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  • Date publishedMonday, December 31, 2018

Wine Picks LCBO VINTAGES Release Jan. 5, 2019: Smart Buys

LCBO Wine Picks: January 5, 2019 VINTAGES Release
Hello 2019! This is the first LCBO VINTAGES Release of the year and it's the annual "Smart Buys" release. After a few months of very heavy releases (both on the wallet and thickness of the magazine), this release is a slim 42 pages. New wines from the LCBO VINTAGES Release will be on shelves this coming .

The "Smart Buys" feature consists of 25 wines chosen by five knowledgeable LCBO Product Consultants. All 25 wines come in at under $20, and three are included among my top wine picks. The Rhône red is a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah from vines 40-45 years of age, while the Cecchi Storia di Famiglia Chianti Classico is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% other varietals. The third and final wine is an organic Pinot Grigio from northeastern Italy.

Cecchi Storia di Famiglia Chianti Classico 2015 (88 pts)

From the rest of the release, my top red wine picks include single-varietal wines such as Barbera from Italy, Gamay from Beaujolais, Tempranillo from Spain, and Petite Sirah from California. At the higher end, there's also a lovely single clone Cabernet Franc from Niagara, a Pinot Noir from Willamette Valley. From Italy, both the Fèlsina and iconic Cepparello are made with 100% Sangiovese. From Bordeaux, the Mansio is a 70/30 blend of Merlot and Malbec, the Breuil is predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and some Petit Verdot, and the Boutisse is 88% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 1% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Carmenère.

Adelsheim Pinot Noir 2016 (91 pts)Vineland Estates BoTeek Clone 327 Cabernet Franc 2015 (90 pts)

Among my white wine picks, the Rueda white is made with Verdejo. There is also a Pecorino and a Grüner Veltliner. For sweet wine lovers, the Pinot Gris is slightly sweet (off-dry), while the Gewurztraminer is medium sweet (more sweeter).

Enjoy my wine recommendations and Happy New Year!

Red Wine:

  • DOMAINE AUTRAND CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2016 - AC, Rhône, France (#380675) (D) - $14.95
  • MICHELE CHIARLO LE ORME 16 MONTHS BARBERA D’ASTI 2016 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#265413) (XD) - $15.95
  • VAUCHER PÈRE & FILS FLEURIE 2015 - AC, Beaujolais, France (#534339) (XD) - $16.95
  • HEREDAD DE URUEÑA SANTO TERROIR TEMPRANILLO 2012 - Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León, Spain (#629832) (D) - $16.95
  • CECCHI STORIA DI FAMIGLIA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2015 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#540922) (XD) - $17.95  88 pts  wine review
  • CASTLE ROCK PETITE SIRAH 2015 - Paso Robles, California, USA (#633172) (XD) - $18.95
  • CHÂTEAU CLOS MANSIO 2015 - AC Côtes de Bordeaux – Blaye, France (#630095) (XD) - $19.95

  • CHÂTEAU DU BREUIL 2014 - Cru Bourgeois, AC Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (#633081) (XD) - $24.95
  • VINELAND ESTATES BOTEEK CLONE 327 CABERNET FRANC 2015 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#621342) (XD) - $35.00  90 pts  wine review
  • FÈLSINA BERARDENGA RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2015 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#230722) (XD) - $38.95
  • CHÂTEAU BOUTISSE 2015 - AC Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Bordeaux, France (#368175) (D) - $41.95
  • ADELSHEIM PINOT NOIR 2016 - Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA (#683821) (XD) - $49.95  FE  91 pts  wine review
  • ISOLE E OLENA CEPPARELLO 2015 - IGT Toscana, Italy (#025650) (XD) - $108.95

White Wine:

  • CASTILLO DE LA MOTA 2017 - DO Rueda, Spain (#633768) (XD) - $12.95
  • SAN RAFFAELE PINOT GRIGIO 2017 - DOC delle Venezie, Italy (#204768) (XD) - $15.95
  • DE ANGELIS OFFIDA PECORINO 2016 - DOCG, Marche, Italy (#577734) (D) - $15.95
  • RABL LANGENLOIS GRÜNER VELTLINER 2017 - DAC Kamptal, Austria (#377457) (D) - $16.95
  • MATAHIWI PINOT GRIS 2018 - Wairarapa, North Island, New Zealand (#630202) (D) - $17.95
  • JEAN-BAPTISTE ADAM LES NATURES GEWURZTRAMINER 2016 - AC Alsace, France (#561555) (M) - $24.95

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  • Date publishedTuesday, December 25, 2018

Wines for Christmas 2018

Wines for Christmas 2018 - Reif Estate Vidal Icewine and Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Champagne

To celebrate , wine is a Champagne that is widely available at the LCBO. It is produced by a house that has been producing champagne for two centuries and has only seen seven Cellar Masters since its founding.

after-dinner drink is an Icewine that is a VINTAGES Essentials listing at the LCBO and always available. This 2012 vintage Icewine was purchased 4 years ago from the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Tasting Notes:

PERRIER-JOUËT GRAND BRUT CHAMPAGNE - AC, France (#155341) (XD) - $70.95
Blend of 40% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier, and 20% Chardonnay aged on the lees for at least 2 years. Elegant aromatics of pastry, lemon citrus, and brioche waft from the glass. It's medium-bodied and dry with fine, creamy mousse and nicely balanced lemony citrus, pastry, yeasty, and autolytic flavours with just a kiss of sweetness. Vibrant acids are well-balanced. A touch smoky on the mid-palate. Crisp, clean and dry with some nutty flavours on the finish with excellent length. Really quite lovely. Lot #L1781724021. Score: 91 pts

Perrier-Jouët Grand Brut Champagne (91 pts)Reif Estate Vidal Icewine 2012 (91 pts)

REIF ESTATE VIDAL ICEWINE 2012 - VQA Niagara River, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#544791) (S) - $24.95
Honey and orange marmalade aromas from the cork. Highly aromatic with honey, orange marmalade, peach, burnt brown sugar and caramel notes. It is medium-full bodied with a rich and viscous texture. There's just enough acidity here to keep it fresh and not cloying. It's lusciously sweet with lovely aroma replays on the palate, with flavours that continue through to the long finish. Score: 91 pts

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  • Date publishedSunday, December 23, 2018

Pillitteri Cabernet Franc 2015 (Niagara) - Wine Review

wine review is a nice local red wine from Pillitteri Estates Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Having enjoyed the 2012 Pillitteri Cabernet Franc a couple of times in the recent past, I am delighted to try this latest vintage that is currently available for purchase at the winery only (and through their online web store).

This red wine is from Pillitteri's Carretto Series - wines that are crafted with care from quality Niagara grapes under the winemaking philosophy of old world meets new world. The label itself showcases the significance of the Carretto as a cherished heirloom to the Pillitteri family.

A Carretto (or Sicilian Cart) was the only real method of transportation used in Sicily up until the end of the second world war, and their usefulness and smaller design made them popular to navigate the streets of Italy, long after the invention of the motorized vehicle. The Pillitteri Family had four Carrettos that were crafted in the early 1930's and were passed through the generations. The Carrettos were brought to Canada by Gary Pillitteri's mother in 1952, and Gary and each of his brothers received a Carretto as a token of their Sicilian family heritage. The largest and most beautifully decorated of the Carretto's was donated by the Pillitteri family in 1989 to the Museum of Civilization in Ottawa and is still on display today. The Carretto that Gary received is intricately painted and on display in the Awards Room at Pillitteri Estates Winery. The Pillitteri Carretto is a cherished family heirloom and to honour that heritage, the Carretto has become a symbol of their winery and their logo.

Pillitteri Cabernet Franc 2015 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

PILLITTERI CABERNET FRANC 2015 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $28
Aged in French oak barrels for 19 months. Medium-high intensity nose offers bright red berry fruits with a nice underlying savoury component, along with hints of tobacco, herbaceous, spice and vanilla adding complexity. It is medium-full bodied on the elegant palate with smooth, refined tannins and balanced, juicy acidity. Dark berry, black pepper, tobacco, black plum, herbaceous, and wood spice on the flavour profile, with some flinty minerality showing up on the long finish. Lovely Niagara Cab Franc. Enjoy over the next 5+ years. Score: 89 pts

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  • Date publishedThursday, December 20, 2018

Palatine Hills Riesling 2016 (Niagara) - Wine Review

wine review is the latest vintage of a lovely Niagara Riesling. The 2015 vintage of this white wine came through LCBO VINTAGES in , so I wouldn't be surprised if this latest vintage also arrives on shelves in the near future. Nevertheless, the wine is available at Palatine Hills Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake and through their website and currently on sale for an astonishingly low price of $12 per bottle.

For over 40 years, the winemakers at Palatine Hills Estate Winery have been blending the history of the artisan grape grower with the modern skill of the winemaker. As co-founder of Palatine Hills, John Neufeld, Sr. has led the way as visionary for the vineyard and an innovator for the Niagara grape growing industry. Palatine Hills is still a family owned and operated winery today.

The wines at Palatine Hills owe their depth and taste structure to the unique topography of the land where their vines grow and our labels are a reflection of this connection.The slight slopes of the landscape and close proximity to Lake Ontario give Palatine Hills a unique climate and terroir ideal for grape growing.

Palatine Hills Riesling 2016 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

PALATINE HILLS RIESLING 2016 - VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#520395) (M) - $13.95 $12
Screw cap. This bottle seems a bit shy, offering glimpses of pear, apple, mineral and petrol aromas. Much more lively on the medium-bodied palate with clean, bracing acids and medium sweet flavours of citrus, waxy, and minerals with just a hint pf petrol. Juicy, clean mid-palate and nicely textured. Complex. Very good length on the mineral and candied citrus finish. Should drink well over the next 5-7 years. Score: 89 pts

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  • Date publishedTuesday, December 18, 2018

Niagara Icewine Festival Review 2018 - Day 2 of 2

Tawse Chardonnay Icewine paired with Butternut Squash Soup
On , I visited Niagara to take in the annual Icewine Festival for the second weekend in a row - read all about my visit on here. Once again, we visited 4 wineries to enjoy an Icewine and food pairing. We also managed to visit a 5th winery and do some fine wine tasting since it was conveniently located next door to one of the other wineries.

Tawse Winery was the first stop of the day. We began with the deliciously sweet 2013 Tawse Chardonnay Icewine ($36, 200 mL, #443739, 92 pts) which was paired with a Butternut Squash Soup topped with rosemary scented sourdough croutons. The soup was thick and more like a purée, and a touch spicy. However, the pairing was quite nice as the spiciness from the soup helped balanced the sweetness in the Icewine. The soup also brought out the apple and stone fruit flavours in the wine. Overall, this was a nice, well-balanced pairing. After the food and wine pairing, we heading into the cellar to taste a lovely array of fine wines from the Tawse portfolio.

Tawse Wine Tasting

The second stop was at Vineland Estates Winery for a balanced diet that featured chocolate in one hand and Icewine in the other. A decadent dark chocolate paté was paired with their 2016 Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Icewine and even though both items were individually quite sweet, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the pairing wasn't overloaded with sweetness or cloying when paired together. The use of dark chocolate (instead of milk chocolate) was key. Lovely, rich, indulgent, and balanced!

Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Icewine paired with Dark Chocolate Paté

Our third stop of the day was Strewn Winery, where they featured a back-vintage release of their 2013 Strewn Cabernet Franc Icewine and paired it with a deconstructed Black Forest Cake. Dark chocolate and red Icewines tend to make good pairings, and it was no different here. This was a nice, balanced pairing because the Icewine was sweeter than the bittersweet character of the dark chocolate cake, plus the red berry flavours in the Icewine were complemented and enhanced by cherries on top of the cake. Lastly, the creamy brownie base in the cake balanced out the acids in the Icewine.

Strewn Cabernet Franc Icewine paired with deconstructed Black Forest Cake

The final stop of the day related to the Discovery Pass Experience was at Wayne Gretzky Estates Winery and Distillery. We indulged in a mouth watering Double Chocolate Icewine Cupcake paired with delectable 2015 Wayne Gretzky No. 99 Cabernet Franc Icewine ($85, 200 mL, 88 pts). Once again, red Icewine with dark chocolate was shown to be a nice pairing. While the Icewine was sweet (as expected), the chocolate cupcake was not, and paired up together it provided for a well-balanced pairing that was not very sweet, but still very enjoyable. After the cupcake and Icewine pairing, we headed upstairs into the Members Lounge to taste a few wines while also getting a nice view of the vineyards and ice rink below.

Wayne Gretzky No. 99 Cabernet Franc Icewine paired with Double Chocolate Icewine Cupcake

Since we still had some time before wineries in the area close for the day, we walked over next door to Trius Winery to taste a few of their excellent small lot wines in their luxurious private tasting room called "The Loft".

Once again, I had a great time touring Niagara Wine Country during the Icewine Festival. Cabernet Franc Icewine was the pour of choice for the pairings at most of the wineries we visited on this day, as well as on the first day. If you enjoy Icewine and have a sweet tooth, I'm sure you will love attending this annual event too! It will be returning in January, 2019 and I'm sure it will be a great time!

Tasting Notes:

TAWSE QUARRY ROAD ORGANIC RIESLING 2016 - VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#198853) (M) - $25
Highly aromatic on the nose with limestone mineral driven aromas followed by candy apple, lemon, and subtle hints of stone fruits. It's medium-bodied and has an off-dry palate offering chalky mineral, limestone, and lemon/lime citrus flavours. There's good fruit concentration with bright acids that are well-balanced and the texture is just a touch fleshy. The long finish has a nice mineral aftertaste. A stellar buy. Score: 92 pts

Tawse Quarry Road Organic Riesling 2016 (92 pts)Tawse Beamsville Bench Chardonnay 2012 (90 pts)

TAWSE BEAMSVILLE BENCH CHARDONNAY 2012 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $29
The nose is highly aromatic and complex with hazelnut, banana, and toasty oak aromas, while also showing some maturity with some baked apple notes. The medium-bodied palate is lean with a nutty, complex palate and balanced acids. It is well-balanced throughout, with excellent length on the finish. Score: 90 pts

TAWSE MERITAGE 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $60
From a very good vintage, this is a blend of 42% Merlot, 33% Cabernet Franc, and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, this will benefit with a decant, but has a medium+ intensity nose of crushed dark berries, currant, cassis, mocha and vanilla oak aromas. It's full-bodied on the palate with fine, structured tannins that are chalky and drying. There's balanced aroma replays to go along with some earthy flavours on the palate. Acids are very good. A big wine that deserves 5+ years to fully reveal itself, and will be best over the next 7-12 years. One of the top wines of the vintage. Score: 92 pts

Tawse Meritage 2012 (92 pts)

VINELAND ESTATES CABERNET FRANC ICEWINE 2016 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (375 mL) - $79.95
The medium-high intensity nose offers nice strawberry, raspberry, and honeyed nose in a slightly tart profile. On the palate, it's medium-bodied with a smooth mouthfeel and nice red fruited aroma replays with some tartness. Acids are balanced while finish length is very good. A sweet Icewine that also has some tart qualities to it. Score: 88 pts

Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Icewine 2016 (88 pts)Vineland Estates BoTeek Cabernet Franc Clone 327 2015 (90 pts)

VINELAND ESTATES BOTEEK CABERNET FRANC CLONE 327 2015 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#621342) (XD) - $35
Fascinating to see a single clone Cab Franc from Niagara, this has a medium+ intensity nose of ripe cassis, currant, blackberry, dark cherry and tobacco aromas, while the medium+ bodied palate is a bit chewy with fine, structured tannins. Bright vibrant acids lift the palate that has very nice aroma replays with some earthy tones on the mid-palate, and finishing long with tobacco notes. Nicely balanced overall, this will drink nicely over the next 5-6 years. Score: 90 pts

STREWN CABERNET FRANC ICEWINE 2013 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (S) (375 mL) - $70
Medium-high intensity nose is ripe and lush with strawberry, rhubarb, and sweet red fruited aromas. It's medium-full bodied with a lush mouthfeel and nice aroma replays plus some spiced flavours. Well-balanced with good acids, while the finish is long and spiced, and a touch warming. Score: 90+ pts

Strewn Cabernet Franc Icewine 2013 (90+ pts)

STREWN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $28
Coming from a very good 2012 vintage. The medium-high intensity nose is inviting and pretty, and already showing some maturity with floral, dried cherry, and some wet forest floor aromas. It's full-bodied with supple, rounded tannins that are resolving nicely. Nicely balanced overall with very nice aroma replays on the palate and supported by very good acids. A touch warm on the mid-palate while the finish is long with hints of oak spice. Ready to drink now. Score: 89 pts

Strewn Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 (89 pts)Strewn Clay Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 (89 pts)

STREWN CLAY BLOCK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $38
From Cabernet Sauvignon grown exclusively on the property on clay soils, this has a medium+ intensity nose with riper, rounded bright red & black fruits, currant and mineral aromas. It's medium+ bodied with tart aroma replays and smooth, supple tannins. Balanced acidity. There's a nice mineral note arriving on the mid-palate and continues on the long finish. A very good mineral-driven Cab Sauv that I would love to see in a better vintage. Score: 89 pts

WAYNE GRETZKY ESTATES SERIES RED 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $34.95
A blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc, 20% Syrah, and 20% Merlot that has a medium-intensity nose of dark plum, dark cherry and musky oak spice in a ripe profile. It's medium-full bodied on the palate with soft, rounded tannins and dark plum aroma replays. It has very good, juicy acidity, while the finish length is medium-long with bitter currant notes. Score: 88 pts

Wayne Gretzky Estates Series Red 2015 (88 pts)Wayne Gretzky Estates Series Cabernet Merlot 2015 (89 pts)

WAYNE GRETZKY ESTATES SERIES CABERNET MERLOT 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $34.95
Blend of 51% Cabernet Franc, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 18% Merlot has a medium-high intensity nose of ripe blackberry, black cherry, oak spice, and currant with herbal hints. It's medium-full bodied on the palate with firmly structured tannins and nice aroma replays plus tobacco notes. Acids are bright, while the savoury mid-palate lingers on the long finish. A big wine for pairing with red meat now, or age 3-5 years. Score: 89 pts

WAYNE GRETZKY ESTATE SERIES SHIRAZ CABERNET 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $29.95
This blend of 62% Shiraz, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Cabernet Franc has a medium+ intensity nose that has savoury, meaty, and charcuterie aromas with hints of black pepper, dark plum, cassis, and dark currants. The palate is medium-full bodied with somewhat firm tannins that have some grip and flavours of dark berry, earth, plum and sour cherry. Acids are very good, while the finish is long. Drink over the next 5-7 years. Score: 89 pts

Wayne Gretzky Estate Series Shiraz Cabernet 2015 (89 pts)Trius Showcase Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2015 (92 pts)

TRIUS SHOWCASE WILD FERMENT CHARDONNAY 2015 - Oliviera Vineyards, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#199273) (XD) - $36.75
Medium-high intensity nose is a elegant and really starts to open with some air, offering buttery, apple, and popcorn aromas. It's medium-to-full bodied with nicely balanced aroma replays and very good fruit concentration. Lemony acids are fine and juicy. Elegant spice notes mid-palate with nutty hints. Excellent finish length. Score: 92 pts

TRIUS SHOWCASE RED SHALE CABERNET FRANC 2015 - Clark Farm Vineyard, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $48.75
The medium-high intensity nose is ripe with cassis, dark cherry, dark berry, vanilla and tobacco aromas. The palate is medium-full bodied with very good fruit concentration and nicely balanced aroma replays. Very good acids are juicy. Spiced mid-palate and some mineral notes on the long finish. Medium-firm tannins have some grip. Will reward with 2-3 years ageing and drink by 2024-2025. Score: 90+ pts

Trius Showcase Red Shale Cabernet Franc 2015 (90+ pts)Trius Showcase East Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (89 pts)

TRIUS SHOWCASE EAST BLOCK CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2015 - Clark Farm Vineyard, VQA Four Mile Creek, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $48.75
The medium+ intensity nose is smoky with blackberry, cassis, blackcurrant, licorice aromas with a whiff of green pepper. It's full-bodied with subtle green pepper flavours plus the aroma profile coming through on the palate. Structured tannins are grippy, while the acids are juicy and mouthwatering. Long curranty finish. Needs 3-4 years of cellar time, and drink by 2028. Score: 89 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, December 17, 2018

Niagara Icewine Festival Review 2018 - Day 1 of 2

Hernder Cabernet Franc Icewine with Salted Caramel Chocolate Brittle
On , I visited Niagara to taste a few food & Icewine pairings as part of the Discover Pass Experience that was available at participating wineries throughout Niagara during the annual Icewine Festival. The weather turned out to be great on this day - mostly sunny, albeit a little on the chilly side. In all, we visited four wineries across the region and enjoyed some very tasty food & Icewine pairings, as well as tasted a few other wines at the tasting bar.

We began the day at Hernder Estate Wines for their award-winning 2013 Cabernet Franc Icewine paired with a generous bag of salted caramel chocolate brittle. The pairing was delicious and really showed how well chocolate can be paired with Icewine. The bright acids in the Icewine helped balance the creamy chocolate, while the salted caramel added interest to the pairing. It was a sweet pairing, but the salt in the brittle and the lively acids in the Icewine together helped keep the pairing from being cloying on the palate. This was very well executed!

For our second stop of the day, we went to Niagara College Teaching Winery for a delectable S'More Fudge Brownie that was filled with marshmallows and paired with their 2013 Niagara College Dean's List Savant Icewine (88 pts, $40 / 200 mL). The fudge brownie square was of generous proportions and very flavourful, with hidden marshmallows offering a nice element of surprise. The Icewine was luscious and sweet, but the fudge brownie was even sweeter and actually overpowered the wine, leaving only chocolate and marshmallow flavours in the mouth.

Niagara College Dean's List Savant Icewine with Fudge Brownie SquareInniskillin Vidal Sparkling Icewine with Southern Fried Chicken

Our third stop of the day was at Inniskillin Wines to enjoy Southern Fried Chicken on a Vanilla Waffle topped with Cocoa Icewine Hot Sauce and paired with their 2016 Inniskillin Vidal Sparkling Icewine (reviewed below). First off, the Sparkling Icewine was delicious and sweet, but not cloying due to it's effervescence. The fried chicken was served a bit cold, but otherwise tasty, and combined ith the waffle made for a delicious treat. However, it was the Cocoa Icewine Hot Sauce that really brightened up this pairing as it helped balance the Icewine and made the pairing complete. I would love to try this culinary creation at home!

The fourth and final stop of the day was at Peller Estates Winery, where at this time of the year they always seem to do Icewine Marshmallows paired with one their delicious Icewines. This year, Winery Chef and CityLine personality Jason Parsons is pairing his famous Icewine Marshmallows with Cabernet Franc Icewine. Although the Icewine is (always) delicious, this pairing is really about the experience, as you are outside on the patio, overlooking the vineyards amidst the cool air while roasting your own marshmallow over an open fire. This can be a somewhat messy experience, and you might smell like smoke afterwards, but it was a lot of indulgent fun! After the marshmallow & Icewine pairing, we headed inside for a private tasting of a few Peller Estates wines. Tip: Do any wine tastings first, then head outside to roast your marshmallow.

Peller Estates Signature Series Cabernet Franc IcewineIcewine Marshmallows

All in all, I was very satisfied with my first trip of the year to Niagara to celebrate Icewine Fest. Tasting notes of some of my favourite wines tasted on this day are posted below. The stop that was the overwhelming favourite was our visit to Hernder Estate Wines, where we sampled a variety of quality wines that were also very good value, including the Hernder Caluroso fortified wine that everyone brought home with them.

I also visited Niagara on the , the final weekend of Icewine Fest, and a full review from that day will be posted tomorrow is posted here. This lovely event runs every January and I am looking forward to attending again in 2019.

Tasting Notes:

HERNDER CABERNET FRANC ICEWINE 2013 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) - $50.05
The medium-high intensity nose offers typical strawberry and rhubarb in a honeyed profile, followed by a touch interesting orange marmalade aromas. The pleasingly sweet aromas continue on the palate, which is a touch hot on the mid-palate. Acids are good, while the finish length is very good. Score: 89 pts

Hernder Cabernet Franc Icewine 2013 (89 pts)Hernder Caluroso (89 pts)

HERNDER CALUROSO - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) - $24.95
This fortified wine is highly aromatic on the nose with complex orange, burnt sugar, nutty, and caramel aromas. It's medium-dry (i.e. fairly sweet) on the medium-full bodied palate and very smooth, with a long, velvety smooth and nutty finish. Score: 89 pts

NIAGARA COLLEGE TEACHING WINERY DEAN'S LIST CHARDONNAY 2012 - VQA St. David's Bench, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#040659) (XD) - $23.15
This has a medium-high intensity nose of sweet vanillin oak with butter, baked apple and pear aromas. It's medium+ bodied with nice aroma replays and a toasty mid-palate. It has balanced acidity and very good length on the finish. Score: 88+ pts

Niagara College Teaching Winery Dean's List Chardonnay 2012 (88+ pts)Niagara College Teaching Winery Dean's List Meritage 2012 (90+ pts)

NIAGARA COLLEGE TEACHING WINERY DEAN'S LIST MERITAGE 2012 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $25.15
This is a blend of 43% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot, and 27% Cabernet Sauvignon from the very good 2012 vintage. It has a medium-high intensity nose that is pretty with ripe blackberry, cherry, sweet oak spice, earth, cassis, and a hint of sweet herbs. On the medium-full bodied palate, it has smooth, fine tannins with some structure, while the acids are mouth-watering. Flavours offer curranty, earth, and forest floor notes. The finish length is excellent. Drink over the next 5 years. Score: 90+ pts

INNISKILLIN KLOSE VINEYARD RIESLING 2016 - VQA Niagara River, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (D) - $24.95
Single vineyard. Medium-high intensity nose has fine mineral, wet stone, Flintstones vitamins, lime citrus, honeyed peach, and herbal aromas. It's off-dry on the palate with light aroma replays, juicy acids, and good length on the finish. Score: 88 pts

Inniskillin Klose Vineyard Riesling 2016 (88 pts)Inniskillin Vidal Sparkling Icewine 2016 (91 pts)

INNISKILLIN VIDAL SPARKLING ICEWINE 2016 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#560367) (S) - (375 mL) - $80
Open, fragrant honeyed, apricot, lemon citrus aromas flow into the palate nicely with fine mousse and lemon tart and peach flavours joining the party. It's sweet, but very good acidity keeps things fresh and balanced. Excellent finish length. Nicely balanced overall. Score: 91 pts

INNISKILLIN VIDAL ICEWINE 2016 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#388306) (S) (375 mL) - $49.95
Medium+ intensity nose featuring apricot, honey and peach aromas. It has a voluptuous mouthfeel with honeyed melon flavours that are very sweet. Gentle acids offer some freshness, while the finish length is medium-long. Score: 89 pts

PELLER ESTATES SIGNATURE SERIES RIESLING ICEWINE 2015 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (375 mL) - $82.95
The medium-high intensity aromas offer ripe pineapple, lemon citrus, orange rind, and apricot notes. It's medium-full bodied with bright acids lifting the palate and very nice aroma replays. Excellent finish length. Score: 90 pts

Peller Estates Signature Series Riesling Icewine 2015 (90 pts)Peller Estates Signatures Series Vidal Icewine 2016 (89 pts)

PELLER ESTATES SIGNATURES SERIES VIDAL ICEWINE 2016 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (S) (200 mL) - $41.95
Medium-high intensity aromas featuring peach, honey, apricot and lemon citrus. It's full-bodied with balanced acids and a concentrated, voluptuous mouthfeel. Nice aromas replays, and very good length on the finish. Score: 89 pts

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  • Date publishedSaturday, December 15, 2018

Cantina di Negrar Appassimento 2017 (Veneto) - Wine Review

wine review is a red wine that recently arrived to the LCBO and is widely available throughout Ontario.

It is produced by Cantina Valpolicella Negrar, a winery that was founded in the commune of Negrar in Veneto in the 1930's.

The catchy and interesting label of this Appassimento depicts Ulysses' (a.k.a. Odysseus in Greek) 10-year journey home from Troye to Ithaca. Every facet of his journey captivates the sense of discovery, self-discovery, and world discovery Ulysses experiences in those enchanted 10 years, including  Lotus eaters, Circe the Enchantress, the singing winged sirens, the one-eyed giant Cyclops, the six-headed monster Scylla, the violent whirlpool Charybdis, his journey to the underworld to learn of his future, the bags of wind from Aeolus, and his 7 year stay with the nymph Calypso. Each tale embodies a sense of enchantment and delight, drawing the reader in, the urge to know and discover more. Let's see if what's inside the bottle is just as captivating.

Cantina di Negrar Appassimento 2017 (87 pts)

Tasting Note:

CANTINA DI NEGRAR APPASSIMENTO 2017 - IGT Veneto, Italy (#629865) (D) - $15.90
A Corvina-based blend made using dried grapes (i.e. appassimento method). Medium+ intensity nose features sweet spice, fig, cherry, and earthy aromas. It is medium-full bodied with smooth, dusty tannins and a juicy core with pleasing milk chocolate, cherry, and earthy aroma replays in an off-dry flavour profile. Some tannic grip arrives mid-palate. Nice balance throughout, with earth and cocoa flavours lingering on the long, juicy finish. Widely appealing style. Score: 87 pts

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  • Date publishedFriday, December 14, 2018

Empress 1908 Gin (British Columbia)

Empress Gin & Sprite
The Empress 1908 Gin is produced in British Columbia, Canada, and inspired by the iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel, where travellers to Victoria have in fallen in love with the hotel's majestic grandeur, picturesque vistas, and incomparable afternoon tea service since 1908.

In particular, it was the hotel’s afternoon tea that inspired the creation of Empress 1908 Gin. The tea was made unforgettable thanks to the curation of an exclusive collection of seasonal, handpicked tea leaves that were blended to create the perfect cup.

This gin is micro-distilled in small batch copper-pot stills and hand-crafted using eight signature botanicals: tea, juniper, rose, coriander seed, grapefruit peel, ginger root, cinnamon bark, and butterfly pea blossom. In fact, it's the pea blossom that was discovered in one of the Empress tea blends that imbues the gin with a distinctive earthy note, as well as its vivid hue with a stunning secret to reveal – add citrus or tonic and the Empress 1908 is transformed from a breathtaking indigo to a beautiful soft pink. Empress 1908 Gin is made in an aromatic London Dry gin style with a lush blue hue, and promises to make a regal cocktail.

EMPRESS 1908 GIN (#557470) - $49.95
Aromatic, lovely, traditional juniper notes with some tea leaf, citrus, coriander, and grapefruit. Quite balanced overall with a smooth, easy drinking finish. Some Empress cocktail recipes are available from their website. Widely available at LCBO.

Cucumber Mint Gin:
2.5 oz gin, 8 mint leaves, 1 slice cucumber, 1 oz Agave syrup, 1.5 tsp lemon juice, garnish with mint and cucumber

Cucumber Mint Gin

Empress Orange:
2 parts Orange juice, 1 part lemon juice shaken in ice. Gin layered on top and sweetened with sugar.

Empress Orange

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  • Date publishedTuesday, December 11, 2018

Southbrook Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2017 (Niagara) - Wine Review

wine review is an organic and biodynamic Chardonnay from Niagara that is also suitable for vegans and vegetarians. I enjoyed the 2013 Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lot Wild Ferment Chardonnay almost 3 years ago to the date (and still have another bottle in the cellar), so I am curious to see how this latest version will be.

This delicious white wine is produced by Southbrook Vineyards, a leading producer of organic wines and based in Niagara-on-the-Lake. While previous editions of the Wild Ferment Chardonnay were estate grown, this latest edition is the first "Wild Ferment Chardonnay" that uses grapes sourced from selected organic Chardonnay growers across the Niagara Escarpment, including grapes from the Saunders' family home vineyard in Beamsville. Individual vineyard lots were separately fermented wild in French oak barrels, and only after ageing were selected barrels blended to create the final wine.

This lovely bottle was just released this month and is available for purchase on-site at the winery, and will be available online through their web store very soon.

Southbrook Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2017 (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

SOUTHBROOK WILD FERMENT CHARDONNAY 2017 - VQA Niagara Escarpment, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#644625) (XD) - $40
Yellow fruit scented with pear, apple, citrus, and buttery vanilla notes in a slightly reductive style. It is medium-bodied on the palate with fresh and lively acids. Ripe and slightly honeyed on the dry flavour profile with pear, apple, lemon and orange citrus, and subtle oak spice flavours. Fine mineral texture adds complexity to the flavours mid-palate and lingers through to the long, juicy mineral and citrusy finish. Clean and elegant, enjoy this fine Chardonnay over the next 5 years. Score: 91 pts

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  • Date publishedSaturday, December 8, 2018

Rocca delle Macìe Famiglia Zingarelli Riserva Chianti Classico 2015 (Tuscany) - Wine Review

wine review is a nice Riserva Chianti Classico that arrived in LCBO VINTAGES on .

It is produced by Rocca delle Macìe, a name that I'm sure you have come across at some point while perusing the aisles at your local LCBO. Rocca delle Macìe was founded by film producer Italo Zingarelli in the Chianti Classico area in 1973 when he purchased the 93 hectare estate to fulfill a life long dream. At the time, only 2 hectares were planted to vines, but along with help from his sons Sergio and Fabio, and his daughter Sandra, the estate now covers more than 500 hectares, 200 hectares of which are used as vineyards. The four estates Rocca delle Macìe owns in the Chianti Classico area all reside within the Municipality of Castellina in Chianti, in the southwest with very heterogeneous soils.

This red wine is one of Rocca delle Macìe's flagship wines from the Chianti Classico zone as only the best grapes from each of the four estates in Castellina make it into the blend that consists of mostly Sangiovese, and small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The label proudly bears the Zingarelli name in order to highlight the strong link that the family has with the Chianti Classico area.

Rocca delle Macìe Famiglia Zingarelli Riserva Chianti Classico 2015 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

A blend of 90% Sangiovese, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 5% Merlot that was aged in French oak barrels for 2 years. Fine aromas of oak spice, blackberry, wet earth, and dark cherry with a nice savoury component stream from the glass. It is medium-full bodied with fine-grained tannins and juicy acids supporting the dark berry, savoury, vanillin oak, earth, and cherry flavours. A touch warming on the mid-palate. Nicely savoury and earthy with some chalkiness on the long finish that ends with a nice red cherry note. Enjoy over the next 5 years. Score: 89 pts

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  • Date publishedSaturday, December 8, 2018

Gourmet Food & Wine Expo 2018 - Top Wines

2018 Gourmet Food & Wine Expo
On a cold night in November, I attended the 24th annual Gourmet Food & Wine Expo - a 4-day event that ran through . The first night was VIP Preview Night and attendance seemed a bit lighter than previous years. There also seemed to be fewer food and wine booths, but more craft breweries. Since my focus was mostly on the wines, I traversed the floor seeking some of the finest on offer and had a great time chatting with familiar faces en route.

Some of the highlights included wines in the Fine Wine Tasting Lounge, and at the Kolonaki Group booth where they featured many lovely Greek wines. There were also some fine wines at Wines from Spain, Wines of South Africa, Villa Maria Wines of New Zealand, and Grenache Wines booths. Here are some of my favourites from the show. All of these wines are available via the LCBO unless otherwise noted. Thank you Foodies on Foot for the tickets I won through their online contest!

CHAMPAGNE CUVÉE CARBON BRUT - AC, France (XD) - $350  92 pts
The official Champagne of Formula 1. Exclusive bottle wrapped in carbon looks awesome! Available via Bianchi & Nero.

Champagne Cuvée Carbon Brut (92 pts)Vidal Legacy Chardonnay 2016 (93 pts)

VIDAL LEGACY CHARDONNAY 2016 - Hawkes Bay, New Zealand (#570895) (XD) - $60  93 pts

CUNE GRAN RESERVA 2011 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#393553) (XD) - $39.95  92 pts

Cune Gran Reserva 2011 (92 pts)Mega Spileo Grand Cave Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 (91 pts)

MEGA SPILEO GRAND CAVE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2011 - PGI Achaia, Greece (#539924) (XD) - $27.95  91 pts
Available via Shop Greek Wine.

MARTIN BERDUGO RESERVA 2010 - DO Ribera del Duero, Spain (#233741) (XD) - $38  91 pts

Martin Berdugo Reserva 2010 (91 pts)Te Awa Left Field Syrah 2015 (90+ pts)

TE AWA LEFT FIELD SYRAH 2015 - Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand (#377837) (XD) - $24.95  90+ pts

ARGYROS ASSYRTIKO 2017 - PDO Santorini, Greece (#387365) (XD) - $32  90+ pts
Available via Shop Greek Wine.

Argyros Assyrtiko 2017 (90+ pts)Ken Forrester Old Vine Reserve Chenin Blanc 2017 (90 pts)

KEN FORRESTER OLD VINE RESERVE CHENIN BLANC 2017 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#231282) (XD) - $17.95  90 pts

ONTAÑÓN RESERVA 2010 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#725895) (XD) - $25.95  90 pts

Ontañón Reserva 2010 (90 pts)Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres Syrah/Mourvèdre/Grenache 2015 (89 pts)

GÉRARD BERTRAND GRAND TERROIR LES ASPRES SYRAH / MOURVÈDRE  / GRENACHE 2015 - AP Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres, France (#413245) (XD) - $18.95  89 pts

UMBERTO CESARI LIANO SANGIOVESE / CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2015 - IGT Rubicone, Emilia-Romagna, Italy (#225086) (D) - $27.95  88 pts

Umberto Cesari Liano Sangiovese/Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (88 pts)

Champagne Cuvée Carbon Brut
Kolonaki Group -
Foods & Wine from Spain
Wines of South Africa
Garnacha and Grenache Wines

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