Buyer’s Guide to VINTAGES April 16 Release

Review of April 16 VINTAGES

Diversity and the Many Colours of Spring

By David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel (John was on vacation)

The April 16 release on the weekend of Easter — and many other religious and cultural holidays — was a colourful affair with a selection of white wines, pink, orange and reds, plus some pretty, uplifting sparklers. The weather was cool, and punctuated Monday with our last wintry blast, but spirits were up as we finally got together to celebrate together.

In tasting through about 60 of the wines last week I was taken with the diversity of the offerings, by colour, styles and regions. VINTAGES can be charged with lack of depth in many areas, and sporadic on-shelf outages of particular styles and regions (aka Barolo and Brunello at the moment), but all in all the breadth of the range is very good month over month.

California is featured in this release. On Good Friday we published a separate article with some of my reflections on California past and present, and our critics highlight several enticing buys that are, or will be, available this spring. The selection was bulked up in anticipation of the annual April California Wine Experience that was unfortunately cancelled due to Covid. There are not many lower to mid-priced wines I would recommend on value but if you are willing to spend more, there are two towering whites — Flowers Chardonnay (shipment may be delayed) and Robert Mondavi To Kalon Fumé Blanc Reserve (Online). Napa Cab lovers should consider St. Supery and Duckhorn.

I was nicely surprised by a nifty selection of lighter, inexpensive, unoaked whites that will make ideal spring sipping the moment deck weather arrives. This includes well-made Donatien Bauhaud and Domaine Gendron chenin blancs from Vouvray, a perennially under-appreciated appellation in France’s Loire Valley. There is perfectly typecast Marieta Albariño from the maritime Rias Baixas appellation of northwest Spain. From Italy, check out the classic Tessari Soave, and an exciting new find in Fattoria Le Pupille Poggio Argentato, a creative blend from coastal Tuscany.

There is lots to explore in Italian reds, as well, with three mid-priced bottlings catching my eye for quality, value and creativity. Donnafugata Floramundi is a delicious Sicilian blend of nero d’avola and frappato. Castello di Collemassari Rosso Riserva is a finely structured blend of sangiovese, cabernet and ciliegiolo from the seldom-seen Tuscan appellation of Montecucco. And Goretti Le Mura Saracene from Montefalco in Umbria is a surprise in that it is based on sangiovese, not the locally famous, tannic sagrantino.

In recent weeks I have been enjoying a number of Australian reds coming down the pipe, most at that $20 to $25 price range. There are ten of them in this category this week, offering very good value, with two of my favourite shiraz — Yering Station Little Yering and Hollick Wrattonbully — detailed below.  At this price I am not expecting huge depth or exquisite balance but, given the winemaking prowess in Australia, I fully expected and received complexity, classic regional character and approachability.

There are half a dozen orange wines on this release as well, indicating that the style is becoming mainstream. Either the wines are getting better, I am getting younger and hipper, or I am simply getting used to them, but they are scoring fairly well. They seem to be cleaner and fruitier, less bitter and vegetative than the early prototypes. One key is that many are now based on aromatic varieties like pinot gris and sauvignon blanc.

We will get to our collective picks in a moment, after I explain the difficulty we are having in covering the Online Exclusives (of which there are 20 on this release). It’s complicated. Most agents do not have samples, and some are not keen to pay for samples of these more expensive wines. And if we do get permission to purchase samples on their behalf, we can’t taste and review for at least a week after the release, by which point some are sold out. And those that don’t sell are moved offline onto selected stores after a short time. As the LCBO moves deeper and deeper into the online pool, it needs to figure out how to get samples or tasting opportunities into the hands of local media in a timely manner. The landscape may be changing but as a government agency and only gateway to these products, the LCBO’s responsibility to Ontario consumers remains very much intact.

Sparkling, Pink and Orange

Cave De Lugny Cuvée Millésimée Brut Crémant De Bourgogne 2016, Burgundy, France
$24.95, Trilogy Wine Merchants
David LawrasonThis is a serious cremant – well structured, complex and showing excellent length. It is based on chardonnay and pinot noir, with the former showing more dominantly in the apple-like fruit. There are also some pastry/baclava, sunflower seed and grassy notes, all subtle and adding complexity.

Famille Perrin Reserve Rosé 2021, Côtes du Rhône, Rhône, France
$15.95, Charton Hobbs
Sara d’AmatoOn the brighter and paler side of the Côtes du Rhône spectrum, Famille Perrin’s very stylish and well-priced rosé blend is effortlessly charming and ready for springtime sipping. Dry, slightly savory, salty and with a chalky mineral texture that contributes to the wine’s overall freshness.

Dominio De Punctum Pomelado Orange Wine 2020, La Mancha, Spain
$16.95, The Living Vine
David LawrasonA good starter kit for those trying orange wine for the first time. It is organically grown with a very generous nose of cantaloupe, fresh herbs, honey and jasmine. It is open knit, dry and actually quite bitter and tannic, but the flavour depth and focus are excellent.


Fattoria Le Pupille Poggio Argentato 2019

Fattoria Le Pupille Poggio Argentato 2019, I.G.T. Toscana, Italy
$19.95, Profile Wine Group
David Lawrason – Something new and intriguing from coastal Tuscany – a white blend of sauvignon blanc, the rare petit manseng, traminer and semillon. It has a soft but generous nose of lime blossom, guava/fresh fig, linden. It is very well balanced and poised with fine acidity, warmth and a certain juiciness.
Michael Godel – Elisabetta Geppetti’s Maremma Argentato is a fleshy and salty Tuscan white from a warm maritime-proximate climate. Expresses an acutely rounded iciness but there’s also something to sink your teeth into and gain great pleasure from a glass. 


Flowers Chardonnay 2019, Sonoma Coast, California
$59.95, Rogers & Company
Michael Godel – Flowers is a preeminent Sonoma Coast producer and for many years running the price of this wine has remained unchanged. In fact nearly 10 years ago it cost five and almost $10 more. The 2019 chardonnay captures time and place in a varietal wine of existential excitement and knowable traction.
Sara d’Amato – A creamy, opulent, mouth-melting chardonnay with delicate leesy influence and fully integrated barrel ageing. Unmistakably Californian and the underlying freshness and chalky texture places it squarely on the Sonoma Coast. The price is certainly reflected on the palate of this classy chardonnay. 

Marieta Albariño 2020, Rías Baixas, Galicia, Spain
$18.95, MCO Wines & Spirits
David Lawrason – This is a super clean, lovely example of the white variety from Coastal Iberia that is taking the market by storm. Expect a pretty, lifted and delicate nose of peach/apricot fruit and perfumed but not cloying honeysuckle, linden and anise.  Very fresh, lively and just off-dry.
Sara d’Amato – Despite its unusually off-dry style, this Galician albarino made by the privately run cooperative of Martìn Codax is light and refreshing. Zesty with a distinct note of lime, stone fruit and chalky mineral character. 

Robert Mondavi To Kalon Vineyard Reserve Fumé Blanc 2016, Napa Valley, California
$79.95, Arterra Wines Canada (OnLine Exclusive)
Michael GodelOnly To Kalon Vineyard does what is possible for this Reserve wine, a Fumé Blanc of such perfectly judged fruit to barrel smoulder and flint. The superlatives are hard to hide or scatter because they speak kindly and honestly about a wine deserving of every word.

Donatien Bahuaud Les Grands Mortiers Vouvray 2020, Loire Valley, France
$21.95, Profile Wine Group (Vin Vino)
David LawrasonThis is a very genteel, not very dramatic but super clean example of Loire chenin blanc. The nose is soft and pure with quince, honeysuckle and elderflower, green pear/quince fruit and spice. It is light to medium bodied, off-dry with fine acidity.

Santa Carolina Gran Reserva Chardonnay 2019, Valle Del Itata, Chile
$18.95, Charton Hobbs
Michael GodelFresh and aromatic, as much as you’ll ever nose from Chilean chardonnay, nearly off the varietal charts. So well made, piqued and delicious.

Euro Reds

Donnafugata Floramundi 2018, Cerasuolo Di Vittoria, Sicily, Italy
$27.95, Univins (Ontario)
David Lawrason – What a beautiful, elegant, layered and alive wine. It combines local nero d’avola and frappto into a seamless compote of raspberry/sour cherry, rhubarb pie, fresh herbs and spices. Oak is in the wings.
Michael Godel – The Cerasuolo blend is nearly split between nero d’avola and frappato with more of the nero but a truly complimentary joint between the two. Cerasuolo is DOCG Vittoria wine of meaning and purpose, never gratuitous, surely concentrated yet in 2018 more about life without too much of the profound.

Marqués De Murrieta Finca Ygay Reserva 2016

Marqués De Murrieta Finca Ygay Reserva 2016, D.O.Ca Rioja, Spain
$32.95, Rogers & Company
David LawrasonThis is a very fine, silky and sophisticated Rioja. Lots of barrel in the works here but it is so well integrated and refined, with classic vanillin, dried cedar/pencil shavings, tobacco, baking spice and raspberry-scented fruit.
Michael Godel
A democratic Rioja vintage and while no wheel has been reinvented this is simply spot on, correct and a gift of Rioja’s experiential adventure.

Goretti Le Mura Saracene Montefalco Rosso 2018

Goretti Le Mura Saracene Montefalco Rosso 2018, Umbria, Italy
$25.95, Winehouse Imports
Sara d’Amato
A blend of Umbrian-grown sangiovese, merlot and a smaller percentage of local grapes. I love the crunchiness on the palate and the slight bitterness that contributes to the freshness of this generously fruity red.

Cabeça de Toiro Reserva 2017, Tejo, Portugal
$17.95, Trajectory Beverage Partners              
Sara d’Amato
Great value from this central Portuguese region of Tejo, just inland from Lisbon.  A compelling and generously aromatic blend of syrah, castelão and touriga-nacional. Spicy black pepper, black currant fruit, licorice and violets along with enticing oak spice dominate the immensely satisfying palate.

Castello Di Collemassari Montecucco Rosso Riserva 2016, Tuscany, Italy
$22.95, Charton Hobbs             
David Lawrason
From a region southwest of Montalcino, there is a lovely sense of youthful bloom to the fruit which is unexpected from a 2016. It is medium weight, somewhat fleshy and well balanced with smooth texture and fine tannin.

Bodegas Ortega Ezquerro Don Quintín Ortega 2011, Rioja, Spain
$34.95, PV Wine and Spirits Agency
David Lawrason –
This is a single, high altitude, rocky soiled vineyard bottling of 80% tempranillo, 20% garnacha. It does not adhere to normal Rioja classifcation but has been aged 19 months in in barrel.  It is a classic, maturing and softening yet well structured Rioja showing very well at 10+ years.

New World Reds

Le Clos Jordanne Jordan Village Pinot Noir 2019, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$29.95, Arterra Wines Canada
MIchael GodelExciting, engaging, enlivening and just about as exhilarating as a redux can be. Showing a touch of red fruit caramelization while drinking at peak in every respect.

Flat Rock Red Twisted 2019, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$24.95, Flat Rock Cellars
Sara d’Amato
The 2019 Twisted red is a blend that features gamay front-and-center with supporting roles played by merlot, cabernet franc and a cameo from pinot noir. The freshness is apparent but nicely balanced on the mid-weight plate with lightly grippy tannins. Chill slightly.

Plantagenet Lions' Circle Shiraz 2018

Plantagenet Lions’ Circle Shiraz 2018, Great Southern, Western Australia
$18.95, Airen Imports
Sara d’Amato
From a relatively cool southwestern Australian region, this aromatic shiraz features notes of ripe black currant, smoked eucalyptus, violets, licorice and black pepper. A balanced degree of alcohol, concentrated flavours and a long finish make for a wine that tastes a great deal more expensive than the price tag.

Yering Station Little Yering Shiraz 2019

Yering Station Little Yering Shiraz 2019, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia
$21.95, Noble Estates
David Lawrason
From a cooler clime region on the outskirts of Melbourne, this is a very smooth, agreeable shiraz that strikes a lighter chord, with fragrant aromas of black cherry, white pepper and a hint of mint. It is supple, balanced and ready to drink.

St. Supéry Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

St. Supéry Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Napa Valley, California
$64.95, Von Terra Enterprises
Sara d’Amato – Plenty of aromatic intrigue is on offer in St. Supery’s estate cabernet sauvignon, from lilac and bergamot to ripe blackberry and medicinal cherry. The tannins are quite voluminous and youthful at this stage but should mellow out nicely with another few years in bottle. Carefully crafted and memorable.

And that’s a wrap for this edition. We hope you derive hours of dining and sipping pleasure from these recommendations. John will be here in two weeks with a review of the April 30 release. I will be away until the end of May in Europe on tour of duty that has been Covid delayed for two years.  Can’t wait!

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

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

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