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  • Date publishedWednesday, April 23, 2014

2014 County in the City - Toronto

County in the City Toronto 2014
On , I attended the 3rd Annual County in The City walk-around wine tasting held at The Berkeley Church in downtown Toronto. Having attended this event since it's inception back in 2012, I have found that my appreciation for Prince Edward County wines has grown - and for good reason.

Two years ago, I did not have much appreciation for Pinot Noir, and after attending County in the City in 2012, I think I liked it even less. Following the event in 2012, I was left with an impression that (nearly) everyone out there in PEC was making heavily oaked, smoky Pinot Noir - a style which I did not enjoy back then, nor do I enjoy now. A year later, the same wines showed much more restraint and balance and were generally much better in quality. In 2013 I also came away with a few favourites that I would have loved to add to my cellar.

One of the biggest draws of this event is the ability to order the wines that you taste and have it shipped to your door for free. Taking it one step further - you can mix and match wines from any of the wineries in attendance, so long as you order a minimum of 6 bottles total. Such a great idea (!) as many of these wines are not available at the LCBO.

This year, there were many yummy wines. The star grape for me at CITC was Riesling, followed closely by Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay. All of the Rieslings had some level of sweetness to them, which I really enjoyed. Some even reminded me of German Riesling - with its high acidity, sweetness, and petrol nose.

Wineries in Prince Edward County frequently label their wines as "VQA Ontario". Often, this is because the grapes for those particular wines come from more than one appellation - usually Prince Edward County and Niagara. Personally, I am not a fan of blending grapes from different appellations, but I am sure they have their reasons for doing it. Wines that use 100% County fruit will be labelled as VQA Prince Edward County. Among my wine recommendations below, you will find wines with both types of classifications.

Overall, it was an enjoyable event. Small sized food pairing opportunities were plentiful. The crowd seemed lighter than previous years, which I didn't mind because it made moving around between tables much easier. And lastly, the wine was very good. This event definitely showed me that PEC wines are moving in the right direction, and the gap between County and Niagara wines is getting narrower.

Here are wine reviews of the some of the wines I tasted during the evening. While all of these wines will be available at the winery, a select few are available at the LCBO. I am planning a trip out to the County during the Summer - send me a quick note if you're interested in joining me. Cheers!

Tasting Notes:
CASA-DEA RIESLING 2011 - VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada (#) (MD) - $16.95
High intensity aromas of petrol and beeswax. Light-bodied and medium-dry sweet with mineral, lime and hints of peach on the palate. Bright acids and a taut, medium-long finish. Light and easy drinking. Score: 88+

Wine Review of 2011 Casa-Dea Riesling from VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada

HUFF ESTATES OFF-DRY RIESLING 2012 - VQA Ontario, Canada (#155606) (D) - $17.95
Because of the VQA Ontario designation, this will contain Niagara fruit, as well as County fruit. Medium-high intensity aromas of beeswax, petrol and minerals. Medium-full bodied with bracing acids. Off-dry in sweetness with lime and peach palate. Long finish that's a bit tart and a touch hot. LCBO General List and readily available. Score: 89 pts

KARLO ESTATES RIESLING 2012 - VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada (#) (MD) - $22
Lovely spring flower bouquet from the glass. Medium-dry in sweetness with nice floral replays, fruity, petrol and what reminds me of Flintstones vitamins. Vibrant acids and finishing long. Easy drinking and crowd pleasing. Score: 89 pts

KARLO ESTATES VAN ALSTINE WHITE 2010 - Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada (#) (S) - $29
Blend of estate grown Frontenac Blanc and Gewürztraminer made in a port-style. Medium intensity aromas that is all melon. Oily texture with sweet melon, orange and citrus flavours on the palate. Lively acid and a long finish. Delicious. Score: 90 pts

Medium-high aromas of lychee and floral. Lightweighted with nicely balanced aroma replays and minerality. It's off-dry (slightly sweet) with a crisp mouthfeel. Has good acids and a long finish. Classic Gewurz. Score: 89 pts

LIGHTHALL VINEYARDS PINOT NOIR 2010 - VQA Ontario, Canada (#) (XD) - $25
Medium-high aromas featuring red currant, cherry and cola. Medium+ bodied with very good acids. Flavour profile echoes the nose with spice, red currants and cherries. Oak leads the way on the long finish. Score: 89 pts

NORMAN HARDIE PINOT NOIR UNFILTERED 2010 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#208702) (XD) - $39
Smoky, meaty and vegetal aromas that are of high intensity. Sour cherry, mineral and clove spice flavour on the palate. Very good acids. Medium-bodied with firm tannins and long, silky smooth finish. Very well balanced overall. Part of LCBO General List and readily available. Score: 91 pts

NORMAN HARDIE RIESLING 2012 - VQA Ontario, Canada (#) (MD) - $21
Blend of 70% Twenty Mile Bench (Niagara) fruit and 30% County fruit. Highly aromatic with petrol, stone fruit, mineral and beeswax aromas. Light-bodied with clean minerals, citrus and peach on the palate. Medium-dry in the sweetness, but balanced acidity keeps everything in check. Long, clean finish. Very nice! Score: 90+ pts

Wine Review of 2012 Norman Hardie Riesling from VQA Ontario, CanadaWine Review of 2011 Rosehall Run JCR Chardonnay from VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada

ROSEHALL RUN JCR CHARDONNAY 2011 - Rosehall Vineyard, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada (#326512) (XD) - $30
Medium+ intensity nose featuring orchard fruits, apple, pear and oak that is all nicely balanced. Medium-bodied with nice aroma replays, balanced oak and hints of tropical fruit. Slightly oily texture with very good acids and a lengthy finish. Very nice! Score: 90 pts

ROSEHALL RUN JCR PINOT NOIR 2010 - Rosehall Vineyard, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada (#326504) (XD) - $39
Highly aromatic with cherry, strawberry, beetroot and oak on the nose. Medium-bodied with nice aroma replays and mouth-watering acids. Tannins are firm, yet feel light. Finish is long and spicy. Score: 90 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, April 21, 2014

Apr. 26 Wine Picks: Bordeaux + Sparkling Wine

LCBO Wine Picks from April 26, 2014 Vintages Release
The next LCBO Vintages release will be in stores this . The main focus of this release is on wines from Bordeaux, with a particular emphasis on "great values" from the famed 2009 and 2010 vintages, as well as the challenging 2011 vintage. The secondary focus is on Sparkling Wines and is definitely the highlight of this release.

Personally, I had a hard time finding great values among the 14 Bordeaux wines as only 2 wines made my wine picks. The 2010 Selve is a 50/50 blend of Merlot and Cab Sauv, while the 2009 Chantecaille is 80/20 blend of Merlot and Cab Franc. Both of these wines will reward ageing a couple of years. Perhaps save both of these for a special occasion in the future?

Within my circles, sparkling wines tend to be opened only on special occasions. And unless you can afford to otherwise, I would suggest 3 Champagnes from this release should be reserved for a special occasions. The 2006 vintage Champagnes from Marguet is dry and 100% Chardonnay, while the Moutard is off-dry (slightly sweet) and is equal parts Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. The Fleury non-vintage Champagne is made with 100% Pinot Noir. Lastly, it's refreshing to see a Sparkling Wine made from Riesling - I reckon we will see more of this in the future.

From the rest of the release, the Remhoogte Estate Wine returns with the 2007 composed of 32% Merlot, 29% Syrah, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 13% Pinotage, which is slightly different than the 2006 version.

Four premium Spanish reds are worth your attention. We'll begin with the 2006 Ardal that contains 80% Tempranillo and 20% Cab Sauv. The Alvaro Palacios is a blend consisting of 60% Cariñena (Carignan), 30% Garnacha, and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah from old vines, some of which are 100 years old. There are also two Riojas to consider, including a 2001 Faustino that is earthy, funky, and bretty and still has some stuffing to age another few years; it's made with 86% Tempranillo, 9% Graciano and 5% Mazuelo and may not be for everyone. Lastly, the Maetierra Dominum is a blend of 93% Tempranillo, 4% Graciano and 3% Garnacha Tinta. Save for the Faustino, these Spanish reds will all reward another 4-5 years in the cellar.

White wine lovers looking for bargains under $20 will want to skip this release, as there isn't anything worth your attention unless you're willing to go up the price bracket.

Enjoy my wine recommendations for this week. Cheers!

Red Wine:
  • CHAKANA RESERVE MALBEC 2012 - Mendoza, Argentina (#018671) (XD) - $16.95
  • KEINT-HE VOYAGEUR PINOT NOIR 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#373407) (D) - $17.95  reviewed here
  • REMHOOGTE ESTATE WINE 2007 - WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, South Africa (#694539) (D) - $18.95
  • CASARENA RAMANEGRA RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011 - Mendoza, Argentina (#366138) (XD) - $18.95
  • VILLA CAFAGGIO CHIANTI CLASSICO 2010 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#176776) (XD) - $19.95
  • CHÂTEAU HAUT SELVE 2010 - AC Graves, Bordeaux, France (#738120) (XD) - $21.95
  • ARDAL RESERVA 2006 - DO Ribera del Duero, Spain (#167700) (XD) - $22.95
  • MAETIERRA DOMINUM QP 2006 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#246660) (XD) - $22.95
  • CHÂTEAU LA CROIX CHANTECAILLE 2009 - AC Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France (#349936) (XD) - $29.95
  • FAUSTINO I GRAN RESERVA 2001 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#976662) (XD) - $32.95
  • ALVARO PALACIOS VELLES VINYES LES TERRASSES 2011 - DOCa Priorat, Spain (#977843) (XD) - $46.95
  • BURGESS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2009 - Estate Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, USA (#291914) (XD) - $48.95

White Wine:
  • YALUMBA VIOGNIER 2012 - Eden Valley, South Australia (#954644) (XD) - $24.95
  • DOMAINE DE RIAUX POUILLY-FUMÉ 2012 - AC, Loire, France (#200063) (XD) - $25.95
  • FREEMARK ABBEY CHARDONNAY 2012 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#361949) (XD) - $27.95  reviewed here

Sparkling Wine:
  • TAWSE SPARK LIMESTONE RIDGE RIESLING SPARKLING WINE 2012 - Limestone Ridge Estate Vineyard, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#370361) (D) - $19.95
  • FLEURY BLANC DE NOIRS BRUT CHAMPAGNE - AC, Champagne, France (#368761) (XD) - $54.95
  • MARGUET PÈRE & FILS GRAND CRU BRUT CHAMPAGNE 2006 - AC, Ambonnay, Champagne, France (#068791) (XD) - $65.95
  • MOUTARD PÈRE & FILS CUVÉE DES 6 CÉPAGES BRUT CHAMPAGNE 2006 - AC, Champagne, France (#185595) (D) - $87.95

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

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  • Date publishedSaturday, April 19, 2014

Montes Alpha Carmenère Apalta Vineyard 2007 (Chile) - Wine Review

This red wine was purchased way back in from a Vintages release that focused on Chile. The story of that release was about the previous 10 years in Chile and how Chilean wine had exploded on to the global wine scene. This Carmenère was one of the Wines of the Month.

I am certain there is a story behind why the 2007 vintage bottling was the last year that the grapes for this wine came from the Apalta Vineyard. Beginning in 2008, they began to use grapes from the Marchique Vineyard. Currently not available, I would expect a future vintage of this wine to show up in Vintages again.

MONTES ALPHA CARMENÈRE 2007 - Apalta Vineyard, Colchagua Valley, Chile (#143230) (D) - $19.95

Wine Review of 2007 Montes Alpha Carmenère from Apalta Vineyard, Colchagua Valley, Chile
Tasting Note:
Stewed blackberry and black currant aromas from the cork. Medium+ aromas of black currant, black cherry, and earth with hints of stewed black fruits and barnyard. Medium+ bodied with refined tannins that are silky smooth, yet drying. Nice black currant/blackberry sweet ripe fruits, oak spice, and earthy flavours. Good acids, rush of spice and hints of purple fruits on the slightly warm, and lengthy finish. Could be aged another 2 years, but drinking great now. Score: 89 pts

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  • Date publishedThursday, April 17, 2014

Malbec World Day Toronto

On , I attended #MalbecWorldDayTO that was co-hosted by iYellow Wine Club and Wines of Argentina at The Great Hall in the Queen West area in downtown Toronto.

is celebrated around the world every April 17th to commemorate the day when the President of Argentina Domingo Faustino Sarmiento officially made it his mission in 1853 to transform Argentina's wine industry and make it a world player in the wine scene. 150 years later, it is safe to say that he has succeeded in reaching that goal.

Today, Argentina is now the 5th largest producer of wine and Malbec is the most planted in grape in the country. Furthermore, even though Malbec's original home is in Cahors, France, nowhere in the world is there more acreage of Malbec grown than in Argentina.

Tuesday night's event featured more than 50 wines from 18 different Argentinian wineries. Among the many Malbecs and Malbec-blends were wines made from Torrontes, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes. Included with your admission were latin-inspired chicken, beef and goat cheese empanadas, as well as beef and Argentinian rice on corn tortillas – this was a great touch as both food pairings complemented the wines very well.

All in all, it was a fun event with some fun, easy drinking wines, as well as a few serious wines for serious winos. The live DJ battle kept folks hopping throughout the night as well.

Here are wine reviews of 6 wines that I really enjoyed - 5 of which are currently available at the LCBO - to help you celebrate Malbec World Day this year. Enjoy!

Wine Review of 2012 Trapiche Malbec Reserve from Mendoza, ArgentinaWine Review of 2012 Pascual Toso Malbec Limited Edition from Mendoza, ArgentinaWine Review of 2011 Luigi Bosca Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina

TRAPICHE MALBEC RESERVE 2012 - Mendoza, Argentina (#614651) (D) - $11.95
Medium-high aromas with earthy, green, black cherry, and hint of brett (barnyard) notes. Full-bodied with sweet ripe black fruits and gentle oak spice flavours. Tannins are big, yet very smooth and integrated. Very good acids and finishing long. Fine value at this price! LCBO General List and always available. Score: 88 pts

PASCUAL TOSO MALBEC LIMITED EDITION 2012 - Mendoza, Argentina (#162610) (D) - $15.95
A terroir-driven wine that hails from Barrancas, the 2012 is highly aromatic with mineral, wet stone and plum aromas. It's medium-bodied with refined tannins. Palate has mineral, dark fruit, wet stone, and elegant oak spice flavours. Very good acids and a long finish that is slightly warm. LCBO General List product and always available. Score: 89 pts

LUIGI BOSCA MALBEC 2011 - Mendoza, Argentina (#079293) (XD) - $17.95
Made from vines over 50 years old that are located 960 metres above sea level. Medium intensity nose with green, ripe black fruit and oak aromas. Medium-bodied with pleasant aroma replays and notes of bitter chocolate. Chalky tannins will reward another year or two in cellar. Mouth-watering acids and a long finish. Vintages product. Score: 88 pts

Wine Review of 2010 Kaiken Ultra Cabernet Sauvignon from Mendoza, ArgentinaWine Review of 2010 Clos de los Siete from Mendoza, ArgentinaWine Review of 2010 Norton Privada from Mendoza, Argentina

KAIKEN ULTRA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - Mendoza, Argentina (#135202) (D) - $19.95
Medium+ intensity aromas showing cassis, red fruits and new oak. Medium+ bodied with chalky tannins on the palate. Flavour profile consists of sweet ripe fruits, plum, milk chocolate, and leather. Good acids and long finishing. Vintages product. Score: 89 pts

CLOS DE LOS SIETE 2010 - Mendoza, Argentina (#622571) (XD) - $21.95
Malbec blend containing 57% Malbec, 15% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Syrah, and 3% Petit Verdot. Medium-high intensity aromas consisting of spice, peppercorn, oak and dark fruits. Palate is full-bodied showing sweet tobacco, red & black fruits, and Asian spice. Firm, yet refined, tannins, very good acids and finishing long. Vintages product. Score: 90 pts

NORTON PRIVADA 2010 - Mendoza, Argentina (#) (XD) - $24.95
Blend of Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Beautiful floral, purple, dark fruit, blackberry, cedar oak and mocha aromas. It's full bodied with big, silky smooth tannins. Flavour palate has nice blackberry liquer, oak, dark chocolate, and spice flavours. Balanced acids and a long, smooth finish. Delicious! Score: 91 pts

Chicken Empanada with Salsa

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  • Date publishedFriday, April 11, 2014

13th Street June's Vineyard Riesling 2011 (Niagara) - Wine Review

This gorgeous white wine was purchased from this Saturday's Vintages release (yup!) and hails from a vineyard named after one of the owners of 13th Street Winery. The vines for this wine were planted in 1999 and continue to produce excellent Riesling, as evidenced by this wine. However, there wasn't much produced - only 550 cases - so get your hands on it this weekend while it's still available.

13TH STREET JUNE’S VINEYARD RIESLING 2011 - VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#147512) (D) - $19.95

Wine Review of 2011 13th Street June's Vineyard Riesling from VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada
Tasting Note:
Screw cap. Lovely lemon/lime, petrol, mineral, and citrus aromas from the glass. Medium-bodied with apricot, citrus, orchard fruit and stony minerality palate. It's off-dry with lively acidity. Finely balanced with stony and slightly tart finish that lingers. Highly recommended. Score: 90 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, April 7, 2014

Apr. 12 LCBO Wine Picks: Appassimento + Easter

LCBO Wine Picks from April 12, 2014 Vintages Release
The next Vintages release will be on shelves across Ontario on . Appassimento wines are the main focus of this release, while wines for are highlighted in the small secondary feature.

In case you didn't know, Appassimento is a winemaking technique that involves drying grapes and tends to produce naturally sweeter wines. There are 3 major styles of Appassimento wines - Recioto, Amarone and Ripasso - all of which are represented in this release. Of the 16 wines featured, quite a few would be worthy additions to your cellar, and 3 of my wine picks below are excellent buys.

The Bertani Ripasso is a blend of Rondinella and Corvina Veronese and during the 2nd fermentation (i.e. ripasso) was refermented on pomaces of Recioto and Amarone. The Tenuta Sant'Antonio is a dry Amarone (i.e. not sweet) and consists of 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, 5% Croatina and 5% Oseleta; it will age gracefully and can be enjoyed over the next 10 years. And finally, the Brigaldara Amarone is an off-dry version (i.e. slightly sweet) made with 50% Corvinone, 20% Corvina, 20% Rondinella and 10% other grapes and can be enjoyed over the next 13 years. With both of these Amarones, you'll want to wait at least a year before opening as their both still a bit young.

Easter is the second feature of the release and highlights just 5 wines to help make your festive day more festive. Three of these wines made my list of wine picks - Featherstone's Rosé, Lailey's Chardonnay, and Reif's Vidal Icewine are all recommended, even if you don't celebrate Easter.

For Chardonnay fans, all of the Chardonnays mentioned below are oaked, except for the Chablis (50 yr old vines). For Riesling lovers, the German Riesling is the sweetest of the three I recommend and will have exotic notes typical of Piesporter wines. The Godelia Red is 100% Mencía with grapes coming from three zones with differing soils.

Enjoy my wine recommendations for this week. Cheers!

Red Wine:
  • GRANT BURGE 5TH GENERATION SHIRAZ 2012 - Barossa, South Australia (#361295) (XD) - $18.95
  • CAPARZO ROSSO DI MONTALCINO 2011 - DOC, Tuscany, Italy (#333575) (XD) - $19.95
  • CONCHA Y TORO MARQUES DE CASA CONCHA CARMENÈRE 2008 - Peumo, Rapel Valley, Chile (#169862) (XD) - $19.95
  • GODELIA RED 2009 - DO Bierzo, Spain (#368043) (XD) - $20.95
  • JULICHER 99 ROWS PINOT NOIR 2010 - Te Muna Road, Martinborough, North Island, New Zealand (#367979) (XD) - $24.95
  • JIM BARRY THE COVER DRIVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - Coonawarra, South Australia (#677476) (XD) - $26.95  reviewed here
  • BRIGALDARA AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2009 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#300012) (D) - $49.95

White Wine:
  • PERRIN & FILS RÉSERVE CÔTES DU RHÔNE BLANC 2012 - AC, Rhône, France (#499509) (XD) - $14.95
  • GUSTAVE LORENTZ RÉSERVE RIESLING 2012 - AC Alsace, France (#641639) (D) - $17.95
  • LAILEY CHARDONNAY 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#193482) (XD) - $19.95
  • 13TH STREET JUNE’S VINEYARD RIESLING 2011 - VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#147512) (D) - $19.95  reviewed here
  • REINHOLD HAART PIESPORTER RIESLING KABINETT 2010 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#727461) (M) - $19.95
  • LANDER-JENKINS SPIRIT HAWK CHARDONNAY 2011 - California, USA (#162651) (D) - $19.95
  • SYLVAIN MOSNIER VIEILLES VIGNES CHABLIS 2010 - AC, Burgundy, France (#357152) (XD) - $26.95
  • BACHELDER OREGON CHARDONNAY 2011 - Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA (#273334) (XD) - $29.95
  • LA CREMA CHARDONNAY 2012 - Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California (#067231) (XD) - $37.95

Rosé Wine:
  • PETIT RIMAURESQ GRENACHE/CINSAULT/SYRAH ROSÉ 2012 - Provence, France (#276360) (XD) - $13.95
  • FEATHERSTONE ROSÉ 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#117861) (D) - $14.95

Dessert Wine:
  • PUKLUS PINCÉSZET TOKAJI ASZÚ 3 PUTTONYOS 2008 - Hungary (#980805) (MS) (500 mL) - $20.95
  • REIF VIDAL ICEWINE 2012 - VQA Niagara River, Ontario, Canada (#544791) (S) (200 mL) - $24.95

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

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