choose your critic well (vintages release recap for november 2019)

Follow TheWineMuddler

I am trying to speed up the process of letting you know the wines at the KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO) that I think have merit by posting my findings to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can search, find, and follow thewinemuddler on any of the above platforms.

Pompous Opinion

In my last post, I lamented on the practice of wine retailers, like the KGBO, using the spurious scores and comments of wine critics to inflate the appearance of quality in the wines they are trying to sell. As I’ve grown exceptionally weary of the approach taken by the KGBO in the bi-weekly Vintages catalog, I’d like to explore this topic further.

Part of the KGBO’s mission statement is to be the “trusted destination for the world’s wines.” I’m sure that there are people that believe this statement but I think most people recognize that the KGBO is in the business of selling wine at inflated prices and turning over the profits to the government. It’s an unregulated monopoly that the government of Ontario (and all other provinces in Canada use similar entities) uses to increase taxation with impunity.

Most people lack confidence when it comes to making wine purchases decisions. The KGBO knows this state of confusion and needs a tool to take advantage of confused consumer. Enter, stage left, wine critics, wine scores, and their aggrandized written descriptions of wine. Publish a high score with glowing comments and people rush out to buy these wines. I have the mental image that the people who create the Vintages catalog spending their days using Google to find the review that gives a wine the highest score and the most effusive comments. Gosh, what a stressful position. It must be tough to choose whether to publish a 96 point James Suckling review or another from Luca Maroni that awarded the wine 98 points. Stress leave must be a common cause of absenteeism for the Vintage catalog team.

I give Suckling credit for capitalizing on an approach as I believe he was the first and certainly the most international wine critic to sell his soul to the devil. His sin? He recognized that he was not in the business of helping consumers make selections. The wine critic-business changed from that model many years ago. They are now is the business of helping wine producers, wine agents, and wine retailers (such as the KGBO) sell product. The higher the scores you award, and the nicer the things that you say about a wine, the more exposure you receive. It’s pretty simple and if you don’t believe me just flip through a Vintages catalog and see how often Suckling is quoted.

At the local level, while there are critics out there that are trying to help wine consumers, this approach to “critiquing” wine is copied. To illustrate, consider the $20 Submission Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 | VINTAGES#: 628230 that was part of the November 9 Vintages release. Here’s the review that the KGBO published:

You know those bottles that bring you to your knees? This is one of them. Backstory: One of the better wine agencies in Toronto, Halpern Enterprises, went to California to scout a $20 Cab that kills it – and they came back with this very serious find. With a crushed velvet mouth feel – all polished on top and plush underneath – this wine draws you in with flavours of ripe mixed berries, café latte, smoked plum, milk chocolate, toasted tobacco and vanilla cream. Elegant yet slightly brooding, this wine is a steal. Score – 96. (Carolyn Evans Hammond, Toronto Star, July 6, 2018)

Come on man, a $20 bottle of wine that will bring me to my knees? I smelled a rat so I did a little digging. Here’s a second opinion:

Sweet, chocolaty, wood-infused, fully commercial wine complete with sweet palate and thick, chocolate pudding finish. A starter, or ‘gateway’ wine, for Coca-Cola drinkers. Tasted October 2019. Score – 85 (John Szabo Winealign)

I smelled a rat because Hammond is the critic that reviewed and awarded the $9 Toro Bravo products ridiculously high scores. In previous post, I described how our blind tasting panel felt that these Toro Bravo wines were, well, awful. My palate does not align with hers.

So, who’s right? Well, right when it comes to wine is very personal. I can tell you that no one in our tasting group liked the Submission but, in contrast, we did enjoy the $17 District 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016  VINTAGES#: 10473. Szabo nailed the Submission but consumers did not pay attention to his honest and frank review. Hammond and The Star can move product as the Submission is now sold out and, in contrast, hundreds of bottles of District 7 remain unsold in the KGBO system. A sad but predicable outcome.

Choose your critic well by finding a critic or a LCBO Product Consultant who’s recommendations align with wine that you enjoy. Ignore scores that the KGBO publishes, especially high scores, they are most likely worthless and there is a good chance that they will mislead you.

Wines Worthy of the Price

I didn’t think it possible to buy a decent sub $20 Cali Cab in the People’s Republic of Ontario. The $17 District 7 Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 VINTAGES#: 10473 proved me wrong. It’s a little high in residual sugar for my liking so it is not a “go buy a case” wine. If you are a fan of sunny ripe California cabs give a bottle a try.


The $35 Château de Santenay Vieilles Vignes Mercurey 2016 Pinot Noir VINTAGES#: 668202 initially comes off as overly fruity. After an hour in the decanter, the wine’s Burgundy roots come through. Give it 5 years in your cellar or lots of time exposed to air if you want to consume it now. This is a decent burgundy at this price point.

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It’s not a bang on the table buy but if you find yourself needing an approachable Italian wine then consider trying the $20 Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino 2016 VINTAGES#: 333575. My guess is the producer tried to tame the Sangiovese grape in the wine-making process. For me it’s missing personality but this wine likely will appeal to the crowd.


Fans of Rhone blends will appreciate the $32 Bois de Menge Gigondas 2017 Grenache/Syrah VINTAGES#: 10508. If you like wines from Chateauneuf Du Pape then try the more budget-friendly wines from Gigondas.



we are speechless o’wise one (september and october 2019 vintages recap)

Follow the Muddler

I am trying to speed up the process of letting you know the wines at the KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO) that I think have merit by posting my findings to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. You can search, find and follow thewinemuddler on any of the above platforms.

On those platforms, I will post the wines that I think are worth your money and will not post comments on wines that I tried and don’t intend on recommending. Sadly, most of the wines that I try from the KGBO fall into the latter category. These wines suffer from mediocrity. The KGBO like virtually all wine retailers use the spurious scores and comments of wine critics to inflate the appearance of quality in the wines they are trying to sell. A government-controlled monopoly that has no accountability to its customers and high government levies also means that the wines available in Canadian provinces are often overpriced. Mediocre and over priced wines…quite the tag line.

While social media tools have advantages, I find them lacking with respect to the ability to post comments. Therefore, I intend to use this blog to provide summary information and commentary, along with the occasional piece of satire.

This week’s diversion

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Control-be-gon, my home town, out there at the edge of totalitarianism. Our little town is part of the geographically vast People’s Republic of Canada where, in the recent election, the people granted Chairman (a.k.a., Prime Minister) Trudeau a second term.

Canada is a land of political opportunity that may be unmatched elsewhere. Where else can a former-part-time-high-school drama teacher hold the highest office in the land? Alas, choosing a leader was not an easy decision for our citizens. After careful thought, the people opted for a bumbling Mr. Dressup Jr., over an equally qualified and highly engaging former insurance clerk. The puddle of relevant experience in our little G7 country is a shallow one.

Closer to home, the outcome of the national election worried Emperor Ford of the Province of Ontario. With his popularity rapidly declining our Emperor finds himself desperate to raise his appeal. With his great and unmatched wisdom (well, with perhaps the exception of one other world leader), he spends hours contemplating the messages that lay hidden in the results of the federal vote. He then assembles his cabinet to announce a revelation.

My friends, I discovered the real reason Trudeau won the election.

O wise one, was it his love for the environment and pipelines?

Nope, not even close.

Then was it his ability to keep promises
like balancing the budget and electoral reform?

Think bigger, damn it, you people are such small thinkers

Oh please tell us all-knowing one.

The real reason people voted for Trudeau is
the camping tax credit. The poor want financial help to
go camping. They don’t want help paying the rent
or heating their homes or feeding their families.
What they really want is to forget that they are
poor by experiencing the joy of camping.
But Trudeau also thinks small and I know how to best him.

<<stunned silence fills the room>>

We will win the votes of the people by helping
the poor experience the virtues of fine wine.
Trudeau is spending 150 million dollars on camping and
we will best him by giving people a wine tax credit.
And, remember to get the tax credit people will
have to buy wine. Our government operates a wine monopoly
so this tax credit will win votes while costing
us almost nothing. The poor will be able to drink
fine wine and truly forget their problems.

The plan is the work of a genius. Tell us O’wise One,
how can we make sure that the people
drink good wine and not plonk?

I thought of that matter too and it’s easy to solve.
We link the amount of the rebate to the wine’s score.
For example, Carolyn Evans Hammond of The Toronto
Star awarded the 2017 Toro Bravo 96 points. When
someone buys that wine they will receive 96% of the
tax rebate. If they buy plonk, say a wine rated 87 points,
they will only receive 87% of the rebate. This way the
good citizens will enjoy sitting in a leaky tent in the rain
while sipping a fine wine like Toro Bravo. 

We are speechless O’Wise one. Speechless.

As of November 1, 2019 the wines below were available. Consider asking your LCBO Product Consultant for a store transfer if a wine is not available at your preferred location.

Wines that stood out

The $23 Castello di Bossi C. Berardenga Chianti Classico 2015 Sangiovese Blend | VINTAGES#: 994608 is an enjoyable table wine made in a traditional Chianti style. The price is fair when compared to the price in the USA and Italy. A solid Italian house wine.


What a decent Chianti at a slightly better price point? Then try the try the $20 2016 San Vincenti Chianti Classico Vintages# 399907 . A Tuesday night pizza wine and an enjoyable wine solo that is true to its Sangiovese roots.  We are getting a price break on this one as it retails for about 10% more in the USA.


If you prefer a GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre) blend for your table wine, give the cheap and cheerful $20 Schild Estate Vintages # 108183. A good buy for the money. This wine retails for 10% cheaper in La Belle Province and the same is true in the good old USA.


It’s nice when you can find a decent Chablis at a fair price on the shelves of the KGBO. With just a kiss of oak, the $26 Ropiteau Chablis 2017 Chardonnay | VINTAGES#:10338 is enjoyable and a good cellar protector. A decent buy for Chablis fans.

cq5dam.web.1280.1280In the People’s Republic of Ontario, it’s difficult to find a decent Barbaresco wine at a reasonable price. Here’s one…the $37 Michele Chiarlo Reyna Barbaresco 2015 VINTAGES#: 583260. Fans of wines made from the Nebbiolo grape will enjoy this wine. Collectors will want some bottles to protect the more expensive Nebbiolo based wines in their cellars from premature consumption.


Here’s a decent white table wine at a budget-friendly price. You can try the 2017 Critone Bianco Val di Neto Chardonnay Blend (VINTAGES#: 169169) for $18 a bottle. The wine does not have the complexity that is described in the posted tasting note but it’s a versatile wine at a fair price (priced similarly in the USA).


Who would pay $30 for a Pinot Gris(PG)? Me for one because PG wine from this Alto Adige winery is like quality PG from Alsace. The Nals Margreid Punggl Pinot Grigio 2015 | VINTAGES#: 395756 will set you back $30. This wine’s complexity emerges after 20 minutes. Decant and enjoy. Even with the 7% price increase from the previous year, we are paying a fair price at the KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO) as this wine retails in the USA for the same price.


I’ve been waiting for the LCBO to put a decent house sparkling wine on the shelf, one that does not suck and one that your bank account will appreciate. Try the $19 Graham Beck Brut Sparkling (Vintages 593483). It’s a little high on the residual sugar but it works. Beck’s Graham Beck Méthode Cap Classique Brut Rosé Pinot Noir/Chardonnay (175588) is also a great value pick.


If it is champagne you seek the best value on the KGBO shelves presently is the $55 Gaston Chiquet Tradition 1er Cru Brut Champagne | VINTAGES#: 665851. A solid, reliable, enjoyable wine from a really good producer.


Wines for collectors

When Ian D’Agata, my favorite wine critic, says a wine is “hauntingly beautiful” I pay attention. The Fuligni Brunello di Montalcino 2013 (VINTAGES#: 245225) will set you back $100. Yes, that’s a lot of money but when I tasted this wine I am sure that I heard angels singing. A small price to pay to hear angels sing. The price in Ontario is not a bad one as our friends in the USA pay about $10 less for this wine. It’s significantly cheaper in Europe.


Your bank account will not allow you to acquire a $100 wine for your cellar? At a cheaper price point of $25, the Bodega Piedra Negra Gran Lurton Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013  VINTAGES#: 980334 is one to consider. This wine is not any where near the same class as the Fuligni. It’s is a well made cab, one that is already 6 years old but cellaring it for a few more years will pay dividends. The Suckling score of 95 is ludicrous but you’ll get 95% of Ford’s wine credit. The price is roughly the same as amount paid in the USA.


A re-release of the $70 Torres Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 | VINTAGES#: 129676 is worth grabbing if you failed to get bottles on the first release in 2018. I’ve collected this wine for a long time and know how beautifully it ages. Put it away for as long as you can stand it. Until the release in 2018, the LCBO charged $60 for this wine. Thankfully, they did not increase the price yet another 17% with the re-release. With no ability to challenge the KGBO’s pricing who knows what we will pay next year. The SAQ in La Belle Province sells this wine for $65. Our American friends have to pony up the equivalent of $90CAD for this wine. There’s not many bottles remaining in the KGBO system.


3 August 2019 vintages release (preview)

A friend recently asked me if it was easy to find good wine at the KGBO (a.k.a, the LCBO). I thought about his question for a while and responded by saying that finding a good bottle in the vast LCBO wine SKUs and confusing classifications (General List, Vintages Essentials, Vintages, Classics, Vintagesshoponline) was “work”. Stores have shelves of bad and mediocre wines. The KGBO’s supply management problems are well known. Yes, there are good wines at reasonable prices at a KGBO but you have to do your homework and taste a lot of wine to find the good ones. I hope that these blogs posts help people navigate such that you find a wine or two that is worth your hard-earned money.

The wine in the 3 August 2019 Vintages release is an example of a time when you have to work to find the good wines. This release was a challenging one. On my first pass through the catalog, I was underwhelmed by the mediocrity of the wines. On my third pass, I identified a few bottles to try and then the Muddler tasting group came to the rescue and identified several other bottles to taste.

Unfortunately, most of you will think that the price point of the wines that I consider to be outstanding to be high. I’ll highlight a couple of less expensive wines from the release in my next post but if you are looking for discounted value bottles then you are better off with the choices in my two reports on the 20 July 2019 release (20 july 2019 vintages release (preview) and 20 july 2019 vintages release supplement).

The KGBO continues to block this site when you are connected to their guest wifi network and has not provided me with an explanation of why they deemed the site to be inappropriate.

While the KBGO’s head office is good at blocking sites that contain unflattering LCBO comments, they appear to be incapable of correcting their inventory management problems. Many people have told me that the problems are getting worse. If you have access to more than one store then before you head out use to identify the store that has the product that you are looking for. Otherwise, if you show up at a store and ask for a specific product you have a significant risk of disappointment. Typically then you settle and leave with an overpriced-inferior substitute.

I first post the wines that I consider to be outstanding on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as doing so speeds up the process. If you want faster access to these picks then considering following me on one of those platforms (thewinemuddler on each platform). This blog provides details on the wines considered to be outstanding and, in a few days, I will post additional comments on the wines in the 3 August 2019 release (wines to consider and wines to avoid).

I will be traveling and likely will not be able to comment on the next two releases until mid-September.  See you in September.

Outstanding wines

The tasting notes for the $55 Gaston Chiquet Tradition 1er Cru Brut Champagne | VINTAGES#: 665851 are understated. This wine comes from a top grower-producer, is delicious, and the best value champagne that the KGBO presently offers. Our friends in the Excited States pay about the same amount for this wine and we pay about 10% more than the folks in Europe.


The $27 Tenuta Roveglia Vigne di Catullo Riserva Lugana 2014 Trebbiano | VINTAGES#: 437004 is a beautifully balanced white wine with good length. The posted tasting notes are accurate. Wines made from the Trebbiano grape can be boring but this has richness, is enjoyable, and worth the extra dollars. The KGBO increased the price of this wine by 4% in 2018 and a further 8% in 2019 (12.5% over 2 years). We pay a 40% premium to the retail price in Europe. However, we are better off than the folks in Pennsylvania (a state where wine is also considered to be a controlled substance). Our friends there pay 17.5% more than the citizens of the People’s Republic of Ontario.

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The posted tasting notes of the $28 Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 | VINTAGES#: 225086. are accurate. This is an expressive and full-bodied wine that will please many people and will work well with food. The LCBO has priced this wine fairly based on a comparison to the price charged by retailers in Europe. If you are in La Belle Province you can pick this wine up in magnum for the equivalent of $20 a bottle. That’s a great price and a terrific choice for a wine for a family BBQ.


The $39 Brancaia Riserva Chianti Classico 2013 Sangiovese Blend | VINTAGES#: 260802 is not a Tuesday night pizza wine. This wine is full-bodied and serious; a wine that will accompany rich food and a bottle that you can cellar for years.


that will fix that little shit (20 july 2019 vintages release supplement)

Our story so far: It is a typical day at KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO) headquarters. The smell of totalitarianism lingers in the air. Dark and dank storm clouds orbit the windowless building even as the summer sun shines brightly on the rest of the People’s Republic of Ontario. Our scene is a meeting of the two remaining KGBO Sith Lords. The lord’s take action to defend and expand the KGBO and they make sure that the evil empire is protected and grows.

Darth Sidious: Privatisation threatens our monopolistic empire and my chosen weapon is our leases. Leases will be used in our first strike against the side of light. We now sign only 99-year leases on our properties and I also make sure that we pay above-market rates. The expense of exiting these leases will act as an effective shield against the privatization threat.

Darth Vader: I am pleased and I’ve also done what we agreed to my lord. Over the past year, I have increased wine prices, 10%, 25%, 35% and more. This boosts short-term profitability. The cash flow that fills our coffers is a drug, a powerful drug that will make the government become an addict. They will need us perennially. Sadly, I have discovered a flaw, however.

Darth Sidious: Meaning?

Darth Vader: A Jedi Knight blogger who calls himself TheWineMuddler. He routinely points out the darkness of our practices and pricing. He has tens of follower so his posts threaten our position.

Darth Sidious: The solution is simple. Have IT block his site. That will fix that little shit. The citizens of our empire will remain nescient. There is no threat. Our work is done.


You may find it humorous to hear that this blog has caught the attention of the KGBO’s internet police. If you connect to the LCBO guest wifi and try to access you will discover that the LCBO has deemed the site to inappropriate and has blocked access. Maybe this multiple-billion-dollar-government monopoly feels threaten by a blogger that calls them out on their unfriendly and unfair practices and pricing. The new KGBO motto: “Today we will tell you what you are allowed to buy and what you are allowed to view”. Maybe their next step might be banning TheMuddler from KGBO premises. HeeHeeHee. This shit is hilarious.

I have asked the LCBO for an explanation for their action. Stay tuned.


In an attempt to speed up the distribution of my recommendations I will be posting the wines that I consider to be outstanding on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. If you so desire, you can follow TheWineMuddler on any of these platforms.

This blog will also be updated and contain further commentary, which may include satire, wines to consider, wines for wine geeks, wines for collectors, and wines to avoid. Creating content for the blog takes time and so distribution via the blog will be delayed in comparison to Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.


In my last post, I highlighted four wines from the 20 July 2019 Vintages release that I thought were good buys. Here are a few more thoughts on that release.

Outstanding wine

My first impression was to classify the $30 Argyros Assyrtiko 2017 | VINTAGES#: 387365 as a wine for collectors. After tasting it several times since the first time we popped a bottle I changed my mind and think that my initial impression was too restricted. Yes, I’m confident that if you cellar the wine your patience will be rewarded. And, you can also enjoy this wine now. The wine is delicious with really bright acidity. Drink it solo or enjoy with seafood or fried food dishes. Our friends in La Belle Province can enjoy this wine and pay 9% less than the KGBO price. Our friends in the Excited States pay a 28% premium if they want to enjoy this beauty.


Wines for wine geeks

If you are a fan of oxidized wine then you will enjoy the $23 Alvear 3 Miradas Sierra de Montilla Vino de Pueblo 2017 | VINTAGES#: 96834. Wine made from the Pedro Ximénez grape usually start with dried grapes and the resulting dessert wine is super dense and extremely sweet. This wine is my first experience with a bone dry PX wine. If you are a dry Fino Sherry fan you will find this wine enjoyable and interesting.


Wines to consider

Lovers of California Cabs will enjoy the $70 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2014  | VINTAGES#: 904532. This is a  textbook and highly enjoyable Napa Cab. Yes, the price makes me choke especially when you consider that last year the KGBO charged $53 for the 2013 vintage of this wine. That’s a 32% price increase. In the good old USA, our friends pay the equivalent of $47 CAD. Are you feeling fairly treated? Yah, it really sucks, and I fear that we nescient citizens are now looking at a $70 starting price for good California Cabs such as this one.


You are not willing to fork out $70 for a California Cab? Then you might want to try the $20 for a Song Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 | VINTAGES#: 666057. To be clear it is from Washington state, not California, but stylistically there are similarities. The wine is commercial in approach. This wine is not in the same league as the Freemark but at less than 1/3 the cost you get a decent BBQ wine. We pay about the same amount of money as our friends in the USA with the exception of Pennsylvania. In the state where wine is also considered a controlled substance, and where the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board models its approach after our LCBO, their customers pay the equivalent of $14CAD. Go figure.


If you are a fan of German Riesling then consider the $25 Max Ferd. Richter Elisenberger Kabinett Riesling 2016 | VINTAGES#: 665984. Yes, the wine has significant residual sugar but there is also plenty of acid and flavors to balance things out. The wine is a nice example of German Riesling and it is a good food wine. The LCBO’s priced this one more than fairly as we pay about $5 less than our friends in Europe and the USA.


Are you in need of an easy-drinking deck/dock/balcony wine? Then consider the $20 Lava Greco di Tufo 2017 | VINTAGES#: 631739. It’s not complicated and it’s enjoyable. What else is there to say?


The $18 Planeta Rosé 2018 Rosé – Dry | VINTAGES#: 111856 is an okay choice if you find yourself in need of a Rose and cannot source the $14 Hacienda Lopez de Haro Rosado 2018 Rosé | VINTAGES#: 450775 that I discussed in my last post. The Planeta is enjoyable and versatile. Is the price fair you ask? Well, if you think paying 80% more than our European friends is fair then my answer is yes. The pricing is a KGBO ripoff but, like I said earlier, you may have a Rosé emergency and need a decent one.


Wines that I am avoiding

The tasting group explored Pinot Noir land and was disappointed in all three bottles that we tried. So, I will not be buying the $22 Kenwood Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016 | VINTAGES#: 943225, the $40 Lange Pinot Noir 2015 | VINTAGES#: 367359 and the Roche de Bellene Cuvée Réserve Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2017 | VINTAGES#: 299859. All are underwhelming. If you are looking for a decent Pinot Noir try the $29 Joseph Drouhin Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2017 | VINTAGES#: 512574. It’s quite tasty and there are lots of bottles available in the KGBO system. We pay a 10% premium to the price in the USA and a 40% premium to the price in Europe.

I couldn’t get past the odd smell of fennel in the $19 Terre Stregate Svelato Falanghina del Sannio 2016 Falanghina | VINTAGES#: 486076. A weird wine that may work for you but it is not for me. Similarly, I found the presence of mint in the $19 Bersano Gavi di Gavi 2017 | VINTAGES#: 999979 to be distracting and not enjoyable. I’ll pass on that one too.

The two Flagship Exclusive wines that we tasted from South Africa showed poorly. The $40 Ataraxia Chardonnay 2016 | VINTAGES#: 232967 is an oak bomb, a style that I don’t enjoy. Surprisingly, the $35 Glenelly Lady May 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon/Petit Verdot  | VINTAGES#: 480426 has significant and unpleasant vegetal and green bell pepper attributes. Sorry, but these characteristics do not ring my bell.

20 july 2019 vintages release (preview)

The preview version of TheWineMuddler will feature wines that I consider to be outstanding. I will also post these wines to Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter (TheWineMudder on each of these platforms).

I consider a wine to be outstanding when its price is fair and the contents of the glass meet or exceed my expectations. I refuse to provide scores as I believe that scores serve only to make it easy for wine producers and retailers to sell mediocrity and that these scores mislead consumers. I will, however, make fun of wine scores, and the critics that provide them, as often as possible. Please don’t make your wine purchase decisions on dribble such as James Suckling 92 points.

A more detailed review of the release will follow and that review may include satire, wines for collectors, wines for wine geeks, wines to consider, and wines to avoid.

Outstanding wines

Need a pleasant white-house wine? Maybe a white wine for a reception, or one to sip on your deck/dock/ balcony? Then try the $15 Rustenberg Stellenbosch Chenin Blanc 2018  | VINTAGES#: 698274. This wine has decent tropical flavors, pleasant acidity, and length at a price point that will not break your bank account. A crowd-pleasing wine, the type that you will serve to friends but you want something cheap because they will drink a lot and they are not great friends. This wine retails for the equivalent price in the good old USA and is 33% more in the UK.


Need a white wine with more body? One with some complexity that comes from time resting in the bottle? Then try the $26 Château-Thébaud Melon de Bourgogne 2009 | VINTAGES#: 541458. Most wines made with the Melon de Bourgogne grape are simple-fruit-forward deck wines and are consumed in their youth. This one is from a top producer and does not disappoint. A good wine for your dinner table or conservations with good friends. The KGBO (a.k.a., the LCBO) fairly priced this wine when compared to prices in Quebec and the USA.


I bought a case of the $14 Hacienda Lopez de Haro Rosado 2018 Rosé | VINTAGES#: 450775. Simply put it has the things that I look for in a decent Rosé and I can buy this one in quantity at a good price. This wine is enjoyable alone and will work with food. This Rosé retails for an equivalent price in the USA but the folks in sunny Spain can buy it for as little as the equivalent of $7CAD.

wine_117946_webI’m in need of a decent house red-wine as I am fresh out. I prefer an Italian one, something that works with food, and a wine that I can also enjoy solo. I’ve spent a lot of money lately so I also need one that is cheap and cheerful. You too? Then load up on the Carpineto Chianti Classico 2016 Sangiovese/Canaiolo | VINTAGES#: 356048. This is a Sangiovese with some character at a decent price. What more can you want?


7 july 2019 vintages release

The lack of product on shelves seems to be the significant recent KGBO news that has people complaining about this organization. For those people that do not read this blog regularly, the KBGO is also known as the Liquor Control Board of Ontario. They like to call themselves the LCBO, a preference I suspect stems from a desire to downplay the word “control” in their actual name. I prefer to call the organization the KGBO as people in the wine industry know that control has everything to do with the way they operate. I think that their secret internal motto is “we will tell you what you are allowed to buy today”. You have to admit that their present troubles are consistent with this motto.

Personally, I have not experienced a supply problem and that outcome maybe because I have a wine collection and my purchases of wine tend to be more targeted and planned. However, the stories of the LCBO’s inability to satisfy the needs of their customers does add to my confusion. Why do the people of Ontario allow a government-controlled company (an organization established in 1927 when the Ontario government repealed the Temperance Act of 1916) to be the sole supplier of something essential to the quality of life as wine? Are we Canadians stoic? Or, have we just given up hope?  I have to point out that this approach is abnormal.

From my perspective, the KGBO’s website is a more significant source of frustration than empty shelves when doing business with this monopoly. To call this site clumsy would be a compliment. The new site went live earlier this year and it was very bad at the time. In the passing months, the site has improved but it is still unfriendly and can confuse customers.

Until recently, KGBO customers had to use three separate websites to satisfy their needs. Yes, there were three:,, and Each site could provide you with different information and search results. was my refuge from but is now history and I am slowly learning to how to use the new

So here’s a tip. My biggest frustration with the site is identifying stores that have the product that I want to buy. Note that the site uses the concept of a primary or home store. When you search for a product, and your home store does not have that product, the site will say “Buy In-Store (Unavailable).” In fact, frequently when searching for a product, I see all three purchase options as “Unavailable”. One might conclude from this information that the product is sold-out. However, it may (or may not) also mean that your home store only is sold out.

To find out whether the KGBO has the product, you need to click on the “+” sign that is on the “Buy In-Store” option and then select “Check Nearby Stores”. The final step is to enter your city (e.g., Ottawa) or your postal code. The website will then display the supply, if any, that is available in other KGBO stores.


You may have noted that I have cut back on the number of postings on this site. The time involved in creating posts is significant and I am considering ways to reduce the effort and still highlight the wines at the KGBO that I think are worth your hard-earned money. Maybe Instagram, maybe Twitter. Stay tuned.


I was in a Rosé mood last weekend so most of the wines I selected to taste from the July 7 release were pink ones. Included in my observations below are several wines from the June 22 release that the muddler group tasted and that are still available at the time of writing this post.

Outstanding wines

The $22 Bodega Garzón Reserva Albariño 2018 VINTAGES#: 646802 is a lovely balanced and highly versatile wine. You can enjoy this wine solo or with a nice meal and impress your friends with a glass of wine, a good wine, from Uraguay. Really good stuff and priced fairly as the KGBO is charging about the same as our friends in the Excited States of America pay.


Do you prefer a white wine with a little more body? Then try a bottle of the $18 Pagos de Galir Godello 2017 | VINTAGES#: 645390. The posted tasting notes are accurate and this balanced wine has some complexity and good length and represents decent value. We pay 35% more than the folks eating tapas in sunny Spain but our friends in the U.S.A. have to fork out 25% more than we do in Ontario. Go figure.


If your budget can handle $27 for a Rosé then treat yourself to the Ashley Mary Limited Edition M de Minuty Rosé 2018 Grenache Blend | VINTAGES#: 575316. The posted tasting notes are accurate and like the Garzón, this is a versatile wine with a lot of finesse. You’ll pay about 10% more than you would in the good old USA and about 50% more than our friends in France. Maybe you are not familiar with a country where one can buy cheese made with unpasteurized milk and where wine is not a controlled substance. One of those countries is France and I say: “Viva France! Vous les chanceux bâtards.


Refuse to part with $27 for a Rosé? Then step down to the $21 Mimi en Provence Grande Réserve Rosé 2018 | VINTAGES#: 452573. A lovely versatile Rosé that will make you happy. Unfortunately, we are being gouged on price. Our American cousin can enjoy this wine for the equivalent of $16CAD (we pay a 31% premium to Doug Ford’s coffers) and the price in Europe is similar to that charged in the U.S.A. In 2017, the KGBO charged $17 for this wine and that’s what the price should be now. The KGBO raised the price to $21 last year and kept it at the same level this year.


Fans of Sauvignon Blanc will enjoy the $25 William Fèvre Saint-Bris 2017 Sauvignon Blanc | VINTAGES#: 626523. Yep, a Sauvignon Blanc from Burgundy, and one that I can actually enjoy (I’m overly sensitive the aroma of sulfur that my nose perceives to be in excessive amounts in nearly all Sauvignon-Blanc-based wines). The wine retails for a similar price in the USA and is $10 cheaper a bottle in France. The local shame is the $5 a bottle (25%) price increase from the 2015 vintage that the LCBO has forced upon you. I’m sure that you have no trouble getting a 25% raise from your boss this year. Right?


Feel like treating yourself to a nice bottle of red? I’ll give you two options and both of them come from sunny Spain, a country that offers wine lovers great value.

The first choice is the red discussed below under Collector’s Corner. The second choice is the $30 López de Haro Gran Reserva 2010 | VINTAGES#: 431973. Here’s a nicely aged lovely wine that you can enjoy with food and sip solo with a good friend. The information that I gathered on comparative pricing of this wine confuses me. This wine is considerably cheaper is Spain (it costs 29% more in Ontario), and it is about 10% cheaper in the U.S.A. The retail price of $48 in BC is the show stopper. That’s 60% more than Ontario! The folks in France may be les chanceux bâtards but I feel for my friends in BC as they are les pauvres bâtards. This pricing is a bigger ripoff than the 26% price KGBO price increase since their last release of this wine. Freaking government greed.

Collector’s corner

The tannic structure of the $34 12 Linajes Reserva 2012 Tempranillo  VINTAGES#: 437681 suggests that the wine would benefit significantly with time in the cellar. Enjoy this wine now if you must and tame it with food that is rich and preferably has charred elements. Knowing that you are paying less than for this wine than the folks in Spain may also make you happy. Don’t tell the folks at the LCBO as we will surely pay more next year.


Wines to consider

The $14 Kir-Yianni Akakies Xinomavro Rosé 2018 | VINTAGES#: 71050 is a way to cut down on the cost of a complete meal. This wine has a tannin backbone and ample acidity. This means that it is a wine that works and is enjoyable with food but you’ll tire of the experience if you consume the wine solo.

Are you a fan of southern Rhone red wine? Are you looking for a decent house red wine? If the answers to these questions are yes then you should risk the $20 and try the Ferraton Père & Fils Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2017 Grenache Blend | VINTAGES#: 74229. While I would prefer less alcohol heat, this wine is a decent one for the price. Our friends in the U.S.A. pay about the same price as the hard-working folks in Ontario but those lucky bastards in France can pick this one up at nearly 50% less than the price in Ontario. Merde. wine_115483_web

Looking for something a little different? Maybe a wine to go with food that you grilled? The $17 Federici Roma Rosso 2017 | VINTAGES#: 638726 may be your ticket. The wine’s profile includes red cherry, baking spice, and a dash of green pepper flavors. The acid level is this wine must be high as the wine’s 15 grams of residual sugar would otherwise make this wine appear to be overly sweet. The wine needs food and, like the Kir-Yianni Rosé, the reason to buy this wine is to reduce the cost of hosting that BBQ.


25 may 2019 vintages release

Note that I will be away and not be able to comment on the 8 June 2019 release.

Outstanding wines

The $25 Portlandia Pinot Gris 2017 Pinot Gris Blend | VINTAGES#: 633735 impressed the tasting group. The posted tasting notes are accurate, including the comment that the wine benefits from decanting.  This is not a patio sipper Pinot Grigio. It is a wine with complexity, weight, and body. To me, this wine is stylistically similar to Pinot Gris from Alsace and Alto Adige. Price wise the hardworking citizens of the People’s Republic of Ontario pay about a 15% premium to the amount paid by our friends in the Excited States of America. Given our government’s aggressive pricing and taxation schemes, the price that the KGBO is asking you to pay is okay.wine_114905_web

The $20 Domaine de la Gaverie Sec Vouvray 2017 Chenin Blanc | VINTAGES#: 635847 is the QPR white wine that we tasted in this release. Vouvray wine at this price point typically is simple, with a predominance of apple in its profile, However, the Gaverie comes with some welcomed complexity and minerality. With 11 grams of residual sugar, there is some sweetness to the wine that is balanced by the wine’s acidity. In November 2016, the KGBO charged $14 for the 2015 vintage of this wine. That’s a 30% price increase in a 2 1/2 year period (an increase of over 15% compounded annually). Do you think that our government is treating us fairly? wine_114911_web

Syrah lovers will appreciate the $25 Cave de Tain Grand Classique Crozes-Hermitage 2015 | VINTAGES#: 572230. The posted tasting notes, while being overly effusive, are accurate. This is an enjoyable and versatile wine. While our friends in the good old USA pay about the same amount of money for this wine, the lucky bastards in France (a mystical land where wine and cheese are not controlled substances) can buy this wine for the equivalent of $15 CAD. On my trip maybe luck will prevail, I will find a bottle, a nice baguette, and some cheese and have a lovely picnic.


Wines to consider

I am tempted to classify the $25 Hedges The Bourgeoisie 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon / Shiraz / Merlot | VINTAGES#: 665976 as a wine to avoid. To me, the wine came across as being very commercial in style, lacking structure, and prepared in a fashion designed to please a crowd. I consider this wine to be overpriced for its crowd-pleasing purpose but you may be okay with the $25 price point as Washington state wines at this price point typically are fruit bombs. The retail price in the USA is similar to the price charged in Ontario.wine_114892_web

I classified previous vintages of the $18 d’Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier/Marsanne 2017 Viognier/Marsanne | VINTAGES#: 662775 as being outstanding. The 2017 vintage is also delicious but fresh out of the bottle the wine has a short length and some unpleasant bitterness on its finish. Decanting the wine helps significantly so if are a fan of previous vintages of this wine give it lots of air time before serving. The KGBO’s price point of this wine is the same as it was in 2007. Still, it is expensive by world standards with the folks in Pennsylvania (where there is also a government-controlled wine monopoly) pay the equivalent of $10 CAD and our cousins in Australia (where the state taxes wine even more than the Canadian governments) paying the equivalent of $14 CAD. I guess if the KGBO doesn’t raise prices for another few decades then global inflation will result in us catching up and we will eventually pay a fair price for this wine.


The $24 Stéphane Aviron Vieilles Vignes Morgon Côte du Py 2014 Gamay | VINTAGES#: 424804 strangely starts out as being a simple wine with an annoying confectioners sugar element. Exposed to lots of air (decanted for several hours or tasting a partially empty bottle the next day) the wine comes together and the contents of the glass are quite enjoyable. If you have the ability to age a $24 bottle of wine my guess is that the Aviron will reward your patience in a few years. I am compelled to point out that the LCBO charged $20 for the 2013 vintage (a shameful 20% price increase in a single year).


If you are seeking a simple patio wine then consider trying the $15 Muriel Fincas de la Villa Blanco 2018 White Blend | VINTAGES#: 645127. I find the floral nature to be a bit offputting and it is a wine that I tire of after a couple of glasses.wine_114918_web

The $14 Marqués de Toro Finca La Moura 2012 Mencia | VINTAGES#: 545939 is a wine made in a full body, dense, ripe-dried fruit-forward style. I prefer Mencia wines that have more finesse than the Toro but the price tag and the style might appeal to you. This would also make a good cooking wine.wine_105238_web

Wines for collectors

Joe R blessed our tasting group with the 2012 vintage of the $100 Kistler Les Noisetiers  Chardonnay 2017 | VINTAGES#: 251223. We did not taste the 2017 vintage but collectors of California wine know Kistler’s quality and I have no doubt that the 2017 vintage will not shine in the balanced and old-school manner that showed in the 2005 vintage we tasted. Here is a wine where the LCBO’s price has not increased from at least the 2009 vintage. On top of that bit of information, the typical retail price in the Excited States is about the same as the price we pay in the People’s Republic of Ontario. Yes, $100 a bottle is expensive in anyone’s books but if you are a collector of California Chardonnay this wine is a KGBO bargain. wine_107345_webRioja lovers will not be disappointed with the $40 CVNE Imperial Reserva 2014 Tempranillo Blend | VINTAGES#: 424390. This is a classic, traditional, complex, well balanced Rioja that you can drink now or cellar for a long time. This is a wine that is fairly priced. The KGBO has not significantly increased the price of this wine from previous vintages, we pay about a 10% premium to the retail value in Spain, and about 10% less than our neighbors to the south.  wine_114895_web

Wines to avoid

Given the quality of the 2015 vintage in Chianti, I was expecting much more from the $20 Castello di Albola Chianti Classico 2015 | VINTAGES#: 339937. Other Vintages releases had 2015 Chianti wines at this price point that shined.

11 may 2019 vintages release

Hopefully, in time for your long weekend, TheMuddler returns from his partying, traveling, and rest.

Outstanding wines


Wines for wine geeks

If I was asked to write the tag line for the $32 CVNE Monopole Clásico 2015 | VINTAGES#: 489583, I would borrow Monty Python’s expression and say “and now for something completely different”. The posted tasting notes do not do this wine justice. This is a white Rioja wine made with a small amount of Sherry that is added during the wine-making process. It sounds a newly found gimmick but CVNE’s use of this process goes back 100 years. To me, the outcome brilliantly combines the attributes of both winemaking styles. The nose has elements of sour berries, stone fruit, and chamomile flowers. On the palate, there are fruit, nuts, spices, and saline-mineral notes. Please note that this is an oxidized style of wine so it may not be your cup of tea and this is the only reason I classified the wine as one for geeks. I think that this wine so good that I ordered a case.

There is a sad side to this tale as it is another example of our supply change, likely the KGBO, using their monopoly power causing the citizens of this People’s Republic to pay a 25% price premium to the amount paid by our friends in La Belle Province. I really find this gouging upsetting and unfair.


Wines to consider

If you are a fan of Rhone Valley white wine but struggle with either their price or lack of availability then try the $20 Pomar Junction Sidetrack White 2017 | VINTAGES#: 644492. This wine is a blend of Viognier, Roussanne, and Grenache Blanc and the attributes of each grape results in an intense wine with some complexity. The wine’s acidity and 7 grams of residual sugar mean this wine is best served at the dinner table.

wine_114643_webFans of the fruit forward nature that typically comes from New World Pinot Noir should try the $25 Rapaura Springs Reserve Pinot Noir 2017 | VINTAGES#: 645184. The posted tasting notes are accurate. This is textbook New World Pinot at a decent price. Well, the decent price comment is a relative one as in the People’s Republic of Ontario we typically pay more for a decent Pinot Noir. This wine retails for as little as $13 in its home country of New Zealand.


If you are looking for a cheap table wine consider the $16 Feudo Maccari Olli Grillo 2017 | VINTAGES#: 477877. The flavors of lemon zest and stone fruit are enjoyable. There is an unpleasant bitterness on the wine’s finish, an attribute that suggests to me that it will be hard to enjoy more than a glass of this wine without food to accompany it. cq5dam.web.1280.1280If you find yourself in a Barolo emergency then consider the $46 Damilano Lecinquevigne Barolo 2013 Nebbiolo  VINTAGES#: 454488. The posted tasting notes overstate the case. In the land of Barolo, you get what you pay for and rarely do you get a Barolo at this price point that you would boast about. Damilano’s Langhe Nebbiolo released last October was just as good as this wine at nearly half the asking price (sadly the Langhe Nebbiolo is sold out). If you buy the Barolo, you will find that the wine will benefit from decanting it a couple of hours in advance of serving.

wine_114677_webThe alcohol level in the $14 Honoro Vera Monastrell 2017 Monastrell (Mourvèdre)  | VINTAGES#: 167684 came across as out-of-balance. I find it hard to believe that the wine is 13.5% as stated on the KGBO’s website (note that the bottle states 15%). The wine is fruit forward, has a meaty gaminess and elements of dried fruit. The residual sugar is also a little high (6 grams). To me, this would be a good cooking wine for stews and, as stated in the tasting notes, likely would pair well with that same dish. Outside of that context, I this is a fine that I would struggle to enjoy more than a single glass.


Fans of Trimbach Riesling will not be disappointed with the $35 Trimbach Réserve Riesling 2016 | VINTAGES#: 247023. Well, I need to take that comment back as the price that the KGBO is now charging is disappointing. First the wine. I find Trimbach’s style to be predictable and consistent. Bone dry, steely in texture, with decent fruit, and acidity. This producer’s entry-level wines are very ordinary and not worth the money. This reserve ups the game a bit but honestly there is better and more complex Alsace Riesling at this price point (but good luck finding them presently at our government supply monopoly). The KGBO used to sell this wine for $25 and that’s the price point vendors charge in Europe. If you are in need of a decent but not fantastic Riesling and don’t mind paying the premium then try this wine.

clone_wine_74375_webI believe that significant time has passed since the KGBO release a good cru Beaujolais so the $25 Le Griottier 2015 Gamay | VINTAGES#: 635805 fits the bill. The posted tasting notes are accurate and the wine is a bit clumsy presently. A couple of years in the cellar would bring things together.wine_114699_web


Wines that I am avoiding

The $20 Marcel Cabelier Vieilles Vignes Pinot Noir 2016 | VINTAGES#: 511204 seems to be generating some buzz as last Saturday the bottles disappeared quickly from the shelves of my KGBO. I don’t get it. Perhaps we tasted wine from a bad bottle as the contents of our glass exhibited signs of instability. The wine’s nose was reminiscent of HP sauce and Ketchup. Exposure to air helped but the sauces kept returning. For that reason, I am staying away.

all natural wines have “barnyard” attributes (16 march 2019 vintages release)

Note that I will be away and not be able to comment on the 30 March 2019 release.

This week diversion

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Control-be-gon, my home town, out there on the edge of totalitarianism. This week we started to see signs of Spring. For most people, this means a rising temperature and melting snowbanks but, for Jollie LeBlois, the first sign of Spring is the arrival of fresh artichokes at the Spadina Fruit Market. Jollie buys as many as he can carry. While he prunes away the uneatable leaves to get to the delicious core his thoughts drift to the sunny plains in Italy, Spain, and California where Spring arrived long ago. Whether the indicator is artichokes or snowbanks Spring was in the air in my home town.

It was a hard week for Jollie as he was suspended from participating in the Vintage Tasting Panel. On Monday, the panel gathered to taste natural wines. Jollie misunderstood and thought that they would be tasting wines naturally.  The nude Jollie sniffed and swirled the wines while he wondered why his colleagues were fully clothed. The rest of the panel, being polite and politically correct, said nothing about the disturbing display of nudity. That day, the panel came to the unfortunate false conclusion that all natural wines had attributes frequently described by wine critics as “barnyard.” Jollie spent the remainder of his week back in the store fetching “Classics” orders for the LCBO’s pretentious customers and helping others find their supply of “Girls’ Night Out”, in cans.

Father Suckling, who heard of LeBlois’s latest folly, came to the store to check on Jollie’s state. Father Suckling took it upon himself to engage and comfort the police officer that the LCBO hired to act as their security guard. Father Suckling made the flippant comment that the officer must find the assigned duty to be “a boring gig”, to which the officer replied, “you would not have said that 10 minutes ago when I tackled and wrestled a shoplifter.” Father Suckling rated Jollie’s recovery 96+ points.  The officer rated his conversation with Father Suckling 84- points.

Ah, the important lesson of avoiding making quick and inappropriate assumptions. The next time that I see a wine critic sipping wine in the nude or a police officer looking bored I will cut them some slack and show some them appreciation. They both might have a story to tell.

That’s the news from my home town. Where are the women are strong, all the men good looking, and all the wines are rated 100 + points.

My apologies to Garrison Keillor for poorly imitating the storyline of Lake Wobegon, his hometown.

GTA wine tasting events

If you will be in the greater Toronto area on Wednesday, March 27, you have a terrific opportunity to taste top-quality 2009 white Burgundy wines. The wines are all from Henri Boillot, one of Burgundy’s top producers. This tasting features a comparison of Meursault and Chassagne-Montrachet and will include village and 1er Crus wines. Details are available at A few seats are remaining.

If you be in the greater Toronto area on Tuesday, April 16, you have an exciting opportunity to explore the world of dessert wines. The tasting will take you around the world to explore the different styles of sweet wines and the grapes used to
make them. Details are available at

The quest for a $10 decent wine

You may have noticed the recent articles in the Ontario media about wines available at the LCBO for less than $10. It started several weeks ago when the wine critic for The Star rated the $8 Toro Bravo a shocking 96 points, a rating that surely was the cause of the LCBO selling thousands of cases of this wine. The wine critic for The Globe also recently got into the act and rated the $10 Castillo de Monseran a much more lack-luster score of 88 points.

I secured a bottle of these wines and served them blind to the group gathered together on Sunday. The people did not know if they were tasting a $10 wine or a $40 wine. They did quickly conclude that the contents of their glasses were not enjoyable. Not one person finished the taste of these wines. We tired of the Toro Bravo very quickly and, for me, the finish dominated by the taste of saccharin was particularly unpleasant. Note that the Toro Bravo has 9 grams of residual sugar, which is about 3 to 4 times what a decent dry red wine contains (like processed food, sugar is often used to try to enhance the consumer’s taste experience). The Monseran has a finish that is dominated by acid. It is a clumsy wine that may work with food but it’s really hard to drink a glass solo. I have no use for the Toro Bravo and the Monseran is a cooking wine at best.

Two points before moving onto the topic of better wines.

First, my opinion is that the real purpose of wine scores is to sell crappy or mediocre wine. It’s that simple as it is that offensive and sad. The consumer falls for it all the time. A score of 96 points published in a widely-read paper moves thousands of cases of crap. I don’t know why critics do such things and I suspect impaired objectivity may be one of the source issues. Wineries, agents, and retailers love high score exposure as it sells what otherwise may not sell.

Second, while I think the search for good wine at a cheap price point is noble, we need to recognize the economic realities that are one of the problems of having an overly taxed substance being controlled by a government-run monopoly. Check out the July 2018 LCBO pricing policies by clicking on this link. In the details described in the document, you will find that the $10 retail price point means that the LCBO paid $3.90 for that bottle of wine. That $3.90 covers shipping, marketing, production, and (hopefully) some profit for the hardworking producer. At the $10 price point, the actual cost of the wine in the bottle is trivial and that is the amount of quality that you should also expect to find in your glass.

Outstanding wines

There are two enjoyable red Bordeaux wines in the release that are offered at a decent price point.

First, is the $28 Château Magnol 2015 Bordeaux Red | VINTAGES#: 384271. This is a classic-styled Bordeaux and the warm 2015 vintage resulted in a wine that is nice and ripe (often one finds a presence of unpleasant vegetal notes in cheaper Bordeaux wines). I would not cellar it for 10 years as suggested by the tasting notes nor do I think that the wine is “extraordinary.” But, we found this wine to be a nice wine at this price point. That said, you can pick this wine up in Rochester for the equivalent of about $20CAD, meaning out there on the edge of totalitarianism, we pay a 40% premium.


Second, is the $25 Château Teyssier 2015 Bordeaux | VINTAGES#: 226035. Again, it’s likely that the ripeness of this wine comes from the 2015 vintage. This wine has an intriguing nose and it is made in a modern style with a flavor profile and length that many people will find very appealing. In France, this wine retails for the equivalent of $22CAD.


If you are in need of a house white wine consider the $20 Pieropan Soave Classico 2016
Garganega Blend | VINTAGES#: 946848. Hey, this wine will not win awards but it is crisp, focused, has body, some complexity, and decent acidity. It will work with food and enjoyable on its own. In Italy and Pennsylvania (a state where the people also put up with a government liquor control board), this wine retails for less than $15CAD.



Wines to consider

If your budget is ultra value wines (say around $15) then consider buying the $14 Castaño Casa Carmela 2015 Monastrell (Mourvèdre)  | VINTAGES#: 639930. In his typical style, wine critic Luis Gutiérrez gives an over-the-top review that retailers such as the KGBO love to publish. It’s a drinkable and much more enjoyable than the Toro Bravo or the Monseran that are discussed above.


If you are a fan of oak-forward Chardonnay then consider the $30 Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2016 | VINTAGES#: 68817. It’s a little too oaky for me and the price point is too high for the underlying quality of the wine (a real struggle for Ontario producers simply because they have higher input costs). The posted tasting notes are a sappy and embarrassing overstatement.


The $52 Giacosa Fratelli Bussia Barolo 2013 Nebbiolo  | VINTAGES#: 344721 is made in the modern style and can be consumed now. This is Barolo emergency wine. For example, say you are heading to your friend’s place for dinner, you call him from the LCBO, and your friend “why don’t you bring a Barolo?”.


Fans of Super Tuscan wines will enjoy the $44 Poggio Verrano Dròmos 2010
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend | VINTAGES#: 107383. This full-bodied wine is ripe, rich, balanced and enjoyable. The posted tasted notes are accurate. From a value perspective, consider the conflicting comments that this wine retails for the equivalent of $60CAD in Europe but our cousins in La Belle Province can pick up this wine at the SAQ for $40.


The $20 Provolo Campotorbian Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2012 Corvina Blend | VINTAGES#: 974402 is a good-value Italian red wine that we tasted in this release. The posted tasting notes are effusive and overstate the case. If you need a decent Italian table wine, consider buying a few bottles. With 9 grams of residual sugar, the wine is slightly sweet, and that feature is something that most people will appreciate (even if they say that they don’t like any sweetness in their wines). There is enough acidity to balance things out.


If it is a Spanish table wine that you seek then buy a few bottles of the $25 Balbás Reserva 2006 Tempranillo Blend | VINTAGES#: 85183. Made in a smooth oak forward style this wine will appeal to the tastes of many people. I intend to research this producer. This wine was released at least once previously (I first commented on this wine in a March 2018 post) and there are a lot of bottles in the system. Balbas Ardal must be a massive producer.


If you are a fan of Italian Syrah, or you wish to try one, then give the $47 Terralsole Solista Syrah 2006 | VINTAGES#: 574053 a try. This wine is elegant, mature, balanced, and quite enjoyable. It’s a good wine to bring to a dinner party.


Wines that I am avoiding

The $20 Bastide Miraflors Syrah/Vieilles Vignes Grenache 2015 Syrah/Grenache—VINTAGES#: 320499 is a wine that was previously released on March 3, 2018. Yes, the same wine, the same stupid review, and the same price one year later. If first you don’t succeed, try, try again. We did not taste a bottle from this release but in my comments last year I described this wine as:

“…a tannin bomb. The posted tasting notes are just nonsense as is the score of 94 points. Jeb your stock just got lower in my book.”

I consider the $36 Abacela Fiesta Tempranillo 2015 | VINTAGES#: 629147 to be an expensive gimmick wine (that is, “hey, let’s try a Tempranillo from Oregon). Stick to Spain, especially at this price point.

89 points, the lowest score he ever awarded a confession (2 march 2019 vintages release)

This week diversion

It’s been a quiet week in Lake Control-be-gon, my home town, out there on the edge of totalitarianism. Winter raged on but the locals take the cold temperatures in stride.

The cold weather was not the only subject that caused chatter in the town. The majority of the citizens of Lake Control-be-gon may be stoic Lutherans and Catholics but that does not mean that they don’t enjoy a little drama to heat up their of their daily lives. This was a happy week in my hometown as fate or fortune provided the town folk lots to talk about.

Another scandal hit the Mayor’s office. The Control-be-gon Moon, our local paper, captured Mayor Trudeau’s photo as he dashed from his office to take sanctuary in the church of Our Lady of Perpetual High Wine Scores. The Moon’s front page photo caused Jollie LeBlois to comment to the crowd gathered at the Tim Horton’s that our mayor had the same look on his face years ago when he was the high school hero who fell off his snowboard in front of all the twirling cheerleaders.

Our mayor never got over his difficult childhood. Most of us stop believing that monsters hide under our bed and anxieties lurk deep in our bedroom closet. But, our mayor knows these demons exist and since his childhood, he has relied on the contents of his sock drawer to protect him.

Our major is deeply indebted to his protective socks. The morning of that fateful photo, he bypassed his favorite Desmarais socks, rummaged past his numerous pairs of Bombardier socks, and confidently slipped on his pair of SNC Lavalin socks. Our mayor didn’t choose well; the socks failed him and, not only did monsters emerge from under his bed, those socks didn’t provide Mayor Trudeau with sufficient grip to close the door to his anxiety closet.

Safely in the confession booth, Mayor Trudeau attempted to empty the darkness from his heart to the all-knowing Father Suckling. The confession was going swimmingly until our mayor attempted to mitigate his guilt by stating that “sometimes people draw different conclusions from the same experience.” The unimpressed Father Suckling heard the mayor say this before. Contrition in a confession is like tannins in red wine. Their presence provides the necessary structure to support the other elements. Father Suckling found that the confession lacked this structure and rated our mayor’s performance a scant 89 points, the lowest score he ever awarded to a confession or a bottle of wine.

Deputy-mayor Ford was thankful for the mayor’s woes as it distracted the town folk’s attention from his firing of Hans Blair, the town’s deputy dog catcher. Mayor Trudeau is trying to recapture his snowboarding social status and our deputy-mayor never stopped being the playground bully. It’s rumored that her husband’s firing so upset Lulu Blair that she sought comfort in downing cans of Jeb Dunnick 96+ points rated wine.

That’s the news from my home town. Where are the women are strong, all the men good looking, and all the wines are rated 100 + points.

My apologies to Garrison Keillor for poorly imitating the storyline of Lake Wobegon, his hometown and to Rex Murphy for blatantly and shamelessly stealing his line about the high school champion falling off his snowboard in front of the twirling cheerleaders.


Before we jump into the 2 March 2019 release, I would like to point out one item and one wine tasting that has seats available still.

First, I am extremely frustrated with the KGBO’s new The most aggravating issue is finding stores that have the product you seek. You can work around that problem in two ways. One approach is to type your hometown into the search field that appears when you click on “Check Nearby Stores (you first have to click on the + next to Buy In-store). The other option is to use until the KGBO takes down that site. I believe that the Vintages site will eventually disappear as my understanding is the KGBO will combine their three sites (,, and Having consumers deal with three sites is confusing, consolidation is a noble goal, but so far the KGBOs efforts have made their customers worse off.

Second, if you will be in the greater Toronto area on Wednesday, March 27, you have a terrific opportunity to taste top-quality 2009 white Burgundy wines. The wines are all from Henri Boillot, one of Burgundy’s top producers. This tasting features a comparison of Meursault and Chassagne-Montrachet village and 1er Crus wines. Details are available at

Outstanding wines

If you are a fan of California Cabs and if you find yourself in need of a decent house red wine then stock up on the $20 Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 | VINTAGES#: 38034. This wine is commercial in style, with aromas and flavors true to what one expects from a Cab from California. Remember that most California winemakers try to please the palate of Pastor Parker by evaluating the alcohol and sugar content of their wines. This one is no exception but Chateau St. Jean pulls it off and for $20 you will have a decent house red wine.


Like Cabs but not into Cali-Cabs? Then give the $24 Wynns Coonawarra Estate The Siding Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 | VINTAGES#: 333229 a try. I find that Wynns makes their wines in an old-world style. The result is a Cabernet that has new-world ripe fruit with some of the finesse that I find appealing in wines from the old-world. This wine would also benefit from time in your cellar. Unfortunately, the KGBO is gouging us on the price as this wine retails in the equally-highly-taxed country of Australia for the equivalent of $15 CAD. The pricing stinks so I will be holding my nose when I buy this one.


Not looking for a Cab and prefer a fruit-forward Pinot Noir? Then taste the $20 Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Las Brisas Pinot Noir 2016 | VINTAGES#: 632919. This wine has the red fruit flavors one expects in a new world Pinot Noir, fruit-forward but not overdone, nicely integrated oak, and decent structure. A versatile wine at a decent price.



Prefer Gamay to Pinot Noir? Then you may want to try the $20 Les Croix Rouges Juliénas 2017 Beaujolais | VINTAGES#: 634691. This is a fun red wine and the nice level of acidity makes it a wine that would work with food.


It was not that long ago that one could find a decent wine for less than $15. The government-mandated-annual tax and price increases have moved the bar such that it is now hard to find a decent wine for less than $20. I think that you will find the $13 Swartland Winemaker’s Collection Chenin Blanc 2018 | VINTAGES#: 631523 to be a time machine that, from a price perspective, takes you back to a better time. I found that the posted tasting notes to be accurate. Fair warning, a local wine critic found this wine to be wanting. But, the people that tasted this wine blind last Sunday concluded otherwise. FYI, this wine sells for the equivalent of $5 CAD in South Africa.


As the Monty Python troop used to say “and now for something completely different”. Trying venturing away from the ubiquitous international grape varieties and try the $22 Monte del Frà Lugana 2017 White Blend  | VINTAGES#: 631051.  The posted tasting notes are accurate. With 8 grams of residual sugar, you may detect some sweetness but it’s integrated with the other things going on in this interesting white wine.


Another outstanding blended white wine is the $19 Hugel Gentil 2016 White Blend | VINTAGES#: 367284. This one will appeal to fans of Alsatian wines. Ian D’Agata did a great job in the posted tasting notes that describe this wine. Fair warning, if you are not a fan of Gewurztraminer you may not like this wine. The blend contains just a touch of this distinctive grape. That touch works for me and will work for Gewurztraminer fans but not the grape’s foes.


Wines to consider

Once in a while, I long for the days when I would run into a wine that possed personality that stemmed from the contents of the glass being rough around the edges. Winemakers now strive for smoothness. The outcome, especially for low-end wines, is a boring and unpleasant wine (see my comments on the Campos de Enanzo Basiano below for an example). I love the rustic nature of the $15 Cantina San Paolo Aglianico 2017 Aglianico | VINTAGES#: 473132.  This wine reminded me of the days before so many producers made wine to please Father Suckling and Pastor Parker.  Sipping this wine and having it with food made me happy so I am buying more. Fair warnings: (1) you may find that the elevated acidity makes this wine a little too hard to enjoy solo, (2) the other people in our tasting group were not fond of this wine, and (3) the local wine critics give this wine a ridiculously high score.


The $24 Mazzei Ser Lapo Riserva Chianti Classico 2015 Sangiovese Blend | VINTAGES#: 288530 makes me angry so I reluctantly place it in the category as a wine you should consider buying. If you taste it you will likely conclude that this wine is quite yummy, smooth, and very drinkable. It’s made to please Father Suckling, who awarded the wine with a ridiculous score of 95 points. Why does this wine anger me? Well, to me it does not have the charm that I expect and I need from Sangiovese. If the palate and influence of these freaking wine critics spoil Sangiovese it will really piss me off.


Looking for a simple white wine? One that, if summer were here, you would sip on your patio? Then give the $20 Izadi Blanco 2017 Viura/Malvasia | VINTAGES#: 586396 a try.


Wines that I am avoiding

It’s with some sadness that I will be avoiding the $20 Kew Marsanne 2016 | VINTAGES#: 485334. The disappointment stems from me enjoying previous vintages of this wine. This vintage I found the use of oak to be heavy-handed and clumsy. To me, the result is a Marsanne wine trying to be a heavily oaked Chardonnay.

You can feel the burn when you taste the $19 Luigi Bosca Cabernet Sauvignon 2015  VINTAGES#: 128629.  That burn stems from alcohol that is not integrated with the other components of the wine. After being open for a day, the wine was dead. Given the other Cabernet Sauvignon choices in this release, I don’t see any reason to buy this one.

The $13 There Tussock Jumper Chenin Blanc 2017 | VINTAGES#: 480764 is alternative to the Swartland Winemaker’s Collection discussed above. I found the Tussock had a strange banana profile to the noise and has an odd distracting finish.

Fans of red Bordeaux should avoid the $30 Château de Barbe Blanche 2015 | VINTAGES#: 48066. The high alcohol burn is evidence that this wine was made to please Father Suckling and Pastor Parker.

What to read an exaggerated tasting note from the Vintages panel? What to taste a cheap wine trying to be smooth? Then try the $12 Campos de Enanzo Basiano Tempranillo 2017 | VINTAGES#: 644484. This is an okay cooking wine and nothing more.