LCBO Vintages release – October 15 and 29, 2016 (WVN 248)

First, apologies to loyal readers who were not well served by TWR at the last Vintages release.  I was pre-occupied by a personal matter that diverted my attention for several days.

In any case, I provide below my comments on the earlier release as well as this weekend’s edition.  Wines from the October 15 release are in good supply, unless noted (check for details at

The October 15 release marks the soft start to the holiday season blitz with a feature that shows the early upward movement of prices that comes with cooler weather…  despite this signal there are some fine values on offer as you will see below.

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Beamsville Bench Redstone Chardonnay 2013

Redstone is a sister winegrowing operation to Tawse Winery in Niagara, acquired by proprietor Moray Tawse, in 2009.  This wine is a good example of the terroir-forward approach Tawse seeks to achieve in this venture.  The wine shows little winemaking intervention with an appealing fruit-forward, mineral-rich nose and palate. Citrus (lemon and lime), green apple and spice dominate and create a reasonably complex character for the price.  The mouth feel is ripe and round, the acid is crisp and the finish is long: fine structure!

Extra dry, white wine – $19.20 per bottle

France, Champagne – AOC Champagne De Castelnau Brut Réserve NV

This is an exceptional value cooperative Champagne that is dry, mature, showing golden colour in the glass.  The aromas and palate are intense with toast, honey, brown apple and lemon on the palate.  The mousse is lively and persistent and the finish is long. This is a fine wine for celebrations or food.

Extra dry, sparkling wine – $49.95 per bottle

France, Southern Rhône – AOC Côtes du Rhône-Villages La Ferme du Mont Le Ponnant 2014

This wine is a beauty and a good find for lovers of the bright, fruity wines from the southern Rhône, made in the traditional manner. Plum, black cherry and red berry fruit are accompanied by spice, black pepper and just a tinge of oak. It has solid structure (there is a small amount of Mourvèdre in the assemblage) with firm tannins along with crisp acid and bright fruit.  The finish is long.  Buy a few bottles.  Great! (Note: supplies are very good, generally, but a bit thin in the Toronto area.)

Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle

France, Midi – AOP Côtes du Roussillon Saint Roch Vieilles Vignes 2015

We don’t see a lot of white light wine from this part of France (in terms of whites, the Roussillon is best known for its exceptional vin dux naturel, Muscat de Rivesaltes…). The Roussillon climate is very hot making it a challenge to make crisp, interesting whites and yet occasionally we see a wine that warrants a nod: this is one of those wines.  It is complex and concentrated with ripe tropical and tree fruit as well as spice and herbs on both the nose and palate. The alcohol is surprisingly modest at 13% abv and there is fresh acid and a flinty mineral character – all of which deliver a finely-balanced character in the glass.  The finish is long.

Extra dry, white wine – $15.95 per bottle

Portugal, Douro – DOC Douro Lua Cheia Old Vines Red 2014

It’s been a long while since I have found a wine at a price below $14.00 worthy of my coverage.  It is no surprise that such a value originates in the Douro region of Portugal, a zone that still does not get the credit it deserves for interesting, food-friendly wines. This lack of recognition will change but in the meantime, let’s enjoy the wonderful quality-for-the-price balance this zone provides. This is a red cherry/berry-forward wine with assertive, crisp, spice and light minerality.  The tannins are light and finely-grained.  The finish is medium long, crisp and clean.  Don’t forget to apply the 20-minutes rule to this red!

Extra dry, red wine – $13.95 per bottle

For holiday dinners you may wish to consider stocking up on what Oz Clarke calls a sublime, world-class sweet dessert wine. This wine comes from the Riverina zone of New South Wales: De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2013.  Noble One is a wine to put up against any of the most notable Old World botrytis-affected wines selling for much more and is still available in good supplies for $29.95 per bottle (375 ml).

The October 29 release continues the upward trend in prices as the holiday season starts to loom closer. To offset the rising trend in prices, the feature is value-Bordeaux reds and one of these wines makes this week’s list.

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Beamsville Bench Hidden Bench Estate Riesling 2014

I am a broken record on this wine, so I will come to the point – put this wine up against any Mosel for twice the price and the HB Estate Riesling will come out on top.  Put several bottles down for the next five years and you will be rewarded with a complex wine that will demonstrate why Ontario is a serious place for premium wines. Concentration, brilliant acid, assertive fruit, firm minerals – these are the hallmarks of HB and they

Dry, white wine – $23.75 per bottle

Ontario, Niagara – VQA Niagara Escarpment Cave Spring Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2013

This is a classic C-F with more body and fruit ripeness than earlier vintages have shown.  The alcohol comes in at 14.5% which is high for the vintage but which gives heft to the body. The fruit is defined by sour red cherry with herbs and modest green character – markers for the variety.  The acid is less assertive than past vintages and shows good balance with the ripe fruit. This is a great food wine – serve with roast rack of pork.

Extra dry, red wine – $19.95 per bottle

France, Bordeaux – AOC Médoc Château Haut-Canteloup 2010

Despite many fine inexpensive Bordeaux reds offered over the past several months, this weekend’s Bordeaux feature underperforms;  the Haut-Canteloup is the best of weak lot.  This sounds like faint praise and in fact this is a very good value for under $20.00. It is 6 years old and still shows fresh character. The alcohol is a pleasing 13.5%, the black fruit is ripe and as befits its age, this wine shows some earthy development.  The tannins are still youthful so this wine needs some time – there is enough fruit and acid to support some time in your cellar while the tannins soften. This is a wine with complexity that punches above its modest price.  Excellent value!

Extra dry, red wine – $17.95 per bottle

Argentina, Patagonia – H.J. Fabre Barrel Selection Malbec 2014

This wine was an international trophy winner at the 2015 Decanter World Wine Awards where it was recorded as an absolutely textbook, pure expression of Malbec. This is an intense wine with stewed plum fruit, spice, some modest oak and a full body.  Despite elevated alcohol and intensity it is an elegant and fresh wine with potential for further development and harmony with a few more years ageing.

Extra dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle

Spain, Campo de Borja – DO Campo de Borja Borsao Berola 2012

This wine is made by a game-changing cooperative, Borsao, an operation that has dramatically raised the quality of wines produced in this small northern region of Spain. If this region has a champion grape it is Garnacha, the main variety in this regional blend (20% of the blend is Syrah).  It is a fine value wine with red and black berry fruit, soft tannins, modest oak, spice and a supple texture.  It is a wonderful value and should be of interest to readers who seek to find off-piste discoveries.

Dry, red wine – $18.95 per bottle

à bientôt…

Copyright© W. John Switzer 2003 – 2016.



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.

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