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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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