Showing posts with label napa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label napa. Show all posts

Monday, November 20, 2017

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  • Monday, November 20, 2017

VINTAGES Release Nov. 25, 2017: California Wines for Holiday Wish Lists



LCBO Wine Picks from November 25, 2017 VINTAGES Release
The next release into LCBO VINTAGES on is a mono-thematic release featuring top California wines for holiday wish lists. All of these wines will be on LCBO VINTAGES shelves across Ontario this coming . This is the second to last release of 2017, and it's a thick one, so you'll want to begin stocking up for the holidays from this release and the past few releases in October and November.

We'll begin with the main theme that features top wines from California. Most of the seventeen wines listed in this thematic will provide enjoyment, but I have limited my selection to four top wines. This includes the mountain vineyard blend from The Hess Collection which contains 61% Malbec, 33% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Petit Verdot/Syrah, while the flagship wine from Stags' Leap is made with 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. In white wines from California, the Grgich Chardonnay is always delicious every year, while the Kistler Chardonnay comes from their mountain vineyards that range in elevation from 800 to 1700 feet above sea level.

Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2013 (92 pts)

From my red wine picks from the rest of this release, the Crianza is made with 100% Tempranillo, while the Faithful Hound from South Africa is faithfully made with 32% Cabernet Franc, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Merlot, 16% Malbec, and 7% Petit Verdot. The Chianti Classico is also a blend and consists of 80% Sangiovese, 10% Colorino, and 10% Pugnitello. From France there are a pair of GSM-blends - the La Ferme du Mont wine is composed of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 10% Mourvèdre, while the Tessellae Old Vines is made with 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre. Also from France, the Crozes-Hermitage is 100% Syrah, while the "Vin de France" Xavier wine from Rhône consists of almost 100% Mourvèdre. On the local front, the Stratus Red is predominantly Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with Syrah, Sangiovese, Malbec, and Tannat added to complete the final blend.

San Felice Chianti Classico 2015 (88+ pts)La Ferme Du Mont Première Côte Côtes du Rhône 2015 (88+ pts)

Among my white wine picks, the Antinori white from Umbria and the Montagny from Burgundy are both made with Chardonnay. For sweet wine lovers, you should pick up any of the Rieslings from either Ontario or Germany.

Henri de Villamont Montagny 1er Cru 2014 (91 pts)Fritz Willi Friedrich-Wilhelm-Gymnasium Riesling Feinherb 2015 (89 pts)

The sparkling wines found among my wine recommendations are all on the dry side. The Desiderius Pongrácz Sparkling Wine and the Drappier Champagne are both blends of 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay, while the Moët & Chandon Rosé Champagne is a blend of 46% Pinot Noir (of which 20% is red wine), 32% Chardonnay, and 22% Pinot Meunier. Meanwhile, the Cuvée Catharine Blanc de Blanc is made with 100% Chardonnay.

Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc de Blanc 2012 (91 pts)

Enjoy my top wine picks from this Release! Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • VIÑA OLABARRI CRIANZA 2013 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#461277) (XD) - $14.95
  • LA FERME DU MONT PREMIÈRE CÔTE CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2015 - Unfiltered, AP, France (#251645) (XD) - $17.95  88+ pts  reviewed here
  • TESSELLAE OLD VINES GRENACHE/SYRAH/MOURVÈDRE CÔTES DU ROUSSILLON 2015 - AC, Midi, France (#343517) (XD) - $18.95
  • SAN FELICE CHIANTI CLASSICO 2015 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#282996) (XD) - $19.95  88+ pts  reviewed here
  • ZUCCARDI Q CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 - Gualtallary & La Consulta, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#140855) (XD) - $19.95
  • MULDERBOSCH FAITHFUL HOUND 2014 - WO Western Cape, South Africa (#922443) (XD) - $20.95
  • CAVE DE TAIN GRAND CLASSIQUE CROZES-HERMITAGE 2015 - AC, Rhône, France (#572230) (D) - $23.95

  • XAVIER ARCANE XV LE DIABLE 2015 - Vin de France, Rhône, France (#526301) (XD) - $29.95
  • STRATUS RED 2013 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#131037) (XD) - $48.20
  • DOMAINE DROUHIN OREGON PINOT NOIR 2014 - Dundee Hills, Oregon, USA (#961284) (XD) - $49.95  91 pts  reviewed here
  • THE HESS COLLECTION 19 BLOCK MOUNTAIN CUVÉE 2013 - Mount Veeder, Napa Valley, California, USA (#018879) (D) - $54.95
  • CA’ ROMÉ ROMANO MARENGO CERRETTA BAROLO 2011 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#000455) (XD) - $71.95
  • FUMANELLI AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2011 - DOCG, Veneto, Italy (#475053) (XD) - $72.95  92 pts  reviewed here
  • STAGS’ LEAP ESTATE THE LEAP CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 - Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, California, USA (#142844) (XD) - $99.95
Domaine Drouhin Oregon Pinot Noir 2014 (91 pts)

White Wine:

  • FAZIO AEGADES GRILLO 2015 - DOC Erice, Sicily, Italy (#388637) (XD) - $17.95
  • TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA RIESLING 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#089029) (M) - $18.95
  • LAURENZ V. FRIENDLY GRÜNER VELTLINER 2015 - DAC Kamptal, Austria (#066225) (XD) - $19.95
  • CONCHA Y TORO MARQUÉS DE CASA CONCHA CHARDONNAY 2015 - Limarí Valley, Chile (#342857) (XD) - $19.95  89 pts  reviewed here
  • FRITZ WILLI FRIEDRICH-WILHELM-GYMNASIUM RIESLING FEINHERB 2015 - Qualitätswein, Mosel, Germany (#523894) (M) - $20.95  89 pts  reviewed here
  • STONELEIGH LATITUDE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2017 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#324228) (XD) - $21.95  89+ pts  reviewed here
Concha y Toro Marqués de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2015 (89 pts)Stoneleigh Latitude Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (89+ pts)

  • BACHELDER OREGON CHARDONNAY 2014 - Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA (#273334) (XD) - $24.95  90+ pts  reviewed here
  • CHARLES BAKER PICONE VINEYARD RIESLING 2014 - VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#241182) (M) - $35.20
  • HENRI DE VILLAMONT MONTAGNY 1ER CRU 2014 - AC, Burgundy, France (#522151) (XD) - $40.95  91 pts  reviewed here
  • ANTINORI CASTELLO DELLA SALA CERVARO DELLA SALA 2015 - IGT Umbria, Italy (#512376) (XD) - $59.95
  • GRGICH HILLS ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2013 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#346304) (XD) - $67.95  92 pts  reviewed here
  • KISTLER SONOMA MOUNTAIN CHARDONNAY 2015 - Sonoma Mountain, Sonoma County, California, USA (#183921) (XD) - $107.95

Sparkling Wine:

  • DESIDERIUS PONGRÁCZ BRUT CAP CLASSIQUE SPARKLING CHARDONNAY/PINOT NOIR - Traditional method, WO Western Cape, South Africa (#404111) (XD) - $16.95
  • HENRY OF PELHAM CUVÉE CATHARINE CARTE BLANCHE ESTATE BLANC DE BLANC 2012 - Traditional method, VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#315200) (XD) - $44.95  91pts  reviewed here
  • DRAPPIER MILLÉSIME EXCEPTION CHAMPAGNE 2012 - AC, France (#513895) (XD) - $74.95
  • MOËT & CHANDON GRAND VINTAGE BRUT ROSÉ CHAMPAGNE 2008 - AC, France (#069831) (XD) - $98.95


Monday, November 13, 2017

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  • Monday, November 13, 2017

Buena Vista Winery Open House at Char Bar

Buena Vista Winery wine tasting at Char Bar
In , I was invited to a wine tasting at the Char No. 5 Whisky Bar located inside the Delta Hotel on Lower Simcoe Street in downtown Toronto to taste the wines from California's Buena Vista Winery. I was one of the first to arrive and had plenty of space to cozy up to the bar at the back where "The Count" was pouring the wines. After the venue was nicely filled up with patrons, The Count came out from behind the bar and began to tell us the interesting story about himself and the winery.

The story begins with Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesam, the self-proclaimed "The Count of Buena Vista", a grape-grower in his homeland of Hungary who was born into a wealthy, land-owning family and grew up amidst famed orchards and vineyards that had been in his family for centuries. In 1840, he set sail for America and settled with his family in Wisconsin, founding the town of "Szepataj" - now known as Sauk City. He was also the first to plant hops in Wisconsin, spurring the American beer industry. However, the harsh winters in Wisconsin were problematic for grape-growing, so he moved west to California and eventually settled in Sonoma in 1856 where he knew he could grow superb grapes on great terroir.

Buena Vista Winery was founded by The Count in 1857 on a converted ranch and produced 6,500 gallons in the first vintage and continued to grow and expand over the next few years. The Count inspired many others, including friend Charles Krug who borrowed a press from Buena Vista for crushing grapes in Napa Valley and helped pioneer winegrowing in that equally famous valley.

In 1861, The Count built California's first gravity-flow winery and visited Europe to study and report on methods used in the old world in order to improve Californian viniculture. Following this extensive journey with his son, he brought back thousands of vines and samples representing over 487 varieties, many of which were planted throughout the vineyards at Buena Vista Winery. Capitalizing on the knowledge gained, he authored a book which went on to become an essential handbook for California vintners.

The Count of Buena Vista
Later that decade, The Count left his prized winery and set out for Nicaragua to explore sugar growing and rum production. Unfortunately, his life ended abruptly in 1869 as he fell from a tree branch into an alligator-infested stream and was never to be heard from again. Back in Sonoma, without their visionary and widespread phylloxera setting in, Buena Vista Winery ceased production.

The winery was revived in the 1940's after the property was purchased by Frank and Antonia Bartholomew. In 2007, Agoston Haraszthy de Mokesa (1812-1869), the eccentric Count of Buena Vista and California's foremost grape protagonist, was inducted into the Culinary Institute of America's Vintners Hall of Fame, where he joined the ranks of many other world-class vintners. In 2011, Buena Vista became part of Boisset Family Estates, a renowned and charismatic family with a collection of historic wineries and roots in Burgundy, France. Led in the U.S. by Jean-Charles Boisset, the family is committed to its partnership and continue the vision and legacy that The Count first created 150 years ago.

The performance was informative and a nice touch to the tasting. If you visit the winery in Sonoma,  you can enjoy the full unique experience with The Count and a light, sound and visual show. Given the compelling story of this winery, I just might make a point to visit Buena Vista on my next visit to Sonoma.

Thank you to Family Wine Merchants (FWM Canada) for the invite. Wine reviews of my favourite wines from this tasting are provided below. The Chardonnay is available in LCBO VINTAGES right now, while the two red wines will be coming through LCBO VINTAGES early next year. Please contact FWM Canada for more immediate needs or if you require large quantities.

The Count of Buena Vista

Tasting Notes:

BUENA VISTA LA VICTOIRE BRUT CHAMPAGNE - AC, France (XD)
Blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay. this has fragrant yeasty, leesy, bready and pastry aromas with a clean hint of lemon waft from the glass. It's medium-bodied and quite light on its feet with balanced acids and fine mousse. The long lasting finish has a fine lemony aftertaste. Classy. Score: 90 pts

Buena Vista La Victoire Brut Champagne (90 pts)Buena Vista North Coast Chardonnay 2015 (88 pts)

BUENA VISTA NORTH COAST CHARDONNAY 2015 - California, USA (#396440) (XD) - $20.75
Very Californian on the nose with medium+ aromatics of ripe pineapple, golden apple, butter and a whiff of minerality. The palate is medium+ bodied and creamy textured with ripe fruited pear and apple flavours, plus leesy and vanillin oak accents. It has bright acids and finishes long with some bitterness. Score: 88 pts

BUENA VISTA CARNEROS PINOT NOIR 2013 - California, USA (#304105) (XD) - $28.95
Open, medium-high intensity aromas of raspberry, sweet oak spices, dark cherry and some forest floor, earth, tea leaf, white pepper are quite complex. It's medium bodied on the palate with suave tannins that are well-integrated and lovely aroma replays followed by some herbally notes. Acids are very good and balanced. Excellent finish length. Coming to VINTAGES . Score: 90 pts

Buena Vista Carneros Pinot Noir 2013 (90 pts)Buena Vista Chateau Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (91 pts)

BUENA VISTA CHATEAU BUENA VISTA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#539106) (XD) - $59.95
The highly aromatic nose offers a complex bouquet of currant, cassis, mint, red & black fruits, and forest floor aromas. It's full-bodied with polished tannins and very nice aroma replays on the structured palate to go along with mouth-watering acids. Some warmth on the mid-palate, but is supported well by the fleshy fruit. Excellent finish length. A big, powerful Napa Cab to enjoy now or over next 15+ years. Coming to VINTAGES . Score: 91 pts


Thursday, October 12, 2017

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  • Thursday, October 12, 2017

LCBO VINTAGES October 14, 2017: Napa + Pinot Noir

LCBO Wine Picks from October 14, 2017 VINTAGES Release
The main focus of the upcoming release into LCBO VINTAGES on is on wines from Napa, while the mini-thematic focuses on the grape varietal Pinot Noir. New wines will be on LCBO shelves across Ontario this coming .

We'll begin with the feature on Napa. The timing of this release couldn't be worse, as we hear about the sad news of the wildfires ravaging Napa and nearby counties of Sonoma and Mendocino. Nevertheless, this release features a few bright wines from Napa, as three of the fifteen wines listed are included among my top wine picks. The single vineyard Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon is at the top of this list and is made with 88% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc and 4% Petite Verdot. Also in this release is a Petite Sirah (aka Durif) which is an offspring of the Syrah varietal. The last wine is a complex Chardonnay from the Carneros AVA within Napa Valley.

Clos Pegase Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 (91 pts)Stags’ Leap Winery Petite Sirah 2014 (90+ pts)

The "Pinot Gallery" was a bit disappointing as only one of the nine Pinots from the mini-theme are included among my wine picks. However, the one Pinot Noir that did make it is a great wine from one of South Africa's top producers - Hamilton Russell.

In red wines from the rest of the release, the Rasteau from Rhône is a blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah, while the Crianza is a blend of 90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha / Graciano / Mazuela. From Italy, the Chianti Classico is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Canaiolo, while the Amarone is a blend of 70% Corvina and Corvinone, and 30% Rondinella.

Lavau Rasteau 2014 (89 pts)Losi Querciavalle Chianti Classico 2011 (89 pts)

Among my white wine picks, the Vinho Verde is a blend of Loureiro and Alvarinho, while the rest are all single varietals. If you prefer your wines on the sweeter side, you'll want to check out the Riesling or Gewürztraminer wines, with the Gewürztraminer Kabinett the sweetest of the lot.

Fielding Estate Bottled Riesling 2016 (89 pts)

For those who prefer very sweet wines, or if you're looking for a nice after dinner dessert wine, any of the Pedro Ximenez, Vintage Port and Vin Santo will satisfy your sweet tooth.

Enjoy my wine recommendations from this release! Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • LOSI QUERCIAVALLE CHIANTI CLASSICO 2011 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#515478) (XD) - $16.95  reviewed here
  • CVNE VIÑA REAL CRIANZA 2014 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#657411) (XD) - $18.95
  • SUSANA BALBO SIGNATURE MALBEC 2014 - Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#079798) (XD) - $19.95  reviewed here
  • LAVAU RASTEAU 2014 - AC, Rhone, France (#394650) (XD) - $19.95  reviewed here
  • TABALÍ VETAS BLANCAS RESERVA ESPECIAL CABERNET FRANC 2014 - Limarí Valley, Chile (#514117) (XD) - $19.95
  • TABALÍ TALUD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 - Maipo Valley, Chile (#513960) (XD) - $23.95
  • STAGS’ LEAP WINERY PETITE SIRAH 2014 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#590356) (XD) - $49.95  reviewed here
  • SANTA SOFIA AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2011 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#713669) (XD) - $52.95
  • HAMILTON RUSSELL PINOT NOIR 2016 - WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa (#999516) (XD) - $57.95
  • TWO HANDS LILY’S GARDEN SHIRAZ 2015 - McLaren Vale, South Australia (#683086) (XD) - $59.95
  • ROBERT MONDAVI RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 - To Kalon Vineyard, Oakville, Napa Valley, California, USA (#670463) (XD) - $149.95
Susana Balbo Signature Malbec 2014 (88+ pts)

White Wine:

  • MARIA PAPOILA VINHO VERDE 2015 - DOC, Portugal (#408146) (D) - $15.95
  • BARON DE HOEN RÉSERVE GEWURZTRAMINER 2015 - AC Alsace, France (#377721) (D) - $18.95
  • BELLVALE ATHENA’S VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2014 - Gippsland, Victoria, Australia (#521245) (XD) - $19.95
  • DARTING DÜRKHEIMER NONNENGARTEN GEWÜRZTRAMINER KABINETT 2015 - Prädikatswein, Pfalz, Germany (#944181) (S) - $19.95
  • FIELDING ESTATE BOTTLED RIESLING 2016 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#251439) (D) - $19.95  reviewed here
  • SAINT CLAIR WAIRAU RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2016 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#415653) (XD) - $34.95
  • CLOS PEGASE MITSUKO’S VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2014 - Estate grown, Carneros, Napa Valley, California, USA (#986737) (XD) - $34.95  reviewed here
  • BACHELDER SAUNDERS VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2013 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#324103) (XD) - $44.95

Dessert Wine:

  • MARCHESI DE’ FRESCOBALDI CASTELLO DI POMINO VIN SANTO 2008 - DOC, Tuscany, Italy (#661249) (M) (500 mL) - $42.95

Fortified:

  • ALVEAR PEDRO XIMENEZ DE AÑADA 2014 - DOP Montilla-Moriles, Spain (#499152) (S) (375 mL) - $24.95
  • DOW’S QUINTA DO BOMFIM VINTAGE PORT 2005 - Bottled in 2007, DOP, Portugal (#515544) (S) (375 mL) - $31.95


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

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  • Tuesday, May 24, 2016

May 28 VINTAGES Release: Veneto + Judgment of Paris

LCBO Wine Picks: May 28, 2016 VINTAGES Release
The VINTAGES Release will be on shelves this coming Saturday and features the wines from Veneto as its main theme, while the mini-theme features the players from the 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting.

We'll begin with the secondary theme that honours the 40th anniversary of the famous Judgment of Paris tasting that pitted the relatively unknown Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays from California against the top red wines from Bordeaux and top Chardonnays from Burgundy. California fared quite well in the tasting and ended up taking top prize in both red and white wine categories. The rest, as they say, is history. This mini-theme is anything but mini, with four excellent wines from the seven included among my wine picks.

Three California Chardonnays from Judgment of Paris players made my list of wine picks, including wines from Chateau Montelena, Heitz Cellar, and an organic wine from Grgich Hills. The only red wine chosen from this mini-theme is the Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello Cabernet Sauvignon which contains 8% Petit Verdot, 7% Cabernet Franc, and 5% Merlot, and needs some time before it can be enjoyed over the ensuing three decades. Not included as part of the Judgment of Paris theme but also available in this release as part of the Flagship Store Exclusive (FSE) program is another Ridge Cabernet Sauvignon that's blended with 14% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc.

From the major theme of the release, the wines from Veneto were mostly lacklustre except for a Masi Amarone that came through VINTAGES last November in a magnum bottle, but now returns in the more popular 750 mL format. The other Venetian wine is the Pieropan Soave Classico crisp, dry white wine that is a blend of 85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Soave.

Masi Costasera Riserva Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2009 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (92 pts)Avondale Jonty’s Ducks Pekin Red 2011 - WO Paarl, South Africa (88+ pts)

South Africa is well-represented among my wine picks with a Chenin Blanc and an oaked Chardonnay, but there's also a lovely little South African organic red wine that is a blend of 37% Shiraz, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 24% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% Petit Verdot and 4% Malbec. Other red wines in this release include a Portuguese wine blend consisting of Alicante Bouschet, Touriga Franca and Touriga Nacional, while the Rhône blend consists of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre, and Cinsault.

The latest vintage of the dry rosé wine returns to VINTAGES shelves, consisting of Syrah and Grenache, while the sparkling wine is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Enjoy my wine recommendations from this release. Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • AVONDALE JONTY’S DUCKS PEKIN RED 2011 - WO Paarl, South Africa (#383547) (D) - $14.95  reviewed here
  • HERDADE DA PIMENTA ALENTEJANO 2013 - DO Alentejo, Portugal (#445114) (XD) - $16.95
  • MONTGRAS ANTU CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 - Maipo Valley, Chile (#444703) (XD) - $17.95
  • D’ARENBERG THE FOOTBOLT SHIRAZ 2013 - McLaren Vale, South Australia (#984021) (D) - $19.95
  • CHÂTEAU PEGAU CUVÉE MACLURA CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2013 - AC, Rhône, France (#452250) (XD) - $19.95
  • VITICCIO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2012 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#283580) (XD) - $22.95
  • JOHN GLAETZER JOHN’S BLEND NO. 38 CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - Langhorne Creek, South Australia (#927640) (D) - $39.95
  • BACHELDER LA PETITE CHARMOTTE NUITS SAINT GEORGES 2013 - AC, Burgundy, France (#357228) (XD) - $58.95  FSE
  • MASI COSTASERA RISERVA AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2009 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#324137) (D) - $69.95  reviewed here
  • RIDGE VINEYARDS ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - Monte Bello Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains, California, USA (#089284) (XD) - $74.95  FSE
  • RIDGE MONTE BELLO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 - Santa Cruz Mountains, California, USA (#405332) (XD) - $191.95

White Wine:

  • FLAT ROCK UNPLUGGED CHARDONNAY 2014 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#068015) (XD) - $16.95
  • PIEROPAN SOAVE CLASSICO 2014 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#946848) (D) - $17.95
  • 13TH STREET JUNE’S VINEYARD RIESLING 2013 - VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#147512) (D) - $19.95  reviewed here
  • FORREST THE DOCTORS’ SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#317842) (D) - $19.95
  • RUSTENBERG CHARDONNAY 2014 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#598631) (XD) - $19.95
  • OLDENBURG VINEYARDS CHENIN BLANC 2014 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#443358) (XD) - $20.95  FSE
  • CAVE SPRING CSV RIESLING 2013 - Estate bottled, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#566026) (D) - $29.95  reviewed here
  • HEITZ CELLAR CHARDONNAY 2014 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#205500) (XD) - $49.95
  • GRGICH HILLS ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2013 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#346304) (XD) - $67.95
  • CHATEAU MONTELENA CHARDONNAY 2014 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#701748) (D) - $75.95
Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2013 - Estate Bottled, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (91 pts)13th Street June’s Vineyard Riesling 2013 - VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (89 pts)

Rosé Wine:

  • CHÂTEAU VAL JOANIS TRADITION ROSÉ 2015 - AP Luberon, Rhône, France (#707281) (XD) - $15.95

Sparkling Wine:

  • JACKSON-TRIGGS ENTOURAGE GRAND RESERVE BRUT 2011 - Méthode Traditionnelle, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#234161) (D) - $24.95


Monday, October 12, 2015

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  • Monday, October 12, 2015

Wine Picks - October 17, 2015 VINTAGES Release: Napa + Barolo

LCBO Wine Picks from October 17, 2015 VINTAGES Release
The VINTAGES Release will be in LCBO outlets this coming Saturday and features wines that are especially known for its high-quality and are usually out-of-budget for the majority of wine drinkers. The major feature of this release is on wines from Napa Valley, while the mini-feature is about Barolo from the great 2010 vintage.

Unfortunately, none of the Barolo wines made my list of wine picks, while only one of the sixteen Napa wines are among my wine recommendations below. From Napa is the 2010 Heitz Cellar Cab, a special wine that is 100% Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. There are also a pair of Napa wines worth consideration that are found at the back of the VINTAGES magazine as part of that Flagship Store Exclusives (FSE) collection. The first is the Howell Mountain vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon from Dunn Vineyads, while the second wine is a (surprising!) Sauvignon Blanc from Joseph Phelps.

The quality of Riesling in this release intrigued me the most, with styles ranging from bone-dry all the way to nearly Icewine-sweet levels. In order from dry (i.e. not sweet) to most sweet are Riesling wines from Kilikanoon, Hiestand, Tawse, Bischöfliche and Wegeler. If you enjoy sweet wines, you should also check out the Vouvray (Chenin Blanc). Chardonnay fans should check out the pair of wines from Burgundy.

Among my red wine picks, you'll be hard pressed to find a nice, mature red from 2006 for $15, as is the Monasterio de las Viñas blend (Garnacha, Tempranillo and Cariñena) from Spain. Also a blend is the wine from CVNE that is 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo, while the single vineyard wine from Argentina is actually a blend of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot. And lastly, the 2009 Bordeaux wine is a blend of 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc.

Enjoy my wine recommendations for this week. Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • MONASTERIO DE LAS VIÑAS RESERVA 2006 - DO Cariñena, Spain (#166579) (XD) - $14.95
  • CATHEDRAL CELLAR PETIT VERDOT 2013 - WO Western Cape, South Africa (#427559) (XD) - $15.95
  • 3 RINGS SHIRAZ 2013 - Barossa Valley, South Australia (#015495) (XD) - $18.95
  • SUSANA BALBO SIGNATURE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013 - Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#260919) (XD) - $19.95
  • ALTA VISTA ATEMPORAL 2011 - Single Vineyard, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#144352) (XD) - $19.95
  • CHÂTEAU RENARD MONDESIR 2009 - AC Fronsac, Bordeaux, France (#420299) (XD) - $26.95  reviewed here
  • DOMINIO DE TARES CEPAS VIEJAS MENCIA 2011 - DO Bierzo, Spain (#379891) (XD) - $29.95  reviewed here
  • CVNE IMPERIAL RESERVA 2009 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#424390) (XD) - $38.95
  • CASTELLO DI AMA SAN LORENZO CHIANTI CLASSICO GRAN SELEZIONE 2010 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#418897) (XD) - $45.95  reviewed here
  • HEITZ CELLAR CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#642124) (XD) - $89.95  reviewed here
  • DUNN VINEYARDS HOWELL MOUNTAIN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#193763) (D) - $149.95  FSE
Dominio De Tares Cepas Viejas Mencia 2011 - DO Bierzo, Spain (90 pts)Château Renard Mondesir 2009 - AC Fronsac, Bordeaux, France (89 pts)

White Wine:

  • ALKOOMI WHITE LABEL SEMILLON/SAUVIGNON BLANC 2014 - Frankland River, Western Australia (#428383) (XD) - $16.95
  • TRÉSORS DE LOIRE VOUVRAY 2014 - AC, Loire, France (#427427) (M) - $17.95
  • TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA RIESLING 2014 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#089029) (M) - $17.95
  • HIESTAND RIESLING TROCKEN 2013 - Qualitätswein, Rheinhessen, Germany (#424515) (D) - $19.95
  • KILIKANOON MORT’S BLOCK RIESLING 2014 - Clare Valley, South Australia (#428342) (XD) - $19.95
  • BISCHÖFLICHE WEINGÜTER TRIER SCHARZHOFBERGER RIESLING KABINETT 2012 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#670752) (MS) - $22.95
  • LOUIS MOREAU VAULIGNOT CHABLIS 1 ER CRU 2013 - AC, Burgundy, France (#525386) (XD) - $34.95
  • WEGELER WEHLENER SONNENUHR RIESLING AUSLESE 2010 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#391128) (S) (375 mL) - $36.00
  • JOSEPH PHELPS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013 - St. Helena, Napa Valley, California, USA (#965277) (XD) - $59.95  FSE
  • PATRICK JAVILLIER LES TILLETS MEURSAULT 2013 - AC, Burgundy, France (#714899) (XD) - $75.95  FSE

Sparkling Wine:

  • JANÉ VENTURA RESERVA DE LA MUSICA BRUT NATURE 2010 - DO Cava, Spain (#420364) (XD) - $17.95
  • DUVAL-LEROY RESERVE BRUT CHAMPAGNE - AC, France (#661264) (XD) - $55.95


Friday, August 22, 2014

First image of this post
  • Friday, August 22, 2014

Napa Valley Tasting - June 2014

The Hess Collection Visitor Centre & Gardens
On , I visited Napa Valley for the second time in the last 2 years. After visiting quite a few wineries along the Silverado Trail during my first visit, I decided that I wanted to visit more wineries off the trail this time around.

The first stop on this hot and sunny Monday was The Hess Collection Winery, located within the Mount Veeder sub-appellation within Napa Valley. I had tasted Hess Collection wines last year at the Napa Valley tasting in Toronto and felt the wines they offered that day represented relatively good value and figured I would see more good value at the winery - and I was not disappointed.

The site on which The Hess Collection sits was established as a winery in the 1860's. Fast forward to 1978, where Donald Hess established his first Mount Veeder vineyard. Hess Collection now owns 1,034 acres of prime California vineyards, including 704 acres in Napa Valley. The tasting room and art museum are located on Redwood Road, west of St. Helena Highway and the famous Silverado Trail. It is reachable after driving approximately 10-15 minutes on a narrow, long and winding, uphill road.

Since its inception, The Hess Collection has tried to use sustainable and environmentally-sound practices for growing grapes. In 2008, The Hess Collection was among the first 10 wineries to receive certification for the Napa Green Winery program and one of only six wineries to have both Land and Winery certifications. Two years later, they were among the first wineries to be certified through the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance by third-party verification.

Wine Tasting at The Hess Collection WineryWine Tasting at The Hess Collection Winery

Due to arriving a bit later than expected because of late-morning traffic, I didn't have time to do a very in-depth tasting, but did get a chance to taste some wonderful wines nonetheless. My favourite was the 2010 Mount Veeder 19 Block Cuvée. This special wine comes from 19 blocks from their highest altitude estate vineyard (Veeder Summit Vineyard), with altitudes ranging from 1,300 to 2,000 feet above sea level and features steep slopes and volcanic soils. Overall, this red wine is intensely flavoured, complex and ageable for at least 4 years, although you will be tempted to enjoy it now.

Full wine reviews of many of the wines I tasted on this day are available at the bottom of this post.

For our second stop of the afternoon, we ventured back east along the aforementioned Redwood Road, passed St. Helena Hwy and the Silverado Trail, towards the eastern side of Napa Valley

A View of Napa Valley from Palmaz VineyardsPalmaz Vineyards

Upon arriving at the front gate at Palmaz Vineyards, I realized that we were going to be in for something special. After being let in through the gate, driving by a former gatehouse, and up 4 levels along a steep and twisty road on Mount George, we arrived at the main entrance and were promptly greeted by Diana Lasso, National Estate Ambassador at Palmaz Vineyards and our guide on this visit.

Veranda at Palmaz Vineyards

We began the tour outside the main entrance on level 4, overlooking the vineyards and the said gatehouse, while having an expansive view of the Napa landscape. Diana began by telling us about the rich history surrounding the property that began its story as Cedar Knoll Vineyard and Winery by Henry Hagen in 1881. Henry was one of the Napa Valley's pioneer winemakers, and his wines garnered many awards. Unfortunately, Prohibition forced the winery to close and the site laid dormant for nearly 80 years.

In 1997, soon after Julio and Amalia Palmaz purchased the property, they began to restore it and accomplish a shared dream. Those in the medical profession may recognize the name "Julio Palmaz" - he invented the now widely used coronary heart stent.

We were also informed that the former gatehouse we saw upon entering the estate was restored and is now the home of Christian Gaston Palmaz, Director of Operations, and son of Julio and Amalia. He lives there with his wife Jessica Louise Palmaz.

Dr. Julio Palmaz had great interest in mechanics and engineering and played an integral role in designing Palmaz Vineyards' gravity-flow winery. Inside, we got to see the grape sorter that he helped design - it was quite versatile as it was able to sort different sizes of grapes with relative ease. Being a gravity-fed winery, the grapes arrive at the top to be sorted and de-stemmed and then proceed on an ever downward path and eventually bottled. The height of the cave is equivalent to an 18-storey building. We got a glimpse of this depth in the stairwell, looking down the centre of the staircase.

Palmaz Vineyards: Versatile Grape SorterPalmaz Vineyards: Staring Down 18-Storey Drop

Palmaz Vineyards: The View from Level 4Palmaz Vineyards: The View from Level 3

Fermentation Level at Palmaz VineyardsBarrels at Palmaz Vineyards

Once the grapes are sorted, they go down one level and into fermentation tanks. The dome in which these tanks are housed is 72 feet in diameter and 54 feet high and is the world's largest underground reinforced structure. One can truly appreciate the design and beauty of the dome when looking up from Level 3, where the fermentation tanks are held. The cave also houses its own water treatment plant, resulting in reuse of all waste water and in compliance with strict conservation guidelines.

Next, we went down another level to Level 2 and visited the barrel ageing room, as well as the racking area. During the whole tour, I couldn't help but notice that everything was SO clean - the level of cleanliness appeared to be medical-grade and seemed cleaner than some hospitals I've been to.

By now, I think we were all salivating at the thought of finally tasting the wines after being awestruck by the facility. We entered the classically-styled dining room and sat down at a long, very grandiose, dining table. Diane took us through the tasting menu as we paired four wines with bite-sized treats.

Wine Tasting at Palmaz VineyardsGroup Photo at Palmaz Vineyards

The pairings were all very well done, but my favourite was the Muscat Canelli with the Almond and Apricot biscotti. This wine also paired well with the Dark Chocolate Cabernet Truffle, while the two Cabernets also fared very well with the chocolate truffle. My favourite wine was the '09 Cabernet Sauvignon with it's classic aromas and flavours, smooth, velvety tannins, mouth-watering acids all nicely balanced into one cohesive wine. It paired really well with the Piave Vecchio (hard, cow's milk cheese).

If you are ever in Napa, I would highly recommend adding Palmaz Vineyards to your itinerary as it is truly an amazing winery. Note that tours and tastings are available by appointment only.

Model photoshoot overlooking vineyards
The third stop of the day was Miner Family Winery, located on the scenic Silverado Trail. Most of our group appeared to arrive at Miner breathless due to the amazing experience at Palmaz. This resulted in only a few of us partaking in the tasting on Miner's lovely upper deck patio with a sweeping view of vineyards located in the Oakville AVA.

The Miner Family Winery brand was born in 1996, three years after Dave Miner got his start in wine as President of Oakville Ranch Vineyards - a winery owned by his late uncle, Robert Miner. In 1999, Dave and his wife Emily purchased the winery building from his family and released the first Miner Family wines. That same year, a 15-month project to build caves concluded, resulting in over 20,000+ square feet of space they could now use for wine ageing. Impressively, since 2008, Miner has been running exclusively on solar power. Next time, I think a tour will be in order to see first-hand some of these impressive accomplishments.

Miner Family Winery tasting menu
In all, we tasted 5 wines (+1 one more that only I tasted inside at the bar) from what appeared to be a specially crafted menu just for us. All 5 wines were very good to outstanding in quality, with the favourite being aptly named "The Oracle". This Bordeaux-blend is their flagship wine that was first made in 2004. The 2008 version of this fabulous red wine was most recently in Vintages last October, and I expect the 2009 will be available at some point later this year.

Our final stop of the afternoon was a quick and unplanned visit to Priest Ranch Wines. This winery had a rustic, Western charm and was conveniently located just off St. Helena Hwy in the town of Yountville, en route back to home base.

Priest Ranch was originally part of the 8,500-acre Rancho Catacula Mexican land grant that took place in 1844 and remained in the Priest family for over a century until it was sold in 1963. In 2006, Priest Ranch became part of the Somerston Estate.

Wine label of 2008 Priest Ranch Coachgun
Tasting through a flight of wines and meeting Jack Edwards, Vice President of Sales, my favourite wines were the Syrah and the Bordeaux-blend Coachgun. Ironically, neither of these wines are currently available at the LCBO, but perhaps may make an appearance in the future, while the others I tasted have made their way onto LCBO shelves. On my next visit, I think I will make a point to visit Somerston Estate to experience their all-terrain vineyard tour and taste some of their limited production wines.

Given the quality of the small sampling of just 2 Syrahs I tasted on this trip, I will definitely be seeking out more Syrah from Napa. Currently the 6th most planted grape in California, I would love to see Syrah move up a couple of places and become more widely planted.

And finally, a big thank you to Megan Basten at Profile Wine Group, who helped arrange the visits to Palmaz Vineyards and Miner Family Winery, while also introducing me to Somerston Estate.

Tasting Notes:
HESS SMALL BLOCK VIOGNIER 2012 - Mount Veeder, Napa Valley (#) (XD) - $28
Aromas are of medium+ intensity and show fresh notes of clean lime, citrus and nectarine. Medium+ bodied with a very oily and slightly chalky texture on the palate. 14.5% alcohol by volume (abv). Good acids and a long finish. Tingly mouth sensation is numbing. Serve well-chilled. Score: 89 pts

HESS MOUNT VEEDER CHARDONNAY 2012 - Mount Veeder, Napa Valley (#) (XD) - $40
Did not undergo malolactic fermentation and was aged in neutral French oak. Medium-intensity aromas which show orchard fruits, pear and white peach notes. Medium-bodied on the palate with nicely balanced aroma replays and mineral notes. Good acids. Elegant spice on the long finish. Score: 90 pts

HESS ALLOMI VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - Napa Valley (#906420) (XD) - $30 USD / $37.95 CAD
Aged in American oak and contains 10% Petite Sirah and 2% Petit Verdot. Medium+ aroma intensity with ripe fruits, plum, cherry notes. Medium+ bodied with integrated tannins on palate with flavours of cassis, plum, pepper, and spice. Good acids and a long, warm finish. Score: 89 pts

HESS MOUNT VEEDER 19 BLOCK CUVÉE 2010 - Mount Veeder, Napa Valley (#018879) (D) - $38 USD / $47.95 CAD
Blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Malbec, 11% Syrah, 6% Merlot, and 1% Petit Verdot. Medium-high intensity aromas that show complex bretty, red fruits, black currant, and tobacco. The palate is medium-bodied with flavours consisting of blackberry, black cherry, vanilla, green pepper and oak spice. Mouth-watering acids and finishing long with tobacco and slight earthy notes. Dry tannins are nicely integrated. Enjoyable over the next 4 years. Score: 91 pts

Wine Tasting at Palmaz Vineyards

PALMAZ CHARDONNAY "AMALIA" 2012 - Napa Valley (#) (XD) - $55
Highly aromatic with elegant apple, pear and butter aromas. Nice and creamy on the medium-bodied palate with very nice aroma replays. Well-balanced overall with a long, long finish that is slightly warm and has some subtle spice notes. Score: 91 pts

PALMAZ ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - Napa Valley (#) (XD) - $145
Contains 1% Petit Verdot. Aromas are very expressive, showing currant, cassis, blackberry and slight brettiness. It's medium-full bodied with nicely balanced aroma replays. Mouth-watering acids to go along with smooth, velvety tannins on the palate. Long, smooth finish. Balanced wine overall. A delight. Score: 93 pts

PALMAZ ESTATE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - Napa Valley (#) (XD) - $120
Include 3% Petit Verdot. Highly aromatic with elegant barnyard, cassis and currant aromas. Palate is full-bodied with black currants, earthiness and black cherry flavours. Mouth-watering acids and tannins that are smooth and integrating nicely. Lengthy finish. Nicely balanced. Would give this another in bottle for everything to come together. Score: 92 pts

PALMAZ MUSCAT CANELLI "FLORENCIA" 2012 - Napa Valley (#) (MS) - $55
Medium+ aromas with elegant peach, tropical fruit, and melon aromas. Fresh, clean, orange citrus and peach flavour profile that is medium-dry. Has crisp acids and a long finish that is slightly oily in texture. Score: 90 pts

MINER THE ILIAD 2012 - Napa Valley (#) (XD) - $30
Blend of 54% Marsanne, 40% Roussanne, and 6% Viognier. Medium-high intensity aromas featuring clean herbal, pear, and florals. On the mineral-driven palate, there are aroma replays and crisp acids. Finish is long with herbal notes in play. Score: 89 pts

MINER WILD YEAST CHARDONNAY 2010 - Napa Valley (#) (XD) - $50
Highly aromatic with apple, butter, and pear notes with hints of butterscotch. Medium+ bodied on the palate with crisp acids and nice aroma replays along with hints of crème brûlée. Texture is creamy with a finish that's long and smooth. A little high in alcohol at 14.3%. Score: 90 pts

MINER ROSELLA'S VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2011 - Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey (#) (XD) - $60
Aromas are of medium+ intensity and show strawberry, cherry and citrus on the nose. It's low-to-medium weighted with crisp acids. Warm red berries, hint of earth on the palate. Slightly astringent. Very fruit-driven and finishing long. Score: 89 pts

MINER LA DILIGENCE SYRAH 2009 - Stagecoach Vineyard, Napa Valley (#) (XD) - $40
Medium+ aromas with nose consisting of blueberry preserve, purple fruits, and bacon. Medium-full bodied with warm, black fruits, meaty, peppercorn and subtle smoke on the palate. Mouth-watering acids and finishing long, and smooth. Tannins are nicely integrated. Made in a northern Rhône style, this very nice wine is drinkable now or can be enjoyed over the next 2-3 years. Score: 90+ pts

MINER CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011 - Napa Valley (#) (XD) - $50
Contains 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Merlot. Grilled green pepper and currants show on the highly aromatic nose. Full-bodied with finely-grained tannins, aromas replay on the palate joined by herbal notes and some oak. Mouth-watering acids and a very long finish. Score: 89 pts

MINER THE ORACLE 2009 - Napa Valley (#046367) (XD) - $90 USD / $99.95 CAD
Barrel aged in 55% new French Oak blend consisting of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 15% Merlot, 5% Malbec, and 5% Petit Verdot. Elegant oak, currant, cassis, vanillan and red berry notes make up the medium+ intensity bouquet. It's full-bodied with red currant, leather and sweet tobacco flavours and a spicy mid-palate. Has good acids, drying tannins and a lengthy finish. Drinking well now, could be enjoyed until 2019. Score: 91 pts

PRIEST RANCH SYRAH 2009 - Somerston Vineyard, Napa Valley (#) (XD) - $38
Aromas are of medium intensity with nose consisting of peppercorn, oak and dark fruits. It's full-bodied with very good acids and flavours of peppercorn, blueberry and vanillan oak. Slightly chalky tannins. Long and spicy finish. Very much Old World style. Enjoyable now, but will reward in 2-3 years. Score: 89-90 pts

PRIEST RANCH CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011 - Somerston Vineyard, Napa Valley (#361097) (XD) - $48 USD / $52 CAD
Contains 5% Petit Sirah. Highly aromatic with green pepper and red currant nose. Medium-full bodied with aroma replays on the palate joined by cassis and minty complexity. Dry, chalky tannins and long, slightly warm finish. Could use 2-3 years in cellar. Score: 89 pts

PRIEST RANCH PETITE SIRAH 2010 - Somerston Vineyard, Napa Valley (#361105) (XD) - $40 USD / $52 CAD
Medium+ intensity nose with mulberry, currants, dried fruit and mint aromas. Medium-bodied with eucalyptus, spice, blackberry and sweet vanillan flavours on the palate. Tannins are crunchy, big, and smooth. Very good acids and slightly warm finish. Score: 89 pts

PRIEST RANCH COACHGUN 2008 - Somerston Vineyard, Napa Valley (#) (XD) - $75
Blend of 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, and 10% Petit Verdot. This mature red has medium-high intensity aromas that has a nose consisting of dried fruits, mint, and raisined notes. Full-bodied on the palate with nice aroma replays along with dark fruits, sweet cassis, and eucalyptus flavour profile. Finish is long and warm. Score: 90+ pts


Note: All prices are in USD, unless otherwise stated.


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