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waters on wine

Serious goodies continue to turn up on liquor store shelves as the festive season approaches including flash Italian and blue-chip French labels that are sure to delight collectors and enthusiasts alike. The cavalcade of cult and collectible wines during the waning weeks of the year is to be expected, but what’s new is how noteworthy Canadian producers are featured prominently alongside these elite bottles.

The holiday circular from the Liquor Control Board of Ontario calls attention to the latest releases of iconic wines, such as Guado al Tasso, Solaia and Ornellaia from the celebrated 2018 vintage in Tuscany, that are sure to be snapped up quickly. It also gives space to current releases of Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon, Stratus Red, Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir, Westcott Estate Chardonnay among others, as well as earmarking selections of top-quality Canadian sparkling wines.

This increased attention to domestic wines certainly plays to the growing interest in shopping for locally made goods, but it’s also a statement being made by liquor store buyers. While Burrowing Owl and Le Clos Jordanne might not be mentioned in the same reverent tones as Solaia and Ornellaia or command the same $475.95 or $249.95 prices, respectively, from Ontario consumers, a growing number of homegrown wines have earned their place amongst the world’s finest producers.

With that in mind, here are some suggestions of wines to reach for or click and buy. These come in styles that are suitable for gift giving or spreading goodwill if you’re entertaining over the coming weeks. Many also are solid options to buy now and enjoy later if you have or are looking to establish a wine collection at home.

13th Street Premier Cuvée Sparkling 2015 (Canada), $39.95

Rating:93 /100

Made in a rich and refreshing style, 13th Street’s vintage sparkling wine is a blend of chardonnay and pinot noir that gains appealing nutty and toasty notes from four years spent aging on its lees prior to being disgorged. This is a classic expression of traditional method sparkling wine. Drink now to 2026. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct through

Bonanza Cabernet Sauvignon (United States), $27.95

Rating:86 /100

Made in the soft, syrupy and succulent style that continues to be fashionable in California, Bonanza is a multivintage blend that’s built to be consumer friendly. Fans love this full-bodied style of wine. Traditional wine lovers not so much. Mocha, spice and smoke notes add complexity to the core of sweet fruit flavours, but there’s a lack of elegance and harmony overall. Drink now. Available in Ontario at the above price, $34.99 in British Columbia, various prices in Alberta, $33.99 in Saskatchewan, $25.99 in Manitoba, $28.15 in Quebec, $32.99 in New Brunswick, $31.97 in Newfoundland.

Cap Royal Rouge 2018 (France), $18.95

Rating:90 /100

Cap Royal is a blend of merlot and cabernet sauvignon from Bordeaux that makes for a complex red wine with a smooth texture and inviting character. This is integrated and inviting now but is sure to develop well for those looking to stock the cellar. Drink now to 2026. Vegan-friendly. Available in Ontario.

Carmel Road Chardonnay 2019 (United States), $21.99

Rating:88 /100

Produced in Monterey, Calif., this unoaked chardonnay offers vibrant citrus and peach fruit flavours with a creamy texture and crisp finish. It’s an appealing style to enjoy with or without a meal. Drink now. Available in B.C. at the above price, various prices in Alberta, $23.95 in Quebec, $30 in New Brunswick.

Faust Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 2018 (United States), $59.95

Rating:92 /100

This bold, fragrant and flavourful cabernet sauvignon is made with grapes grown in Oakville and Rutherford as well as Faust’s Coombsville estate in the Napa Valley. A full-bodied red with vibrant character, this offers a mix of concentrated dark fruit, licorice and clove notes. Attractive balance and length. Drink now to 2028. Available in Ontario at the above price or direct, sold as a case of six bottles through

Ferraton Père & Fils Le Parvis Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2018 (France), $56.95

Rating:92 /100

Le Parvis is a stylish take on the classic Châteauneuf-du-Pape blend of grenache, syrah and mourvèdre. Aged in concrete to focus attention on the fruity intensity, this is a wine with silky texture and a dense core of red fruit favours. Generous and refreshing in style, this is approachable now but is bound to gain more depth and character with more time in bottle. Drink now to 2033. Available in Ontario.

Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir 2019 (Canada), $45

Rating:94 /100

The 2019 vintage contributed to the ripe and refreshing character of Le Grand Clos Pinot Noir, made from a single vineyard in Jordan, Ont. There’s a pleasing mix of red and black fruit with some lavender and spice accents that promise to develop in the cellar. This is nicely structured, which makes for an enticing pinot noir. Drink now to 2032. Available in Ontario at the above price or $44.95 direct through, $45.75 in Quebec.

Nautilus Chardonnay 2018 (New Zealand), $32.99

Rating:90 /100

A rich and rewarding chardonnay from Marlborough, this effectively balances a creamy texture and concentrated flavours with vibrant green apple acidity, which carries through to a refreshing finish. The generous character is best enjoyed with a meal. Drink now to 2023. Available in B.C.

Red Barn at Jagged Rock Lost Art Semillon 2020 (Canada), $30

Rating:92 /100

The latest project from the Von Mandl Family Estates group of wineries in the Okanagan Valley, Red Barn works with grapes grown on the company’s certified organic Jagged Rock Vineyard on the Black Sage Bench. This small-batch semillon was fermented and aged in concrete to preserve the fruity intensity of the wine while adding some richness to the texture. Drink now to 2024. Available direct through

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