November 20 , 2009




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

Michael Vaughan’s November 20th Update
A Great Gourmet Food & Wine Expo

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

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

They start for as little as $7.95 for the Alandra Red (89961). Move over Fuzion, this delicious, ready-to-drink blend of Moreto, Castelão and Trincadeira has juicy, bright, plummy-strawberry flavours that are a heck of a lot more appealingthan the more expensive 2009 nouveau/novello wines tasted last Tuesday. It’s made by Herdade do Esporao and is my oak-free contender for the best value red quaffer of the year!

a value award winner!

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

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

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

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

Champagne Lover ’s Best Kept Secret

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended *+
Restaurant Friendly • Great by the Glass

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To sign up for the trade event click here.

Coming Up:

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

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

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


Click Here to View

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

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

Click Here to View

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

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

click here to see

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

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

August 29th Vintages Release

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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