Monday, April 22, 2013

  • Monday, April 22, 2013

Apr. 27 Wine Picks: Appassimento + Organic Wines



Cover of April 27, 2013 Vintages Magazine
The next Vintages release will be on LCBO shelves on . The main feature in this release is on Italian wines that use the appassimento method to make wines, while the secondary feature is on organic wines.

Appassimento-method wines involve drying the grapes prior to pressing and fermenting. There are various ways to dry grapes, such as laying on racks or mats, mounting from rafters, often in barns; modern techniques of drying grapes involve temperature controlled chambers. The appassimento-style is usually applied to red wines using local varietals, while producing sweeter (off-dry) wines. However, the Masi Grandarella is a dry wine made using Refosco, and the international varietal Carmenère.

Amarone wines are also made using the appassimento method, however, these wines are allowed to ferment to full dryness, producing wines which have greater intensity of flavours and tannins. In this wine release, check out the Monte del Frà (80% Corvina veronese and Corvinone, 20% Rondinella) - you won't be disappointed.

Ripasso (meaning "repassed") is my personal favourite appassimento-style, and comes between the lighter Valpolicella and the robust Amarone. Essentially, leftover grape skins and seeds from Amarone (and Recioto) production are added to batches of Valpolicella to produce fuller bodied red wines that are more complex and flavourful than Valpolicella. The Remo Farina is a good example of this style and is made using 70% Corvina, 15% Rondinella, 5% Molinara, and 10% other grapes.

Recioto is the ancestor to both Amarone and Ripasso. Grapes for Reciotos are picked very late and very ripe, then dried on mats or racks for 4-6 months. This allows the sugars and flavours to concentrate, producing very sweet wines. If you'd like to taste this style, the Antolini is your best best in this release. It's made using a blend of Corvina, Corvinone and Rondinella.

Eco-friendly winemaking and organic wines are the secondary feature in this release. It wasn't too long ago when one immediately thought that organic wine equated to poor tasting wine. Times have changed quickly. Of the 6 wines featured, 3 are on my list and worth pursuing. Weingut Wittmann has been organic since 1990 and biodynamic since 2004, and their Riesling in this release is dry (not sweet). La Cappuccina winery has been family-owned since 1890, with the 4th generation controlling the reins now; they've been practicing organic farming since 1985; their Soave is made with 100% Garganega. And finally, we have an organic California chardonnay from Frog's Leap, a winery that also practices biodynamic farming techniques. The name "Frog's Leap" actually comes from a combination of "Frog Farm" (where it's first wines were made) and "Stag's Leap" (where Winemaker John Williams began his winemaking career, and a place I visited recently).

From the rest of the release, we have a couple of fine Italian single-varietal red wines. The Torrevento from Puglia is made from Nero di Troia, while the Fontanafredda from Piedmont is 100% Nebbiolo.

Enjoy my wine picks for this week! Let me know if you buy and taste any of these. I'd love to hear from you. Cheers!


Red Wine:
  • LANGA TRADICION CENTENARIA GARNACHA 2008 - DO Calatayud, Spain (#194795) (XD) - $14.95
  • CHILCAS SINGLE VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - Colchagua Valley, Chile (#309757) (D) - $17.95
  • STALKING HORSE SHIRAZ 2010 - McLaren Vale, South Australia (#251215) (D) - $18.95
  • REMO FARINA MONTECORNA RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2010 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#056267) (D) - $19.95
  • MAYCAS DEL LIMARÍ RESERVA ESPECIAL SYRAH 2009 - Limarí Valley, Chile (#269423) (D) - $19.95
  • TORREVENTO VIGNA PEDALE RISERVA 2008 - DOC Castel del Monte, Puglia, Italy (#208256) (XD) - $20.95
  • MASI GRANDARELLA 2009 - Appassimento, IGT Rosso delle Venezie, Italy (#606921) (XD) - $25.95
  • HIDDEN BENCH TERROIR CACHÉ MERITAGE 2009 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#505610) (XD) - $32.95  reviewed here
  • FONTANAFREDDA SERRALUNGA D’ALBA BAROLO 2007 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#943290) (XD) - $39.95
  • IL MARRONETO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2007 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#190108) (XD) - $46.95
  • MONTE DEL FRÁ LENA DI MEZZO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2007 - DOCG, Veneto, Italy (#047506) (D) - $48.95

White Wine:
  • LA CAPPUCCINA SOAVE 2012 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#081489) (XD) - $14.95
  • HUFF ESTATES PINOT GRIS 2011 - VQA Ontario, Canada (#134221) (D) - $19.95
  • LOAN WINES UNWOODED SPECIAL RESERVE SEMILLON 2004 - Barossa Valley, South Australia (#301127) (D) - $15.95
  • CHÂTEAU TOUR DE CALENS 2009 - AC Graves, Bordeaux, France (#321323) (XD) - $19.95
  • WITTMANN RIESLING TROCKEN 2011 - Qualitätswein, Gutsabfüllung, Rheinhessen, Germany (#320366) (XD) - $20.95
  • GAIA THALASSITIS ASSYRTIKO 2011 - PDO Santorini, Aegean Islands, Greece (#315010) (XD) - $21.95
  • FROG’S LEAP CHARDONNAY 2011 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#713552) (XD) - $36.95

Rosé Wine:
  • KÖNIGSCHAFFHAUSER VULKANFELSEN PINOT NOIR ROSÉ TROCKEN 2012 - QbA Baden, Germany (#168237) (D) - $12.95
  • CHÂTEAU VAL JOANIS TRADITION SYRAH ROSÉ 2012 - AC Luberon, Rhône, France (#707281) (XD) - $14.95

Sparkling Wine:
  • LA MAISON DU CRÉMANT BRUT CRÉMANT DE BOURGOGNE - AC, Burgundy, France (#127811) (XD) - $17.95
  • LALLIER GRANDE RÉSERVE GRAND CRU CHAMPAGNE - AC, France (#225284) (D) - $48.95

Dessert Wine:
  • ANTOLINI RECIOTO DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2009 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#135533) (S) (500 mL) - $28.95


The rest of the wines from this release can be found here.


Saturday, April 20, 2013

  • Saturday, April 20, 2013

Napa Valley Wine Tasting

The California Wine Institute has been heavily promoting their wines all over Canada throughout March, and will continue to the beginning of May. Included among this promotion were the major features on California wine in the March 2nd and 16th Vintages releases, and the rather large promotion in the General List wine section at the LCBO titled "California Style". The recent iYellow Wine Club California Cruisin', Hope Family Wines tasting, and California Wine Fair in Toronto (review coming soon) were (I'm sure) also timed to coincide with this promotion.

Given all this, it seems only fitting that I finally post a review of my trip to Napa Valley in , where I had the opportunity to visit and taste wines from 6 different wineries. There was also a planned visit to Sonoma-County and Russian River Valley during this trip, however, I unfortunately became quite ill and had to forgo the journey.

Hagafen Cellars
We arrived in Napa Valley in the early afternoon, travelling along the famous Silverado Trail. Our first winery visit of the day was Hagafen Cellars. This is a small, family-owned winery that generally does not sell to any of the "big box" operations, including the LCBO, due to their small lot bottlings. Hagafen produces a grand total of only 7,500 cases per year. Definitely visit this winery if you're in the area - because this is probably the only time you will get the chance to taste their wines, unless, of course, you are invited to the White House (Washington, D.C.), where Hagafen has been poured since 1981. The reason for this is simple - all Hagafen wines are certified kosher for Passover and Mevushal. This certification comes in handy when delegates from Israel come to visit the White House. A quick search shows that one Hagafen wine is available at an LCBO in Ottawa too.

Hagafen Cellars

HAGAFEN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011 - Napa Valley (XD) - $21
Citrus and floral aromas. Soft and round on the palate with nice aromas replays. Good acidity and well-balanced. Quite nice. Would make a good appertif. Score: 89 pts

HAGAFEN ROUSSANNE 2011 - Ripken Vineyard, Lodi (D) - $18
This white wine has honeysuckle on the nose. Medium-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. More honeysuckle on the palate with some spicy vanilla notes on the mid-palate. Slightly off-dry. Score: 88-89 pts

HAGAFEN CHARDONNAY 2010 - Oak Knoll, Napa Valley (XD) - $24
Nice floral and mineral aromas. Round lemon and citrus on the palate. Medium-length finish. Crowd pleaser. Score: 89 pts

HAGAFEN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - Estate Btld, Napa Valley (XD) - $45
Dark berries, sweet vanilla, and light oak aromas from the glass. Medium-bodied with dark fruits, cassis and cocoa on the palate. Integrated tannins, well-balanced with good acidity, but finishes short. Score: 88-89 pts

HAGAFEN PRIX CHARDONNAY 2010 - Hall Vineyard, Oak Knoll, Napa Valley (XD) - $36
Refreshing lime and mineral aromas. Tropical fruits and butter on the palate with a creamy mouthfeel and some spiciness on the mid-palate. Very good acidity and a very long finish. My favourite white. Score: 90-91 pts

HAGAFEN PRIX CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006 - MJT Block, Napa Valley (XD) - $60
Rich, red fruit aromas on the palate with dark fruits, cassis and mint on the palate. Full bodied red with lots of tannin that is drinking really well right now. Score: 88 pts

HAGAFEN PRIX MÉLANGE RED TABLE WINE 2006 - Napa Valley (XD) - $75
Bordeaux-blend with Cab Sauv, Cab Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. Lovely ripe red fruit aromas with some tartness quality. More fruit on the palate. Nicely integrated tannins and mouth-watering acidity. Very well-balanced with a medium-long finish. Yum! Score: 92 pts

HAGAFEN LATE HARVEST SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008 - Sonoma Coast (S) (375 mL) - $30
Beeswax aromas from the glass. Blast of sweetness (honey) on the palate with vibrant acidity that dies quickly. Medium-length finish. Score: 91 pts

Signorello EstateOur second stop of the afternoon was about 30 seconds up the road to neighbouring Signorello Estate. It turns out that nearly all the wineries in the area border each other and are just a quick, short drive from one to the next. Ray Signorello Sr. purchased a 100-acre estate during the mid 1970's with the intention of selling the grapes to other wineries, but the bountiful harvest of 1985 changed everything. In 1986, the Signorello's (both Jr. and Sr.) made plans to start a winery. The Padrone - meaning godfather or father-figure - is their flagship wine and made in tribute to Ray Sr., who passed away in 1998.

SIGNORELLO SETA 2011 - Estate Btld, Napa Valley (XD) - $45
"Seta" means "silk" in Italian. Blend of 62% Semillon and 38% Sauvignon Blanc. Light lemon and peach aromas, while the palate is intense with honeysuckle, floral and spice. Lacking balance. Score: 86-87 pts

SIGNORELLO HOPE'S CUVÉE CHARDONNAY - Estate Btld, Napa Valley (XD) - $70
This wine is named in tribute to the wife of Ray Signorello Sr. and mother to Ray Jr. Unfined and unfiltered. Lots of butter aromas with nutmeg undertones. Creamy mouthfeel on the palate, full-bodied with mineral and spices notes that kick-in mid-palate and linger on the long finish with vanilla nuances. Score: 89 pts

SIGNORELLO CABERNET FRANC 2009 - Estate Btld, Napa Valley (XD) - $70
Old-world style with mulberry, brambleberry and cheddar cheese aromas with great aroma replays on the palate. Medium-full bodied, very good acidity and well-balanced. Finish is medium-long. Score: 90-91 pts

SIGNORELLO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004 - Estate Btld, Napa Valley (#060152) (XD) - $100
Mostly Cab Sauv (75%) with Merlot (18%) and Cab Franc (7%) to complete the blend. Fig and jammy plum aromas from the glass. Ageing quite well, this full-bodied red wine has nice aroma replays, plus some mint, cassis and black currant notes on the palate. Very good acidity. Score: 90-91 pts

SIGNORELLO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - Estate Btld, Napa Valley (#060152) (XD) - $90
Cab Sauv (93%) and Cab Franc (7%) has oak, barnyard, woodsmoke and dense blackcurrant aromas with balanced aroma replays on the palate. Smooth, velvety tannins and finishing long. Very nice! Drinking well now, could be cellared another 10 years. Score: 92-93 pts

Signorello Padrone

SIGNORELLO PADRONE 2007 - Estate Btld, Napa Valley (XD) - $165
Consisting of 84% Cab Sauv, 8% Merlot and 8% Cab Franc. Sweet plum drops and incense aromas. Medium-full bodied and very smooth with blackcurrant, cassis, dark fruits on the palate. Very nicely integrated tannins and a long, dark finish that is silky smooth. Score: 93-94 pts

SIGNORELLO PADRONE 2008 - Estate Btld, Napa Valley (XD) - $155
Blend a bit different than the '07 with 89% Cab Sauv and 11% Merlot. Woodsmoke and plum aromas. Full-bodied with dark fruits and leather on the palate. Tannins are very chalky and need 2-3 years to settle down. Score: 93 pts

The third stop of the afternoon was 2 minutes north on the Silverado Trail, the independent winery of Clos Du Val. This winery was founded in 1970 and planted its first vineyards in '72 in what is now known as the Stags Leap District. Clos Du Val's '72 Cabernet Sauvignon was one of 6 wines selected for the 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting. At the 10 year anniversary of the Judgment of Paris, the same wines were tasted again and Clos Du Val's '72 Cab ranked 1st overall. The "Three Graces" that have "graced" the winery's labels since its inception in 1972 come from the 3 mischievous daughters of Zeus that symbolize the independent mind, body and spirit of Clos Du Val.

CLOS DU VAL BRUT (NV) - (XD) - $???
Chardonnay-Pinot Noir blend. Very smooth, creamy mousse on the palate. Extra dry. Quite nice.

CLOS DU VAL ARIADNE 2010 - Napa Valley (XD) - $19
Ariadne gets it's name from the wife of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine. Blended with 68% Sémillon and 32% Sauvignon Blanc. Melon, herbal, cilantro and fresh mint aromas. Palate is intense with a creamy mouthfeel and flavours of passion fruit, guava and citrus. Crowd pleaser. Score: 88-89 pts

2009 Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon

CLOS DU VAL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - Napa Valley (#652925) (XD) - $38
84% Cab Sauv, 7% Merlot, 6% Cab Franc, 3% Petit Verdot. Ripe black fruit, cedar oak and toast aromas. Smooth mouthfeel with chocolate, blackberry and blackcurrant flavours on the palate. Silky tannins, but a touch spicy on the mid-palate. Finish is long. Score: 89 pts

CLOS DU VAL CABERNET FRANC 2009 - Stags Leap District, Napa Valley (XD) - $65
Pleasant violet and oak aromas from the glass. Medium-full bodied with more violet notes on the palate. Slightly chalky tannins will reward ageing 2 years, but drinking excellent now. Good acidity and a smooth, long finish. Score: 92 pts

CLOS DU VAL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 - Stags Leap District, Napa Valley (#720961) (XD) - $80
94% Cab Sauv and 6% Merlot. Blackfruits, oak, smoke and toast aromas. Black fruits, mocha and coffee notes on the palate with velvety smooth tannins. Very good acidity and long finishing. Very nice! Score: 92 pts

CLOS DU VAL THREE GRACES RED 2009 - Napa Valley (XD) - $65
A blend of 82% Cab Sauv, 14% Cab Franc, 3% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. Intense aromas of ripe black fruits, dark chocolate, coffee and spice. Medium-full bodied with flavours of brambleberry, mocha and sweet vanilla. Mouth-watering acidity, with tannins that are well-integrated. Lengthy finish. Yum. Score: 91-92 pts

CLOS DU VAL CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVE 2008 - Napa Valley (XD) - $120
With fruit sourced from vineyards in Rutherford, this is mostly Cab Sauv (93%), with 4% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 1% Cab Franc to complete the blend. Aromas of black/dark fruits, chocolate tobacco and cigar box. Full-bodied with nice aroma replays plus some leathery notes. Turns spicy at mid-palate. Tannins are very chalky and finish is long. Score: 91 pts

Chimney Rock
We travelled another 2 minutes north and stopped at Chimney Rock. A relatively young winery, Chimney Rock produced it's first wine in only 1989. The Terlato Family joined founders Hack & Stella Wilson in 2000 and assumed full ownership in 2004. Chimney Rock practices sustainable winemaking techniques and aims to leave the environment in better condition than how they found it. I wish all people would think like this. As for the winery experience - Chimney Rock was the busiest of all the wineries we visited. The crowds seemed too much for the pourers, and was a bit much for me as well. The Elevage is a stellar red wine, but otherwise this visit sort of left a bad taste in my mouth.

CHIMNEY ROCK ELEVAGE BLANC 2008 - Napa Valley (XD) - $39
A unique blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris. Herbal, grassy, floral and guava aromas. Medium-full bodied with a crisp mouthfeel and nice aroma replays. Lively acidity and a long, lingering finish. Score: 88 pts

CHIMNEY ROCK CABERNET SAUVIGNON STAG'S LEAP DISTRICT 2008 - Napa Valley (#731810) (XD) - $66
Leather and spice dominate the aroma profile, with undertones of bramble, violet and sweet vanillan. Well-integrated tannins with finish that is spicy with chocolate & mocha notes. Delicious. Score: 90 pts

CHIMNEY ROCK ELEVAGE 2008 - Stags Leap District, Napa Valley (XD) - $85
A blend of 56% Merlot, 38% Cab Sauv and 6% Petit Verdot. Ripe red fruit aromas. On the palate, it's very smooth with dark fruits, milk chocolate, and mocha flavours. Lively acidity and a medium-long finish that is very smooth. Score: 91 pts

CHIMNEY ROCK TOMAHAWK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2008 - Stags Leap District, Napa Valley (XD) - $130
Comprised from a small group of vines planted in 2002, otherwise known as the Tomahawk Vineyard. This wine saw French oak for 18 months. Very nice sweet vanillan oak aromas. Extremely smooth at the beginning, but turns to spicy mid-palate. Flavour profile consists of blackberry, milk chocolate and light oak notes. Needs 2 years for tannins to settle. Score: 90 pts

Stag's Leap Wine Cellars
Heading further north, we arrived in less than one minute at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. According to popular legend, the origin of the "Stags Leap" name comes from a stag (deer) who eluded hungry hunters by leaping to freedom across the District's landmark peaks. This winery (not to be confused with Stags' Leap Winery) was founded in 1970 and is widely-known for it's estate-grown Cab Sauv's - CASK 23, S.L.V. and FAY. Furthermore, this winery also has the distinction of winning the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting with their '73 S.L.V. Cab Sauv. Suffice it to say, I was really excited about this tasting.

We entered the winery and quickly noticed oak barrels that were on-end and scattered throughout the floor, while on the far left was the wine bar. It turns out that the barrels were used as mini-tables to be used by customers for tastings. We were greeted and offered one of these "barrel tables" to taste a flight Stag's Leap Cabernet Sauvignons. Our server brought over the bottles for our tasting flight, plus a couple of surprises that were not on the list. It was quite the experience being in this setting, and I would highly recommend you visit if you're in the area.

Tasting flight at Stag's Leap Wine Cellars

STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS FAY ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - Napa Valley (XD) - $95
Named after Nathan Fay, a pioneering grape grower, this wine's grapes come from the FAY vineyard. Sweet blackberry and dark fruits aromas. Medium-bodied with cassis and blackcurrant on the palate. Good acidity and medium-length finish. Fairly light in style for a Cab Sauv. Score: 89-90 pts

STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS ARTEMIS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - Napa Valley (#708892) (XD) - $55
Blend of 88% Cab Sauv and 12% Merlot. Nicely balanced oak and chocolate aromas. Medium-full bodied with blackcurrant and violet on the palate. Very smooth and round. Tannins are integrated and overall is a well-balanced red. This is currently available in the Vintages section at the LCBO. Score: 89 pts

STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS S.L.V. CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - Stags Leap District, Napa Valley (XD) - $125
Some of the grapes in this wine are from original vines planted in 1970. Black cherry and smoke aromas. Medium-full bodied and plummy, dark fruit and violet flavours on the palate. Smooth, fine-grained tannins and high acidity. A big wine with a long, smooth finish. Very nice! Score: 93 pts

STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS CASK 23 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - Napa Valley (XD) - $210
Originally got it's name "CASK 23" when, in 1974, winemaker André Tchelistcheff tasted a deliciously distinct barrel of S.L.V. labelled "Cask 23", and asked that it be bottled separately. Today, it a blend of distinctive fruits from both the S.L.V. and FAY vineyards. Lovely intense smoke, oak and black cherry and black fruit aromas. Medium-full bodied and balanced aroma replays on the palate. Smooth tannins and bright acidity, while finishing long. Nice! Score: 92 pts

STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS S.L.V. CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006 - Stags Leap Distric, Napa Valley (XD) - ???
Very nice smoke, black fruits, cassis, earth and oak aromas. Full-bodied and nice aromas replays on palate. Great acidity and smooth tannins. Ageing gracefully and still could be enjoyed 5 years from now. Score: 92 pts

STAG'S LEAP WINE CELLARS MERLOT 1998 - Napa Valley (XD) - $???
Lots of smoke and oak aromas, with undertones of dark fruit. Full-bodied and fruit forward with violets and mocha. Spicy mid-palate. Long finish. Score: 90 pts

Our final stop of the day - before we headed to dinner at Bistro Don Giovanni (lovely place, by the way) - was supposed to be Robert Mondavi Winery, located within the Oakville AVA. However, they were just closing up as we arrived. So, on the suggestion of the folks at Mondavi, and because we had a little bit of time to kill before dinner, we headed a few minutes south on St. Helena Hwy to Napa Cellars. Also poured in this tasting room are wines from Sonoma County-based Folie à Deux, and their other label Ménage à Trois. The tasting room felt dark and rustic, and contained many nicknacks, wine gear and lots of cookbooks for sale.

FOLIE À DEUX CHARDONNAY 2010 - Napa Valley (XD) - $24
Ripe lime and citrus aromas with replays on the palate. A bit spicy on the mid-palate. Bright acidity and medium-length finish. Score: 87 pts

FOLIE À DEUX PINOT NOIR 2011 - Sonoma Coast (XD) - $20
Aromas of cherry, strawberry, raspberry and hints of earth. Aromas carryover onto the light-bodied palate, joined by oak flavours. Score: 87 pts

NAPA CELLARS RESERVE STAGECOACH VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - Napa Valley (XD) - $48
Cherries, sweet vanillan, and oak aromas. Red and black fruit flavours on the medium-full bodied palate. Medium acidity and tannins that are integrating nicely. Finish is medium-length and well-balanced. Quite nice. Score: 89 pts

NAPA CELLARS RESERVE DYER VINEYARD SYRAH 2010 - Carneros, Napa Valley (XD) - $28
Intense dark sweet fruit, mint and herbal aromas from the glass. Full-bodied with dark cherry and spice on the palate. Well-balanced overall with good acidity and integrated tannins. Finish is medium-length. Score: 88 pts


Thursday, April 11, 2013

  • Thursday, April 11, 2013

Diamond Estates + 7 Deadly Zins Wine Tasting

I hosted a small wine tasting. Invited were a few of our neighbours to taste some media samples of local Ontario wines from Diamond Estates Winery, and a red Lodi Zinfandel from Michael David Winery out in California.

Paired with these wines were some blueberries, watermelon, the L'Extra Brie, and the Avonlea Clothbound Cheddar. This cheddar from PEI has become one of my favourite cheeses - our guests enjoyed it too!

Wine and cheese tasting

LAKEVIEW "GMR" SPARKLING RESERVE 2008 - Traditional Method, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#) (XD) - $24.95
The letters "GMR" come from the winemaking team of Thomas Green, Scott McGregor & Jason Roller. This sparkling wine was hand-harvested and made from 50.4% Chardonnay and 49.6% Pinot Noir. Medium intensity aromas of apple, pear and yeastiness. Extra dry with apple and pear on the palate, plus some lemon and toast. Mouthfeel is slightly chalky. Fine stream of bubbles and a finish that is medium-long. Pairs well with mild-flavoured cheeses. Only available through the winery. Score: 88 pts

20 BEES PINOT GRIGIO 2011 - VQA Ontario, Canada (#060707) (D) - $11.95
Screw cap. Honeysuckle, orange and tropical aromas from this white wine. Light-bodied with lots of floral and tropical fruits on palate, and hints of honey. Low acidity and finish is medium-length. Refreshing palate cleanser, good as an apertif. Even though classified as extra dry, this is an off-dry P.G. Score: 86 pts

EASTDELL GAMAY NOIR 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#214890) (XD) - $12.95
Screw cap. Red berry and cherry, oak and pungent smoke aromas from the glass. Light-bodied and fruit-forward with red fruits, cherry, raspberry, and red currant flavours on the palate. Medium levels of acidity. Tannins are integrating nicely, will reward in 1-2 years. Score: 86 pts

3 wines from Diamond Estates Winery

7 DEADLY ZINS OLD VINE ZINFANDEL 2010 - Lodi, California, USA (#059311) (D) - $24.95
The 2010 was just released in Vintages and is part of the Essentials collection. Mostly Zinfandel and blended with Petite Sirah and Petite Verdot. Medium-intensity crushed black fruit and sweet red fruit aromas with cedar undertones. Medium-bodied and very fruit-forward with red fruits, red berries and black cherry on the palate. Medium acidity and integrated tannins. Crowd-pleaser and a good introduction to new red wine drinkers. This was favourite of the evening. Score: 88 pts

Label photo of 2010 7 Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel


Monday, April 8, 2013

  • Monday, April 8, 2013

Apr. 13 LCBO Wine Picks: New Zealand + Portugal

LCBO Vintages Wine Picks: April 13, 2013 Wine Release
The next Vintages release focuses on wines from 4 "premium" producers in New Zealand, while the secondary feature is on wines from Portugal. In Local Talent, Prince Edward County is featured - probably to coincide with the upcoming PEC in the City tasting - with 4 premium wines.

From New Zealand, a trio of Sauvignon Blancs from two producers are worth checking out. Both Dog Point and Cloudy Bay produce high-quality, premium wines, at premium price points. You will likely not be disappointed with Dog Point's Sauvignon Blanc or their Section 94 Sauvignon Blanc. Going further up in price is the Cloudy Bay Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc. All three are quite complex and interesting, and not your typical grassy/cat pee Savvys.

A couple of good value wines from Portugal also exist in this release. The Adriano Romas Pinto consists of 6 different local varietals, led by (45%) what is generally considered to be Portugal's best varietal - Touriga Nacional. If you want to try this varietal on its own, the Delaforce is a great choice as it's 100% Touriga Nacional.

From the rest of the release, it's interesting to note that the 2009 Maycas del Limarí Chardonnay is only arriving in Vintages now, while the 2010 arrived last June. The 2005 Marqués de Cáceres is already aged for your and made with 85% Tempranillo, and 15% Garnacha Tinta (Grenache) & Graciano. The 2010 Rhône from Domaine Durieu consists of 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah, 5% Mourvèdre, 3% Cinsault, and 2% Counoise and can be enjoyed now or a decade later. And finally, from our own backyard is the 2010 Château des Charmes Equuleus - it's a blend of 50% Cab Sauv, 25% Cab Franc and 25% Merlot and is made only in the best years.

Enjoy my picks for this week! New wines will be on LCBO Vintages shelves on . Cheers!


Red Wine:
  • BODEGA SÉPTIMA SÉPTIMO DÍA MALBEC 2011 - Mendoza, Argentina (#219295) (D) - $15.95  reviewed here
  • ADRIANO RAMOS PINTO DUAS QUINTAS 2010 - DOC Douro, Portugal (#359893) (XD) - $16.95
  • DELAFORCE TOURIGA NACIONAL 2009 - DOC Douro, Portugal (#324517) (XD) - $18.95
  • CUSUMANO NOÀ 2008 - IGT Sicilia, Italy (#109512) (XD) - $18.95
  • ALPHA ESTATE HEDGEHOG VINEYARD XINOMAVRO 2008 - AOSQ Amyndeon, Greece (#259762) (D) - $19.95
  • MARQUÉS DE CÁCERES TINTO RESERVA 2005 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#702761) (XD) - $24.95
  • NORMAN HARDIE COUNTY UNFILTERED PINOT NOIR 2011 - VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada (#125310) (XD) - $35.00
  • DOMAINE DURIEU CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2010 - AC, Rhône, France (#320168) (XD) - $35.95
  • CHÂTEAU DE FONBEL 2009 - AC Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France (#196451) (XD) - $37.85
  • CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES EQUULEUS 2010 - Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard, VQA St. David’s Bench (Niagara), Ontario, Canada (#319525) (XD) - $40.00  reviewed here
  • BREWER-CLIFTON MOUNT CARMEL PINOT NOIR 2009 - Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County, California, USA (#311647) (XD) - $64.95

White Wine:
  • DR. HERMANN ÜRZIGER WÜRZGARTEN RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2007 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#313528) (M) - $16.95
  • KELLEREI KALTERN CALDARO PINOT GRIGIO 2011 - DOC Alto Adige, Italy (#317867) (D) - $16.95
  • CONCILIO CONOIDI GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2011 - DOC Trentino, Italy (#670711) (XD) - $16.95
  • MAYCAS DEL LIMARÍ RESERVA ESPECIAL CHARDONNAY 2009 - Limarí Valley, Chile (#162040) (D) - $19.95
  • RUSTENBERG CHARDONNAY 2011 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#598631) (D) - $22.95
  • DOG POINT VINEYARD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#677450) (XD) - $22.95
  • DOG POINT VINEYARD SECTION 94 SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#325977) (XD) - $39.95
  • CLOUDY BAY TE KOKO SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#084897) (XD) - $48.95

Rosé Wine:
  • CLAUDE RIFFAULT LA NOUE SANCERRE ROSÉ 2011 - AC, Loire, France (#323626) (XD) - $19.95

Sparkling Wine:
  • SHOENHEITZ BRUT CRÉMANT D’ALSACE - AC, Alsace, France (#319962) (D) - $19.95


The rest of the wines from this release can be found here.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

  • Saturday, April 6, 2013

Dinner & Wine at ORO Restaurant

We recently dined out at ORO Restaurant in downtown Toronto to celebrate a birthday. The service was impeccable right from the get-go and continued to the end of the evening, when we were the last patrons to leave before they closed up. The wine list is quite extensive and focused on wines from Italy. They also had a couple of private label "ORO" wines that are produced in Niagara. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to taste these, but hope I do get the chance in the future. The 2 wines we did taste were both recommended by our waiter and were a delight to sip on while enjoying our meal.

GIACOMO FENOCCHIO BARBERA D'ALBA 2010 - DOC Superiore, Piedmont, Italy (XD) - $48

Label photo of 2010 Giacomo Fenocchio Barbera d'Alba from Piedmont, Italy
Tasting Note:
100% Barbera. Intense sour cherry and red berry aromas. Light-to-medium bodied with nice aroma replays, plus licorice on the palate. Some tannins are evident, but mostly masked by the very bright acidity. Finish is medium-long. A little young, but enjoyable now and Will reward 2 years in cellar. Very food-friendly and quite versatile, it can be paired with fish, chicken or even red meats. On this night, this red wine was enjoyed with a Tomato Soup and a filet of Snapper. Score: 88 pts

CANTINE PELLEGRINO PASSITO DI PANTELLERIA LIQUOROSO 2011 - DOC, Italy (S) (500 mL) - $50

Photo of 2011 Cantine Pellegrino Passito di Pantelleria
Tasting Note:
Made with Muscat of Alessandria varietal (also known locally as Zibibbo) using the passito method of drying the grapes to concentrate their juice. This dessert wine has a very nice orange and tropical fruit nose. Some exotic fruit (papaya, dragon fruit?) aromas as well. Medium-bodied on the palate with nutty orange flavours that paired perfectly with the Chocolate Chestnut Cake. Very good, lively acidity tones down the sweetness for a harmonious balance. Finish is medium length. Score: 90 pts


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