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  • Date publishedWednesday, July 29, 2015

Niagara New Vintage Wine Festival 2015: Day ONE Review

Niagara New Vintage Festival
During the weekend of and 21st, I was in Niagara taking in the 19th Annual New Vintage Festival. As part of the weekend's festivities, I enjoyed culinary creations using the first produce of the season, locally sourced ingredients and paired with Niagara wines. Saturday evening, I also had the pleasure of attending the TD Tailgate Party.

Tawse WineryMoray Tawse Residence

We began our tour Saturday at Tawse Winery. I had been to this family-owned estate winery quite a few times over the years, but this was my first time doing a tour of the vineyard and facilities. The Tawse story begins with Moray Tawse, a wine aficionado with vineyard holdings in Argentina and Burgundy. He saw the potential in Niagara and purchased his first 6 acres in 2001, then opened his impressive winery in 2005 - his personal residence is also attached to the winery.

Wine Tour at Tawse Winery Our guide at Tawse, Rheal Demers, took us out to the estate vineyards on the Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation and went through some of the vineyard practices. The 3 block's of vineyards on-site are Robyn's Block, Carly's Block, and David's Block - named after the children Moray and Joanne Tawse. At Tawse, all estate vineyards use organic and biodynamic farming techniques. Biodynamic farming is an approach that not only focuses on self-sustaining ecology in the vineyard, but also relies on traditional agricultural practices such as planting and harvesting at certain points in the lunar calendar. It was amazing to hear that the approaches used by Tawse are very much the same as those used by another winery halfway across the globe that I profiled recently - South Africa's Avondale Wine. Included among Tawse Winery's organic and biodynamic farming practices is the use of sheep (to eat weeds and excess vine foliage, and provide manure for soil enrichment), natural predators (for pest control), cover crops, and burying cow's horns to stimulate humus formation.

Cellar room at Tawse Winery

The high vantage point up on the Escarpment at Tawse provided a nice, clear view of Lake Ontario and in the far distance - the CN Tower. More importantly for winemaking, the breeze from the lake can be a great benefit for grape growing and definitely helps Tawse produce the great wines that they're known for.

Once inside, we got a nice view of the 6-level gravity flow processing system, followed by a visit to the cellar room. It was interesting to know that the humidity and temperature in the cellar room is partially controlled by the 9-metre-deep pond out in front of the property via geo-thermal cooling.

Tawse Winery 6-level gravity flow processing system2013 Tawse Limestone Ridge Riesling (89 pts) paired with herbed pulled chicken topped with fresh salsa verde

After we completed the tour, we headed for the Discovery Pass Experience which featured a delicious herbed pulled chicken topped with fresh salsa verde prepared by House Chef Jesslyn and served alongside the 2013 Limestone Ridge Riesling. Riesling wines generally pair quite well with food due to it's naturally high acidity, and this was no exception. Good flavour balance overall and between the food and wine, with the sugars from the wine balancing the subtle spice kick from the chicken very nicely. Good portion size too! Overall, the pairing worked quite well and was enjoyed by all.

In case this was your first introduction to Tawse, you should know that it won Canadian Winery of the Year in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Furthermore, Winemaker Paul Pender was named Winemaker of the Year in 2011. The wines here are excellent and I would encourage you to visit and taste their wines; some of their wines are also frequently found at the LCBO.

Rancourt Winery
The next stop on our tour was Vignoble Rancourt Winery for a pairing of Harvest Barn teriyaki sauce chicken wings with their 2013 Rancourt Merlot Rosé ($15.00, 86 pts). This was my first ever visit to Rancourt and I came here with no expectations. Even though the portion size was generous, the pairing was average - everyone else in the group also felt the same. Given the honeyed fruit character of the wine, a honey flavoured wing or (even better) a spicy wing would've been my preferred style of pairing. Once we completed the Discovery Pass Experience, we were given a small tour of the property by the young and very knowledgeable Brooke Georgeneau.

Brooke began by telling us about the history of Rancourt Winery that began only in 2006. Quebec natives Lionel Rancourt and his wife Lorraine moved to Niagara in the hopes of improving their English and putting their farm hands to work. Following a trip to Bordeaux, Lionel's passion shifted to growing grapes and immediately began pulling out their peach plantings. Initially, Lionel was selling his grapes to local wineries who used them to produce great wines. This convinced Lionel to produce his own wine.

Harvest Barn Teriyaki Sauce Chicken Wings with Rancourt Merlot RoséRancourt wine lineup

However, he had a problem in that his wife did not drink wine. Lionel was determined to craft a wine so that it would appeal to his wife and virtually any non-wine drinker - the result was the Noble Blanc. The latest iteration of this white wine is the 2012 Noble Blanc ($16, 87 pts) and is a unique blend of 60/40 Chardonnay/Gewürztraminer made in an off-dry, crowd-pleasing style.

This boutique winery is now currently running under the new ownership of Joe Enrich and his daughter Sue. In an ode to Niagara's past, they keep a block of Concorde, but also experiment with wines such as an unoaked Malbec that I hear is an easy-drinking, crowd-pleasing, and fun wine that tastes like watermelon jolly rancher.

At the bottom of this post you will find wine reviews of a few of the wines I tasted at Tawse and Rancourt, along with some of many other wines I enjoyed on this visit to Niagara wine country.

Grilled Sweet Chili Shrimps topped with Mango Salsa paired with Konzelmann Pinot Blanc
Our third stop of the afternoon was Konzelmann Estate Winery for a pairing of their 2013 Pinot Blanc with a pair of grilled sweet chili shrimps topped with mango salsa. Having been to Konzelmann for a few years now, I've yet to be disappointed with the quality of the food & wine pairing. The large shrimp was succulent, juicy and delicious with the mango salsa! However, the shrimp was a little too spicy for the dry Pinot Blanc - I would've preferred an off-dry (i.e. slightly sweet) wine such as their Gewürztraminer or Pinot Gris.

Strewn Terroir Riesling
The final stop was a short distance away at Strewn Winery for an interesting vertical tasting of dry Rieslings from three consecutive vintages. These three white wines were paired with a crostini topped with roasted pear, garlic hummus, baby sprouts and OLiV Balsamic Pearls and Lemon EVO oil. While the pairing between the wines and crostini was good, the star of this Discovery Pass Experience was the ability to taste the same wine from 3 different vintages and see how they are all evolving. In the lineup was the Strewn Terroir Riesling from 2012, 2013 and 2014. As a bonus, I also got to taste the 2011 Strewn Terroir Riesling. The two newer Rieslings were fresh, fruity, and had a hint of sweetness, while the two older Rieslings were essentially dry, mineral-driven, and had a mature petrol nose. Full wine tasting notes are provided below.

TD Tailgate Party

After the tour itinerary was completed, I attended the TD Tailgate Party. This event is held annually in the vineyards of the winner of the Grape Grower of the Year award, also known as the Grape King. For 2014-2015, the winner was Kevin Buis and the party was held in his Family Vineyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake. There were about 30 wineries that lined the vines, literally opening up the tailgates of their vehicles and serving up some of their newest vintages to party goers. There were also various food stations scattered throughout for sampling food items, as well as a stage and live music. It was very much a party type of atmosphere, with wines to match, and a good crowd. It was great to meet a few friends from Toronto, as well as seeing many familiar and friendly faces from the wineries, including Brooke, who I had met earlier in the day at Rancourt. In fact, after I had made my rounds, I spent quite a bit of time at the end of the night at the Rancourt table talking about wine, the industry in Niagara, while sharing lots of laughs. As the event came to a close, I helped the ladies of Rancourt carry stuff back to the shuttle bus (i.e. school bus) and then back to their vehicle.

Korean BBQ ChickenLive music at TD Tailgate Party

And this concludes my review of day 1 in Niagara last month. Stay tuned as review of very fulfilling day 2 will be posted in the coming days. See my review of Day 2 here.

Tasting Notes:

TAWSE SPARK LIMESTONE RIDGE RIESLING SPARKLING 2013 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#370361) (D) - $19.95
Medium+ aromas of tart lime, citrus and stone notes. It's medium-bodied with just off-dry aroma replays and a chalky mineral texture that leads to a long, dry-ish finish. Juicy and refreshing. Score: 89 pts

TAWSE GROWERS BLEND PINOT NOIR 2011 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#130989) (XD) - $24.95
Aromas of medium-to-high intensity with notes of cherry, earthy undertones, exotic spice, and subtle oak on the nose and palate. It's medium-bodied with bright acids and chalky tannins. Long, earthy finish has subtle spice notes. Score: 90+ pts

TAWSE ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $37.95
This wine has spent 12-months in used French oak. Highly aromatic and elegant nose of apple, butter and vanilla which replay very nicely on the medium-bodied palate. There's bright acids and a chalky texture. Oak-spiced mid-palate is subtle. Excellent length on the smooth finish. Score: 91 pts

TAWSE BEAMSVILLE BENCH CHARDONNAY 2011 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $45
Medium-to-high aromas of focused apple, mineral, butter and vanilla notes. It has bright acids on the medium-bodied frame along with nicely balanced aroma replays. Lengthy finish. Score: 90 pts

TAWSE LIMESTONE RIDGE-NORTH RIESLING 2013 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (M) - $21.95
Perfumed medium-to-high intensity aromas of citrus, peach, and melon. On the palate, it's medium-bodied with bright acidity and pleasing, medium-dry aroma replays. Slightly tart with a minerally aftertaste. Yummy. Score: 89 pts

TAWSE RIESLING ICEWINE 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#204990) (S) (200 mL) - $34.95
Highly aromatic with inviting peach, melon and honeysuckle aromas that re-appear on the sweet, delicious palate. It's well-balanced with bright acids and finishing long. Score: 90 pts

Tawse Riesling Icewine 2013 from VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (90 pts)

RANCOURT CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $17
Medium-to-high aromas of green pepper, oak and cassis. The palate is medium-to-full bodied with juicy black cherry and blackberry flavours. It has very good acids, ripe tannins and medium-to-long finish. Score: 88+ pts

RANCOURT GEWURZTRAMINER ICEWINE 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) - $30
Medium-high aromatics with lovely peach, melon, and honey notes that replay very nicely on the palate. It's medium-to-full bodied with lively acidity and a very long finish. Delicious! Score: 90+ pts

KONZELMANN PINOT BLANC 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#219279) (XD) - $12.15
Medium+ intensity aromas with earthy, mineral, lemon/lime nose with nice aroma replays. The mouthfeel is crisp and dry with bright acidity. Good length on the chalky mineral finish. Score: 87 pts

Konzelmann Pinot Blanc 2013 from VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (87 pts)

STREWN TERROIR RIESLING 2014 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#) (XD) - $19.15
Aromas of pink grapefruit, citrus, and floral of medium+ intensity. The aromas return on the fruity, medium+ bodied palate along with notes of ginger and spice. It has a chalky mineral texture and very good acids. Long finishing. Score: 88 pts

STREWN TERROIR RIESLING 2013 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#) (XD) - $19.15
Bright, medium+ intensity aromas of peach, citrus, and orange which replay very nicely on the palate. Just a touch of sweetness, but toned down due to the very good acidity. Fruit forward. Medium+ length finish. Score: 88 pts

Strewn Terroir Riesling 2011 to 2014 (88-89 pts)

STREWN TERROIR RIESLING 2012 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#) (XD) - $17.15
Medium-to-high intensity aromas featuring elegant petrol, crushed rocks and mineral notes. Mineral-driven wine with lime flavours on the palate with just a kiss of hint of sweetness. It has very good acids and finishes long. Score: 88 pts

STREWN TERROIR RIESLING 2011 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#) (D) - ????
Maturing nose of fine petrol, mineral and orange citrus. The palate is medium-bodied with fine acids and pleasing aroma replays with a just a kiss of sweetness. Medium-to-long finish. Elegant. Score: 89 pts

STREWN TERROIR FUMÉ BLANC 2013 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $19.95
Elegant, medium intensity aromas of gooseberry, grass, lemon/lime and vanilla. On the palate, it's medium-to-full bodied and very creamy with flavours of orchard fruit, apple, pear and butter. Good acids and excellent length on the finish. Score: 90 pts

Strewn Terroir Fumé Blanc 2013 from VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (90 pts)

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  • Date publishedSaturday, July 25, 2015

Château de Treviac 2012 (Midi) - Wine Review

Tonight's red wine is a sneak preview and will be on LCBO VINTAGES shelves on .

Château de Treviac is the property of young and dynamic winemaker Arnaud Sié. The property itself is located in Talairan, which lies between Carcassonne and Perpignan, just off the coast of the Balearic Sea and north of the Spanish border in the Corbières appellation of Languedoc-Roussillon (Midi), France. Arnaud took over the responsibility of his family's estate in 2000 and now controls 20 hectares of vineyards, 14 of which are in the Corbières appellation. The vineyards are situated at an altitude between 200 to 350 metres above sea level on rocky limestone-clay soils and surrounded by garrigue.

CHÂTEAU DE TREVIAC 2012 - AP Corbières, Midi, France (#670505) (XD) - $16.95

Château de Treviac 2012 from AP Corbières, Midi, France (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

Unoaked blend of 80% Syrah and 20% Grenache. Vanilla and cocoa aromas from the cork. Medium intensity nose with aromas of blackberry, black pepper, herbs and a hint of garrigue. The palate is medium+ bodied with rounded tannins and appealing flavours of black fruits, black pepper, sage and hints of blue fruit. It has very good acids and a slightly earthy, lengthy finish. Well balanced. Will be enjoyed with homemade Lamb Souvlaki. Score: 89 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, July 20, 2015

July 25 LCBO VINTAGES Release: Chilled Wines + Argentina + Greece

LCBO Wine Picks from July 25, 2015 VINTAGES Release
The major feature of the VINTAGES Release is titled "Chill Out" and features 20 refreshing summer wines that should be chilled for ideal enjoyment. Also included in this release are mini-themes on wines from Argentina and Greece.

Obviously, all white wines should be served chilled, with some chilled more than others. The white wines I can recommend from the "Chill Out" feature are the medium sweet Henry of Pelham Riesling (it will be sweet), the just off-dry (slightly sweet) Pinot Gris from New Zealand, and a dry white wine from Italy that is 100% Pecorino.

There are also some red wines as part of the "Chill Out" feature, with the claim that most red wines are served warmer than their intended 'cellar temperature' of 18°C. These days, since I don't have a wine cooling unit or basement, all of my wines are refrigerated prior to opening. It's been amazing to see how much better the wines have tasted with a slight chill and also to see how the wine changes as it warms up in the glass. If your red wines aren't getting a slight chill, I would highly encourage you to try it.

The mini-theme on Argentina was disappointing, while the feature on Greek wines produced two wine recommendations. The dry white wine from Greece is a blend of local grape varieties Malagousia and Assyrtiko. Meanwhile, the Greek red wine is a blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Ximomavro.

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2010 - BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada (91 pts)
Once again, quite a few wines from the Flagship Store Exclusive (FSE) section at the back of the magazine are included among my wine picks. Among them is a lush blend of 67% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 3% Malbec from British Columbia, a $110 red wine from Argentina that is 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot, and an IGT blend of 85% Carignano (Carignan), 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Merlot from Sardinia. There's also a $47 rosé that consists of 40% Cinsault, 40% Grenache, 14% Syrah, and 6% Cabernet Sauvignon. All of these wines will be available in limited quantities at VINTAGES Flagship Stores.

Other red wines to consider from this release include a 60/40 Touriga Nacional/Tinta Roriz (Tempranillo) blend from Portugal, and the Lealtanza Reserva which is 100% Tempranillo. The Remelluri red from Spain is mostly Tempranillo, but also contains Garnacha, Graciano and Viura.

For sweet wine lovers, you'll want to check out the Vineland Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling that recently became a VINTAGES Essential and will now be available year round. Other sweet wines to consider are the aforementioned Henry of Pelham Riesling and the Pinot Gris from New Zealand.

Enjoy my wine picks for this week. Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • TSCHARKE BAROSSA GROUNDS COLLECTION SHIRAZ 2012 - Barossa Valley, South Australia (#411520) (XD) - $17.95
  • TESSELLAE VIEILLES VIGNES CARIGNAN 2013 - IGP Côtes Catalanes, Southwest, France (#343509) (XD) - $17.95
  • MAÇANITA RED 2012 - DOC Douro, Portugal (#408070) (XD) - $18.95
  • KTIMA KIR-YIANNI 2011 - PGI Imathia, Greece (#419234) (XD) - $18.95
  • LEALTANZA RESERVA 2009 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#208223) (XD) - $19.95  reviewed here
  • REMELLURI LINDES DE REMELLURI VIÑEDOS DE LABASTIDA 2010 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#422030) (XD) - $22.95
  • CARPINETO FARNITO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2010 - IGT Toscana, Italy (#996553) (XD) - $27.95
  • BARRUA 2011 - IGT Isola dei Nuraghi, Sardinia, Italy (#109124) (XD) - $43.95  FSE
  • DOMAINE CHANTE CIGALE CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2012 - AP, Rhône, France (#194993) (XD) - $44.95
  • OSOYOOS LAROSE LE GRAND VIN 2010 - BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada (#626325) (XD) - $44.95  FSE reviewed here
  • NICOLÁS CATENA ZAPATA 2010 - Mendoza, Argentina (#396960) (D) - $110.00  FSE  reviewed here
Nicolás Catena Zapata 2010 from Mendoza, Argentina (93 pts)

White Wine:

  • TENUTE MESSIERI VISIONI OFFIDA PECORINO 2012 - DOCG, Marche, Italy (#414011) (XD) 750 mL $16.95
  • HENRY OF PELHAM ESTATE RIESLING 2012 - VQA Short Hills Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#557165) (M) - $17.95
  • KTIMA GEROVASSILIOU WHITE 2014 - PGI Epanomi, Greece (#999714) (XD) - $18.95
  • MOMO PINOT GRIS 2014 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#163535) (D) - $19.95
  • VINELAND ESTATES ELEVATION ST. URBAN VINEYARD RIESLING 2014 - VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#038117) (M) - $19.95
  • SERESIN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2013 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#735043) (XD) - $23.95
  • DOG POINT VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2012 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#238568) (XD) - $42.95  FSE
  • BILLAUD-SIMON MONTÉE DE TONNERRE CHABLIS 1 ER CRU 2011 - AC, Burgundy, France (#325241) (XD) - $45.95
  • ROUX PÈRE & FILS LES CHAUMES CHASSAGNE-MONTRACHET 2013 - AC, Burgundy, France (#208512) (XD) - $64.95

Rosé Wine:

  • DOMAINES OTT CHÂTEAU DE SELLE COEUR DE GRAIN ROSÉ 2014 - AC Côtes de Provence, France (#074617) (XD) - $46.95  FSE

Sparkling Wine:

  • NAVERAN BRUT NATURE MILLESSIME CAVA 2011 - DO, Navarra, Spain (#414649) (XD) - $17.95
  • CHARLES HEIDSIECK BRUT RÉSERVE CHAMPAGNE - AC, Champagne, France (#036962) (D) - $69.95

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

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  • Date publishedSaturday, July 18, 2015

Lavau Côtes du Rhône Villages 2011 (France) - Wine Review

Formerly of St. Emilion, the Lavau Family has been in winemaking for several generations. In 1964, they settled in the Rhône valley and now have 3 cellars and work with over 300 grape growers. This partnership with grape growers has allowed Benoit and Frederic Lavau to select the best terroir and the best grapes for each of their blends. The grapes for this wine were hand-harvested from the steep terraced hillsides of Gigondas.

This red wine is part of the LCBO General List and will be widely available across Ontario in the coming days.

LAVAU CÔTES DU RHÔNE VILLAGES 2011 - AOC, Rhône, France (#421024) (XD) - $12.90

Lavau Côtes du Rhône Villages 2011 from AOC, Rhône, France (88 pts)

Tasting Note:

50/50 blend of Syrah and Grenache. Wood and plum aromas from the cork. Medium+ aromatics from the glass with notes of blackberry, black cherry, kirsch liquer, and sweet oak spices. On the palate, it's medium-bodied with black plum, sweet baking spice and some herbal, sage nuances. It has very good acids and fine tannins. Finishes long with slight chalky mouthfeel. Very good value! Score: 88 pts

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  • Date publishedWednesday, July 15, 2015

31 Days of German Riesling: Media Wine Tasting + Contest

The 31 Days of German Riesling
On , I was thrilled to attend a media exclusive tasting at the iYellow Wine Cave to celebrate The 31 Days of German Riesling.

In all there were 8 German Rieslings available for tasting, including a Sparkling Riesling. There were also wines made from Rivaner, Grauburgunder (Pinot Gris), and a pair of Spätburgunder (Pinot Noir) wines. All of the wines were from Germany.

Personally, I'm a big fan of German Riesling and prefer the sweeter versions over dry Riesling. Furthermore, the quality of German Riesling with it's brilliant acidity makes it favourable for pairing with meals. Excellent German Riesling also tends be available at very good price points that are approachable for even the casual wine drinker. For fans of sweet wine, German Riesling is one of the first places you should look to when adding wines to your cellar, or if you're looking to sip on something mid-week or on a Saturday night.

Below you will find wine reviews of 6 of the wines I tasted and enjoyed at The Cave. The first two wines are readily available at the LCBO, while the other four wines were previously featured in VINTAGES and are either sold out or almost sold out (click on the product code below to find stock levels at your local store). Furthermore, nearly all of the wines I tasted will be poured at iYellow's Riesling Wine School on .

As part of Canada-wide celebrations running through July and August, there is also a fantastic contest to win a trip to Berlin, Germany.

If you're drinking any German wine or German Riesling over the next couple of months, be sure to use the official hashtags #SipGermany or #31DaysOfRiesling, or leave a comment in this post. I want to hear what you think about German wines.

Tasting Notes:

RE-THINK DRY RIESLING 2012 - Mosel, Germany (#394361) (D) - $12.80 $11.30 until July 19
Impressive medium-to-high aromatics featuring petrol, mineral aromas along with hints of tropical fruit and pineapple. The palate is medium-bodied with bright acids with flinty, orange citrus and tart lime flavours. Off-dry (slightly sweet) in style. The finish is medium-long and a touch hot. Score: 87 pts

Re-Think Dry Riesling 2012 - Mosel, Germany (87 pts)Villa Wolf Riesling 2013 - Pfalz, Germany (89 pts)

VILLA WOLF RIESLING 2013 - Pfalz, Germany (#394023) (M) - $14.95
Focused, medium-high aromas showing elegant sweet lime, mineral, pink grapefruit notes. On the palate, it's medium+ bodied with lovely floral, lemon, and mineral flavours in a medium sweet profile. Racy acids give way to long, smooth finish. Elegant and classy. Score: 89 pts

Highly aromatic nose, elegant with petrol, citrus orange and hints of white peach, apricot, pink grapefruit and honey all make an appearance. It's medium-bodied with very nice, sweet aroma replays. Crisp, balanced acids and excellent length on the finish. Will continue to age gracefully over the next 8-10 years, but why wait? Score: 91 pts

Bollig-Lehnert Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese 2011 - Mosel, Germany (91 pts)Wegeler Rüdesheimer Berg Schlossberg Riesling Kabinett 2012 - Rheingau, Germany (91+ pts)

Highly aromatic with elegant petrol, orange, and citrus nose. Medium+ bodied. Medium (sweet) aroma replays are nicely balanced on the palate by the bright, crisp acidity. Very long, minerally finish. Drink over the next 7 years. Score: 91+ pts

BECK HEDESHEIMER HOF GRAUER BURGUNDER KABINETT TROCKEN 2012 - Rheinhessen, Germany (#378349) (D) - $19.95
This Pinot Gris has complex medium intensity aromas of herbaceous, stone fruit, fennel and lime. Floral, herbal and hints of fruits on the medium-bodied palate. Just off-dry (slight sweet) with fine, beady acids. Long, crisp and minerally finish. Well done! Score: 90 pts

Beck Hedesheimer Hof Grauer Burgunder Kabinett Trocken 2012 - Rheinhessen, Germany (90 pts)Heinrich Vollmer Altum Spätburgunder 2008 - Pfalz, Germany (89 pts)

HEINRICH VOLLMER ALTUM SPÄTBURGUNDER 2008 - Pfalz, Germany (#375279) (D) - $21.95
This mature Pinot Noir has medium-high balanced rustic aromas of cherry, oak spices and light hints of earthy-smokiness. On the palate, it's medium-weighted dried cherry, black cherry and integrated oak flavours. It has dusty tannins, very good acids and a lengthy finish. Score: 89 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, July 6, 2015

Reichsgraf von Kesselstat Kaseler Nies'chen Riesling Kabinett 2006 (Mosel) - Wine Review

Opened up this beautiful white wine . It was purchased from a VINTAGES release last August. For sweet wine lovers, stay tuned for future vintages as this is a consistently great wine!

REICHSGRAF VON KESSELSTAT KASELER NIES'CHEN RIESLING KABINETT 2006 - Pradikätswein, Mosel, Germany (#940809) (M) - $19.95

Reichsgraf von Kesselstat Kaseler Nies'chen Riesling Kabinett 2006 from Pradikätswein, Mosel, Germany (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

Orange citrus and peach aromas from the cork. Highly aromatic petrol, orange, candied ginger, white peach and a touch of honey. Medium+ bodied and medium sweet with very nice aroma replays. Impresses with bright, vibrant acids at 9 years old and balances the sweetness very well. Excellent length on the finish. Will continue to drink well over the next 5-8 years. Score: 91 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, July 6, 2015

July 11 VINTAGES Release: Spain + Cool-Climate Chardonnay

LCBO Wine Picks from July 11, 2015 VINTAGES Release
The LCBO VINTAGES Release will be on shelves this coming . The main theme of this release features 18 food-friendly wines from Spain, including quite a few that are new to VINTAGES. The mini-theme coincides with the upcoming Cool-Climate Chardonnay Celebration (i4c) in Niagara and highlights 10 "cool" Chardonnays from around the globe.

From the 18 wines in the Spain thematic, 5 wines made my list of wine picks. We'll begin with a pair of Cava (Spanish sparkling wines). The first is a blend of local varietals Macabeo, Xarel-lo, and Parellada from Juvé & Camps. The second Cava is from the producer Gramona, aged 5 years in cork and is a blend of 70% Xarel-lo and 30% Macabeo; at 9 years old, this is a mature Cava. Both of these Cavas are off-dry and will show some sweetness - my types of sparkling wines.

Also from the Spain feature is the Cune Reserva that is a blend of 85% Tempranillo, 5% Garnacha (Grenache), 5% Mazuelo (Carignan), and 5% Graciano. A common theme among Spanish wines is that you can buy them pre-aged, as is the Heretat Mont-Rubi - a wine that is now 11 years old and blended with 30% Sumoll, 20% Cariñena (Carignan), 20% Garnacha, 20% Syrah and 10% Merlot. In white wines from Spain, there is an organic Verdejo.

I suppose the Torres Floralis Moscatel is not very food-friendly because it was not included as part of the Spanish feature. Regardless, it's an excellent fortified wine and one that I will likely add to my collection this time around.

Gramona Iii Lustros Gran Reserva Brut Nature Cava 2006 from DO Cava, Penedès, Spain (92 pts)Hamilton Russell Chardonnay 2013 from WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (91 pts)

The collection of 10 Cool Chardonnays is quite good, with nearly half of these white wines making my wine picks. The four I've chosen are the locally made Chardonnays from Cave Spring and Pearl Morissette, as well as an Oregon Chardonnay and a South African Chardonnay. All have seen some time with oak.

From the rest of the release, the Creekside's Laura's Red is a blend of 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 21% Cabernet Franc, 3% Syrah, 2% Malbec, and 1% Petit Verdot, while the Chianti actually contains 3% Canaiolo and 2% Malvasia/Trebbiano (the balance is, of course, Sangiovese). The two Montalcino wines are also 100% Sangiovese. Lastly, the rosé wine pick from this release is dry and consists of 60% Cinsault and 40% Grenache.

Enjoy my wine recommendations from this release. Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • GÉRARD BERTRAND GRAND TERROIR LES ASPRES SYRAH / MOURVÈDRE / GRENACHE 2011 - AP Côtes du Roussillon, France (#413245) (XD) - $18.95
  • CASTELGREVE CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA 2009 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#344416) (XD) - $19.95
  • CREEKSIDE ESTATE LAURA’S RED 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#117960) (XD) - $19.95  reviewed here
  • HERETAT MONT-RUBI DURONA TINTO 2004 - Vino de Mesa, Spain (#143255) (D) - $19.95
  • DOMAINE TOURNON MATHILDA SHIRAZ 2012 - Victoria, Australia (#327395) (XD) - $19.95
  • CUNE RESERVA 2010 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#417659) (XD) - $23.95
  • BUENA VISTA PINOT NOIR 2011 - Carneros, California, USA (#304105) (XD) - $24.95  reviewed here
  • UCCELLIERA ROSSO DI MONTALCINO 2012 - DOC, Tuscany, Italy (#414581) (XD) - $31.95  FSE
  • LA VELONA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2009 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#181321) (XD) - $39.95
  • DOMAINE D’ARDHUY ALOXE-CORTON LES CHAILLOTS 1 ER CRU 2012 - AC, Burgundy, France (#413112) (XD) - $67.95
Creekside Estate Laura's Red 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (89 pts)Buena Vista Pinot Noir 2011 - Carneros, California, USA (90 pts)

White Wine:

  • FINCA LAS CARABALLAS VERDEJO 2013 - Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y Leon, Spain (#418699) (XD) - $16.95
  • WILLY GISSELBRECHT TRADITION GEWURZTRAMINER 2012 - AC Alsace, France (#928390) (M) - $17.95  reviewed here
  • CAVE SPRING ESTATE BOTTLED CHARDONNAY 2013 - Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula Ontario, Canada (#256552) (XD) - $18.95
  • ROBERT OATLEY SIGNATURE SERIES CHARDONNAY 2013 - Margaret River, Western Australia (#350900) (XD) - $18.95
  • REINHOLD HAART HAART TO HEART PIESPORT RIESLING 2013 - Qualitätswein, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany (#672683) (M) - $19.95
  • JEAN-PIERRE BAILLY POUILLY-FUMÉ 2013 - AC, Loire, France (#408815) (XD) - $22.95
  • GEROVASSILIOU MALAGOUSIA 2014 - Vieilles Vignes, IGP Epanomi, Greece (#416792) (XD) - $23.95
  • BACHELDER OREGON CHARDONNAY 2012 - Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA (#273334) (XD) - $29.95
  • PEARL MORISSETTE CUVÉE DIX-NEUVIÈME CHARDONNAY 2012 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#303602) (XD) - $35.20
  • HAMILTON RUSSELL CHARDONNAY 2013 - WO Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa (#931006) (XD) - $38.95  reviewed here

Rosé Wine:

  • CHÂTEAU DE BERNE TERRES DE BERNE ROSÉ 2013 - AP Côtes de Provence, France (#278861) (XD) - $17.95

Sparkling Wine:

  • JUVÉ & CAMPS CINTA PURPURA RESERVA BRUT CAVA 2011 - DO Cava, Catalunya, Spain (#352864) (D) - $18.95
  • GRAMONA III LUSTROS GRAN RESERVA BRUT NATURE CAVA 2006 - DO Cava, Penedès, Spain (#413963) (D) - $49.95  reviewed here


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

First image of this post
  • Date publishedFriday, July 3, 2015

Lunch at Farmers' Table @Southbrook

Southbrook Vineyards
On my latest visit to Niagara last month, I had the pleasure of having lunch at Farmers' Table @Southbrook, a brand new restaurant by Southbrook Vineyards located on their property and attached to the winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Having driven by Southbrook many times, this was actually my very first visit to the winery - a modern building with clean lines, and an open, transparent feeling throughout. On my next visit to Southbrook, which I hope will be sooner rather than later, I think a tour of the facilities will be in order.

As we entered the winery, we turned left and walked through the tasting room and headed to the outdoor patio. Chef Shawn Murphy quickly recognized me as I stepped onto the patio and we had a quick intro while he prepared meals for the other guests. The patio was mostly sheltered from the beaming hot sun on this day. However, the outdoor kitchen where Chef Shawn prepares his meals is not - and he was feeling the heat on this day. Guests have the option of sitting under the roof or on the charming umbrella-covered wooden park benches.

Outdoor patio at Farmers' Table @SouthbrookOutdoor patio at Farmers' Table @Southbrook

Southbrook was Canada's first certified organic and biodynamic winery. This philosophy continues at Farmers' Table, where nearly all the ingredients used to prepare dishes are locally sourced from sustainable practices. Chef Shawn mentioned that just about everything was grown/produced no more than 5 kilometres from the property. Quite an achievement, I must say!

While we waited for our first course, Chef Shawn brought us some grilled organic whole wheat bread topped with Handeck cheese shavings, alongside pickled organic green tomatoes drizzled with olive oil, black pepper and salt. All of it was prepared fresh and tasted very good.

Braised lamb pizzaThe sheep at the back of the property

The second course was the Feature Pizza of the Day - a delicious braised lamb pizza with wild garlic scapes, asparagus, goat cheese, and garlic oil made fresh in their outdoor pizza oven. The dough is made in-house using Red Fife flour and Bioflavia grape skin powder, while the lamb is raised by Southbrook and likely from the same herd I saw out back. I've never had lamb on a pizza before, but had no doubt it would be delicious - and I was right! I would love to see this pizza on their daily menu. Because the pizza had good balance between all the different elements - meat, cheese, vegetables - it is quite versatile for pairing with wine. I enjoyed it with their 2014 Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc Rosé (#279117, $19.95, 88 pts).

Strawberry salad
To waken up the palate before the main course, we were served up a very interesting salad made with... strawberries! These local strawberries were served with 12-month aged Handeck cow's milk cheese and fresh baby Arugula in a Petit Verdot Vinaigrette and topped with sea salt. What was really interesting was that the Arugula was grown in the raised garden bed located right beside our table. Awesome! Overall, it was quite the sensory explosion on the palate with sweet, salty and sour all making a delightful appearance, and the creamy cheese holding it all together.

Prior to arriving at Southbrook on this fine day, we had already visited Reif Winery and Pillitteri Estates Winery for a cheese platter, pizza, and grilled cheese and, unsurprisingly, our stomachs we were now starting to get full. However, there was at least one more course to go.

Roasted free-range chicken

Chef Shawn had roasted a whole free-range chicken on the outdoor the grill and seasoned it with black pepper and salt. It was then topped with a raisin salad dressing and the aforementioned fresh Arugula. The meat was tender and delicious - a very nice creation indeed. It also paired quite nicely with their 2013 Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay (#172338, $22.95, 89 pts). Since we were already quite full, we didn't get to eat too much of the chicken and ended up taking it home and ate it for lunch on Monday. It made for a very nice lunch to be sure!

We also had to take a pass on a delicious looking dessert - it appeared to be a strawberry rhubarb parfait - that nearly everyone else was enjoying.

I came to this dining experience with little expectations and left wishing that more restaurants do it the way Southbrook does. It was very enlightening speaking to Shawn and learning about the many practices that he and Southbrook have employed. It's not often one finds a restaurant where the produce is only a few hours old. Shawn also shared some of his other wonderful ideas that I hope come to fruition in the coming weeks and months.

Fresh herbs grown right beside our tableChef Shawn Murphy in his kitchen

Shawn Murphy’s passion for local food dates back to his childhood, having spent time growing up on his grandparents farm and eating the vegetables harvested from their garden. Shawn is a graduate from Niagara College’s Culinary Management Program, and is no stranger to the wine community after spending time in the kitchens at Hillebrand Winery and working as a sous-chef at Ravine Vineyards.

This was a very refreshing experience at Farmers' Table @Southbrook and one that I would encourage everyone to experience for yourself. Farmers' Table @Southbrook is open from June 4 to Thanksgiving weekend (October 12), Thursday through to Monday from 11:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Follow @SouthbrookWine for more details, updates and daily specials.

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