Ottawa Magazine wine writer David Lawrason says this international selection of more expensive $25-to-$50 wines is fine to give as gifts, either to wine lovers intent on building up their cellars or to good friends who enjoy a fine bottle.
Cloudy Bay 2012 Sauvignon Blanc
$29.95 / Marlborough, New Zealand / 93 points
This is a very intense, complex, nervy young sauvignon blanc. But for all its exuberance, it retains a nice sense of control and rigidity. The nose sparks immediately with passion fruit, pepper, nettle, celery, wasabi, and grapefruit rind. It’s mid-weight and crisp, yet juicy, with a firm, dry, almost mineral finish. Outstanding length. Vintages Essentials 304469.
Sonoma-Cutrer 2010 Chardonnay
$26.95 / Russian River Valley, California / 89 points
The cool Russian River is a hot zone for winemakers who draw chardonnay inspiration from Burgundy, France. This one has complex, if subdued, peat smoke, toasted almond, pear, butter, and lemony flavours in a crisp yet generous texture. Very stylish, fairly slim, and long, with a mineral edge common to this region. Vintages Essentials 608653.
Masi 2008 Costasera Amarone Della Valpolicella
$39.95 / Veneto, Italy / 92 points
There is a lovely freshness, poise, and fragrance that is quite different from the usual thick, warm, and raisiny expectation of amarone. Expect lovely mulberry fruit, spice, marzipan, and perfume. It is full-bodied, dense, and warm, with terrific tautness, minerality, and spice. Drinkable now but will cellar through the decade. Decant 60 minutes. Pair with hard cheeses, roasted chestnuts. LCBO 317057.
Stag’s Leap 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon
$49.95 / Napa Valley, California / 92 points
This is a great addition to the LCBO’s continuous availability list. It’s a deep cabernet, sturdy yet refined, with a piercing, pure nose of blackcurrant, sage, evergreen, coffee, and just a wisp of tobacco smoke. It’s full-bodied, dense, smooth yet feisty, and tannic on the finish. The focus and length are excellent. Age it three years. Best 2015 to 2020 and beyond. Vintages Essentials 996405.
Castelgiocondo 2006 Brunello Di Montalcino
$49.95 / Tuscany, Italy / 91 points
Brunello is the traditional kingpin of Tuscan reds, aged long in barrel, which explains the older vintages now on the market. This one is hitting prime time, with sweet chestnut purée, dried berry fruit, leather, and anise all nicely integrated. It’s medium- to full-bodied and smooth, with gentle, dry tannin and lots of flavour depth. Drink now to 2017. A great mature red for the Sunday roast. Vintages Essentials 650432.
Muga 2008 Rioja Reserva
$23.95 / Rioja, Spain / 91 points
This delicious, elegant red offers a heady, wood-driven nose of cedar, tobacco, roasted chestnuts, and meaty notes atop ripe cherry fruit. It’s medium- to full-bodied, dense, and streamlined, with a great acid core through the rich fruit. It’s also smooth, with refined tannin, some warmth, and bitter dark chocolate and meatiness on the finish. A lamb classic. Vintages Essentials 177345.
$45.00 / Okanagan Valley, British Columbia / 91 points
Osoyoos-Larose is an iconic B.C. red from a joint venture between Constellation wines and Groupe Taillan from France. Based on merlot and cabernet sauvignon, it is substantial, complex, and age-worthy, with a ripe, complex nose of well-integrated chocolate, fig, berry, and leather. It’s full-bodied, with lots of depth and power although still youthfully tannic. Best 2014 to 2020 and beyond. Vintages Essentials 626325.
Wolf Blass 2009 Grey Label Shiraz Cabernet
$27.20 / Robe Mountain-Benson, South Australia / 91 points
From newer regions of South Australia near Coonawarra, this new Wolf Blass blend pours dark ruby-purple. It has a very fragrant, pure nose of blackcurrants, eucalyptus, dark chocolate, and tobacco — all very nicely harmonized. It’s full-bodied and rich, but not thick and soupy thanks to decent acidity. The tannins are quite fine, so enjoy it now through 2017. LCBO 261487.
Château Pipeau 2009 Saint Émilion
$35.95 / Bordeaux, France / 90 points
This new listing is a very fragrant, toasty, roasted coffee interpretation of bordeaux, yet the ripeness of the blackberry fruit in this hot year hangs in. There is also classic bordeaux cedar, graphite, and black licorice. It’s medium- to full-bodied and quite rich, svelte, and poised, with fine tannin and a touch of alcohol. Decant 30 minutes. Best 2013 to 2017. Vintages Essentials 302018.
Esporão 2009 Reserva Red
$25.95 / Alentejo, Portugal / 90 points
This rich, savoury, and soft blend of local grapes from the hot plains of southern Portugal brims with sweet baked plum/ black cherry embedded in leathery, chocolaty, and herbal notes. It’s full-bodied and plush, with just enough juicy acidity and alcohol warmth. The rich fruit and oak hit excellent length. Best 2013 to 2018. Vintages Essentials 606590.