Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES September 10 Release

A Surge of New Releases Re-Energizes VINTAGES

By David Lawrason with notes from John Szabo, MS, Michael Godel, Sara d’Amato and Megha Jandhyala

VINTAGES Sept 10 release landed with the largest number of products to descend on the province in one fell swoop that I can ever remember: 175, if my pen nib tally in the print catalogue is accurate. We aren’t able to taste every wine, of course, since media tastings at the LCBO ceased with Covid. But thanks to participating agencies and wineries who believe in this process enough to supply samples, we tasted almost half over two days tasting at WineAlign World HQ in Etobicoke. We also had our first full complement of five critics on hand since the spring.

One VINTAGES product consultant I know was delighted by the influx of so many new wines, feeling like the energy was back. She was also busy re-starting in-store tastings dormant since Covid hit. 

Certainly, the energy had waned in the past four months as VINTAGES went to one instore release per month and one online release, bumped up to 40 to 50 usually more expensive items. No one seemed very happy about this, including product consultants [PCs] I talked to in several stores who had less stock to sell. The agents were not happy either, faced with smaller orders per SKU and lower consumer take-up. We at WineAlign were not happy as the online process delayed our ability to taste, review and recommend online wines until almost ten days after they were posted. 


The only bright spot was that in August, VINTAGES also released its online wines in its ten flagship stores, a process we hope continues. We have included some in our picks below, assuming stock is still available.

Back to the September 10 release, there are very many worthy wines to recommend at different price points. Before getting to them individually, some general comments on the strong spots. The cover theme of VINTAGES Catalogue is ‘Find Your Local Love” and there is indeed a very good selection of 20 Ontario wines featuring leading producers like Bachelder, Le Clos Jordanne, Closson Chase, Thirty Bench, Organized Crime and 13th Street (the No 1 Ontario winery at the 2022 National Wine Awards of Canada). For further coverage of Ontario don’t miss Michael Godel’s just published article presenting a very detailed recap of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (I4C) held in Niagara in June.

France weighs in with more than 40 whites, red, rosés and sparklers. I draw your attention to very strong selections of mineral-driven yet ripe whites from the upper Loire Valley and Chablis, and value reds from the Southern Rhone, Languedoc and Roussillon. Spain is very well represented too with more than 20 wines, including classics from Rioja and some jammy juicy numbers from the garnacha- and monastrell-based appellations along the eastern Mediterranean seaboard. Italy chimes in with 26 moderately priced selections from regions spread across the peninsula.

So, here’s what we strongly recommend this time out.

Sparkling, White & Rosé

Nicolas Gueusquin Brut 1er Cru 2015, Champagne, France
$48.95 Du Chasse Wines & Spirits
David Lawrason – Very good value in vintage Champagne. It is fine boned, tender and lively that is all about subtlety and complexity. Dried apple/pear fruit, macaroon and gentle hazelnut crossed my mind. It is light bodied, refined and balanced on a pinhead. Almost exquisite.

Le Clos Jordanne Jordan Village Chardonnay 2020, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$27.95, Arterra Wines Canada
Michael Godel – The second iteration of the Village chardonnay comes together with a seamless whoosh. Should settle by the spring of 2023.

Loire Valley Whites (France)

Henri Bourgeois La Chapelle Des Augustins Sancerre 2018

Henri Bourgeois La Chapelle des Augustins Sancerre 2018, Loire Valley, France
$39.95, Charton Hobbs Inc
John Szabo – Still surprisingly reserved 4 years in, this silex (flint)-dominated cuvée from Bourgeois displays the ripeness of the vintage, though well-contained and still very cool climate Loire in style, very saline. Length and depth are terrific. Top notch wine; best now-2028.
Sara d’Amato
A gracefully aging Sancerre, the 2018  “La Chappelle” is sourced from fruit of a single soil type comprised of a high-content of limestone and silica. From nose, to palate to finish, the aromas of lemon, honeysuckle and mineral carry on with exceptional length. A touch of viscosity adds a gentle roundness and approachability to the palate.

Jeannot Domaine De Riaux Pouilly Fumé 2020

Jeannot Domaine de Riaux Pouilly-Fumé 2020, Loire Valley, France
$26.95, Old Cellar Collection
David Lawrason – Good pricing here in a very elegant, composed and smooth sauvignon blanc. Yet there is considerable energy and life. The nose shows well combined green apple, lemon-lime, fresh herbs, evergreen and minerality. It is a lighter weight, slim and refined with excellent focus and length. 

Jean Max Roger Cuvée Genèse Sancerre 2020

Jean Max Roger Cuvée Genèse Sancerre 2020, Loire Valley, France
$32.95, Connexion Oenophilia
Megha Jandhyala – The Cuvée Genèse is a delicately fragrant, elegant wine with a distinct mineral character. Aromas of green apples, pink grapefruit, and lemons are layered under a captivating scent of wet stones drying in the sun. The palate feels like a vintage silk scarf, rich and glossy, but cool and light, with remarkable freshness and purity of fruit. The finish is delicate with fruit flavours fading gracefully on the palate.

Jean Max Roger Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre 2019

Jean Max Roger Cuvée Les Caillottes Sancerre 2019, Loire Valley, France
$31.95, Connexion Oenophilia
Michael Godel – Sancerre of facts, friction and static electricity. And yet it’s the fluid kind so expect this to slide down smoothly.

F. Tinel Blondelet L'arrêt Buffatte Pouilly Fumé 2020

F. Tinel Blondelet L’Arrêt Buffatte Pouilly Fumé 2020, Loire Valley, France
$29.95, The Case for Wine
Sara d’Amato – Climate warming is at the root of this vintage that saw rapid maturation of grapes in the the eastern Loire Valley and thus you can expect a very different style of Pouilly Fumé. I don’t normally seek out 14.5% sauvignon blanc but this variation was so captivatingly integrated resulting in a complex, well-structured, and pleasurably textured wine that kudos are in order. Salty, crunch and chalky but with ample viscosity and flavours of honeysuckle, custard, lemon curd, brioche and thyme with more to follow. Surprisingly well-balanced.

Pierre-Luc Bouchaud Sur Lie Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2020

Pierre-Luc Bouchaud Sur Lie Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2020, Loire Valley, France
$15.95, Ex-Cellars Wine Services
John Szabo – Classically cool and stony muscadet, lively, green apple and lemon-lime-scented, wet stone and green flower-flavoured. Textbook stuff, and another storming value for white wine lovers.

Other Whites and Rose

Nals Margreid Punggl Pinot Grigio 2020, Alto Adige, Italy
$28.95, Mondo Vino
Megha Jandhyala – Nals Margreid’s Punggl pinot grigio is a wine of elegance and eloquence. The nose is fresh and inviting with distinct notes of grapefruit, peaches, apricots, and apples. A sense of richness and fullness on the palate that recalls ripe, succulent fruit is balanced by a befitting amount of acidity. Length is excellent, with a delicately textured finish.
David Lawrason – This stylish, rich pinot grigio from a top producer in the subalpine Alto Adige region displays more complexity, texture and depth than most Italian grigio peers, with generous aromas of pear/peach, elderflower and grapefruit. Yet still refreshing, The focus and length are excellent.

Kutjevo Grasevina 2021, Slavonia, Croatia
$16.95, Croatia Unpacked
John Szabo – Another fine, clean, fragrant, fruity and impeccably made vintage of Kutjevo’s grasevina (aka welschriesling) from Croatia’s hinterland; I like the gentle white and yellow-fleshed orchard fruit flavours, the surprising depth and concentration, and the lively, oak-free finish. Ready to enjoy.

Domdechant Werner Guts Riesling Trocken 2019

Domdechant Werner Guts Riesling Trocken 2019, Rheingau, Germany
$19.95, Family Wine Merchants
Megha Jandhyala – This is an elegant, well-proportioned riesling, balancing volume and richness with direction and tension. The nose is a harmony of apricots, nectarines, lemons, and honeysuckle blooms. The texture is subtly mellifluous and rich, yet underpinned by linear, taut acidity. Length is excellent with an invigorating, grapefruit-tinged finish.

Mullineux Great Heart Chenin Blanc 2021

Mullineux Great Heart Chenin Blanc 2021, Swartland, South Africa
$22.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines Inc.
John Szabo – I’ve reported on this philanthropic project of Mullineux and Leeu family wines called Great Heart before, a staff empowerment project the results and profits of which are aimed at improving the circumstances of staff and their families. But good feel aside, the wines are really exceptional, especially in terms of value; this chenin is seamless and fresh, well-balanced, flavourful, with a gently creamy-leesy finish. Drink or hold short term.

Famille Perrin Tavel 2021

Famille Perrin Tavel 2021, Rhône, France
$19.95, Charton Hobbs
Sara d’Amato – Featuring the typical blood orange colour of Tavel, Famille Perrin’s latest incarnation of this southern Rhône, rosé only Cru. Typically made from cinsault, grenache and mourvèdre, this floral and clean and concentration vintage is one of the best in recent memory.

Ontario Reds

Bachelder Les Villages Gamay Noir 2020, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$24.95, Lifford Wine & Spirits (Select)
Megha Jandhyala –
This gamay is a blend of fruit from six sites in the Niagara Peninsula. It strikes a balance between ripeness and freshness with inviting and expressive flavours of perfectly ripe cherries, raspberries, and blackberries, toasted pepper, wisps of smoke, and a splash of rosewater. I find its texture equally alluring, rich, but light, like satin silk, with balanced acidity. Length is excellent, with a hint of bitterness on the finish.
Sara d’Amato – The “Les Villages” is a Burgundian concept blending from 5 individual small lots  in the region to achieve a balanced and price-accessible blend. Salty, tasty, light to mid-weight with a pleasant textural grip likely from partial stem inclusion. Elegant, refreshing and lively.

Tawse Growers Blend Cabernet Franc 2019, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$29.95 Tawse Winery Inc.  
John Szabo – A lovely and properly herbal, cool climate expression of cabernet franc from this cool Niagara vintage, one that lent itself well to perfumed and finessed varieties like cabernet franc and pinot noir. Really lovely and composed all in all, best 2023-2027.

Closson Chase Vineyard Pinot Noir 2020, Prince Edward County, Ontario
$34.95, Closson Chase Vineyard
David Lawrason –
2020 was a fine vintage for County pinot, and this edition sourced from two different sites, is showing authenticity and class. It has exacting, fragrant red fruit nose and modest oak spice and vanillin. It is light to medium weight, almost silky smooth with fine tannin and a sour edged finish.

Spanish Reds

Sekeida Mountain Vineyard Granacha Ibérica 2018, Calatayud, Spain
Michael Godel
– Juicy, up front, strong bones, charred herbs, expected astringency and structure to boot. Hard to believe. Give it two years, even three, serve us some migas and the rest is history.
John Szabo – A terrific value from Spain, plush and fleshy, ripe and fruity, leathery and spicy, satisfying. Drink or hold 2-3 years.

Viña Real Gran Reserva 2015, Rioja, Spain
$37.95, Family Wine Merchants
Sara d’Amato – Only produced in exceptional years from tempranillo and graciano aged 24 months in French and American oak. Fine tannins from both grape and oak lend an almost silkiness to the palate. Sweet fresh cherry fruit remains in abundance on the palate. Very impressive assemblage with depth and complexity greater than the mean and exhibiting distinctive youthfulness despite the vintage.

Mas Estela Quindals 2016, Empordà, Spain
$21.95, M.C.O
John Szabo – This is a very ripe and powerful garnacha from Catalonia, weighing in at 15% alcohol in the varietal idiom, maturing nicely while retaining a whopping measure of plush, strawberry-black cherry jam fruit. I must say, there’s a lot of wine here for the money, not just about power, but also appealing sapidity and complexity. Well worth a look; drink or hold 2-5 years.

Laya 2020, Almansa, Spain
$16.95, Barrique Wine Imports Ltd. (Profile)
David Lawrason – From dry farmed, garnacha and monastrell bush wines grown at 1000 metres this an intriguing, very ripe yet savoury red with lifted aromas of cranberry, currants and strawberry jam plus fresh herbs, almost evergreen character. It is full bodied, open knit and fairly dense with considerable tannic grit.

R. López de Heredia Viña Cubillo Crianza 2013, Rioja, Spain
$28.95, John Hanna & Sons Limited
Michael Godel
– A feeling of botrytis is noted in the saffron nature accenting the aged fruit in this wine. Has also hit that mushroom stride, like a fruity apricot chanterelle, in fact this vintage really stands alone. Not to mention the exceptionality of price as compared to others in the R. López de Heredia stable.
David Lawrason – Here’s a classic, maturing, firm yet tender Rioja from one of the great estates of the region. The nose is lifted, complex and precise with cran-cherry fruit, fine tarragon/arugula, leather, cedar and wood spice. It slim and tidy with energy and warmth. Still full of life and will be for another decade.

Italy, Portugal and Other Reds

Colinas De Ançã Baga Reserva 2017

Colinas De Ançã Baga Reserva 2017, Bairrada, Portugal
$17.95, PV Wine & Spirits Agency
Michael Godel
Varietal baga is consistently a matter of deeply rendered red grapes and Colinas de Ançã’s example is just that. Meaty and fortified as and by itself, spicy and meaningful. So much wine here and when you think about it, for so very little.
Sara d’Amato
The edginess of this baga are almost completely smoothed out thus this well-priced find is ready-to-enjoy. Brininess and some bottle aged character add to the concentration of the perfectly ripe fruit on the mid-weight palate.

Tedeschi Ansari Amarone Della Valpolicella 2017

Tedeschi Ansari Amarone della Valpolicella 2017, Veneto, Italy
$55.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
David Lawrason
– I really like how this folds together centred on good acidity despite largesse with amazing 17.5% ABV.  The aromas are quite exacting with dried cherry and cranberry fruit, chocolate, a touch or rosemary-like herbality I often find in amarone, as well as some chocolate and marzipan confection. The length is excellent to outstanding.

Volpaia Chianti Classico 2019, Tuscany, Italy
$32.95, Rogers & Company
Michael Godel
No doubt that Chianti Classico will always be fresh and spirited from Volpaia but it somehow finds a way in every vintage to become increasingly fluid, silky and beautiful.

Falernia Gran Reserva Syrah 2017, Elqui Valley, Chile
$16.95, Du Chasse Wines & Spirits (Profile)
David Lawrason
– A favourite inexpensive syrah for the way it steps up with classic pepper, a certain smoked meatiness, fresh herbs (dill and tarragon) and candied cherry fruit. It is medium-full bodied, open knit, warm, smooth and generous, with quite a slightly sour edge and fine tannin and impressive fruit sweetness.

Sweet Wine

Lieutenant de Sigalas Rabaud Sauternes 2009

Lieutenant de Sigalas Rabaud Sauternes 2009, Bordeaux, France
$26.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
John Szabo
What a treat to see this mature Sauternes released now, at peak drinking. It’s full and rich in the 2009 vintage style, sweet but far from cloying, with acids sweeping up the long finish. Wood has by now been mostly absorbed by apricot and jam and quince paste flavours, lending a gentle vanilla custard sheen to the ensemble. It’s a delicious, balanced wine, engaging to sip on it’s own, or just about tailor made for pineapple and pastry cream-based desserts. Can still hold another decade no doubt.
Megha Jandhyala
I love the aromas of wildflower honey, orange marmalade, dried apricots, and subtle notes of saffron in this luscious but balanced, mature Sauternes. As opulent as it smells and feels, and even at 120 g/L of sugar (per the LCBO), it is neither cloying nor saccharine. Try it with rich Indian desserts like badaam (almond) halwa.

Vintages August 27 OnLine & Flagship Stores Release

Baron De Ley Finca Monasterio 2018

Baron De Ley Finca Monasterio 2018, Rioja, Spain
$34.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits
Sara d’Amato – Baron de Ley’s flagship red is exceptionally harmonious while remaining rich and captivating, still with youthful vigour despite having spent close to 4 years in bottle. There is a great deal of concentration and complexity to be enjoyed likely due to the wine’s source vines that are over 30 years of age and its careful 24-months of oak aging.
Megha Jandhyala – A blend of tempranillo and other grape varieties harvested from an estate vineyard planted in 1985, this is a wine of complexity, intensity, and integration. At 4 years old, it is still vibrant, brimming with succulent black cherries and blackberries that are complemented by subtler notes of vanilla, nutmeg and cigar box. Oak flavours are elegantly incorporated, framing the abundant fruit. Dense and concentrated though the palate has a sense of lightness and freshness, with bright acidity and robust, but smooth tannins.
Michael Godel – “Super Blend,” meaning it is a cuvée of important parcels off of the Finca Monasterio. A wine that has us thinking about that place, of light smoke and toast, fine gingery bitters and layers upon layers of what is so proper.

Lagar De Codegua Mourvedre Cachapoal Valley 2019

Lagar De Codegua Mourvedre Cachapoal Valley 2019, D.O. Rancagua Alto Cachapoal Valley
$27.95, Nicholas Pearce Wines
Sara d’Amato – A rare find single variety mourvèdre from the central Cachapoal Valley. This is certainly a region to watch especially from the higher and steeply planted “Alto” area in the east near the town of Rancagua whose wines exhibit no shortage of freshness. A notably rich and energetic incarnation made with minimal intervention from a very small plot of only 0.4 hectares.
Megha Jandhyala – There is a sense of freshness to this wine, the palate is rich and concentrated, but lifted and supported by refreshing acidity. Tannins are slightly grippy, though relatively moderate for the variety. Although the wine is somewhat tightly wound at first, aeration reveals resonant tones of ripe redcurrants, plums, snapped twigs, delicate spice, and violets, alongside a hint of meat.
Michael Godel – An off the beaten path varietal wine, in keeping with a movement bent on the maintenance of vanishing or lesser appreciated grape varieties. High energy, red citrus fruit and juicy for days. Unmistakable charcoal character as per the variety.

Leitz Berg Schlossberg Grosses Gewächs Riesling Trocken 2019

Leitz Berg Schlossberg Grosses Gewächs Riesling Trocken 2019, Rheingau, Germany
$78.95, Noble Estates
Sara d’Amato – This online exclusive is likely a slow mover given its price/varietal ratio so all the better for you to snatch up a bottle of this highly expressive single vineyard riesling that is worth every penny. Brimming with spicy ginger, marzipan, racy lime zest, fresh gooseberry and chalky mineral – a dynamic flavour combination that will have you hooked from the get-go. Dry but not austere, impactful and with notable length. Should age exceptionally well.

And that’s a wrap for this edition.  Vintages is back to twice monthly releases so will see you in two weeks time with recommendations from the Sept 24 Release.   And welcome back to Miho Yamamoto, our tasting coordinator, after a Labour Day weekend bout with Covid. It isn’t over, but the sense of normalcy and re-energizing out there is palpable.

David Lawrason

VP of Wine

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Selections
Megha’s Picks

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