Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES June 18 Release

A Quick Tour of the Best Buys

By David Lawrason with notes from Michael Godel and Sara d’Amato

Greetings from the 2022 National Wine Awards of Canada in Niagara. It is the day before 21 judges sit down to peruse over 1900 wines from across Canada. Two dozen volunteers have already been working three days on the set up – in fact the overall preparation takes longer than the actual judging itself. You will be reading all about the event and the results over the next few weeks, and it promises to be fascinating.

Meantime, the Awards have forced this rapid assessment of VINTAGES June 18 InStore release.  Many of the offerings are tightly focused around the $16 to $25 range – call it $20 – with the more expensive offerings relegated to less accessible OnLine releases, which we can expect as the reality going forward (the next one is July 2).

WineAlign members receive $10 off regular ticket price.

The feature this month is Southern Hemisphere, a very broad theme linked as much to this price parameter as geography.  Wines from the South are habitually, almost institutionally less expensive than wines of comparative quality from the North.  This is partially linked to lower cost of land and labour, and partially to historical perceptions of quality.  But the viticultural and winemaking of the Southern Hemisphere is in no way less developed than in the north – for which I can vouch having been across the equator 13 times between 2010 and 2018 – before COVID.  All I can say is that if you are still thinking South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand are somehow delivering lesser quality, you are mistaken.  As warmer regions they are delivering riper, softer New World wines – as a generalization – but the quality is no less – and the value is greater.

But our picks below do not necessarily cluster in the Southern Hemisphere. We also single out best buys from California and Niagara in the Northern Hemisphere, plus some interesting, relatively inexpensive white and orange wines from Europe, plus a couple of classic Euro reds.  We have further posted tasting notes on about half the wines in the release, so please browse further by clicking on the links to each of our critics (here).


Leaning Post The Fifty Chardonnay 2020

Leaning Post The Fifty Chardonnay 2020, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$22.95, Leaning Post Wines
David Lawrason – Leaning Post’s least expensive chardonnay is great value and seems just as complex and detailed as its peers. It is medium weight, quite intense and powerful with elevated acidity and alcohol. Lacking some finesse perhaps, but the length is excellent.
Michael Godel – This chardonnay is remarkably precise, takes nothing for granted and delivers a layered experience in which more than one vineyard and sub-appellation contribute to the greater good. Might very well be the best one made of the six to date.
Sara d’Amato – A quality bargain at under 25, Leaning Post’s The Fifty chardonnay is at once creamy and refreshing. Lemon, almond and egg custard linger on the lively finish of good length.

Castelo Do Mar Albariño 2020

Castelo Do Mar Albariño 2020, Rías Baixas, Spain
$18.95, Connexion Oenophilia
David Lawrason – This is a very generous, bright and appealing albariño with very clean aromas and flavours of almost tropical yellow mango, peach, honeysuckle and lemon blossom. This a very fine example and the length is excellent.
Michael Godel – Quite full and fleshy albariño, always with a pinch of marine air saltiness and the effects only granitic soils will gift to this smart and as here, generous Miño grape. Grabs your attention and palate for a truly satisfying experience.
Sara d’Amato – A taut but salty and inviting expression of Rias Baixas from 18-hectares of grapes grown in granitic soils in the cooler subregion of  Condado do Tea. Low yielding with notable concentration and authentic flavours of pear, lemon and white pepper, linger on the finish of good length.

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2021

Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2021, Stellenbosch, South Africa
$17.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
Michael Godel An ageless wonder, like the man himself, a chenin blanc with some fruit from heritage vines. Truly one of the world’s greatest values in white wine, transcending South Africa, the Western Cape and Stellenbosch. The consideration should always be to purchase cases (plural) of the stuff.

Cave Spring Estate Gewürztraminer 2019

Cave Spring Estate Gewürztraminer 2019, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$19.95, Cave Spring Cellars
Sara d’Amato – Winter finicky gewürztraminer is not easy to grow in Niagara and hence Cave Spring has only a small plot that has been maintained to the benefit of us all. Unctuous and oily texture with great concentration  just off dry, balanced and full -flavoured.  Hard to resist. 

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2021

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2021, Marlborough, New Zealand
$28.95, Trialto Wine Group
David Lawrason – This is a riot of herbal, spearmint, grapefruit and passion fruit aromas, but all under the veil of reductive, flinty character that is a Dog Point signature. It is medium weight, very zesty and packed with flavour. The definition is amazing; the length goes into next week.

Tre Monti Vigna Rocca Romagna Albana Secco 2020

Tre Monti Vigna Rocca Romagna Albana Secco 2020, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
$16.95, Tocade
David Lawrason – This organically grown albana was partially fermented with skin contact to create and orange/amber shade.  It has a pleasant, lightly spicy, tea-like nose with orange peel and vaguely peppery notes. It is medium bodied, quite intense, dry and pleasantly bitter. The focus and length are excellent.

Cuatro Rayas Vendemio Nocturna Verdejo 2021

Cuatro Rayas Vendemio Nocturna Verdejo 2021, Rueda, Spain
$13.95, Vinexx
Sara d’Amato – A very lush and tropical style of Verdejo from its benchmark region. Features a mid-weight palate, honey and yellow plum. No apparent oak; night harvesting has led to an overall refreshing character.


R. Lopez De Heredia Viña Bosconia Reserva 2010

R. Lopez De Heredia Viña Bosconia Reserva 2010, Rioja, Spain
$49.95, John Hanna & Sons
Sara d’Amato – An absolute gem, with help from garnacha, this tempranillo aged for half a decade in American oak is still refreshing with a delightful crunch from salinity, plummy fruit and cran-cherry flavours. The tannins are perfectly matured and the wine is drinking very well now, no need to wait. Just shy of full-bodied with toasty notes and excellent length.
David Lawrason – Such a traditional classic!  This blend of 80% tempranillo and 15% garnacha was aged an incredible five years in American oak barrels, rendering a refined smooth texture and a complex weave of tertiary aromas. It is medium weight, warming and rich, with excellent to outstanding length.

Bertani Catullo Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2017

Bertani Catullo Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2017, Veneto, Italy
$24.95, Mark Anthony Group
Sara d’Amato
– Features a botanical, aromatized nose, this Valpolicella Ripasso isn’t overly raisined or fraught with oak. The palate is brimming with naturally peppery spice that permeates the palate. Bright red fruit is given further lift by a touch of bitterness. Hints of vanilla bean linger on the finish of good length. No need to wait.
David Lawrason – This is a stylish, classic ripasso that avoids the jamminess of many peers. It has also reached a fine state of maturity. It is medium weight, polished, smooth and generous with some alcohol warmth, pitch perfect acidity and slightly crusty tannin.

Edge Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

Edge Wines Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California
$34.95, Profile Wine Group (Barrique)
Michael Godel – Edge is the Alexander Valley label of Ray Signorello, a high quality bargain (relatively speaking) for cabernet sauvignon. This Edge is on the precipice of all things ripe, lush, luxe and full bodied. Right up there with many Napa counterparts, most of which would cost two or three times this price. 
David Lawrason – Alexander Valley cabernets are a go-to for value conscious fans of authentic cabernet sauvignon. This is deeply coloured, with lifted aromas of blackcurrant/blackberry, some fresh herbal/menthol character, dark chocolate and spice. It is medium-full bodied, firm and quite tannic. The length is very good to excellent.

Cave Spring Estate Cabernet Franc 2019

Cave Spring Estate Cabernet Franc 2019, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$18.95, Cave Spring Cellars
Michael Godel – The vintage is a good one for cabernet franc under the dolomitic limestone shadow of the Niagara Escarpment. Open the doors to varietal perception, walk on through and get ready for the enlightenment.

Rodney Strong Old Vines Zinfandel 2017

Rodney Strong Old Vines Zinfandel 2017, Northern Sonoma, Sonoma County, California
$24.95, Mark Anthony Group
Michael Godel – Less brambly and dried fruit leathery than those from further south, especially in Dry Creek Valley. Also relatively easy and leisurely in terms of extraction and alcohol. Has really settled in nicely, shows great complexity and drinks as well as any zinfandel out there.

Killibinbin The Shadow Shiraz/Cabernet 2016

Killibinbin The Shadow Shiraz/Cabernet 2016, Langhorne Creek, South Australia
$20.95, Sylvestre Wines & Spirits Inc.
David Lawrason – Fun to find a maturing red from this hidden gem region. This has a lovely nose with billowing aromas of wild berry jam, vanilla, pepper, subtle menthol and spice. It is full bodied, open knit and quite lush with some alcohol heat and fine tannin. 

And that’s a wrap for this edition. The WineAlign office will be closed next week, reopening June 27, and we will back to tasting for the July releases plus other upcoming WineAlign features on South Africa and Beaujolais. Have a great weekend and week ahead.

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
Sara’s Selections
Michael’s Mix

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