“The time of year when vintners see what their grapes are made of.”

Issue #6   September, 2019

For most wineries in the northern hemisphere, September ranks as the month of months; the one that perhaps matters most in the creation of wine. This is the time on the calendar when many varieties of grapes come of age and are harvested before the north’s cold air and too much rain douses hopes of future greatness.

For the vintners and the wine makers, each September as they see their grapes go on to their next stage in life is kind of like parents watching their grown children go out into the world to see what they might become.

So, for this issue I thought it fitting we profile three wines made with grapes that were picked from the vine at this very special time of year.

Welcome back to the cellar.

This month we’re going to Spain, France and Italy as we taste and toast wine’s defining month. September. As you know, each time we get together we get to know an ‘under the radar’ selection from the cellar; a wine we might not consider because of where it’s from or because it’s made with a grape we’re not familiar with or maybe because it just has a darn ugly label.

Well this one you may not consider because of something else; its price. Not how high it is, but how low. This bottle is dirt cheap. $7.95. But don’t let that make you think it’s bad. 


Toro Bravo Tempranillo Merlot,
DO Valencia, Spain
750 mL bottle  |   LCBO#:  635755

Toro Bravo comes to us from Spain. It’s a blend of two tasty grapes; Tempranillo and Merlot which gives it a tasty, medium-bodied smoothness. Let’s not kid ourselves, for $7.95, it’s no Chateau Rothschild but it ranks up there with a lot of wine at twice its price. Toro is deep ruby and slightly transparent. Wisps of earthiness and black berries rise to your nose. And it tastes of ripe plums with a tease of chocolate.

Bravo to the makers of this Toro.


Falchini Vigna a Solatio Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2017
750 mL bottle  | VINTAGES#: 480665

Any time of the year is a good time to go to Tuscany, but this month Tuscany has come to us here in the cellar. This beautiful Tuscan white wine features the region’s Vernaccia grape. It’s produced in the Italian hill town of San Gimignano and since the Renaissance, has been considered one of Italy’s finest whites. I concur.

It’s buttery yellow to look at, like the first ray of sunlight after a storm. And it’s light, crisp, and super-smooth. This Vernaccia is a quencher with flavours of green apple and a hint of lemon; a perfect drink to close out the summer with. Sorry about that. Let’s try this. A perfect drink to extend the feeling of summer. That’s better.


Mission de Picpus Malbec 2016
Southwest, France
750 mL  bottle   |   VINTAGES#:  10573

For our red this month, we get to meet an absolute treat. Mission de Picpus from the often-overlooked Cahors region of France, in the southwest. Here Malbec thrives, as it does in Argentina thanks to an abundance of sun and heat.

Back to Mission de Picpus. When its grapes were harvested approximately three Septembers ago, they definitely were on a journey to greatness. In the glass, it’s inky and opaque. Like you’re holding a dark secret. But the secret is out well before it gets to your mouth. You sense ripe fruit and an earthy intensity in the air. It’s a big, bold, full-bodied taste sensation of black cherries and black raspberries. Grab this one fast. Like a September sunset, it won’t last long.

That’s it for this month. And remember, while you’re sipping your fave wine over the next few weeks, raise your glass to the wine makers and the pickers who are out in the vineyards right now gathering the grapes for future vintages. For us to enjoy.

See you back in the cellar in October. And until then, keep your glass of wine close and your friends even closer.


“I really like wine. I might as well write about it.”

Issue # 1         April, 2019

My lovely daughter recently made the suggestion that on a regular basis, I put down some tips about really good but NOT PRICEY wines I know of or happen upon. And because the next best thing to drinking a wonderful glass of wine is talking about it, I decided to go with the suggestion.

So, drum roll please. Welcome to Jim’s Affordable Cellar. This will be a once a month bulletin, or maybe more often if something comes along that I just can’t wait to tell you about. Otherwise, every four weeks or so I will highlight one red, one white and an under the radar grape variety or wine from a region or country you may not have ventured to in your wine travels.

Affordable wine of course means very different things to different people. For instance, a silky, $50 Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa might be cheap and cheerful to a professional athlete or your friendly neighbourhood real estate agent. But my line in the sand is usually about $20.

I’ll be honest, now and then I jump well over that line but for the most part, a really good to excellent bottle for under $20 or even $15 is very findable and doubly rewarding. You get to enjoy it and you can afford to buy a few of them. 

So let’s get to the wine.

For this inaugural dispatch, I’d like to tell you about a wine I recently discovered from one of my favourite regions; Argentina.  Normally we think of beef-friendly Malbec when we think of wine from Argentina. However, this powerhouse wine-producing country is definitely no one-trick pony. Decero has all the silky, smooth ear-marks of Cabernet Sauvignon with Argentina’s signature splash of richness and intensity.

Mendoza, Argentina
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES# 195677

Although they may still seem distant, warm summer days are coming. Next to packing away your heavy sweaters, some effective post-winter therapy is stalking up on some crisp, refreshing sauvignon blanc to spend some time with on a warm June evening.

Two Rivers is big but refined. Every sip is like a cool, refreshing citrus shower. It might be worth getting in some practice for June now.


Marlborough, New Zealand 
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES# 277707

My under the radar wine for this issue comes from one of the world’s great wine producing countries. Portugal. This country is one of the foundations of viniculture and has been at it for centuries. So they know a thing or two. Spain tends to overshadow Portugal in our quality perceptions of wine, however Portugal if given the chance certainly holds its own and will surprise you with what it has to offer.

Calem Curvo Tinto is quite a nice find. It’s rich and loaded with leather and wood smoke on the nose. And it has wonderful flavours of cherries and currants. Great with some cheese before dinner and also perfect with a hearty meal.


Douro, Portugal
750 mL bottle | VINTAGES# 631499

That’s it for this issue of Jim’s Affordable Cellar. Hope you enjoy my picks.

Until next time, keep your glass of wine close and your friends closer.