Home About Us Advertise Contact Us

Quick Search:
Advanced Search

A funny thing happens when you taste through thousands of wines each year: an unerring picture of quality comes into focus. Members of our tasting panel continually taste new wines from all over the world, looking for the best bottles to share with you. If it’s here, it’s captured our attention and our imagination. With these considered ratings, you’ll never again be flummoxed about which wine to buy.
Our ranking is based on a five-star rating system. The wines in this section were individually assessed and assigned a rating based on criteria that include: aromatics, flavour profile, balance, finesse, overall enjoyment and its relation to varietal characteristics from its region.

Great Wines
Wines Of Australia
Wines Of Canada
Wines Of France
Wines Of Italy
Wines Of New Zealand
Wines Of South Africa
Wines of The United States of America
View All Wines
Amanda Allison (AA)
Christopher Waters (CW)
Daenna Van Mulligen (DVM)
Michael Botner (MB)
Rod Philips (RP)
Vic Harradine (VH)

Wines of Australia

Anvers Wines 2008 Brabo Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz

South Australia, Australia $16.95 (686657)
There’s just a dash more Cabernet (50.1 percent) than Shiraz in this delicious blend. The flavours are layered and complex, well structured and consistent right through the palate. They’re carried on, and lifted by, a seam of fresh acidity, and the result is a texture that’s both smooth and refreshing. It’s dry and manageably tannic, and is a great choice for grilled lamb. (RP)

Penfolds Wines 2007 Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz

South Australia, Australia $40 (309625)
A multiregional blend that draws significantly from Coonawarra, McLaren Vale and Barossa, this reveals the firmness of Cabernet on the palate, with the fruity and decidedly meaty character of Shiraz hinted at in the background. Open now to enjoy the tempting primary expression or cellar to indulge in the earthy and otherworldly complexity that’s sure to develop in bottle. Drink now to 2020. (CW)

R Wines 2007 Luchador Shiraz

Australia $30 (168997)
The sister to this macho-looking Shiraz is a wine called Bitch Grenache that has an antithetical powder pink label and a juicy, sweet palate. The Luchador (Spanish for wrestler or fighter) on the other hand, presents black berries, dried cherry and mint aromas with lots of spice and dusty cocoa notes. Similar spiced fruit appears on the palate but more in a vibrant red berry form. It is earthy and spicy in the mouth with hints of leather and chocolate, smooth tannins linger on the finish. (DVM)

Rutherglen Estates 2007 Petit Sirah

Rutherglen, Victoria, Australia $19.90(179127)
It is usually written “Petite Sirah,” but either way, there’s nothing little about this wine. The flavours are dense, rich, and complex, and are complemented by a broad seam of acidity that contributes a refreshing juiciness to the texture. Dry and moderately tannic, it’s a good bet for lamb chops, grilled medium-rare. (RP)

St. Hallett Wines 2008 Gamekeeper’s Shiraz-Grenache

Barossa Valley, Australia $15 (532176)
This easy drinking blend offers aromas of ripe blackberries and cherries, eucalyptus and chocolate, fragrant violets and cola spices. The palate is supple and juicy with abundant berry fruit, licorice and cedar flavours followed with a smooth, spicy finish. (DVM)

Wines of Canada

Black Hills Estate Winery 2008 Nota Bene

Okanagan Valley, Canada $53
One of British Columbia’s icon wines, Nota Bene has virtually become more famous than its maker Black Hills. There is no doubt this wine deserves praise for its power and concentration, but also for its consistency. Made from Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with 11 percent Cabernet Franc, the 2008 reflects its Cabernet roots with potent cassis and green olive aromas layered with spice box, dark plums and tobacco leaf. The palate is supple with lush black fruit, mocha and plenty of spice. It is nicely balanced and smooth across the finish.blackhillswinery.com (DVM)

Road 13 Vineyards 2009 Honest John’s White

Okanagan Valley, Canada $17 (601070)
Winemaker Michael Bartier has outdone himself with this Riesling dominant blend, which also contains Kerner, Gewürztraminer, Schoenberger, Müller-Thurgau and Pinot Gris. It is shamelessly aromatic offering lychee, stone fruit and tangerine peel notes, honey and apples, exotic blossoms and ginger. The palate is slick, and nicely weighted on the tongue with a slightly sweet but nicely balanced with mouth-watering acidity. Expect nice concentration and a long, pristine finish. road13vineyards.com (DVM)

Oliver Twist Estate Winery 2008 Syrah

Okanagan Valley, Canada $27.90
This super Syrah shows that there is a serious side to Oliver Twist. Its sweetly seductive nose suggests blackcurrant/cherry jam on toasted cinnamon and raisin bread. The lush palate is richly textured, revealing black berry jam, coconut, coffee bean, mixed spice and toast. Good acidity and lightly peppery tannins balance the sweetness of the concentrated fruit. Cellar for two to three years or serve with grilled steak, wild boar or duck. olivertwistwinery.com (MB)

Tawse Winery 2008 Cherry Avenue Pinot Noir Estate Bottled

Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada $57.95
Produced from a two-acre parcel at the winery, the Cherry Avenue bottling is the richest and deepest of Tawse’s 2008 Pinots. This has a dense, intense earthy aroma, a lovely core of cherry fruit and considerable length. It boasts surprising concentration and a supple, sublime texture that is more flattering than the massive 2007 vintage. This ranks as an exceptional expression of Niagara Pinot Noir. Outstanding in its youth, its flavour will only become more expansive and complex given more time in bottle. 525 cases. tawsewinery.ca (CW)

Bonitas Winery 2007 Limited Artist Series Pinot Noir

Okanagan Valley, Canada $40
This elegant Pinot Noir boasts a surprisingly dark colour. Its aroma suggests subtly sweet notes, such as black cherry, plum, earth, dark chocolate and charred wood. The wine’s silky texture cushions the bold flavour profile, which showcases black cherry/plum fruit, tomato puree, light toast and vanilla. Good acidity makes this a great food wine. Try it with chicken or pasta in a sundried tomato sauce. bonitaswinery.com (CW)

Burrowing Owl Estate Winery 2009 Pinot Gris

Okanagan Valley, Canada $20
Pinot Gris was the first wine I drank from the Burrowing Owl vineyards and it rarely disappoints. Expect aromas of pear compote and ripe peaches with layers of exotic flowers, vanilla, citrus and honey. On the palate the same pleasing fruit, vanilla and citrus reappear bound in a creamy texture with brisk acidity. Pair this wine with creamy mushroom dishes or seafood. bovwine.ca (DVM)

Cave Spring Cellars 2007 Cabernet Franc Estate Bottled

Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada $39.95 (072751)
This single vineyard red showcases the fragrant and spicy personality of Cabernet Franc. The aroma suggests a complex and interesting mix of spice, floral and ripe berry/cherry fruit notes. On the palate, this medium-bodied and nicely layered wine is wonderfully rich and flavourful. The brightness and mineral character add interest to the generous core of red fruit and savoury flavours. This would benefit from an additional two or three years in bottle before opening and should develop through 2016. cavespring.ca (CW)

Fielding Estate Winery 2007 Chosen Few

Niagara Peninsula, Canada $74.95 (343772)
Chosen FEW is an artfully managed blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah, sourced from four Niagara vineyards. An individual barrel selection — the chosen ones, if you will — this reserve wine represents the pinnacle of red winemaking at Fielding from the 2007 vintage. Bottled unfiltered, this layered and complex red wine is well balanced with freshness, minerality, and currant, cherry and cedar notes. Chosen FEW finishes sinewy and dry at present, but the fruit sweetness emerges the longer the wine lingers in the glass. It promises to evolve gracefully over the next five to seven years. 150 cases. fieldingwine.com (CW)

Fielding Estate Winery 2007 Meritage

Niagara Peninsula, Canada $59.95
Richie Roberts’ best reds from his first vintage at Fielding Estate are only just coming to market, having had the opportunity to develop and integrate gracefully in barrel and bottle. As a result, this Merlot-dominant blend is appealing and approachable right from the start. Obvious oak-derived spice and coffee notes add winning complexity to the concentrated plummy fruit on the nose and palate. The oak also adds focus and enhances the structure of this stylish wine that will drink nicely for the next four to six years. fieldingwines.com (CW)

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery 2007 Speck Family Reserve Cabernet-Merlot

Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada $50 (616433)
Veteran winemaker Ron Giesbrecht has a knack for turning out stellar examples of cool climate wine from Niagara in any given vintage. During his long tenure at the winemaking helm at Henry of Pelham, he’s proved himself to be especially adept at taking advantage of truly great red wine vintages like 2007. His wines are never flashy, but always compelling and extremely well made. This flagship red successfully blends Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. In the glass, it reveals captivating ripe character with impressive complexity and firm structure. Drink 2012 to 2020. henryofpelham.com (CW)

Hollywood & Wine Estate Vineyards 2008 Three Amigos

Okanagan Valley, Canada $23.10 (841064)
There’s surprising finesse in this blend of organically grown grape varieties, predominantly composed of Leon Millot with Merlot and Zweigelt. Three Amigos is unfiltered and lightly oaked with an intriguing nose featuring aromas of cherry, plum, pepper, Tootsie Roll candy, saddle leather and smoky oak. Cellar two to three years or enjoy now with grilled lamb or beef. (MB)

Lailey Vineyard 2008 Syrah

Niagara River, Niagara Peninsula, Canada $27
Lailey Vineyard winemaker Derek Barnett unapologetically makes wines he likes to drink, perhaps none more so than this meaty and complex Syrah. The funky assortment of peppery spice, smoked meat, rubber and plummy ripe fruit aromas echo the sort of beastly and beautiful notes you’ll find in Syrahs from the northern Rhône. The palate is eagerly exotic and esoteric, with full-on peppery character and a ruby grapefruit-esque acidity. It’s a bold and distinctive wine that merits two years in the cellar before you even consider opening and enjoying. laileyvineyard.com (CW)

Mission Hill Family Estate 2007 Select Lot Collection Syrah

Okanagan Valley, Canada $36.99 (803650)
This exciting model of Syrah makes the most of its impressive ripe character and smooth, seamless texture. Unmistakable savoury notes of black pepper and smoked meat complement the abundant dark fruit notes on the nose and palate. An all-encompassing sense of polish and elegance add greatly to the appeal. Highly recommended. Drink now to 2014. missionhillwinery.com (CW)

Reif Estate Winery 2007 First Growth Cabernet Sauvignon

Niagara River, Niagara Peninsula, Canada $50 (564195)
This 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a specially tended plot of Reif’s Niagara-on-the-Lake estate vineyard and was aged for more than two years in a combination of French and Hungarian oak. The resulting wine is serious and structured. Its initial earthy and spicy character opens to reveal generous plum and dark fruit, with youthful tannins evident on the lingering finish. This is best enjoyed after decanting for two hours or more, or given three to five years in the cellar. 200 cases. reifwinery.ca (CW)

Reif Estate Winery 2007 First Growth Cabernet Merlot

Niagara River, Niagara Peninsula, Canada $50
You really sense what Merlot brings to the blend when you taste this juicy and developed Cabernet Merlot alongside Reif’s more serious and savoury First Growth Cabernet. A 50/50 blend, the Cabernet Merlot is more fragrant and distinctly fleshier on the palate, with attractive chocolate, dark fruit and spice notes. It’s big, but not a blockbuster. Drink now to 2016. 200 cases. reifwinery.ca (CW)

Seven Stones Winery 2008 Row 128 Merlot

Similkameen Valley, Canada $25 (241166)
This concentrated Merlot has heaps of plum and black fruit aromas, spice box, chocolate, green olive and toasted oak with a hint of jalapeno. Similar black fruit, bittersweet chocolate and charred oak flavours cross your palate with sun baked soil, tobacco leaf and spice. It is an intensely flavoured wine with a dark, earthy finish. sevenstones.ca (DVM)

Peller Estates Winery 2007 Signature Series Cabernet Sauvignon

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Canada $38
This attractive and juicy Cabernet Sauvignon comes from a single estate vineyard located just outside of the town of Virgil. Made in a generous New World style, this ripe and round red counters its terrific concentration of fruit with judicious lashings of vanilla and toast character from its time in the barrel cellar. It’s seamless and integrated — ready to drink whenever you are. peller.com (CW)

Tinhorn Creek Vineyards 2009 Gewürztraminer

Okanagan Valley, Canada $17
This fresh, crisp Gewürztraminer is a patio staple. It presents fragrant aromas of rose oil and pink grapefruit with sweet tropical fruit and honey/vanilla notes. It is mouth-watering on the palate with bright sweet citrus flavours and a fresh, spicy finish. A wine that pairs well with pulled pork or mildly spiced dishes. tinhorn.com (DVM)

Casa-Dea Estates Winery 2008 Cabernet Franc

Prince Edward County, Canada $18.95
This simple, effective expression of Cabernet Franc should be the model for Prince Edward County. The stylish cool climate character of the variety is revealed through the floral and tobacco notes on the nose and palate, but the joy comes from the bright cherry and berry fruit expression on the palate. Elegantly pitched, this wine is unassuming and authentic — a great introduction to the new direction at Casa-Dea. casadeaestates.com (CW)

Generations Wine Co. 2009 Union White

Ontario, Canada $13.95 (197145)
Ontario producers to craft the Union wines. The idea is to create red and white blends of the grapes that perform best in the province. The tangy and aromatic white is the superior of the two. A union of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewürztraminer and Chardonnay, this offers a burst of spicy, floral and herbaceous notes. It’s a flavourful wine that’s best enjoyed by itself. unionwines.com (CW)

The Good Earth Food and Wine Co. 2008 The Good Wine Cabernet Franc

Ontario, Canada $18 (314419)
The rustic character and gutsy charm of this plummy and spicy red begs the description “gluggable”. It strikes me as the classic French bistro red, only it’s a single vineyard Cabernet Franc produced at an estate in Beamsville, Ontario by a winemaker from the south island of New Zealand. Nevertheless, its flavourful nature boasts a certain joie de vivre that’s amplified by serving slightly chilled, in a juice jar or wine tumbler with a ready supply of olives, spiced nuts and other delicacies to snack on. goodearthfoodandwine.com (CW)

Malivoire 2009 Gamay

Niagara Peninsula, Canada $17.95
A zippy little wine that’s bursting with energy, this shows what Niagara Gamay has to offer. This scarlet coloured, organic wine is rich and fruity with spicy and earthy undertones. Medium-bodied with juicy cherry, plum and a refreshing acidity especially apparent on the finish, this wine goes down easy and only improves the next day. Pair with almost anything, from cheese and charcuterie nibbles to turkey dinner. malivoire.com (AA)

Malivoire Wine Co. 2008 Pinot Noir

Niagara Escarpment, Niagara Peninsula, Canada $22.95
A new label for Malivoire’s portfolio, the Escarpment Pinot blends estate grown fruit with small percentages from the Hughes and Mottiar vineyards. This elegant and restrained model of Pinot exhibits earthy and spice aromas. The palate reveals red cherry and cedar flavours that should plump up given more time in bottle. Drink over the next two to four years. malivoire.com (CW)

Organized Crime Estate Winery 2008 Cabernet Franc

Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada $34
Winemaker Andre Lipinski continues his winning way with Cabernet Franc with this expressive and fragrant red produced with fruit from the Organized Crime estate on Mountainview Road. The nose is marked with more savoury herbal and tobacco notes than red fruit. This is more interesting on the palate, which offers bright red fruit character and a sumptuous, smooth texture. The texture will become even silkier with age as the wine’s apparent acidity moderates over time. organizedcrimewine.com (CW)

Reif Estate Winery 2009 Steven and Chris Trend Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio

Niagara Peninsula, Canada $13.95 (197913)
Design mavericks and television personalities Steven Sabados and Chris Hyndman are the latest celebrities to launch a vanity wine label in Ontario. The design duo teamed up with Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Reif Estate to create the extension of popular home decor line, S&C Collection. The Chardonnay-Pinot Grigio blend is more stylish and polished than the S&C red offering. Look for pleasing citrus, pear and melon notes. reifwinery.com (CW)

Road 13 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

Okanagan Valley, Canada $25.99 (897629)
This is the last release of Cabernet Sauvignon from Road 13, as they direct focus onto the new red blend Rockpile. It’s sad to see this refreshingly different Cab Sauvignon go. Its deep, savoury nose with underlying dark cherry and plum leads into a smooth, full-bodied palate with spice (think chili flakes and paprika) and melted cocoa flavours. This wine has plenty of oomph and will continue to come together over a few more years. Get it before it’s gone. road13vineyards.com (AA)

Wines of France

Château du Juge 2008

Bordeaux, France $16.95
This lovely white Bordeaux — 90 percent Sauvignon Blanc and 10 percent Semillon from old vines — delivers crisp acidity and well-modulated, complex flavours. The components harmonize very successfully, making this an excellent choice for grilled white fish, seafood or steamed mussels. (RP)

Jeanjean 2006 Devois des Agneaux d’Aumelas

Côteaux du Languedoc, Languedoc, France $24 (402586)
Made primarily from Syrah with the addition of 25 percent Grenache, here is a wine that shows impressive complexity and power. Expect aromas of mixed cherries and red berry, spiced cocoa and notes of wild mint and rosemary, saddle leather and dusty minerality. It has nicely balanced acidity on the palate, juicy red fruit and spice box flavours with layers of pepper and garrigue (wild herbs and scrub). The finish is long and firm with trailing flavours of spice and tobacco. (DVM)

Ogier 2007 Crozes-Hermitage Les Brunnelles

Rhône Valley, France $25 (485250)
Here is a firm, structured Syrah from the northern Rhône that has savoury aromas of grilled red peppers, dried herbs, leather, mineral and pepper. Sweet, sun-warmed berries lead the palate layered with spice and earthy flavours. It has a lovely, long finish with soft tannins. (DVM)

Lanson Rose Label Brut Rosé NV

Champagne, France $65.15 (094458)
Pinot Meunier. Lanson avoids malolactic fermentation (a process which converts tart malic acid into buttery lactic acid), which keeps this bubbly fresh and fruity. Nicely balanced with interesting layers of honey, red fruit and spicy notes, this well-priced Champagne would be warmly received at even the most everyday of celebrations. (AA)

Ogier 2007 Côtes du Rhône

Heritages Rhône Valley, France $18 (535849)
This blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre is a perfect example of the southern Rhône’s ability to produce quality wines with ripe fruit and complexity at an appealing price. There is obvious mixed berry, wild herbs, saddle leather and spice on the nose but it leaps onto the palate with sweet blueberry and raspberry flavours, vanilla and spice flavours – notably star anise and clove – pepper and berries linger on the finish. It is a bright, supple wine that will pair well with rich mushroom dishes or firm, dry goat cheese. (DVM)

William Fèvre 2007 Champs Royaux Chablis

Burgundy, France $22.10 (276436 )
This terrific Chardonnay from acclaimed Chablis producer William Fèvre delivers richness and intensity in turns. I love the lime zest burst of acidity that energizes the taste buds, making this a great match for grilled salmon or pork chops. The 2008 vintage, which is available in some stores, is equally impressive. (CW)

Chateau Bonnet 2008 Entre-Deux Mers

Bordeaux, France $13.95 (083709)
This pretty blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion and Muscadelle is an approachable intro to white Bordeaux. An elegant Sauvignon Blanc-heavy nose leads into a soft and light-bodied palate where lemon, grapefruit and green apple flavours abound. A lovely sipper on its own, it will also pair well with a dinner-sized salad made from the last days of the local farmer’s market. (AA)

Lulu B 2008 Shiraz

Vin de Pays D’Oc, France $13 (389155)
This is simple, everyday table wine with aromas of smoke, blackberries and chocolate with hints of vanilla, cedar and licorice. It has a smooth texture and earthy flavours layered with chocolate and spice followed by fine lingering tannins. (DVM)

Wines of Italy

Vini Pasqua 2007 Villa Borghetti Passimento Rosso

Veneto, Italy $15 (690420)
The Rosso delle Venezie is made from Corvina, Croatina and Merlot grapes that have been partially dried prior to fermentation, giving more intensity to each grape as the water inside it evaporates. It is a rustic wine of scorched earth, intense fruit, patchouli and spice aromas. The palate is smooth and concentrated with layered with sweet berries, chocolate and earthy flavours. It has lifted acidity and a long finish trailing toasted spice flavours. Pair with robust tomato-based dishes, hard cheeses and roasted meats. (DVM)

Carlo Pellegrino 2008 Cent’Are Nero d’Avola

Sicily, Italy $13 (546192)
This uncomplicated and rustic wine is made from Sicily’s most important red grape, Nero d’Avola. It expresses earthy and savoury aromas of black fruit, leather and tobacco with a core of char-grill and smoked meat. The palate echoes the aromas. It has spicy fruit, tobacco and dry earthy flavours with loads of acidity and fine firm tannins on the finish. A wine made for rich pastas or a platter of salami and hard cheese. (DVM)

Wines of New Zealand

Wither Hills Vineyards 2009 Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc

Marlborough, New Zealand $19 (493619)
A bouquet of sweet grass clippings, nettle, passionfruit and golden kiwi, citrus and mineral notes. It has a lovely, almost slick texture, that’s tangy, lively and chock-full of fruit with layers of sweet pea shoots, jalapeno and lemon and a long, zesty finish. A lip-smacking wine that is delicious with warm goat cheese salads or fresh seafood. (DVM)

C.J. Pask Winery 2007 Roy’s Hill Merlot/Cabernet

Hawkes Bay, New Zealand $14.95 (182048)
This is an attractive Merlot-led blend from a region known for Merlot above all. The flavours are ripe and layered, persistent from attack to finish and a seam of clean, fresh acidity paces them. A smooth texture and ripe, easygoing tannins complete the package. (RP)

Wines of South Africa

Ayama Wines 2009 Viognier

Paarl, South Africa $12.95 (179093)
You could hold this for a while, but I suggest enjoying it while it shows such vibrant fruit and texture. Look for quite rich and concentrated flavours here, with good complexity and definition. The texture and weight are very attractive and a broad seam of acidity makes for a refreshing mouthful and a clean finish. Drink it with spicy seafood or chicken dishes. (RP)

The Beach House 2009 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon

Western Cape, South Africa $11 (120972)
The Beach House is a good everyday white that offers nice value. It is fresh and light-bodied with peachy notes, citrus, sweet grass and a hint of vanilla on the nose. The palate has a slight tickle with nice crisp, white fruit and citrus flavours. It’s a simple sipper for the patio or will pair well with fresh shellfish and summer salads. (DVM)

Wines of the United States

Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 2007 Karia Chardonnay

Napa Valley, California, United States $38.95 (054585)
Karia comes from a Greek word meaning graceful, which underscores the philosophy behind the making of this ripe and refreshing expression of Napa Chardonnay. Nicely balanced with terrific fruit intensity, this reveals a core of citrussy fruit and caramel and a long, vitalizing finish. (CW)

Rodney Strong Vineyards 2008 Chalk Hill Chardonnay

Sonoma Coast, United States $27 (275552)
This is an elegant Sonoma Chardonnay with lovely aromas of sweet Bosc pears and Gala apples, vanilla and toasted oak with light spice and mineral notes. The palate is seamlessly layered with creamy tree fruit, mineral and toast bound with bright acidity. It is a complete and balanced white with a long, spiced finish. Fantastic. (DVM)

Mer Soleil Vineyard 2008 Silver

Santa Lucia Highlands/Monterey, United States $35 (251066)
Charlie Wagner enjoys his tequila as much as he does his wine to the extent that he makes two products, Silver and Gold, to be similar in style to the agave liquor. Silver is 100 percent Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay that is made in concrete vats, with no oak contact. In a brilliant marketing move, Wagner is releasing the 2008 vintage in gorgeous, weighty grey ceramic bottles that represent the vats where the wine is made. It is surprisingly gold in colour with rich, caramel and leesy notes woven with honeysuckle, mineral citrus, melon and pineapple. The palate is rounded and creamy with tropical fruit and melon but layered with crisp citrus flavours and followed by a long bright, lightly spiced finish. (DVM)

Conundrum 2008

California, United States $28 (390831)
This proprietary blend of white grape varieties (Muscat, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and others) set the stage for the multitude of eclectic white blends that have followed. Conundrum is not only aromatic but also a delicious match with spicy foods, fish or cheese. The 2008 releases aromas of honey, stone and tropical fruits, white raisin and warm spices. The palate is lush and creamy with plenty of ripe fruit, honey and citrus peel flavours, it has loads of lively acidity and a long, spicy finish. (DVM)

The Hess Collection 2008 Select Chardonnay

Monterey, United States $22 (335802)
This Chardonnay is made in a full-blown ripe and buttery version. On the nose, obvious butterscotch and warm spice dominate with pineapple and exotic citric notes. The caramel continues on the palate with a mix of sweet spice (notably star anise and clove), vanilla, tropical fruit and citrus flavours with toasted oak holding firm on the finish. Lively acidity keeps it bright and allows this wine to pair suitably with grilled fish with pineapple salsa or creamy pastas. (DVM)

Great Wines

Penfolds 2005 Grange

South Australia, Australia $425 (336388)
The 2005 Grange faces the challenge of following in the wake of the 2004 vintage that ranks as one of the all-time greats. That said, the 2005 reminds how powerful and complex Grange can be in its classic expression. Restrained and savoury at present, you can sense its richness, balance and concentration. The multilayered and beautiful character will be revealed in time. Drink 2017 to 2030.

Southbrook Vineyards 2007 Whismy! Cabernet Franc

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Canada $34.95
Southbrook’s Whismy label showcases small batch wines that the winemaking team were particularly proud of, such as this expressive, aromatic Cabernet Franc. Ripe cherry and cassis fruit on the nose is accented by dusty/cedary notes. The palate is tight and restrained at present and shows classic cool climate acidity, which suggest the best days for this richly polished and refreshing Cabernet lay ahead. southbrook.com

Creekside Estate Winery 2007 Undercurrents Uber Sauvignon Blanc

Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Canada $34.95
Inspired by Cloudy Bay’s otherworldly Te Koko, Creekside has been pushing small batches of Sauvignon Blanc to the extreme. This barrel-fermented Sauvignon Blanc is powerful and wildly funky on the nose and palate. Its upfront oak and sweaty aroma is rounded out by grilled pineapple and tropical fruit notes. Not for everyone, but fans of exotic and extreme white wines take note. creeksidewine.com

Stolpman Vineyards 2007 Hilltops Syrah

Santa Ynez, California, United States $59.95
This exciting, age-worthy model of California Syrah offers an impressive fragrant and plushly textured expression of the grape. A vineyard selection of estate grown fruit, the Hilltops Syrah is a notch or two up from Stolpman’s impressive Estate Syrah. Look for striking, ripe dark fruit on the nose and palate, which is nicely offset by complex smoke and floral notes. Best after 2012.

Wolf Blass Wines 2007 Platinum Label Shiraz

Barossa Valley, Australia $99.95
Even in a challenging vintage like 2007, this rich, powerful and concentrated Shiraz effectively hits the Wolf Blass house style. The new Platinum Label showcases its classic spicy and plummy character. It’s gloriously ripe and intense on the palate, which is the hallmark of Wolf Blass wines at every price point, but has wonderful balance to bring all that bold character to a clean, refreshing finish.

Jim Barry Wines 2006 McRae Wood Shiraz

Clare Valley, Australia $54.95 (737817)
There’s no disputing the supremacy of The Armagh Shiraz, but Jim Barry’s McCrae Wood Shiraz stands out as the emotional favourite of the portfolio. The name alludes to the founder’s purchase of land from Duncan McRae Wood to plant his first Shiraz vineyard. In exceptional vintages, like 2006, it holds more than mere sentimental appeal. It’s a rival to The Armagh in both complexity and character.