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  • Date publishedThursday, December 31, 2020

Desiderius Pongrácz Brut Cap Classique Sparkling Chardonnay / Pinot Noir (South Africa) - Wine Review



For wine review, I bring you this excellent bubbly that I actually intended to open on 2019, but for reasons I don't recall, I ended up not opening it.

This lovely traditional method, dry sparkling wine from South Africa came to the LCBO last year as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release. I had the privilege of tasting this wine at the LCBO tasting lab prior to it being available in stores and was delighted to have purchased a bottle as it did not show up in stores again in 2020.

After what started out as a great year, 2020 turned out to be a year like no other and full of challenges, to say the least. But, I think we have all adapted to these trying times and feel hopeful for a better 2021!

Desiderius Pongrácz Brut Cap Classique Sparkling Chardonnay / Pinot Noir (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

DESIDERIUS PONGRÁCZ BRUT CAP CLASSIQUE SPARKLING CHARDONNAY / PINOT NOIR - Traditional method, WO Western Cape, South Africa (#404111) (XD) - $16.95
Made in the traditional method from hand-harvested, maritime cooled vineyards, this is a blend of 60% Pinot Noir from deep red soils and 40% Chardonnay that sees two years of lees ageing. Clean, highly fragrant aromas of brioche, autolytic, and toast layered over nuanced notes of honey, lemony citrus, and almond. It's very fine on the palate with smooth, finely beaded bubbles and creamy textured mousse. The flavour profile is dry with lovely autolytic, brioche, and lemon citrus notes with touches of honey. It has fine acidity and a somewhat textural, chalky grip on the mid-palate. Leesy and mineral notes linger on the long, mouth-watering finish. Lovely! Score: 91 pts


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  • Date publishedMonday, December 28, 2020

Lacour Tourny 2018 (Bordeaux) - Wine Review

wine review is this nice Bordeaux red that recently arrived at the LCBO as a General List product and is widely available across Ontario.

Lacour Tourny pays tribute to the Marquis de Tourny, who worked under the reign of Louis XV to magnify the city of Bordeaux. The blend of this red wine consists of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from small plots within mature vineyards. This red wine reveals the knowledge of the producer's oenologists, while also respecting the typicity of this renowned winemaking region and its environment.

Lacour Tourny 2018 (88 pts)

Tasting Note:

LACOUR TOURNY 2018 - AC Bordeaux, France (#17447) (XD) - $11.85
A blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon that was sourced from small plots in Entre-deux-Mers and the right bank of the Gironde Estuary where the soils have a combination of clay and lime. Rich, medium+ intensity nose offers blackberry and spice aromas accented by dark cherry, raspberry, and touches of black plum. On the dry, medium-bodied palate it has fresh acidity and fruit forward, plummy, dark berry, spice, and beet flavours. Mild tannins have a subtle textured grip. Nicely balanced overall with a savoury, earthy, and juicy finish, with very good length. Score: 88 pts

Other wines from Lacour Tourny can be ordered via their Agent - Churchill Cellars.


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  • Date publishedSaturday, December 26, 2020

Exploring DO Rueda Wines (Spain)

Exploring DO Rueda Wines from Spain
For wine reviews, I explore the wines of Rueda (Spain) thanks to DO Rueda and GLO Communications.

Rueda Designation of Origin (DO) is one of the few European wine growing regions specialised in making white wines. Rueda is known for its excellence in producing white wines based on its native varietal, Verdejo, as well as its other principal white varietal, Sauvignon Blanc. While Sauvignon Blanc was introduced to Spain from Loire only in the 1970s, Verdejo has been grown in Rueda for over 10 centuries. In 1980, DO Rueda officially became an appellation, celebrating 40 years in 2020.

DO Rueda is located in northwestern Spain, within the provinces of Valladolid, Segovia and Ávila in the region of Castile and León. The region is located on high plains 700 to 870 metres (2,300 to 2,800 feet) above sea level, and affected by Atlantic winds. Areas close to the River Duero and its tributaries have broad alluvial and diluvial terraces. The brown, rocky soils are rich in calcium and magnesium, with good drainage, along with some limestone at the top of rolling hills, while their texture varies from sandy-loamy to loamy. The geological substratum has evolved on the surface towards rocky allochthonous deposits, giving rise to gravelly plots where the best DO Rueda vineyards are grown.

Winters are cold and very long, springs are short, and late frosts are common. However, summers are hot and dry, resulting in vines that seek water deep into the subsoil. High diurnal temperatures between the hot days and cool nights help maintain balance and excellent acidity. The robust Verdejo has learnt to survive the harsh environment that is Rueda.

Harvesting the grapes of Rueda usually occurs at night, while fermentation is often in stainless steel tanks, but sometimes also occurs in barrels. Oak barrels are also used to age the wine on lees. The wines below, which are all lovely, encompass some aspect of the traditional winemaking process in Rueda. While none of these wines are available at the LCBO, nor through the Passport to Rueda Mixed Case via WineAlign which is now sold out, you should be able to purchase these lovely wines through each winery's respective Agent.

Tasting Notes:

BODEGAS REINA DE CASTILLA EL BUFON VERDEJO 2019 - DO Rueda, Spain (XD) - $19.95
This Verdejo has a fresh, clean nose of citrus, grapefruit, and herb with a touch of stony minerals. The zesty, medium+ bodied palate has fine concentration with tangy citrus, grapefruit, and herbally flavours tapering into saline mineral notes. Succulent acids are fresh, and juicy. Grapefruit and oyster shell mineral with a touch of bitterness on the long finish. Keeps you coming back for another sip. Agent:
Brand New Day Wines & Spirits. Score: 90 pts

Bodegas Reina de Castilla El Bufon Verdejo 2019 (90 pts)Nekora by Diez Siglos 2019 (90 pts)

NEKORA BY DIEZ SIGLOS 2019 - DO Rueda, Spain (XD) - $19.92
Perfumed, fragrant, and aromatics offer lovely ripe tropical fruit, citrus, and pear mingling with floral, and honeysuckle aromas. It is medium+ bodied on concentrated, textured palate with fresh, juicy acidity, and more tropical fruit, citrus, and pear flavours with some minerality coming through on the long, succulent finish. Agent: Marchands des Ameriques Inc. Score: 90 pts

EL LAGAR DE MOHA SAPIENTIA VERDEJO ECOLÓGICO 2018 - DO Rueda, Spain (XD) - $21.95
This organic Verdejo was fermented using natural yeasts and aged on fine lees. The medium+ intensity nose has a leesy, lactic characters surrounded by peach, melon, and citrus aromas. It's medium-full bodied on the fleshy, creamy, and spicy palate with flavours of tropical fruit, citrus, and hints of spicy ginger. Acids are clean and well-balanced, while mineral and leesy notes linger on the long finish. Agent: Violet Hill Wine Imports. Score: 89 pts

El Lagar de Moha Sapientia Verdejo Ecológico 2018 (89 pts)Bodegas Verdeal Ayre Verdejo Edicion Primavera 2019 (89 pts)

BODEGAS VERDEAL AYRE VERDEJO EDICION PRIMAVERA 2019 - DO Rueda, Spain (XD) - $19.92
Fragrant, zesty lemon/lime citrus, herbs, and leesy aromas rise out of the glass. It's medium+ bodied with a creamy, leesy mouthfeel and sharp, lively acidity. Lovely flavour replays of lemon/lime citrus, herbal, and leesy flavours with a touch of saline mineral, all of which linger through to the long, succulent and leesy finish. Chill (but not too much) and enjoy! Agent: Bespoke Wine and Spirits. Score: 89 pts

BODEGAS JOSÉ PARIENTE VERDEJO FERMENTADO EN BARRICA 2018 - DO Rueda, Spain (XD) - $34.95
From 70-year-old vines, this barrel-fermented Verdejo was aged for 6 months in French oak barrels. Elegantly fragrant on the nose with ripe lemon citrus, tropical fruit, lemon curd, and peach with touches of sweet vanilla. It is medium-full bodied on the creamy and spicy palate with more lemon, tropical fruit, pineapple, and peach flavours accented with subtle vanilla oak spice notes. It has juicy, mouth-watering acids while vanilla-tinged lemon and leesy notes linger on the long, juicy finish. Agent: Azureau Wines & Spirits. Score: 91 pts

Bodegas José Pariente Verdejo Fermentado en Barrica 2018 (91 pts)Vinos Sanz Montesol Rueda Sauvignon 2019 (90 pts)

VINOS SANZ MONTESOL RUEDA SAUVIGNON 2019 - DO Rueda, Spain (XD) - $29.52
Fresh, fragrant, intense, and ripe aromas of passion fruit, kiwi, guava, floral, and asparagus with some underlying minerality. It's medium-bodied and fresh on the palate with lively, zesty acidity. Lovely lemon/lime citrus, passion fruit, and floral flavours plus some white pepper and herbal notes add complexity on the palate. Long, zesty finish with touches of mineral. Chill well and enjoy! Agent: Spain Only 1. Score: 90 pts


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  • Date publishedFriday, December 25, 2020

Southbrook Organic Vidal Icewine 2014 (Niagara) - Wine Review (Dec. 2020)

To celebrate the holiday season, wine review is this gorgeous organic Vidal Icewine from Niagara that showed up in LCBO VINTAGES on . While the 2014 is mostly sold out - six bottles actually still remain at LCBO locations - the 2015 vintage is available through the winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake and online through their web store.

It is produced by Southbrook Vineyards at their 150-acre vineyard in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario, Canada. Southbrook Vineyards is the epitome and evolution of owner Bill Redelmeier's love story with wine, the land, and all things local. Southbrook produces organic and biodynamic wines and strives to the make the finest wines possible in a way that is local and respectful of the land. There were many hurdles along the way, but becoming growers strengthened these principles as control over the quality of grapes is the starting point of produce of fine wines. In 2008, Southbrook became Canada's first wine estate to earn both organic and biodynamic certification for its vineyard and winery.

The Vidal grapes for this lovely organic Icewine were ripened throughout the Summer of 2014, then were frozen on the vine, then picked and pressed while the air temperature was at least -8° Celsius (17.6°F), resulting in lusciously sweet juice that is concentrated in flavour, acidity, and sugar.

I actually enjoyed the 2014 Southbrook Organic Vidal Icewine back in when it was just released by the winery and am curious to see how it has developed over the last 5 years.

Southbrook Organic Vidal Icewine 2014 (93 pts)

Tasting Note:

SOUTHBROOK ORGANIC VIDAL ICEWINE 2014 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#581165) (S) (375 mL) - $49.95 $37.25
Pours a deep golden colour. Intense and very complex aromas of honeyed peach, apricot, mango, caramel, spice, almond, candied citrus, and touches of ginger rise out of the glass. It's quite full-bodied on the concentrated, very sweet palate with lovely aroma replays supported by very good, mouth-watering acidity. Caramel, dried apricot, and honey notes linger on the finish, with excellent length. Ageing nicely and should continue to drink well over the next 4-5 years, possibly more. Score: 93 pts


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  • Date publishedThursday, December 24, 2020

St. Stephen Oda al Vino Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2017 and Am Malbec Reserva 2016 (Chile) - Wine Reviews

St. Stephen Oda al Vino Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2017 (89 pts) and Am Malbec Reserva 2016 (88 pts)
wine reviews are a pair of nice organic red wines by St. Stephen Organic Vineyards from Chile. Both are currently only available via their Agent - Don Ackerman's Wines & Spirits, and may potentially appear in LCBO VINTAGES some time next year.

St. Stephen Organic Vineyards is a family-owned and -operated winery located in the Colchagua Valley at the base of the Andes Mountains. The primary focus is on creating flavourful wines that begin with the sun, soil, temperature, and water. There is little-to-no rainfall during the fruit-bearing months, and because they are situated at the base of the Andes, this provides a plentiful supply of pure snowmelt water. The rich, volcanic soils located in this area are particularly well-suited for winegrowing, especially Cabernets.

The grapes are grown 100% organically using sustainable agricultural methods, and without the use of any preservatives, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or other toxicant. All of the grapes at St. Stephen are grown and harvested by hand to reduce bruising and preserve the sugar and flavours of the grapes, followed by rigorous sorting and quality control through to the use of the finest quality French oak barrels to ensure that the final wine is of high quality.

The winemaking process is artisanal, deliberate and flexible. With no two vintages ever the same, the winemaking team is constantly evaluating and adapting to ensure they are able craft the best possible quality of wine. The goal is to create delicious, consistent, unique, and memorable wines.

With a strong commitment to organic agriculture, sustainability, and the general welfare of the planet, a portion of the proceeds from each bottle of St. Stephen wine purchased benefits environmental organizations committed to protecting our planet, expanding national parks and wildlife refuges, reducing pollution, defending our oceans, moving beyond fossil fuels, reducing plastic consumption, and slowing climate change. In recognition of their efforts, St. Stephen Organic Vineyards was invited to address the United Nations Climate Change Division's Annual Conference (COP25) in Madrid in December 2019, joining other speakers such as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Environmental Activist Greta Thunberg.

Tasting Notes:

ST. STEPHEN ODA AL VINO CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA 2017 - Colchagua Valley, Chile (XD) - $30.80
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from dark, rich, volcanic soils that are composed of red granite, andesite,
basalt, and rhyolite. An Ode to Wine, the medium+ intensity nose offers red berry, raspberry, currant, and strawberry aromas with wood spice notes that nicely accent the fruit. It's medium-full bodied on the palate with slightly tart red fruit flavours joined by savoury oak, cocoa notes. It has fresh acidity, while the dry tannins are quite grippy and chalky. Savoury, earthy, and cocoa flavours with a touch of smoke linger on the long, dry finish. Score: 89 pts

St. Stephen Oda al Vino Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2017 (89 pts)St. Stephen Am Malbec Reserva 2016 (88 pts)

ST. STEPHEN AM MALBEC RESERVA 2016 - Curicó Valley, Chile (XD) - $29.10
"Am" means "soul" or "spirit" in the Mapuche language. 100% Malbec grown on dark, rich, volcanic soils. The nose is quite intense with bretty, barnyard, and savoury tones with some dark berry notes adding some fruit characters. It's medium-bodied on the palate with dark berry, boysenberry, and raspberry flavours surrounded by savoury, earthy notes. Acids are fresh and well-balanced while the soft, rounded tannins have a slight textural grip. There's some warmth on the mid-palate. while savoury-earthy tones continue through to the finish, with very good length. Score: 88 pts


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  • Date publishedSunday, December 20, 2020

Catena Zapata Nicolás Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec 2016 (Argentina) - Wine Review

To follow up on the lovely 2017 Catena Cabernet Sauvignon that I enjoyed last month, wine review is an excellent blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec by Bodega Catena Zapata that arrived at the LCBO as part of the VINTAGES Classics Collection back in - with a few bottles still available for purchase at LCBO outlets in Toronto.

The family winery was founded in 1902 by Italian immigrant Nicola Catena when he planted his first Malbec in Mendoza, Argentina. The winery was then passed along to his son, Domingo. It was Domingo's son, Nicolás Catena Zapata, that revolutionized Argentine winemaking. Nicolás was literally born in the vineyard at his family home in Rivadavia in eastern Mendoza in 1939 as his mother never made it to the hospital. Nicolás began planting at higher elevations, looking for cooler temperatures, and planted the Adrianna Vineyard in the Andean foothills. He was instrumental in putting high-altitude Malbec from Mendoza on the world map.

Today, Nicolás' daughter, Dr. Laura Catena, the fourth generation of the family, runs the winery. To further elevate Mendoza as a world-class wine region, she established the Catena Institute of Wine in 1995 to focus on the study of terroir, sustainability, and other research. The wines of Catena Zapata come from six historic family estate vineyards and each of these vineyards is divided into parcels according to their soil composition, with each parcel farmed individually. Nearly all of Catena's vineyards are farmed sustainably and organically, focusing on lower yields and biodiversity.

Catena Zapata has a number of icon wines in their portfolio, but at the top of the list is this profound Nicolás Catena Zapata. It was first crafted in the 1997 vintage using the best grapes from the family's historic vineyards and set a new standard of quality for wines not only from Argentina, but all of South America.

Although Catena Zapata played an important role in elevating Argentine Malbec on the world stage, Cabernet Sauvignon has also been an important part of the Catena portfolio. The 2016 vintage of this iconic wine is a blend of primarily Cabernet Sauvignon (61%), plus Malbec (31%) and Cabernet Franc (8%) in support. The Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the La Pirámide Vineyard at 3,117 ft. (950 m) within Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, that has deep alluvial loam soils with 30% clay that decreases soil temperatures by 2ºC. A large portion of the Malbec comes from the Adrianna Vineyard at 4,757 ft. (1,450 m) elevation, in Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, and has alluvial, gravelly soils with limestone deposits in the topsoil. Lastly, the Cabernet Franc, as well as some of the Malbec come from the Nicasia Vineyard at 3,593 ft. (1,095 m) in Altamira and La Consulta, Uco Valley, where the very shallow loamy topsoil with surface gravel and gravelly (large stones) dry river bed subsoils have optimal drainage characteristics.

The 2016 harvest was characterised by the cool-climate (the coolest vintage in the last thirty years), vineyards there were mostly dry farmed, and a fully snow-covered Andes throughout the summer growing season. Of particular note, the La Pirámide Vineyard - which makes up the majority of this wine - experienced an excellent vintage in part due to it being completely dry farmed because of the year's increased rain pattern, while the clay soils added a level of freshness. Crafted under the tutelage of Wine Director Alejandro Vigil, the winemaker for this wine is Fernando Buscema. Let's see how this iconic wine is tasting tonight...

Catena Zapata Nicolás Cabernet Sauvignon/Malbec 2016 (95 pts)

Tasting Note:

CATENA ZAPATA NICOLÁS CABERNET SAUVIGNON/MALBEC 2016 - Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#510958) (XD) - $123.00
Blend of 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Malbec, and 8% Cabernet Franc that was fermented using wild yeasts and aged in French oak barrels for 18 months. Elegant, refined, and fresh aromas of red and black fruits, currant, cassis, blackberry, and earth with a whiff of herb wafting out of the glass. It is full-bodied with lovely replays of currant, cassis, and herb, plus cocoa, earth, oak spice, and touches of graphite on the refined palate. Fresh acidity is well-balanced, while the structured tannins are smooth and fine-grained with some grip. Savoury oak notes come through on the very long, mouth-watering finish. Enjoyable now, but still a bit young. Should improve in 2-3 years and drink well into the early 2030s. Exceptional! Score: 95 pts

Other fine wines from Catena Zapata can be found at the LCBO or ordered through their Agent - Noble Estates Wine & Spirts.


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  • Date publishedSaturday, December 19, 2020

Toro Bravo Sparkling Secco White (Spain) - Wine Review

For wine review, I have this accessibly-priced, easy drinking, and vegan-friendly sparkling wine from Spain that is a recent arrival to the LCBO and widely available across Ontario.

The Toro Bravo brand was born a few years from a collaboration between Alex Patinios of Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd. (Ontario Agent) and Melanie Nathou, a négociant who owns Wines & Company S.L.U. in Valencia, Spain. After recognizing that very few new value-based wines were coming into Ontario, Alex approached Melanie and together they came up with Toro Bravo.

Today, there are a number of wines bearing the Toro Bravo label. This particular sparkling wine is crafted in the Charmat method using 50% Macabeo, 30% Parellada, and 20% Xarel-lo, with the majority of the grapes coming from vineyards located between 350 to 600 meters above sea level in rocky areas of the Cataluña region. It is crafted in a very approachable style with some sweetness that will appeal to many. I found it very interesting that this sparkling wine is enclosed by easy-to-open and re-sealable screw cap. The cap was specially designed to withstand the pressures of sparkling wine. I've been tasting it over the last few days and the bubbles and flavours are still quite fresh and persistent.

Toro Bravo Sparkling Secco White (85 pts)

Tasting Note:

TORO BRAVO SPARKLING SECCO WHITE - Spain (#16191) (D) - $11.95
This sparkling wine is made in the Charmat method using a blend of 50% Macabeo, 30% Parellada, and 20% Xarel-lo, and enclosed by screw cap. Sweet citrus, floral, peach, and pear aromas rise out of the glass. On the medium-bodied, creamy palate it has frothy mousse and fine bubbles with pleasantly off-dry (i.e. slightly sweet) aroma replays on the flavour profile that linger through to the finish, with decent length. Casual, uncomplicated bubbly to enjoy as an aperitif or in a sparkling wine cocktail. Score: 85 pts


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  • Date publishedWednesday, December 16, 2020

La Posta Pizzella Family Malbec 2018 (Argentina) - Wine Review

wine review is this Malbec by La Posta Vineyads, the entry-level brand of Bodega Catena. This red wine is a frequent visitor to LCBO VINTAGES due to its popularity and last arrived at the LCBO in June - with only approximately 10 bottles still remaining on shelves in Ontario.

In 2000, Laura Catena discovered a handful of growers whose results in the vineyards with specific varietals was impressive year-in and year-out. Her first encounter with many of these growers was at a posta del viñatero, or "tavern of the grape grower". They drank wine and spoke passionately for hours about their soils, vines, and quest for superior flavours in their grapes. The wines of La Posta salute these hard-working growers, with each bottle a vineyard-designate wine solely made using their own grapes. Each La Posta label illustrates a story of these individual families and are inspired by Art Nouveau and Art Déco designs of the 1920s and 1930s.

This particular Malbec is grown by the Pizzella Family - two teachers who came from Buenos Aires to Mendoza in 2000 and achieved early success by growing cool-climate Malbec grapes. The soils of their vineyard consist of sandy loam, sand, silt, and clay with 20% stones covered by limestone. Along with their three children, they meticulously work their 10-hectare vineyard together with the goal of uniformity and balance.

La Posta Pizzella Family Malbec 2018 (87 pts)

Tasting Note:

LA POSTA PIZZELLA FAMILY MALBEC 2018 - La Consulta, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#166298) (XD) - $16.95
100% Malbec from 20-year-old vines grown at 3,600 feet (1,100 metres) above sea level. 10% of this wine was aged in new French barrels for 10 months, while 30% in 2nd use French barrels. The soft nose is ripe and plummy with blackberry, mulberry, and peppery spice notes along with a streak of stony mineral. It's soft and rounded on the medium-full bodied palate with oak-influenced flavours of dark berry and earth with a touch of sweetness. Acids are well-balanced while light tannins are well-integrated with a mild grip. Savoury and earthy notes linger on the finish, with good length. A casual, entry-level Malbec that has wide appeal. Score: 87 pts

Other wines from La Posta can be found at the LCBO or ordered through their Agent - Noble Estates Wines & Spirits.


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  • Date publishedMonday, December 14, 2020

13th Street Cuvée Rosé Brut (Niagara) - Wine Review (Dec. 2020)

For wine review, I opened this lovely Rosé Brut Sparkling Wine from Niagara. It is part of the VINTAGES Essentials collection at the LCBO - which means it is always available in the VINTAGES section, and is currently on promotion at $5 off until . It is also available at the winery for the same price with a home delivery option.

This dry sparkling wine is produced by Niagara's 13th Street Winery. Founded in 1998 in St. Catharines, Ontario, and purchased by the Mann and Whitty families in 2008, 13th Street has grown to develop a reputation for crafting a wide range of quality sparkling wines from Niagara. One of the most talented French-trained winemakers, Jean-Pierre Colas joined the team in 2009 and has been instrumental in the rise of quality wines at 13th Street, which starts by using the best grapes from some of Niagara's best vineyards.

I last enjoyed 13th Street Cuvée Rosé Brut back in December 2019 and am delighted to see how the latest incarnation of this sparkling wine is tasting. This bottling is a blend of 71% Pinot Noir and 29% Chardonnay - which is significantly more Pinot Noir than Chardonnay when compared to last December's bottle - with 70% of the fruit comes from the 2014 vintage. Pinot Noir provides fruit, power, and richness to the wine, while the Chardonnay adds structure and backbone. It underwent secondary fermentation in the final bottle and was aged sur lattes (en tirage / on yeasts) for a minimum of 18 months during which the bubbles became smaller and more compact, and the wine became slightly autolytic in character. A dosage of 8 grams of sugar was mixed with reserve Pinot Noir and added to the wine, then aged for another 3 months to allow the wine to integrate prior to release.

13th Street Cuvée Rosé Brut (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

13TH STREET CUVÉE ROSÉ BRUT - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#147504) (XD) - $29.95 $24.95 until .
Made in the traditional method using 71% Pinot Noir and 29% Chardonnay, this has lovely, fresh brioche and autolytic aromas off the top, with medium+ intensity, layered over bright red berries - strawberry, cherry, and raspberry - and some citrusy notes. It is medium+ bodied on the creamy, dry palate with fine mousse and flavours of autolytic, red berry, and citrus with honeyed accents. It has tart, bracing acidity, while mineral notes linger on the finish, with very good length. Score: 90 pts


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  • Date publishedSaturday, December 12, 2020

Château Prieuré-Lichine 2016 (Bordeaux) - Wine Review

wine review is this lovely Margaux from the Left Bank of Bordeaux that newly arrived at the LCBO today as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

A jewel of the Margaux appellation, this red wine is produced by Château Prieuré-Lichine and expresses the very essence of a world-famous terroir. The Priory (or monastery) of Cantenac was founded during the Roman era by the monks of the Abbey of Vertheuil, and its local wines enjoyed a fine reputation from the very beginning. In the 13th century, with the support of Bordeaux's Pope Clément V, the church vineyards flourished. The first mention of Prieuré growth dates to the year 1444.

With great international interest in the wines of Médoc, vines were completely taking over lands, and in 1745, the Bordeaux Intendance (Royal Administration) classified the wines of Prieuré in the category of third growths within the parishes of Margaux and Cantenac. By 1855, Prieuré was promoted to the 4th Classified Growth in the 1855 Imperial Classification. A century later, the vineyard had shrunk to just one hectare due to various factors such as powdery and downy mildew, phylloxera, and the Great Depression.

In 1951, Alexis Lichine, the Pope of Wine, purchased the estate and renamed it to Château Prieuré-Lichine. Alexis was a renowned winemaker and tireless champion of the wines of Bordeaux, heralding the renaissance of this Margaux estate. In 1999, after half a century of close ties with the Lichine family, the Château was acquired by Ballande group with sights firmly looking forward into the new millenium.

The vineyard was extended by 10 hectares in 2012 with plots located in the commune of Arsac. After soil studies were conducted, the technical team was able to match the rootstock with the grape varietal to exploit the full potential of the terroir. The result is that the grape composition was identical to the blend of the First Wine of Château Prieuré-Lichine. In 2013, the vat room was completely renovated and modernized, including the use of gravity-flow. Château Prieuré-Lichine also has a commitment to environment, joining the High Environmental Value (HVE) system.

This particular red wine, from the great 2016 Bordeaux vintage, is a blend of predominantly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, with a splash of Petit Verdot, that was grown on terraces of Günz-era Garonne gravelly soils that are mostly fast-draining, The grapes were hand-harvested in small crates, sorted on vibrating sorting tables using manual sorting and optical sorting machine. The grapes were not crushed and used gravity-flow to move the juice around the winery, followed by ageing in 50% new and 50% second use French oak barrels.

Château Prieuré-Lichine 2016 (93 pts)

Tasting Note:

CHÂTEAU PRIEURÉ-LICHINE 2016 - 4e cru classé, AC Margaux, Bordeaux, France (#17487) (XD) - $113.95
A blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot, this has rich, complex, dark and red fruited, brooding aromas of spice, currant, and cassis mixed with savoury, earthy, oak, and touches of sweet tobacco and herb. It's medium-full bodied on the elegantly spiced palate, slightly warm, with lovely currant, cassis, tobacco, and earthy notes on the flavour profile. It has very good acidity and structured, fine-grained tannins that are quite integrated with a pleasant grippiness. Savoury, earthy tones with touches of graphite linger on the finish, with excellent length. Enjoy this beauty now to 2040. Score: 93 pts

Other lovely wines from the Château Prieuré-Lichine portfolio can be ordered through their Agent - Connexion Oenophilia.


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  • Date publishedThursday, December 10, 2020

Castelo do Mar Albariño 2018 (Spain) - Wine Review

wine review is this lovely Albariño from Spain that came to VINTAGES last Fall and returns to our shores as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Castelo do Mar wines are produced by Veiga da Princesa, a winery that is part of the Pazo do Mar Group of wineries. Veiga da Princesa is located Arbo, Pontevedra, in western Spain near the Atlantic Ocean and just north of Portugal. The vineyard was first planted in 2002, plot by plot, after two years of merging more than 200 small farms which were the property of more than 70 different owners!

The Albariño vines used to produce this white wine are cultivated on trellises, giving more airy, sun-kissed and less acidic grapes than those obtained with other vine-training techniques. This cultivating method also helps avoid the use of many phytosanitary treatments (i.e. disease control) which are applied in other sub-areas of this Appellation. All of the wines are produced and bottled using modern equipment and techniques, with a clear commitment to quality.

I had the pleasure of enjoying the 2016 Castelo do Mar Albariño a couple of years ago and am sure the 2018 will be just as good, if not better, due to a vintage that was rated 'very good' with a growing season that delivered a typical profile of the Albariño grape.

Castelo do Mar Albariño 2018 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

CASTELO DO MAR ALBARIÑO 2018 - DO Rías Baixas, Spain (#488734) (XD) - $19.95
100% Albariño from their 18 hectare estate in Tea County. Screw cap. The fragrant nose is ripe with tropical fruit, pineapple, peach, citrus and apple aromas with touches of floral. It's medium-full bodied on the palate with a rich, honeyed concentration of fruit and flavours of citrus and apple. Acids are vibrant and zesty, while oyster shell mineral notes arrive on the back palate, adding complexity and lingering through to the long, lip-smacking finish. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. Score: 90 pts

Other lovely wines from Viega da Princesa can be ordered via their Agent - Connexion Oenophilia.


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  • Date publishedThursday, December 10, 2020

December 12, 2020 LCBO VINTAGES Release Wine Picks: Dinner Wines + Gifts

LCBO Wine Picks: December 12, 2020 VINTAGES Release
In what has been a year like no other, the December 12, 2020 LCBO VINTAGES Release is upon us and it is the final Release of the year. This mono-thematic Release features Delicious Dinner Wines and Gifts and all of these wines, plus those from the Main Release will be on VINTAGES shelves across Ontario by this Saturday.

The theme of this Release is a big one with thirty-two wines featured, but only four are included among my top wine recommendations. First up is a dry Champagne that is a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier. There are also a trio of delightful red wines that includes a lovely Malbec from the Uco Valley in Argentina, as well as an Australian Shiraz made with fruit from Clare Valley and McLaren Vale. Lastly, there is a fine blend from the Côtes du Rhône in France that consists of 75% very old Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre, and 10% Syrah.

Kaiken Ultra Las Rocas Malbec 2018 (89 pts)Wakefield Jaraman Shiraz 2017 (88 pts)

From my top red wine picks from this Release, the lovely Marguax is a blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, and 5% Petit Verdot, while the Lirac consists of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Cinsault. From Spain, the Rioja is a blend of 94% Tempranillo and 6% Mazuelo, while the gorgeous Amarone is a fairly traditional blend of 40% Corvina, 40% Corvinone, and 20% Rondinella. Lastly, the Cabernet Franc from Chile usually includes a small amount of Petit Verdot. The rest of the wines are all single varietals, including the wine from Georgia that is made with the indigenous Saperavi varietal.

Château Prieuré-Lichine 2016 (93 pts)Fumanelli Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2015 (92 pts)

LAN Gran Reserva 2011 (91 pts)

Among my white wine recommendations, the only blend is an organic and biodynamic wine from South Africa is driven by Chenin Blanc with Roussanne, Viognier, and Semillon in support. There are also pair of lovely Sauvignon Blanc wines - one from New Zealand and the other is from Uruguay. There's also a very nice Albariño from Spain and a pair of Chardonnay wines from Burgundy. For those that prefer some sweetness in their wines, look for the off-dry Riesling from Niagara or the Pinot Gris from Alsace.

Villa Maria Southern Clays Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2018 (90 pts)Castelo do Mar Albariño 2018 (90 pts)

Enjoy my wine recommendations from this Release and stay safe during the holiday season!

Red Wine:

  • ZANGAURA SAPERAVI 2017 - PDO Kindzmarauli, Kakheti, Georgia (#617332) (XD) - $16.95
  • SISTER'S RUN EPIPHANY SHIRAZ 2018 - Epiphany Vineyard, McLaren Vale, South Australia (#269464) (XD) - $17.95
  • HALOS DE JUPITER CÔTES DU RHÔNE 2018 - AC, France (#276956) (D) - $17.95
  • KAIKEN ULTRA LAS ROCAS MALBEC 2018 - Mendoza, Argentina (#50849) (XD) - $19.95  89 pts  wine review
  • PÉREZ CRUZ LIMITED EDITION CABERNET FRANC 2017 - Fundo Liguai de Huelquén, DO Maipo Valley, Chile (#10591) (XD) - $19.95
  • VAENI NAOUSSA GRANDE RESERVE XINOMAVRO 2013 - PDO Naoussa, Greece (#15849) (XD) - $20.95  FE

  • WAKEFIELD JARAMAN SHIRAZ 2017 - Clare Valley/McLaren Vale, South Australia (#377036) (XD) - $24.95  88 pts  wine review
  • CHÂTEAU DE MONTFAUCON 2016 - AP Lirac, Rhône, France (#15447) (XD) - $25.95
  • MAJELLA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2016 - Coonawarra, South Australia (#301531) (XD) - $29.95  FE
  • LAN GRAN RESERVA 2011 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#928622) (XD) - $34.95  91 pts  wine review
  • DOMAINE DROUHIN ROSEROCK PINOT NOIR 2016 - Eola-Amity Hills, Willamette Valley, Oregon, USA (#529107) (XD) - $42.95
  • FUMANELLI AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2015 - DOCG, Veneto, Italy (#475053) (XD) - $62.95  92 pts  wine review
  • CHÂTEAU PRIEURÉ-LICHINE 2016 - 4e cru classé, AC Margaux, Bordeaux, France (#17487) (XD) - $113.95  93 pts  wine review

White Wine:

  • AVONDALE JONTY'S DUCKS PEKIN WHITE 2017 - WO Paarl, South Africa (#439554) (XD) - $16.95
  • BODEGA GARZÓN MALDONADO SAUVIGNON BLANC 2018 - Garzón, Uruguay (#12678) (XD) - $18.95
  • CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES OLD VINES RIESLING 2015 - VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (#277228) (D) - $18.95
  • CASTELO DO MAR ALBARIÑO 2018 - DO Rías Baixas, Spain (#488734) (XD) - $19.95  90 pts  wine review
  • LA CHABLISIENNE LE FINAGE CHABLIS 2018 - AC, Burgundy, France (#556340) (XD) - $22.95
  • DOMAINES SCHLUMBERGER LES PRINCES ABBÉS PINOT GRIS 2018 - AC Alsace, France (#21253) (D) - $24.95
  • VILLA MARIA SOUTHERN CLAYS SINGLE VINEYARD SAUVIGNON BLANC 2018 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#447474) (XD) - $29.95  90 pts  wine review
  • RURIS AMOR LES BURNINS MONTAGNY 1ER CRU 2016 - AC, Burgundy, France (#16198) (XD) - $29.95

Sparkling Wine:

  • ALBINO ARMANI EXTRA DRY CONEGLIANO VALDOBBIADENE PROSECCO SUPERIORE - DOCG, Friuli, Italy (#16602) (XD) - $22.95
  • TRIUS BRUT ROSÉ SPARKLING - Traditional method, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#17690) (XD) - $29.95
  • VEUVE CLICQUOT PONSARDIN BRUT VINTAGE CHAMPAGNE - AC, France (#508614) (XD) - $107.95

Fortified:

  • ALVEAR PEDRO XIMENEZ DE AÑADA 2015 - DOP Montilla-Moriles, Spain (#499152) (S) (375 mL) - $24.95
  • WARRE'S QUINTA DA CAVADINHA VINTAGE PORT 2006 - DOP, Portugal (#189605) (S) - $54.95

Dessert Wine:

  • CHÂTEAU HAUT-BERGERON 2016 - AC Sauternes, Bordeaux, France (#17503) (S) (375 mL) - $31.95


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  • Date publishedTuesday, December 8, 2020

Kaiken Ultra Las Rocas Malbec 2018 (Argentina) - Wine Review

For wine review, I continue the series on some lovely Malbec wines from Argentina. This particular bottle is arriving at the LCBO as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

It is produced by Kaiken Wines, the name of which comes from the Caiquén wild goose from Patagonia that flies across The Andes between Argentina and Chile. Like the border-crossing Caiquén, Aurelio Montes, founder of Chilean winery Bodega Montes, made several trips across the Andes to Argentina and in the year 2000 he rediscovered Mendoza as a generous land, filled with superb vines and hardworking people. Although the winery was built in 1920, it was in 2001 that Aurelio realized Mendoza was the perfect place to make Kaiken Wines.

Today, the winemaking team consists of Chilean Gustavo Hörmann and Argentinean Rogelio Rabino, with support from Aurelio Montes. Kaiken owns vineyards in some of the most prestigious regions of Argentina with the goal of crafting wines that faithfully express the terroir they come from. The philosophy at Kaiken has always been to produce premium wines with respect for the environment and our collaborators, promoting a sustainable culture in all stages of the winemaking process, including the use of biodynamics.

Although this Malbec is generically labelled from Mendoza, the grapes were actually grown in three separate vineyards located in the sub-regions of the Uco Valley. The first batch comes from Los Chacayes in Tunuyán at an elevation of 4,101 ft. (1,250 m) where the climate is temperate with cool nights and the soils are rocky and mixed with coarse sand and some lime with low fertility and high permeability. The second parcel of Malbec comes from Altamira in San Carlos that was grown at 3,937 ft. (1,200 m) above sea level and has a large diurnal temperature range with cold nights and warm days. The soil in Altamira is chalky with sand, lime, and stones. The third and final parcel of Malbec comes from an extremely high-elevation vineyard in Gualtallary, Tupungato, at 4,265 - 5,249 ft. (1,300 - 1,600 m) above sea level. This area in Gualtallary also has a large diurnal temperature range, along with instances of Zonda wind - a strong, dry wind - and has alluvial, poor, and stony soils, with an important quantity of calcium carbonate and sand. All of the grapes were manually harvested and fermented in concrete tanks and aged in a combination of new and used French oak barrels for 12 months. The name of this delicious wine "Las Rocas" comes from the hundreds of rounded boulders that lie among the vines at their Los Chacayes vineyard in Tunuyán.

Kaiken Ultra Las Rocas Malbec 2018 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

KAIKEN ULTRA LAS ROCAS MALBEC 2018 - Mendoza, Argentina (#50849) (XD) - $19.95
100% Malbec from three separate vineyards across the Uco Valley grown at 3,937 - 5,249 ft. (1,200 m - 1,600 m) above sea level. Spicy, medium+ intensity aromas are layered over blackberry, dark berry, and smoky dark minerals with touches of oak. Lovely floral and peppery spice aromas arrive with time in the glass. It's medium-bodied on the palate with nice dark berry, dark mineral, blackberry, and touches of violet on the flavour profile. Succulent acids are juicy and well-balanced, while gritty tannins seem just a bit tight at the moment. Dark berry and mineral notes linger on the tight finish, with very good length. Enjoy over the next 5 years. Score: 89 pts

Other lovely wines from Kaiken can be found at the LCBO or through their Agent - Trajectory Beverage Partners.


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  • Date publishedSunday, December 6, 2020

Wakefield Jaraman Shiraz 2017 (Australia) - Wine Review (Bottle 2)

wine review is this consistently well-made Australian Shiraz by the ever-reliable Wakefield Wines. I enjoyed the 2017 Wakefield Jaraman Shiraz when it first came to VINTAGES in July 2019 and am pleased to see it return in time for the holidays as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Produced by the Taylor family, one of Australia's First Families of Wine, at their home base in the southern end of Clare Valley, South Australia, this red wines comes from their Jaraman range of wines in which they seek parcels of extraordinary fruit to craft wines that showcase the distinctive regional characteristics and style.

This particular wine is 100% Shiraz from 60.5% Clare Valley fruit and 39.5% McLaren Vale fruit. Shiraz from Clare Valley tends to be big on flavour with hints of liquorice and excellent acidity, while also providing some structure. On the other hand, McLaren Vale Shiraz is typically full-bodied with blue fruit and hints of chocolate. Let's see how this bottle has evolved, more than one year after tasting it the first time.

Wakefield Jaraman Shiraz 2017 (88 pts)

Tasting Note:

WAKEFIELD JARAMAN SHIRAZ 2017 - Clare Valley/McLaren Vale, South Australia (#377036) (XD) - $24.95
Screw cap. Aromas of ripe black and blue fruit along with oak resin, wood, brown spices, and meaty notes with touches of licorice rise out of the glass. It's medium-full bodied on the slightly warm palate with flavours of blackberry, blueberry, savoury oak spice, and earthy tones with hints of white pepper. Food-friendly acids are juicy and well-balanced, while smooth, polished tannins have a fine-grained texture. Wood and savoury notes linger on the finish, with good length. More savoury than the bottle tasted last year and still a pleasure. Score: 88 pts

Many other Wakefield Wines can be found at the LCBO, as well as through their Agent - Profile Wine Group.


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  • Date publishedFriday, December 4, 2020

Lungarotti Ilbio Rosso 2016 (Umbria) - Wine Review

wine review is this nice, organic red from Umbria that is new to the LCBO and arrived recently as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Cantine Lungarotti was founded in the early 1960s by Giorgio Lungarotti and soon became a major force on opening up new opportunities not only in Torgiano, but also throughout Umbria with wine as the centrepiece. The history of the Lungarotti family goes back to the 1700s - when they were farmers in the Middle Tiber Valley and began to realize the potential of the Umbrian land to produce wine and oil.

The grapes for this wine come from their Estate in Montefalco. Thanks to the contributions of Giorgio Lungarotti, the creation of the DOC Montefalco appellation in 1979 was made possible. In Umbria, Lungarotti has a deep knowledge of the climate, soil, environment, and people to create wines that express the land from which it originates. In the year 2000, Lungarotti purchased 20 hectares in the area and planted vineyards for the production of wines based on the grape Sagrantino.

The winery is located in Turrita di Montefalco and uses gravity-flow to move the wine around the facility. The cellars are completely underground, thereby naturally controlling the ambient temperature. Environmental awareness is central to the operations of Lungarotti, including the production of renewable energy from vine pruning residues. They have also been producing wines organically at the Montefalco Estate beginning with the 2014 harvest.

Although the label does not mention the varietals used to produce this bottle of red wine, it does mention that it is produced entirely with organically-grown "king" of the varietals. In fact, it is made with 100% Sagrantino. However, because Lungarotti wanted to create a fresher, less traditional style of Sagrantino, this led to a different vinification process which fell outside the DOCG regulations, resulting in the wine being classified as an "IGT". Let's see how this wine is tasting tonight...

Lungarotti Ilbio Rosso 2016 (88 pts)

Tasting Note:

LUNGAROTTI ILBIO ROSSO 2016 - IGT Umbria, Italy (#16573) (XD) - $23.95
100% Sagrantino grown at 450 metres above sea level on shallow soils with a light presence of rocks, and southern exposure. Medium-high intensity aromatics are fresh with ripe, bright red and dark cherries, if slightly raisined, plus cassis, currant, and earthy vanillin oak notes. It's full bodied on the warm palate with firm, dusty, grippy tannins and juicy acidity. It has dark cherry, earthy, and vanillin oak flavours that linger through to the mouth-puckering, very dry and savoury finish, with good length. A nice introduction to the Sagrantino grape. Score: 88 pts

Other lovely wines from Lungarotti are available at the LCBO, as well as via their Agent - Profile Wine Group.


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  • Date publishedWednesday, December 2, 2020

Jean-Max Roger Cuvée Genèse Sancerre 2018 (Loire) - Wine Review

wine review is this lovely Sauvignon Blanc from the renowned region of Sancerre in Loire. It returned to VINTAGES as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

One of my favourite producers from Loire, Jean-Max Roger comes from a long line of winegrowers from the village of Bué, just southwest of the town of Sancerre, with the first mention of the name dating back to the early 17th century. Up until the 1960s, generation after generation of the family practiced mixed farming and animal rearing. Jean-Max Roger inherited the 4 hectare property from his parents in the 1970s, and with his wife, Nicole, focused on the vineyards and developed the estate. In 2004, two of their three sons - Thibault and Etienne - joined the family estate. Today, the brothers continue to define the estate's identity with their 28 hectares of Sancerre appellation vines located along the Loire River.

This lovely white wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc from selected plots of stony, calcareous clay soils called "caillottes" that have shaped the palate of several generations of the Roger family. The Cuvée Genèse (or Genesis) represents the origin of the Roger family's history. The vines are between 10 and 40 years of age, have southeastern exposure to the sun, and are raised using some organic priniciples to reveal its terroir. It was long fermented using natural yeasts and aged on heavy lees to develop minerality in the wine.

I've had the pleasure of tasting previous vintages of this lovely wine, most recently the 2015 Jean-Max Roger Cuvée Genèse Sancerre back in 2017, and this vintage should be just as good, if not better. The 2018 vintage in Loire was historic in terms of both quality and yield. In 2018, the Spring weather was favourable and unhampered by hail or frost. Although there were heavy rains in June, winegrowers skilfully managed the vineyards. Summer temperatures reached an all-time high and excellent growing conditions continued through to harvest. Let's see how the 2018 is tasting tonight...

Jean-Max Roger Cuvée Genèse Sancerre 2018 (91+ pts)

Tasting Note:

JEAN-MAX ROGER CUVÉE GENÈSE SANCERRE 2018 - AC, Loire, France (#189126) (XD) - $33.95
100% Sauvignon Blanc grown on stony, calcareous clay soils called "caillottes". Intense, stony mineral aromas are layered over fresh, ripe lemon/lime citrus and white floral notes. It's quite full and powerful on the palate with some warmth due to the hot vintage, but still well-balanced with floral, lime, and stony flavours and lively, juicy, mouth-watering acidity. Tangy mid-palate with a pleasing chalky texture. Stony mineral notes linger on the long finish. Lovely! Score: 91+ pts

Other fine wines from Jean-Max Roger can be ordered via their Agent - Connexion Oenophilia.


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