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  • Date publishedTuesday, February 26, 2013

Jackson-Triggs Proprietors' Grand Reserve Cabernet Franc Icewine 2007 (Niagara) - Wine Review

I first tasted this Icewine at the winery in January 2012 when I was in Niagara for the Icewine Festival. It was hard to resist buying this delicious Icewine when it was on sale for (less than) $20.


Photo of 2007 Jackson-Triggs Proprietors' Grand Reserve Cabernet Franc Icewine 2007 from Niagara
Tasting Note:
Unpleasant raisins and prunes from the cork. Intense aromas of candied strawberry and raspberry, along with some cranberry. Creamy and full-bodied with more candied strawberry and cranberry on the palate. Good acidity, but fruit is fading slightly on the medium-length finish. Still quite delicious and paired well with a Lemon Raspberry Cake w/ White Chocolate Shavings from Sobey's.

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  • Date publishedMonday, February 25, 2013

Anselmann Gewürztraminer Kabinett 2011 (Pfalz) - Wine Review

Purchased this uncommonly found white wine from the current release with the intention of opening it when having guests over who enjoy wines on the sweeter side of things. Suffice it to say - it was enjoyed by our guests.

ANSELMANN GEWÜRZTRAMINER KABINETT 2011 - Prädikatswein, Pfalz, Germany (#909697) (MS) - $14.95

Label photo of 2011 Anselmann Gewürztraminer Kabinett from Pfalz, Germany
Tasting Note:
Honeysuckle and pear aromas from the cork. Soft aromas of lychee, melon, rose, honeysuckle and lemon from the glass joined by citrus and more prominent rose notes on the palate. It's medium-sweet with an oily texture that gives way to a chalky-mouthfeel and moves to an off-dry, medium-length finish. Has enough acidity to pair with lightly spiced foods, such as the Chili Chicken that we enjoyed as an appetizer over the weekend.

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  • Date publishedMonday, February 25, 2013

Mar. 2 Wine Picks: California Trends

The next LCBO Vintages wine release will be in stores on . The main feature in this release is on the latest trends in California - which includes experimenting with new varietals, regions, and eco-friendly initiatives.

From this part of the release, we begin with the Bonterra Pinot Noir. It's difficult to find a Pinot under $20 from anywhere, nevermind a quality version from California that's made with certified organically grown grapes from Mendocino County, like this one from Bonterra Vineyards.

From Paso Robles - one of the fastest growing wine regions in California - we have an extra-dry (XD) white wine from Vina Robles that's blended with 4 varietals, only one (Sauvignon Blanc) of which is widely planted in California. It consists of 29% Viognier, 28% Verdelho, 27% Sauvignon Blanc, and 16% Vermentino.

The third and final pick from California is the Chalone Estate Chardonnay from the Chalone AVA in Central Coast. Chalone Vineyard is the only winery within this American Viticultural Area (AVA). It sits up high in the mountains within the Monterey County region and has a unique climate. You can read more about this unique area on the winery's website.

A minor feature in this release focuses on native grapes in Central and Southern Italy. The Selvanova Vigna Antica Aglianico from Campania (the "shin" of the Italy) is my lone pick and it's one to open right away. This varietal was originally brought to the region from Greece and thrived during Roman times. It was called Ellenico (the Italian word for "Greek") until the 15th century, when it acquired it's current name.

From the rest of the release, the Chilean Tabalí Reserva is a blend of 74% Syrah, 14% Merlot, and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon. The Marqués de Cáceres from Spain, at 9 years old and ready to drink now or could be cellared for at least another 5 years, is composed of 85% Tempranillo and 15% Graciano/Garnacha Tinta. From the fantastic 2009 Bordeaux vintage, we have the Château la Vieille Cure that consists of 74% Merlot, 22% Cabernet Franc and 4% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Enjoy my picks for this week! Cheers!

Red Wine:
  • SELVANOVA VIGNA ANTICA AGLIANICO 2009 - IGP Terre del Volturno, Campania, Italy (#313494) (D) - $15.95
  • NIETO SENETINER GRAN RESERVA MALBEC/PETIT VERDOT 2010 - Mendoza, Argentina (#295170) (XD) - $17.95
  • BONTERRA PINOT NOIR 2010 - Mendocino County, California, USA (#317685) (XD) - $19.95
  • ROLF BINDER MA I? HAVE THIS EVENING SHIRAZ/MATARO 2009 - Barossa Valley, South Australia (#295899) (D) - $19.95
  • TABALÍ RESERVA ESPECIAL 2009 - Limarí Valley, Chile (#107540) (XD) - $22.95
  • MALIVOIRE STOUCK CABERNET MERLOT 2010 - VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario, Canada (#321836) (D) - $29.95
  • MARQUÉS DE CÁCERES GRAN RESERVA 2004 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#976670) (XD) - $29.95
  • CHÂTEAU LA VIEILLE CURE 2009 - AC Fronsac, Bordeaux, France (#191452) (XD) - $36.85

White Wine:
  • JEAN GEILER MÉDAILLÉ PINOT BLANC 2011 - AC Alsace, France (#315101) (XD) - $14.95
  • VINA ROBLES WHITE 4 2010 - Paso Robles, California, USA (#313460) (XD) - $18.95
  • TE AWA CHARDONNAY 2010 - Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand (#301135) (D) - $18.95
  • SOUTHBROOK VINEYARDS TRIOMPHE CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#172338) (D) - $21.95
  • CHALONE ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2010 - Chalone AVA, Monterey County, Central Coast, California, USA (#080226) (XD) - $29.95

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

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  • Date publishedSunday, February 17, 2013

Argiano Tasting at Fine Wine Reserve

Argiano Cantina Dal 1580 Logo
had the opportunity to taste some very fine wines from the historic Tuscan winery Tenuta di Argiano. The tasting event was hosted by Trialto Wine Group at the Fine Wine Reserve that is located in the King W and Spadina area.

There were 4 wines available for tasting and purchase - reviews are below. Two other wines - the Brunello di Montalcino 2004 ($50) and Solengo 2004 ($80) - were available strictly for purchase. All of these wines were Consignment Wines, meaning that they are not available at the LCBO and only available in cases of 6 bottles via the wine agent, Trialto.

At the summit of a hill, southwest of Montalcino in Tuscany, the Villa of Argiano was built during the Renaissance-period by the Pecci's, a noble family from Siena. Remaining for some decades under the Pecci family, it then passed to the Counts of Pieri, who bequeath it to the Marquis of Ballanti Merli and to the Duchess of Caetani from the Counts Lovatelli.

In 1992, the estate was purchased by Countess Noemi Marone Cinzano and was sold just last week. Winemaker Hans Vinding-Diers joined Argiano in 2003 and is the craftsman behind the wines. He will remain with Argiano. On hand to pour the wines was the Marketing Director Bernardino Sani.

The Argiano Estate covers 100 hectares - with nearly half dedicated to vineyards - while being protected in the southeast by Mount Amiata. Being from the Old World, the Argiano vineyards have been cultivated by noble families since the 1500's. Argiano has some of the oldest vines in Montalcino, at over 60+ years old. Wines from these vineyards have garnered awards dating back to 1934 and are consistently high-quality.

Label photo of 2009 Argiano Rosso di Montalcino
ARGIANO ROSSO DI MONTALCINO 2009 - DOC, Tuscany, Italy (#) (XD) - $28.80
Hand-picked 100% Sangiovese grosso. The Rosso is considered the younger brother of the Brunello. Nice aromas of crushed blackcherry, red currant and cedar waft from the glass. Medium bodied on the palate with dark red fruits, cherry, oak, and hints of earth on the flavour profile. Very finely integrated tannins that is velvety smooth, with a medium-long finish and balanced throughout. Likely my favourite of the evening. Score: 89-90 pts

Label photo of 2007 Argiano Brunello di Montalcino
ARGIANO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2007 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#) (XD) - $45.00
First tasted last November. Light smoky oak, dried fruit and fig aromas from the glass. Full-bodied with mouth-watering acidity. Palate consists of more dark fruits and fig. Quite well-balanced. Tannins still somewhat tight, will reward 3-5 years in cellar. Score: 91 pts

Label photo of 2011 Argiano 'NC' Non Confunditur
ARGIANO 'NC' NON CONFUNDITUR 2011 - IGT Toscana, Italy (#072397) (XD) - $23.95
The 2009 was released in Vintages last July and is virtually sold out. Non Confunditur's initials "NC" are often though to refer to Argiano's longstanding owner Noemi Cinzano. The truth is that Non Confunditur is a latin term meaning "don't get confused". The 2011 is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 20% Syrah and 20% Sangiovese and has fruity aromas of red fruits and cherries. Medium-full bodied and round with more red fruits, cranberry-cherry notes and oak. Very good acidity, but overpowering at mid-palate with a very long finish. Chalky tannins show this red wine is still a bit young. Very long finish. Give it 2-3 years. Score: 88 pts

Label photo of 2009 Argiano Solengo from Tuscany, Italy
ARGIANO SOLENGO 2009 - IGT Toscana, Italy (#) (XD) - $75.00
Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Syrah. Lovely violet, lavender aromas from the glass. Medium-full bodied with big tannins that need at least 7+ years to integrate. Nicely structured and shows finesse with black fruits and blueberries on the palate. Very nice wine that needs time, can be enjoyed up to 20 years from now. Score: 91+ pts

Wall at Fine Wine Reserve

History of Wines of Opened at the Fine Wine Reserve

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  • Date publishedMonday, February 11, 2013

Feb. 16 Wine Picks: Tuscan Triumphs

Cover photo of February 16, 2013 LCBO Vintages Wine Release
The next LCBO Vintages wine release will be in stores across Ontario on . The major focus of this release is on wines from Tuscany, highlighting four of their more notable appellations. The secondary focus is on Kosher wines for the upcoming Purim holiday and Passover festival.

The Sangiovese varietal is Tuscany's most prominent, however, many towns have their own local version of this grape. Within the Chianti region, there is the sub-region called "Chianti Classico". The Castello di Querceto Chianti Classico Riserva is made from 95% Sangiovese and 5% Canaiolo, and was first produced in 1897.

Vino Nobile di Montepulciano is an appellation surrounding the town of Montepulciano. Wines from this region have been documented as far back as year 789. The version from Poliziano is made from 85% Prugnolo Gentile (local clone of Sangiovese) and 15% Colorino/Canaiolo/Merlot.

Last, but not least, we have two wines from the Brunello di Montalcino appellation, which surrounds the town of Montalcino. The Brunello's from Caparzo and Altesino are both 100% Sangiovese and are from the excellent 2007 vintage. The Caparzo is drinkable now, while the Altesino needs at least 1 year in bottle, while both could be aged for at least the next 7 years.

From the rest of the release, the La Montesa from Spain is Tempranillo-blend, while the Château Cailleteau is a mostly Merlot-blend. In white wine, the Croix de Montceau is an oaked Chardonnay and the Clos Floridène is a blend of 51% Sémillon, 47% Sauvignon Blanc and 2% Muscadelle. Enjoy

Red Wine:
  • TRAPICHE FINCAS LAS PALMAS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2007 - Mendoza, Argentina (#143206) (XD) - $16.95
  • PALACIOS REMONDO LA MONTESA 2009 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#674572) (XD) - $17.95
  • CHÂTEAU CAILLETEAU BERGERON 2010 - AC Blaye-Côtes-de-Bordeaux, France (#309138) (XD) - $17.95
  • MAS DES BRESSADES LES VIGNES DE MON PÈRE CABERNET/SYRAH 2009 - Vin de Pays du Gard, Midi, France (#712174) (XD) - $19.95
  • ROSEWOOD ESTATES MERLOT 2010 - VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#211896) (D) - $22.00 reviewed here
  • POLIZIANO VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO 2009 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#988055) (XD) - $25.95
  • CASTELLO DI QUERCETO CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2008 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#650754) (XD) - $27.95
  • GIRIBALDI BARBARESCO 2006 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#101147) (XD) - $31.95
  • CAPARZO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2007 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#579094) (XD) - $41.95
  • ALTESINO BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2007 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#994095) (XD) - $57.95

White Wine:
  • ANSELMANN GEWÜRZTRAMINER KABINETT 2011 - Prädikatswein, Pfalz, Germany (#909697) (MS) - $14.95
  • IN SITU SIGNATURE CHARDONNAY/VIOGNIER 2011 - Aconcagua Valley, Chile (#311746) (D) - $15.95
  • FIELDING ESTATE RIESLING 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#251439) (D) - $18.95 reviewed here
  • CROIX DE MONTCEAU SAINT-VÉRAN 2010 - AC, Burgundy, France (#159046) (XD) - $18.95
  • SALOMON-UNDHOF WIEDEN & BERG TRADITION GRÜNER VELTLINER 2011 - DAC Kremstal, Austria (#670513) (D) - $19.95
  • KONZELMANN 4 GENERATIONS BARREL FERMENTED CHARDONNAY 2009 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#148460) (XD) - $30.00
  • CLOS FLORIDÈNE BLANC 2009 - AC Graves, Bordeaux, France (#189357) (XD) - $31.85

  • QUINTA DE LA ROSA VINTAGE PORT 2009 - Estate Bottled, DOC Douro, Portugal (#741397) (S) - $49.95

Dessert Wine:
  • COTNARI VIN ALB DULCE TÃMÂIOASÃ ROMÂNEASCÃ 2010 - DOC Cotnari, Romania (#651653) (MS) - $12.95

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

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  • Date publishedFriday, February 8, 2013

Don Jacobo Reserva 2004 (Spain) - Wine Review

Purchased this red wine last month from the Vintages release that featured Spanish Wines. One of the good things about this wine is that all the ageing was done at the winery before being released, and it's drinking great right now! It's made using 90% Tempranillo and 10% Garnacha / Mazuelo (Carignan) and bottled in 2008.

DON JACOBO RESERVA 2004 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#313270) (XD) - $17.95

Don Jacobo Reserva 2004 from Spain
Tasting Note:
Interesting aromas of freshly cut wood, rubber and menthol from the cork. Lots of little hints of cranberry, sour cherry, pomegranate and violets. Medium-full bodied with finely-grained and dusty tannins on the palate with nice aroma replays plus hints of cocoa. Very good acidity and balanced throughout, while finishing long with integrated oak flavours. Even though it's already 9 years old and drinking well now, it could be aged another 2-3 years. Will be enjoying this with Piri-Piri Chicken Fajitas. It's a good one and definitely recommended if you like Tempranillo.

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  • Date publishedFriday, February 8, 2013

Dinner at Peller Estates

Last Fall, I was fortunate to win the "Dinner for Two at Peller Estates Winery" contest held by DINE Magazine. The prize was a 5-course Tasting Menu with Wine Pairings. Since I knew I would be Niagara for the Icewine Festival, it was only fitting that I make what was already going to be a fantastic weekend even better by enjoying this great prize at the same time.

On , after enjoying a full day of Icewine, we checked into our hotel in Niagara Falls and freshened up before returning to Peller Estates. I had dined here a few times in the early years of this century, but this was my first meal here in a while, and I really wasn't sure what to expect given that we would be experiencing a Tasting Menu (i.e. set menu) where we didn't get to pick what we eat. But Chef Parsons and his staff were all very, very accommodating, given our dietary restrictions on this day.

We started off our meal with an Amuse Bouche of rare Tuna crusted with 5 spices, Icewine reduction and a strawberry/raspberry jelly. Although I'm not a big fan of Tuna, this was a nice start to our evening.

Rare Tuna crusted with 5 spices

For our next course, we enjoyed a plate of Niagara Heirloom Beetroots, Buffalo Mozzarella, Fennel Seedlings and White Chocolate Dust paired with the Peller Signature Series Ice Cuvée Sparkling Wine (reviewed below). The beetroots were fresh with a nice crunch to them, and really tasted great when dipped into the White Chocolate Dust (where can I get some of this?). I love Buffalo Mozzarella - and this version was soft, creamy and delicious. The pairing was good with everything balancing nicely and nothing dominating the palate.

Beetroot salad

Up next was the soup course - a Cauliflower and Heirloom Bean Soup that also contained nuts and small chunks of 9-year-old Aged Cheddar. The soup was a little bland, but the cheese really added some "pop", and was overall quite good. Some salt and pepper would've been nice. This was an interesting pairing with their 2010 Private Reserve Chardonnay as the wine brought out the nutty notes in the soup. The creaminess from the soup also helped calm down the wine's lively acidity.

Cauliflour and Bean Soup

Our final item before the main course was a pair of fried Pickerel fish cakes, with a side of vegetables and crème fraîche. The fish cakes were quite dry, but tasted great when dipped into the smooth and crème fraîche dip that reminded me of Hollandaise sauce. It was paired with the bone-dry 2011 Private Reserve Pinot Gris, which was probably my least favourite wine of the night, and also the worst pairing - the flavours and mouthfeel just didn't mesh.

Fried Pickerel Fish Cakes

Prior to the main course, we were offered Blackcurrant and Star Anise soda to cleanse the palate. This was quite refreshing and definitely did the job! For our main course, we had fettuccine topped with a grilled Salmon that was paired with the 2009 Andrew Peller Signature Series Chardonnay 'Sur Lie'. Nothing exciting on either front for this course. However, the Salmon was fresh and tender, while this white wine was light, crisp and perfectly suited for fish.

Fettuccine and Salmon

By now, the two of us were quite full and weren't sure if there was any room for dessert. But, we all know that famous saying, right? =) Compliments of the Chef, our server brought out a sampling of each of their desserts they had available on this Saturday night - 6 desserts in all. Suffice to say, our eyes lit up like little kids in a candy store. On our dessert platter we had (from the top, counter-clockwise) Sticky Toffee Pudding with Vanilla Ice Cream, Carrot Cake, Apple Crumble, Red Velvet Cake, Toffee Pastry and Chocolate Ganache. There were also drops of fondants, jelly and caramel. It was all very decadent. My favourite items were the Pudding, Ganache and the Toffee Pastry. All of this was paired with their fabulous 2010 Signature Series Cabernet Franc Icewine. While the flavours from the Icewine didn't complement much of anything on the dessert platter, the high sweetness-levels and acidity from the Icewine did allow it to pair well with the desserts. The Red Velvet Cake and berry jelly paired the best with this Icewine.

Dessert platter

Overall, I was quite happy with our dinner here at Peller Estates. It's always a good sign when you leave a restaurant with a full stomach. The ingredients were fresh and the service was impeccable. I would not hesitate to dine here again. Dining at a luxurious restaurant at a winery is an experience that everyone should enjoy at least once in a lifetime. My first such experience was here, back in 2003. It felt nice to be back!

Tasting Notes:
PELLER ESTATES SIGNATURE SERIES ICE CUVÉE - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#284547) (D) - $31.95
Floral, peach, toast and leesy aromas from the glass with more toast and floral replays, along with some yeast on the palate. Creamy, long-lasting mousse with a hints of honey on the mid-palate. Finish is dry. Score: 88 pts

PELLER ESTATES PRIVATE RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#) (XD) - $18.95
Mainly apple and pear aromas with tart mango coming through at the tail end. More ripe orchard fruits (apple, pear) on the palate, plus pineapple notes that give way to a mineral, nutty finish. Round mouthfeel with very good acidity. Quite smooth and balanced. Delicious! Score: 90 pts

PELLER ESTATES PRIVATE RESERVE PINOT GRIS 2011 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#) (XD) - $18.95
Apricot, citrus and pear aromas. Crisp and dry with minerality and hints of apricot and pear on the palate. Medium-bodied with lively acidity and a short finish that is slightly off-dry. Score: 86 pts

PELLER ESTATES ANDREW PELLER SIGNATURE SERIES CHARDONNAY 'SUR LIE' 2009 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#024059) (XD) - $31.95
Crisp, fresh lime, citrus and vanilla aromas. Lively acidity with tart lemon/lime on the palate and some minerality showing through. Medium-full bodied with lemon and spice on the finish. Score: 89 pts

PELLER ESTATES ANDREW PELLER SIGNATURE SERIES CABERNET FRANC ICEWINE 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#) (S) (375 mL) - $90.10
Jammy red fruit, red currants and candied fruit aromas. Candied red currants, strawberries and honey on the palate with bright acidity. Very good balance between sweetness and acidity. Finish is medium-length. Would pair well with meals. Score: 91 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, February 4, 2013

Muskoka Lakes Winery Framberge (Ontario) - Wine Review

Opened this wine on to match the red on the 49ers uniform - I was cheering for the 49ers because of my affinity to the Bay Area (not sure what I would have done if I had an affinity to the Ravens).

This dessert wine was purchased this last summer when I visited the Muskoka Lakes Winery. It's made using raspberries and cranberries and has a relatively high 15% alcohol/volume. This wine is only available for purchase through the winery.

MUSKOKA LAKES WINERY FRAMBERGE (NV) - QC, Ontario, Canada (S) - $22.95

Label photo of Muskoka Lakes Winery Framberge dessert wine
Tasting Note:
Candied cranberry and raspberry, along with musky herbal aromas. Juicy, sweet raspberry on the palate with cranberry and maraschino cherry undertones. Good tannin and acidity. The finish lingers for a while. It paired well with sponge cakes topped with strawberries and whipped cream as the flavours complemented each other.

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  • Date publishedSunday, February 3, 2013

Beringer California Collection Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (USA) - Wine Review

Since I didn't have any Italian red wines that were quite ready to drink now, I decided to open this very fruit-forward Cabernet Sauvignon to pair with homemade Margherita Pizza . This red wine was received as a gift over the holidays. It's from the LCBO General List and is readily available.


Label photo of 2011 Beringer California Collection Cabernet Sauvignon
Tasting Note:
Plum, blackberry jam, cassis, cedar and hints of sweet fruit aromas. Medium-bodied with sweet, ripe fruit on the palate. Very fruit-forward with red and dark fruit flavours, with oak undertones. Tannins are a bit chalky, but otherwise well-integrated. Off-dry with a short finish. Not your typical, big, dry Cali Cab. Easy drinker. Good acidity allowed it to pair well with the pizza.

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