Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES July 22 Release

Heat Beaters, Best Values and Curious Diversions

By David Lawrason with notes from John Szabo, MS, Michael Godel and Megha Jandhyala

The July 22 Vintages release is a hodgepodge of average price and quality wines. There are few stars and heavy hitters. This is very much on trend for the LCBO, which always seems to tuck its less compelling wines onto the shelves in the summer months when fewer folks are paying attention. We are all out water skiing, practicing our loon calls on the dock, gardening or driving somewhere, anywhere. As I plan to do in August to explore the wineries of the Ottawa Valley.

So, this review takes a similar all-over-the-map tack. No urgent, newsy or investigative themes this time. It is just a collection of recommendations that we four have pulled from the pile. (Sara is basking/baking with family in the south of France). Given the worrying heat of the season, I have also paid a bit more attention to summer sipping wines, and organized a new category called “chillable reds and rosés”.

The only other thing that is different about this newsletter is that within each category I have arranged the wines in ascending price order, which makes it easier to scan within your budget, and stylistic preference. I will be pressing to make this a permanent feature.

I would also like to make the point, again, that any of our recommendations below are good values. Price/quality ratio is the foundation of being selected. It is what we do. And value can be found at all prices, and in wine regions around the world. Many different and far-flung regions are represented this time, making it a good opportunity for the curious to explore.


Alceno Romeo Verdejo 2021

Alceno Romeo Verdejo 2021, Jumilla, Murcia, Spain 
$13.95, The Case for Wine
David Lawrason – This five-star value verdejo is from Jumilla in warmer southeast Spain, not the Rueda region that made this grape famous. Clean, bright and lifted with pineapple/guava tropical fruit, spearmint, candle wax and vaguely grassy character. It is medium weight, smoothly textured fresh and warm, with fine balance.
John Szabo – Jumilla may be far better known for its red wines, but here Alceño displays modern competence with verdejo. As far as $14 whites go, it doesn’t get much better than this. Chill, crack, spritz up, ice-down, make white sangria… So many ways to enjoy
Megha Jandhyala – Clean, fresh, fruity, this inexpensive verdejo can be enjoyed chilled or in a spritzer.

Saint-Roch Vieilles Vignes Grenache Blanc/Roussanne 2021

Saint-Roch Vieilles Vignes Grenache Blanc/Roussanne 2021, Côtes Du Roussillon, France   
$17.95, Glencairn Wine Merchants
John Szabo – Another fine vintage for the Lafage Family’s old vine grenache blanc-roussanne blend from the dark schists of the Roussillon. It’s not a wine of massive density or structure, but rather one to enjoy young and fresh, on the fruit with its Mediterranean herbal-floral-tarragon twist.
Megha Jandhyala – There is something affable and soothing about this well-priced, fruity white blend from Rousillon. Enjoy it in its youth to savour the flavours of delicate orchard fruit and blossoms.

Albino Armani Corvara Pinot Grigio 2022

Albino Armani Corvara Pinot Grigio 2022, Valdadige, Veneto, Italy      
$19.95, Majestic Wine Cellars
David Lawrason – From the high country leading up to the Italian Alps comes a generously fruited but still dry and firm young pinot grigio with yellow plum/peach with hay and wildflower notes, and subtle fresh herbs. It is light to medium bodied with some flesh and warmth, a bit more stuffing than the average pinot grigio.

Catena High Mountain Vines Chardonnay 2021

Catena High Mountain Vines Chardonnay 2021, Valle De Uco, Mendoza, Argentina
$22.95, Noble Estates Wines & Spirits Inc.
Michael Godel – Rocky mountain high in the Uco Valley where chardonnay can thrive if the soils, elevation and conditions are just right. Which they happen to be for Catena’s absurdist value in this gift of pure chardonnay.

Leaning Post The Fifty Chardonnay 2020

Leaning Post The Fifty Chardonnay 2020, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$24.95, Nicholas Peace Wines      
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.

Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling 2021

Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling 2021, Finger Lakes, New York
$29.95, Buyers + Cellars Wine Group
David Lawrason – Sure, there are many good Niagara rieslings at our fingertips, but here’s a rare chanve to try a gem from our closest neighbour. From one of North America’s oldest wineries from the modern era, founded in 1962, this is a textbook cool climate riesling from the slate soils above Keuka Lake. The nose is lifted and penetrating with green apple, lime, mineral and petrol – all in good measure. It is light bodied (12%) crisp and racy.
Megha Jandhyala – A sojourn in Mosel, by way of the Finger Lakes, this is a lean, focussed, and essentially dry white. Emitting that inimitable riesling fragrance, including captivating aromas of white flowers and wet stones, alongside notes of perfectly ripe green apples, lemons, and limes, this is a well-made and classic rendition of the grape.

Sigalas AA 2021

Sigalas AA 2021, Santorini, Greece         
$36.95, Majestic Wine Cellars
John Szabo – Sigalas’s “AA” is the estate’s field blend of mainly assyrtiko and athiri, harvested and fermented separately before blending. The 2021 offers aromatics very much in line with classic Santorini, steely and stony, gentle pear and citrus-inflected, with no detectable wood. A terrific introduction to the island, to be enjoyed over the next 4-6 years.

Stags' Leap Winery Chardonnay 2020

Stags’ Leap Winery Chardonnay 2020, Napa Valley, California      
$44.95, Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits
John Szabo – A lovely vintage for Stags’ Leap chardonnay, nicely pitched and balanced, I find this very gastronomic – a wine that you can drink in a number of situations and with a wide range of foods. It’s as story of refinement and drinkability over sheer depth and power, sharply priced in the category. Drink now-2030.

Chillable Roses and Reds

Courtois La Source Côtes Du Rhône 2021

Courtois La Source Côtes Du Rhône 2021, Rhone, France
$14.95, Vinoluna
David Lawrason – This is a spiffy, refreshing young grenache-based Rhone with better lift and acidity than most in its class largely due to the higher altitude of the vineyards nearer the Alps in Vinsobres. Expect lifted plum/raspbery fruit with florals and a hint of pepper. Very little oak. It is smooth and lively with fine tannin. Not the greatest length but fine at this price.

Skouras Cuvée Prestige Agiorgitiko/Moschofilero Rosé 2022

Skouras Cuvée Prestige Agiorgitiko/Moschofilero Rosé 2022, Peloponnese, Greece
$15.95, Kolonaki Fine Wines & Spirits
David Lawrason – This is a pale, bright salmon shaded rose, with a fresh, lifted nose of redcurrants, mint tea and subtle yeastiness. It is light bodied crisp, mineral and refreshing – almost stony, with bitter currant, leafy notes on the finish. Leaner and mouth-watering and very refreshing for a summer’s day.

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2022

Montes Limited Selection Pinot Noir 2022, Aconcagua Costa, Chile
$17.95, Profile Wine Group   
David Lawrason – From cooler vineyards near the Pacific comes a very good value, typical Chilean pinot with lifted cranberry fruit, fresh herb/evergreen, some flinty/oniony sulphur and light wood toast. It is light to medium bodied, quite fleshy yet balanced by good acidity.

Guigal Côtes Du Rhône Rosé 2022

Guigal Côtes Du Rhône Rosé 2022, Rhône, France
$22.95, Vinexx        
John Szabo – A southern Rhône rosé more in the Tavel than the Provence style, that is to say, a rosé with medium-deep colour and evident ripeness and concentration on the nose, broad and round, and at 14.5 percent alcohol, not a wine for light, frivolous patio sipping, but rather more serious affairs. Feel free to cellar this another 2–3 years.
David Lawrason – Oh so pretty and bright, yet it drinks with a certain richness. The nose is soft and a touch candy flossed with watermelon, crab apple, red plum and spicy notes. It is medium weight, smooth and glossy with notable viscosity, but nor too heavy.
Megha Jandhyala – This is a rosé of depth and intensity, styled more in the Tavel vernacular than Provence. Warm, vivid, and with a sense of fullness on the palate, this is a wine that will really shine when paired with the right food, especially delicately spiced Lebanese, Moroccan, or Persian food.

Planeta Frappato 2021

Planeta Frappato 2021, Sicilia Vittoria, Sicily, Italy
$24.95, Noble Estates     
David Lawrason – This is very pale in colour, typical of the frappato grape. The aromatic intensity is rather low but it shows interesting aromas of cranberry, sour cherry and pomegranate, with subtle cinnamon, peppermint and fresh herbs. It is light to mid-weight, juicy and tart-edged with very good flavour intensity. Pinot fans should have a look.
Michael Godel – Perfectly lithe and bright as frappato must be, delicately designed as ever there was or should be. Expect beauty and you will receive it. Make friends with this grape, stay loyal and the connection will endure.
Megha Jandhyala – This is a joyful and immediately engaging frappato that is, moreover, sustainably made. I like the buoyant red fruit flavours punctuated with savoury herbs and the succulent, juicy palate. Serve this quintessential summer red chilled and try pairing it with moderately spicy cuisine.

Greystone Nor’Wester Pinot Noir 2018

Greystone Nor’Wester Pinot Noir 2018, Waipara Valley, North Canterbury, New Zealand
$27.95, Noble Estates (OnLine & Flagship Stores, July 8 Release)    
David Lawrason – Great value from Greystone, one of the more well-established wineries of the Waipara Valley in Canterbury on the South Island. There is intensity and depth well beyond the price, with lifted cranberry, sour cherry fruit, and complex herbality, cinnamon spice and toast. Almost riveting actually. It is medium weight, energized and intense. (The big Brother Greystone Pinot is also available at $35).

Bigger Reds

Alceño Romeo Organic Monastrell 2019

Alceño Romeo Organic Monastrell 2019, Jumilla, Spain    
$15.95, The Case For Wine         
John Szabo – It’s rare to find the same producer twice on a short list of my recommendations, but it’s hard not to recognize the inherent quality in this organic monastrell from Alceño, and its deeply coloured, dark roasted fruit-flavours, at under $16. This corner of eastern Spain is well known for value, and this wine delivers.

Piqueras Marius Reserva 2018

Piqueras Marius Reserva 2018, Almansa, Spain
$17.95, Select Wine Merchants
Michael Godel – From Albacete in eastern Spain. Monastrell and quarters each of garnacha and tempranillo, old vines and high elevation, all integral in the delivery of both fullness and also airiness in this most concentrated effort.

Gérard Bertrand An 990 Fitou Grenache/Carignan 2020

Gérard Bertrand An 990 Fitou Grenache/Carignan 2020, Midi, France
$17.95, Family Wine Merchants
Megha Jandhyala – At under $18, this is a solid, balanced, and comforting red that is sure to please widely, especially if it is served lightly chilled. I like the juicy palate and notes of ripe red fruit, pepper, and garrigue.

Zonte's Footstep Splitting Hares Tempranillo/Grenache 2021

Zonte’s Footstep Splitting Hares Tempranillo/Grenache 2021, Fleurieu, South Australia
$21.95, Cru Wine Merchants         
Michael Godel – These two grapes do not, in fact, always play well together. Like friends who are polar opposites — and yet, from Fleurieu, by the playful Zonte’s Footsteps cadre, they blend perfume with ropy texture for a double entendre of fun.

Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Speck Family Reserve 2021

Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Speck Family Reserve 2021, Ontario
$27.95, Henry of Pelham (Vintages Essentials)
David Lawrason – This has a solid track record of being one of the best bacos (and hybrids) from Ontario. From 40-year-old vines, the wine is showing impressive flavour concentration. Expect a very lifted nose of bumbleberry pie, pickled beets, florid florality, all kinds of oak toast and spice. It is medium-full bodied and quite intense with typically high, juicy hybrid acidity, and not much tannin.

Tawse Growers Blend Cabernet Franc 2020

Tawse Growers Blend Cabernet Franc 2020, Niagara Peninsula Ontario
$29.95, Tawse
John Szabo – A generous, ripe year for Niagara growers, this 2020 cabernet franc puts the vintage, and talented winemaking, on full display in a style that’s somewhere between the Loire and Bordeaux. It’s a sharp value in one of Ontario’s strongest varietal categories. Drink now-2028 or so.

E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage 2019

E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage 2019, Rhône, France
$41.00, Vinexx
John Szabo – One of a trio of excellent wines from Guigal in this release (plus rosé, above, and Gigondas), this is arch-classic northern Rhône syrah, full of black pepper and smoked meat flavours. It’s drinking well at the moment, though will surely hold another 4–6 years in a good cellar.
Megha Jandhyala – Herbal, meaty, and peppery, with perfectly ripe dark berries, this is archetypal Northern Rhône syrah. I would buy at least two bottles, one to enjoy in the fall and one to cellar.

Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso 2020

Le Macchiole Bolgheri Rosso 2020, Tuscany, Italy
$42.95, Family Wine Merchants
John Szabo – A classy, polished wine, Le Macchiole’s blend of merlot, cabernet franc, cabernet sauvignon, and syrah delivers a raft of fruit and spice, herbs and well-integrated oak character in a complete and complex guise. In the realm of high-end Tuscan red blends, this sits very comfortably, though the price remains surprisingly low — it’s clearly an exceptional terroir, with top-notch grape growing and winemaking behind it. Best now–2030 or so.
Megha Jandhyala – Drawn from the same vein as much pricier Tuscan blends, this Bolgheri Rosso is fragrant, layered, supple, and already accessible. I really like its rich flavours and the elegant architecture of its palate.

Stephane Usseglio Papale Cuvée 2018

Stephane Usseglio Papale Cuvée 2018, Châteauneuf Du Pape, France
$49.95, Origin Wine and Spirits
Megha Jandhyala – This is a characteristically plush and opulent Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Dense, rich, and warm, lush with ripe fruit, herbs, and spice it should be ready to enjoy in a year or two.

And that is a wrap for this edition — the only one in July. In August, there will only be one edition as well for the August 19 release, but do watch for postings of Online and Flagship Store releases earlier in the month. Come September we are back to twice monthly reviews.

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

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