LCBO Vintages release – July 11, 2015 (WVN 218)

Next weekend will be the occasion of the fourth annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration to be held at various sites in the Niagara wine region.

If you haven’t attended this event in the past you should make an effort to get to at least one of the events next weekend. This year’s agenda is enormous with a wide variety of activities scheduled Friday, Saturday and Sunday at wineries and other venues throughout the day, each day.

Highlights you may wish to consider are the World Tour tasting and dinner on Saturday evening at Ridley College and the Movable Feast brunch at Ravine Vineyard in St. David’s on Sunday.

Tickets are still available for most events and can be purchased at

In recognition of this important event a number of Chardonnays are offered in this weekend’s Vintages release. One makes my list, below.

I adopt a new practice with this weekend’s recommendations: I will now list my best values in order of best value, starting with the best and moving down to the lowest. Still no scores are assigned but I offer an informal ranking of which wines represent the highest rank on my subjective quality/price scale. I must note, despite the rank-order listing, none of my recommended wines is a dud – simply some rank higher than others on net best value.

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Beamsville Bench Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay 2013

This wine is a beauty and will appeal to all lovers of white wine, whether they like Chardonnay or not. Why? The fruit expression is brilliant with lots of lemon, green apple and spice. There is a bit of toast from some modest oak ageing but the wood effect adds complexity without diminishing the fruit. The flavours are assertive and the body is quite angular: this wine will remind many of a fine, entry-level Chablis.

Extra dry, white wine – $18.95 per bottle

Australia, Victoria – Domaine Tournon Mathilda Shiraz 2012

I think this is the third time this wine has been offered by Vintages and if so, this is the third time it has received my recommendation. Made by Michael Chapoutier of the norther Rhône village of Tain-l’Hermitage (across the river from the town of Tournon), this wine demonstrates consistently the diversity that is possible in Australia. Victoria is a cool zone – I think I tell you this every time I mention the region: this will be the last, I promise – so this wine is made from fruit that achieves lower levels of ripeness than found in other more visible places in Australia, such as Southern Australia This lower level of ripeness allows much more balance in the wines: bright fruit and juicy acid, in particular. Mathilda is more Old World in style than your typical Aussie Shiraz: black fruit, pepper spice and a reductive character that is found in many Rhône Syrahs. The balance in this wine makes it ready for early consumption and it will perform well at your next barbecue.

Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle

Italy, Umbria – IGP Umbria Falesco Vitiano 2013

It has been many years since Vitiano has graced the shelves of your local Vintages corner. It’s now back but with a modern label – in a Burgundy bottle (!) – that doesn’t excite as much as the wine inside. Vitiano was one of my original run-don’t-walk wines and while it’s still a great value it’s among strong company this release. This wine is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese and it is made in a way which displays the best aspects of each grape: lush ripe plum, bright, juicy red cherry, and some modest black currant.  The mouth feel is lean and the acid is bright and crisp. This is a great summer red and should be served lightly chilled.

Extra dry, red wine – $15.95 per bottle

Spain, Penedès – DO Cava Gramona III Lustros Gran Reserva Brut Nature

Gramona is an old family business located in the capital of Cava country in northern Spain, a 45-minute drive south of Barcelona. Champagne lovers should lower their noses into a flute of Gramona and realize that Cava can be every bit a serious a wine as its French distant cousin. Gramona wines make the case that good grapes, careful winemaking and long bottle-time make a difference that can only be realized in the bottle. This wine has spent 6 years in the bottle before disgorgement and the complexity and intensity demonstrates that this is not your everyday Cava. It has enormous brioche and toast on the nose and palate along with honey, citrus, tree fruit and very delicate mousse. If you love Champagne, buy a case.

Extra dry, sparkling wine – $49.95 per bottle

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Peninsula Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2013

This wine is one of my perennial favourites and it continues to deliver consistent bright fruit and varietal correctness. As an off-dry Riesling this is a wine that will please all comers. The taut acid that is at the heart of the Riesling grape is balanced with well over 20 g/L of residual sugar so we have here a wine that can be enjoyed on the patio or with a grilled breast of chicken.

Off-dry, white wine – $17.95 per bottle

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2015.


Author: John Switzer

I am wine writer, educator and tour guide. From 2005 to June 2014 I published a bi-weekly newsletter, the Winesights Vintages Newsletter (WVN). This Newsletter was closed in July 2014 when the Government of Canada put in place the onerous administrative requirements of Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation. The legacy of WVN continues on this blog spot where I post wine-related articles as well as reviews of a small selection of best-value wines from each bi-weekly LCBO Vintages release. I hold the WSET Diploma, I am a WSET Certified Educator, I teach in the WSET program at the Independent Wine Education Guild in Toronto where I am the past Director of the WSET Diploma program. Since 2010 I have been a judge at Decanter World Wine Awards on the Rhône panel and I am a member of the Society of Wine Educators.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s