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  • Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013 Niagara Icewine Festival Review




Niagara Icewine Festival logo
we enjoyed another very good (and sweet!) weekend in Niagara for the 18th Annual Icewine Festival. Our small group visited 4 wineries on Saturday in Niagara-on-the-Lake, then headed to the Icewine Village to check out the very large ice sculpture and taste some more Icewine and treats.

Our group started off the tour at Niagara College Teaching Winery to sample their 2010 Cabernet Franc Icewine paired with a salted caramel cheesecake. This pairing was an absolute delight as the caramel flavours from the cheesecake complemented the Icewine very well, while the extra cheese from the cheesecake balanced the acidity from the Icewine just right. This was definitely my favourite pairing of the day! Full reviews of the wines tasted during this visit will be posted at a later date.

Winery Tour @ Château des Charmes

The second stop on our tour was Château des Charmes for a tour of their facilities and to learn a bit about the winemaking process, followed by a structured tasting of 3 VQA wines. Following the tour, we partook in their Discovery Pass Experience to enjoy their fabulous 2009 Riesling Icewine paired with shrimp topped with a mango salsa. The shrimp offering did seem different than advertised, but was nonetheless fresh and tasty. An enjoyable pairing, but this Icewine is one of the best around and was the star in this pairing.

Our third stop of the afternoon was Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery for their 2008 Proprietors' Reserve Vidal Icewine paired with a creamy East Coast Lobster Bisque. This was a very popular item as evidenced by lineup when we arrived. While the Icewine was not much to speak of on its own, its creamy mouthfeel did allow it to pair beautifully with the bisque that actually contained pieces of lobster. I could have easily eaten a couple of full-size bowls of the bisque - it was delicious!

Icewine Marshmallows @ Peller Estates

And last, but not least, we visited Peller Estates Winery for an Icewine Marshmallow paired with not one, but two Icewines. Lots of sweet, sweet goodness from the roasted-over-an-open-fire marshmallow and the Vidal and Vidal Oak Aged Icewines made this a heavenly (and slightly messy) experience. My wife and I returned later in the evening for a 5-course tasting menu dinner courtesy of a DINE Magazine contest. More on this in another post.

Nut Cluster in a Chocolate Cup
That concluded our visit to the wineries on Saturday. Our group now headed off to the Icewine Village in the historic town of Niagara-on-the-Lake, where a block of Queen St. was closed off and became pedestrian-only. There were quite a few tents, many delicious Icewines to taste, and even a few food samples to try. Portable heaters scattered throughout kept attendees warm when they were not by the Icewine booths, and were sparse enough to keep the large ice sculpture from melting more quickly. Regarding food samples, there were many beef and pork items, and not much of anything else. I did enjoy the Thai shrimp soup and the cluster of nuts in a chocolate cup. If you're planning on heading to the Icewine Village this weekend (Jan. 26-27), check the weather forecasts and news sources to ensure that the Village is in fact open, because it was closed on Sunday (Jan. 20) due to severe high winds.

On Sunday, we got off to an unexpected early start at Coyote's Run Estate Winery to enjoy their 2008 Riesling Icewine paired with a lightly spiced coconut curried chicken on Kaffir-scented Jasmine rice. This was a nice pairing, but the Icewine would have held up well against a (preferred) slightly spicier curried chicken that had more fuller flavours.

Deconstructed Icewine Crème Brûlée @ Strewn
The next winery on our list was Strewn Winery to try a 'deconstructed' Icewine crème brûlée with maple-oat crunch and pomegranate with their 2010 Select Late Harvest Vidal. I wouldn't have called this dessert item a "crème brûlée", but it was very good, light, not too sweet and matched the sweetness from the Vidal very nicely. Definitely two "thumbs up" on this one. I wouldn't mind getting the recipe of this dessert as it seems relatively simple to make and would likely go over well at gatherings.

Get Schooled in Cool @ Riverview with Angela Kasimos
Our next stop was to "Get Schooled in Cool" - a 60 minute tasting event hosted by Winemaker Angela Kasimos at Riverview Cellars Estate Winery, who talked about the Icewine-making process and took everyone through a tasting of 4 of their dessert wines. The session was quite informative and the wines were delicious! It's quite the experience to meet the Winemaker and hear everything from their perspective. Since we had arrived at Riverview a bit early, we also had the chance to sample their Discovery Pass offering - skewers of strawberries and bananas, and a homemade cranberry-cinnamon biscotti - all dipped in a Belgian chocolate fountain. Yum!

Next, we headed to Twenty Valley to visit Tawse Winery and taste their Riesling Icewine paired with an artisanal cheese, and Cabernet Icewine paired with PC specialty chocolates. Both pairings were quite good as the cheese cut into the Riesling Icewine very well, while the chocolates complemented the flavours from the Cabernet Icewine very nicely. Both Icewines are also very good on their own!

Dark Chocolate Brownie with Spicy Frosting

The final stop of our trip to Niagara was at Fielding Estate Winery where we had a decadent, dark chocolate brownie topped with our choice of either a sweet or spicy chocolate frosting. I opted for the spicy version and didn't regret it. It was different, and enjoyable - I would definitely have it again (we brought the recipe back). It was first paired with their 2010 Merlot, followed by their 2010 Vidal Icewine. Both pairings produced lots of spicy sensations.

If you were tempted by any of the above, keep in mind that the Icewine Festival is running one more weekend (Jan. 26-27). Wineries will be offering their Discovery Pass Experiences. The Icewine Village may or may not be open - do check prior to heading there. The weather looks like it will be cold, but sunny with some clouds. My reviews of the wines tasted over the weekend will be available in a future post. Stay tuned...

Thank you to everyone that attended my tour and I hope you will join me again in the Spring for the New Vintage Festival. As with this tour, space will be limited. One member of our group was my Twitter friend Krista Lamb. She has her own blog titled "Upkeep", where she muses about wine, body and soul. Here is her awesome review of our tour and the Icewine Festival.

View the gallery of photos.



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  • Monday, January 14, 2013

Jan. 19 Wine Picks: Spanish Wines

Cover photo of January 19, 2013 LCBO Vintages Magazine
The next Vintages Release will be on LCBO shelves across Ontario on . This is the 2nd release of 2013 and has Spanish wines as its main feature. Spanish wines tend to offer great value, and this release offers a few very good wines from this Iberian country.

Spain is known for its two red varietals Tempranillo and Garnacha (Grenache); both tend to go wonderfully with mildly-spiced chicken curries, in my opinion. The Don Jacobo is 8 years old and drinking great! It's from the Rioja DOCa and made from 90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha / Mazuelo (Carignan). The Borsao Garnacha is a limited edition release from the Campo de Borja DO, which is just southeast of neighbouring Rioja. It's 100% Garnacha and made from vines 35-60 years old. The Planets de Prior Pons, from the Priorat DOCa in Catalunya, is a blend of 40% Carinena (Carignan), 40% Garnacha, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 5% Syrah. The Legón Reserva is from north-central Spain from the Ribera del Duero DO, which is situated along the Duero river that runs eastward into Portugal and to the Atlantic Ocean; this wine is 100% Tempranillo.

In white wines, Spain is known for its Albariño and Verdejo varietals. The Cuatro Rayas is from the Rueda DO in the north-central part of Spain, just west of Ribera del Duero. It`s made using 100% Verdejo from vines over 100 years old! The Señorio de Rubiós is 100% Albariño and is from the far west part of Spain (near the Atlantic, just north of Portugal) in the Rias Baixas DO.

I was also surprised to see a Roussanne from California in this release, as it's not widely planted. I was in Napa over the holidays and tasted a great Roussanne - I get the feeling that this highly aromatic white varietal will be making heads turn in the very near future, if it hasn't already. It has definitely gotten my attention!

There is also a feature on wines from the Okanagan Valley, of which I was less than impressed. If you're into Scotch, there are a few "distilled treasures". Enjoy my picks for this week. Cheers!


Red Wine:
  • DON JACOBO RESERVA 2004 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#313270) (XD) - $17.95
  • ANGULO INNOCENTI CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - La Consulta, Mendoza, Argentina (#306688) (D) - $18.95
  • JACKSON-TRIGGS NIAGARA ESTATE GRAND RESERVE SHIRAZ 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#317941) (XD) - $19.95
  • LES HAUTS DE CASTELLAS VACQUEYRAS 2010 - AC, Rhône, France (#177634) (XD) - $19.95
  • BORSAO TRES PICOS GARNACHA 2010 - DO Campo de Borja, Spain (#273748) (XD) - $19.95
  • PLANETS DE PRIOR PONS 2008 - DOQ Priorat, Spain (#314559) (XD) - $22.95
  • LEGÓN RESERVA 2005 - DO Ribera del Duero, Spain (#303511) (XD) - $23.95
  • MARCHESI MAZZEI ZISOLA NERO D’AVOLA 2009 - IGT Sicilia, Italy (#303925) (XD) - $25.95
  • DOMAINE TOURNON SHAY’S FLAT VINEYARD SHIRAZ 2010 - Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia (#311480) (D) - $29.95
  • CAPRILI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2007 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#305888) (XD) - $44.95

White Wine:
  • CUATRO RAYAS VIÑEDOS CENTENARIOS VERDEJO 2011 - DO Rueda, Spain (#312900) (XD) - $15.95
  • SEÑORIO DE RUBIÓS ALBARIÑO 2011 - DO Rias Baixas, Spain (#314427) (XD) - $17.95
  • MCNAB RIDGE SHADOW BROOK FARMS ROUSSANNE 2009 - Mendocino, California, USA (#312892) (D) - $18.95
  • ANNE BOECKLIN GEWURZTRAMINER 2010 - AC Alsace, France (#141226) (D) - $18.95
  • C.H. BERRES ÜRZIGER WÜRZGARTEN RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2010 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#301952) (MS) - $24.95
  • FOREIGN AFFAIR ABBRACCIO SAUVIGNON BLANC 2009 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#307587) (D) - $24.95

Fortifieds:
  • DOW’S LATE BOTTLED VINTAGE PORT 2007 - DOC Douro, Portugal (#613927) (S) - $16.95


The rest of the wines and other features from this Release can be found here.


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  • Thursday, January 3, 2013

Jan. 5 Wine Picks: Smart Buys

Cover photo of January 5, 2013 Vintages Magazine
Apologies for the really delayed post, as I've been under the weather out here in cold & rainy California! As per the usual, the first Vintages release of the new year is always titled "Smart Buys". New wines will be in LCBO outlets across Ontario on . I will keep this short as I really need to get back into bed.

The best buy in the release is a fantastic Barolo for under $30. Italy shines through with 3 other reds as well. In whites, there are 2 German wines, plus a delicious extra-dry Assyrtiko from Greece. It's great to see the Flourish Vidal Icewine back on Vintages shelves - superb QPR at $17.95!

There is also a very nice feature on the Cabernet Franc varietal and it's impact here in Ontario. When I first tasted Ontario Cab Francs many years ago, I did not like them and tended to avoid them whenever possible. But over the last few years, I decided to revisit this varietal and now passionately seek them out. They are quite delicious! Enjoy my picks for this week and Happy New Year to all! I'm off to bed!

Red Wine:
  • DE MARTINO LEGADO RESERVA CARMENÈRE 2010 - DO Maipo Valley, Chile (#236059) (XD) - $16.95
  • DONNACHIARA IRPINIA AGLIANICO 2008 - DOC, Campania, Italy (#262956) (XD) - $18.95
  • LA SALA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2008 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#303487) (XD) - $19.95
  • ARNALDO CAPRAI ROSSO MONTEFALCO 2009 - DOC, Umbria, Italy (#303065) (XD) - $19.95
  • CAVE SPRING ESTATE CABERNET FRANC 2007 - Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#072751) (XD) - $24.95
  • LA PIEVE BAROLO 2008 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#213132) (XD) - $28.95
  • DOMAINE BESANCENOT BEAUNE THEURONS 1ER CRU 2009 - AC, Burgundy, France (#299909) (XD) - $35.95

White Wine:
  • TORRES VIÑA ESMERALDA 2011 - DO Catalunya, Spain (#113696) (D) - $13.95
  • WERNER ANSELMANN EDESHEIMER ROSENGARTEN SIEGERREBE SPÄTLESE 2011 - Prädikatswein, Pfalz, Germany (#910554) (MS) - $14.95
  • DR. HERMANN ERDENER TREPPCHEN RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2007 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#181917) (MS) - $16.95
  • SANTO ASSYRTIKO 2011 - PDO Santorini, Greece (#627760) (XD) - $16.95
  • FOXGLOVE CHARDONNAY 2010 - Central Coast, California, USA (#262022) (D) - $19.95

Icewine:
  • FLOURISH VIDAL ICEWINE 2008 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#222356) (S) (200 mL) - $17.95

Sparkling Wine:
  • SCHLOSS WACHENHEIM RIESLING TROCKEN TRADITIONELLE FLASCHENGÄRUNG SEKT - Pfalz, Germany (#301366) (D) - $16.95

Fortifieds:
  • TAYLOR FLADGATE FINE WHITE PORT - DOC Douro, Portugal (#069856) (S) - $15.95



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


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  • Monday, December 24, 2012

Trialto Fall Wine Tasting

Trialto Wine Group Ltd. logo
Towards the , I was invited to attend the Trialto Wine Group's Fall Tasting event held at their (relatively new) offices in downtown Toronto. In all, there were 18 wines available for tasting along with a selection of cheeses and smoked salmon on crackers.

Many of these wines are readily available from either the General List or the Vintages section at the LCBO; these wines can also be purchased in cases of 6 directly from Trialto. Seven of these wines are available (in cases of 6) exclusively through Trialto on consignment only.

These wines were available at the tasting, but I did not taste them as they were reviewed by me previously:

The Summers Chardonnay is a personal fave. My favourite wine of the evening was the Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon. Here are my wine reviews from the event:

TILIA MALBEC 2011 - Mendoza, Argentina (#160945) (XD) - $12.95
Nose a bit closed, but shows dark fruits, violets and iron/metallic aromas. Easy drinking with dark fruits and hints of milk chocolate on the palate. Short- to medium-length finish. Score: 86 pts

ALAMOS MALBEC 2011 - Mendoza, Argentina (#295139) (XD) - $13.95
Intense and focused aromas of violet/lavender and dark fruits. Medium-full bodied with lots of spice on the palate that tapers off to a subdued dark fruit finish. Integrated tannins a bit grippy - could use 1-2 years in cellar. Alcohol (13.5%) shows. Score: 88 pts

LAPOSTOLLE CASA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - Rapel Valley, Chile (#168732) (D) - $15.95
Intense currant, cassis and mint aromas. Medium-bodied with flavours of oak, spices and raspberry. Integrated tannins a bit green, will reward ageing 1 year. Long finish. The LCBO website states that it is discontinued. You can, however, purchase it directly from Trialto. Score: 88 pts

LAS ROCAS GARNACHA 2009 - Calatayud, Spain (#269977) (D) - $14.60
From old vines 35-45 years old. Plush red fruit aromas from the glass. Medium-bodied with more red fruits on palate, joined by cranberry and spice box notes. Tannins a bit chalky. Good acidity with a medium-long finish. Serve slightly chilled. Score: 88 pts

ILLUMINATI RIPAROSSO MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO 2009 - DOC, Abruzzo, Italy (#269985) (XD) - $12.25
Intense and fruit-forward with aromas of cherries, red berries, and some raisin/plum. Light-bodied, very smooth with straight red fruits and red licorice. Crowd pleaser. Score: 88 pts

LIBERTY SCHOOL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - Paso Robles, California, USA (#738823) (D) - $19.95
Very intense aromas of smoke, earth and oak. Big wine with big tannins that are well-integrated. Full-bodied with dark fruits and touch of mint on the palate. It's smooth with mouth-watering acidity and has a long finish. Score: 90 pts

TREANA WHITE 2009 - Paso Robles, Central Coast, California, USA (#011247) (D) - $29.95
Blend of 55% Marsanne and 45% Viognier. Nice floral and tropical fruit aromatics. Off-dry and medium-bodied with complex notes of limestone minerality, orchard fruits and some buttery notes. Oak ageing is evident. Long finish. Score: 89 pts

The following wines are available by Consignment only:

DOMAINE FAIVELEY CHABLIS 2011 - Burgundy, France (#569334) (XD) - $22.95
Nose a bit closed, but shows pear, apple and vegetal aromas with pleasant replays on palate. Medium-bodied with a creamy mouthfeel. Very well-balanced and has a medium-finish. Score: 89 pts

DOMAINE DE LA MORDORÉE 2011 - Côtes-du-Rhône, France (#564715) (XD) - $16.95
Rosé blend of Grenache 40%, Syrah 30%, Cinsault 15%, Carignan 10%, Mourvedre 5%. Shows strawberry, herbal and leafy aromas that come off as Off-Dry. However, the palate is Extra-Dry with loads of minerality and tannin. This is a bigger rosé with a medium-body and a finish that is a touch hot. Balanced with medium-length finish. Score: 88 pts

DOMAINE DE LA MORDORÉE LIRAC 'LA DAME ROUSSE' 2010 - Côtes-du-Rhône, France (#604933) (XD) - $23.95
Old vines consisting of 50/50 Grenache and Syrah. Red wine with lavender, blackcurrant and dark fruit aromas. Medium-full bodied with aromas replays and some spice and sweet vanillan notes on palate. Tannins still a bit tight and should improve in 1-2 years. Quite smooth with a medium-length finish. Score: 90 pts

NOEMÍA A LISA MALBEC 2010 - Rio Negro, Patagonia, Argentina (#) (XD) - $23.95
90% Malbec, 9% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot. Earthy, barnyard nose. Medium-full bodied with more earthy, savoury dark fruit and cedar flavours. Quite smooth and balanced. Integrated tannins a bit chalky - could use more time in bottle. Score: 88 pts

ARGIANO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2007 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#) (XD) - $45.00
Woodsmoke and oak aromas. Medium-full bodied and very smooth with refined tannins. Palate has more woodsmoke, joined by blackcurrants, dark fruits and hints of coffee. Very nice acidity. Drinking quite well now, will reward with 2+ years ageing. Score: 91 pts

Trialto Fall Wine Tasting - photo 1

Trialto Fall Wine Tasting - photo 2

Trialto Fall Wine Tasting - photo 3



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  • Thursday, December 20, 2012

Wine Reviews - 2012 Gourmet Food & Wine Expo

Cornerstone Estate Wine Bottles Being Chilled
Here are my wine reviews from the 2012 Gourmet Food & Wine Expo that was held last month at the Metro Convention Centre in downtown Toronto. To see my full review of the event, go here.

At the K&S Wine Imports booth, located in the VINES Fine Wine and Intervin Lounge, I tasted two wines from Dreissigacker. It's a shame that neither of these wines are available at the LCBO. However, they can be ordered via K&S Wine Imports.

DREISSIGACKER RIESLING 2011 - Rheinhessen, Germany (D) - $23.00
Mineral, lime and floral aromas with very fine, mineral-driven replays on the palate. Round and off-dry with moderate acidity. Well-balanced throughout. Crowd-pleaser. Score: 88-89 pts

DREISSIGACKER BECHTHEIMER RIESLING 2011 - Rheinhessen, Germany (D) - $35.00
Mineral, floral and some peach aromas. Off-dry with a very lively acidity and aromas replays that temper into a long-lasting, minerally finish. Very nice! Score: 90-91 pts

COYOTE'S RUN RARE VINTAGE MERITAGE 2010 - VQA St. David's Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $32.95
Smoky, blackberry, currant, raspberry and oak aromas with fruit and oak replays on palate. Lively acidity and full-bodied, but still a bit tight with chalky and grippy tannins. I would cellar for 2 years. Score: 88 pts

CORNERSTONE ESTATE GEWURZTRAMINER 2010 - Barrel aged, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (D) - $14.00
Barrel aged for 10 months. Honeysuckle and lychee aromas. Oily texture and off-dry with more lychee and honey with some nutty notes. A touch hot towards the short finish. Score: 87 pts

CORNERSTONE ESTATE CABERNET FRANC 2008 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $16.00
Smoky barrels and dark fruit nose. Medium-full bodied with dark currant and mulberry on the palate. Round and well-balanced with bright acidity and a medium-length finish. Tannins a bit chalky and has 1-2 years further aging potential. Score: 88 pts

CORNERSTONE ESTATE CHENIN BLANC 2009 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada - $19.00
Quite aromatic with fruity, sweet citrus nose. Citrus and some lime palate gives way to high acidity. Light-bodied with a medium-length finish. Not complicated, and very easy to drink. A crowd-pleaser that would make a good apertif. Score: 87-88 pts

Unfortunately, no Cornerstone wines are available at the LCBO. But all can be purchased online through their website or by visiting the winery. I spent quite a bit of time speaking with President Jerry Kopanski and am looking forward to visiting this winery in the near future.

The next two wines were tasted at the Trialto booth. Both of these wines are available at the LCBO, but can also be purchased by the case directly from Trialto.

CHÂTEAU PIPEAU 2009 - Saint-Emilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France (#302018) (XD) - $34.95
90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc. Lots of big oak, currant and dark fruit aromas. Gobs of chunky, dark fruits on palate that is joined by coffee and chocolate notes. French barrel oaking shines through on this very big, full-bodied Merlot. It's well-balanced, has very good acidity and a long finish. Score: 91 pts.

CATENA ALTA MALBEC 2009 - Mendoza, Argentina (#982355) (XD) - $49.95
Gorgeous ripe blackberry, and raspberry aromas. Medium-bodied with ripe dark fruits, and sweet, sexy vanillan on the palate. Balanced wine with a long finish. Lovely! Score: 92 pts

The following wine review was one of two tasted at the Wines of Georgia pavilion. I've always been intrigued by wines from this very old wine-region (recently discovered as quite possibly the oldest wine region ever). The second wine was a semi-sweet table red wine that was not my cup of tea. However, if you like sweet red table wines, then you should definitely look at the Georgia and it's neighbours. Get in touch with United Stars.

QVEVRIS 2011 - Georgia (XD) - $13.55
This white wine has a nose of cumin and other mild Asian spices. Light-bodied with a chalky/tannic mouthfeel. Flavours of fennel and black licorice. Slightly off-dry. Different. This will be available at the LCBO in the near future.

These two French wines were tasted at the large Wines of France booth. I've been impressed previous Rodet wines, and thought to give these entry-level wines a shot. Both are commendable efforts for the price and readily available at the LCBO.

ANTONIN RODET CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE 2010 - AC Côtes-du-Rhône, France (#008979) (XD) - $12.95
Red-blend. Closed nose with dark berries and hints of oak with more of the same on the palate. Evident tannin, well-balanced with a long finish. It's an easy-drinking, crowd-pleaser of a red. Score: 87-88 pts

ANTONIN RODET SYRAH 2010 - Vin de Pays d'Oc, Languedoc, France (#293035) (XD) - $11.95
Blueberry and currant aromas. Medium-bodied with mint, black currants, and ripe fruits on the palate. Round and balanced with integrated tannins. Medium-length finish. Score: 87 pts

The final two wines I tasted at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo were from the local winery Hidden Bench Vineyards & Winery, located in Beamsville, Ontario. Both wines were yummy.

HIDDEN BENCH ESTATE RIESLING 2011 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#183491) (XD) - $24.00
Clean and fresh aromas of lime and minerality. Lots of zesty citrus with zippy acidity on the palate that finishes with some tart lime. Well-balanced with a medium-length finish. Needs some time to soften. Score: 89 pts

HIDDEN BENCH TERROIR CACHÉ - RED MERITAGE 2008 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#505610) (XD) - $35.20
Blend of 47% Merlot, 22% Cab Franc, 21% Cab Sauv and 10% Malbec. Lots of oak and smoky aromas with underlying dark fruits. Full-bodied with bright acidity and more dark fruit and tobacco flavours on the palate. Grippy tannins could use another 2-3 years in cellar, but drinking well now. Score: 90 pts


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  • Sunday, December 9, 2012

Castellani Sommavite Santovino (Italy) - Wine Review

Baking almond biscotti today, I decided to open this Vin Santo that was purchased from the May 5th release way back in 2009. Unfortunately, like many of my other dessert wines, I tend to forget about them and then realize that I should have opened them years ago.

CASTELLANI SOMMAVITE SANTOVINO N.V. - Tuscany, Italy (#000927) (S) (500 mL) - $10.95

Homemade Almond Biscotti with Castellani Sommavite Santovino
Tasting Note:
Plum and raisin notes from the cork. Closed nose with some aromas of raisin and hazelnut. Creamy mouthfeel with mouth-watering acidity and flavours of nutty caramel. It's well past its prime and really should have been opened back in 2009. This non-vintage dessert wine was featured recently in the Sept. 29 release and I wouldn't hesitate to try it again as it looks like it would be pretty good during its prime drinking window. At least the homemade almond biscotti that my wife baked was delicious!


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  • Monday, December 3, 2012

Dec. 8 Wine Picks: Festive Get-Togethers

Cover of December 8, 2012 LCBO Vintages Magazine
The next LCBO Vintages wine release will be in stores across Ontario on . This is the final release of 2012. So, if you haven't been stocking up for the holidays from previous releases, now is your last chance to do so.

This release is titled "Joys of the Season" and focuses on Fine Wines and Sparkling Wines for Festive Get-Togethers. I will skip the Sparklers as I didn't find anything too interesting, but you can check them out in the magazine.

If you're hosting a holiday dinner this season, it would be a good idea to start with a light, refreshing appertif that is "low" in alcohol, such as the Moscato (12% alc/vol) from California. Also suitable would be the extra-dry Riesling from Australia that is quite food-friendly and will pair nicely with appetizers.

Moving on to more fuller-bodied wines, I would suggest either the slightly off-dry Vouvray (made with Chenin Blanc) or the Chardonnay from Oregon. Even though winter is nearly upon us and the last thing you're probably thinking about is a rosé wine, I see the Southbrook Cab Franc Rosé slotted in here as well. You could even go with the lighter-bodied Pinot Noir from Ontario.

At this stage, depending on the spice level of your main course, you could either go with a medium-full bodied red, or a medium-sweet German Riesling Spätlese. In red wines, there are plenty of options, from the Mencía, to the Lealtanza (100% Tempranillo) and the Grenache-Syrah blend of Vacqueyras. A couple of very special wines include the Lucile Avril Châteauneuf-du-Pape that is made using 85% Grenache (90 year old vines), 10% Mourvèdre (60 year old vines) and 5% Syrah; and, also the Carnet that is mostly Merlot and some Cabernet Sauvignon, with additional drops of Cab Franc and Petit Verdot.

Finally, to end your meal, we have a sweet (!) Semillon from Australia. You could also indulge in a Tawny Port, or the Four Grapes Vintage port-style wine from California that's made using these 4 Port wine grapes: Tinta Madeira, Tinta Cão, Touriga Nacional, and Souzao.

Enjoy my wine picks for this week and enjoy your holidays! See you all in 2013!


Red Wine:
  • PIERRE LAPLACE MADIRAN 2009 - AC, Southwest, France (#103705) (XD) - $14.95
  • BODEGAS DEL ABAD DOM BUENO MENCÍA 2008 - DO Bierzo, Spain (#291989) (XD) - $15.95
  • FINCA FLICHMAN EXPRESIONES RESERVE SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - Mendoza, Argentina (#017111) (XD) - $15.95
  • LEALTANZA RESERVA 2007 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#208223) (XD) - $19.95
  • FAMILLE PERRIN LES CHRISTINS VACQUEYRAS 2010 - AC, Rhône, France (#973453) (XD) - $23.95
  • TAWSE QUARRY ROAD PINOT NOIR 2009 - VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#307686) (D) - $34.95
  • DOMAINE DURIEU LUCILE AVRIL CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2009 - AC, Rhône, France (#295147) (XD) - $42.95
  • STONESTREET MONUMENT RIDGE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 - Alexander Mountain Estates, Alexander Valley, California, USA (#285098) (XD) - $49.95
  • CHÂTEAU LA TOUR CARNET 2009 - AC Haut-Médoc, 4e Cru, Bordeaux, France (#194555) (XD) - $51.85

White Wine:
  • TERRAPRIMA WHITE 2011 - DO Penedès, Spain (#303552) (D) - $17.95
  • JIM BARRY THE LODGE HILL DRY RIESLING 2011 - Clare Valley, South Australia (#262469) (XD) - $19.95
  • MARC BRÉDIF VOUVRAY 2010 - AC, Loire, France (#685362) (D) - $19.95
  • UVAGGIO SECCO MOSCATO 2010 - Lodi, California, USA (#297515) (D) - $19.95
  • REICHSRAT VON BUHL FORSTER JESUITENGARTEN RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2009 - QmP, Pfalz, Germany (#946673) (MS) - $24.95
  • DE BORTOLI NOBLE ONE BOTRYTIS SEMILLON 2008 - New South Wales, Australia (#917252) (S) (375 mL) - $29.95
  • BACHELDER OREGON CHARDONNAY 2010 - Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA (#273334) (XD) - $29.95
  • PAUL ROSS RIESLING 2007 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#206813) (D) - $35.00

Rosé Wine:
  • SOUTHBROOK TRIOMPHE ORGANIC CABERNET FRANC ROSÉ 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#279117) (D) - $19.95

Fortifieds:
  • PEDRONCELLI FOUR GRAPES VINTAGE PORT 2006 - Dry Creek Valley, California, USA (#204487) (MS) (500 mL) - $19.95
  • BURMESTER 10-YEAR-OLD TAWNY PORT - DOC Douro, Portugal (#223958) (S) - $24.95



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


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