1.Huff Estates Merlot 2017 South Bay Vineyard VQA Prince Edward County, $30 at winery: very fruity, maybe fruit gone wild, but tempered with 18 months in French oak (15% new). 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. Suggest a double decant before drinking. Charcuterie and/or cheese platters. 12.5% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
2.Huff Estates Pinot Grigio 2018 VQA Prince Edward County, $19 at winery: the winemaker says "made as a slightly more round version of our typical pinot gris (which we still produce)." This makes Huff a rarity, producing both pinot gris and pinot grigio, the white equivalent of a winery producing both shiraz and syrah: it is all in the style that the winemaker wants. Here the RS is 4.8 g/L which does give it a roundness. Body is firmer and colouring is more straw. Useful as an aperitif or first course wine, but it is more demanding than a regular sipper. 12.5% ABV. 600 cases. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
3.Huff Estates Cabernet Franc 2017 South Bay Vineyard VQA Prince Edward County $35 winery: herby red fruit dominates. 18 months French oak, 30% new. 225 cases. Some tannins need to resolve on the finish, so double decant or leave open for a long time. God with almost anything that needs a bracing red. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
4.Fogolar Cabernet Franc 2015 VQA Niagara Peninsula, $22 at winery (Ridgepoint Winery): barrel fermentation with a month of maceration and then pressed to barrel for storage. Aged in French and US oak barrels (30% new) for 18 months. Ripe black fruit, good aging to bring out the spices and flavours. Best with grilled veggies and meats. Needs double decanting. 13.4% ABV, residual sugar at 1.9 g/L. Quality/Price rating is 89.5 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
5.Cooper's Hawk North Block Sparkling 2016 VQA Ontario, $23.95 +644773 Vintages Aug 17: a good blend of chardonnay and chardonnay musque (for tropical roundness), with residual sugar at 6 g/L. The vines have been planted to take advantage of the directional wind flows. Expect lemony-y citrus minerality with distinctive chardonnay apple "blanc de blanc" tones. Good infrastructure bready spine, terrific first course or appetizer accompaniment. We had a mayo-parmesan-scallion topping on biscotti. It was just a guess, but it went very well! Uses the cuve close technique. Produced by one of the stalwarts of the EPIC region in LENS. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
6.Fess Parker Pinot Noir 2016 Sta. Rita Hills +83212 Vintages, $33.95: lots of bright red fruit such as raspberries, with spicy-toast woodsy-mushroom points and some vanilla and pepper. From four different vineyards in the region, finishing off at 11 months in French oak (43% new). A whopping 14.3% ABV may still need to be tamed despite its quaffability. Juicy-jammy California wine all the way, but may also need a double decant to open it up. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
7.Henry of Pelham Estate Fume Sauvignon Blanc 2018 VQA Short Hills Bench, +444268 $19.95 winery only: 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, melon, honeysuckle. Best as a classy sipper on its own, but also with a lightly aromatic first course. 50% BF in barriques. 12.7% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 89.5 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
8.Gerard Bertrand Terroir Saint Chinian 2016 +370247 September Vintages $17.95: Bertrand has a Terroir series embracing the range of Sud de France wines. Here it is older vines in a schist area of Languedoc, specifically syrah and mourvedre (both vinified separately). Expect black fruit all over the place (even black olives, mocha and garrigue). The "f" word comes to mind: full, fat, fleshy, fabulous at this price. Some of the wine is aged for a year in barrel, the rest matured in vats and then blended before bottling. 14% ABV. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
9.Luigi Bosca Malbec 2016 DOC Single Vineyard Lujan de Cuyo Finca Vistalba Mendoza +74922 Vintages October, $29.95: 70-year old vines are aged in new French oak for 14 months with ML fermentation. Highly structured but with red fruit and mocha tones, not light 14.3% ABV. New French oak aging for 14 months adds some toastiness. Better with food such as heavy meats. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
10.Red Tractor (Creekside) Cabernet Merlot 2017 VQA Niagara Peninsula, +11851 $17.95 Vintages September: comes in a stout package, a sort of hommage to the workers, with a screw cap. Aged in barrels for a year, with black fruit notes and a rural sense of character (probably from the cabernet franc). Quite quaffable. 13% ABV, sugar at 3 g/L. Just bottled in June 2019. The producer suggests "bold food" pairing. Quality/Price rating is 88.5 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
11.Red Tractor (Creekside) Cabernet Franc 2017 VQA Four Mile Creek Winery direct/online, $25: from Serluca Family farm in Niagara. Vinified New World style, with 14% ABV showing, a sugar content of 5.9 g/L (twice the above Cabernet Merlot offering), bottled in June 2019 (after 16 months barrel aging). Strong cherry and red fruit (raspberry?) dominate the nose, but the palate finishes with an herbaceous quality. More bold wine for a "bold food" pairing (suggested are sharp cheese, smoked poultry, lamb ragu, grilled meats). Stuffing. Quality/Price rating is 89 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
12.Angus the Bull (Aberdeen Wine Company) Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 Central Victoria Australia +602615 LCBO $18.95: a wine that first began in 2002. It has been skillfully blended with different cabernet sauvignon grapes from across Central Victoria to be a pre-eminent drinking wine for beef in all forms. Lately, it's about 42% Goulburn, 29% Barossa, 20% Heathcote, and a bit from McLaren Vale and other Victorian sites. Very tasty and integrative, expressing all the good components of cabernet: mocha, cassis, vanillin, herbs and spices. Long, long length, and 14% ABV with only 3 gm/L RS. For the guys who eat "beef and two veg", it is certainly addictive. Quality/Price rating is 89.5 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures. Note: September LTO is $2.50 off the list price.
13.Chateau des Charmes Riesling "Old Vines" 2015 Estate Bottled VQA Niagara-On-The-Lake, +277228, $18.95 Vintages August: made from vines largely planted in 1978, so it is now a very mature vineyard. 12% ABV. Succulent, but off-dry Alsatian character (citric tones, spices), with now almost four years of aging. A beaut with spicy or higher acidic foods – lush and plush. Lots of orchard fruit character. Twist top. Quality/price rating 90 points by Dean Tudor.
14.Chateau des Charmes Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 St. David's Bench Vineyard VQA St. David's Bench NOTL, $34.95 +453423 winery and online: from a nice ripe year (and thus only made in better years), loaded with choco-berry and mocha tones. One year in French oak, but still done in a Euro style as a food wine. 0.6 gm/L residual sugar; hence, a definite feel of minerality and extremely useful with food such as steak or any lamb cut. Quality/Price rating is 91 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.