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  • Date publishedMonday, January 30, 2012

California Cabs + Greek Revival: Feb. 4 LCBO Vintages Wine Picks

The next LCBO Vintages release is on and the major feature in this release is titled "California Cabs". I find most Cabernets Sauvignons from California to be relatively high-priced and don't provide high QPR (quality-price ratio). However, the Sebastiani Cab Sauv did make my list of top wine picks.

Secondary feature of this release focuses on popular varietals from Greece. I've always enjoyed Greek wines and believe you will too! Some grape varietals to discover are the white Assyrtiko and Moschofilero (see Tselopos below), and the red grape Agiorgitiko.

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, some sweet wine that won't break the bank would be nice. I've chosen two such wines that will satisfy you and/or your partner's sweet tooth.

The rest of the release features a few quality wines, including the 'Wine of the Month' Plunkett Fowles Shiraz. Jip Jip Rocks also made my list of wine picks for the second time in three releases.

If you try any of these, send me a note or post a comment and tell me what you thought. Enjoy my picks for this week! Cheers!

Red Wine:
  • PLUNKETT FOWLES STONE DWELLERS SHIRAZ 2008 - Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria, Australia (#265967) (XD) - $19.95
  • MAETIERRA DOMINUM QUATRO PAGOS 2005 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#246660) (XD) - $19.95
  • JIP JIP ROCKS SHIRAZ/CABERNET 2009 - Padthaway, South Australia, Australia (#186114) (D) - $16.95
  • LA POSTA ANGEL PAULUCCI VINEYARD MALBEC 2008 - Mendoza, Argentina (#075515) (XD) - $15.95
  • ALBINO ARMANI EGLE RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE 2008 - DOCG, Veneto, Italy (#247916) (XD) - $15.95
  • SEBASTIANI CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 - Sonoma County, California, USA (#640573) (D) - $19.95

White Wine:
  • BELJE GRAŠEVINA 2009 - Suho Vrhunsko, Croatia (#264200) (D) - $16.95
  • JOSEPH CATTIN RIESLING 2010 - AC, Alsace, France (#259788) (XD) - $14.95
  • SMALL GULLY THE FORMULA HELEN’S HARMONY VIOGNIER 2008 - Barossa Valley, South Australia, Australia (#269332) (XD) - $19.95
  • TSELEPOS MOSCHOFILERO MANTINIA 2010 - PDO, Greece (#724583) (D) - $16.95

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

Dessert Wine:
  • COTNARI GRASA DE COTNARI 2009 - DOCC, Romania (#073205) (MS) - $12.95

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

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  • Date publishedWednesday, January 25, 2012

2007 Concha y Toro Winemaker's Lot 148 Carmenère (Chile) - Review

It's chicken fajita night. To celebrate, I turned to one of my favourite grapes: Carmenère. This little-known varietal is making its trademark in Chile and gaining popularity. Purchased in August, 2009 from the "Chile's Brilliant Showstoppers" release, it needed to be aged to soften the tannins and is now ready for primetime.

CONCHA Y TORO WINEMAKER'S LOT 148 CARMENÈRE 2007 - Las Pataguas Vineyard, Rapel Valley, Chile (#030957) (XD) - $16.95

Tasting Note:
Cork smells of plums, dark fruit and hints of raisin. Inky, smoky, chocolate, cassis, pomegranate and hints of mocha aromas from the glass. Cassis, herbal, white pepper, mocha, milk chocolate notes on the palate. Full bodied red with ripe tannins. Could be aged another 1-2 years, but can be savoured today. Recommended.

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  • Date publishedWednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 Niagara Icewine Festival - Review

Wow! What a weekend. By the time we were done mid-Saturday afternoon, I could not believe we were Icewine-d out! Here's why:

Our first stop was Château des Charmes for their mini Icewine glazed New York-style cheesecake and mocha cheesecake. Both were delicious and paired extremely well with the Icewine cocktail made with fruit juices. We also took in a tour of the facilities as we heard it is one of the best in the region. We heard correctly - it is very good and Rose is an excellent and entertaining tour guide. We also tasted quite a few of the wines and was extremely impressed with the 2007 Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard Riesling Icewine. Full review of this fantastic Icewine and other wines we tasted along the tour will be available in another post later this week.

Cellar at Château des Charmes
The next stop was nearby at Cattail Creek Estate Winery for some butter chicken. In a word - disappointing. The butter chicken was nothing like I had seen before - it was dry and mixed with rice, and I did not see/taste the mango chutney. It was also paired with the 2008 Select Late Harvest Vidal (the Official Icewine Festival booklet states 2006 Barrel Fermented Vidal Icewine). What happened? Seems like everything was off base here. Off to PondView Estate Winery...

"Fire and Ice" Wine Jelly
Two Icewines - Cabernet Franc in chocolate cup, and Vidal in glass. Both were very delicious. The Vidal Icewine was paired with a slice of baguette topped with blue cheese. The surprise was a cucumber topped with some cream (soft cheese?) and "Fire and Ice" wine jelly. Everything here was tasty with top-notch presentation!

Next up - Riverview Cellars Estate Winery for some homemade biscotti, and skewers of banana, strawberry & marshmallow - all dipped in a fountain of Belgian chocolate. Messy, but tasty. The Cab Franc Icewine was delicious, but it's flavours were drowned out by the chocolate. It was busy here! I also experienced for the first time the glass holder attached to the plate - it works, but I was nervous the whole time. :)

Icewine Marshmallow
Since we had some time, we made an unplanned visit to Peller Estates Winery for Icewine and marshmallows and wow! This was a hot spot, lots of people everywhere. Marshmallows were large, and took no time to crisp. How did they do that? Two Icewines were served - Vidal and the Oak Aged. Both were delicious!

Our final winery visit of the day was Jackson Triggs. Here, we sampled a few table wines, followed by the 2007 Cabernet Franc Icewine and the 2007 Delaine Vineyard Riesling Icewine. Both were impressive (and on sale)!

By now, we were quite Icewine-d out, but still had to check out the main event: The Icewine Village. Located on one block of Queen St. in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake, the street was buzzing with people sipping Icewine as they mingled outdoors from booth to booth and shop to shop. Many (if not all) Niagara-region wineries were represented. The ice sculptures were cool, but I felt a little bit more could have been done to make it more festive - perhaps some lights or colourful decorations?

Ice Sculpture at the Icewine Village, Niagara-on-the-Lake
On Day 2, as we made our way back home, we stopped at GreenLane Estate Winery for some gourmet grilled cheese. These two grilled cheese - one gorgonzola, the other cheddar - paired very well with their 2008 Riesling Icewine and red wine (2007 Cabernet Merlot?). Even though they were small-ish, they were very flavourful and filling.
Gourmet Grilled Cheese

Then, we made an unexpected stop at Legends Estates Winery for pulled lamb souvlaki. Wow! Another great appetizer that paired perfectly with their Reserve Shiraz, not so much with the Sauvignon Blanc. The Icewine for dessert was icing on the cake.

For our final stop, we visited Magnotta Winery for three sweet wines, paired with the classic: cheese. Amanda, our host for the tasting was very knowledgeable about the wines and winemaking process - you can tell she loves wine! We tasted the 2010 Vidal Harvest Moon, 2006 Passito Vidal, and 2007 Riesling Icewine. All three were delicious and paired well with the 3 cheeses offered: cheddar, friulano and blue cheese.

That's it for my review of the 2012 Niagara Icewine Festival. The festival will run one more weekend on January 28-29. If you enjoy Icewine, I highly recommend you go because the food and wine was fabulous.

You can purchase Discovery Passes on-site at any of the participating wineries. If you can hold back the urge, buy only 1 Pass and share the 6 tastings with your partner or loved one OR buy 2 passes and share 12 tastings. The weather looks like it will be pretty good this weekend too! Enjoy!

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  • Date publishedMonday, January 16, 2012

Australia + Taste Treats: Jan. 21 Wine Picks

The second Vintages release of 2012 will be in LCBO stores across Ontario on . Primary feature of this release is on Australia. However, I found the secondary feature titled "Taste Treats" to be much more interesting.

Taste Treats is about discovering 6 great grapes - Chenin Blanc, Grüner Veltliner, Mencía, Monastrell (a.k.a. Mourvèdre), Montepulciano and Petit Verdot. Each of these grapes has its own style and should be discovered on their own (i.e. not blended) so you can taste what each has to offer. Five of these grapes made my wine picks (the Pétalos from Spain is made using Mencía).

The rest of this release has a few good value wines, including the 13th Street Merlot. I give much credit to Nero d'Avola because this was the grape that first got me into wine - it's worth discovering.

Enjoy my picks for this week. Let me know your thoughts if you taste any of these. Cheers!

Red Wine:
  • 13TH STREET MERLOT 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#270504) (XD) - $17.95
  • CANICATTI AQUILAE NERO D'AVOLA 2008 - IGT Sicilia, Italy (#218503) (D) - $15.95
  • CONCHA Y TORO SERIE RIBERAS GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - Marchigue, Ribera del Tinguiririca, Chile (#256693) (XD) - $14.95
  • IGNACIO MARIN OLD VINE GARNACHA 2008 - DO Cariñena, Spain (#214205) (D) - $15.95
  • TALAMONTI TRE SAGGI MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO 2008 - DOC, Tuscany, Italy (#204016) (D) - $15.95
  • DESCENDIENTES DE J. PALACIOS PÉTALOS 2009 - DO Bierzo, Spain (#675207) (XD) - $22.95
  • SANTA CAROLINA BARRICA SELECTION PETIT VERDOT 2009 - Rapel Valley, Chile (#007484) (XD) - $14.95

White Wine:
  • JEAN GEILER LIEU-DIT VOGELGARTEN PINOT GRIS 2009 - AC Alsace, France (#259739) (MD) - $17.95
  • SPICE ROUTE CHENIN BLANC 2009 - WO Swartland, South Africa (#174623) (XD) - $17.95
  • HENRY OF PELHAM RESERVE OFF-DRY RIESLING 2009 - VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#557165) (MD) - $15.95
  • WEINGUT ZAHEL RIEDENCUVÉE GRÜNER VELTLINER 2010 - Wiener Lagen, Austria (#181594) (XD) - $15.95

Full list of wines from the Jan. 21 release is here.

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  • Date publishedSaturday, January 14, 2012

2010 Domaine de Rimauresq Rosé (Provence, France) - Wine Review

Who says you can't enjoy a rosé in the middle of Winter when it feels like -22°C outside? This rosé wine was purchased last December from the "Holiday Cheer" release.

DOMAINE DE RIMAURESQ ROSÉ Cru Classé 2010 - AC Côtes de Provence, France (#226647) (XD) - $18.95

Tasting Note:
Beautiful peach hue. Mineral, orange, lemon, and citrus aromas. Unexpected spicy flavours to start, followed by floral and citrus tones, and finishing with orange blossom nuances. Well made, dry rosé. Will be enjoying this with bhinda (video with Okra recipe, we also add potatoes).

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  • Date publishedSaturday, January 7, 2012

2009 Chateau des Charmes Generation Seven Red (Ontario) - Wine Review

Wanted to open an Italian wine to pair with vegetable spinach lasagna that's on the menu tonight, but since I didn't have anything ready to open, I decided to go with something else that was stylistically lighter. It happened to be local...

CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES GENERATION SEVEN RED 2009 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#198036) (D) - $13.95

Tasting Note:
Screw-top and packaged in a clear bottle. Made from Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and Merlot and hint of Gamay Noir. Bright red fruit aromas turn to dark fruit as it warms up in the glass (this was pulled directly from the cellar and opened). Dark berries, blackberry aromas with hints of oak. Blackberry with hints of licorice and spice on the palate. Light- to medium-bodied with ripe fruit and tannins, this is a smooth and easy drinking red that is ready to drink now. Will be enjoying this with vegetable spinach lasagna.

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  • Date publishedMonday, January 2, 2012

2011 Two Oceans Sauvignon Blanc (South Africa) - Wine Review

Received this white wine as a gift over the holidays. Typically, Sauvignon Blancs are meant to be opened while still young, and this one is no exception.

TWO OCEANS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011 - WO Western Cape, South Africa (#340380) (D) - $9.95

Tasting Note:
Screw-top cap (which doesn't necessarily mean cheap or low quality). Classic gooseberry, grass, nettle aromas, with a touch of mineral, petrol and melon. Gooseberry, kiwi, lemon/lime citrus on the palate. Off-dry and quite the nice sipper. Provides really good value at this price point. Will be enjoying this with spinach and potatoes (similar recipe) because the saltiness of this dish should pair well with the grippy, lip-smacking quality of Savvy's.

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  • Date publishedMonday, January 2, 2012

Smart Buys: Jan. 7 LCBO Vintages Wine Picks

It's been 1 year since I began this blog and I have enjoyed every moment. A BIG THANK YOU to all of my growing number of supporters and followers - you mean a lot to me! If you're enjoying my posts, send me note. If you think I can do better in some aspect, let me know! I would love to hear from you.

Without further ado, here are my wine picks for the first Vintages release of 2012 to help you replenish your wine stocks that may have been depleted over the holidays.

The annual "Smart Buys" release will be out in LCBO stores on . I had difficulty paring down my picks as there were lots of good "value wines".

Among the reds, the Jip Jip Rocks Shiraz made my picks at least once in 2011, but I never purchased it. This time, I think I will. If you're looking to cellar something for a few years, go for the LaGrange (Bordeaux). I purchased the 1999 vintage Cappellaccio back in 2004, and recall it being quite good. The 2005 appears just as tempting.

In whites, try something new & sweet with the Huxelrebe grape from Germany. Something a little less sweet is the outstanding Hinterbrook Riesling that won Gold at the 2011 All Canadian Wine Championships. Even drier are the Calamus Cosmic White and the Stephansberg Riesling. If you want something bone dry, the Chablis is your best bet among my picks.

If you're into Ports, the vintage Fonseca/Zeller offers outstanding value and is definitely one to try. Enjoy my wine picks this week and beyond into 2012!

Red Wine:
  • JIP JIP ROCKS SHIRAZ 2009 - Padthaway, South Australia, Australia (#673897) (D) - $16.95
  • RIVERA CAPPELLACCIO RISERVA AGLIANICO 2005 - DOC Castel del Monte, Puglia, Italy (#984120) (XD) - $18.95
  • CHÂTEAU LA CROIX DE QUEYNAC 2009 - AC Bordeaux Supérieur, France (#138636) (XD) - $14.95
  • CHÂTEAU LAGRANGE 2008 - AC Lussac Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France (#230391) (XD) - $19.95
  • URBAN UCO MALBEC/TEMPRANILLO 2010 - Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#166397) (XD) - $13.95

White Wine:
  • HINTERBROOK RIESLING 2010 - VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario, Canada (#270512) (MD) - $17.95
  • ANSELMANN HUXELREBE AUSLESE 2009 - Pfalz, Germany (#681445) (MS) - $17.95
  • CALAMUS COSMIC WHITE 2009 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#255893) (D) - $14.95
  • DOMAINE HUBERT REYSER STEPHANSBERG RIESLING 2008 - AC Alsace, France (#118240) (D) - $19.95
  • DOMAINE DU CHARDONNAY CHABLIS 2009 - AC, Burgundy, France (#183574) (XD) - $19.95

Port Wine:
  • JOSÉ MARIA DA FONSECA & VAN ZELLER VINTAGE PORT 2003 - DOC Douro, Btld. 2005, Portugal (#638924) (S) - $19.95

Full list of wines from the Jan. 7 release is here.

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