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  • Date publishedSunday, October 28, 2012

Château de Galifay Cairanne 2010 (France) - Wine Review

This red wine is from the fabulous 2010 Southern Rhône vintage and consists of approx. 90% Grenache and 10% Syrah. It was purchased from the Sept. 1 Vintages release.

CHÂTEAU DE GALIFAY CAIRANNE CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2010 - AC, Rhône, France (#290080) (XD) - $17.00

Label photo of 2010 Château de Galifay Cairanne from Rhône, France
Tasting Note:
Plum and cherry wood aromas from cork. Very nice lavender, violet and toasty wood and licorice aromas. Medium-bodied with nicely integrated tannins. Sweet dark fruit flavours on the palate with some spice kicking in midway, leading to a smooth, herbal-note, medium-length finish. Very good acidity. An easy drinking red with some substance. Delicious. Going to enjoy this with lamb chops.

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  • Date publishedFriday, October 26, 2012

Oct. 10 - Cheese & Wine Tasting with Natalie MacLean

On the evening of , I had the pleasure of tasting some fabulous Canadian cheeses and pairing them with Ontario wine. Hosted by Natalie MacLean on Google+ Hangouts, I was joined by 9 others where we discussed the various cheeses and wines. Here is the video recording:

Details of the cheese, wine and participants can be found here.

Here are my impressions of the wines, as well as pairings with each cheese:

JACKSON-TRIGGS RESERVE MERLOT 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (#618421) (D) - $13.95
Screw top. Light earthy, currant and red fruit and some smoke aromas from the glass. Medium-bodied and dry with red fruit, raspberry on the palate leads to peppery, medium-length finish with hints of dark chocolate.

Paired really well with the Madagascar Green Peppercorn as the pepper flavours in the cheese really bring out the pepper/spice notes in the Merlot, without being overwhelming. There is good balance and mouthfeel with the Alpindon as the cheese really softens and coats the pepper notes. The Comfort Cream camembert is also a good pairing. The Onion Cheddar really mixes and mingles nicely with the pepper/herbal/vegetal notes in the Merlot - good pairing. The Elizabeth Bleu and the 1608 overpowers this mild red.

JACKSON-TRIGGS RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (#618413) (D) - $13.95
Screw top. Clean, refreshing lime gooseberry, and herbal aromas give way slight earthiness. Light-bodied with replays of lime, gooseberry, and grass on palate. Has a very fine acidic backbone, medium finish that is a touch hot.

The Alpindon softens the wine acidity and makes the pairing quite delicious. As well, the Green Peppercorn really brings out the herbal/vegetal notes in the wine and makes for an excellent pairing. Average pairing with the Camembert. The Onion cheddar is a bit strong for this Savvy. The 1608 dominates, while the flavours from the Elizabeth Bleu don't mesh.

OPEN CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (#305151) (M) - $11.95
Screw top. Almost no nose, some floral, melon aromas. Very faint honeysuckle, peach, melon on the palate. Medium-bodied with little acidity. Finishes with some spiciness. In a blind tasting, I would have trouble identifying this wine as a Chardonnay.

The sweetness level of this wine allows it to be paired with the 1608 and the Onion cheddar, but not quite enough for the Green Peppercorn or the Alpindon. It pairs well with the Camembert, but is completely killed by the Elizabeth Bleu.

OPEN CAB2-MERLOT 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (#134957) (D) - $11.95
Screw top. Funky crushed red berry aromas, plus some vanilla, coconut and oak aromas. Medium-bodied, round mouthfeel with little acidity. Flavours of raspberry, coconut, vanilla and hints of oak spice. Mostly well-integrated tannins are slightly chalky. Finish is medium. Easy drinking red.

The easy-drinking nature of this wine lends itself to the Camembert and Alpindon, while the 1608 (with rind) is a bit strong for this Cab-Merlot. The Onion cheddar mutes the wines flavours, while the Green Peppercorn brings out the vanilla oak spice notes from the wine. The Elizabeth Bleu pairing really doesn't do well.

INNISKILLIN PINOT NOIR 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (#261099) (D) - $13.95
Red currant, iodine and smoke aromas. Light-to-medium bodied with currant, pomegranate, cranberry on the palate. Some plummy notes on the mid-palate, hints of raisin. Very good acidity with a medium finish. Chalky tannins need a couple of years, but easy drinking right now.

Again, an easy-drinking red that pairs well with the Camembert and the Alpindon. The 1608 and Onion cheddar dominate the flavour profile. Lots of spicy flavours when pairing this Pinot with the Green Peppercorn.


INNISKILLIN VIDAL SPARKLING ICEWINE 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (#560367) (S) - $79.95
Gorgeous peach, apricot and honey aromas with lots of aromas replays on palate dominated by honey. Medium-bodied with good acidity. Silky smooth, creamy mousse on the medium-long finish. In a word: WOW!

Lacking the acidity and finish to pair with the Camembert. Good pairing with the Alpindon, while the pairings with the 1608 and Green Peppercorn start well, but finish with the cheese flavours dominating the palate. This Vidal holds it own quite well against the Onion cheddar. The Elizabeth Bleu is a match made in heaven

JACKSON-TRIGGS RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (#526251) (D) - $11.95
Screw top. Pear, orchard fruits and hints of barnyard from the glass. Medium-bodied with flavours of beeswax and pear. Dry. Well-balanced with bright acidity. Finish is long with spiced oak flavours and hints of vanilla.

This white wine brings out some earthy/mushroom flavours in the Camembert. A magic pairing with the Alpindon, nicely balanced and meshed. Pairs well with the 1608 until the wine leaves your mouth and you get a burst of flavour from the cheese. The Onion cheddar dominates the wine, while the Chardonnay does hold its own for a while with strong pepper/spice notes against the Green Peppercorn. The Elizabeth Bleu doesn't pair well.

JACKSON-TRIGGS RESERVE RIESLING 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (#526277) (M) - $11.45
Screw top. Mineral, floral apricot and honey aromas. Light-bodied with crisp mineral and lime on the palate. It's on the sweeter side, with good acidity, but has slight tart notes at the mid-palate and a short, supple finish. Would make a good apertif.

Average pairing with the Camembert and the Alpindon. The wine pairing with the 1608 was pleasant. The sweetness from this wine did subdue the onion from the Onion Cheddar. Really did not enjoy the pairing with the Green Peppercorn and the Elizabeth Bleu.

LE CLOS JORDANNE VILLAGE RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2009 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (#033936) (XD) - $30.00
Spring flower aromas from the cork. Silky aromas of buttered popcorn and French oak, with hints of vanilla. Also an intriguing sesame note. Creamy mouthfeel with refreshing acidity and extra dry flavours of minerality, oak and lemon rind. Very smooth with a lasting finish that goes on and on...

This Chardonnay glides smoothly over the Camembert and the Alpindon. However, once the Chardonnay leaves your mouth, there is a blast of flavour from the Alpindon - not bad. Nicely balanced pairing with the 1608. Also enjoyable was the Onion cheddar and Green Peppercorn, however, the Green Peppercorn flavours do last must longer than the wine. The pairing with the Elizabeth Bleu is not bad, but I would be hesitant to praise it, as it's a little harsh.

Wine lineup for #CdnCheese tasting

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  • Date publishedMonday, October 22, 2012

Oct. 27 LCBO Wine Picks: 2009 Bordeaux

Cover photo of October 27, 2012 LCBO Vintages Wine Magazine
The next Vintages release will be in LCBO outlets across Ontario on . The main feature in this release is on the critically-acclaimed 2009 Bordeaux vintage - once hailed as the "Vintage of the Century".

However, looking at the 16 red Bordeaux wines in this release, I was a little underwhelmed with the offerings - I was expecting greatness! I was more impressed with the two white Bordeauxs. The Château Toumilon - made using 60% Semillion and 40% Sauvignon Blanc, and the Château de Cruzeau - which is 100% Sauvignon Blanc are both outstanding. Among the reds, the Lestruelle is a good introduction to the vintage, consisting of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, while the Château Sénéjac is (likely) a blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

The secondary feature in this release is on small, boutique wineries from California. Not surprisingly, they all come in at rather high price points. If money is no object, grab a few bottles of the Juslyn Spring Mountain Cab Sauv and open one every 5 years.

From the rest of the release, the Hecht & Bannier Minervois consists of mostly Syrah, some Grenache, and drops of Carignan. The Fattoi is, of course, 100% Sangiovese.

Among my white wine picks, the Simonnet-Febvre is, of course, 100% Chardonnay. Also, consider getting both the Preiss-Zimmer and the Dr. Loosen Rieslings and taste them side-by-side. Both are similar in sweetness levels, as the German wine is just off-dry (unusual for Mosel Rieslings) and would allow for a good comparison between these two fine Riesling wine regions.

Enjoy my picks for this week! Cheers!

Red Wine:
  • CHÂTEAU LESTRUELLE 2009 - AC Médoc, Bordeaux, France (#295840) (XD) - $18.95
  • TRAPICHE FINCAS LAS PALMAS MALBEC 2007 - Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#186668) (XD) - $17.95
  • CANEPA FINÍSIMO GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - Marchigüe, Colchagua Valley, Chile (#211920) (XD) - $17.95
  • HECHT & BANNIER MINERVOIS 2010 - AC, Midi, France (#017764) (XD) - $19.95
  • GRA² GRACIANO 2010 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#190819) (XD) - $16.95
  • CHÂTEAU SÉNÉJAC 2009 - AC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (#193177) (XD) - $28.85
  • FATTOI BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2007 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#033498) (XD) - $34.95
  • JUSLYN SPRING MOUNTAIN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#289868) (XD) - $139.95

White Wine:
  • PREISS-ZIMMER VIEILLES VIGNES RIESLING 2008 - AC Alsace, France (#292193) (D) - $18.95
  • SIMONNET-FEBVRE CHABLIS 2010 - AC, Burgundy, France (#041780) (XD) - $19.95
  • CHÂTEAU TOUMILON BLANC 2009 - AC Graves, Bordeaux, France (#314864) (XD) - $16.95
  • DR. LOOSEN RED SLATE RIESLING DRY 2011 - Qualitätswein, Mosel, Germany (#295923) (D) - $19.95
  • MIKE WEIR SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#686972) (XD) - $14.95
  • CHÂTEAU DE CRUZEAU BLANC 2009 - AC Pessac-Léognan, Bordeaux, France (#966010) (XD) - $27.95

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

  • Date publishedSunday, October 21, 2012

Wine Reviews - 2012 Niagara Wine Festival

Here are my wine reviews from my recent visit to the Niagara Peninsula for the 2012 Niagara Grape & Wine Festival.

As usual, I tasted some very tasty and exciting wines. Some of the highlights were Fielding's Chosen Few, Vineland's St. Urban Elevation, nearly everything from Niagara College Teaching Winery, Featherstone's 2011 Cab Franc and Onyx, and Tawse's Chardonnays and Cab Franc Icewine. Some of these wines can be found at the LCBO, while the rest can be ordered online from the winery's website or by visiting the winery.

FIELDING CABERNET-SYRAH 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#258657) (XD) - $24.95
Aromas of smoke and ripe blackberries with nice replays on the palate. Some spiciness on the medium-long finish. Mouth-watering acidity. Tannins integrating nicely, but could use another year or so in bottle. Score: 88 pts

FIELDING ESTATE BOTTLED RIESLING 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#251439) (D) - $18.95
Very lovely aromas of floral, lemon drops and citrus. Aroma replays on palate that also feature some intriguing honey notes. Very good acidity, quite well-balanced and finishes crisp. Score: 89 pts

FIELDING LOT NO. 17 RIESLING 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#203521) (D) - $25.95
Soft, clean aromas of citrus, lime, mango, mineral and florals, with more of the same on the juicy, sweet fruit, and vibrant palate. Well-balanced with bracing acidity and a long finish. Tasty! Score: 89+ pts

FIELDING CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#) (XD) - $44.95
Lots of cassis and smoked cedar, with some hints of mint aromas. Full-bodied with big, chalky tannins. Cassis and cedar flavours on the long finish. Still seems young and needs a couple of years for tannins to settle. Score: 88-89 pts

FIELDING CHOSEN FEW 2007 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#) (XD) - $59.95
Cabernet Sauvignon 45%, Merlot 41%, and Syrah 14%. Intense aromas of currant, black fruits and some oak. Medium-full bodied with savoury ripe fruits, currants and spice on the palate. Long finish. Approachable now, but will reward with further 2 years ageing. Score: 90 pts

VINELAND ESTATES CHARDONNAY MUSQUÉ 2008 - VQA Niagara Escarpment (#996793) (D) - $17.95
Fresh and aromatic with intriguing honey, lime and citrus aromas. Medium-bodied with peach, citrus, lime and hints of spice on the palate. Medium-long finish is a touch hot. Paired well with the Comox Brie. Score: 88 pts

VINELAND ESTATES ST. URBAN ELEVATION RIESLING 2011 - VQA Niagara Escarpment (#038117) (M) - $19.95
Mineral and petrol aromas with hints of peach and apricot. Bracing acidity on the palate with flavours of peach and honey, finishing with tart minerality. Quite well-balanced and paired very well with the Aged Lankaaster. Score: 89 pts

VINELAND ESTATES ELEVATION CABERNET 2009 - VQA Niagara Escarpment (#173609) (D) - $25.00
94% Cab Franc, 6% Cab Sauv. Lots of oak, smoke, currant and dark fruit aromas with replays on the palate. A simple, balanced-wine with good acidity. Pairing was average with the Réserve La Pérade. Score: 87 pts

VINELAND ESTATES ELEVATION CABERNET 2010 - VQA Niagara Escarpment (#173609) (D) - $25.00
65% Cab Franc, 33% Cab Sauv and 2% Merlot. Red fruit and restrained oak aromas. Full bodied and well-balanced with integrated tannins. Red fruit and cedar flavour profile on long finish. Score: 88 pts

VINELAND ESTATES ELEVATION CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Niagara Escarpment (#164459) (XD) - $20.75
Clean intense lime aromas. Well-balanced and refreshing on the palate with more lime and mineral flavours. Long finish. Serve well-chilled. Score: 89 pts

88% Cab Franc, 10% Cab Sauv and 2% Merlot. Intense oak and dark fruit aromas. Full-bodied with integrated oak and dark fruit flavours on the palate. Approachable now, but another year in cellar would benefit. Score: 88 pts

NIAGARA COLLEGE TEACHING WINERY (NCT) DEAN'S LIST CHARDONNAY 2009 - Donald Ziraldo, St. David's Bench, VQA Niagara Peninsula (#) (D) - $27.95
Very long nose with butter and apple aromatics joined by some tropical fruits. Begins very smooth with aromas replays on the palate, long finish is a bit spicy. Enjoyable! Score: 90 pts

NCT DEAN'S LIST CABERNET FRANC 2009 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#) (XD) - $27.95
Inaugural vintage? Jammy red fruits, cranberry and some wood smoke and plum aromas. Full bodied and quite smooth with red fruit and plum on the palate. Ripe tannins. Well-made. Score: 88 pts

NCT DEAN'S LIST MERITAGE 2007 - VQA Ontario (#) (XD) - $47.95
Black currant and cedar oak aromas. On the palate, there is blackberry and cassis. Combination of American, Canadian and French oak is well-integrated. Ripe tannins are refined and elegant. Finish is smooth and long. Drinking great right now! Score: 91 pts

NCT DEAN'S LIST SAVANT ICEWINE 2009 - (S) (200 mL) - $37.95
Gorgeous sweet apple cider, peach and orange aromas. Medium-bodied with a very good backbone of acidity that balances sweetness extremely well. Flavours of peach, apple cider and orange shine through on the palate, finishing long. Wow. Score: 91-92 pts

Blackcurrant, cassis, plum and hints of vanilla aromas. Medium-bodied with dark fruits and spice on the palate. Mouthfeel is soft and round, with integrated tannins. Short-to medium finish. Score: 87 pts

PILLITTERI PINOT GRIGIO 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#146787) (XD) - $14.95
Mostly citrus and lime aromas, with hints of floral and peach. Bone dry with high acidity. Lime and floral notes on the palate. It paired well with the 1-year-old cheddar. Score: 86 pts

JACKSON-TRIGGS BLACK SERIES GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#526269) (D) - $12.95
Gorgeous floral and clean lime aromas, also some lychee notes. Dry on the palate with lime and lychee flavours. Some spiciness on the mid-palate, and a nice finish. Easy drinking. Would make a good apertif. Score: 88 pts

HERNDER CABERNET FRANC 2010 - VQA (#) (XD) - $18.95
Copious amounts of oak, cedar and vanilla aromas. On the palate, there is raspberry and red currant flavours. Good acidity and has a short finish. Score: 83 pts

FEATHERSTONE ROSÉ 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#117861) (D) - $14.95
Blend of 60% Gamay and 40% Cab Franc. Fruity red fruits, cranberry, and candied fruit aromas. Bracing acidity and dry with candied cherries and strawberries on the palate. Finish is a touch hot. Would make a great apertif. Score: 87 pts

FEATHERSTONE GAMAY 2010 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench (#) (XD) - $19.95
Aged in French oak, this wine features woody aromas of cedar and cran-cherry with replays on the palate. Tannins are well-integrated. A simple, easy-drinking, well-balanced, extra-dry red wine. Score: 88 pts

FEATHERSTONE PINOT NOIR 2008 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench (#) (XD) - $24.95
Very earthy with mushroom and forest floor aromas. Light-bodied and made in a cool-climate style with sourcherry, beet root notes on the palate. Mouth-watering acidity. Ripe fruit with slightly chalky tannins that are integrating nicely. Score: 87 pts

FEATHERSTONE CABERNET FRANC 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#64618) (XD) - $16.95
Bottled just two days prior to my tasting. Intense oak and cedar aromas with some raspberry and dark fruits in the background. Has good fruit, structure and acidity, but still very tight and grippy. Tannins will settle very nicely in a couple of years. Has potential to be better than 2010. Score: 90+ pts

FEATHERSTONE ONYX 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#) (XD) - $29.95
The 20 best barrels blended with 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Merlot aged in French oak make up this wine. Lush red fruits and kirsch aromas. Medium-bodied and very smooth with red fruits on the palate. Finely-grained tannins and a long finish. A delight! Score: 90 pts

TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA CHARDONNAY 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#089037) (XD) - $19.95
Intense apple, pear, butter and peach aromas with replays on the palate. Extra dry wine that is medium-bodied and very smooth, with a lengthy finish. Nice!! Score: 90 pts

TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA RIESLING 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#089029) (D) - $17.95
Apricot/peach, petrol with some zesty orange aromas. Nice aroma replays on palate, but with some slight tartness on the finish. Lip-smacking acidity. Score: 90 pts. Here was my review from Nov. 2011.

TAWSE ECHOS CABERNET MERLOT 2010 - Niagara Peninsula (XD)
48% Cab Sauv, 35% Cab Franc and 18% Merlot and normally only available at restaurants. Very ripe dark red fruit along with sweet vanillan aromas. More dark fruits on the palate. It's quite smooth and balanced, long finish. Score: 88 pts

TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA ROSÉ 2011 - VQA Niagara (#172643) (D) - $15.95
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Gamay. Candied strawberry and cherry aromas. Ripe, juicy fruit and slightly off-dry with strawberry and cherry on the palate. Really good acidity and with a nice finish. Score: 87 pts

TAWSE QUARRY ROAD CHARDONNAY 2010 - VQA Vinemount Ridge (#111989) (XD) - $34.95
Apple and butter aromas with lots of minerality shining through. On the palate there is more minerality with citrus notes and lively acidity at mid-palate. Oak is very well integrated. Score: 91 pts

TAWSE CABERNET FRANC ICEWINE 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#306035) (S) (200 mL) - $34.95
Intense aromas of candied strawberry, cherry and floral aromas. Lush mouthfeel with ripe strawberry and cherry replays on the palate. Overall, it's very well-balanced by mouth-watering acidity. Lovely! Score: 91 pts

GREENLANE PINOT GRIGIO 2011 - VQA Lincoln Lakeshore (#) (XD) - $16.95
Clean, refreshing lime aromas.Mineral, lemon-lime and hints of citrus with a zing. Focused acidity with a finish that is a touch spicy and hot. Score: 86 pts

GREENLANE ESTATE RIESLING 2011 - VQA Lincoln Lakeshore (#327247) (D) - $21.95
Clean lime and petrol aromas with hints of citrus. Aroma replays on palate with bright acidity that's a bit bumpy. Some tartness on the medium-length finish. Score: 87 pts

GREENLANE ROSÉ 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#326181) (XD) - $15.95
Straight up ripe strawberry aromas and flavours. Some sweetness is quickly balanced by the lively acidity to finish extra dry. Also has a hot finish. Score: 86 pts

GREENLANE UNOAKED CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Lincoln Lakeshore (#329409) (XD) - $17.96
Very minerally with refreshing lime and pear aromas. On the palate there are citrus, peach and melon notes. Finish is hot, while the fruit needs some time to settle. Lay it down for 1 year. Score: 86-87 pts

GREENLANE ICEWINE RIESLING 2008 - VQA Niagara Peninsula (#) (S) (200 mL) - $29.95
Lovely apricot, peach and honey aromas. Very fine seam of acidity and aromas replays on the palate. Well-balanced until the finish, where fruit is starting to fade. Drink now. Score: 89 pts. Also tasted January 2012.

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  • Date publishedFriday, October 12, 2012

Niagara Wine Festival 2012 - A Review

During the last weekend of September, I had the pleasure of visiting the Niagara Peninsula for the 61st Annual Grape and Wine Festival that celebrated this year's vintage harvest. This was my first time attending the big harvest festival in about 8 years, so I was excited to see what's changed during my absence.

Discovery Pass in hand, we started off at Fielding Estate Winery for a smoked tomato & Niagara Gold grilled cheese prepared by August Restaurant. This was paired beautifully with Fielding's 2010 Cabernet Syrah, as the smoky flavours from the wine held up well against the somewhat strong flavours from the Niagara Gold (cheese) and smoked tomato. The live guitar performance definitely added some great ambiance under the outdoor tent.

Up next was a traditional wine & cheese tasting at Vineland Estates Winery. First up was the very soft and delicious Comox Brie (British Columbia) that paired very nicely with the sweet flavours from the 2008 Chardonnay Musqué. The second pairing was the firm, Aged Lankaaster (Ontario) that also paired quite well with the 2011 St. Urban Elevation Riesling. The third and final pairing was the firm Réserve La Pérade (Québec) washed rind cheese with the 2009 Elevation Cabernet. It was a balanced pairing with strong flavours coming from both the rind and wine.

Our Group

Our third stop of the afternoon was at Niagara College Teaching Winery. I was very excited about this visit as I had heard many good things, but never had the pleasure of visiting or tasting any of their wines. Led by Chris from NCT, we took in a tour of the winery and facilities - which I highly recommend as you will learn quite a bit - and followed that up with a structured tasting of a few of their Dean's List wines and some delicious Ice Syrup! I can't wait to post a review of these wines - look out for them shortly.

Structured tasting at Niagara College Teaching Winery

The final stop on Saturday was Montebello Park in St. Catharines and, while we didn't stay long, we did get a chance to taste a few wines and sample some food. The park was buzzing and quite crowded (much more so than I expected) and queues for some popular food items moved slowly while stretching back 15 people. However, patrons were enjoying themselves as they listened to 60's and 70's classics while sipping wine, as the evening cooled under cloudy skies.

On Sunday, we began our Discovery Pass Experience in Niagara-on-the-Lake at Pillitteri Estates Winery with a very generously-portioned grilled cheese sandwich made with sweet onion and 1-year-old white cheddar. Their 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon complemented the grilled cheese well, but a smaller/thinner sandwich bun would have worked better to bring out the cheese. What happened to the "shredding of 4 unconventional cheeses"?

Shrimp "Po Boy" at Jackson-Triggs
Off we go to Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery for a pairing of their 2010 Gewürztraminer Reserve with a Black Tiger Shrimp "Po Boy". Excellent presentation. A satisfying pairing that could have been outstanding if the shrimp was spicier to better balance the off-dry flavours from the wine. Warm bread would have been a nice touch.

The next stop was Hernder Estate Wines in Twenty Valley for some turkey bites - I didn't enjoy it. On the bright side, we did leave with Icewine Slushies, which made the stop completely worthwhile!

Cabernet Sauvignon at GreenLane
Since we were making good time, we made an unplanned stop at Featherstone Estate Winery to see if any of the sheep labourers were around and perhaps take a tour. Instead, we ended up doing a few tastings, including the just-released 2011 Cabernet Franc, which looks like it's going to be REALLY good! I enjoyed their 2008 earlier this summer, and the 2010 was one of my top picks from the Sept. 15 Vintages release. I also had the pleasure of meeting The Grande Fromage: Louise Engel - a very sweet lady and a pleasure to talk to.

Our next stop was GreenLane Estate Winery for some hearty gourmet pizzas, where the base was made of fluffy pastry dough. Really delicious and paired well with their 2011 Pinot Grigio. The pizza on pastry dough was a great idea that was executed well, and I'm sure will be replicated at our home one of these days.

The final stop of our wine tour this weekend was Tawse Winery for traditional cheese and wine pairings. All 3 pairings of cheese and wine were great. However, my attention veered towards the wines - as all 3 were extremely yummy - with the 2010 Sketches of Niagara Chardonnay being my favourite!

Detailed reviews of wines tasted are here.

Overall, I was quite satisfied with our visit to Niagara and believe our group enjoyed themselves too! Thank you to everyone that attended! We look forward to having you join us in January 2013 for the Icewine Festival (2012 review here).

View the tour photo gallery.

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  • Date publishedMonday, October 8, 2012

Oct. 13 LCBO Wine Picks: Australia + Chile

Cover of October 13, 2012 LCBO Vintages Wine Magazine
The next Vintages wine release will be in LCBO outlets across Ontario on . The main feature in this release is on five impressive artisanal wineries from Australia. Four of these wineries have wines among my picks in this release.

Australia is known for its Shiraz. But these four wines show that they are more than capable of producing outstanding wines using other varietals. In white wine, there is a delicious Chardonnay from Yabby Lake in the Mornington Peninsula. In reds, we have a Cabernet Sauvignon from Fraser Gallop in Margaret River, and a Pinot Noir from Oakridge in Yarra Valley. We also have a red blend from Spinifex in Barossa that consists of old vine Grenache, Cinsault and Mataró (a.k.a. Monastrell/Mourvèdre). All four wines will provide pleasure over at least the next 5 years, but I wish none of these start at $29.95.

The secondary feature in this release is on wines from some of Chile's finest vineyards. From Chile's most northern wine region, we have a fabulous Syrah from the Elquí Valley - it's also my top value red from the entire release. There are also two whites worth consideration - a Sauvignon Blanc from the Garuma Vineyard in Leyda Valley, and a Chardonnay from the Atalayas Vineyard in Casablanca Valley.

Among the rest of my wine picks, the Sasso Al Poggio is a blend of 60% Sangiovese, 20% Cabernet, and 20% Merlot. The Guardian Peak is also a red blend, consisting of 60% Syrah, 31% Mourvèdre, and 9% Grenache. The Barolo from Piedmont is 100% Nebbiolo. One final note - don't miss the gorgeous Reif Vidal Icewine! Enjoy my picks for this week!

Red Wine:
  • FALERNIA RESERVA SYRAH 2009 - Elquí Valley, Chile (#208371) (XD) - $16.95
  • SASSO AL POGGIO 2006 - IGT Toscana, Italy (#134809) (XD) - $18.95
  • GUARDIAN PEAK SMG 2009 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#296681) (D) - $19.95
  • CHÂTEAU LAFONT FOURCAT 2010 - AC Bordeaux, France (#295790) (XD) - $15.95
  • SPINIFEX PAPILLON 2010 - Barossa Valley, South Australia (#285205) (XD) - $29.95
  • MARCHESI DI BAROLO BAROLO 2006 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#168179) (D) - $34.95
  • OAKRIDGE PINOT NOIR 2010 - Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia (#284059) (XD) - $38.95
  • FRASER GALLOP CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - Wilyabrup, Margaret River, Western Australia (#283069) (XD) - $45.95

White Wine:
  • TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA RIESLING 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#89029) (D) - $17.95
  • GIESEN THE BROTHERS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2010 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#247213) (XD) - $19.95
  • WILLY GISSELBRECHT TRADITION GEWURZTRAMINER 2010 - AC Alsace, France (#928390) (M) - $18.95
  • LEYDA SINGLE VINEYARD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2011 - Garuma Vineyard, Leyda Valley, Chile (#99309) (D) - $16.95
  • CASA LAPOSTOLLE CUVÉE ALEXANDRE CHARDONNAY 2011 - Atalayas Vineyard, Casablanca Valley, Chile (#947937) (D) - $24.95
  • YABBY LAKE SINGLE VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2010 - Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia (#138628) (XD) - $39.95

  • REIF VIDAL ICEWINE 2010 - VQA Niagara River, Ontario, Canada (#544791) (S) (200 mL) - $24.95

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

First image of this post
  • Date publishedSaturday, October 6, 2012

Casa Castillo Monastrell 2010 (Spain) - Wine Review

Purchased this red wine last week from the September 29th Vintages release. Made from Monastrell (as it's known in Spain), this varietal also known as Mataró or Mourvèdre in other wine regions.

CASA CASTILLO MONASTRELL 2010 - DO Jumilla, Spain (#165621) (XD) - $13.95

Label photo of 2010 Casa Castillo Monastrell from Spain
Tasting Note:
Meaty and fleshy plum aromas from the cork. Aromas of blackberry, violet, cedar oak, and smoked meat from the glass. Medium-bodied on the palate with ripe, dark fruits and subtle violet notes. Very smooth and well-balanced with very finely-grained tannins. Delicious and a great value!

First image of this post
  • Date publishedWednesday, October 3, 2012

Rubaiyat Koshu Sur Lie 2009 (Japan) - Wine Review

This white wine is my first time tasting a wine from Japan and was acquired during the spring. It is meant to be opened young and can be purchased via private order from Savia Wine.

RUBAIYAT KOSHU SUR LIE 2009 - Japan (XD) - $42

Label photo of 2009 Rubaiyat Koshu Sur Lie from Japan
Tasting Note:
Made with 100% Koshu fermented on the lees. Mild clean fruit aromas from the cork. Soft floral, lavender aromatics from the glass that remind me of the last Sake I had. Medium weight and very dry with floral and mineral flavours. Drops of honey dance on the palate. Quite well-balanced with vibrant acidity. Finish is a touch hot. Drink now. Not surprisingly, this will pair nicely with sushi and sashimi.

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