Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES January 21 Release

John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview January 21: Top California, As Voted by You; Icewine at the Table, Best 2018 Brunellos, Refreshing Aussie Reds and How to Prune a Grapevine

By John Szabo, MS, with notes from David Lawrason, Michael Godel, Sara d’Amato and Megha Jandhyala

We’ve got plenty of coverage for you in this report, featuring the January 21 VINTAGES release and its California theme. And on California, while we don’t really have much to get excited enough about in this release to recommend, I thought you might be interested to know which Sunshine State wines are the most popular in Ontario. Read on to see if any of your favorites are others’ favorites as well, though note that these are not necessarily WineAlign recommendations.

Niagara Icewine Festival

Fireworks in the Niagara Gorge under the Horseshoe Falls during the “Cool as Ice” Gala soiree at the newly refurbished (decommissioned) Niagara Power Station ©John Szabo

And speaking of truly out-of-the-closet sweet wines, January is Icewine month in Ontario wine country, even if this winter so far has not felt particularly icy. Stratus winemaker Dean Stoyka reports having picked two acres of riesling for Icewine during the freakish blizzard that hit parts of the province on December 23. “It was very worth it considering the yield we were able to achieve before the three-week thaw after that,” he said.

That’s certainly dedication to Canada’s most unique wine style, and with the Weather Network forecasting the “warmest winter on record” for eastern Canada — Toronto may average above zero for the first time ever — that may have turned out to be a prescient move. Yet on January 14, fittingly the night of the Icewine gala, temperatures dropped again to -10°C, allowing winemakers who weren’t at the event to pick Icewine grapes.

Icewine harvest 2022 at Stratus. Credit: Dean Stoyka

By law, the temperature must be -8°C or lower to pick icewine grapes, though most wineries wait for even colder temperatures. In their frozen state, the minute amount of juice that can be squeezed out of the grapes easily achieves the minimum required sugar content, also set by VQA laws, and in the end, most Icewines finish with around 9 to 10 percent alcohol, and often over 200 grams of residual sugar per liter (20 percent sugar). But the freezing also concentrates acids, which, in the best examples, serves to balance the sweetness, and lend a tangy, acidulated profile that almost makes them seem dry on the finish. It also makes Icewine more versatile at the table than you might think, and as the WinerAlign Crü was recently reminded.

Last weekend on that icy night, the Crü was invited down for the “Cool as Ice” gala, held this year for the first time at the newly refurbished Niagara Parks Power Station, now operated as a museum and a rather cool event space. Built in 1905, the station decommissioned in 1999. In the afternoon before the event, we sat down at the Hare Wine Co. near Niagara-on-the-Lake to taste 18 Icewines alongside three “flights” of food, trilogies of mini savoury, spicy and sweet dishes, prepared by Niagara chef Tim Mackiddie of Smoke and Barrel.

Not Only For Dessert

The main take away was that Icewine is not only for dessert, though it can of course complement many sweets beautifully, as evinced with chef’s twist on lemon meringue pie and a dark chocolate crèpe, the latter especially with a lovely cabernet sauvignon Icewine from Redstone. But savoury foods are also on the table when it comes to serving Icewine. Blue cheese is the textbook sweet-savoury pairing, the intense flavour and saltiness of the cheese coaxing every last drop of fruit out of the Icewine. But don’t limit yourself to only that experience. I was struck by the sweet-sour-spicy harmony and textural contrast between a dish of Korean fried chicken with icewine kimchi and a classic vidal Icewine, an elevated French Onion soup with a cabernet Icewine, and a delightfully minimalist pairing of east coast oysters in mignonette with riesling Icewine that brought me that much closer to the briny sea.

See the buyer’s guide below for the Crü’s picks of favorite Icewine and food pairings.

While you very likely may not wish to sip sweet wine throughout an entire meal, it’s worth experimenting with icewine alongside a dish or two during your next multi-course affair. You may be happily surprised.

In the meantime, get your inspiration from the pros: the Icewine Festival runs through the weekend of January 27–29. A “Discovery Pass” gets you six Icewine and culinary experiences designed by winemakers and chefs to celebrate Icewine in its multifaceted versatility, redeemable at more than 30 participating wineries across Niagara-on-the-Lake and Niagara Benchlands.

You can also stroll down Niagara-on-the-Lake’s historic Queen Street and take part in the celebrations, enjoying yet more culinary creations, music, shopping and sparkling ice sculptures. And don’t forget to try one of the many Icewine cocktails, yet another way to enjoy Canada’s most unique contribution to the world wine landscape.

Get more information and tickets.

Icewine & Food Pairing Masterclass at the Hare Wine Co., Niagara
©John Szabo

2018 Brunello di Montalcino Report & Buyer’s Guide:
Joyful, Fruity, Silky Wines for Immediate Pleasure

Vineyards, Castello di Romitorio ©John Szabo

After tasting close to 150 Brunellos from the 2018 vintage last November in Montalcino, arriving in markets now, the overarching conclusions are that the vintage will provide plenty of drinking pleasure over the near and mid-term. It’s not generally a year that needs decades in the cellar.

Read the full report.

The Art of Vine Pruning: Getting Schooled in Lake County, California

John Szabo pruning cabernet sauvignon in the Beckstoffer Crimson Ridge Vineyard, Lake County, under the watchful eyes of Jacopo Miolo of Simonit & Sirch. Credit: Nathan DeHart for Lake County Winegrape Commission

The most critical vineyard action takes place in the dormant season: pruning. Get it wrong, and your production drops, at best. At worst, you shorten the life of a vine and compromise wine quality, while also causing yourself more work in the summer. This past December I took a trip down to Lake County, California, to attend a two-day course on pruning, hosted by the Lake County Winegrape Commission and run by Simonit & Sirch, an Italian duo of “vine master pruners,” to get a first-hand look at how to properly prune a vine.

Read Why Proper Pruning is So Essential

Wine Thieves Podcast S3E1: Australia’s Refreshing Reds

The first episode of season three of our podcast features a look at one of the hottest wine trends down under: cool and fresh red wines from Australia. Once famous and still well-known for robust full-bodied, sunshine-filled jammy reds, today in Australia there’s serious momentum gathering for lighter styles of red wines with lower alcohol and fresher, less oaky flavours — ergo, higher drinkability. So, what is driving this trend? What should we be looking for and where?

The Thieves speak with Mac Forbes of Mac Forbes Wines in the Yarra Valley (his pinot noirs and chardonnays are especially sought-after) and Sam Berketa, head winemaker of the irreverent Alpha Box & Dice based in the McLaren Vale, with their alphabet soup of weird and wonderful, mostly Mediterranean, varieties.

Listen to the full episode.

Icewine Buyer’s Guide with Food Pairings

Cave Spring Riesling Icewine 2019

Cave Spring Riesling Icewine 2019, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$40.95/375 ml
David Lawrason – Great flavour intensity, riveting acidity and maxed sweetness are a given with Cave Spring’s exemplary riesling icewine. But layers with peach/mango fruit, orange notes, spice and some caramel add intrigue. Works well with spicy dishes, soothing heat while elevating flavours.  
Sara d’Amato – I would never have considered putting these two together but it’s so simple that I’ll be trying it next time I’m struck with urge to shuck. A counterintuitive match (the best kind), as Icewine should (in theory) be too viscous, sweet, and intense to pair with the delicate briny flavours of a raw oyster. Yet, because Cave Spring’s riesling Icewine is so nervy and extraordinarily high in acid (a reported 15.3 g/L total acidity), and the oyster gets a little dash of Icewine and yuzu in its salt water, the pairing is a notable success.
John Szabo – Gently maturing at this stage, lightly caramelized, inviting and complex, this is sweet but even more sour, with a fully acidulated finish that comes off almost like an off-dry table riesling. This makes it a surprisingly great foil for Malpeque oysters with Icewine and citrus mignonette, a shining example of salty-briny tastes harmonizing with sweet and sour. 245 g sugar, 9 percent alcohol. And a whopping 15.3 grams/l acid.
Michael Godel – Stars and acids through the proverbial roof with thanks to a November 14th harvest, earliest on record by what must be a long-shot. As unctuous and full-throttle expressive an Icewine from riesling that could ever be.

Pairing: Malpeque Oyster with icewine and Citrus Mignonette

Inniskillin Niagara Vidal Icewine 2019

Inniskillin Niagara Vidal Icewine 2019, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$49.95/375 ml
David Lawrason – One of Ontario’s most ubiquitous ice wines is also one of the best, with a certain brightness and purity in the lovely ripe pear, lemon and vanilla flavours. It is well rounded, balanced and fresh, and works best with simple fresh fruit-based desserts, especially those with lemon as a base.
Michael Godel – Utter classicism in vidal for Icewine of exotic character and true to form apple custard creaminess. Hard to beat as far as vidal is concerned when purposed to this category.
John Szabo – This Ontario original classic delivers impressively high concentration of fruit and sugars in 2019, also lovely, zesty acids which dry out and hold up the back end. Against the odds, it was an eerily good match with spicy Korean fried chicken and Icewine kimchi, the heat melted away by the sugars, the exotic spice mirrored and amplified by the wine. 270 grams per liter of residual sugar, 9.5 percent, 10.5 TA.

Pairing: Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich with Bread and Butter Pickles

Queenston Mile 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$65/375 ml
David Lawrason – Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon make less sweet, more savoury ice wines in Ontario, an ace in the hole when it comes to pairing with less sweet desserts, dark chocolate, and savoury non-sweet dishes. This pale, curranty, herbal, not to sweet example was a great match with dry rub chicken wings that harbored some cayenne pepper.

Vineland Estates Vidal Icewine 2017

Vineland Estates 2017 Vidal icewine, Niagara Peninsula
$48/375 ml
Sara d’Amato – Caramelized onion and sweet vidal is one of my favourite discoveries of this Icewine pairing masterclass. An inspired and complementary match, the sweet and savouriness of the onion as well as the sharpness of the cheddar amplify the caramel and bruléed peach in this unctuous icewine.

Pairing: French Onion Soup with Aged Cheddar and Sourdough Crouton

Lakeview Cellars Gewürztraminer Icewine 2019

Lakeview Wine Co. 2019 Gewürztraminer Icewine, Niagara Peninsula
$34.95/375 ml
Sara d’Amato – Generally, I opt away from pairing gewürztraminer with spicy foods as it is typically high in alcohol and enhances the heat of spice, yet this gewürztraminer is so high in sweetness, with surprisingly well-balanced acidity that it provides a great contrast to the heat in the food. The grape’s naturally generous floral aromatic component matches the intensity of the flavours memorably.

Pairing: Pulled Pork Jalapeño Popper with Cream Cheese and Corn Chip Crumb

Redstone Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2019

Redstone Winery Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2019, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$36.05/375 ml
John Szabo – With its intense nose and lively, fruity, strawberry-raspberry purée and hibiscus flower flavours and high sapidity, this is an excellent “red” Icewine and amazingly versatile with food. It was indeed one of my favorite matches with several dishes, including the savoury french onion soup, with aged cheddar-sour dough crouton for an umami + umami = more umami experience, and the more classic, sweet dark chocolate crepe filled with bavarois and topped with espresso crunch – who doesn’t love dark chocolate with raspberries? 225 grams per liter of residual sugar, 9.5 percent alcohol. 10.2 TA.

Peller Estates Niagara Signature Series Riesling Icewine 2019, Niagara-on-the Lake
$95.90/375 ml
Michael Godel– Densely concentrated and it takes but one sip for the icewine to become one with your palate. Special dedication and technique here to be sure.

Pairing: Pairing: South Asian Pepper Chicken

Icewine grapes at Stratus. Credit: Dean Stoyka

California: What Are we Drinking?

The selection of California wines in this release is admittedly disappointing. It’s a far cry from the parade of premium wines we were treated to last fall when average release prices were more in line with what California does best. We were reminded this week of what a minefield inexpensive (read: sub-$30) California wines can be, so often doctored up with sugar and oak flavour to mask inherent deficiencies and fruit stretched to breaking. Or maybe we’ve got it all wrong? Are we overly traditional with our tastes? California is strong in the Ontario market. I asked the LCBO for the top five selling California SKUs to get a sense of what consumers are drinking. Here are the top five wines by volume of the last year:

  1. J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon $23.95
  2. Josh Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon $19.95
  3. Bread & Butter Cabernet Sauvignon $19.95
  4. Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon $14.75
  5. Tom Gore Cabernet Sauvignon $19.95

According to these top sellers it would seem Ontarians do in fact enjoy a little sweetness in their (California) wines, recalling the adage that consumers often like to “talk dry, but drink sweet.” Now, these aren’t dessert wine sweet of course, but they contain just enough residual sugar to give a vague impression of sweetness on the palate and round out some of those rougher edges. According to the LCBO, which analyses every wine that comes into the province and posts the salient details on, the J. Lohr contains 5 grams/liter of residual sugar, which is equivalent to about a teaspoon per bottle. Josh Cellars has 6 grams, Bread & Butter 8 grams, Mondavi 8 grams, and Tom Gore 5 grams. But all these pale in relation to some other popular wines, such as the latest vintage (2021) of Meiomi’s pinot noir, which contains a whopping 28 grams of sugar, or 5+ teaspoons per bottle. I know countless people who swear by that wine.

So, given the impressive sales figures, you can’t blame producers for marketing such quasi-sweet wines nor the LCBO for stocking them. There’s nothing existentially wrong with off-dry wines of any colour — they’ve been around for millennia. It’s all a question of balance and genuine flavour depth, neither of which the worst offending wines have, and it’s also about transparency and honesty. I would fully support laws requiring labels to list sugar content (and why not, calories while we’re at it?).

And California is hardly the only source of sweetish wines masquerading as dry wines. I’d wager that a large percentage of sub-$15 “dry” wines on LCBO shelves contain a measure of sugar, as does any wine with a high score from risible critic Luca Maroni. Watch out for those 90-point wines that seem too cheap to be true. In some cases, the sugar may be natural (unfermented), but in most cases wines are back sweetened after fermentation with a dollop of concentrated grape must. I’d rather spend my money on wine, not grape juice. Calorie counters and diabetics take note and look up your favorite tipple on

Vintages Buyer’s Guide January 20: White & Sparkling

Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Clos Henri Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Marlborough, New Zealand
$29.95, Charton Hobbs
John Szabo – Maturing and likely at peak enjoyment, this is complex and complete wine from Clos Henri, showing impressive depth and concentration. The range of flavours is equally impressive, with a mix of citrus, orchard fruit, and flower and vegetal notes, including saffron and sweet green herb, lemon zest and pith, tarragon and mint – a symphony of pleasure.
David Lawrason – This is a brilliant, solid, firm and crunchy and botanical sauvignon blanc showing all kinds of lemon/grapefruit citrus, basil/thyme herbality and some stony character. The focus and length are excellent to outstanding.
Michael Godel – All the necessary facts and facets of what Marlborough sauvignon blanc can be are considered, entertained, and projected from this stellar and scintillant wine. Crisp, fresh, experienced, riveting, and ready.
Megha Jandhyala – Succulent, citrusy, herbal, and mineral, with exceptional focus, concentration, and length, this is a high-quality sauvignon blanc from the Wairau Valley in Marlborough. I like how versatile it is, with the potential to pair well with a variety of seafood preparations.

Domaine Des Fines Caillottes Pouilly Fumé 2021

Jean Pabiot Domaine des Fines Caillottes Pouilly-Fumé 2021, Loire Valley, France                           
$30.40, Atlas Trading
David Lawrason – This is a textbook Pouilly-Fumé showing the tender, refined texture delivered by those stony/flinty soils. and harboring such complex and detailed tarragon, green apple and citrus aromas and flavours. It is impeccably balanced; the length is excellent to outstanding.
John Szabo – A restrained, mineral and fresh, classically-styled Pouilly-Fumé from the reliable house of Jean Pabiot. I like the equilibrium on the palate, properly mid-weight and zesty, the crunchy acids, the mix of citrus and green herbs, and especially the flinty-mineral character, succulent and saline in the most inviting way. Drink or hold into the mid to late 2020s.
Sara d’Amato – Named after the “Caillottes” terroir, a soil consisting of small limestone pebbles dating back to the Kimmeridgian era, that tend to contribute aromatic exuberance, which is prevalent in the western part of central Loire and less common in Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. This family run Domaine consistently produces both aromatic and texturally sensual sauvignon blanc and this latest vintage is no exception. Both oily and chalky with pervasive white flower perfume, this premium find is both Terra Vitis and HVE certified sustainable.
Megha Jandhyala – Delicately mineral and herbal, with notes of juicy, fleshy citrus and orchard fruit, this is a consummately balanced, elegant Pouilly Fumé, classically styled and relatively reserved when compared to its Marlborough cousins.

Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Blanc 2020

Château De Nages Vieilles Vignes Blanc 2020, Costières De Nîmes                         
$22.95, Profile Wine Group (Du Chasse)
David Lawrason – This is a classic southern Rhone blend with 50 percent grenache blanc. It has soft rich aromas of pineapple, orange, fresh mint and spice, set in a generous and polished style. Great value..
Megha Jandhyala – This certified organic blend from the southernmost part of the Southern Rhône is rich, creamy, and gently warming, almost languid, but balanced. While the texture takes center stage in this blend, I also like the ripe fruit flavours it displays, accented by notes of bread and spice. Pair it with delicate, creamy cheeses.
Sara d’Amato – Château de Nages is Michel Gassier’s family property that he now overseas alongside his daughter Isabel who has brought regenerative agriculture to the table of this organically farmed southern Rhône estate. There is a real polish to this white blend of grenache blanc, roussanne, clairette and viognier that offers poise, balance and salinity over rich, tropical fruit that can overwhelm in warm vintages.

Paul Mas Reserve Marsanne 2021

Paul Mas Reserve Marsanne 2021, Pays d’Oc, France                        
$15.95, Roy + Co. Selections
Sara d’Amato – Based in Pézenas, between Béziers and Montpellier, emblematic Pays d’Oc winegrower and négociant Paul Mas has released a rare varietal Marsanne at under $16 that is sure to pull you out of your mid-winter doldrums. Full-bodied yet somehow crunchy with naturally derived ginger and spice to liven the senses. Try with cream-based baked pasta dishes or enjoy on its own.

Vintages Buyer’s Guide January 20: Reds

Southern Right Pinotage 2021

Southern Right Pinotage 2021, Cape Coast, Hemel-en-Aarde, South Africa                         
$34.95, Trialto Wine Group
David Lawrason – This firm, very well constructed pinotage opens with a reductive/flinty note yet there are many other complexities with wild berries, pepper and cinnamon and some meatiness. It is firm, juicy, and very well balanced. Righteous pinotage, among the best in the land.
John Szabo – From the Hamilton-Russell stable of fine wines from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, the Southern Right range focuses solely on sauvignon blanc and here, pinotage. This 2021 is a sophisticated and sleek wine, with lovely, silky texture and succulent acids framing abundant, fresh black and blue fruit alongside fully integrated wood influence, gentle spice, and an appealing streak of green, resinous botanical flavours. I’d suggest enjoying this over the next 3–4 years to capture the vibrant fruit.
Michael Godel – Hamilton-Russell’s Southern Right takes the claim a step further because it is a wine of origin made in the way pinotage must be made. Alcohol clocks in at a manageable 13.5 per cent and fruit is simply the be all end all this pinotage.
Sara d’Amato– If you’ve shied away rom pinotage in the past, now is the time to rediscover this uniquely South African variety made from a crossing of cinsault and pinot noir. This incarnation is much more closer to cool climate pinot noir than cinsault that offers delectable tartness on the palate and roundness on the finish. No coffee, toffee or mushroom here.

Quinta Do Espírito Santo 2018

Quinta Do Espírito Santo 2018, Vinho Regional Lisboa, Portugal
$14.95, Majestic Wine Cellars
Michael Godel – Regional Lisboa wines make for some unbelievable values. They are easy to understand, enjoy and sharing is caring if you can spread the love around. Quinta Do Espírito Santo is a gem of a juicy and grippy Lisboa red.
Megha Jandhyala – At less than $15, this warm and voluptuous blend of several traditional Portuguese varieties represents great value. I like the abundant flavours of sweet, tender fruit and rich oak tones on display here.
David Lawrason – Great value in a mid-weight, slightly sinewy and juicy red that has lots of aromatic pop and complexity for the money. Really like the cran-blueberry-pomegranate fruit with wintergreen, pepper and lilac florals.

Domaine De La Pirolette Saint Amour 2020,

Domaine De La Pirolette Saint-Amour 2020, Beaujolais, France                                        
$27.80, Tocade
Michael Godel – Out of the most beneficial and excellent 2020s, there may be no vintage as gainful of ripeness and gregarious of fruit so amorous and juicy as this [wine] — it’s just what is wanted from Saint-Amour and gamay.
David Lawrason – The northernmost cru village of Saint Amour delivers a minor classic gamay, with a fragrant, floral, pure-fruited nose. It is light to mid-weight, juicy yet elegant and poised with great acid and mineral substructure.

Castello Vicchiomaggio Agostino Petri Riserva Chianti Classico 2018, 47th Anniversary

Castello Vicchiomaggio Agostino Petri Riserva Chianti Classico 2018, 47th Anniversary, Tuscany, Italy
$30.95, Signature Wines & Spirits
Michael Godel – It was forecasted that it would be now, in 2023, that the 2018 Riserva would peak. Sure as the sun will rise there can be little doubt these next four years will have Agostino Petri pour well and satisfy a sangiovese thirst. Prime time Petri.
John Szabo – Ten percent cabernet sauvignon joins with sangiovese in this fine Riserva from a single parcel on the Vicchiomaggio estate, one particularly rich in clay, and aged in used barriques and botti grandi. The 2018 is the 47th vintage of this wine and pours a sustained red garnet colour, and offers a wide range of aromatics, fresh and dried fruit, red and black, with plenty of resinous dried herbs, maturing but still vital and vibrant. Densely concentrated with generous extract, and long finish. example, drinking well now, or hold into the late ‘20s. Sharp value.
Megha Jandhyala – From a single vineyard on the Castello Vicchiomaggio estate, this concentrated and graceful, radiantly garnet riserva is in its prime, reflecting both vitality and maturity. I like the finely integrated flavours of fresh and dried cherries, red currants, herbs, and delicate spice, alongside aromas of an old cedar trunk.
Sara d’Amato – A 47th vintage to celebrate, this engaging, richly layered sangiovese, amplified by a small jolt from cabernet sauvignon is just coming into its own with a great deal to offer at present. Sapid and aromatic with a frenzy of flavour and texture to enjoy. The warmth of alcohol is surprisingly well balanced and maturing notes of leather and dried fruit are unobtrusively emerging on the palate.

Lavau Rasteau 2019

Lavau Rasteau 2019, Rhône, France
$23.95, Connexion Oenophilia
Sara d’Amato
– The southern Rhône cru of Rasteau is where producer/négociant Lavau truly shines. This label is that of their négociant line with all products blended and finished at their own winery near Sablet. Showcasing wild garrigue despite the warmer vintage, this 2019 shows no signs of fading.

Nuiton Beaunoy Beaune 2018

Nuiton-Beaunoy Beaune 2018, Burgundy, France                             
$36.95, Vinexx         
John Szabo – This is tasting even better than it was in June of 2021 when first released in Ontario, having evolved into a classically styled village level Bourgogne, a good representation of Beaune and its typically silky, perfumed, supple wines, well-priced to be sure. Composed and classy, drinking well now, or hold late into the ‘20s.
Megha Jandhyala – Supple and delicately perfumed, with a tranquil charm, this village-level pinot noir is at its peak, with appealing notes of fleshy red berries, pepper, earth, and delicate oak spice.

Delheim Grand Reserve 2017

Delheim Grand Reserve 2017, Stellenbosch, South Africa
$29.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits
Michael Godel – Just about as classic and understood as it gets in Western Cape red wine terms. Think St. Julien interpreted with Cape earthiness and spice accents. No doubt a wine that will age 10-plus years.
John Szabo – Place, quality and value are all neatly tied together here in this complex, nicely maturing, classic Stellenbosch cabernet from Delheim’s Estate on the Simonsberg. I love the gently desiccated black cherry and cassis fruit, the dried plums and figs, the rusty iron-earth notes that add interested. Enjoy over the next 2–5 years; it’s drinking now, but there’s no immediate rush, either.

Dublin St. Pinot Noir 2015, Martinborough, New Zealand
$32.95, Profile Wine Group (Du Chasse)
Michael Godel – This pinot pulls the laces taut. Expressiveness has taken its time to emerge. Maturity is upon the fruit. Delicious.

Barón De Ley Gran Reserva 2015

Barón De Ley Gran Reserva 2015, Rioja, Spain
$32.95, Noble Estates Wine & Spirits
Megha Jandhyala –– This is an opportunity to savour an evolving, archetypal gran reserva at an appealing price. It is concentrated, refined, and integrated, richly perfumed with fragrant American oak and abundant dried fruit. It is ready to enjoy now but can be cellared for a few more years to foster even more tertiary notes.
Sara d’Amato – A textbook example of a Gran Reserva style Rioja with an appropriate degree of maturity yet fruit still trumps leather on the palate. Bright and flavourful with a finish of memorable length. A class act through and through.

That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

WineAlign Exchange

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
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Selections
Megha’s Picks

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