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  • Date publishedSaturday, September 19, 2020

Finca SOPHENIA Altosur Malbec 2018 (Argentina) - Wine Review

wine review is the first of what will be a series on Malbec from Argentina. This Malbec arrived at the LCBO as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release and, surprisingly, there are many bottles still available across Ontario.

It is produced by Finca SOPHENIA, a winery recognized as one of the highest quality wine producers in Argentina. Finca SOPHENIA was established in 1997 by founder and conductor, Roberto Luka, after choosing a site in Gualtallary, Tupungato, Mendoza, one of the most prestigious wine regions in Argentina to produce high quality wines. The name "SOPHENIA" is combination of names - Sophia, his partner's daughter, and Eugenia, his own daughter.

The young and dynamic winemaking team at SOPHENIA is led by Julia Halupzcok. After working for a number of years at Alta Vista, O. Fournier, and in California, she joined SOPHENIA in 2016 and immediately found great success. Julia's wines show elegance with a modern style, reflecting the essence of this unique terroir. As Julia said in a Decanter Magazine interview "Oenology is like make-up: If there's too much it can be a disaster, but a little can enhance beauty".

This particular Malbec is a vegan-friendly example from the high-altitude region of Gualtallary, within Tupungato, at the northern part of the Uco Valley. The vineyards from Gualtallary are planted at the foot of the Andes, up to 1,600 metres (5,249 feet) above sea level, and the long, narrow region is noted for producing grapes with freshness and balance. Gualtallary also noted for its poor stony and alluvial soils interlaced with sand and limestone. This diverse combination leads to free-draining soils, thus stressing the vines to search ever deeper for water while also picking up minerality along the way. Gualtallary is in the process of becoming an official Geographical Indication (GI) due to its diverse climates and soils and is one of the most exciting wine regions in South America.

Finca SOPHENIA Altosur Malbec 2018 (88+ pts)

Tasting Note:

FINCA SOPHENIA ALTOSUR MALBEC 2018 - Vegan, Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#13113) (XD) - $17.00
Estate grown at 1,200 metres (3,936 feet) above sea level on rocky soils of loose structure, this vegan-friendly Malbec is minimally oaked with 3 to 4 months in French and American oak barrels. The medium+ intensity nose has aromas of spicy mulberry and blackberry with stony mineral undertones, developing some nice smoky mineral aromas with air. It is medium-full bodied on the palate with nicely balanced flavours of blackberry, mulberry, and peppery spice, if a touch sour. Oak is firmly in the background. It has fresh acidity and dusty, textured tannins. Mineral notes come to the fore on the mid-palate, lingering through to the slightly chalky finish, with very good length. Nicely done. Recommended buy. Score: 88+ pts

Other wines from Finca Sophenia are available via their Agent - Sylvestre Wines & Spirits.

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  • Date publishedThursday, September 17, 2020

Wakefield Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (Australia) - Wine Review (Bottle 2)

red wine review is this lovely Australian Cabernet Sauvignon that returned to LCBO VINTAGES on .

Bill Taylor and his family have been crafting fine wines in Clare Valley for three generations, beginning in 1969. They carefull selected this site for its red-brown loam over limestone soils, also known as terra rossa, and the cool climate which they immediately recognized would grow excellent Cabernet Sauvignon. The three seahorse logo - one for each generations of the family - comes from the fossilized remains of seahorses they discovered on their land during excavations for the vineyard's dam. In the Southern Hemisphere, the family makes their wines under the Taylors label, but they sell their wines in the Northern Hemisphere, including here in Ontario, as Wakefield Wines.

The Jaraman collection of wines includes a Shiraz, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and this Cabernet Sauvignon, With the Jaraman range, the Taylor family searches for parcels of extraordinary fruit to craft wines that showcase their distinctive regional characteristics and style. The fruit for these wines are sourced from Australia's celebrated wine regions that are renowned for the particular variety. At the winery, the winemakers ensure that distinct regional characteristics are preserved and enhanced through any winemaking techniques, all the while having respect for the fruit.

I last enjoyed this same 2016 Wakefield Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon when it came to LCBO VINTAGES in August of 2019 and recall that the tannins were a bit tight at the time. Let's see how this bottle is tasting now, a full 12 months after last year's tasting.

Wakefield Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

WAKEFIELD JARAMAN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2016 - Coonawarra & Clare Valley, South Australia (#142398) (D) - $24.95
100% Cabernet Sauvignon composed of 73% Coonawarra and 27% Clare Valley fruit. Screw cap. The medium-high intensity nose offers menthol, currant, and cassis with hints of leafy, dried herb aromas. It's full-bodied with minty cassis, ripe blackberry, and currant flavours accented with oak spice and just a touch of jamminess. It's well-balanced with fresh acidity while tannins have softened since last year, having a touch of chalky grip. Savoury chocolatey oak with currant and herbal notes linger on the long finish. Score: 89 pts

There are quite a few Wakefield Wines available at the LCBO, but can also be ordered via their Agent - Profile Wine Group.

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  • Date publishedWednesday, September 16, 2020

September 19, 2020 LCBO VINTAGES Release Wine Picks: Ontario

LCBO Wine Picks: September 19, 2020 VINTAGES Release
The upcoming September 19, 2020 LCBO VINTAGES Release is the annual mid-to-late September Release that features wines from Ontario, coinciding with harvest that occurs this time of year. Ontario is the only theme of the Release, and along with the other wines featured in this Release, these wines will all be on shelves across the province by this Saturday.

We begin with the seventeen wines featured as part of the Ontario theme, of which five are included among my top wine picks. Firstly, it was nice to see wines from each of the three major wine regions represented - Niagara, Prince Edward County, and Lake Erie North Shore, as well as the emerging wine regions of Mono (just north of Toronto) and the Ottawa Valley. From Niagara-on-the-Lake, there is a fine Vidal Icewine that always delivers pleasure year after year. From a winery located in Mono, but currently sourcing much of their grapes from Niagara because their own estate vines are still too young, there is a nice, medium-sweet Riesling. Also from Niagara is a Baco Noir from a winery that specializes in the grape. From Prince Edward Country there is a lovely Pinot Noir. And lastly, if you've always wanted to try Mead, a wine made with honey, try the barrel aged honey wine that was produced in Niagara.

From my red wine recommendations, the 2010 Rioja is a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha. The rest are all single varietal wines - the Barolo is made with Nebbiolo, while the Brunello is made with pure Sangiovese. Other wines among my picks are wines made with well-known varietals that have strong roots within their respective country/region - Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz from Australia, Malbec from Argentina, Carmenère from Chile, and Pinot Noir from Oregon.

Wakefield Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (88 pts)

Among my white wine picks from the rest of the Release, all are single varietal wines. Beyond the three Chardonnay wines from the New World, there is also a Chenin Blanc from South Africa, a dry Riesling from Alsace, and a Malagousia from Greece. There is also a fine Torrontés from Argentina, as well as a Grüner Veltliner from Austria. For those that prefer wines with a little bit of sweetness, try the Vouvray from Loire that is made with Chenin Blanc.

Santa Ana La Mascota Chardonnay 2018 (89 pts)Simonsig Chenin Blanc 2019 (88 pts)

Enjoy my wine recommendations from this Release! Cheers to sipping local!

Red Wine:

  • WAKEFIELD ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2017 - Clare Valley, South Australia (#744235) (XD) - $19.95  88 pts  wine review
  • TERRAZAS DE LOS ANDES RESERVA MALBEC 2018 - Mendoza, Argentina (#29280) (XD) - $19.95
  • MONTERRA SHIRAZ 2018 - McLaren Vale, South Australia (#477059) (XD) - $19.95
  • SAN PEDRO 1865 SELECTED VINEYARDS CARMENÈRE 2018 - DO Maule Valley, Chile (#249201) (XD) - $19.95
  • HENRY OF PELHAM SPECK FAMILY RESERVE BACO NOIR 2018 - VQA Ontario, Canada (#461699) (D) - $24.95
  • CLOSSON CHASE CLOSSON CHASE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2017 - VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada (#145888) (XD) - $34.95
  • SOKOL BLOSSER PINOT NOIR 2016 - Dundee Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA (#748434) (XD) - $39.95
  • COL D'ORCIA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2015 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#306852) (XD) - $55.95
  • ROCCHE COSTAMAGNA ROCCHE DELL'ANNUNZIATA BAROLO 2015 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#413484) (XD) - $59.95
  • LA RIOJA ALTA VIÑA ARDANZA RESERVA 2010 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#315531) (XD) - $59.95

White Wine:

  • SIMONSIG CHENIN BLANC 2019 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#610907) (XD) - $13.95  88 pts  wine review
  • PIERRE SPERRY COEUR DE GRANIT RIESLING 2018 - AC Alsace, France (#15523) (XD) - $16.95
  • SANTA ANA LA MASCOTA CHARDONNAY 2018 - Cruz de Piedra, Maipú, Mendoza, Argentina (#126870) (XD) - $16.95  89 pts  wine review
  • ADAMO LEPP DAVID'S VINEYARD RIESLING 2017 - VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#17203) (M) - $19.95
  • SUTHERLAND CHARDONNAY 2018 - WO Elgin, South Africa (#146423) (XD) - $19.95
  • PLANO MALAGOUSIA 2018 - PGI Macedonia, Greece (#15444) (XD) - $21.95
  • EL ESTECO 1945 OLD VINES TORRONTÉS 2019 - Calchaquí Valley, Argentina (#10695) (XD) - $24.95  FE
  • STONESTREET CHARDONNAY 2016 - Alexander Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA (#991380) (XD) - $49.95  FE

Sparkling Wine:

  • CYGNUS ORGANIC BRUT NATURE CAVA - Vegan, Traditional Method, DO Penedès, Spain (#352856) (XD) - $17.95

Dessert Wine:

  • REIF ESTATE VIDAL ICEWINE 2017 - VQA Niagara River, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#544791) (S) (200 mL) - $24.95

Specialty Wine:

  • ROSEWOOD MEAD ROYALE HONEY WINE 2018 - Barrel aged, Canada (#437319) (S) (500 mL) - $19.95

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  • Date publishedSunday, September 13, 2020

Patrick Lesec Galets Blonds Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2017 (Rhône) - Wine Review

red wine review is this excellent Châteauneuf-du-Pape that arrived in LCBO VINTAGES on - and there are plenty of bottles available across Ontario so you can easily add this to your cellar.

It is produced by Patrick Lesec Selections, a highly esteemed negociant making delicious wines in the Southern Rhône Valley. Being a negociant, Patrick does not own any vineyards - his specialty is sourcing the best fruit from various winegrowers and blending the fruit to craft his special cuvées in a consistent style year after year. His top cuvées, like this Galets Blonds, are single-vineyard, estate-bottled wines. Patrick uses non-interventionist winemaking principles, carefully choosing the components to make the final cuvée. He prefers stainless steel elevage, with oak playing a minor role to add texture and complexity. The wine are unfined and unfiltered, and bottled by hand when possible.

When I enjoyed the 2012 Patrick Lesec Galets Blonds Châteauneuf-du-Pape five years go, it ended up being one of my favourite wines of the year. The 2017 vintage was very dry in Southern Rhône, resulting in lower yields. In Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the vintage lent itself to old vines with deep roots, such as those found in this predominantly old vines Grenache blend. Some of the best 2017 Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines are the special cuvées such as this bottling. Let's see how it is tasting tonight...

Patrick Lesec Galets Blonds Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2017 (93 pts)

Tasting Note:

PATRICK LESEC GALETS BLONDS CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (#78089) (XD) - $60.95
A blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre from old, low-yielding vines that were grown on sparse, boulder-covered soils. Rich, medium-high intensity aromas deliver ripe blackberry, raspberry, and smoky crushed rocks with touches of pepper spice. It's medium-full to full-bodied on the palate with lovely aroma replays joined by some dried herb and gentle oak spice flavours. Good fruit concentration holds up well to the slightly warming alcohol, lifted by mouthwatering acidity. Fine-grained, slightly chalky tannins are nicely textured. Stony mineral, wood spice, and blackberry notes linger on the long finish, with excellent length. Exceptional! Score: 93 pts

Other fine wines from Patrick Lesec can be ordered via their Agent - Connexion Oenophilia.

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  • Date publishedFriday, September 11, 2020

Rocca delle Macìe Famiglia Zingarelli Riserva Chianti Classico 2017 (Tuscany) - Wine Review

Tonight's wine review is the latest vintage of this nice Chianti Classico that arrived as a "Smart Buy" at the LCBO over the long weekend as part of the September 5 LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Rocca delle Macìe was established in 1973 by Italian film producer Italo Zingarelli to fulfill a lifelong dream to have his own winery. He acquired the 85 hectare "Le Macìe" estate, of which only 2 hectares were planted to vine, and quickly grew the estate into one of the most popular names in Italian winemaking. This was achieved by creating wines that not only respect the terroir, but also having a consistent commitment to improving wine quality through innovation.

The Chianti Classico Riserva Famiglia Zingarelli is the flagship wine of the zone and represents the greatest expression of the zone's particular features, proudly bearing the Zingarelli family name in order to highlight the strong link that the family has to the area of Chianti Classico. It is made using the best grapes from the four estates of Rocca delle Macìe in the area of Castellina in Chianti, resulting in a blend of four terroirs. Following careful selection, the grapes (90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Merlot) are vinified according to traditional Chianti Classico methods, then aged in French oak barrels for two years, followed by further refinement in bottle for a minimum of three months.

This red wine is a regular visitor to VINTAGES, and I have tasted previous vintages of this wine on numerous occasions over the years. I last enjoyed the 2015 Rocca delle Macìe Famiglia Zingarelli Riserva Chianti Classico at home nearly two years ago and am pleased to have the opportunity to try the 2017 tonight.

Rocca delle Macìe Famiglia Zingarelli Riserva Chianti Classico 2017 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

Blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Merlot. The medium+ intensity nose offers bright sour red cherries surrounded by wood spice, earthy, and savoury aromas. It's medium+ bodied on the palate with pleasing blackberry notes joining the woody, savoury aroma replays. It has juicy, balanced acidity, and fine, textured tannins with a pleasing touch of grip. The savoury, wood spice tones continue through to the finish, with very good length. Enjoy over the next 4-5 years. Score: 89 pts

There are quite a few wines from Rocca delle Macìe available at the LCBO, but other wines from this producer can also be ordered via their agent's brand new website - Profile Wine Group.

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  • Date publishedWednesday, September 9, 2020

Santa Ana La Mascota Chardonnay 2018 (Argentina) - Wine Review

For wine review, we continue the recent looks (here and here) at the Wines of Argentina. This delicious white wine is a Chardonnay from Argentina that will be coming to the LCBO as part of the upcoming LCBO VINTAGES Release.

It is produced by Mascota Vineyards, a dream that was realized by a legend in Argentine winemaking - Rodolfo "Opi" Sadler. As a young boy, he observed his grandfather and father engage in winemaking activities and wished to proudly create his own wines some day. He studied Oenology at the prestigious Don Bosco University in Mendoza and gained his experience working harvests in California, Chile, and France.

In the early 1980's, he joined Argentine winery Santa Ana in Cuyo and worked there for more than 25 years, eventually becoming the Chief Winemaker. He has been crafting wines for nearly 30 years now and firmly believes that when you put passion and enthusiasm into what you do, your dream will know no boundaries and earn you international recognition. In 2013, Opi took on a new challenge to become the Chief Winemaker at Mascota Vineyards and only a year later earned "Best Argentine Wine Producer of the Year" by International Wine and Spirits.

Finca La Mascota is located in the district of Cruz de Piedra, in the heart of Maipú within Mendoza's Primera Zone. This district is known as a premium winemaking area in Mendoza and gave rise to the prestigious brands that have been historically known as the best proponents of Argentina's wine industry. The vineyards of La Mascota are situated at the foot of the Andes Mountains, about 1,000 metres away from the Mendoza River. The vines in this area receive fresh breezes that descend from the mountain and cross the river, resulting in a wide range of temperatures. The vineyards are located 850 metres above sea level on sandy-clay loam soils that sit on a layer of rock. Like much of Argentina, La Mascota is planted with almost exclusively red wine varietals. However, Chardonnay is their most widely planted white varietal - from which they are able to produce three wines, including this fine Chardonnay.

Santa Ana La Mascota Chardonnay 2018 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

SANTA ANA LA MASCOTA CHARDONNAY 2018 - Cruz de Piedra, Maipú, Mendoza, Argentina (#126870) (XD) - $16.95
This estate grown Chardonnay is planted on deep and stony soils. It was hand-harvested with 30% of the wine undergoing malolactic fermentation sur lies, and the entire wine aged in French and American oak barrels for 9 months. The medium+ intensity nose offers ripe apple and peach aromas nuanced with touches of nutty, mealy, buttery, oak spice, earthy mineral, and tropical fruit that adds a lot of interest and complexity. The medium+ bodied, textured palate has honeysuckle, ripe apple, and mealy flavours with gentle oak spice notes. It's well-balanced with fresh, vibrant acids. Mealy, nutty, saline mineral, and earthy notes linger on finish, with very good length. Just lovely! Recommended buy. Score: 89 pts

Other lovely wines from the Mascota portfolio can be found at the LCBO, as well as via their Agent - Univins and Spirits.

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  • Date publishedMonday, September 7, 2020

Château d'Arsac 2015 (Bordeaux) - Wine Review

wine review is this lovely red wine from Margaux that came to the LCBO during the long weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Château d'Arsac is regarded as one of the oldest wine estates of the Médoc region, on the left bank, with over 1,000 years of history. The property has changed hands many times over the years, but it wasn't until the 18th century that Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon vines were planted on the exceptional gravel and sandy soils at the estate. Unfortunately, these vines had to be uprooted at the turn of the 20th century due to phylloxera, and eventually the property was abandoned and unbelievably became a chicken coop!

In 1986, winemaker and visionary Philippe Raoux acquired Château d'Arsac and after 10 years of renovations and legal procedures began producing wine, with about half of the vineyard classified as AOC Margaux appellation, while the rest are under AOC Haut-Médoc. Philippe Raoux represents the 4th generation of a particularly dynamic family of wine growers and traders whose roots began in Algeria. In 1962, the Raoux family repatriated to France. It is interesting to note that the trading house founded by Philippe's grandfather was the first company selling wine by correspondence in Bordeaux.

Today, Château d'Arsac is a completely modernized winery after undergoing extensive renovations. Combining stainless steel, wood, glass and with the winery painted in electric blue, Château d'Arsac stands out visibly and is now regarded as one of the most original châteaux of the Médoc. Philippe also reconstructed 112 hectares of vineyards to revive the quality of the wine. The soils on the property are comprised of small gravel and sand which are mixed over a thin layer of clay and planted to just three varietals - Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc.

Château d'Arsac 2015 (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

CHÂTEAU D'ARSAC 2015 - AC Margaux, Bordeaux, France (#14443) (XD) - $49.95
A blend of 72% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Merlot planted on sandy gravel soils. The medium-high intensity nose has lovely dried cherry, red currant, cassis, savoury, and earthy characters with touches of dried rose floral and new wood. It is full-bodied on the palate with nice cherry, cassis, red berry, earthy, and wood spice flavours supported by juicy acidity and ripe, textured tannins that have a touch of grip. Long, savoury-earthy finish with touches of dried rose florals. Very approachable now and will continue to drink well over the next 7-8 years. Score: 91 pts

Other wines from the Château d'Arsac portfolio can be ordered through their Agent - Connexion Oenophilia.

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