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  • Date publishedTuesday, December 31, 2013

Jan. 4 LCBO Wine Picks: Smart Buys

Wine Picks from January 4, 2014 LCBO Vintages Magazine
This is the first LCBO Vintages release of 2014 and, as always, is the annual "Smart Buys" release. New wines will be on shelves across Ontario on . There are 27 wines featured in the "Smart Buys" section and 8 made my list.

For some (strange?) reason, it's extremely rare that a "Wine of the Month" makes my list of wine picks, but this time it did. Perhaps this bodes well for subsequent Wines of the Month in 2014! The Cusumano Noà is one of this release's Wines of the Month and is also part of the Smart Buys feature. It's a blend of 40% Nero d’Avola, 30% Merlot, and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and definitely a worthy buy.

The 2011 Vacqueyras is featured as a Smart Buy and arrives in Vintages just 2 months after the 2010 was featured. It is a blend of Grenache and Syrah and, interestingly, priced $2 higher than the 2010.

Also from the Smart Buys section is the Valle Las Acequias Oak Malbec and the First Press (oaked) Chardonnay, while the Australian Domaine Tournon Mathilda Shiraz made by the famous Marc Chapoutier saw no oak whatsoever. Both the New Zealand white wines - Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc - did not touch any oak, which is typical for each varietal. And finally, the crowd-pleasing Flat Rock Riesling is off-dry (medium in sweetness) and comes from a local Niagara winery that focuses on environmental sustainability.

From the rest of the release, I am happy to see the 2011 Bula finally arrive in Vintages this coming weekend. I had the opportunity to taste this full-bodied red wine at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo in November and it ended up being one of my favourite wines of the night. It's a blend of 40% Carinena, 40% Garnacha (Grenache), and 20% Syrah. I enjoyed it very much and hope you will enjoy it too!

And last but not least, there are a couple of premium Bordeaux reds that are worth your consideration. The Château Caronne Ste. Gemme is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot, while the Château Grand Village is 75% Merlot and 25% Cab Franc. Both of these wines hail from great, but very different vintages.

Enjoy my wine recommendations for this week! Cheers!

Red Wine:
  • BULA 2011 - DO Montsant, Spain (#292094) (XD) - $16.95  reviewed here
  • VALLE LAS ACEQUIAS OAK MALBEC 2007 - Estate Don Angelino, Medrano, Mendoza, Argentina (#138412) (XD) - $16.95
  • 13TH STREET MERLOT 2012 - VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#270504) (XD) - $17.95
  • CUSUMANO NOÀ 2010 - IGT Sicilia, Italy (#109512) (XD) - $19.95
  • DOMAINE TOURNON MATHILDA SHIRAZ 2011 - Victoria, Australia (#327395) (XD) - $19.95
  • PIERRE AMADIEU LA GRANGELIÈRE VACQUEYRAS 2011 - AC, Rhone, France (#076398) (XD) - $21.95
  • CHÂTEAU GRAND VILLAGE 2010 - AC Bordeaux Supérieur, France (#254805) (XD) - $22.85
  • CHÂTEAU CARONNE STE. GEMME 2009 - AC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (#191460) (XD) - $25.85

White Wine:
  • VILLA MARIA PRIVATE BIN EAST COAST GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2012 - New Zealand (#357509) (M) - $14.95
  • FLAT ROCK RIESLING 2012 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#043281) (M) - $16.95
  • MOUNT RILEY SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#981670) (XD) - $17.95
  • FIRST PRESS CHARDONNAY 2011 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#199810) (XD) - $19.95
  • CHATEAU MONTELENA CHARDONNAY 2011 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#701748) (XD) - $59.95

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

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  • Date publishedWednesday, December 11, 2013

Remhoogte Estate Wine 2006 (South Africa) - Wine Review

I thought it would be appropriate to finally open this wine last night as a tribute to Nelson Mandela, on the day of his memorial. Ironically, this winery began its new life when current owners Murray and Juliet Boustred purchased the land in 1994, the year that apartheid ended in South Africa.

This red wine was purchased earlier this year from the February 2nd LCBO Vintages release. And if you're looking to buy this, you will have to wait as this is no longer available at the LCBO.

REMHOOGTE ESTATE WINE 2006 - WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa (#694539) (XD) - $18.95

Wine Review of 2006 Remhoogte Estate Wine from WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa
Tasting Note:
A blend of 40% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Shiraz, and 15% Pinotage. Plum and oak aromas from the cork. Medium-high intensity aromas of menthol, eucalyptus, licorice and bramble from the glass. Medium-full bodied with lively acids. Palate is warm with spice, mulberry, dark cherry and vanillan oak flavours. Tannis are firm, but ripe. Finishes long, bitter and smooth. Delicious. Could have been aged another 2-3 years, but enjoyable now. Recommended buy. Score: 89 pts

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  • Date publishedSaturday, December 7, 2013

Aimery Grand Cuvée 1531 Crémant De Limoux (Southwest) - Wine Review

This is the second wine sample from the fine folks at Philippe Dandurand, and just in time for the peak season of sparkling wines.

It is not widely known that in 1531 the Limoux region was the first to create sparkling wine - a full one century prior to Dom Perignon - using what is now known as the "Traditional Method". The Grande Cuvée 1531 is a tribute to that first wine and is from the September 28th LCBO Vintages release.

If you didn't find anything you liked from the last release, there are bottles of this fine sparkler available throughout the Ontario. For those that like slightly sweet sparkling wines, you will enjoy this.

AIMERY GRAND CUVÉE 1531 CRÉMANT DE LIMOUX - AC Crémant de Limoux, Southwest, France (#350371) (D) - $19.95

Wine Review of Aimery Grand Cuvée 1531 Crémant De Limoux from France
Tasting Note:
Blend of mostly Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay, and some Pinot Noir. Medium intensity aromas of apple, mineral and chalk from the glass. Palate has flavours of poached apple and nutty notes, along with hints of peach and honey. Medium-bodied with fine mousse that is plentiful. It is off-dry with balanced acids to keep the sweetness in check. Lengthy finish that is slightly bitter and on the dry side. Quite nice and a recommended buy. Score: 88 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, December 2, 2013

Dec. 7 Wine Picks: Festive Gatherings + Sparkling Wines

LCBO Wine Picks from December 7, 2013 VINTAGES Release
The final release of 2013 will arrive on LCBO shelves on . No surprise that this Vintages release focuses on "Fine Wines for Festive Gatherings", while the sub-focus highlights 20 Sparkling Wines for celebrations.

We'll begin with the Sparkling Wine section as three wines from this feature made my list of wine picks below. All three were picked with budget in mind, and range in price from $18 to $21. The vintage Cava from Spain is a blend of Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada, while the vintage Prosecco is a fruity sparkler made using 100% Glera. The non-vintage Brut Vouvray is made from the Chenin Blanc grape. All three sparklers are dry (i.e. not sweet) and will suit perfectly to ring in the New Year.

The primary focus of this release highlights 27 wines that would be suitable for your upcoming festive gathering this year or sometime in the future. Five wines made the list, including the Seresin Sauvignon Blanc, and the off-dry (slightly sweet) Alsace Pinot Gris. The red wines to make the list include a Chilean Carmenère, the Saltram Shiraz, and a 2009 Bordeaux blend from Château Bertinerie that consists of 60% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc. The Sauvignon Blanc should be opened over the next 6-12 months, while the other four wines can be enjoyed over the next 3-4 years.

From the rest of the release, there is one really interesting "bottle" called the Raymond Blending Kit (#363366, $294.95), which includes four bottles of single varietal 2012 Napa Valley red wines along with cylinders, pipettes, and instructions to make your own blend. If you weren't already busy during the holidays, this will surely keep you busy and provide pleasure during the month of December.

Other red wines from this release include the Clos Malverne Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot (80/20 blend), which is a great buy at $13.95. Two Grenache-based wines from the fabulous 2010 Rhône vintage also made my picks - the Gigondas is a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah, while the Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a blend of 65% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, and 5% Cinsault. Both of these Rhône reds are ageable for at least the next decade And last but not least, the Penfolds Bin 138 is a blend of 65% Shiraz, 20% Grenache, and 15% Mataro and will drink well until at least 2020.

In white wines, I've chosen a few oaked Chardonnays (Liberty School, Cave Spring, Featherstone), as well as an unoaked Chardonnay (Chablis). Both Rieslings I've picked are dry (not sweet). And if you enjoy wines on the sweeter side, you'll want to check out the Gewürztraminer from Alsace, the Botrytis-affected Semillon, and the 10 year old Tawny Port.

Enjoy the holidays with some of my wine recommendations and we'll see you early in 2014 at the Niagara Icewine Festival.

Red Wine:
  • CLOS MALVERNE CABERNET SAUVIGNON/MERLOT 2011 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#678433) (XD) - $13.95
  • JUAN GIL WHITE LABEL DE CEPAS VIEJAS MONASTRELL 2012 - DO Jumilla, Spain (#013656) (D) - $15.95
  • VIÑA CASABLANCA EL BOSQUE CARMENÈRE WINEMAKER'S CHOICE 2010 - Rapel Valley, Chile (#199836) (XD) - $15.95
  • CHÂTEAU BERTINERIE CRU RÉSERVE 2009 - AC Côtes de Bordeaux-Blaye, France (#244640) (XD) - $18.95
  • DANDELION VINEYARDS LIONHEART OF THE BAROSSA SHIRAZ 2011 - Barossa Valley, South Australia (#167189) (XD) - $19.95
  • SALTRAM MAMRE BROOK SHIRAZ 2010 - Barossa, South Australia (#032227) (XD) - $26.95
  • LA FERME DU MONT CÔTES JUGUNDA GIGONDAS 2010 - AP, Rhône, France (#354118) (XD) - $29.95  reviewed here
  • CHURCHILL’S ESTATES TOURIGA NACIONAL 2009 - DOC Douro, Portugal (#351643) (XD) - $30.95
  • PENFOLDS BIN 138 SHIRAZ/GRENACHE/MATARO 2011 - Barossa, South Australia (#468637) (XD) - $39.95
  • DOMAINE CHANTE CIGALE TRADITION CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2010 - AP, Rhône, France (#194993) (XD) - $41.95

White Wine:
  • ALKOOMI RIESLING 2010 - Frankland River, Western Australia (#269290) (XD) - $17.95
  • JOSEPH CATTIN GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2011 - AC Alsace, France (#224626) (M) - $17.95
  • ANDRÉ BLANCK ET SES FILS CLOS SCHWENDI PINOT GRIS 2012 - AC Alsace, France (#686311) (D) - $18.95
  • LIBERTY SCHOOL CHARDONNAY 2011 - Central Coast, California, USA (#960120) (XD) - $18.95  reviewed here
  • CAVE SPRING ESTATE CSV CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#256552) (XD) - $18.95
  • SERESIN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#735043) (XD) - $21.95
  • FEATHERSTONE CANADIAN OAK CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#149302) (XD) - $21.95  reviewed here
  • JEAN-MARC BROCARD VAU DE VEY CHABLIS 1ER CRU 2011 - AC, Burgundy, France (#159012) (XD) - $27.95
  • SPERLING VINEYARDS OLD VINES RIESLING 2011 - VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada (#361204) (XD) - $34.95

Sparkling Wine:
  • JUVÉ Y CAMPS CINTA PURPURA RESERVA BRUT CAVA 2009 - DO Cava, Spain (#352864) (XD) - $17.95
  • BRÉDIF BRUT VOUVRAY - AC, Loire, France (#352179) (XD) - $20.95

Dessert Wine:
  • DE BORTOLI NOBLE ONE BOTRYTIS SEMILLON 2009 - Riverina, New South Wales, Australia (#917252) (S) (375 mL) - $31.95

Port Wine:
  • BURMESTER 10 YEARS OLD TAWNY PORT - Btld. 2013, DOC Douro, Portugal (#223958) (S) - $24.95

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

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  • Date publishedTuesday, November 26, 2013

Les Vignes Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2011 (Midi) - Wine Review

Received this wine a couple of weeks ago courtesy of the fine folks at Philippe Dandurand Wines. It is from the June 8th release earlier this year and pretty much completely sold out at the LCBO. Not surprising as it's very nice at this price point. Recommended buy if you can find it. Keep an eye out for the 2012 vintage.

LES VIGNES BILA-HAUT CÔTES DU ROUSSILLON-VILLAGES 2011 - AC, Midi, France (#168716) (D) - $14.95

Wine Review of Les Vignes Bila Haut Côtes du Roussillon-Villages 2011 from Midi, France
Tasting Note:
This red wine is a blend of unspecified amounts of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. Plum and cork with hints of purple fruit aromas from the cork. Medium-high intensity aromas of barnyard, black cherry, herbs and pepper from the glass. Medium+ bodied with racy acids. Palate has spice, anise, black cherry and black currants. Good structure with tannins that are nicely integrated. Finish is long and a touch warm. Chill slightly and drink now. Enjoyable! Score: 88+ pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, November 18, 2013

Nov. 23 LCBO Wine Picks: The Best for the Holidays

Wine Picks from November 23, 2013 LCBO Vintages Release
"Our finest wines and spirits for the holidays" is the theme of the next LCBO Vintages release, which will be on shelves across Ontario on . It looks as though the LCBO went the extra mile with this release as the Vintages logo on the cover received the special gold foil treatment, while inside the magazine there are many, many very nice (and pricey) wines.

In the main feature of the release, there are 30 fine wines and spirits to choose from and 4 made my list of good value buys. Somewhat surprisingly, 3 are from Ontario - the Stratus Red (42% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 15% Petit Verdot, 15% Cabernet Franc), the Stratus White (32% Semillon, 30% Sauvignon Blanc, 25% Viognier, 13% Chardonnay), and the Creekside Syrah! The 4th pick from this section is a Masi Amarone.

If you're inclined, there are many other fine wines in this release from some of the biggest names in the biz, including Beaucastel, Pahlmeyer, Silver Oak, Dunn Vineyards, Paul Hobbs, Catena, Antinori, Ornellaia, Dom Perignon, and Krug. Hidden at the back of the magazine (pages 68-71) are more stellar finds that will only be available at Vintages flagship stores.

There is no secondary feature in this release, but there could have been one on Malbecs as there a 10 Argentinean samples at various price points.

From the rest of the release, the Xavier Côtes du Rhône is a blend of 60% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre, and 15% Syrah, while the the Châteauneuf-du-Pape is composed similarly using 70% Grenache Noir, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre. The Aglianico from Molise is an organic wine, and strangely enough, the only organic wine in the whole release. The Crognolo is mostly Sangiovese, with small amounts of Merlot and Cab Sauv added. And last but not least, the Ardanza from Spain is a blend of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Garnacha (Grenache).

This is the second last release of the year. So, if you haven't already started stocking up for the holidays, I would highly recommend you begin now.

Enjoy my wine picks for this week! Cheers!

Red Wine:
  • XAVIER CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2010 - AP, Rhône, France (#297317) (XD) - $16.95
  • TERREDORA AGLIANICO 2010 - IGT Campania, Italy (#602284) (XD) - $16.95
  • SALENTEIN RESERVE MALBEC 2011 - Mendoza, Argentina (#640854) (XD) - $17.95
  • DI MAJO NORANTE CONTADO RISERVA AGLIANICO DEL MOLISE 2010 - DOC, Molise, Italy (#967208) (XD) - $17.95
  • MENDEL MALBEC 2010 - Mendoza, Argentina (#108225) (XD) - $24.95
  • TENUTA SETTE PONTI CROGNOLO 2010 - IGT Toscana, Italy (#727636) (XD) - $31.95
  • HIDDEN BENCH ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2011 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#274753) (XD) - $32.95
  • LA RIOJA ALTA VIÑA ARDANZA RESERVA ESPECIAL 2004 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#315531) (XD) - $38.95
  • CREEKSIDE BROKEN PRESS RESERVE SYRAH 2010 - VQA Queenston Road Vineyard, St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#202127) (XD) - $39.95
  • STRATUS RED 2010 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#131037) (XD) - $44.20
  • BACHELDER LOWREY VINEYARD PINOT NOIR 2011 - VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#361816) (XD) - $44.95  reviewed here
  • DOMAINE LA ROQUÈTE CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2010 - AC, Rhône, France (#070862) (XD) - $49.95
  • MASI MAZZANO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2006 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#215764) (D) - $99.95

White Wine:
  • SANTA CAROLINA GRAN RESERVA CHARDONNAY 2010 - Casablanca Valley, Chile (#928580) (XD) - $14.95
  • MICHELE CHIARLO LE MARNE GAVI 2012 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#228528) (XD) - $15.95
  • FEATHERSTONE BLACK SHEEP RIESLING 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#080234) (M) - $16.95
  • CHÂTEAU ROQUEFORT SAUVIGNON/SÉMILLON 2011 - AC Bordeaux, France (#313346) (XD) - $16.95
  • PIERRE LUNEAU-PAPIN CLOS DES ALLÉES MUSCADET SÈVRE ET MAINE 2012 - Sur Lie, AP, Loire, France (#357327) (XD) - $18.95
  • HAULLER MUENCHBERG RIESLING 2011 - AC Alsace Grand Cru, France (#360370) (D) - $19.95
  • TALBOTT LOGAN SLEEPY HOLLOW VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2011 - Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County, California, USA (#716290) (XD) - $27.95
  • STRATUS WHITE 2010 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#660704) (XD) - $44.20

  • OFFLEY 10 YEAR OLD TAWNY PORT - Btld. 2013, DOC Douro, Portugal (#297788) (S) - $25.95

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

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  • Date publishedSaturday, November 16, 2013

2013 Gourmet Food & Wine Expo - Review

2013 Gourmet Food & Wne Expo
On , I attended the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo VIP night. The show returned for its 19th year, and this is the 3rd consecutive year (4th overall) that I attended. I always find the event to be super-busy for a Thursday night. However, it did seem like there were fewer people this year. Or, perhaps it only felt more spacious because they moved the event to the upper level of the North Building.

After purchasing some sample tickets, I walked around a bit to get a feel for everything and eventually began tasting at the Michael Andrew Brands booth to sample a selection of quality wines from Giesen (NZ) and Fielding Estate Winery (Niagara). Following that, I made an unexpected stop at the Christopher Stewart Wines & Spirits booth to taste a couple of Spanish red wines that I had never heard of. It was definitely the worth the stop as the Bula 2011 (wine review below) ended up being the best value wine of the night for me. It's arriving in LCBO Vintages in January, but you'll get a chance to pre-taste this before it hits the shelves.

While walking around, I came across the Muskoka Lakes Winery booth, with Matt French holding down the fort. We tweeted each other a couple of years ago at this very same show, but failed to meet at the time. Because of this connection, the following summer I visited the winery out in Bala, Ontario and tasted some very fine fruit wines. On Thursday, I tasted their 2010 Portage - a fortified dessert wine that was made using blueberries. It was very yummy!

I eventually found my way into the Fine Wine Lounge, where last year I tasted some amazing German Rieslings. This year, it was all about the Alsatian Pinot Gris at the Trialto Wine Group booth.

By now, I was starting to feel a little hungry and went searching for some food. I ended up having a Lobster Taco from the Rock Lobster group (booth #630). The next stop was Hidden Bench Vineyard and Winery for some top notch wines. I had tasted a couple of their white wines at the recent Taste Ontario! event, so tonight I opted for their Rosé and a couple of reds. Their Pinot Noir was easily the best wine I tasted all night, but it's $38 and only available at the winery. Definitely taste this if you get the chance!

After that I decided I was done tasting wanted to use my remaining tickets on some food items. I happened to see Paris Crepes Cafe (booth #231) and enjoyed a chocolate & fresh strawberry crepe to satisfy my sweet tooth. What happened next left a sour taste in my mouth.

There was only about 20 minutes remaining until the show was about to close, and I had 3 tickets remaining which I wanted to use on food. I happened to see a sign for IPA Kicked Chicken at the Magic Oven booth. It looked really good, and I was definitely interested in trying it. However, it was 5 tickets. So, as any savvy shopper would do, I asked the Owner if he could cut me a deal. I even offered to take a smaller portion, but he would have none of it - as he kept warming/turning samosas for what was probably Friday's crowd - and told me to go find a friend. He also made some other comments, which I won't repeat here. Suffice it to say, I wasn't pleased, especially since I have seen (and spoken to him) at wine trade tastings.

So off I go to find something worth 3 tickets and bump into Fire in the Kitchen (booth #1130), where they make specialized rubs and seasoning for grilling and oven roasting. Here, they offered a Mac & Cheese with Shredded Chicken which we could top with any of their seasonings that had been infused with oil. It was very delicious! The funny part about this is that I met the owner of Fire in the Kitchen a couple of summers ago in Bracebridge, when I was en route to Gravenhurst and Muskoka Lakes Winery. The rubs are quite tasty, and you can buy them at Longo's.

Bumping into friends and colleagues, and meeting new friends is always a highlight at these events. I won't name names, but you know who you are and it was great to see you! I did miss The Wine Sisters, who were apparently at the InterVin booth, but for the life of me I could not find it!

Here are my top 5 wines that you should try if you're heading out to the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo this weekend. Enjoy!

Tasting Notes:
HIDDEN BENCH ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2010 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario, Canada (#) (XD) - $38
Medium-high intensity aromas that exude elegant notes of smoke, beetroot, cherry and florals. Aroma replays with ripe red fruits leading the way on the palate. Medium-bodied mouthfeel with integrated tannins and balanced throughout. The finish is medium-long and smooth. My kind of Pinot. Gorgeous. Available at the winery only. Score: 91 pts  (Booth #324)

Wine Review of 2010 Hidden Bench Estate Pinot Noir from VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario, Canada

DOMAINE ZIND-HUMBRECHT CALCAIRE PINOT GRIS 2011 - AC Alsace, France (#190413) (M) - $27.95
Arrived in Vintages Nov. 9th. This white wine has a beautiful nose consisting of floral, peach and honeycomb. Juicy mouthfeel with bright acidity. Palate is medium in sweetness and has flavours similar to the aromas - peach and honey, along with minerals. Slight chalkiness arrives at the mid-palate. Finish is long and elegant. Very nice! Score: 90 pts  (Booths T03 & T04)

Wine Review of 2011 Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Calcaire Pinot Gris from Alsace, France

BODEGAS BULA 2011 - DO Montsant, Spain (#292094) (XD) - $17.95
Blend of 40% Carinena, 40% Garnacha (Grenache), and 20% Syrah. Medium-high intensity aromas of red currants, cherries and subtle smoke and dried figs. Full-bodied with red fruits, licorice, new leather, and sweet vanillan notes. Good structure, with tannins integrating very nicely. Finish is long and smooth. This red wine has the stuffing to age 5 years. Stay tuned - will be in Vintages this coming January. Score: 90 pts  (Booth #906)

Wine Review of 2011 Bodegas Bula from Montsant, Spain

MUSKOKA LAKES WINERY RED MAPLE 2012 - Canada (#050039) (S) (375 mL) - $23.95
Was one of my picks from the last Vintages release, but apparently didn't make it on to store shelves due to issues at the LCBO warehouse. Pleasant aromas of sweet cranberries and hints of maple syrup from the glass. Full-bodied, yet light on its feet with lovely aroma replays. Nice acidity. Hints of maple syrup continue on the medium-long finish. Sweet and delicious! Hopefully the issues will be resolved soon, as this is a recommended buy for the holidays.  (Booth #817)

Wine Review of 2012 Muskoka Lakes Winery Red Maple

GIESEN THE BROTHERS LAND SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#308270) (XD) - $17.95
From the LCBO General List and readily available. Very nice and intense aromas of guava, passion fruit and nettle. Medium-bodied with bracing acidity. Aromas show through on the balanced palate. Vibrant with a lengthy, bitter finish. Chill well. Tasted this a few months ago at the iYellow Summer Wine Jam with fairly consistent notes. Score: 89 pts  (Booth #913)

Wine Review of 2012 Giesen The Brothers Land Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand

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  • Date publishedWednesday, November 13, 2013

Loimer Grüner Veltliner 2011 (Austria) - Wine Review

Opened this white wine last night, which was purchased from a Vintages release last March. It's extra dry and sure to be enjoyed by all who like crisp, extra dry, white wines. There is a case available in Richmond Hill, if you're interested (click the 6-digit LCBO product code below and then Verify Store Inventory).

LOIMER GRÜNER VELTLINER 2011 - DAC Kamptal, Austria (#142240) (XD) - $19.95

Wine Review of 2011 Loimer Grüner Veltliner from Austria
Tasting Note:
Screw cap. Medium-high intense aromas of lemon, flint and mineral waft from the glass. It's medium-bodied and extra dry with lemon/mineral replays and some zesty citrus on the palate. Lots of spice arriving on the mid-palate which fades away to reveal a zesty and oily texture. Lively acidity with a long, mineral-driven finish. Very nice. Score: 89 pts

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  • Date publishedSunday, November 10, 2013

Réserve des Vignerons Saumur-Champigny 2010 (Loire) - Wine Review

Tonight's wine is from Loire and made with the Cabernet Franc grape. This red wine was purchased from this weekend's LCBO Vintages release.

Normally, I am not one to buy and consume within days after purchase. However, I knew that this wine was nearing the end of it's peak drinking window and felt it was time to open sooner rather than later. It's quite nice, and plenty are available at the LCBO. If you do buy it, make sure to drink it over the next couple of months.


Wine Review of Cave de Saumur Réserve des Vignerons Saumur-Champigny 2010 from Loire, France
Tasting Note:
Currant, plum and deli meat aromas from the cork. Medium intensity aromas of bramble, currant, blackberry, and forest floor. Medium-bodied with dusty tannins. Palate has bramble, red & black fruits and sweet vanillan flavours. Raisined fruit notes show as it warms up in the glass. Fine acidity will allow it to pair with foods. Finish is medium-long with currant, cherry and dry soil notes. Drink now. Will be enjoyed with chicken lasagne. Score: Wife gives it a 10/10. Me: 89 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, November 4, 2013

Nov. 9 LCBO Wine Picks: Holiday Stars + Dessert Wines

Wine Picks from November 9, 2013 LCBO VINTAGES Magazine
Now that we're past Halloween, the 3 remaining Vintages releases of 2013 will all hover around the concept of "wines for the holiday season". The next release, which will be in LCBO outlets across Ontario, will be on . This release is titled "The Stars Are Aligned" and features 30 "top-quality" wines geared for your enjoyment during the holiday season, or as excellent gift-giving options.

When choosing a wine to give as a gift, it's helpful to know your recipient's tastes - does s/he like big, powerful reds, or lighter reds, or perhaps soft, elegant whites, or big, oaky Chardonnays. It also helps to know if s/he prefers dry wines or sweet wines. Knowing this information will go a long way to ensure that your family, friend or colleague enjoys the wine that you have generously gifted.

There's an interesting selection of 8 sweet dessert wines in this release, which is the secondary focus of the release. There is a Late Harvest Vidal, Honey wine, Cranberry/Maple "wine", Vidal Icewine, Tokaji, Vin Santo, and a couple of Ports, one of which is a 1994 vintage Port. One notable omission from the list is Riesling Icewine. I have no doubt that all 8 will be enjoyed by sweet wine lovers, but just 4 of these made my wine picks below as great buys. The Sherry from Spain is not part from the dessert wine feature and is off-dry. So, you may want to just sip it on it's own or pair it with not-so-sweet desserts.

Wine Review of 2009 Antinori Guado Al Tasso from Tuscany, Italy
Back to the main feature of the release, of the 23 wines that are featured, only 4 made my cut. First and foremost is the 2009 Antinori Guado Al Tasso (93 pts), which is a blend of 60% Cab Sauv, 25% Merlot, 12% Cab Franc and 3% Petit Verdot, and costs $100. I had the pleasure of tasting this at Halpern Enterprises annual Grand Cru wine tasting held recently in the AllStream Centre at Exhibition Place. As I approached the building, the front doors were adorned with very expensive vehicles such as a Lambourghini and Bentley, among others. I could tell I was in for a special treat - which it was. It was a very high-end event featuring many premium-quality and premium-priced wines. The Antinori wine mentioned in this paragraph was one of the highlights for me, as you will see in my tasting note. It's a big wine that will age for many years.

Also from The Stars Are Aligned features is the medium-bodied Norman Hardie Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir. Norm continues to pump out the stars! The Jonata Todos Red is a big blend consisting of - wait for it - 63% Syrah, 12% Sangiovese, 11% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Sauvignon and dollops of Grenache, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. And finally, the Dead Arm Shiraz is big, dry (XD) Shiraz that could have easily been featured in a Vintages Halloween Release.

From the rest of the release, the Chilensis Lazuli is a blend of 6 grapes (36% Cab Sauv, 21% Malbec, 16% Petit Verdot, 10% Merlot, 9% Syrah, 8% Carmenére) and Organic and Certified Sustainable. If you want to taste a mature Bordeaux without the trouble of ageing it yourself, then check out the 2004 Château Bréhat, which is a blend of mostly Merlot, with Cab Franc and Cab Sauv in support. Also check out the Jean-Michel Dupré, which is made using Gamay Noir from vines planted in 1918! The Reserve des Vignerons is straight Cab Franc, while the Domaine Grand Nicolet is a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah. The Spanish Pétalos makes my list again, this time with the 2011 vintage and is made using the Mencía grape.

For white wine lovers, there isn't much I found interesting enough to recommend, except for a couple of Chardonnays. The Zolo Chardonnay is unoaked, while the Hidden Bench Chardonnay is from "The Stars Are Aligned" feature and is (not heavily) oaked.

Enjoy my wine recommendations for this week. Remember to stock up as we approach the holidays, and get a head-start on gift-giving.

Red Wine:
  • CHÂTEAU BRÉHAT 2004 - AC Côtes de Castillon, Bordeaux, France (#348672) (XD) - $16.95
  • JEAN-MICHEL DUPRÉ VIGNES DE 1918 RÉGNIÉ 2011 - AC, Beaujolais, France (#344895) (XD) - $17.95
  • CHILENSIS LAZULI 2010 - Estate Btld., Maule Valley, Chile (#348128) (XD) - $17.95
  • RÉSERVE DES VIGNERONS SAUMUR-CHAMPIGNY 2010 - AC, Loire, France (#103879) (XD) - $17.95
  • NINQUÉN ANTU CHILEAN MOUNTAIN VINEYARD SYRAH 2011 - Colchagua Valley, Chile (#675371) (XD) - $17.95  reviewed here
  • CASAS DEL BOSQUE GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011 - Maipo Valley, Chile (#353086) (XD) - $19.95
  • SILENI THE PLATEAU PINOT NOIR 2012 - Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand (#132142) (XD) - $19.95
  • DOMAINE GRAND NICOLET VIEILLES VIGNES RASTEAU 2010 - AC, Rhône, France (#155481) (XD) - $22.95
  • BEST’S GREAT WESTERN BIN NO. 1 SHIRAZ 2012 - Great Western, Victoria, Australia (#222323) (XD) - $23.95
  • DESCENDIENTES DE J. PALACIOS PÉTALOS 2011 - DO Bierzo, Spain (#675207) (XD) - $24.95
  • NORMAN HARDIE UNFILTERED NIAGARA PINOT NOIR 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#208702) (XD) - $39.00
  • D’ARENBERG THE DEAD ARM SHIRAZ 2009 - McLaren Vale, South Australia (#981183) (XD) - $54.95
  • JONATA TODOS RED 2009 - Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara, California, USA (#218941) (XD) - $59.95
  • ANTINORI GUADO AL TASSO 2009 - DOC Bolgheri Superiore, Tuscany, Italy (#986380) (XD) - $99.95  reviewed here

White Wine:
  • ZOLO RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2012 - Mendoza, Argentina (#347765) (XD) - $16.95
  • HIDDEN BENCH CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#068817) (XD) - $28.95  reviewed here

Dessert Wine:
  • LUSTAU PENÍNSULA SOLERA RESERVA PALO CORTADO - DO Jerez, Spain (#677856) (D) (375 mL) - $17.95
  • KONZELMANN SPECIAL SELECT LATE HARVEST VIDAL 2011 - VQA Ontario, Canada (#359216) (M) (375 mL) - $19.95
  • MUSKOKA LAKES WINERY RED MAPLE 2012 - Canada (#050039) (S) (375 mL) - $23.95  older vintage reviewed here
  • DOW’S 10-YEAR-OLD TAWNY PORT - DOC Douro, Portugal (#246967) (S) - $28.95
  • POÇAS COLHEITA PORT 1994 - Vieilli en fût, DOC Douro, Portugal (#216424) (S) - $41.95

Sparkling Wine:
  • ABBAZIA MOSCATO D’ASTI 2012 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#265397) (M) - $14.95
  • SEGURA VIUDAS BRUT RESERVA HEREDAD CAVA - Traditional Method, DO, Spain (#558825) (D) - $29.95

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

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  • Date publishedMonday, October 28, 2013

Dandelion Vineyards Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale Shiraz/Riesling 2010 (Australia) - Wine Review

This red wine - that has a dash of white mixed in - was purchased from a Vintages release last March. It is composed of an unusual blend of 97% Shiraz and 3% Riesling, although the Riesling isn't noticeable on the palate. And in case you wanted to buy this, you'll probably have to wait for the 2011 vintage, as the 2010 is completely sold out at the LCBO.

DANDELION VINEYARDS LION’S TOOTH OF MCLAREN VALE SHIRAZ/RIESLING 2010 - McLaren Vale, South Australia (#311233) (D) - $19.95

Wine Review of 2010 Dandelion Vineyards Lion’s Tooth of McLaren Vale Shiraz/Riesling from South Australia
Tasting Note:
Screw cap. Cedar oak aromas lead the way with undertones of plum and blackcurrants. Medium-full bodied and quite fruit-forward with sweet red fruits, plum, blueberry jam, and oak. Slightly off-dry. Good acids and smooth tannins. Medium-length, mocha-tinged finish that is on the hot side. Chill slightly. Score: 87 pts

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  • Date publishedSunday, October 27, 2013

Win Tickets to Lailey Futures & Portfolio Wine Tasting

Lailey Vineyard
Here's your chance to win a pair of tickets to Lailey Vineyard's Futures and Portfolio Wine Tasting in either Ottawa or Toronto. Meet Lailey's highly acclaimed winemaker and owner Derek Barnett as he will be on-hand at both wine events to discuss and answer your questions.

The 2012 Ontario vintage was wonderful! Along with current release wines, you will also get a chance to taste 2012 "futures" wines - which are essentially barrel samples. You will also have the opportunity buy wines, and pre-order "futures" wines at discounted prices. In all, there will be over 30 wines for you to taste, enjoy and buy!

I'll be attending the Toronto event and hope to see you there!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013 from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Orange Art Gallery
233 Armstrong Street
Ottawa, ON K1Y 2W5
More Info and to Buy Tickets

Thursday, November 21, 2013 from 5:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Airship 37 (in The Distillery District)
37 Parliament Street
Toronto, ON M5A 2Y2
More Info and to Buy Tickets

This event is organized by Savvy Company. Check out their other events here.

Note: Ottawa ticket giveaway closes Sunday, November 3rd at 11:59 pm.
Ottawa ticket giveaway is now closed.

How to Enter the Giveaway:

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Increase your chances by tweeting this:
I want to #win tickets to @LaileyWinemakr Futures & Portfolio #Wine Tasting with @cono_sur & @SavvyWines ~

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  • Date publishedMonday, October 21, 2013

Oct. 26 Wine Picks: 2010 Bordeaux + Oregon + Washington

LCBO Vintages Recommendations from October 26, 2013 Release
The next LCBO Vintages release will be on shelves across Ontario on . The main focus of this release is the much heralded 2010 Bordeaux vintage - often described as the "vintage of the decade" and "one of the best ever".

However, looking at the majority of 17 wines that are featured, one might wonder what is so special about the 2010 vintage. Well, to sum it up - the 2010s are robust and very age-worthy, and should be aged a number of years before they will reach their prime drinking window. The extreme weather conditions, including dehydration, from El Niño forced winemakers to wait to pick their grapes, which resulted in slightly shrivelled (raisined) grapes, which meant less juice and more skin (i.e. tannin) per grape. The fruit is strong enough to hold up to the tannins. The cooler-than-normal Autumn temperatures also helped produce wines with higher acidity and alcohols. Personally, I think I prefer the 2009s over the 2010s.

Just one of the 2010 Bordeauxs made my list of wine picks - the Chateau de Maison Neuve that is 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon that you may want to cellar for a few years before imbibing. Suffice it to say, the selection featured in this release doesn't provide a full spectrum of the 2010s, as it's missing many of the higher-end wines that I would have liked to see. The LCBO's minimum case requirement and cost may have been a barrier.

The secondary feature in this release is a small one (just 6 wines) and highlights the Western USA states of Oregon and Washington. I'm a big fan of wines from both of these states, but just one of the 6 wines intrigued me - the Elk Cove Pinot Gris. It's made in a extra dry style and has a slight spritz. In Oregon, Pinot Noir is the most widely planted varietal, while Pinot Gris is second most.

From the rest of the release, there are a couple of wines from the Iberian Peninsula worth your consideration. Age for a couple of years the Portuguese Quinta do Portal, which is made using 50% Touriga Nacional, 40% Touriga Roriz, and 10% Touriga Franca. From Spain is the Coto de Imaz, which is 100% Tempranillo and can be enjoyed now or in a few years. And finally, the Vacqueyras from Rhone is a GSM-blend (70% Grenache, 15% Syrah and 15% Mourvedre) that can be enjoyed now or in 4 years.

Enjoy my Vintages wine recommendations for this week. Cheers!

Red Wine:
  • ZOLO RESERVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - Mendoza, Argentina (#054098) (XD) - $17.00
  • SMALL GULLY MR BLACK’S LITTLE BOOK SHIRAZ 2010 - Barossa Valley, South Australia (#287979) (XD) - $17.95
  • VINOS SIN LEY “M” OLD VINE MONASTRELL 2011 - DO Yecla, Spain (#344226) (D) - $18.95
  • CHÂTEAU DE MAISON NEUVE 2010 - AC Montagne Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, France (#351965) (D) - $19.95
  • JOURNEY’S END SHIRAZ 2007 - Single Vineyard, WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#337642) (XD) - $19.95
  • COTO DE IMAZ RESERVA 2005 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#023762) (XD) - $20.95
  • CHÂTEAU DES ROQUES VACQUEYRAS 2009 - AC, Rhône, France (#352039) (XD) - $21.95
  • QUINTA DO PORTAL RESERVA 2009 - DOC Douro, Portugal (#280578) (XD) - $21.95
  • REDEMPTION ZIN ZINFANDEL 2009 - Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County, USA (#224147) (XD) - $26.95
  • STAGS’ LEAP WINERY MERLOT 2010 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#655399) (XD) - $39.95

White Wine:
  • QU CHARDONNAY 2011 - Curicó, Chile (#357392) (XD) - $15.95
  • MOMO SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#009167) (XD) - $17.95
  • FIELDING ESTATE RIESLING 2012 - Estate Bottled, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#251439) (M) - $18.95
  • BOLLIG-LEHNERT DHRONER HOFBERGER RIESLING SPÄTLESE 2011 - Prädikatswein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany (#339945) (XD) - $21.95  reviewed here
  • D’ARENBERG THE MONEY SPIDER ROUSSANNE 2011 - McLaren Vale, South Australia (#656710) (XD) - $21.95
  • WILLIAM FÈVRE CHABLIS 2011 - AC, Burgundy, France (#124578) (XD) - $24.95
  • ELK COVE PINOT GRIS 2012 - Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA (#955906) (XD) - $24.95

Dessert Wine:
  • KONZELMANN VIDAL ICEWINE 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#167866) (S) (200 mL) - $25.10

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

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  • Date publishedThursday, October 17, 2013

Featherstone Cabernet Franc 2011 (Niagara) - Wine Review

This red wine was purchased back in March from a release that had a feature on wines for Easter. It also made my wine picks from the August 3rd Vintages release.

I never purchase the same wine same vintage twice, but do on occasion purchase different vintages of the same wine. I first tasted the 2008 vintage back in July, 2012 and became smitten with it. I then bought the 2010 vintage (still in my rack) and decided to open the 2011 last night. Amazingly, I've tasted the 2011 twice at the winery (here and here) over the last ~12 months. It's interesting to note that the 2008 was labelled as VQA Twenty Mile Bench, while the 2011 is VQA Niagara Peninsula.

Featherstone is very much committed to eco-friendly farming practices, which I love! One of these days I want to see their sheep. If you're inclined, this is quite readily available in Vintages locations across Ontario.

FEATHERSTONE CABERNET FRANC 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#64618) (XD) - $16.95

Wine Review of 2011 Featherstone Cabernet Franc from Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
Tasting Note:
Screw cap. Medium intense aromas of raspberry, plum, cedar, earth and some meaty notes. Medium-bodied on the palate with restrained tannins that will be better integrated in a year. Ripe and juicy red fruits, cedar on the palate. Finish is smooth and lingering. Quality Ontario Cab Franc that was enjoyed with chicken tacos. Score: 88 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, October 14, 2013

C.H. Berres Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett 2009 (Mosel) - Wine Review

Purchased this white wine from a Vintages release last November and opened it Sunday night for a Thanksgiving dinner with roasted chicken. I was expecting good things and it definitely lived up to my expectations! If you like wines on the sweeter side of things, then you'll enjoy this one. My guests certainly enjoyed this one as well, as there was very little remaining for the second day.

I can't wait to open the 2008 vintage, which is also in my rack, because it is even better than the 2009. I can only hope you picked up either one (or both!) of these wines when I recommended them, as neither the '08 or '09 are available at the LCBO any longer. However, I predict the '10 and/or '11 vintage may be in Vintages soon.

Wine Review of 2009 C.H. Berres Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Kabinett from Mosel, Germany

C.H. BERRES ÜRZIGER WÜRZGARTEN RIESLING KABINETT 2009 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#207274) (M) - $19.95
Screw cap. Medium-high intense aromas of slate, honeyed pear, floral, petrol, and minerals. Medium sweetness with zippy acidity that rushes across the palate and has very nice aroma replays. Slightly chalky mouthfeel. Finishes long and smooth with a honeyed tinge. Gorgeous! It paired well with the homemade oven roasted chicken. Score: 90 pts

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  • Date publishedSunday, October 13, 2013

Viña Errázuriz Wine Tasting with Francisco Baettig

Viña Errázuriz logo
On , I attended an exclusive invite-only wine tasting with Francisco Baettig, winemaker at Viña Errázuriz of Chile. The event was hosted by iYellow Wine Club on the rooftop of Soho House Toronto.

This was my first time visiting Soho House, and I must say that this place is quite discreet with the lack of signs, sitting at the corner of Adelaide and Simcoe. I ended up walking once around the building before realizing it was the venue. I also arrived there a little late due to a prior commitment and came in to Francisco speaking to attendees about Errázuriz's Max Reserva line of wines.

I was able to catch up to the rest of group rather quickly by tasting only two of Errázuriz's entry-level Estate wines (for some reason the Sauvignon Blanc did not show up). Neither of the Estate wines were interesting for my palate, but they were good for what they are - basic, entry level wines that will please many palates. Going up a notch is the Max Reserva line, featuring hand-picked grapes and higher-quality control standards. The results from this extra care can be seen in the Savvy and Syrah, while not so much in the Cab Sauv - you can see my wine reviews below.

Francisco Baettig at Viña Errázuriz Tasting in Toronto

Last and definitely not least, Francisco introduced the "Icon Series" wines. Once again the grapes were all hand-picked, but the grapes are now inspected twice on the sorting table, and all were aged in new French oak barrels. I'm sure all of this contributed to the super-premium price. All three Icon Series wines were beautiful, as you will see from my notes.

Viña Errázuriz was founded by Don Maximiano Errázuriz in 1870 in Aconcagua Valley, 100 kms north of the capital city, Santiago. Recognizing that the valley provided ideal weather and soil conditions for grape growing, Don Maximiano sent for the finest clones from France. Today, through much perseverance, we have world-class vineyards in the Aconcagua Valley. The Errázuriz family is quite famous in Chile, producing four Presidents, two Archbishops of Santiago, and countless other men (yes, only men) who were involved with the country's social, cultural and political affairs that helped develop and shape the country we see today. The Founder's Reserve (below) is fittingly named in honour of Don Maximiano.

Francisco has been Chief Winemaker at Errázuriz since 2003 and was awarded 2011 Winemaker of the Year by the Chilean Guild of Food & Wine Writers. Prior to Errazuriz, he was a flying winemaker at various wineries in France and U.S.A.. In Chile, he was the winemaker at Viña Santa Carolina and Casa Lapostolle. Mr. Baettig also helped pioneer the introduction of Syrah to Chile, which is evident in both Syrahs I tasted on this night.

The first 5 wines can be readily found at the LCBO, while the last 3 are Icon Series wines and are quite rare to find at the LCBO. However, you can try your hand at ordering these three premium wines via the agent, Philippe Dandurand Wines.

Francisco Baettig and Angela Aiello

Tasting Notes:
ERRÁZURIZ ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2012 - Casablanca Valley (#318741) (XD) - $12.95
Medium-high intensity aromas that show grassy, herbal, lime and tropical fruit notes. Medium-full bodied on the creamy palate with spice, orchard fruit and pear flavours. Vibrant acidity on the mid-palate and finishes hot. Score: 86 pts

ERRÁZURIZ MAX RESERVA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013 - Aconcagua Valley (#273342) (XD) - $15.95
Effervescent gooseberry, herbal, grass and guava aromas. Crisp mouthfeel with good aroma replays. Has bright acidity for pairing with food and a lengthy, tart finish. Score: 88 pts

ERRÁZURIZ ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2012 - Aconcagua Valley (#226696) (XD) - $13.95
Medium intensity aromas of smoke, earth and beetroot. Light-bodied with notes of plum, cran-raspberry, strawberry and oak on the palate. Good, round tannins. Finish is short and very hot. Score: 87 pts

ERRÁZURIZ MAX RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - Aconcagua Valley (#335174) (XD) - $18.95
Also contains 9% Cab Franc and 6% Petit Verdot. Low intensity aromas of pepper, cassis and blackcurrants. Simple red and black fruit flavours on a medium-full bodied frame. Soft dusty tannins and a short finish. Was expecting better. Bad bottle/batch? This red wine didn't appeal to anyone I spoke to. I wouldn't mind tasting this again. Score: 85 pts

Wine Review of 2011 Errázuriz Max Reserva Syrah

ERRÁZURIZ MAX RESERVA SYRAH 2011 - Aconcagua Valley (#614750) (XD) - $18.95
Very nice black pepper, herbal, eucalyptus aromas. Full-bodied with nice aroma replays. Well-balanced with integrated tannins and very approachable. Hints of milk chocolate on the medium-length finish. My 2nd favourite wine of the evening. Score: 89 pts

Wine Review of 2008 Errázuriz La Cumbre

ERRÁZURIZ LA CUMBRE 2008 - Aconcagua Valley (#) (XD) - $89.95
Containing 97% Syrah and 3% Petit Verdot, this red wine features very nice and intense red, black and blue fruit aromas, plus cedar and vanillan. Full-bodied with mouth-watering acidity, aroma replays come through on the palate along with some spice notes. Tannins are like velvet, while the finish is long with notes of eucalyptus. Yum! This was my wine of the night. Score: 92 pts

Wine Review of 2008 Errázuriz Don Maximiano Founder's Reserve

ERRÁZURIZ DON MAXIMIANO FOUNDER'S RESERVE 2008 - Aconcagua Valley (#) (XD) - $79.95
Blend of 84% Cab Sauv, 8% Carménère, 5% Syrah and 3% Petit Verdot. Intense blackcurrant and cassis aromas from the glass. Full-bodied with firm tannins that are still a bit tight. Cedar and dark fruits on the palate. Cellar 3+ years and has potential to reward up to 10 years later. Score: 92 pts

Wine Review of 2010 Errázuriz Kai

ERRÁZURIZ KAI 2010 - Aconcagua Valley (#) (XD) - $144.95
Mostly Carménère with 4% Petit Verdot. Medium-high intense aromas of roasted pepper and black pepper. Full-bodied with more roasted pepper notes on the palate, with some nuances of milk chocolate and black currant. Dusty tannins are integrating nicely. Finish is long and smooth. Delicious. Score: 91 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, October 7, 2013

Oct. 12 LCBO Wine Picks: Napa + Terroir of Burgundy and Piedmont

Wine Picks from October 12, 2013 LCBO Vintages Magazine
The next LCBO Vintages release is nearly upon us and will be on shelves across Ontario on . The main and sub-foci of this release features (very) high priced wines from Napa Valley, Burgundy and Piedmont - I suppose to get ready (already? so soon?) for the holiday season.

The Napa Valley feature highlights 8 premium and super-premium Cabernet Sauvignons ranging in price from $24.95 to $137.95. My top Napa red is the Heitz Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon (93 pts), which I tasted back in April at the California Wine Fair and was my favourite wine at the event. At $84, it's hard to say that this is good value, but on merit alone, it's a great wine! Save this full-bodied wine for a special occasion in the near future, as it's drinking well right now, or 10+ years down the road.

2007 Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley
Also part of the Napa focus are 3 Chardonnays and 4 wines using other varietals. I'm sure this feature also coincides with the upcoming Napa Valley Rocks tasting later this month. See my wine events page for more information.

Terroir comparison between the two world renown regions of Burgundy and Piedmont is the focus of the small secondary feature in this release. A common theme between the two regions, unlike most other regions around the world, is that these two regions almost strictly focus on single varietal wines - Pinot Noir in Burgundy and Nebbiolo in Peidmont. Both of these regions produce very terroir-driven wines. The Albert Morot hails from the Les Aigrots vineyard (Premier Cru), while the Giacosa Barolo is from Bussia, a sub-area of Montforte d'Alba. Both of these wines you'll want to let sit for 2-3 years before enjoying.

From the rest of the release, if you like dry wines (not sweet), then you'll want to pick up Domaine Lafage's Cuvée Centenaire, which is a blend of 80% Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris, and 20% Roussanne. Grenache Gris is a mutation of the Grenache grape; it's skin colour is pinkish-grey and while quite obscure in winemaking, is most commonly used in pale rosé wines and lightly tinted white wines such as the Cuvée Centenaire.

In red wines, there are 4 French reds under $20 that you should consider. Domaine Lafage is represented here as well, with the Tessellae Carignan Old Vines that consists of 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache, 15% Mourvedre, and (surprise, surprise) - 5% Grenache Gris. The Château Lieujean is a blend of 75% Cab Sauv and 25% Merlot. Both of these wines can be enjoyed over the next 4 years. From Midi is the red blend Mont Tauch that consists of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah that can be enjoyed now or 10 years later. And last but not least, from Domaine Les Aphillanthes we have yet another 2010 Rhône that is a GSM-blend (60% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 20% Mourvedre) using 45-65 year old vines.

That's it for this week. Let me know if you purchase any of my Vintages recommendations as I'd love to hear your thoughts! Cheers!

Red Wine:
  • TESSELLAE CARIGNAN OLD VINES CÔTES DU ROUSSILLON 2011 - AP, Midi, France (#343517) (XD) - $18.95
  • MONT TAUCH LE TAUCH FITOU 2010 - AC, Élevé en Fûts de Chêne, Midi, France (#272484) (XD) - $19.95
  • CHÂTEAU LIEUJEAN 2010 - Cru Bourgeois, AC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (#085308) (XD) - $19.95
  • LUIS CAÑAS SELECCIÓN DE LA FAMILIA RESERVA 2005 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#334102) (XD) - $34.95
  • DOMAINE TOURNON SHAY’S FLAT VINEYARD SHIRAZ 2011 - Pyrenees, Victoria, Australia (#311480) (XD) - $35.95
  • FREEMARK ABBEY CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#904532) (XD) - $39.95
  • GIACOSA BUSSIA BAROLO 2008 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#344721) (XD) - $39.95
  • DOMAINE ALBERT MOROT BEAUNE AIGROTS 1ER CRU 2009 - AC, Burgundy, France (#042416) (XD) - $53.95
  • HEITZ CELLAR CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#642124) (XD) - $83.95  reviewed here

White Wine:
  • ANGELS GATE RIESLING 2010 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#160523) (D) - $13.95
  • WILLIAM FÈVRE ESPINO CHARDONNAY 2011 - Maipo Valley, Chile (#350058) (XD) - $13.95
  • DOMAINE LAFAGE CUVÉE CENTENAIRE 2011 - AC Côtes du Roussillon, Midi, France (#343491) (XD) - $17.95
  • COLUMNA ALBARIÑO 2011 - DO Rias Baixas, Spain (#339929) (XD) - $18.95
  • DOG POINT SAUVIGNON BLANC 2012 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#677450) (XD) - $22.95
  • MALIVOIRE GEWÜRZTRAMINER 2011 - VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#542522) (M) - $24.95

Sparkling Wine:
  • DOMAINE DU CLOS DE L’EPINAY TÊTE DE CUVÉE BRUT VOUVRAY 2007 - Méthode Traditionnelle, AC, Loire Valley, France (#298398) (XD) - $20.95

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

First image of this post
  • Date publishedSunday, October 6, 2013

Diamond Estates - Lakeview, Daredevil, Dan Aykroyd and De Sousa Tasting

I held a small wine tasting and invited a few friends over to indulge in some of the wines that arrived on my doorstep.

Of the four wines we tasted, the favourite was by far Dan Aykroyd's Cab/Shiraz. This red wine offered a bit of everything - aromas, flavours, acids, tannin, balance and finish. It had good crowd appeal, so I wasn't surprised that this was the favourite wine of the night. My personal favourite was a toss up between this one and the De Sousa Meritage.

Diamond Estates is a fairly large wine and spirits production, marketing and distribution company based in Toronto and Niagara, Canada. They market both Canadian and International wines. The 4 wines we tasted on this night were all from Ontario, and fruit for a couple of these were sourced only from Niagara.

Fruit for Lakeview Cellars wines are sourced from Diamond Estates' best vineyards in Niagara. Lakeview Cellars is known to be a premium Niagara wine producer, yet is able to keep prices relatively affordable. After tasting their 2012 Syrah Rosé, and previously, their 2008 "GMR" Sparkling Reserve, I am eagerly looking forward to tasting more from them.

Wine review of 2012 Lakeview Cellars Syrah Rosé

LAKEVIEW CELLARS SYRAH ROSÉ 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (#) (XD) - $16.95
Also contains 8.5% Moscato and 1.5% Auxerrois, two grapes that are not widely planted in Niagara. Slightly sweet with low-to-medium intensity perfumy floral aromas. Good acidity and slightly chalky tannins which come from the Syrah. Palate is fruity and very slightly off-dry, with blueberry and raspberry notes showing through on the medium-length finish. This rosé wine is only available at the winery. Score: 86 pts

Wine review of 2011 Daredevil Cabernet

DAREDEVIL CABERNET 2011 - VQA Ontario (#) (XD) - $14.95
This is the first wine with their new label and is made using traditional Bordeaux grapes with a blend consisting of 48% Cab Sauv, 47% Cab Franc, and 5% Merlot. Medium intensity aromas with oak dominating the nose, with some underlying dark fruits. Interesting pepper notes developed in the glass. Palate is light-to-medium bodied with dark and red fruits, with a spiciness that shows up mid-palate and continues through to the medium-length finish. Tannins are harsh and very chalky. This was the least favourite among the group. Available only at the winery. Score: 85 pts

Wine review of 2011 Dan Aykroyd Discovery Series Cabernet/Shiraz

Dan Aykroyd Wines are one of the few, and growing, "celebrity wines" in Ontario. Dan's affinity for travel took him around the globe and he eventually developed a taste for fine wines. He worked closely with Diamond Estates' head winemaker Tom Green for nearly 2 years and launched his first wine in 2007.

Red wine blend of 38% Cab Franc, 37% Cab Sauv, and 25% Shiraz. Medium intensity aromas of black fruits, currant, and cassis. Medium-bodied with smooth, round tannins and nice aroma replays on the palate, with hints of blueberry on the smooth, lengthy finish. Quite fruit forward and has good acidity. Crowd pleaser and the favourite among my guests. Readily available at the LCBO. Score: 87 pts

Wine review of 2010 De Sousa Seasons Meritage Reserve

Originally from Portugal, the De Sousa family purchased some vineyards in the Beamsville Bench area in 1979. In 1990, the family was able to get a winery licence that enabled them to open a full-fledged winery. 20 years later, we have the Meritage Reserve below. In between, Diamond Estates purchased the winery and some of their vineyards. John De Sousa Jr. continues three generations of winemaking and remains on board as Operations Manager and Winemaker.

DE SOUSA SEASONS MERITAGE RESERVE 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (#315911) (XD) - $14.95
Another Bordeaux blend consisting of 72% Merlot, 25% Cab Sauv, and 3% Cab Franc. Strong oak aromas from glass give way to black currant and blackberry aromas. This red wine is full bodied with chalky tannins that are integrating nicely. Sour cherry, blackberry jam, wood and hints of mocha on the palate. Has mouth-watering acidity and a long finish. Could be cellared 1-2 years. Vintages product and should re-appear in the Vintages section at the LCBO soon. Score: 87 pts

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