Cheers! from around the world:

Croatian Živjeli / Nazdravlje
Dutch Proost
French Santé / A la votre
German Prost / Zum wohl
Hungarian Egészségedre
Irish Gaelic Sláinte
Italian Salute / Cin cin
Japanese Kanpai
Polish Na Zdrowie
Portugese Saúde
Serbian živeli
Spanish Salud
Yiddish Sei gesund

100 POINT SCALE

95-100 = Outstanding
90-94 = Excellent
85-89 = Very Good
80-84 = Good
75-79 = Drinkable
70 & under = Below average

Around this time of year, my voicemail, email inbox, Facebook messages, and numerous other forms of social media connection methods start to overflow. Why? Well, after 15 years of teaching wine classes to professionals and wine lovers alike, their fancy starts to turn to holiday wine buying, and they seek guidance. Before giving my advice, I always ask two questions. The first is how much they wish to spend. The second is for what occasion.   It is at this point that I envision a ‘deer in the headlights’ reaction as they slowly realize that there are many holiday purchasing scenarios. With this in mind, here are my top selections, for different occasions, at different price points.

Turkey Dinner
87 Palatine Hills 1812 Chardonnay 2012, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($12.20)
This wine really over delivers for its price tag. There is pineapple, peach, apple and a touch of vanilla in this smooth little Chardonnay. You will also find a touch of sugar on the finish which will work well with the sweeter trimming such as yams, roasted vegetables, corn and stuffing. (ES)

87 Salton Classic Cabernet Franc, Brazil ($12.95)
Here is a delightful surprise from Brazil! Cassis, blackberry, dark cherry, smokey tobacco, herbs and violets enchant the senses. Medium body, the soft tannins and moderate acidity make for a smooth and easy drinking wine. The savoury nature of the gravy will make this wine shine. For $13, make sure to buy a couple of bottles. (ES)

Roast Beef/Lamb Dinner
91 Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2012, Mendoza. Argentina ($19.95)
This is the best Ultra Malbec to date! The saturated black/purple colour heralds a full bodied wine which is racked, backed and stacked with plum, blackberry, fig, cocoa, smoke, violets, vanilla, earth and anise. The texture is lush with excellent length and well integrated tannins. For the price, a multiple bottle purchase is mandatory. (ES)

88 Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, California ($14.95)
Cassis, blackberry, raspberry, mint, violets, vanilla and anise are all present in this friendly and accessible Cab. It is balanced, with no overt alcohol, soft tannins and a slightly sweet/fruity finish. Drink now. (ES)

Chanukah/Kosher
88 Beckett’s Flat Five Stones White Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013, Margaret River ($19)
From the cool Margaret River comes this Kosher and Vegan friendly wine. This blend shows a personality of peach, honey, apple, lime, cream, herbs and minerals. The palate is mid-weight with splendid length and a slight sweet edge. Put a good chill to it before serving. (ES)

87 Beckett’s Flat Five Stones Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Margaret River ($20.95)This easy drinking, medium bod Cab serves up pleasing flavours cassis jam, smoke, forest floor, herbs, clove and violets. It is straight forward with solid length and some gritty tannins. (ES)

New Year’s Toast
90 Piper-Heidsieck NV Champagne Brut, Champagne ($54.95)
It has been a long time since I tasted a non-vintage Piper this good. Toast, caramel, citrus and apple weave through a creamy texture, fresh acidity and long finish. Oysters on the half shell or caviar anyone? (ES)

89 Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs Brut NV,
Niagara Escarpment ($29.95)
About a decade ago, the Ontario industry decided to turn its sights to producing serious sparkling wine. With our cool climate, it was definitely the right decision. One of the leaders of said push is Cave Spring; their Blanc de Blancs is always at the top of the leader board. Small pinpoint bubbles, the biscuit, green apple, Bartlett pear, white flower and mineral personality are layered on the long finish. The bonus here is that it is almost half the price of a good Champagne. (ES)

Fireside After Meal Sipping
90 Sandeman Vau Vintage Point 2000,
Douro, Portugal ($19.95)
For me, Vintage Port is the quintessential post-holiday meal sipper, usually just before passing out in front of the television from turkey coma. A couple of years back, the LCBO purchased the entire production of this wine and released to its general list division, at this ridiculously low price. It is a smooth and ready to drink. It is black in colour and gushes prunes, raisins, raspberry, violets and cocoa. You might also find the 2003 at your local store, which is right on par with the 2000. (ES)

90 Chateau Guiraud 2010, Sauternes, France ($39.85/375ml)
From this top producer comes this delightful stickie. Full bodied, there is loads of dried apricot, mango, pineapple, honey, nuts, spice and wax. The acid is on the lower of the spectrum, so chill well and serve with some robust, blue cheese. (ES)

Throwing a Party
88 Miguel Torres Sangre de Toro 2012,
Catalunya, Spain ($12.95)
When it comes to parties, most people don’t want to break the bank when purchasing vino. This wine really packs in the flavour, and for the price, it is a steal. It is rich and flavorful, full of raisins, plum, vanilla, licorice and lilac. There is density, a lengthy aftertaste and some underlying tannins. It serves double duty as a sipper or with food. (ES)

88 Brumont Gros Manseng Sauvignon 2013, Languedoc ($12.95)
Gros Manseng is a rare white varietal which is originally from Southwest France. It adds tropical fruit qualities to Sauvignon’s herbaciousness. Peach, honey, guava, white flowers, wax, grass and minerals are all in the mix. Refreshing acidity gives lift. (ES)

Post Holiday Craziness Solitary Sipping
89 Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2013, Niagara ($17.95)
For me, Riesling is the quintessential relaxation wine and Tawse’s entry level rendition once again delivers above its price point. Crisp and off-dry, it dazzles with apple, bergamot, lime and mineral. A lengthy aftertaste makes for an ideal sipper or with take out sushi. (ES)

88 Ascheri Barbera d’Alba 2011, Piedmont, Italy ($15.75)
For many years Barbera has languished in the shadows of its famous brother, Nebbiolo. Not anymore! This versatile and food friendly Barbera shows depth and a personality of cherry, plum, earth, spice and cocoa. Crack open the bottle in front of the television while you wait for the pizza delivery to arrive.  (ES)

Gift Giving a la Premium
92 Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2011, Vinemount Ridge ($35)
For me, this is the best Riesling being made in Niagara. It is also the best vintage yet for this bottling. The balance between bright fruit, racy acidity, low alcohol and slight sweetness is pitch perfect. The petrol, peach, green plum, lime, bergamot, honey, apple and smokey minerals are explosive and last long into the sunset.

90 Belle Glos Clark and Telephone Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Santa Maria Valley ($45)
This is a really ambitious Pinot Noir which has more in common with Australian Shiraz, Argentinian Malbec or Cali Zinfandel. That said, it is a purple coloured, super concentrated, oaked monster which gushes jam: plum, dark cherry, raspberry, as well as cocoa, vanilla and clove. It is because of the attributes that I give it such a high score.  (ES)

Gift Giving Under $20
89 Cantina Zaccagnini Il Vino ‘Dal Tracetto’ Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Abruzzo ($19.95)
Montepulciano, when done well, is an absolute delight to drink – just like this one! Complex aromas of cherry, plum, mint, dill, cured sausage, cocoa and spice are layered on a medium bodied frame. There is juiciness on the palate as well as supple tannins, which make me want to serve this winter with a big bowl of pasta topped with lamb ragu.

88 Inniskillin Niagara Estate Reserve Pinot Gris, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada ($17.95)
Bruce Nicholson continues to show his talent with the Pinot Gris grape. Modelled after the Alsatian style, the wine exudes peach, banana, apple, white flowers, citrus and spice. Lengthy on the aftertaste, the wine has fine acidity and mineral note which resonates at the end. (ES)

Evan Saviolidis is a Wine Tasting Challenge Grand Champion, Journalist for Canada’s largest wine magazine: Quench, Instructor for The Canadian Association of Professional Sommelier, and teaches wine appreciation courses in Niagara at WineSavvy. For complete information, please visitevanwinesavvy.com.