Posts Tagged ‘California wines’

6 wines under $100 – total!

Posted by Julie

Monday, January 11th, 2016

2016 is off to a great start.  The LCBO Vintages kicks off the year with their annual ‘Smart Buys’ issue. This is always a time to introduce wine drinkers to some new finds under $15 or $20 that will give you the best bang for your buck – quality to price ratio. I tried many and found lots that I could not wait to recommend.

160104-NewArrivals01_enBefore the LCBO fills the Vintages shelves, I have the opportunity to taste too many to count wines and this time I found all kinds of gems at literally, thrilling price points. Even I was amazed at all that I could find for my budget of $100 – that doesn’t happen often!

So as winter settles in, bundle up, venture out to Vintages and load up your shopping cart with my picks of Smart Buys to uncork or stash away.

Happy New Year,





If I only had $100, I would buy these wines at LCBO Vintages…
Saturday January 9, 2016


sparklingLoosen Bros. Dr. L. Sparkling Riesling
Mosel, Germany
$14.95 (Vintages #296095) 12.5% alcohol

I hadn’t planned to do a sparkling wine after featuring several in the last release but after tasting this and at this under $15 price point, I had to share the news. Light, fruity, and fragrant moussey bubbles, made using the Charmat method (winespeak: the second fermentation is done in a pressurized tank to preserve the bubbles), it is an absolutely fabulous sparkling wine. Crisp with orange-lime fruit flavours flowing on the palate and while bone dry, there’s a pinch of sweet lemon curd in the soft mousse (bubbles) that burst in the mouth. A great brunch wine or afternoon delight. It’s too good to be true – stock up!



fielding chardonnay unoakedFielding Unoaked Chardonnay 2014
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$14.95 (Vintages #164491) 12.5% alcohol

Always a fan of the Fielding wines and the family, I couldn’t resist putting this delicate Chardonnay in my basket. It is the kind of wine that would change the minds of folks who say they don’t like Chardonnay. (Not that I personally know many!) Light to medium bodied, fermented in stainless steel, it has soft fruit aromas and flavours of tropical fruits: green apples and apricots. It tastes fresh and pure and is a great sipper on it’s own or with some pasta in a creamy sauce. Again, another steal under $15!


Estancia Pinot Grigio 2014bottle-estancia-contemporary-pinot-grigio
California, USA
$16.95 (Vintages #418285) 13.5% alcohol

Warm days and cool nights, give this wine its depth of character. Aromatic and crisp, lots of yellow apple, cantaloupe and ripe pear on the palate. There’s some flinty lemon lime in the aftertaste and very pale in colour so be sure to serve it in a stem glass, otherwise it could be mistaken for water! While that in itself may not appeal to some, I found the wine deliciously fresh. Perhaps better suited for a summer’s day, but if you like or plan on serving a white wine as an aperitif or sip in the afternoon, this is sheer delight at any time of year.


sisters run cabernetSister’s Run Bethlehem Block Cabernet 2013
Barossa Valley, South Australia
$15.95 (Vintages #360636) 14.5% alcohol

Talk about a crowd pleasing beauty. Plush, dark, inky layered with red and dark berry fruits that keep you going back for one more sip. Soft tannins mingle in the mouthfeel with something slightly herbaceous at the end. It’s juicy, with a long, fruity, plum ending.

It had so many gold seals on the bottle, I didn’t keep track of the numbers, but more than one wine judge loved this…and I did too!


Don’t Hesitate Shiraz 2013dont hesitate
McLaren Vale, South Australia
$17.00 (Vintages #434159) 14% alcohol

You have to wonder where these names come from! As the name suggests…don’t hesitate to pick this up. TIP: pick up more than 1 bottle! It’s another fruity crowd-pleaser, smooth texture makes it easy sipping. Intense dark berry and plum flavours, rich, creamy and velvety with a pinch of sweet spice and pepper on the long finish. If you enjoy Shiraz, this one delivers 100%!


felinoFelino Malbec 2014
Mendoza, Argentina
$19.95 (Vintages #118067) 14.9% alcohol

When I have many wines to taste, I’ve starting playing a little star game. Obviously self explanatory but I go back and review – price dependent of course – to offer you as many of my 5 star wines as possible. This was no exception; I had stars and circles that made this sure fire hit jump out of my notes! I did not want to miss sharing this tip with you. Smooth as silk, blackberries and blueberries and other dark berry fruit are layered and bursting with flavours, a little leather and tobacco on the finish. Medium to full bodied with soft tannins, excellent balance and strong Argentinian character. Grilled meats, ribs slathered with spicy sauce, hearty burgers or the finest of roasts, this is one well-made wine….and tastes more than the price tag.



6 wines for under $100 – that’s the best yet!


Rid your ol wine buying habits & discover something new!

Posted by Debbie

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Whether you say it as Californ-I-eh, or sing Cal-iiiiiii-fornnnnn-yaaaaa, the word California denotes sunshine, and in the wine world – big bold wines. Chardonnay, red Zinfandel (or if you prefer the pink blush kind instead), Cabernet Sauvignon are all wines synonymous with this west coast state. At the LCBO Vintages this week, you will find loads of California wines that will remind you that spring is around the corner.

California cover Vintages MagazineSometimes these big wines can have a hefty price tag.  When I was on the mission to spend less than $100 for this blog, I did not include any California wines in my shopping cart this time around.  Instead….here’s a tip – for approx. $70, pick up a ticket to the California Wine Fair where you can enjoy endless sips of 100s of California wines.  This annual event quickly sells out and in my opinion is always worth every penny.  Winemakers from all regions of the state tour across 9 cities in Canada to showcase their latest wines.

This release introduces us to wines from not-often-heard-of regions in Ontario – Georgian Bay & South Coast (aka Dover). As I always like to discover Canadian wines, I made sure that I sipped & made notes on these featured wines….and put an impressive red wine in my shopping cart (see below).

And in the name of discovering new wine regions, I encourage you to pick up a bottle of wine from Israel.   Israel makes wine??? You better believe it…and be ready to be impressed. Here’s an idea – next time your friends are over, open a bottle & serve it ‘blind’ (wrap the bottle in tin foil to cover up the label).

Cheers & Enjoy!

 If I only had a $100, I would buy these wines at LCBO Vintages
March 15th

Domaine de VaugondyDomaine de Vaugondy Brut Vouvray

Loire, France
$15.95 (Vintages 154567) 12% alcohol

Celebrate spring with some bubbly! And at this price you won’t get anything better than this.  Made with Chenin Blanc grapes, this dry, crisp sparkling wine is refreshing, while making a statement – it doesn’t get much better than this…at this price.  Serve chilled for a springtime brunch, or put a splash of cassis for Kir Royal or orange juice for Mimosas.  Whichever is your pleasure, this sparkling wine is the an incredible right price, you’d think it should be $30+ a bottle.  Enjoy!


13 Torrontes Passion white winePasion 4 Torrontes Joffré

$14.95 (Vintages 361063) 13.6% alcohol

Looking for something to help you snap out of the winter blues? Pour a glass of this white wine – it is springtime in a glass!   Fresh floral aromas will bounce out of your glass with refreshing acidity in this sparkling wine that makes this crisp white wine a joy to sip on its own or to have with Edamme beans or a simple plate of sushi.


Quail's Gate ChardonnayQuail’s Gate Chardonnay

Okanagan, British Columbia
$20.95 (Vintages 377770) 14% alcohol

“Start the car!” Grab some of this incredible BC white wine & run! At this price, they are giving this big buttery Chardonnay away.  With every sip, all I could think of is that this white wine would be great with artisan cheeses – hard & soft.  Classic, easy drinking & delicious.  Do I really need to say more?


Burning Kiln Strip Room Merlot Cab FrancBurning Kiln Strip Room Merlot/Cabernet VQA 2012

VQA Ontario
$24.95 (Vintages 327700) 13.9% alcohol

Dust off the snow & fire up the BBQ.  This red wine is begging for a steak, burgers or even pork chops straight from the grill.  Loaded with smoke notes, full bodied aromas of overripe red & black fruit, this is a dynamite red wine from Ontario!


Tabor Earth Series Shiraz

$22.95 (Vintages 356709) 14.2% alcohol

Don’t even notice the fact that this wine in Kosher, rather, note that it is from Israel!  This is definitely something different & will undoubtedly spark conversation around the dinner table at your Easter feast or next dinner party.  BIG red wine with aromas & tastes of warm spices, pomegranates & dark chocolate.  There are a number of red wines from Israel in this Vintages release and they are all worth a try. I visited the wineries 4 years ago and I was super impressed by the wines….now it is your turn to try them!

Grand total: $99.75 – with a quarter to spare!



Six sure fire signs of spring

Posted by Susan

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Without skipping a beat, a sign of spring is the arrival of the annual California Wine Fair.  This always quickly sells out. Ottawa is April 5 at the Westin Hotel and Toronto is April 8 at the Fairmont Royal York. The Fair features 130+ wineries offering 400 wines!  This year  features some of the new trends in the California wine industry.

Can’t wait until the California wine industry arrives in town?  Then this weekend’s LCBO Vintages March 16 release highlights California wines, focusing on pioneering winemakers who made a mark on the industry, starting in the mid 1970s, with their keen attention to quality. These determined winemakers combed their focus on matching key grape varieties to ideal soils and new hillside sites with single-minded attention to viticultural practices and innovative winemaking techniques.

Recognition came in 1976, when Château Montelena’s Chardonnay and Stag’s Leap founder Warren Winiarski’s Cabernet Sauvignon won the Judgement of Paris in their respective categories. This LCBO Vintages release provides the opportunity to savour some of these iconic wines, from Château Montelena Chardonnay to Duckhorn Merlot, Ravenswood Zinfandel, Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon and Inglenook ‘Rubicon’ Cabernet Sauvignon. These iconic California wines are priced beyond my budget of an assortment of wines that total max $100 for this blog.  I do however recommend that you consider splurging!

Another sign of spring is the focus of the clean fresh white wines produced in Europe’s alpine regions—Austria, Alsace, Germany, Hungary and Italy. Look for some fabulous Rieslngs and Pinot Gris. The general release delivers great value wines.  Others worth noting beyond my list below are: the perennial value, Château Hauchat ($14.95), Pierre Henri Morel’s absolutely fabulous Côtes du Rhône-Villages ($15.95), Torre Quarto’s ‘Bottaccia’ produced from Puglia’s little-known but delicious Uva di Troia ($14.95) and an outstanding value from Spain, Piñol’s Grenache blend, Ludovicus ($13.95).

Given all the great values, here are my top picks and there are 6 wines just under my $100 set limit!

Cheers and Enjoy!



If I only had $100, I would buy. . .
LCBO Vintages Release as of Saturday, March 16, 2013


Balthasar Ress ‘Hattenheimer Schützenhaus’ Riesling Kabinett 2011

Rheingau, Germany
$17.95 (Vintages #735241) 10.0% alcohol

Straw/green, this is a fabulous Riesling displaying subtle, complex aromas and flavours of mineral, citrus, stone fruit and herb. Dry, a touch spritzy, the fruit and herb notes are framed by fine acidity and the underlying minerality.


Cave de Hoen ‘Heimberger’ Brut Rosé Crémant d’Alsace NV

AOC Alsace, France
$16.95 (Vintages #168948) 12.5% alcohol
This dry, pale salmon sparkling wine made in the traditional method, displays a fine effervescence that persists on the palate. Delicate aromas and flavours of red field berries—cranberry, currant and raspberry—dominate, while lively acidity carries the flavours through a crisp, palate-cleansing finish. A great wine for sipping at Easter, or to be paired with salads, fish or white meats.


Malivoire Riesling 2011

VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$15.95 (Vintages #277438) 10.5% alcohol
Finely crafted, this is a clean, lively white wine offering an attractive floral fragrance, along with aromas of citrus, orchard fruit and mineral. Light-medium bodied, a touch of residual sugar is paired with clean, refreshing acidity. Great balance and lovely flavours of lemon-lime, ripe apple and mineral right through the finish. Enjoy with pan-fried halibut or roast chicken or pork.


Rockway Vineyards ‘Small Lot Reserve’ Red Assemblage 2010

VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$16.95 (Vintages #321893) 14.0% alcohol
High-toned aromas of ripe dark fruit, spiced rose and a touch of roasted red pepper lift from the glass of  this blend of the Cabernets and Merlot. Dry, on the full side of medium bodied, this red wine is round, smooth, balanced and flavourful. Quite lush dark berry and plum flavours wash across the palate, supported by the subtle structure of well-integrated tannins and fine acidity. Notes of sweet baking spice and toasty oak garnish the fresh, round, fruity finish. Deftly crafted and an excellent value. 




Château Hauchat 2010

AOC Fronsac, France
$14.95 (Vintages #123489) 13.5% alcohol
This fragrant, dry, medium-full bodied Merlot-domianted red wine is a remarkable value! There’s complexity on the nose—red and black fruit, spice, vanilla and mineral. On the palate, there’s a fine marriage of firm tannins, plum and cherry/berry fruit, and fresh acidity, while lovely spicy notes and nuances of mineral and toast carry through the dry finish. A few bottles are in order for meals featuring robust red meats.

Nuova Cappelletta Barbera del Monferrato 2010

DOC Barbera del Monferrato, Italy
$16.95 (Vintages #719518) 14.0% alcohol
This is a reliably good producer known for its commitment to biodynamic agriculture. The red wine doesn’t disappoint, with lovely floral aromas, red fruits, spice and a touch of vanilla. Dry, medium bodied, sweet spice and vanilla replay, combining with flavours of red berries and kirsch. The wine is subtly yet firmly structured and beautifully balanced, offering a touch of warmth on a long mouth-watering finish. A great choice for mushroom arrosto with roast pork.


Grand Total: $99.70





Wines to romance your Valentine. . .

Posted by Susan

Thursday, February 2nd, 2012

Savour a sampling of California Cabernet Sauvignons from some iconic producers, mostly from Sonoma and Napa, in the February 4 LCBO Vintages release.

Cabernet Sauvignon (winespeak: Cabs) is a grape that benefits from consistent warm weather and an extended growing season. California offers the long warm days to ripen the fruit and the tannins, as well as cooler nights to retain fresh acidity. Napa’s geography creates a range of climates, from the southern vineyards, influenced by the cooling air from San Francisco Bay, to the warmer inland viticultural areas to the north. Sonoma, growing more grapes than Napa, also has the range of terroir found in Napa, largely due to the same climatic influences. The fog and cloud cover born on the Pacific Coast, extended growing degree days, altitude and soil all play a role in creating distinct styles of wine.   

The feature on Greek wines offers the opportunity to try modern, stylish wines produced using indigenous grapes (such as Xinomavro and Agiorgitiko among the reds, the white varietal, Moschofilero, and the well-known sweet Muscat) from one of the oldest wine-growing regions in the world. Classical writers such as Homer and Socrates mentioned the benefits of wine in their works. While postcard impressions are of a dry, hot, sunny climate, the grape growers are focusing on north-facing slopes and higher altitudes to produce quality fruit with good levels of acidity and concentrated fruit flavours.  

If you’re looking for wines for Valentine’s Day, there are some compelling choices, including the Corte Pavone Brunello, but my choice to make a splash would be the Jackson Triggs ‘Entourage Silver Series’ Brut Méthode Classique, or if your dear heart has a sweet tooth, try the G. Marquis Vidal Icewine. There are a couple of very good values under $15 in the release, including the Dry Creek Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc and the Château Haut-Canteloup Côtes de Bordeaux. For Ontario wine lovers, I would recommend the Pondview Riesling and the Cattail Creek Cabernet/Merlot (both wineries have been featured in our Savvy Selections wine of the month club).

Cheers and Enjoy,

If I only had $100, I would buy . . .
LCBO Vintages Release as of Saturday, February 4, 2012

Jackson Triggs ‘Entourage Silver Series’ Brut Méthode Classique 2006
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$22.95 (Vintages #234161) 12.0% alcohol
Aged 36 months in bottle on the lees, this pale gold sparkling wine offers enticing aromas of toasted brioche, lees, citrus, orchard fruit and mineral. Dry, medium bodied, toasty and citrusy, it has an ample persistent mousse. Vibrant acidity assures a lovely fresh texture and an extended finish. Pop the cork for your Valentine!

Château Lamothe de Haux Blanc 2010
Côtes de Bordeaux, France
$14.95 (Vintages #909341) 12.5% alcohol
This is an excellent and unique value, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon and Muscadelle that offers the attractive pungency of gooseberry, grapefruit, citrus zest and subtle vegetal notes. Firmly dry yet smooth, medium bodied, vibrant citrus and racy acidity create a clean balance, mouth-cleansing pithiness delivering a refreshing and long lasting finish. Pasta with grilled chicken in a cream sauce would be a good match

Dry Creek Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Dry Creek Valley, California
$24.95 (Vintages #642207) 14.5% alcohol
Blending of small amounts of the classic Bordeaux varietals to this Cab has added substance, harmony and complexity. Rich ripe fruit aromas, crème de cassis, spice, cedar and mocha tantalize. Dry, full bodied, robust, almost brawny, this wine is crafted on a firm spine of tannins and lively acidity, offering an intriguing array of flavours, from well-defined tangy cherry/berry fruit through espresso and notes of dried herbs and spice that linger on the long dry finish. A wine to serve with rare meats and that will cellar 5-7 years. Great value!

Don Nieto Senetiner ‘Don Nicanor’ Malbec 2008
Mendoza, Argentina
$17.95 (Vintages #178657) 14.5% alcohol
Aged 12 months in French oak, this inky black Malbec offers great value. Dry, full bodied, the aromas are intense—dark berry, plum, floral, cedar, spice and vanilla—and the dark fruit flavours equally concentrated, the floral, spice and cedar notes adding complexity on the palate. There’s good structure bringing balance, and a lasting consistently flavourful finish. Serve now with rare grilled meats, or cellar a few bottles medium term.

Château Haut-Canteloup 2009
Côtes de Bordeaux, France
$13.95 (Vintages #264747) 13.0% alcohol
You’ll want to pack the cart with this award-winning Bordeaux blend of Merlot and the Cabernets. Deep crimson, it’s loaded with aromas of sweetly spiced black berries, vanilla, cedar and a floral nuance. Dry, medium-full bodied, earthy, leathery notes underlie dark fruit and vanilla. Perceptible tannins and lively acidity frame the ripe fruit, an attractive dry fresh finish wrapping up the package. Enjoy with beef or lamb and drink regularly over the next few years.

Grand Total: $94.75



If I only had $100, I would buy these wines at Vintages

Posted by Susan

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

If I only had $100, I would buy . . .
LCBO Vintages Release as of Saturday, May 28, 2011

California is the main actor in this week’s LCBO Vintages release, with Alsace playing a supporting role. Half the size of France, California is a significant wine region in its own right, producing the majority of U.S. wines. Topography plays a significant role in the California wine industry, creating a range of unique viticultural areas. The cool sea air and fog of the Pacific moderate vineyards in areas such as Carneros while the Mediterranean climate offers hot dry summers with limited rainfall in the sheltered interior, such as the Central Valley. California is home to wine pioneers such as Robert Mondavi, whose Fumé Blanc was first produced in 1966, award-winning wineries such as Stag’s Leap, and proud family-owned estates such as Duckhorn Vinyeards. From a region known as the home of Zinfandel, California’s reputation has broadened to include not only elegant creamy Chardonnays, rich Merlots and full-bodied iconic Cabernet blends, but refined Pinots and delightful sparkling wines such as the Mumm Napa Rosé in this release.

The California wine industry has attracted investment from major European producers, yet continues to be internationally acclaimed for its local viticultural innovation and winemaking excellence. Economic conditions, including a strong Canadian dollar, have led to an increase in the range of quality California wines available, as well as a drop in prices. There’s been a resurgence of interest in California wines across Canada over the last year—make sure you’re a part of it!

The small secondary feature offers such signature Alsatian varietals such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris from highly reputed producers. These wines always delight with their balance, weight and crisp clean fruit flavour. Sprinkled throughout the release is a sure sign of the impending summer weather—a range of rosés including some very tasty ones from Ontario’s 2010 vintage. Don’t miss this opportunity to sample the impressive range of California wines, to enjoy a food-friendly wine from Alsace, and to stock up on versatile rosés for those patio parties. We’re a few pennies over our $100, so I’ll leave it to you to pick and choose!


Hugel & Fils ‘Tradition’ Pinot Gris 2007
AOC Alsace, France
$22.95 (Vintages #118919) 13.0% alcohol

Displaying weight and depth, this is a beautifully crafted wine with a fine silky texture. Dry, medium bodied, the aromas and luscious flavours are of sun-ripened stone fruit, pear and roasted herbs, an elusive floral note persisting. A fresh seam of citrusy acidity carries the fruit through a lingering finish. Delightful now with light meats or seafood, this wine is designed for long-term cellaring.

Featherstone Estate Rosé 2010
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$14.95 (Vintages #117861) 13.0% alcohol

A pale peachy pink, produced from Cabernet Franc and Gamay, this rosé displays an appealing nose of bright red fruit, mineral and floral notes. Mid-weight, well balanced, it’s dry yet fruity, offering a basketful of fresh berry flavours and a juicy, tangy texture through the refreshing finish. A versatile wine, you’ll enjoy it on its own, with a summer salad or with poached or grilled salmon.

Bonmarito Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Napa Valley, California
$19.95 (Vintages #213918) 14.5% alcohol

Produced from hand-harvested fruit and aged in French and American oak for 19 months, this is a deeply colored, approachable, balanced wine that offers great value. Smoky, toasty notes drift over robust aromas of ripe red and black fruit, summer herbs and cedar. Those delicious ripe fruit flavours replay on the palate, garnished with sweet spiced vanilla and toast. Dry, medium-full bodied, displaying velvety tannins and fine acidity, this wine has a lasting finish and will be a hit with your choice of grilled meats or meat-based pasta.

J. Lohr ‘South Ridge’ Syrah 2009
Paso Robles, California
$18.95 (Vintages #948240) 13.5% alcohol
Inky purple, this dry, full-bodied and fruit-forward wine has intense aromas of dark berries, smoke, toast and licorice. The concentrated dark berry fruit is a star on the palate, with notes of dark toast, spice and pepper, the whole well balanced with smooth tannins and fine acidity. Very appealing and gulpable, this is a good match for grilled meats. Bring on summer!

I Greppi ‘Greppicante’ Bolgheri 2007
DOC Bolgheri, Italy
$23.95 (Vintages #170381) 13.0% alcohol
The enchantment starts in the glass, with a fine ruby hue. Absolutely delectable, this appealing blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc is fragrant with red berry fruit, toast and a rich floral note. Full bodied, it displays brilliant balance of concentrated fresh berry flavours, fresh acidity and ripe tannins. On the clean finish there’s the lingering pleasure of espresso underlying the rich fruit flavours. Enjoy it now, or over the next several years.

Grand Total: $100.75

More about my blog post: If I only had $100, I would buy…
There is a myriad of wines out there, so it’s often a challenge deciding what to select when the
LCBO Vintages catalogue comes out every two weeks or so. Like a kid in a candy shop, your attention darts from one treat to another, but what to choose . . . Something to serve to your guests this weekend? Something to put away for a special occasion? Something to store for a autumn afternoon?

I recognize that each person’s tastes and preferences are unique. “If I had $100 . . .”, will be posted just prior to LCBO Vintages releases and will highlight unique wines I have tasted that provide good value; the selection will total no more than $100.

Occasionally, I may include an optional wine – you can substitute or add it for a little more or a little less! Print this off as your shopping list knowing that these wines have been selected by a Savvy Sommelier who has sipped, savoured & swirled countless wines before they arrived on the shelves in Vintages.  Hopefully you too will find a new favorite wine.  And when you do, quickly save your pennies to buy a bottle or two more.  Warning that once a wine is gone from a particular Vintages release, that vintage, and sometimes that wine, is gone for good!