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Thursday, March 2, 2023

WORLD WINE WATCH TOP WINES AT VINTAGES: under/over $20 for MARCH 4, 2023 release.

WORLD WINE WATCH TOP WINES AT VINTAGES:  under/over $20 for MARCH 4,  2023 release.

By DEAN TUDOR, Gothic Epicures Writing My "Wines, Beers and Spirits of the Net", a guide to thousands of news items and RSS feeds, plus references to wines, beers and spirits, has been at since 1994.

NOTE:   The cost of wine, beer, and spirits is rising across Canada.  A Canadian liquor tax hike of 6.3% IS coming in April...

As of April 1, 2023, a federal excise tax will raise the cost of alcohol across Canada by 6.3%. The tax was introduced in 2017 by then finance minister Bill Morneau. It's colloquially called the alcohol escalator tax, as it automatically adjusts every April 1, based on the Consumer Price Index.

When inflation hangs out around the 3% benchmark targeted by the Bank of Canada, the alcohol tax isn't particularly noteworthy. But throw the white-hot inflation rates of 2021 and 2022 into the mix, and you've got a tax hike akin to sprinkling salt in an open wound.  (CP)


These notes for good wines available through  LCBO Vintages (on a bi-weekly basis)  can always be found at  or at No winery can buy their way into – or out of – this publication.

Scores are a combination of MVC (Modal Varietal Character, e.g. a Southern Rhone would taste like a Southern Rhone) and QPR (Quality/Price Ratio value in the marketplace above or below its price).

Currently, the wine media have no access to the tasting samples usually provided to us in the LCBO lab on a fortnightly basis. This will go on for some time. HOWEVER,  the wine media will still have access to the advance spreadsheet of the wines to be released. So I know what is to be released and when. SOME (but not many) of these 100 or so biweekly released wines I have recently tasted since January 2020 or so, and I can comfortably recommend them based on this prior sampling.
** Some New Wines I Tasted Over the Past Fortnight ---
Exceptional NEW Kacaba Red wines reviewed --
Just recently released by the winery ...

KACABA Vineyards Proprietor's Block Syrah VQA Niagara Escarpment 2019 Escarpment Series $35.15 at winery and this syrah is still a young wine, three years old, and with a lot to resolve among the complexities of toasty smoke, vanillins, raspberry and black fruit, pepper and other spices.  10% of Kacaba viognier was added, in true Northern Rhone style. I've tasted various Kacaba syrahs back to 2000 with the Wine Writers' Circle of Canada. You'll get a whiff of anise, rosemary, and red fruit, and with the viognier fruit it is a bit refreshing. Storage was in both French and US oak for 17 months. Definitely a red meat wine. What I usually do is a double-decant, taste, and then leave it in sealed bottle for a week, with daily tastings. If you do this, then you can taste the progress of the wine to its maturity. The grapes come from the youngest syrah plantings at Kacaba. Currently it is plummy but could turn jammy with age. Very good balanced finish emphasizes smooth tannins with a juicy length. Multiple wine award winner (Gold at Ontario Wine Awards 2022, Gold at the All Canadians 2022, and Silver at the National Wine Awards 2022). 13.8% ABV. 3g/L residual sugar. 547 cases produced.  Quality/Price rating is 91 - 92 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

KACABA Vineyards Silver Bridge Syrah VQA Niagara Escarpment 2019 Escarpment Series $35.15 at winery and the fruit here comes from the Silver Bridge vineyard, the oldest (1997) of the three syrah plantings at Kacaba. In true Rhone style, there was a 10% addition of estate viognier. The major expression is that of black cherry-berry tones, mocha, and pepperish.  It's way too young to consume without double-decanting or other aeration.  This is one for the cellar, tight and still developing. Try in a few years as the tannins need a bit more time to smooth out. It is well worth waiting for that delicious syrah intensity: more leaning to a deft Euro style with peppery spices, some leather, smoke, vanilla, red fruit. It has been in French and US oak for 17 months. Expect black fruit and berries, coffee and chocolate tones. It is a big plummy wine: dark, deep, and rich, cedary and jammy. Double-decanting a necessity at this point for that "Rhone tone". Silver medalist at the National Wine Awards of Canada 2022. 14% abv. 3g/L residual sugar. 280 cases produced. Quality/Price rating is 90 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

KACABA Meritage Reserve VQA Niagara Escarpment 2020 Escarpment Series $60.15 at the winery or this blend has changed over time (the last Reserve Meritage was in 2015); here, it is cabernet franc 35%, cabernet sauvignon 40% and merlot 25%. Everything was vinified separately in older French and US oak for 20 months, and the final blend was determined (from only second-fill barrels), put into stainless, and then bottled. This is a value wine driven by black fruit (black currants, blackberries, plums, dark cherries), still tannic and with nuances of smoke and spices. I usually do a double-decant, taste, and then put it in a bottle with a cork for a week or so, with daily tastings. If you don't do this, then you will miss the evolution of the wine. The wine will be ready 2025-2028. 14.8% ABV. 3.1 g/L residual sugar. Umami food pairings will be best, with strong cured meats, older cheeses, even vegan mushroom risottos. 294 cases made. Quality/Price rating is 93 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.

KACABA Cabernet Franc Reserve VQA Niagara Escarpment 2020 Escarpment Series $60.15 at the winery or this is one of Kacaba's ultra-premium  black label wine-line. Very reminiscent of Right Bank (St Emilion) cabs but without the stuffing of, say, Cheval Blanc. It is just as hard but durable at this young age. It's been aged in a combo of French and US oak for 19 months, and then minimally filtered. Currently it is mute until tasted later after aeration. What I usually do is a double-decant, taste, and then leave it in a sealed bottle for a week or so, with daily tastings. If you don't do this, then you will miss the evolution of the wine. The wine will be ready in six years. Complex aromas begin to ascend and descend as the week rolls on. First some cherries. Mostly red, but later also black. Some herbs and vanilla smoke, spiciness, even coffee and chocolate (that'll please the millennials). Strong (aged or game) red meat is called for food pairing. But then again, what your best food to eat will depend on the age of the wine at whatever point over the next decade. Long lingering finish. 287 cases made. 14.9% ABV. 3.3 g/L residual sugar. Quality/Price rating is 92 points by Dean Tudor of Gothic Epicures.
 *** Some Recommended Wines from the LCBO's Limited Time Offers selections...these  are good value...on sale  through Monday February 27th - Sunday March 26th
Red+660241    Bonanza California Cabernet Sauvignon, normally $27.95, save $3.00, LTO  sale $24.95
Red+595280    Porcupine Ridge Syrah, normally $16.95, save $3.00, LTO sale  $13.95
Red+954834    Rodney Strong Pinot Noir Russian River, normally $29.95, save $3.00, LTO sale     $26.95
White+608653 Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay Russian River Ranches, normally $29.95, save $5.00, LTO sale $24.95
White+38117    Vineland Riesling Elevation St Urban VQA, normally $22.95, save $3.00, LTO sale     $19.95
Fizz+215814  Codorniu Brut Clasico Cava, normally $15.45, save $2.50, LTO sale $12.95

MAJOR THEME:  ITALY – off the beaten path...

Wines Under $20 --
R+487140    TRENEL BEAUJOLAIS-VILLAGES 2021    Beaujolais AP $18.95 MVC/QPR: 89.
R+13113    FINCA SOPHENIA ALTOSUR MALBEC    2021 Gualtallary, Tupungato, Valle de Uco, Mendoza $17.00  MVC/QPR: 89.

Wines Over $20 --
W+32021    STONEY RIDGE SMALL LOT CHARDONNAY    2019 VQA Niagara Peninsula $24.95 MVC/QPR: 93.
W+25647    SOUTHBROOK TRIOMPHE ORGANIC RIESLING    2021    Ontario Vegan, VQA Niagara Peninsula    $22.95     MVC/QPR: 89.
W+57430    MISSION HILL RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2021    British Columbia VQA Okanagan Valley $24.95 MVC/QPR: 89.
R+17674    MCMANIS MERLOT 2021    Sustainable, estate grown, Lodi $21.95 MVC/QPR: 89.
R+172692    VINOSIA SANTANDREA TAURASI 2014 Campania DOCG $24.95 MVC/QPR: 90.

Dean Tudor,  Prof Emeritus T'karonto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson) School of Journalism
Treasurer of Wine Writers' Circle of Canada

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