A funny thing happens when you taste through thousands of wines each year: an unerring picture of quality comes into focus. Members of our tasting panel continually taste new wines from all over the world, looking for the best bottles to share with you. If it’s here, it’s captured our attention and our imagination. With these considered ratings, you’ll never again be flummoxed about which wine to buy.
Our ranking is based on a five-star rating system. The wines in this section were individually assessed and assigned a rating based on criteria that include: aromatics, flavour profile, balance, finesse, overall enjoyment and its relation to varietal characteristics from its region.
|Wines Of Argentina|
|Wines Of Australia|
|Wines Of Canada|
|Wines Of Chile|
|Wines Of France|
|Wines Of Italy|
|Wines of The United States of America|
|View All Wines|
|Amanda Allison (AA)
|Christopher Waters (CW)|
|Daenna Van Mulligen (DVM)|
|Michael Botner (MB)
|Rod Philips (RP)|
|Sara d'Amato (SD)|
Bodegas Escorihuela 2009 1884 Reservado SyrahMendoza, Argentina $17.00 (744532)
Here is a solidly made Syrah that is sweet and smoky on the nose. Its aromas are laden with ripe black raspberries, vanilla and earth underscored by toasted spice. The palate is very fresh and offers juicy berry and cherry flavours followed by allspice and rich mocha/espresso notes. It’s smooth, not too earthy, not too jammy, but offering plenty of high-toned fruit and balanced acidity.
Argento Wine Co. 2008 Reserva Cabernet SauvignonMendoza, Argentina $12.95(164764)
Argento makes wines with mass appeal. This bargain bottle reveals a ripe, jammy expression of Cabernet. Look for dark fruit, vanilla and spice notes on the aroma and palate. The texture is plush, with supple tannins and a slightly tart fruit finish that helps streamline things. Drink now.
Graffigna 2009 Centenario Pinot Grigio ReserveSan Juan, Argentina $12.95 (164756)
Here’s a good expression of Pinot Grigio, which offers upfront peach and pear flavours on the medium-bodied palate. There’s force to the presentation, without losing the refreshing character that is part of Pinot Grigio’s classic character. It’s a dry white that is anything but wimpy.
Graffigna 2009 Centenario Shiraz ReserveSan Juan, Argentina $12.95 (164731)
Graffigna produces an impressive range of good value wines, including this expressive Shiraz Reserve. The high elevation vineyards of San Juan see Shiraz grapes develop ripeness without sacrificing acidity, which results in a wine with generous character, rich texture and brisk vitality. Made in a drier style than most similarly priced Malbecs from Argentina, this is flavourful enough to enjoy by itself and balanced enough to work effectively with wintry baked or roasted entrées.
Bodegas Escorihuela 2009 High Altitude Malbec-Cabernet SauvignonMendoza, Argentina $14.00 (769471)
The excellent value High Altitude Malbec blend has appealing aromas of black raspberries and blueberry, chocolate, spicebox and espresso. The palate follows suit, presenting ripe berry flavours spiked with roasted carob and licorice supported by an earthy backbone. This is smooth and very approachable.
Wines of Australia
Penfolds 2008 Bin 2 Shiraz/MourvèdreSouth Australia, Australia $21.95 (468629)
This is 88 percent Shiraz and 12 percent Mourvèdre and it delivers a big whack of sweet, ripe fruit. But it’s no mindless fruit-bomb. The fruit is nicely layered and shows complexity from start to finish with excellent fruit-acid balance. The tannins are ripe and easygoing, making this a wine to drink now or over the next five or six years.
Penfolds 2007 Bin 28 Kalimna ShirazSouth Australia, Australia $34.95 (422782)
This is a quite stunning and stylish Shiraz that delivers excellent components and fine integration. Look for well-defined and nuanced fruit, with structure and complexity, well-calibrated acidity and ripe tannins exercising a comfortable grip. It’s harmonious now and will continue to improve with another two or three years of cellaring.
Wolf Blass 2008 Gold Label Chardonnay 2008Adelaide Hills, Australia $2.195 (606186)
This is Chardonnay in a compelling style. It brings together fruit that is ripe, sweet and complex, with a rich seam of juicy acidity. The balance of the two is near perfection and it enhances each of the components. This is a great choice for rich pork and poultry dishes or with lobster and scallops.
Razor’s Edge 2008 Shiraz-GrenacheMcLaren Vale, Australia $15.00 (755090)
The McLaren Vale stamp is all over this wine. The Grenache lends appealing bright berry fruit and floral components to the spiciness of the Shiraz. The blend offers fragrant blueberry jam, crushed violets, cranberries, sweet spices and vanilla. The palate reflects those ripe, mouth-watering aromas nicely. It pops with juicy raspberry and blueberry flavours, fruitcake, chocolate and vanilla. A supple and quaffable wine that will pair well with sweet and spicy barbecued ribs.
Wines of Canada
Burrowing Owl Estate 2008 Cabernet Franc Estate BottledOkanagan Valley $33.00 (556621)
If you’re generally not a fan of Cabernet Franc, this luscious Burrowing Owl Estate Cabernet Franc could convert you. It oozes black raspberries, star anise, vanilla, chocolate, cedar chips and dark floral notes. Laden with juicy berry, cocoa, tobacco and licorice flavour, the palate is equally seductive. It is a shameless wine — long, smooth and juicy, with a lingering spiced chocolate and espresso finish. bovwine.ca
Laughing Stock Vineyards 2008 Blind Trust RedOkanagan Valley, $29.00 (123612)
Merlot dominates the blend of Laughing Stock’s newly released Blind Trust Red followed by 13 percent Malbec and nine percent Cabernet Sauvignon. It presents kirsch, berry jam, chocolate and brown spice aromas, with subtle tobacco leaf and grilled pepper notes. Chocolate leads the palate, which boasts impressive complexity, lively acidity and a long mocha tobacco finish. A firm, almost brooding wine. Decant now or cellar for six months to five years. laughingstock.ca
Le Clos Jordanne 2008 Claystone Terrace Vineyard ChardonnayTwenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula $40.00 (56929)
Typically the most exciting white in the Le Clos Jordanne portfolio at the time of release, the Claystone Terrace Chardonnay makes a profound impression with its bold fruit and evident minerality. The integration of fruit and oak is remarkable, while the racy acidity gives terrific definition to the palate. This will continue to evolve over the next two to three years. leclosjordanne.com
Le Clos Jordanne 2008 Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot NoirTwenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula $40.00 (33902)
Le Clos Jordanne’s portfolio continues to show improvement, even in a challenging vintage like 2008. The single-vineyard Le Clos Pinot Noir stands out from the field with interesting floral notes suggestive of rose petals and unwavering minerality. A medium-bodied, medium-intensity wine, this impresses with its elegance, finesse and length. The vibrant character gives this oodles of charm. leclosjordanne.com
Quinta Ferreira Estate Winery 2008 SyrahOkanagan Valley $24.90
Northern Rhône in style, this deeply coloured Syrah shows power and finesse. Complex nose exhibits penetrating fragrances of blackcurrant, plum, black licorice, black pepper and smoky oak. Its elegant palate trumpets supple black cherry and raspberry fruit, with nuances of black pepper, coffee bean, dark chocolate and smoky bacon, supported by smooth, finely textured tannin and a lengthy finish. Cellar three to five years or serve now with lamb stew or rich game dishes. 625 cases. quintaferreira.com
Van Westen Vineyards 2007 Voluptuous Boothe Road VineyardOkanagan Valley $29.90
Unless rare beef, game or strong cheese is on the menu, cellaring is advised for this muscular Merlot and Cabernet Franc blend. Produced from a single-vineyard overlooking the village of Naramata, it delivers a potent nose and brooding palate which reveals richly concentrated plum, black cherry, dark chocolate and orange peel notes. 460 cases. vanwestenvineyards.com
Baillie-Grohman Estate Winery 2009 Pinot Noir Estate BottledBritish Columbia $25.00 (125328)
Baillie-Grohman’s Bob Johnson, his wife Petra Flaa and award-winning Kiwi winemaker Dan Barker are pioneering forces for a new wine district in the Kootenay region of south central British Columbia — quite a way from the Okanagan. Named for the European pioneer and outdoor adventurer William Baillie-Grohman, the winery has released its first vintage, produced from an estate vineyard in Creston. While youthful and tight at the time of tasting, this shows promise. It offers aromas of cherries, leather, cedar chips and forest floor. On the palate, it’s finely grained and spicy, with juicy red berries and spiced cocoa notes and a lingering cedar finish. bailliegrohman.com
Cattail Creek Estate Winery 2009 Riesling Clonal BlendFour Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula $25
Produced from a blend of Cattail Creek’s new clonal project, this blend of old and young vines of clones 21, 49 and 239 is the only bottle of the project to be sold individually. The riper style of the clone 49 seems to dominate the nose showing tropical notes, lime and passion fruit. The palate is lively with vibrant acidity, Granny Smith apple and minerality. The fleshy mouthfeel, layered complexity and substantive richness make for a memorable experience. cattailcreek.ca
Château des Charmes 2007 Equuleus Paul Bosc Estate VineyardSt. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula $40
The top wine from Château des Charmes combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc and showcases the power of Niagara’s 2007 vintage without being too over-the-top or tannic. The savoury fruit and cedar aroma is attractive and pleasingly complex. On the palate, this nicely balanced, concentrated and harmonious red is layered and boasts good complexity. This well-made, age-worthy wine is drinking nicely now and will continue to evolve over the next four to six years. chateaudescharmes.com
Clos du Soleil 2008 SignatureOkanagan Valley $39 (177204)
Made by Niagara-based winemaker Ann Sperling, Signature is a Merlot-dominant red blend that also features Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Look for black fruit, smoke, roasted bell peppers and dried herb aromas, with licorice and peppery spices. This offers good concentration on the palate. Its sweet, juicy fruit is layered with toasted oak and cigar flavours. It’s a nicely constructed wine with lovely balance. closdusoleil.ca
Fort Berens Estate Winery 2008 Cabernet FrancBritish Columbia $25 (137604)
Fort Berens Estate Winery 2008 Cabernet Franc British Columbia $25 (137604) Although the Fort Berens winery is pioneering a new wine region in the Fraser Canyon, owners Rolf de Bruin and Heleen Pannekoek will not have grapes from their own estate until 2011. In the interim, they have purchased grapes from the Okanagan Valley. This is an engaging wine, full of youthful freshness and approachable aromas of red berries, cocoa, sweet spice and hints of leather. The palate is subtler, suggesting red fruit, dry earth and roasted coffee beans with a hint of wild herbs. There is some complexity and refreshing acidity in the mouth followed by a long finish. All in all, a fine first effort. fortberens.ca
Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery 2008 Pinot Noir EstateBeamsville Bench $38
Hidden Bench’s early critical successes have come with wines produced with Riesling and Bordeaux grape varieties, particularly its stunning red and white blends, La Brunante and Nuit Blanche respectively. These varieties represent only a small percentage of the total vineyard. A more realistic view of the top-flight winery will come into focus as its Pinot Noir portfolio increases in production, starting with this exciting example. A standout for the vintage, this estate Pinot Noir offers good palate weight, with lots of fleshy fruit and fresh acidity. hiddenbench.com
The Good Earth Food and Wine Co. 2009 RieslingNiagara Peninsula $20
This drier-style Riesling made with fruit from Anna Weis Vineyards in Jordan is easily the most serious wine in the Good Earth’s opening portfolio. Refreshing and crisp, it offers waves of orchard fruit and citrus with a good acidic backbone and dose of minerality. An excellent food wine, this would work with any number of fish, seafood or white meat dishes. Good Earth also makes a pleasant Medium Dry Riesling, which is more of a quaffable, crowd-pleaser.goodearthfoodandwine.com
Hillside Estate Winery 2008 Cabernet FrancOkanagan Valley $25 (528935)
Red fruit in the form of cherries and currants mingle with dried herbs, cigar box and green olives on the nose of this well-made, medium-bodied red. There’s plenty of acidity on the palate, which echoes the red fruit and spice from the nose. Nicely integrated tannins and fine spice flavours linger across the finish. This would pair nicely with rich meat dishes or those with tangy tomato-based sauces. hillsideestate.com
Intrigue Wines 2009 RieslingOkanagan Valley $16.90 (881698)
Intrigue’s flagship wine is a classic Rheingau-style Riesling made from grapes grown at The Rise, a south-facing vineyard in the north Okanagan. A classic nose projects lime, Golden Delicious apple, tropical fruit and mineral aromas, with hints of petrol and honey. The palate exhibits flavours of grapefruit and pineapple, with zesty acidity balancing the off-dry finish. Enjoy with roast pork with a fruit sauce or moderately spiced Asian cuisine. intriguewines.com
Peller Okanagan Estate 2009 Reserve Pinot NoirOkanagan Valley $18.99 (618314)
This Pinot Noir provides good value in the under $20 category. It is spicy and a little meaty on the nose, with tart red fruit, roasted herbs, mocha and forest floor notes. Made in an approachable style, this is quite silky and surprisingly full-bodied in the mouth, with juicy red fruit, fine cocoa and spice flavours that linger on the palate. peller.com
Sandhill Wines 2007 Small Lots Program Merlot Sandhill Estate VineyardOkanagan Valley $35 (318345)
A satisfying Merlot harvested from a single block, named C8, in the Sandhill Estate Vineyard, which consistently produces great fruit quality according to winemaker Howard Soon. On the nose, it offers dark roasted coffee, chocolate cherries and plums with spice and mineral/earthy tones. The palate is smooth and supple with sweet Damson plum, cherry and mocha notes. The finish carries powdery cocoa tannins and a hint of coffee liqueur. sandhillwines.ca
Fielding Estate Winery 2009 ChardonnayNiagara Peninsula $22.95
This youthful Chardonnay was carefully produced with fruit from two Niagara vineyards that underwent barrel fermentation with a combination of native and selected yeast. The result is a serious Chardonnay with a good amount of bright fruit, earthy and nutty notes. Winemaker Richie Roberts stresses that it should not be served too cold. He’s right. Too much chill will mute the rich, refreshing character. fieldingwines.com
Rosewood Estates Winery 2008 Pinot NoirTwenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula $20 (112177)
Here’s a well-made, affordable Niagara Pinot Noir that showcases classic cool climate character in the form of cranberry and cherry fruit, with some incense/spice, earth and beetroot notes adding complexity. Its lighter body, refreshment factor and bright charm make it a winning food wine that would work with a wide range of dishes. Drink now to 2013. rosewoodwine.com
Wines of Chile
Viña Tabalí 2008 Reserva Cabernet SauvignonLimarí Valley, Chile $14.95 (58446)
The cool conditions of the Limarí Valley in northern Chile (yes, it’s counter-intuitive, as it’s closer to the equator than the warmer regions of central Chile) produced this lovely Cabernet. The fruit is concentrated and layered, but what’s striking is the acid-driven juiciness and better structure than you usually find at this price. Enjoy it with grilled red meats.
Viña Carmen 2009 Reserva Sauvignon BlancCasablanca Valley, Chile $12 (415604)
This verdant Sauvignon Blanc leaps out of the glass with cut grass, fresh herbs and supporting citrus, green apple peel, passion fruit and lemon verbena notes. The palate is tart and racy — grassy/herbal, citrus and passion fruit flavours dominate — the finish is mouth-watering. This affordable white is a perfect partner to grilled asparagus with lemon and goat’s milk cheese.
Viña Concha y Toro 2008 Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet SauvignonPuente Alto Maipo, Chile $19.95 (337238)
Concha y Toro’s Marques de Casa Concha portfolio thankfully now falls into the under $20 category in a number of markets. A wine with nice complexity and a succulent finish, this boasts impressive structure and flavours of black fruits, bittersweet cocoa and warm spices, with an earthy, roasted core. The palate is firm, with powdery tannins lingering throughout and clinging to the finish. Flavours of dark fruit, fine spice and tobacco flow into cocoa flavours on the finish.
Viña Santa Rita 2008 120 Cabernet SauvignonCentral Valley, Chile $12.00 (415604)
Another great Santa Rita value, the 120 Cabernet provides appealing aromas of sweet cassis and black cherries, cedar, leather and warm spices — notably clove, cinnamon and star anise. The palate is an echo of the nose, with ripe sweet fruit and spices lifted by bright acidity. It is seductively smooth, very approachable and affordable enough to pour for a party.
Wines of France
Château Haut-Chaigneau 2006 Cuvée PrestigeLalonde de Pomerol, Bordeaux, France $27.95 (87650)
This is another example of quality and value from a lesser-known appellation, in this case one of the satellite appellations of iconic Pomerol. It’s predominantly Merlot, as you’d expect, with support from Cabernet Sauvignon (10 percent) and Cabernet Franc (five percent) and it over-delivers for the price. The flavours are intense, packed with fruit and layered complexity, while the texture is full and rich, with edgy tanginess and gripping tannins. You can drink it now with some tannin-softening food, such as red meat or aged cheese, but even better, hold it for a year or two, then drink it any time over the following five years.
Ogier 2008 Crozes-Hermitage Les BrunnellesRhône Valley, France $26 (485250)
This firmly structured Syrah comes from another solid vintage from the northern Rhône. The Les Brunnelles offers sweet black cherry and sun-warmed blackberry aromas, with dense chocolate, espresso and plenty of finely ground white pepper notes. The palate is fresh but firm and is dominated by pepper, black berries and mocha, with a bittersweet chocolate finish. It’s elegant and smooth with an impressive lingering finish.
Château Castaing 2008Côtes de Bourg, Bordeaux, France $17.95 (485250)
This is a delicious and well-priced Merlot-dominant blend from one of the lesser known of the main Bordeaux appellations. Look for concentrated flavours of ripe fruit that are solid and consistent from attack to finish, supported by a spine of clean, fresh acidity and framed by supple, easily managed tannins. It’s drinking beautifully now and will hold another four or five years.
Château de Beaucastel 2008 Coudoulet de BeaucastelCôtes du Rhône, France $29.95 (48884)
A lovely blend of Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsaut and Syrah, this delivers rich, dense flavours with the acidity to keep them vibrant and refreshing. It’s dry, with ripe and supple tannins and is drinking well now or over the next three or four years.
Jean-Max Roger 2008 Cuvée C.M. SancerreLoire Valley, France $24.95 (196667)
This shows a lot more fruit in the aromatics than many Sancerres, but it’s still nowhere near the flavoured fruitiness of most Sauvignon Blancs from New Zealand. Look for excellent structure and very good complexity, together with a spine of acidity that acts as a focus for the other components. It’s a terrific choice for white fish and seafood.
Chateâu La Fleur Terrien 2008Lussac Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux, France $15 (199059)
The nose on this wine is hugely inviting, showing elegant aromas including cracked pepper and red currants. The palate is both fleshy and juicy, with mild tannins and red plum and pomegranate notes. Aging in stainless steel tanks results in refreshing acidity that gives this good value, food-friendly red a peppy and vibrant character.
Château Pey La Tour 2009 Merlot-Cabernet SauvignonBordeaux, France $13.95 (264986)
My interest in entry-level wines from Bordeaux perks up in so-called great vintages, such as 2005 and 2009. The thinking is that a stellar growing season should be reflected across the range, not just be apparent in top wines from blue-chip producers. This humble red, a blend of roughly 80 percent Merlot and 20 percent Cabernet, doesn’t come across as incredibly ripe or powerful. Instead, it showcases pervasive coffee and smoky oak notes, with some enjoyable cherry and plum notes in the background. Dry and savoury on the palate, this is more tannic than many New World reds that retail for the same price — not that there’s anything wrong with that. Decant and serve with lamb or beef entrées for best enjoyment.
Wines of Italy
Le Serra Nuove Dell’ Ornellaia 2008Bolgheri, Tuscany, Italy $60 (91496)
The little brother to Ornellaia is made using the grapes of the estate’s younger vineyards. It is a substantial wine providing sun-baked earth, black cherry and tobacco leaf aromas underscored by smoked meat, chocolate and fine spices. It is full on the palate almost to the point of being chewy and has powdery tannins throughout. It is also a brawny wine that tastes of black fruit, cocoa and espresso with toasted spice that clings to the finish. There is impressive structure and lovely balance here. For best enjoyment, decant or cellar for a few years.
Marchese Antinori 2006 Chianti Classico RiservaTuscany, Italy $29.95 (512384)
This is classic Chianti in more than just appellation and selling for a pretty good price. The fruit is optimum here — well defined and nuanced — and it’s carried on a seam of rich and clean acidity. The tannins are prominent, so maybe cellar it a couple of years, then drink it through to 2018.
Melini Vignetti 2005 La Selvanella Chianti ClassicoTuscany, Italy $28 (785642)
From the famed soils of Chianti Classico in Tuscany, this impressive red is made from grapes harvested in rocky soiled vineyards at 400-metres above sea level. The aroma suggests dried cherries, crushed flowers, cigar and sun-baked earth, cedar, leather and chocolate with a pinch of celery salt. There is impressive acidity on the palate, which makes for a great food wine, especially when paired with rich tomato sauces. Its concentrated palate offers earth and dry cocoa flavours, while the finish is smooth and mouth-watering.
Tommasi 2008 Poggio al TufoMaremma Tuscany, Italy $22 (780585)
Made of 60 percent Sangiovese and 40 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from Tommasi’s Tuscan estate, this delicious wine will delight you with seductive aromas of sweet cherries, dried flowers, saddle leather, sun-baked earth and rich chocolate mocha. The palate is mouthfilling and offers replays of sweet cherries, chocolate and leather with tobacco and fine spice notes.
Ceuso Scurati 2008 Nero d’AvolaSicilia, Italy $25 (183319)
This unfiltered, dark and earthy Nero d’Avola presents aromas of sun-baked earth, black cherries, roasted spice, licorice and espresso. A sweet fruit flavour starts out slowly before becoming more defined on the mid-palate, followed by a wake of earthy minerality and roasted flavours that linger across the finish. It is a wine with good power and concentration and fine, powdery tannins throughout.
Monte Antico 2007Tuscany, Italy $14.95 (69377)
The always-reliable Monte Antico, Italian for ancient mountain, is produced by the partnership of winemaker Franco Bernabei and wine merchant Neil Empson. A Super Tuscan red that blends Sangiovese with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, the resulting wine has a high-toned fragrance that calls to mind potpourri. The palate presents good concentrated fruit and plenty of complexity and the nicely balanced structure makes this a winning match for a wide range of pasta, pizza or simply roasted meat dishes.
Azienda Vinicola Zenato 2008 RossoVeneto, Italy $11 (208579)
Family winery Zenato, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2010, is best known for its ripasso and Amarone portfolio, but has enjoyed success with more affordable reds as well. This attractive blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Corvina reveals an approachable, velvety-smooth texture. The 14 percent alcohol content suggests that a portion of dried grapes was used to flesh out the wine, but without spoiling the bright, juicy character with any raisinated notes or alcoholic warmth.
Wines of Spain
Bodegas Campo Viejo 2005 ReservaRoija, Spain $18.50 (137810)
This Tempranillo-based blend has drawn comparisons to Pinot Noir because of its soft, silky texture and abundant cherry and red berry fruit mixed with complex leather notes. Eighteen months in barrel has added nice spicy intensity to the core of ripe fruit, making for a fresh, flavourful red wine with bright acidity and well-managed tannin.
Bodegas Terras Guada 2006 Pittacum Mencía BarricaBierzo, Spain $18.95 (190751)
This opens with distinctive aromatic profile of fresh earth, rosemary, red and black currant and cinnamon spice. It is firm and serious on the palate, with a layered flavour profile. Tannins are dense and chewy and the palate is restrained yet showing good complexity, which suggests a great potential for longevity and cellaring. Black raspberry and crushed blackberry make an appearance on the palate, which is lush and full-bodied.
Auzolan 2008 Tinto CosechaNavarra, Spain $16.99 (765412)
This savoury, rather rustic wine would be best paired with rich tomato-based stews or roasted meats. Aromas of cherry and black pepper, saddle leather and beet greens lead to a smoky and gamy core. The palate is an echo of juicy red fruits, cocoa, spice and leather wrapped in powdery tannins.
Wines of the United States
Rodney Strong 2008 Knotty Vines ZinfandelSonoma County, California $23 (264739)
Lush aromas of blueberry and black raspberry, sweet spices, toffee and mocha roll into a juicy but concentrated mouthful of wine. The old vine fruit adds complexity and concentration to youthful berry and chocolate flavours — it is a supple, lengthy wine with nice structure trailing spiced cocoa flavours.
Adelaida Cellars 2007 Anna’s Estate Vineyard SyrahPaso Robles, California $26.95 (194316)
This sexy, feminine Syrah from west Paso Robles makes a profound first impression with sweet chocolate and violet aromas emanating from the glass. Complex sage and wildflower mingle with plum and cassis flavours on the rich, but restrained palate. The finish is slightly sweet, but well balanced by some dry, firm tannins.
Quails’ Gate 2008 Family Reserve Pinot NoirOkanagan Valley, Canada $45 (91496)
The top-of-the-line Pinot from Quails’ Gate comes from the winery’s Mount Boucherie estate vineyard. A complex, varietally correct nose offers interesting red fruit, smoky oak and spice components, which carry over to the palate. The luscious, mouthfilling flavour profile has an attractive herbal and cocoa note, with acid and tannins in fine balance. The top-of-the-line Pinot from Quails’ Gate comes from the winery’s Mount Boucherie estate vineyard. A complex, varietally correct nose offers interesting red fruit, smoky oak and spice components, which carry over to the palate. The luscious, mouthfilling flavour profile has an attractive herbal and cocoa note, with acid and tannins in fine balance. quailsgate.com
Inniskillin Wines 2009 Legacy Pinot GrisNiagara Peninsula, Canada $34.95 (512384)
The third release in Bruce Nicholson’s Legacy series for Inniskillin is the most unusual and exciting to date. The label represents the best wine from the vintage. This 2009 Pinot Gris is loaded with exotic fruit and boasts impressive structure and complexity. This winning white combines richness and power with elegance. inniskillin.com
Barossa Valley Estate 2005 E & E Black Pepper ShirazBarossa Valley, Australia $99.95 (785642)
As winemaker of the Barossa Valley Estate co-op winery, Stuart Bourne has his pick of prime parcels of Barossa Shiraz to craft the iconic E & E Black Pepper each year. The result is a lush, perfectly ripe red that has benefited from bottle aging. Released as a six-year-old, this rich and intense Shiraz is ready to drink now, but is sure to develop for years to come.
Le Clos Jordanne 2008 Le Grand Clos ChardonnayTwenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada $65 (34561)
The Le Grand Clos Chardonnay is assembled for the long haul, so you’ll find less obvious oak character. Consequently the top 2008 white is typically more restrained on the nose than the other single-vineyard Chardonnays. More meaningful aromatics will develop over time in bottle. The palate is beautifully balanced, offering richness and pervasive minerality. leclosjordanne.com
Blue Mountain Vineyard and Cellars Brut Gold LabelOkanagan Valley, Canada $32.95 (206326)
This traditional method sparkling wine is crafted from estate grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay with a small addition of Pinot Gris. Its mouthfilling toasty character and pleasingly ripe lemon and citrus fruit make it smooth and more than a little bit charming. bluemountainwinery.com
Ridge Vineyards 2008 Three ValleysSonoma County, California, United States $29.95 (652875)
The Three Valleys blend is mostly Zinfandel with small amounts of Petite Sirah, Syrah, Grenache and Carignan sourced from a variety of Sonoma vineyards. Unlike Ridge’s classic lineup of terroir-minded, single-vineyard bottlings, Three Valleys showcases the art of the blend, focusing on unadulterated ripe fruit aromas and flavours.