the 2014 vintage, four times over (Concours Mondial, Mundus Vini). It has had skin contact maceration, four months aging in larger oak barrels, and is bottled with a twist top (not a cork). 13% ABV. Typical aromas of black and red fruits, more red on the palate, oaky tones, fresh and anise finish. Sip or food. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
11.Lionello Marchesi Coldisole Rosso di Montalcino 2013, +460568, $18.95 LCBO: a solid red on the General List. It tastes comparable to many $50 Rosso di Montalcino I've had over the years. This Baby Brunello is a sleeping bear, softer, more approachable, and affordable for North American tastes. Still 100% sangiovese grosso. 14% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
12.Coriliano D'AnticheTerre Aglianico 2012 Campania IGT, +456137, $15.95 LCBO: this wine is rich and dark, full of berries and spices. It is a good restaurant wine at this price level. 13% ABV. It's a lesser and lighter Taurasi made for North American styles, with aglianico, piedirosso, and sciascinoso indigenous grapes. The latter is used for Lacryma Christi wines. It should do well. Quality/Price rating is 88 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
13.Waterkloof Circumstance Syrah 2012 WO Stellenbosch, +455782 $23.95 Vintages: exhibits really good French MVC syrah complexity at an affordable price. 14% ABV. Pepper, some musk tones, blackberries – great with food. Biodynamic farming principles. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
14.Torres Altos Ibericos 2013 Rioja, +381046, $16.95 Vintages: Typical "wild berries and spices" of tempranillo grapes. Fermented over one week and then aged a year in French and US oak, some new. 13.5% ABV. Some jamminess should integrate well with the spices and tannins to eventually produce a well-developed bottle of food wine. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
15.Ciderie St-Nicolas Glace du Verger Iced Orchard Cider PQ, +465856, $19.95 Vintages for 375mL: 7% ABV, from naturally frozen fresh Quebec apples. Gold Medal, World Cider Championships Beverage Testing Institute 2014. Yummy concentrated tones of apples, thick and unctuous. Can be enjoyed as an aperitif, or (like Sauternes) with foie gras, blue-veined cheeses, and fruit desserts. Also, try it by itself at the end of a meal like Port or anything with apples. Quality/Price rating is 92 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
16.Luigi Bosca Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Mendoza, +128629, $19.95 Vintages Oct: black fruit dominates this substantial wine. Made from older vines (50 years old). Ageing in new French oak barrels for 14 months, still needs time to resolve despite 4.5 years of age. 14.2% ABV, a hefty thick wine that dominates, Best for carnivores? You decide. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
17.Baron de Hoen Pinot Gris Reserve 2014 Alsace, +280149, $15.95 Vintages Oct: stainless steel production, 13% ABV. Plenty of dried fruit tones, good body with some biscuits. Alsatian pinot gris is among the best of all pinot gris – and this one is at a concentrated, reserve level. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
18.Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc Organic 2013 VQA Niagara Peninsula, +275958, $21.95: 12.6% ABV, a mix of three contracted organic growers plus some estate organic grapes, partial oak BF (3 weeks) and stainless, with BA for nine months, showing red and black fruit berries and garrigue herbs. It's got an added 5% Merlot. Best with food such as roasts or heavy pastas. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
19.Sibona Camomilla Grappa, +285775, $38.95 Vintages for 700 mL: this is a liqueur made by infusing grappa with chamomile flowers. It succeeds, but at 32% ABV it is also powerful stuff – I could not taste any wines for hours afterwards. If you like chamomile, you'll love this liqueur simply chilled – or as a cocktail (but you'll need to skip the wine). The producer also suggests tones of dried apricot, orange peel and roasted nuts, but they may be hard to find. Still, a nifty niche product, well-made. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.