It's time once again for HoHoWine, our wine shoppping guide designed to help you find that special bottle of wine. We've asked a number of local wine writers and sommeliers to share their picks from this year.
Allison has been professionally passionate about wine and food for eight years. In that short time, Allison has traveled across Canada to work at some of the finest establishments focussed on premium wine, food and service. On her blog, Allison on Wine, she shares her thoughts and discoveries throughout her continued wine education.
NV Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava, Penèdes, Spain
$14.95 | LCBO 00216960
This wine packs in so much value! Cava is made in the traditional method but with local Spanish grapes. This wine has a pale straw colour and aromas of apple, peach, white grapefruit and toast. The palate is crisp, with some waxy and fruity flavours. Pop a few bottles for holiday brunches. It’s delicious straight up, but is also great for sparkling cocktails such as the Mimosa and Poinsettia.
Creekside Estate Winery Shiraz 2009, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada
$15.95 | LCBO 00066654
Creekside has focused their red wine portfolio on the Shiraz grape variety, and with good reason: they make it very well. The unusual variety for the Niagara region takes on refined quality. This example has a deep purple colour. The aromas of black plums, lavender and finely milled black pepper are pronounced. The structure of this medium-bodied wine means it needs to be served with food. Open up a bottle with a classic French Canadian holiday meal, tourtière.
NV Quinta do Noval, Noval Black, Douro Valley, Portugal
$24.95 | Vintages 00235689
A new brand of port from the renowned Quinta do Noval, Noval Black has a ruby purple colour that stains the glass with slow viscous tears. Aromas of blackberry and blueberry jam, laced with notes of quality black licorice. Equally juicy flavours matched with hints of toast, spice and a warming 19.5% alcohol by volume. This semi sweet fortified wine would be a perfect for sipping by the fire with holiday sweets such as chocolate rum balls.
Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir 2009
$75 | LCBO 34553
If ever there was a time to fill your stockings with Ontario Pinot Noir, this is the vintage to do it with. Almost all Ontario wineries have released their gorgeous Pinots (Tawse and Chateau des Charmes are two exceptions) and we can tell you, it’s the best vintage ever for this variety in Ontario. The Le Clos is among the top wines of the vintage and though the price might throw some for a loop, the investment is well worth it. Fruit for this top Pinot in the portfolio is sourced from the best block of Pinot Noir located on the limestone-rich western side of the Le Clos Jordanne Estate Vineyard. It is much more classically Burgundian in style then, say, the Claystone, and shows more elegance through the profile. The nose displays ripe plum, cranberries, black cherries, loam, cassis, flinty minerality, violets, minty spices and toasted oak-vanilla. It is dry yet persistent on the palate, still super-tight and waiting to open up, but still delivers wonderful red and black fruit intensity and balanced with wonderful spice and the elegance of fine oak. Wait on this, and it will return huge dividends. Potential for seven or more years in the cellar.
Inniskillin Legacy Series Riesling 2010
$30, Available through Wine Rack stores
Winemaker Bruce Nicholson’s Legacy series of Niagara wines (one bottling per vintage of the best of the best from any variety) is quickly becoming a must to buy and collect every year. The wines have been thrilling so far and this Riesling from 2010 is no different. In a lot of ways it is a repeat of the 2008 Legacy Riesling except with more fruit intensity and a touch less acidity. The nose is like a bowl of fresh-cut peaches drizzled in wild honey with a gentle squeeze of lemon and lime wedges. It shows wonderful fruit intensity on the palate with notes of dried apricot, mango, peach and a thread of grapefruit running through the core. It’s made with 16 g/l of residual sugar but tastes like less in the mouth. I love the lithe texture of this wine and the mingling minerality. It’s hard to stop to sipping this gorgeously balanced and juicy wine. Simply delicious.
San Felice Vigorello IGT 2006
$53 | LCBO 0726463
Finding a Super-Tuscan under the tree on Christmas morning is just about the most exciting thing that can happen to a wine lover. These wines have a long, long life, improving with each and every year in the cellar and paying big dividends as they age to perfection. Vigorello is the original Super Tuscan and has always been made with Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. But the 2006 vintage, for the first time, is just Cab (60%) and Merlot. It is a stunning change. Such depth of blackberry and currant fruit on the nose with smoke, sweet spices and wood-vanilla notes. The rich fruits are revealed in layers on the palate with spice, earth and ripe tannins chiming in. It has length through the finish and lingering notes of fruit and oak-inspired spices. Simply gorgeous.
A Toronto-based sommelier, wine consultant and educator, Zoltan has done more to raise the profile of the sommelier profession than busloads of stiff, tastevin-toting wine stewards, bringing a fresh, appealing, wholly inclusive approach to sharing his enthusiasm for wine.
Inniskillin Riesling Icewine 2008
$69.95 | Vintages 558288
Light golden; ripe tropical fruits, stone fruit preserve and floral; full, rich and intense with remarkable acidity and super – long finish, this is a classic Icewine from every which way. 5 stars out of 5.
Meyer Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 'Central Okanagan Vineyard' 2008
Closed a bit at first, then intense and concentrated wild berry, game, earth and mineral accents surface, full bodied over the palate with remarkable complexity and persuasive – spicy finish, needs time, just like “sex on the forest floor” says JAK Meyer, or “iron fist with a velvet glove”, I can’t agree more. 4 ½ / 5 stars out of 5.
Stratus Sauvignon Blanc 2008
$29, Available at winery
Gets similar oak regime and length of 22 months new and third year old French barrels (as the 2008 Semillon); tropical, lemon balm, lavender – basil and fresh honey; rich and thick over the palate, yet pretty intense and refreshing in the same time; long – lingering finish; seamless alcohols, acids and oak integration, plus its fruit extract will just increase its quality throughout short term aging; enjoy with smoked trout, cold beet and potato salad and mint – crème fraiche. 4 1/2 stars out of 5.
Miguel Torres Mas Borras Pinot Noir 2008
$29.95 | Vintages 673483
It's rare to see a pinot from Spain, but this is from Penedes, the most liberal appellation regarding grapes permitted. Torres also produces generally excellent cab sauvs and merlots. This pinot struck me as a cross between Old and New World styles. Expect a rich nose with obvious oak, charred wood, cigar and a meaty note. Then it’s fresher and lighter than expected on the palate, which has ripe cherry fruit, darker oaky notes, fresh acidity and a nice finish.
Angel's Gate Riesling 2009
$13.95 | Vintages 160523
Much lower down the price scale and suitable for turkey if you’re planning that far ahead, this one’s also a great sipper. Terrific nose of lemon-lime and peach, and though it's really off-dry, the crisp acidity makes it seem dry. Smooth and well integrated on the palate, with tangy/sour notes balancing the sweetness. Acidity rises again to a fresh finish. This will pair with lots of foods, from salad to seafood to pork to poultry.
Kacaba Single Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2008
$18.95 | Vintages 272146
Though often touted as Ontario’s best-bet red, I warn people that it can be uneven here – more so than riesling or chard, for example. But here’s a good cab franc: very fruity nose with lots of lighter red berries and a hint of herbal. Characteristic notes of green pepper and herbal jump out on the palate and there’s a nice touch of cedar/oak. Fuller bodied, but moderate tannins and oak so it’s smooth. Good acidity and fresh finish resolving to prune plum and vanilla. A solid effort on a bigger red in such a so-so year in Niagara.
Chateau Troplong Mondot 2007
$115.00 | Vintages 102715
Having recently raided my cellar for a 2000 Bordeaux (Chateau Batailly, a 5th Growth) I was reminded of just how good a good Bordeaux, aged, can be. If Santa delivered some of this recently released wine, I’d promise to keep it until 2017 at least. However I did try it and, at four years of age, it’s already very enjoyable. Big for a Bordeaux, this one has a super dark and woody nose. Blackberries, black cherries and a nice floral hint, and super smooth on palate. The tannins are there, as is the acidity, but the balance with the fruit smooths everything. Much as I loved it, I could sense it being even better (lighter, more integrated, more elegant, with earthier, leathery aromas but still fruity) in a few years.
Mike Di Caro is a resident Spotlight Toronto writer and loves wine. He’s currently working towards a Wine Marketing and Managment certificate at Niagara College and a WSET Advanced certificate. In his spare time you can probably find Michael in front of the tasting bar of an Ontario winery trying to sweet talk the staff into pouring a taste from the back vintage library or the latest, unreleased bottled.
Hidden Bench 2009 Nuit Blanche
$40, Availability: Winery
You don't see a whole lot of Semillon grown in Niagara. Some consider it difficult to work with while its few proponents think it grows well and produces nice wine. But nobody is about to dedicate a conference, weekend celebration or passport touring program staring Semillon, so it must continue to do its thing in obscurity. It's a shame really because it seems to add something that its natural partner, Sauvignon Blanc, can't quite bring by itself. This flagship white from Hidden Bench is a perfect example of what those two are capable of when paired. A beautiful mix of citrus, gooseberry and honeydew melon aromas greet you as you bring the glass to your nose. On the palate those layers of fruit come through, while a concentrated white grapefruit is so clear you'd almost swear some of Florida's finest snuck into the mix. Then a lingering, slightly smoky finish, ties it all together. From the cool 2009 vintage it has a razor-sharp acidity, but still manages to retain a balanced fleshy feel thanks to barrel fermentation with wild yeast . Although it's drinking nicely right now, this is a wine to grab a few bottles of and cellar. Thanks that spine of high-acidity and about 10 percent Semillon this is one of the few Sauvignon Blancs that should improve with age over the next few years.
Jackson-Triggs 2008 Delaine Syrah
$34.95, Availability: Winery & select Wine Rack locations
This wine was my most pleasant surprise of 2011. In a cooler vintage like 2008, Syrah is not exactly a grape that comes to mind. But maybe that's something to reconsider. After all Syrah is the Range Rover of grapes. Although it will produce crowd pleasing results in an easy environment with plenty of sunshine and no bumps, it really begins to show its stuff when pushed a little outside the comfort zone in a cooler and rockier environment. This is a Syrah from the latter category. It bears more rebalance to the cooler climate Syrahs of the wind-swept northern Rhône than new world warm climate Shiraz. On the nose there's a mix of bramble, plum and perfumed Tellicherry black peppercorns, with a bit of vanilla and oak spice to round things out. Taking a sip reveals layers of raspberries, cherries and blackberries. Those sit on top of the cool-climate Syrah flavours of smoke and a savoury meatiness, which come through on the finish. But, what truly stands out in this wine is its plush, soft feel. If this wine were a fabric it would be cashmere. If it were a movie star it would be Carey Grant. If it were a singer it would be Barry White. Yes, it really is that silky, supple and lush. With just enough food-friendly acidity and smooth tannins this wine would pair beautifully with hearty dishes during your holiday celebrations.
Le Clos Jordanne 2009 Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Chardonnay
$40, Availability: Jackson Triggs Winery
2009 was a very special year for Pinot Noir in Ontario. But what often gets overlooked in talk of the beloved grape is just how spectacular the Chardonnay is as well. This single vineyard Chardonnay is a consistent overachiever coming from the eastern part of the Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard—the top tier Le Grand Clos comes from the western side. The 2009 vintage may be the winery's best yet, fully realising its aim of that mid-Atlantic new-world old-world hybrid style. Couple a special vineyard together with an exceptional year and you know you're in for a great bottle of wine. Swirl, and golden apple, pear, pineapple, peach and citrus aromas, leap from the glass. Those layers of ripe fruit are joined by an undercurrent of creamy crème fraiche, toasted hazelnut and a sparky gin-and-tonic-like citrus minerality to round out the finish. This is a beautiful example of the great Chardonnay Ontario is consistently producing and the pleasingly round yet lithe enigma that a good oaked Chardonnay manages to capture.