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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.

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  • 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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  • Date publishedTuesday, October 1, 2013

2013 Niagara Wine Festival Review

2013 Niagara Wine Festival
I recently had the pleasure of attending the 2013 edition of the Niagara Wine Festival - the annual festival that celebrates the vintage harvest. This year, as last year, I brought along with me a small group of wine lovers (enthusiasts?) to join me in the festivities. The weather on had called for rain pretty much the entire day, but that did not deter us or other groups as every stop was buzzing with folks.

We visited 4 wineries in total and began the afternoon at Flat Rock Cellars. Since it was raining, we were not able to head out into the vineyard, but the tour guide did tell us about their vineyards from the veranda overlooking the vineyards. I always find it quite calming and relaxing when overlooking vineyards. Flat Rock has about 80 acres of vineyards, growing Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, and a small patch of Gewürztraminer grapes. They were hosting a grape crush on this day, but our group was not too keen on this activity. We then headed towards their winemaking area, where grapes are fed through a state-of-the-art 5-level gravity flow system.

As part of the guided tour, we got to taste the 2011 Twisted (Riesling/Gewürztraminer/Chardonnay blend), followed by the 2012 version of their ever popular (and one of my favourites) Nadja's Vineyard Riesling (88 pts, $19.95). We ended the guided tour with a tasting of the 2011 Pinot Noir (87 pts, $19.95), that actually won a Bronze Medal at the recent 2013 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC13).

Tour of Flat Rock Cellars5-Level Gravity-Flow System at Flat Rock Cellars

We also partook in the Discovery Pass Experience at Flat Rock, where we enjoyed a very generous serving of Memphis Fire verde chicken that was served in a soft taco with lettuce and fresh tomato salsa. A healthy amount of fruit flies also joined us, one of which I think I swallowed with my Pinot. The pairing was quite spicy all-around with the 2009 Chardonnay (88 pts, $17.15) that was partially-oaked. From here, we continued our tour into Niagara-on-the-Lake to visit 3 more wineries.

Group photo at Flat Rock CellarsChicken Soft Taco

Our second stop was Marynissen Estates Winery, where we stopped in to "feast" on a Lamb Za'atar in a bite-sized pita topped with cumin yogurt. This was paired with the newly released 2009 Nanny's Blend. The tannins were still tight in this red wine, but worked well with the tiny food pairing.

2002 Marynissen Estates Cabernet Sauvignon Marynissen Vineyard
I had tasted Marynissen wines some time during the early part of the last decade and recall fond memories, but this was my first ever visit to the winery and was very excited to taste their current lineup. The highlight of this visit was definitely Steve who offered one member my group a taste of their 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Marynissen Vineyard Estate Bottled (91-92 pts, $45). Of course, I wanted to taste this as well, and Steve happily obliged. Blackberry jam, licorice, prune and caramel aromas from this aged beauty and big tannins with a very long finish. It has reached its peak and is drinking beautifully now. There were only 3 bottles in stock when we arrived, 2 when we left. :) This was my wine of the day.

Marynissen Estates Winery

Steve also took us into the back for a tasting a few of their current release wines, some of which were available for only $10. It's a shame that the LCBO doesn't carry much (if any) wines from Marynissen, because the wines here are quite good - and at unbelievably low price points.

Our third stop of the afternoon was PondView Estate Winery to enjoy savoury (and slightly spicy) skewered Tandoori chicken, served with a side of cold rice. We were served by one of the heads of this family-owned winery, Adriana Puglisi. This was paired with their 2011 Bella Terra Barrel Fermented Chardonnay (90 pts, $25). The pairing was good, nicely balanced, but I was wow-ed by this oaked Chardonnay that features buttered popcorn, apple, pear and hints of butterscotch aromas and nice aroma replays. It's full bodied with a creamy mouthfeel, good acidity and a smooth, long finish.

Adriana Puglisi of PondView Estate WinerySkewered Tandoori Chicken

I also enjoyed the vegetarian option, which featured some brie on a baguette, the cold rice, and finished off with a chocolate praline. Yum! We also tasted at the bar and I rediscovered their delicious 2010 Vidal Icewine (92 pts, $25). This family-owned winery has over three generations of winemaking experience, and it shows!

Our fourth and final stop of this rainy afternoon was a unique experience at Strewn Winery. Here we tasted the winery's flagship red wine - the Strewn Three Terroir - from four different vintages to see how the wine developed over time. First up was the 2005, which was jammy and pruney with nicely integrated tannins and drinking great, but likely just past it's prime. The 2007 vintage had red fruits with oak, leather and tobacco aromas and flavours; it also had good structure with refined tannins and was my favourite of the four. The 2010 is from a great vintage and had fresh dark berries, currants, and blackberry aromas with dark fruits and oak on the palate; tannins still a bit tight, but drinkable now. And finally, the 2012 Futures has very fresh fruit and oak aromas, palate had lots of tannin and definitely needs time to settle down.

Vertical tasting of Strewn Three TerroirStrewn Three Terroir tasting

All in all, it was a great time. We sampled some good wine and eats. We had a good group and enjoyed each others company, and didn't let the rain affect us. If you're interested in joining me on a future tour, send me a quick note and I'll be sure to let you know!

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