Two full rounds of exceptional values in wine for our Traveling Golfer readers
By Ted McIntyre
From Ontario Cabernet Francs and Rieslings, to New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs, to value-laden South American offerings, the Traveling Golfer identifies a full two rounds of outstanding wines for less than $18 in this month’s issue.
A decidedly unscientific Facebook poll determined our $18 barrier for this listing—that fuzzy grey line that divides what most Canadians consider affordable versus potentially over-spending on a typical bottle of vino.
Some regions expectedly figure prominently in this inaugural listing—traditional bargain wine-producing countries such as Chile, South Africa and Portugal, whose long, warm growing seasons, larger-scale production and cheap labour enable them to offer bottles for less than their Canadian counterparts. But a few Ontario wineries nevertheless figure prominently for their value-laden offerings.
Ontario residents will be happy to know that almost every wine listed below is available at the LCBO.
So without further ado, here are 36 great values, listed in alphabetical order, from The Traveling Golfer and a few of our friends.
*Unless otherwise quoted, descriptions are those of Traveling Golfer Wine & Spirits Editor Ted McIntyre.
|Arrowleaf Cellars Ritchie Vineyard Riesling 2015 – Lake Country, B.C. ($16) (B.C. only). It’s unmistakable Riesling with vibrant acidity, but only enough sugar to awaken the vibrant, floral pineapple, lemongrass and apricot notes. Voted Best White Wine of the Year at the 2016 All-Canadian Wine Championships. —TM|
|Barefoot Pinot Grigio 2015 – Modesto, California ($10.95). Subtle minerality with floral notes of green apple and a little citrus, but with a smooth, refreshing finish. Nice summer party wine. I hate not seeing a date of vintage on the bottle, and it might just garner an 85-86 rating, but the quality-price ratio is up there. —TM
|Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap Viognier Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc – Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95). A medium-bodied, floral mix of rich tropical/citrus fruits featuring a lengthy fruity finish, “this is the best-value white in the country—a beautiful blend with layers and complexity far beyond its $14 price,” says one of Canada’s foremost wine writers, Chris Waters.|
|Cave Spring 2015 Unoaked Chardonnay Musqué Estate (winery only) – Jordan, Ontario ($16.95). Don’t like oaky, buttery, butterscotch California-style Chardonnays? Try this classy offering from Cave Spring. Well-rounded despite its stainless steel fermentation and aging, there’s a nose of pineapple, lemon and plenty of minerality, with a subtle orange rind and grapefruit through the finish. —TM|
|Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling 2015 – Vineland, Ontario ($16.95). “This is the signature white wine made at the farm. The nose shows a bright profile of lime, grapefruit, sherbet and apple in a fresh and vibrant style. It is light and refreshing on the palate with a playful tug of sweet and tart citrus and orchard fruit on the palate. Lovely balance and clean through the finish.” —Rick VanSickle, WinesinNiagara.com|
|Lamberti Santepietre Pinot Grigio 2015 – Veneto, Italy ($11.95). “A nose of fresh white flowers, mineral, citrus and green apples. It’s delicious on the palate with flavours of crisp apple, citrus and subtle tropical fruits in a soft, pretty style.” —Rick VanSickle, WinesinNiagara.com|
|Mariso The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2015 – Malborough, New Zealand ($16.60). Pronounced aromas of green pepper, Granny Smith apple, citrus and passion fruit, with a very smooth, creamy mid-palate. A lesser known Malborough offering, but worth searching out. —TM|
|Matua 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, Hawke’s Bay – Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand ($16.95). The palette-cleansing citrus and tropical fruit you’d expect of a Marlborough, N.Z. Sauvignon Blanc, but with some pineapple, pear, melon and herbaceous notes thrown in, coupled with a smoother, longer finish than the price would suggest. —TM & Werner Defilla, Director of Hospitality, ClubLink|
|Rosehall Run Liberated Chardonnay 2014 – Wellington, Ontario ($14.95). Dry, crisp and medium bodied, with aromas and flavours of green apple, stone fruit and citrus. —Marcel Bregstein, The Toronto Hunt|
|Susana Balbo Crios Torrontés – Mendoza, Argentina ($13.95). From a consistently rising star comes this 100% Torrontés (Argentina’s signature white grape). A good pairing from smoked meats to seafood to Thai dishes, there are floral aromas with pear, white peach and fresh-cut grass. The palate is a bit perfumy, but with great structure and creamy mouth feel, with a lemony acidic nip at the end. —TM & Marcel Bregstein, The Toronto Hunt|
|Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc – Marlborough, N.Z. ($17.45). A more fruit-forward Sauv Blanc with intense aromas of lime, gooseberry, grass and asparagus; dry, medium bodied, with crisp acidity and a nice clean finish. —TM|
|Vineland 2015 Dry Riesling – Vineland, Ontario ($14.95). Classic lemon-lime splashed on a limestone rock, with half the sugar content of Vineland’s Semi-Dry offering. —Michael Pinkus (MichaelPinkusWineReview) and TM|
|Yalumba The Y Series Viognier 2015 – South Australia ($13.95). From Australia’s oldest family-owned winery comes this floral, pale, tropical fruit-accented Viognier. Dry but luxuriant and really well rounded, with flavours including apricot, honeydew melon, anise and ginger. —TM|
|Ascheri Barbera d’Alba 2012 – Piedmont, Italy ($14.95). While it lacks the body for a big steak, this mid-weight Italian Barbera boasts a wonderful rich floral nose with sour cherry and a bit of cinnamon and a juicy texture. Nice match for tomato-based dishes. —TM|
|Banfi Centine Rosso – Tuscany, Italy ($15.95). Scrumptious cherry jam goes-with-anything characteristic to this fragrant, medium-bodied red blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. Lighter tannins and not too much oak let the fruit shine through. Not overly sophisticated but nothing to complain about here! —TM|
|Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap 2015 Syrah Mourvèdre Viognier – Western Cape, South Africa ($14). This plush, inky, full-bodied blend bursts with violets, herbs and ripe, dark currants, plum and black cherries and is silky smooth from the moment it hits your tongue. A little fruit forward, but there’s just enough oak to contain it all. —TM|
|Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 – Stellenbosch, South Africa ($11.95). A rich, dry, oaky, earthy medium to full-bodied cab with ripe black fruit flavours and rich fruit on mid-palate. Another whopper of a value. —TM|
|Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 – Western Cape, South Africa ($15.95). A lovely, complex, spicy, smoky cab that’s rich with a note of forest floor moss and subtle licorice hanging over dark cherry and blackcurrant. Great with ribs or steak. —TM|
|Cathedral Cellars Triptych Cabernet Blend 2013 – Western Cape, South Africa ($16.95). A kick-butt blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Shiraz, 13% Malbec, 8% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc. Velvety and richly layered with dark berries, dark chocolate, cassis and tobacco, with 16 months of French oak aging. One of my favourites on this list. —TM|
|Chateau des Charmes 2015 Gamay Noir ‘Droit’ – St. Davids, Ontario ($17.95). The 2014 Droit tied for Best Ontario Gamay at the 2016 Ontario Wine Awards…alongside the winery’s general list Gamay! No oak aging lets the character of this medium-bodied clone—unique to Chateau des Charmes—sing out. Floral, smoky, spicy with complex strawberry and cherry fruit, it’s a great summer BBQ wine. Don’t cellar it—drink it now! —TM|
|Clayhouse Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 – Paso Robles, California ($17). Paso Robles is building a reputation for its Cabs, including this velvety sustainably farmed offering, featuring accents of dark bing cherries, blackcurrants, cedar and sweet vanilla from winemaker Blake Kuhn, formerly of Toasted Head. —TTG reader favourite|
|Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carmenere 2014 – Chile ($13.95) . Notes of chocolate, tobacco leaf, tar, coffee and spice combine with earthy blackberry and raspberry flavours in this rich, medium-bodied Carmenère. —TM|
|Creekside 2013 Syrah – Jordan, Ontario ($15.95). Aromatic notes of white pepper, violets and plum, this wine won a silver medal at the National Wine Awards of Canada. —Michael Pinkus, MuchaelPinkusWineReview.com|
|Domaine De La Madone Le Perréon Beaujolais-Villages 2013 –Beaujolais, France ($15.95). A fruity and balanced medium-bodied wine framed by raspberry and red cherry tones with wonderful floral aromatics. A great entry into what Master Sommelier Brian McClintic considers the world’s most underrated wine region. —TM|
|Domaine des Terrisses Grande Tradition Gaillac 2012 – Duras Blend – Gaillac, France ($17.95). There’s no shortage of 90 and 91 ratings for this rich, full-bodied Southwestern France blend of Duras and Braucol, which is spiced up a bit with a splash of Syrah. Great dark, smoky fruit. —TM|
|Fantini Numero Uno Primativo 2015 – Puglia, Italy ($12.95). Italy’s Zinfandel, this Primativo features lots of plum skin on the nose, with notes of roasted marshmallow, blueberry and cherry. Nicely textured with soft tannins. Great pizza pairing. —TM|
|Graffigna Centennario Malbec 2011 – San Juan, Argentina ($13.95). A medalist at the 2015 World Decanter Wine Awards, this reliable Malbec features rich blackberries with notes of spice and coffee. One of my “go-to” reds for the price. —TM|
|Las Mulas 2015 Merlot Reserva – Central Valley, Chile ($12.95). Dense blackcurrant and cherry, a tad vanilla and a little earthy, this one punches way above its weight class, showing much more structure and maturity than its price would suggest. —TM|
|Mission Hill Five Vineyards Pinot Noir 2014 – Okanagan Valley, B.C. ($17.99). “This Pinot shows cherry, strawberry, anise, cassis and spice on the nose. There are earthy/bramble notes on the palate and lovely balance between the fruit, tannins and spice with added savoury notes on the finish.” —Rick VanSickle, WinesinNiagara.com|
|Pascual Toso 2014 Malbec – Mendoza, Argentina ($13.95). Robust and full bodied, yet quite sophisticated for the price, with a wonderfully complex nose of vibrant black cherry, blackberry, plum, cedar, herbs and earthiness. The finish is long, revealing touches of vanilla and smoky oak. —TM|
|Trius Cabernet Franc 2015 – Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario (winery only) ($14.95). Ripe currants and blackberry with notes of black tea and cocoa. Medium-bodied, this is a great value for Niagara’s favourite red varietal. —Michael Pinkus, MichaelPinkusWineReview|
|Vineland Cabernet Franc – Vineland, Ontario ($14.95). Featuring aromas of black fruit, dried herbs, plum and green pepper, this dry, well-structured medium-bodied wine boasts a long, lively finish. —TM|
|Wolf Blass 2015 Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon – South Australia ($16.95). Dry with soft tannins, notes of chocolate, blackcurrants and cassis and pronounced eucalyptus. The 2014 edition was a double gold medal winner at the 2016 San Francisco International Wine Competition. —Werner Defilla, Director of Hospitality, ClubLink|
|Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava – Northeast Spain ($14.95). “Made in the same method as Champagne, this crisp and attractive Cava is consistently enjoyable. Flavourful enough to enjoy on its own or with a meal. A best-value winner from InterVin 2016/17 and a failsafe entertaining wine for less than $15.”—Chris Waters, WatersAndWine.com|
|Villa Sandi “Il Fresco” Prosecco – Veneto, Italy ($14.95). Lemon, green and golden apples, mineral hints and wildflowers. Plenty of acidity. Almost Champagne-like it its smooth texture. —TM|
|Southbrook Framboise – Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario ($17.95). Decadent, explosive, fresh raspberry jubilee in your mouth. This 100% Ontario Royalty raspberry concoction is rich but with enough acidity and alcohol (13.5%) to want to sip it on its own. Or you could drizzle it over chocolate or ice cream, blend it with bubbly…your call! Serve chilled. —TM|