February 1st , 2010




All recommendations are linked to the LCBO database enabling you to do an instant store search for current inventory.

Michael Vaughan’s January 23rd Release
Here it is - Check it out!

Before the February 6th Vintages release hits the shelves, c heck out the best buys from the January 23rd release. All items are linked to VINTAGES availability making tracking down the ones you want to buy very easy. click here to see.

“Remarkable Wines at Reduced Prices” at Vintages

Turn to pages 18-19 of the January 23rd Vintages Release Catalogue. There is an enormous headline: How to get more for less. Ten items are highlighted complete with attractive high scores unearthed from various sources. Reading on, I was surprised to discover that that according to Vintages: this represents “a selection of remarkable wines at reduced prices”.  I have to wonder whether anyone actually believes this?

I did a quick search of my tasting note database and discovered that most of these releases were, in fact, quite unremarkable In fact, the majority of these unsold Vintages wines got a thumb’s down when originally released. 

It makes one wonder about the great scores quoted in the Vintages ad. For instance, I was stunned to see an extremely generous ***+ (out of 5) rating for what I consider to be an overpriced and under-performing California Riesling. This white was given 84 points by one of my fellow critics, while I gave it a single star (out of 3) or just 83 points. It is certainly not a detour even at the $3 discounted price of $12.95!

In this instance, I didn't know whether this wine was actually reviewed and rated by the highly-regarded critic quoted. This is because the writer in question does not actually taste all the releases. Obviously, it’s important to know who actually reviewed this wine. As the identity of the actual taster is not revealed, we are left in the dark.

Moreover, as this Riesling was released last summer, it is questionable whether this wine could have gotten better – more likely, it would deteriorate especially as it comes with a cork closure. Unfortunately, Vintages refuses to contact critics prior to using their ratings. This is why you never see my scores being quoted!

If yoy want t o see my detailed scores on each of the 10 items in the Vintages sale click here.

January 9th Anyone?

Almost all of the January 9th Vintages release items still sit on the shelves. It’s a shame that some wine lovers have the attention span of a mosquito. Great buys from two weeks ago are still great buys today! To help you decide for yourself, here is my previous issue of the January 9th Vintage Assessments. All items are linked to VINTAGES availability making tracking down the ones you want to buy very easy. Click here to see. 

Also, we now have individual Vintages Release BUYER’S REPORTS of every item with all the ratings. It includes all In-Store Discoveries (appearing at the end of the list). The items are sorted as follows: spirits, fortified wines, white wines, red wines and rose. Every item is linked to Michael Vaughan's review and the report includes the name of the agent, # of cases available, lot number, organic status, alcohol, etc.  To see the January 9th Vintages Buyer’s Report click here. You will find that this report is not linked to our database because that is reserved for FBTI Supporters who have special access codes. To get a trial copy click here and state exactly what you want.  

Michael Vaughan’s January 9th Update
Vintages January 9th Release

vSo here it is another year of new wines. This month the emphasis is on value. Of the 93 items in the January 9th Vintages release, there are 38 wines priced under $13.95 and under. Here are a few of my recommendations all from our comprehensive Vintage Assessments bi-weekly newsletter:

REDS – From France - Rhone

From Italy’s Veneto

From Portugal

From Argentina

Best Buy of the Release (Portugal)


Get the full scoop – what to buy and what to avoid – before they even hit the shelves. Subscribe today – click here - and get $20 off!

Michael Vaughan’s December 29th Update
Happy New Year!

Wow - what a long year. This is the only time that I get a bit of a break. Doing over 110 detailed tastings reviews every two weeks may sound like fun, but believe me it's a serious commitment.

I now have more than 23,000 Vintages tasting notes posted on my database. It isn't just note-taking. Getting the number of cases for each item (something only available here), the name of the agent, the lot number, etc. takes a additional time and effort. Plus, every item in Vintage Assessments is linked to the LCBO database - another reader bonus that takes time to do.

Hopefully, it all adds up to a user-friendly experience. That and the conistency of having the same taster for the past 20 years. In fact, 2010 marks the 20th year that I have been producing Vintage Assessments. While we established an email version almost a decade ago, we still actually print and mail each and every issue of Vintage Assessments 25 times a year.

I was sadened to discover that Vintage Assessments is the last remaining bi-weekly print wine review remaining in Canada. It's been a huge effort and it would not have been possible without my loyal FBTI Supporters.

My personal challenge this year was the loss of my trusted assistant of over 6 years. Tirto, or Mr. T as he was called, was invaluable in getting my notes posted. It's embarassing to admit that he was probably the only person alive who could read my tasting notes.

The 2009 learning curve has been challenging and the economy hasn't helped. In addition to my FBTI Supporters, I must sincerely thank the importers and domestic producers who have stood by our publication, supporting the my vision to bring wine lovers - from beginners to professionals - honest, critical evaluations of each and every item on release.

We are planning some great things for 2010 - a truly innovative vision for wine lovers. At a time when everthing is becoming increasingly homogenized, we hope to bring you more interesting and better reviews. To this end, I have enlisted the educated palates of Julian Hitner and Patricia Noonan. Even Donald Ziraldo has something to say about the wines of Ontario.

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Michael Vaughan’s December 14th Update
A Seasonal Gift - the December 5th issue

vWhy hold back? The December 5th selections have been sitting on the shelves for over a week now and I thought why not spread the joy and share my newletter with all the visitors to my website? So here it is - I hope you enjoy it.

There are a number of fine buys - check it out, you will not be disappointed.

click here to download December 5th edition

Michael Vaughan’s December 11th Update
Returning Nouveau Beaujolais-Villages?
Vaughan on Vintages Essentials

I was just talking to a Toronto sommelier who was returning a couple of cases of unsold Beaujolais Nouveau Villages to Vintages (released on November 19). I am told that this year’s sales were not brisk, despite the wine being much better than last year’s edition. The economy combined with the focus on cheap New World wines has a lot to do with the demise of Nouveau.

“More important,” my friend says, “Nouveau is no longer fashionable. Success was always been tied to a multitude of major Nouveau promotions, primarily by the French. For the past five years, there’s been a continuing absence of any such advertising hoop-la. In fact, ever the LCBO does nothing. This has had a huge impact Nouveau visibility – out of sight, out of mind.”

Perhaps it’s good thing that he has returned these wines, which are currently priced at $14.95, because next Monday, December 14 (three and one-half weeks after the day of the launch), the price drops by $5 a bottle to only $9.95.

This may well create a Beaujolais mini-rush for a couple of good reasons. First, these higher quality Nouveau wines actually improve with a bit of age. Second, now is the time people are buying – wait until January to dump these wines and you will have very few takers. Here again are my ratings of the two wines in question (click on the name of the wine to see store availability):

Recommended - now $9.95 on December 14
89 (**+) Drouhin 2009 Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau
$14.95 (400 cases) Vintages-113226 (Fam Win)
Well-structured, crisp and harmonious with plummy-dried cherry flavours. Surprisingly tasty and the best of the group of 2009 Nouveau wines on release.

Explorer's Selection - now $9.95 on December 14
88.5 (**/**+) Duboeuf 2009 Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau
$14.95 (2,000 cases) Vintages-93270 (Phi Dan)
Always shows well, but honestly this is still pretty youthful. Bright, crisp and classy with some slightly peppery notes. It will be better to drink New Year’s Eve!

Vintages Essentials
99 Bottles of Booze on the Wall

I was recently in the LCBO lab for a tasting of the Vintages Essentials. Well almost: of ten Vintages Essentials spirits just one was tasted. This saga - a continuing major shortcoming by the organizers of Vintages Essentials tastings – has gone on unaddressed for years.

Thankfully, we did manage to assess 4 of 5 Champagne selections (to see reviews click here). Missing was all-too-delicate Cristal Brut, which I am rarely impressed with, especially at the $286.95 price. If you have to spend a lot of money on Champagne then do it a tasteful manner – buy the cheaper, much tastier ***+ Dom Perignon at only $219.95.

Moving on, there are two Tawny Ports, a 10 and 20 year old, the first a bit cooked, the second focused on sweet caramel and raisins. While originating from a reputable house, for my palate they are overpriced at $34.95 and $67.95 respectively. Better value awaits you elsewhere.

Finally, there are 83 table wines (including 9 sweet Ontario dessert wines). I have to confess that many of these items are not really “essential” for anything. The only reason they exist is that suppliers are willing to pay a special fee to the LCBO for the “privilege” of continuous exposure.

Talking about recommendations, I did gat a change to re-familiarize myself with Gamay aka the king of Beaujolais. As you already know, I was rather appalled by last year’s 2007 vintage and liberally handed out some rather dismal reviews. When I tasted the 2008 edition of Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages (and its companion white - the deliciously consistent Louis Jadot 2007 Bourgogne Chardonnay), I decided to invite Steven Campbell, owner of Lifford agencies, to place a seasonal ad in my December issue.

As my readers know, we only have a few ads in each issue of Vintage Assessments. I try and make sure that it’s a win-win situation for both sides by choosing good products. The reason is that I do not want to disappoint readers with ads for crappy wines. It’s one of those catch-22 situations, because, in general, the worse the wine, the bigger the advertising budget. There are many, many, items I would love to advertise but, unfortunately, they have no ad budgets. I am reliably informed that this absence of cash is the result of being “sucked dry” by innumerable expensive LCBO marketing programs.

Back to Gamay. What impressed me about the Louis Jadot 2008 Beaujolais-Villages (365924 - $16.95) was the fact the not only would it pair well with turkey, salmon and, of course, the traditional steak-frites, but that it was even better the day after being opened! Now I know all about decanting and breathing, but I don’t recall anyone ever suggesting that this might work in the case of Beaujolais. Well I was surprised to discover that it did for me, bringing out more of the fruit. Of course, this really isn’t at all a juicy style of wine. It’s dry, crisp and medium to medium-light bodied with slightly plummy, tangy, raspberry-tinged flavours. Keep in mind that this excels when being served ever-so-slightly chilled (or really cold if it's crap).

Before moving on, let me comment on its companion white
Louis Jadot 2008 Bourgogne Chardonnay (Vintages 933077 - $19.95). Every vintage I have tasted over the past decade has been either Recommended or an Explorer’s Selection – it hasnever dropping below a ** rating. At last month’s at the LCBO preview lab tasting, the excellent 2007 with it’s dry, harmonious, rather toasty, ripe, lemony-pear flavours really hit the mark with a **/**+ Recommended Best Buy.

Of course, these vintages turn over and while some 2007 (13% alcohol) might remain in some stores, the 2008 (only 12.5% alcohol) is is now what is generally available. I picked up a bottle and was impressed by the consistency. The 2008 rated a slightly lower ** but is still Recommended. However, it’s just a bit lighter and tangier than the outstanding 2007. Having said that, the 2008 is also a bit less toasty meaning that it would pair better with seafood.

You may not be aware of the Jadot Vintages gift pack available. When I visited the Keele & St. Clair LCBO outlet, they were no where to be found. According the Vintages Gift Catalogue the 2-bottle Jadot gift package (132829 - $36.95) has the highly-rated 2007 Chardonnay, but the Beaujolais-Villages pictured is 2008!

Let me assure you that lots of folks still love Beaujolais. For instance,very long-time my friend “Pooch” Puzcilowski (the chief organizing wine judge for the California State Wine Fair) shows up in town, we head down to New Ho King Restaurant on Spadina and feast on terrific Chinese cuisine and, you guessed it, Beaujolais. He suggests that the wine be kept in the lobster tank so that its nice and cool. If not he’s threatening to come out with a film entitled “Palate Shock”.

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Michael Vaughan’s December 7th Update
Great Finds in Vintages
A Just-Released Gem from Italy

The never ending serach for best buys continues. One of the wines missed in the November 21st release turned out to be a release highlight.

I have have tasted this wine over many years and believe that this may well be the best they have ever produced.

There are a number of Vintage Assessments highlights in the November 21st Vintages release. For those who do not subscribe, here is a copy of our last edition. Check it out and you can get it for every release (25 times annually) by becoming an FBTI Supporter with a linited time $20 discount. Click here to see.

* * * * * * * * * * Michael Vaughan’s November 20th Update
A Great Gourmet Food & Wine Expo
Discover Amazing Portuguese Values

A highlight of this year’s Gourmet Food & Wine Expo is the presence of so many fine, well-priced, wines from Portugal. It’s only in the past decade that a real revolution has taken place in the production of serious high quality wine. The fact that is has taken so long is attributable to the fact that making great wine is expensive. Yields have to be reduced, high quality oak has to be purchased and significant investment must be made in modern vinification technology. Portugal has limited resources – it is not one of the wealthier members of the EEC. Because its wines have traditionally been modestly-priced, many consumers are reluctant to pay higher prices.

Spearheading the move to introduce Canadians to Portugal’s precious vinous treasures is Arlindo Beca owner of the Toronto-based importing-distribution agency FWP Trading. At this weekend’s Gourmet Food & Wine Expo, he is sampling some 50 different Portuguese wines from his portfolio from virtually every wine region. And what an amazingly diverse selection.

They start for as little as $7.95 for the Alandra Red (89961). Move over Fuzion, this delicious, ready-to-drink blend of Moreto, Castelão and Trincadeira has juicy, bright, plummy-strawberry flavours with just a faint hint of sweetness. Served ever so slightly chilled, it's a heck of a lot more appealing than most of the more expensive 2009 nouveau/novello wines tasted last Tuesday. It’s made by Herdade do Esporao, available on the LCBO General List and is my oak-free contender for the best value red quaffer of the year!

a wine value award winner! click here

Moving up, at $9.95 a bottle – the tasty, also quaffable Loios 2008 White (92114). Another tasty, bright, ripe-lemon-melon, oak-free effort that’s a perfect foil for oysters and fish.  Moving upscale, at the Thursday night opening, I discovered a thrilling white with delicious hints of spiciness and lively grapefuit notes. Don’t miss Quita da Lagoalva 2007 Talhao 1 (only from FWP), which sells for approximately $17 - a modest three tickets at the show. This delightful blend of Fernao Pires, Arinto, Alvainho, Sauvignon Blanc and Verdelho is one of the most exciting wines I have tasted this year.

If your looking for a fine red, don’t miss 2006 Esporão Reserva at $24.95 (606590). My best buy of the October 10 Vintages release, it scored *** (out of three stars). Here are my notes:  …this blend of Aragonês (a.k.a. Tempranillo), Cabernet Sauvignon, Trincadeira and Alicante Bouschet has a very deep intense purple colour. The nose is warm and intense with an abundance of ripe plums, black cherries and cassis plus some sandalwood-mocha notes. Flavourful, dry, medium to medium-full bodied, harmonious, plummy, ripe black cherry flavours with some cedar-tinged, mocha-chocolate notes on the lingering finish. Beautifully balanced and ready to enjoy, this 2006 is the best I have tasted from this producer to date. I must mention that this specific lot L8120B is fruitier and I prefer it to a more oaky version L8119B (the number appears on the red capsule). 

Don't miss the show - it runs until 6 pm this Sunday.

Here is the link to this week's special notes on the November 21st Vintages Essentials Champagne on parade along with the "hidden" In-Store-Discoveries - click here.

Champagne Lover ’s Best Kept Secret

Rated: ***/***+ (12%) [HHD IMP]
Recently retasted. Originally released on VALENTINE’S DAY and is now actually better than ever. Faintly reddish bright light pink colour. Lively, fruit-driven, elegant, ripe plummy, wild strawberry nose. Elegant, harmonious, dry, well balanced, zesty, fresh ripe plum flavours with a lingering, effervescence finish. Note that the refined DEUTZ CHAMPAGNE CLASSIC BRUT (VINTAGES - 10038) at $57.95 also remain. Get this wonderfully priced Rose Champagne today.
click here

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Michael Vaughan’s November 18th Update
Nouveau is Here!

So here is the line-up for the “Nouveau” release, which always occurs on the third Thursday of November. The ever-shrinking number of cases reflects the rising lack of interest in what often represents overpriced wine. There are better and cheaper wines out there. Let me assure you that I can say this and still be a fan because when it’s good, Nouveau can be quite charming. To see last year's notes click here

The problem is that when its bad, it’s usually quite awful.  Sadly, this was certainly the case with many of the 2008 releases. Thankfully, there is only one serious disappointment this year. So, for what it’s worth, here are my reviews of the current releases – eight in total, which I tasted yesterday afternoon in a blind tasting.


• Recommended
86.5 points (*+) Duboeuf 2009 Gamay Nouveau
- $8.95 (1,480 cases) GL-891846 (Phi Dan)
The cheapest of the release and dollar-for-dollar a very decent buy.  Pleasant, light, dry, crisp crancherry flavours.

• Recommended
86.5 points (*+) Jeanjean 2009 Syrah Primeur
- $9.95 (1,200 cases) GL-899948 (Sel Win)
A very decent buy.  Pleasant, light, dry, crisp, plummy-cherry flavours.

85.5 points (*/*+) Bichot 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau
- $12.95 (900 cases) GL-112409 (Dio Win)
Dry, very crisp and light-bodied with some tangy cherry-apple notes.

83 (*) Mommessin 2009 Beaujolais Nouveau
- $13.95 (1,050 cases) GL-113266 (Aut Win)
This screwcap effort is extremely tart and light. Not recommended.

• Recommended
89 (**+)  Drouhin 2009 Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau
- $14.95 (400 cases) Vintages-113226 (Fam Win)
Well-structured, crisp and harmonious with plummy-dried cherry flavours. Surprisingly tasty and best of the group.

88 (**)  Duboeuf 2009 Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau
- $14.95 (2,000 cases) Vintages-93270 (Phi Dan)
Always shows well, but honestly this is still pretty youthful. Bight, crisp and classy with some slightly peppery notes. It will be better to drink New Year’s Eve!


• Recommended
87 (*+/**) Mezzacorona 2009 Novio Vino Novello
- $9.95 (1,150 cases) GL-669275 (Dio Win)
This screwcap effort is made from Teroldego and Lagrein grapes. Gently spicy, plumy-cherry flavours. The smoothest and perhaps most versatile of the group without Gamay’s “tanginess”.

83 (*) Negrar 2009 Novello del Veneto IGT
- $9.95 (2,200 cases) GL-899955 (Sch Age)
Odd, cooked and bitter – may be an off bottle.

The arrival of the 2009 nouveau wines will also be celebrated with free customer samplings at four LCBO stores in Toronto and Ottawa Thursday, November 19:
Toronto - LCBO Queens Quay, 2 Cooper Street --11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
LCBO Avenue Road, 1838 Avenue Road -- 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
LCBO Summerhill, 10 Scrivener Square -- 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Ottawa - LCBO Rideau Street, 38 Rideau Street -- 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

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Michael Vaughan’s November 7th Update
Vintages Release Best Buys Under $20

vThere are 116 selections in the Vintages November 7th Release. The section entitled 20 under-$20 features 6 whites and 14 reds.  In spite of some rave reviews quoted in the Vintages catalogue, a number of these wines fail to excite. For my palate, I have come up with a number of recommendations, some of which - such as the remarkably tasty Concha y Toro Chardonnay and Nord Sud Viognier - deserve to be highlighted in this Vintages’ Celebrate for Less - Affordable Party Wine feature. Unfortunately they are left out in the cold. In fact, of my 7 best buys, only 2 are included in this Vintages feature.

Kicking off, the Concha y Toro 2007 Marqués de Casa Concha Chardonnay was a **+ (out of ***) release highlight white at only $17.95 (342857). If you think that you have seen it before – you have! The first shipment was released on May 23, 2009 at $17.95. For whatever reason, the new batch (with a different lot number L771539 on the back label) is even better. It originates in the Pirque region of the Chile’s Maipo Valley and in two words is complex & toasty. It has a very bright, medium-light yellow colour. The nose is very attractive with honeyed,  ripe lemon-melon, tropical fruit cocktail fruit along with some toasty notes. Dry, quite well structured, medium bodied, harmonious, ripe lemon-melon flavours with a fine lingering, cedar-tinged finish. While it isn’t meant to pair with seafood (perfect for poultry), if you like a New World style Chard then this is it. There are 499 cases at Vintages.

Here is the www.MyVintages.com fully-linked guide to the six best buys in the release.:

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Michael Vaughan’s November 6th Update
502 Argentina Wines & Counting

I am looking at the list of producers pouring at next Tuesday’s afternoon’s trade tasting (November 10th) and it’s impressive. With 26 wineries in attendance, there is something for everyone including 10 wineries who are looking for Ontraio representation. While most of the wines on show are under $20, there are some premium higher-priced destination selections, including Luigi Bosca 2006 Gala 2 (table 21),  Andeluna Cellars 2004 Reserve Malbec (table 2), Bodegas Nieto Senetiner 2008 Bonarda Limited Edition (table 26), Pascual Toso 2007 Alta Reserva Syrah (table 14), Norton 2006 Reserva Malbec (table 15), Trapiche 2006 Malbec Single Vineyard (table 160), Trivento 2007 Goilden Reserve Syrah (table 22), etc. To see the Calalogue click here .

A quick look at the Vintages releases since 2000 – a total of 502 and counting - reveals lots of best buys. Of course, there are a number of items on the LCBO “general list” – 45 in total - some of which are seasonal plus a few (6) which have been delisted (including some less-than-friendly animal wines like the Funky Llama series).

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Michael Vaughan’s October 23th Update
Great User-Friendly Under-$20 Buys
from the October 24th Vinages Release

vMy number one recommendation from this weekend’s Vintages release is the updated edition of the amazing South African crowd-pleaser KWV 2009 Café Culture Pinotage (72710  - $13.95), which comes from the Western Cape. I gave delicious, ready-to-drink effort *** (out of three stars). It has a very deep intense purple colour and a rich, slightly smoky, plummy, maple syrup tinged, juicy black cherry, Starbucks mocha nose. On the palate, it is fairly dry, flavourful and medium bodied with juicy, slightly smoky, plummy, black cherry flavours followed up by a long, slightly sweet, lingering, vanilla-caramel-mocha finish. It is great with bbq ribs. It isn't quite up to the vrecommended/best buy 2008 (***) released on February 14, 2009 at $13.95. I really like this juicy, mocha-coffee style, which makes Pinotage, a sometime difficult grape, accessible to everyone. As stated earlier this year, master winemaker Bertus Fourie who created this style originally at Diemersfontein estate, left KWV on May 1, 2008. To see my first feature on the winemaker click here.

As for a companion white, make sure you get a couple of bottles of KWV Cathedral Cellar 2007 Chardonnay (328559  - $13.95). This WO Coastal Region Chard is rich and toasty weighing in with 14.7% alcohol and scoring a massive **+/***.  It has a fairly deep yellow colour and an intense, spicy, cedary, slightly sweetish, ripe pear and lemon meringue nose. On the palate it is slightly spicy, medium bodied and well structured with cedary, ripe lemon-pear purée flavours and a lingering, caramel-tinged finish. Fermented and aged in new French oak barrels for 9 months, this terrific best buy is similar to 2006 (**/**+) released in VINTAGES on March 14, 2009 at $13.95. Note that this wine won a double gold at the 2009 Michaelangelo Wine Show and also placed well at Veritas (Gold), Chardonnay du Monde (Silver) and Decanter World Wine Awards (Commendation).

From Portugal’s Alentejano, you’re going to have a tough time to find better value than Cortes de Cima 2008 Chaminé (650291 -$14.95). It scored a very respectable **. It has an extremely deep intense purple colour. The nose is quite lovely with spicy, plummy, raspberry-cherry purée notes and hints of vanilla. On the palate it’s dry, medium bodied and harmonious with bright, plummy, ripe crancherry flavours and a lingering, slightly cedary finish. This very tasty, ready to drink, blend of 49% Syrah, 45% Aragonez (Tempranillo), 2% Touriga Nacional, 2% Trincadeira, 1% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 1% Petit Verdot is at its peak.

Finally, an excellent **+ recommended/best buy from Bordeaux. 2005 Château Bégadanet (138875 - $19.95) struts its Médoc character with style.  Deep intense purple colour, it has a very slightly earthy, spicy, plummy, baked cherry nose.  On the palate it’s dry, very slightly tart and medium bodied with lifted, plummy, dried red cherry flavours and a lingering, sandalwood-tinged finish. Great value and ready to enjoy, especially with a rib steak.

Other best buys whites include this tasty Vinho Verde from Portugal. Muros Antigos 2008 Loureiro (132688  - $15.95) shows lots of flair **/**+ despite its low 12% alcohol. It has an attractive, intense, very slightly spicy, honeyed, ripe yellow grapefruit nose.  On the palate it’s dry, very bright, medium to medium-light bodied and quite delicious with tangy, ripe, grapefruit flavours and a lingering, mineral-tinged finish.   Terrific with oysters and seafood.

Another fine buy from British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley is the **+ recommended/best buy Mission Hill 2007 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc VQA (57430  - $19.95). It has a light yellow colour and attractive, fresh, fairly juicy, ripe yellow grapefruit-melon aromas. Dry, harmonious, medium bodied and nicely structured, the ripe melon flavours are quite outstanding along with its lingering, ripe grapefruit finish. Showing very nicely – it’s another fine oyster wine and comes with a convenient screwcap closure.

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Michael Vaughan’s September 25th Update
Vintages Release Spanish Gems
From the September 26th release:

vGreat Sparkling Value:
Recommended / Best Buy **/**+
Restaurant Friendly • Great by the Glass
Reserva Raventós Brut Cava (521773 - $14.95)
DO Penedès (349 Cases) (12.5%)  [Rus Woo]
From the house of Codorniu this extremely reasonably priced first class Cava hits the mark. Very bright light yellow colour.  Svlightly spicy, honeyed, ripe, lemon-melon nose.  Very effervescence slightly honeyed, faintly off-dry, harmonious, medium to medium-light bodied, slightly spicy, ripe lemon-melon flavours with a crisp lingering finish.  Last appeared in Vintages (**) on August 2, 2008 at $14.95 and was a Recommended/Best Buy. This one is even better with greater ripeness and depth of flavour!

Great Whites:
Recommended **
Restaurant Friendly • Great by the Glass

Avelino Vegas 2008 Aires de Arosa Albariño (131755 - $18.95)
DO Rias Baixas (129 Cases) (12.5%)  [Sig Win]
Medium light yellow colour.  A bit shy, mineral-tinged, slightly spicy, citrusy nose.  Attractive, dry, quite well structured, medium to medium-light bodied, with lots of lime-lemon-melon flavours on the lingering, mineral-tinged finish. Unoaked & great with seafood. Will work well bty the glass. Drinkability:  { N S SM }  Lot: L-2008

Great Reds:
Recommended / Best Buy **+
Restaurant Friendly • Great by the Glass
Bodegas Beronia 2007 Elaboración Especial Tempranillo (723643 - $16.95)
DOCa Rioja     (499 Cases) (14%)  [Rus Woo]
This 100% Tempranillo has an extremely deep intense purple colour. Lush, slightly spicy, vbuttered toast, ripe black cherry nose. Fairly tangy, dry, medium bodied, spicy, gently juicy, plummy-cherry flavours with cedar and smoke on the lingering finish. An easy-to-drink, smooth, wide-appeal style. I have always enjoyed this distinctive barrel-fermented Rioja (in new 225-litre American oak) - it is both modern and quite unique. It isn’t for traditionalists. The recommended 2006 (**/**+) was released on July 5, 2008 at $18.95.

Recommended *+
Restaurant Friendly • Great by the Glass

Casa de la Ermita 2005 Crianza
(956334 - $18.95)
DO Jumilla (350 Cs) (13.5%)  [Vin Glo]
Very deep intense purple-red colour. Spicy, slightly cedary, red licorice, plummy nose. Very dry, medium bodied, quite tangy, gently juicy, plummy, dried red cherry flavours with a lingering slightly cedary finish. Pleasant and ready-to-drink. Drinkability: { N S SM } Lot: L9132

Recommended **/**+
Condado de Haza 2006 Crianza 
(963348 $27.95)
DO Ribera del Douro (149 Cases) (14%)  [Cha Hob]
Extremely deep intense purple colour.  Cooked plum and cedary-sandalwood nose with some bitter chocolate notes.  Dry medium-full bodied, well-structured, intense, cedary, ripe plum flavours with a lingering, mocha-licorice-sandalwood finish. Superior to the recommended 2005 (**/**+) released on September 27, 2008 at $27.95. Drinkability: { n S SM M ML l xl

From the September 12th release:
Recommended *+
Restaurant Friendly • Great by the Glass
Bodegas Navarrsotillo 2007 Noemus Joven Organic (131839 - $14.95)
DOCa Rioja (400 Cases) (13%)  [Liv Vin]
This organic blend of 60% Tempranillo with 20% Garnacha and 20% Mazuelo has an deep intense purple colour.  Spy, slightly cedary, maturing plummy-cherry nose with some tropical fruit cocktail notes.  Slightly spicy, dry, bright medium bodied, plummy-cherry flavours with a lingering crisp finish.  Ready-to-drink. This organic wine contains 8 mg/L of free sulphur.  Drinkability: { N S SM }

From the August 29th release:
Recommended *+
Restaurant Friendly • Great by the Glass
Etim Selection 2006 DO Monsant
(681345 - $15.00)
This blend of 60% Garnacha, 30% Carinena, [Carignan] and 10% Syrah aged for 6 months in seasoned French and American oak. Extremely deep intense purple colour. Spicy, juicy, black cherry nose. Dry, spicy, well balanced, medium bodied, ripe, plummy-cherry flavours with a lingering, slightly cedary finish.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Michael Vaughan’s September 11th Update
"Taste Ontario" Trade Tasting &
September 12th Vintages Release

vNext Thursday’s Taste Ontario trade tasting features 150 wines from 42 wineries. A number of these wines are available for direct sale to licensees and are not available at the LCBO. For your convenience, we are providing you with the 50-page trade tasting bookletclick here to download. Note that all prices quoted are for licensees.

I am sure that readers are familiar with my passion for Pinot Noir. So let me say how pleased I was to find what I consider to be the best buy Pinot Noir in Ontario. Make a beeline to table #4 vand taste the remarkably delicious *** (91.5 points) Cave Spring Cellar 2007 Estate Pinot Noir a wonderfully fruity, well-structured, harmonious, plummy-cherry flavoured effort that deserves to be on every discerning wine list in Ontario. Best yet is the licensee price, only $28.53. Don’t miss ordering a case or two, total production was only 500 cases. (Note that this may all be a bit premature - the price still has to be finalized and the sample I tasted was not the just-bottled batch which will go on sale in a few months time). Here are the specs:

Alcohol:  13.3%
Residual Sugar:  4.9g/L
Blend and grape source: 100% Estate grown Pinot Noir
72% Clone 115 planted 1999, 20.3 Brix
15% Clone 777 planted 2000, 21.4 Brix
10% Clone 667 planted 2000, 21.4 Brix
3% other
Yield: 3.27 tonnes per acre
Maceration time: 12 days
Barrel age: 16 months
Unfined and minimally filtered

Two terrific Chardonnays from the Saturday September 12th release will also be available to taste. First is **/**+ (88.5 points) Rosehall Run 2007 Cuvée County Chardonnay (132928  - $17.95). This VQA Prince Edward County white has 12.7% alcohol and a bright, medium yellow colour. The nose is fairly intense, quite complex and slightly spicy with attractive, ripe lemon-melon fruit along with some very slightly leesy, toasty notes.  Dry, quite well-structured, medium bodied, flavourful, ripe, lemon-melon-pear flavours with a very fine, lingering, crisp finish.  Lots of complexity for the money.

A highlight is ***/***+ (93 points) Hidden Bench  2007 Estate Chardonnay (68817 - $35.20) from the Beamsville Bench with 14.3% alcohol. The nose is intense, complex and slightly toasty with ripe lemon and key lime pie notes. Intense, medium to medium-full bodied, harmonious, slightly spicy, ripe lemon-lime flavours with some faintly smoky, vanilla-tinged, mineral notes on the lingering, dried pear finish.

To sign up for the trade event click here.

Coming Up:

Saturday, July 7 & 8 - Hillebrand Jazz
[Niagara-on-the-Lake] Bring your favourite chair or blanket and listen to the sounds from the lawn overlooking the Stone Road Vineyard. VQA wines and wine country cuisine available for purchase. Held at Hillebrand Estates Winery, 1249 Niagara Stone Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, from 4 pm to 8 pm. For more information visit www.hillebrand.com.
Tickets $30.00 per guest. For further information, please call 1-800-582-8412.Coming up

Michael Vaughan’s September 4th Update
Vintages August 29th Annual Clearance Sale & August 31st Delist Sale

vHere is the full list of the annual summer Vintages August 29th clearance/bin end sale. There are 177 items on discount and the complete list along with my ratings and full tasting note details.


Click Here to View

Remember that only Vintage Assessments Supporters get all the tasting details & links in advance of the sale.

Also, the August 31st Vintages Delist which features 27 items from the May 2 Vintages release.

Click Here to View

Michael Vaughan’s August 28 Update
August 29th Vintages Release &
Annual Vinages Clearance/Bin End Sale

Tomorrow’s Vintages release coincides with the annual summer Vintages August 29th clearance/bin end sale. There are 177 items on discount and the complete list along with my ratings and full tasting note details have been available exclusively for our FBTI supporters for the past week. This will be shared with website visitors next week, so check back then. Better yet, why not become an FBTI Supporter today and receive the sale list and release information in advance. We have a limited-time $20 discount to easy the pain. According to our fans, the $65 investment is well worth it. Click here to sign up today.

click here to see

Today, I am making public the Vintages August 17th sale of 61 items from the March 28 and April 11 releases. A great summer sipper is the Mission Hill 2006 Family Estate Reserve Sauvignon Blanc (57430) a recommended **+ best buy at $19.95 – now only $16.35.

Check out the tasting note from our
www.MyVintages.ca database:
Only Vintage Assessments supporters get all the details & links in advance of the sales

August 29th Vintages Release

As for tomorrow's Vintages release, my associate Julian Hitner has his top ten list in Sommelier Selects click here to see. In addition, here are some of my favourites:

Michael Vaughan's RECOMMENDED – Whites
scored out of a potential ***+

New Zealand
** Coopers Creek 2007 Chardonnay/Viognier A Best Buy
Gisborne, North Island (249 Cases) (13.5%) [Nob Est]
(127480 - $16.95)
Light straw colour. Attractive, fairly intense, honeyed, slightly spicy, rhubarb-melon-lemon nose. Perhaps a shade off dry. Medium to medium-light bodied, honeyed, spicy, juicy, ripe melon-lemon flavours with some tropical fruit cocktail notes on the lingering, finish. Screwcap closure. Drinkability: { N S SM }

** Yalumba 2008 Wild Ferment Chardonnay A Best Buy
Barossa, South Australia (399 Cases) (13.5%) [Mar Ant]
(39271 - $17.95)
Medium straw colour. Gently spicy, ripe lemon and dried Anjou pear nose with some shy toasty notes. Dry, medium bodied, flavourful, slightly spicy, ripe lemon-melon-lime flavours with some toasty notes on the long lingering finish. Screwcap closure. No malolactic, but less stirred with eight months in French and American oak. Drinkability: { N S SM m}

** Bodegas O. Fernier 2008 Urban UCC Torrontes A Best Buy
Lafayette Valley, Salt (249 Cs of 6) (13.5%) [Eur Int]
(128645 - $11.95)
Light straw colour. Intense, quite spicy, ripe, honeyed, lemon-melon nose with lychee notes. Dry, very bright, medium to medium-light bodied, tangy, very spicy, lychee-Muscat flavours with a long crisp finish. Ready-to-drink - try with spicy cuisine. Drinkability: { N S sm }

**/**+ Kurt Darting 2007 Gewürztraminer Spätlese A Best Buy
QMP, Dürkheimer Nonnengarten (120 Cases) (9.5%) [HHD Imp]
(127373 - $19.95)
Medium-light yellow colour. Fairly complex, intense, very spicy, baked apple-lemon-melon nose with some lychee notes. Rich, sweet, honeyed, medium bodied, very spicy, lychee -driven, baked apple flavours with a long lingering finish. Ready to enjoy with spicy dishes. All four prior releases have been Kabinett quality with 9.5 to 10.5% alcohol. Drinkability: { N S SM }

**/**+ 2008 Goats do Roam White A Best Buy
WO Western Cape (Fairview/Charles Back) (600 Cs) (13.5%) [RKW Win] Lot 9014 (B-L) (943167 - $11.95)
Light yellow colour. Very attractive, youthful, honeyed, ripe melon-lemon-pear nose. Smooth, dry, medium to medium-light bodied, harmonious, slightly spicy, ripe lemon-melon flavours with a crisp lingering finish. Well priced and ready to enjoy with very good acidity. Screwcap closure. Better than the recommended 2006 (*+/**) released on July 7, 2007 at $12.95. Drinkability: { N S SM m }.

Best Value Red of the Release
Not an easy choice. While there were some fine New World reds, I opted for the old world with some great values from both Spain & Portugal. In this instance I selected a Bordeaux simply because it always tends to be challenging to find really well-priced value, especially something that you might want to lay-away for a few years.

France - Bordeaux
**+ 2003 Château Haut-Maurac A Best Buy
AC Médoc (Oliver Decelle) (149 Cases) (12.5%) [Sig Win] Lot: L0505
(125641 - $24.95)
Extremely deep intense purple colour. Spicy, ripe, plummy-cherrry nose with some cedar-sandalwood notes. Dry, medium bodied, fairly well structured, ripe, plummy-cherry flavours with a cedar-tinged, fairly crisp finish. This recently revitalized left bank Medoc chateau was bought by Olivier Decelle in 2000. In the following year he reduced yields dramatically to just 35 hl/ha. One-third of the 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot blend is aged in new French oak. Decelle is best known for his fine Roussillon estate Mas Amiel in Maury. Drinkability: { n S SM M ml l }

Michael Vaughan’s August 14 Update
Under $20 Picks from the Vintages August 15th Release

The August 15th Vintages release features 89 items and has a focus on Chile (15 selections) and southern white Burgundy (5 selections). I must say that I was surprisingly impressed with the latter.

A ** release highlight (out of ***) and best buy from Chile's Casablanca Valley is Casa Lapostolle 2008 Casa Chardonnay (396986) at $14.95. The nose is quite intense and very spicy with zesty, ripe lemon-melon-rhubarb notes. On the palate it's dry, very crisp and medium bodied with slightly spicy, somewhat honeyed, tangy, ripe lemon-pear-rhubarb flavours followed up sdby a lingering, faintly toasty finish.

The best value from Burgundy is the ** Vincent 2007 Champ Brule Macon-Villages(127423) at $18.95. It has a bright, light yellow colour and gently complex, nutty, slightly spicy, baked, ripe lemon nose. Dry, crisp and slightly spicy, it's surprisingly flavourful with ripe lemon-melon-apples followed up by a slightly nutty finish.

From New Zealand's South Island Marlborough region Wairau Valley comes Wither Hills 2009 Sauvignon Blanc (919514) at $17.95. It rated **+ (out of ***) and is a best buy. Look for attractive, gently spicy, honeyed, grassy, lemony, grapefruit aromas and a dry, fresh, harmonious, slightly spicy, somewhat grassy, yellow grapefruit flavours with a lingering be great with seafood.

Two picks from Ontario. The first is Creekside Estate 2007 Laura's Blend White (121764) at $17.95 with a **/**+ rating. This VQA Niagara Peninsula is an assemblage of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris and Riesling. It has intense, spicy, very pleasant, slightly honeyed, ripe melon nose. Dry, crisp, spicy, zesty, ripe-melon-lemon fruit with honeyed grapefruit on the lingering finish. It too comes with a screwcap closure and is ready to drink.

The second is the best-priced Merlot to come out of Ontario in quite some time. Cave Spring Merlot 2006 (235051) at $16.95 is designated as a VQA Niagara Escarpment and has an excellent **/**+ rating. Medium deep red with some ambering on the edges, it has a slightly spicy, plummy, red licorice nose with some sandalwood notes. It has dry, medium bodied, slightly spicy, ripe plummy-cherry, licorice-tinged flavours very nicely.