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  • Date publishedFriday, April 9, 2021

Rémy Ferbras Terre de Mistral Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2017 (France) - Wine Review



On this fine Friday, red wine review is a bright and lovely Côtes du Rhône-Villages that arrived at the LCBO last weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Rémy Ferbras was the first cellar master of Grandes Serres, a winery with deep roots in the Southern Rhône Valley. With the Rémy Ferbras range of wines, Grandes Serres pays tribute to the iconic figure of the winery who was a tireless advocate of the Rhône terroir and of its grape varieties, and always succeeded in expressing the full potential of the Rhône Valley wines. Through his work and tenacity, Rémy Ferbras played a large role towards the development and public recognition of Grandes Serres. The range of Rémy Ferbras wines are the result of strict selections, and precise vinification and ageing, just as Remy Ferbras would have preferred.

Rémy Ferbras produces a diverse array of wines from the Southern Rhône Valley's most popular appellations, and this particular bottling is from Plan de Dieu, one of the named villages of the Côtes du Rhône-Villages appellation. Plan de Dieu, which translates to "God's Plain", is located in the Southern Rhône Valley, just west of Gigondas, and covers an area of 1,060 hectares, most of which is planted to vineyards with only a few patches of woodland among the vineyards. The climate in this area is Mediterranean and influenced by the Mistral winds, while the vines are primarily grown on a bed of red clay and smooth-rolled cobbles. The leading grape varieties of Plan de Dieu are Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvèdre, all found in this wine, and pick up aromas of the surrounding garrigue scrublands.

Although Plan de Dieu is linked to viticulture going back nearly 700 years, it was only awarded Côtes du Rhône-Villages with geographical name status for red wines in 2005. In order to give the appellation an identity, winegrowers designed a special bottle that is embossed with the village name and the vineyard's coat of arms - a bunch of grapes topped with an halo. Let's see how this latest vintage is tasting tonight...

Rémy Ferbras Terre de Mistral Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2017 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

RÉMY FERBRAS TERRE DE MISTRAL PLAN DE DIEU CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2017 - AP, France (#538009) (XD) - $16.95
This blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre was grown on soils mostly composed of limestone pebbles and brown clay, with each grape vinified separately prior to blending and bottling. The medium-high intensity nose is elegant and composed with red fruited, raspberry, cherry, and spices with underlying savoury tones flecked with stony minerals. It's full-bodied with very good fruit concentration on the spicy palate with more red fruit, cherry, and raspberry flavours balanced with stony and savoury notes. Acids are fresh, while the fine-grained tannins have some structure. Some chalky textured grip on the long, spicy, stony, and savoury finish. Enjoy this great buy over the next 3-5 years. Score: 90 pts

Other lovely wines from Rémy Ferbras can be found at the LCBO (there is a Châteauneuf-du-Pape), while the rest of the portfolio can be ordered through their Agent - DBINO David Beauroy Selections.


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  • Date publishedWednesday, April 7, 2021

M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2017 (Roussillon) - Wine Review

wine review is this excellent red blend from the village of Latour-de-France within the Côtes du Roussillon-Villages appellation that returned to the LCBO over the weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

The roots of M. Chapoutier go back to 1808 when Calvet et Compagnie was created in the Rue de l’Hermitage in Tain, northern Rhône. Marius Chapoutier joined the company in 1897 and had complete control of the winery by the 1920's. Chapoutier winery was then passed down through the generations, eventually landing in the hands of world renowned winemaker Michel Chapoutier in 1990. With a passion for the environment and drive for innovation, Michel began applying biodynamic cultivation techniques and expanded the company in the year 2000 to produce wines from Roussillon.

Many wines encompass the fabulous portfolio of M. Chapoutier, with this particular wine coming from Domaine de Bila-Haut in Roussillon. This domain was setup by Michel in the village of Latour de France, in the hilly northern third of Roussillon, near Fitou and Corbieres, in the South of France. The vines of Bila-Haut and Occultum Lapidem were the first expressions of this terroir. Latour de France is situated on a bend in the Agly river - which winds it way to the Mediterranean Sea - and its climate is Mediterranean with long, hot summers, and relatively mild winters, while experiencing more sunshine over the course of a year than any other part of France.

This red wine is a blend of predominantly Syrah and Grenache, plus some Carignan, all of which were grown in a vineyard located on gneiss and schistous soils from the Devonian Period (approx. 400 million ago) and limestone from Kimmeridgian Period (approximately 150 million years ago). The grapes were hand-picked and matured entirely in concrete tanks.

I've had the pleasure of tasting previous vintages of this lovely wine and it has always been excellent. Although the 2017 vintage had reduced yields, the fruit during harvest was very good, thus allowing quality producers such as M. Chapoutier to craft excellent wines such as this.

M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2017 (91+ pts)

Tasting Note:

M. CHAPOUTIER BILA-HAUT OCCULTUM LAPIDEM 2017 - AP Côtes du Roussillon-Villages Latour-de-France (#643239) (XD) - $26.95
Blend of mainly Syrah and Grenache, plus some Carignan, all aged in concrete tanks. The highly aromatic nose is fresh and complex with lovely garrigue, Provençal herb, black pepper spice, black cherry, dark berry, and schisty mineral notes. It's medium-full bodied on the palate with fresh, succulent acids and savoury, stony, black cherry, and black pepper spice flavours with touches of garrigue and herb. Well-balanced with refined tannins that have a nice, slightly chalky textured grip. Excellent length on the stony finish. Recommended buy! Score: 91+ pts

Other lovely wines from M. Chapoutier can be found at the LCBO, as well as through their Agent - Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.


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  • Date publishedMonday, April 5, 2021

Lealtanza Reserva 2015 (Rioja) - Wine Review (Apr. 2021)

For wine review, I look at this lovely, vegan-friendly Rioja from Spain that arrived at the LCBO over the weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release. I last enjoyed the 2015 Lealtanza Reserva back in August when it arrived in VINTAGES earlier that month and am delighted to see it return to shelves across Ontario.

This red wine is crafted by Bodegas Altanza, a wine producer that was founded in 1998 with a name that is a synonym of quality and dedicated to producing top Reserva wines. Bodegas Altanza is located in Fuenmayor, Rioja Alta, and known for combining tradition with modernity to craft the best quality wines at competitive prices. The estate owns 220 hectares of vineyards and represents approximately 60% of their needs, with the rest sourced from winegrowers using a strict selection process.

All of their red wines are crafted using 100% Tempranillo, the "queen" of Rioja autochthonous varieties, and the most popular red varietal in Spain. Altanza's wines are fermented with natural yeasts, and while most wines from Rioja are aged in American oak barrels, Altanza chooses to age all of their wines primarily in French oak barrels, including the use of 22,000 Litre Allier vats.

Back in August, I suggested that this fine red wine could be enjoyed over the next 4-5 years, so let's see how it has evolved since that time.

Lealtanza Reserva 2015 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

LEALTANZA RESERVA 2015 - Vegan, DOCa Rioja, Spain (#208223) (XD) - $22.95
100% Tempranillo that was aged for 18 months in French barrels, followed by 3 months in 22,000 Litre French oak vats. The medium-high intensity nose is pleasantly savoury and mature in profile with sweet spice, sandalwood, and earthy aromas alongside dried berry, cherry, and touches of dried floral. It's medium+ bodied on the savoury palate with more earthy, sandalwood, sweet spice, and some dried cherry and floral flavours. Acids are well-balanced, while the fine-grained tannins have a subtle textured grip. Well-balanced throughout with lovely savoury, sandalwood, and dried cherry notes lingering on the long, slightly chalky finish. Enjoy this fine, maturing Rioja over the next 3-4 years. Score: 90 pts

Other lovely wines from Bodegas Altanza can be ordered through their Agent - Profile Wine Group.


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  • Date publishedSaturday, April 3, 2021

LAVAU Vacqueyras 2017 (Rhône) - Wine Review

Tonight's wine review is the latest vintage of this lovely red wine from the Southern Rhône Valley cru of Vacqueyras that arrived at the LCBO today as part of the April 3, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Maison LAVAU was founded in the Rhône Valley in 1964 by the Lavau family that had been involved in winemaking from Bordeaux to Tunisia for several generations. Seduced by the richness and quality of the Provencal soils, the Lavau family decided to settle in the Rhône Valley. Today, Maison LAVAU continues to be managed by brothers Benoit and Frédéric Lavau, and they own three cellars in the Southern Rhône Valley where they vinify all of their wines. In addition to owning wine estates covering more than 180 hectares of vines across the Rhône Valley, the Lavau family has also formed long-running partnerships with more than 350 growers, thus allowing Maison LAVAU to select the best terroir and grapes in order to craft top quality wines.

I last enjoyed the 2014 LAVAU Vacqueyras back in June 2018 and am surprised that this red wine did not come back to the LCBO for a couple of years. The 2017 vintage in the Southern Rhone can be described as inconsistent with heavy rains in May leading to reduced yields of the ever-sensitive Grenache. However, there was almost no rain from the end of June and it was very hot throughout the rest of the growing season, resulting in a very good quality vintage that produced structured, age-worthy wines. The reduced yields of Grenache apparently had no effect on this wine is it remains a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 10% Mourvédre. The vines have an average age of 35+ years old and were grown on west-facing parcels on the plain of Vacqueyras with good draining alluvial and sandy soils. Let's see how the 2017 is tasting tonight...

LAVAU Vacqueyras 2017 (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

LAVAU VACQUEYRAS 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (#104927) (XD) - $26.95
A blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 10% Mourvédre that was aged in a combination of stainless steel vats and used barrels. The medium-high intensity nose has a savoury core surrounded by complex aromas of black pepper, dark berry, spice, and plum notes. The full-ish bodied palate has lovely flavours of red cherry, raspberry, spice with savoury undertones and a hint of orange. It has well-balanced acidity and refined, well-knit tannins with a touch of chalky grip. Really well-balanced throughout with more savoury and stony flavours with spice and a tinge of orange on the long finish. Enjoy this lovely Vacqueyras over the next 5+ years. Score: 91 pts

Other lovely wines from Maison Lavau can be ordered through their Agent - Connexion Oenophilia.


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  • Date publishedThursday, April 1, 2021

Errázuriz Aconcagua Alto Carmenère 2018 (Chile) - Wine Review

To start off the long weekend, wine review is this lovely Carmenère from Chile that arrives at the LCBO this long weekend as the Wine of the Month from the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Viña Errázuriz was founded in 1870 by businessman and politician Don Maximiano Errázuriz. With a great vision for the future, along with an innovative and pioneering spirit, he planted the first French grape varietals in the Aconcagua Valley, about 65 km north of Santiago. The winery has since passed through generations of the family and today still remains with the descendants of Don Maximiano. Today, Eduardo Chadwick represents the fifth generation of the family to lead Viña Errázuriz, an iconic Chilean winery that has become one of the world's most noteworthy.

I've had the opportunity to taste previous vintages of this wine and it has always been a delight. The 2018 vintage of this Carmenère is sourced from their vineyard site located 600 metres above sea level, on the second ancient alluvial terrace of the Aconcagua River where the deep gravel soil has a clay-loam texture. These unique soil conditions, plus the radiant sun, allows this late-ripening varietal to have great success in the Aconcagua Valley. The grapes for this red wine were hand-picked, double sorted, and then crushed. After fermentation in stainless steel tanks, it was aged in French oak barrels (35% new) for 14 months. Overall, the 2018 vintage in Chile was considered to be brilliant. Let's see how this Carmenère is tasting tonight...

Errázuriz Aconcagua Alto Carmenère 2018 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

ERRÁZURIZ ACONCAGUA ALTO CARMENÈRE 2018 - DO Valle de Aconcagua, Chile (#546424) (XD) - $21.95
Fresh, herbally, tomato leaf, and roasted red pepper aromas surround a core and red and black fruits, and subtle wood spice. The medium-full bodied palate offers juicy, slightly tart red and dark berry fruits, tomato leaf, paprika, and wood spice flavours, with herbally and red pepper notes in the background. Very clean and well-balanced throughout with balanced acidity and textured, slightly chalky tannins. Earthy and savoury on the long, structured finish. Enjoy this fine Carmenère over the next 3-5 years. Score: 90 pts

Other fine wines from Viña Errázuriz can be found at the LCBO, as well as through their Agent - Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.


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  • Date publishedThursday, April 1, 2021

April 3, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release Wine Picks: California + Food-Friendly Wines

LCBO Wine Picks: April 3, 2021 VINTAGES Release
The main theme of what is a pretty good April 3, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release focuses on wines from California, while the mini-theme looks at food-friendly wines. All of these wines, including those from the rest of Release should be available on shelves across Ontario by this Saturday.

We begin with the theme on wines from California, with varietals the main focus. Of the fourteen wines featured, three are included among my top wine picks. California Cabernet Sauvignon is usually first to come to mind when thinking of California wines, so it's no surprise that there is a top Cali Cab among my recommendations. Merlot is also making a return into the spotlight, and there is one fine example from Napa Valley that consists of 91.5% Merlot, 5.8% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2.7% Petit Verdot. The last wine from California is a lovely traditional method sparkling wine that consists of 88% Pinot Noir and 12% Chardonnay.

From the feature on food-friendly wines, the is on fresh white wines, lighter reds, and sparkling wines. Each of these styles of wines are suitable for a numbers of types of dishes and is worth a read in the magazine. Although there are some quality wines listed as part of the feature, none are included among my wine recommendations below.

There are many lovely red wines from the rest of the Release. From France, the Roussillon red is a blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Carignan, while the Vacqueyras is a blend of 50% Grenache, 40% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre. Also from France, the Côtes du Rhône-Villages is a blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, and Mourvèdre. From Italy, the Chianti Classico is a blend of approximately 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot using grapes from their estate in Radda in Chianti, while the wine from Sicily is made with the rare Frappato varietal. From Spain, the Rioja is made with 100% Tempranillo, while the Australian red is a co-fermented blend of 96% Shiraz and 4% Viognier. Lastly, the wine from Sardinia is made with Grenache, or locally known as Cannonau.

M. Chapoutier Bila-Haut Occultum Lapidem 2017 (91+ pts)Lavau Vacqueyras 2017 (91 pts)

Lealtanza Reserva 2015 (90 pts)Planeta Frappato Vittoria 2018

The Black Chook Shiraz/Viognier 2019 (88 pts)Rémy Ferbras Terre de Mistral Plan de Dieu Côtes du Rhône-Villages 2017 (90 pts)

Among my white wine picks, there are a trio of Sauvignon Blanc wines, as well as a trio of Chardonnays, including one from Burgundy. The wine from Loire is made with the Melon grape from old vines between 40 to 60 years old. For sweet wine lovers, you'll want to check out the Pinot Gris from Alsace, or the Riesling from Mosel.

For dry rosé wine lovers, check out the latest rosé from Niagara that is made with 100% Pinot Noir.

Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2020

Enjoy my wine recommendations from this Release! Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • LAURA HARTWIG SINGLE VINEYARD CARMENÈRE 2018 - DO Colchagua Valley, Chile (#213512) (XD) - $15.95  review coming soon...
  • RÉMY FERBRAS TERRE DE MISTRAL PLAN DE DIEU CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2017 - AP, France (#538009) (XD) - $16.95  90 pts  wine review
  • THE BLACK CHOOK SHIRAZ/VIOGNIER 2019 - McLaren Vale, South Australia (#66738) (XD) - $18.95  88 pts  wine review
  • ANTICHI PODERI JERZU CHUÈRRA RISERVA CANNONAU DI SARDEGNA 2017 - DOC, Sardinia, Italy (#270272) (XD) - $19.95
  • SUTHERLAND SYRAH 2016 - WO Elgin, South Africa (#13349) (XD) - $19.95
  • ERRÁZURIZ ACONCAGUA ALTO CARMENÈRE 2018 - DO Valle de Aconcagua, Chile (#546424) (XD) - $21.95  90 pts  wine review
  • LEALTANZA RESERVA 2015 - Vegan, DOCa Rioja, Spain (#208223) (XD) - $22.95  90 pts  wine review
Errázuriz Aconcagua Alto Carmenère 2018 (90 pts)Laura Hartwig Single Vineyard Carmenère 2018

  • PLANETA FRAPPATO VITTORIA 2018 - DOC, Sicily, Italy (#508655) (XD) - $24.95  review coming soon...
  • LAVAU VACQUEYRAS 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (#104927) (XD) - $26.95  91 pts  wine review
  • M. CHAPOUTIER BILA-HAUT OCCULTUM LAPIDEM 2017 - AP Côtes du Roussillon-Villages Latour-de-France (#643239) (XD) - $26.95  91+ pts  wine review
  • VOLPAIA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2017 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#953828) (XD) - $32.95
  • FREEMARK ABBEY MERLOT 2017 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#1602) (XD) - $54.95
  • TORRES MAS LA PLANA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2015 - DO Penedès, Spain (#129676) (XD) - $69.95  FE  92 pts  wine review
  • CATERWAUL CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2018 - Sustainable, Napa Valley, California, USA (#19597) (XD) - $84.95
  • CASTELLO ROMITORIO FILO DI SETA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2015 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#16751) (XD) - $139.95  FE
Torres Mas La Plana Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (92 pts)

White Wine:

  • OTU MARLBOROUGH SAUVIGNON BLANC 2019 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#17549) (XD) - $17.95
  • DOMAINE DES TILLEULS LES VÉNÉRABLES VIEILLES VIGNES SUR LIE MUSCADET SÈVRE ET MAINE 2017 - AP, Loire, France (#18546) (XD) - $18.95
  • PIERRE SPARR SOL CALCAIRE PINOT GRIS 2016 - AC Alsace, France (#19482) (M) - $19.95
  • UNDURRAGA TERROIR HUNTER SAUVIGNON BLANC 2018 - Limarí Valley, Chile (#17614) (XD) - $22.95  FE
  • SILENI STRAITS GRAND RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2019 - Sustainable, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#17550) (XD) - $23.95
  • VASSE FELIX FILIUS CHARDONNAY 2019 - Margaret River, Western Australia (#416511) (XD) - $24.95  FE
  • STUDERT-PRÜM MAXIMINHOF WEHLENER SONNENUHR RIESLING KABINETT 2017 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#970129) (S) - $24.95
  • CHÂTEAU VITALLIS POUILLY-FUISSÉ LES PERRIÈRES 2017 - AC, Burgundy, France (#18470) (XD) - $38.95
  • BACHELDER SAUNDERS-HAUT VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2017 - VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#324103) (XD) - $44.95  FE

Rosé Wine:

  • MALIVOIRE VIVANT ROSÉ 2020 - Sustainable, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#498535) (XD) - $19.95

Sparkling Wine:

  • GLORIA FERRER SONOMA BRUT SPARKLING - Traditional method, Sonoma County, California, USA (#192898) (D) - $34.95

Fortified:

  • DALVA COLHEITA PORT 1995 - Bottled 2020, DOC, Portugal (#69930) (S) - $51.95  FE  92-93 pts  wine review
Dalva Colheita Port 1995 (92-93 pts)


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  • Date publishedTuesday, March 30, 2021

Catena Appellation Agrelo Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (Argentina) - Wine Review

After enjoying the fabulous 2018 Catena Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc last week, wine review is my third recent review from Catena's Appellation series of wines - the first was the 2018 Catena Lunlunta Old Vines Appellation Malbec that I enjoyed back in February. This Cabernet Sauvignon arrived in LCBO VINTAGES on as part of the feature on Argentina - The Land of Extremes and there aren't many bottles left, so you'll want to pick-up a bottle or two before it's all gone.

Since all three wines come from different parts of Mendoza, click here to view an interesting map that shows where the grapes for each wine come from.

Pioneers in the world of Argentine winemaking, the Catena family have been producing wines in Argentina since 1902. The first major revolution occurred in the 1980's while Nicolás Catena Zapata (father of Dr. Laura Catena) was visiting California and seeing the wine revolution taking place there. In 1990, Nicolás brought back the vinification style which he dubbed the Californian-French style - where wines were crafted with freshness, intense fruit, and new oak hints using only French oak barrels - and crafted his first vintage using this style in 1990. A couple of wines were created, but the special wine was a Cabernet Sauvignon using grapes planted at Catena's Agrelo vineyards. Following the success of this wine, this vinification style was quickly adopted by other wineries in Mendoza.

While Malbec is by far the most widely planted grape in Argentina, Cabernet Sauvignon is the third most widely planted, not far behind Bonarda. As Cabernet Sauvignon is considered the king of reds, it has been researched extensively in Argentina and produces wines of different styles based on where its grown in the country.

This Cabernet Sauvignon is from Catena's historic vineyard in the Agrelo Appellation. This vineyard is located just south of Mendoza city, within the Luján de Cuyo DOC, which itself is part of the larger Uco Valley. The Agrelo Vineyard is planted at an elevation of 950 metres (3,116 feet) above sea level and is of alluvial origin with clay topsoil and rounded rocks on the bottom; it is composed of 30% sand, 30% clay, and 40% silt. The region of Agrelo is well-regarded for its Cabernet Sauvignon as its deep clay soils and moderate climate produce wines with robust tannins and smooth, lengthy finish.

Family vintners for over 100 years, the Catenas are recognized for their pioneering role in high-altitude viticulture in Argentina. This wine is sourced from the family's historic vineyards in the Agrelo Appellation, a region well-regarded for Cabernet Sauvignon in Mendoza. The appellation's deep clay soils and moderate climate produce wines that are revered for their robust tannins and smooth, lengthy finish.

Catena Appellation Agrelo Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (92 pts)

Tasting Note:

CATENA APPELLATION AGRELO CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2018 - Agrelo, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#484303) (XD) - $21.95
100% Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in French oak barrels (35% new) for 12 months. Gorgeous, highly aromatic nose is fresh with lovely, complex notes of red and black fruit, currant, cassis, stony mineral, graphite, and pencil lead, turning smoky with time in the glass. It's full-bodied on the ripe, supple palate with more red and black fruit, currant, and cassis flavours joined by herbally notes. Acids are fresh and well-balanced, while smooth, supple tannins are well-integrated, yet still offer some structure. Excellent finish length on the slightly chalky finish with savoury mineral and herbal flavours. Highly recommended buy to enjoy over at least the next 4-5 years. Score: 92 pts

Other fabulous wines by Catena can be found at the LCBO, as well as through their Agent - Noble Estates Wines & Spirits.


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  • Date publishedSunday, March 28, 2021

The Black Chook Shiraz/Viognier 2019 (Australia) - Wine Review

wine review is the latest vintage of this always popular Australian Shiraz (which includes a small amount of Viognier) that arrives at the LCBO next weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

The Black Chook brand was founded with its first vintage in 2003 using premium fruit from winegrowing regions in South Australia. The Back Chook struts wines that are affordable, enjoyed and adored, shared and celebrated, and has enjoyed great success in Australia, Canada, and USA. With careful vineyard selection and an exceptional winemaking team, The Black Chook strives to have consistent varietal expression in their wines which are approachable and generous with character.

While seeking a name for this new line of wines, a black chicken - or Black Chook - stopped by and lingered around. They decided to immortalize that single Black Chook and today it can be seen scratching and pecking for grubs under the big old gum tree by the Cellar Door.

I last enjoyed the 2017 The Black Chook Shiraz/Viognier back in July 2019 and am curious to see how this vintage compares. For this vintage, the fruit was sourced solely from the premium grape growing region of McLaren Vale in South Australia. The wine region of McLaren Vale has a Mediterranean climate with warm, dry summers and cool, wet winters, making it well-suited to growing high quality Shiraz grapes. Although the vintage was smaller than average, the quality of the fruit was good with concentrated berries and intense flavours. Let's see how this 2019 is tasting tonight...

The Black Chook Shiraz/Viognier 2019 (88 pts)

Tasting Note:

THE BLACK CHOOK SHIRAZ/VIOGNIER 2019 - McLaren Vale, South Australia (#66738) (XD) - $18.95
Screw cap. This co-fermented blend of 96% Shiraz and 4% Viognier has fresh aromas of red berry, cherry, and floral aromas rising out of the glass. The ripe, full-bodied palate has a dark fruited profile of blueberry, cold cream, and peppery spice flavours along with touches of wood and floral. It has fresh, lemony acidity, while the tannins are sweet, ripe, rounded, and dusty textured. Woody, pepper, and dark berry notes linger on the finish, with good length. Highly quaffable and goes down easy. Score: 88 pts

Other delicious wines from The Black Chook can be ordered through their Agent - Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd.


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  • Date publishedFriday, March 26, 2021

Catena Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc 2018 (Argentina) - Wine Review

Following up on the excellent 2018 Catena Lunlunta Old Vines Appellation Malbec, wine review is another lovely red wine from Catena's Appellation Series. This Cabernet Franc arrived at the LCBO earlier this month as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release where it was featured in the theme on Argentina - The Land of Extremes.

The Catena family have been making wines in Argentina since 1902, spanning four generations now and led today by the brilliant Dr. Laura Catena. Together, Catena family has revolutionized Argentine winemaking, turning the country into a world-class wine region. On top of introducing Malbec to Argentina and believing that it could stand among the best in the world, Catena also planted vines at very high altitudes where no one thought it would ripen. They have also studied in great detail the climate and soils in Mendoza and other parts of Argentina while continuing to learn through the Catena Institute of Wine that was established by Laura in 1995. Malbec is usually the first grape variety to come to mind when thinking of wines from Argentina, but there are other varieties that have found success in Argentina.

Cabernet Franc isn't widely planted in Argentina, with only 1,200 hectares vines that represent just 1% of all red varieties planted in the country. Originally from the humid climate of Bordeaux, the modern history of Cabernet Franc in Argentina began only in the 1990s and has quickly adapted to the high altitude vineyards and dry climate of Argentina. Cabernet Franc was intended to give strength to blends, as found in the 2017 Doña Paula 1350 that I enjoyed a couple of days ago. However, Cabernet Franc has shown that in can excel on its own.

This particular Cabernet Franc by Catena was grown in the family's historic vineyards in San Carlos at an high-altitude of 1,090 metres (3,576 feet) above sea level on soils that are alluvial in origin. This vineyard has loamy, sandy soil with thick calcareous layers with rounded rocks on the bottom. It is composed of 70% sand, 10% clay, and 20% silt. Because Cabernet Franc is a very transparent grape (figuratively speaking) as it expresses its terroir very well. Thus, Argentinean Cabernet Franc provides a combination of taste, sense of place, and character that makes it unique and like no other.

Catena Appellation San Carlos Cabernet Franc 2018 (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

CATENA APPELLATION SAN CARLOS CABERNET FRANC 2018 - San Carlos, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#450106) (XD) - $19.95
The medium-high intensity aromatics are fresh and ripe with red and black fruits, currant, cassis, smoky mineral, and touches of leafy herb in a slightly reductive profile. It is medium-full bodied on the clean, ripe palate with spicy red fruits flavours joined by currant. stony-smoky mineral, and black pepper notes. It's well-balanced with fresh acidity and supple, textured tannins that have some tannic grip. Stony mineral notes linger on the long, textured finish. Enjoy this unique Cabernet Franc over the next 5+ years. Score: 91 pts

Other fabulous wines by Catena can be found at the LCBO, as well as through their Agent - Noble Estates Wines & Spirits.


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  • Date publishedWednesday, March 24, 2021

Doña Paula 1350 2017 (Argentina) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely, vegan-friendly, red blend from Argentina that arrived at the LCBO as part of the feature on Argentina - The Land of Extremes in the LCBO VINTAGES Release - with bottles still available to buy now.

Doña Paula was established in 1997 in Ugarteche, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza. Their philosophy is that excellent wine is nothing but the most faithful expression of the vineyard. To ensure that they have complete control over the grape growing process, Doña Paula crafts all of their wines using grapes from their own vineyards. These vineyards, which today number approximately 703 hectares, are planted in the best areas of the country such as Gualtallary, Altamira and Los Cerezos, within the Uco Valley. Doña Paula has carried out a number of detailed studies to determine Mendoza’s soils and microclimates, all of which help to express the terroir in each bottle of wine.

I had the opportunity to taste the lovely 2015 Doña Paula 1350 at the Wines of Argentina Masterclass in and was excited to see the latest vintage come to stores earlier this month. This red wine is part of the Doña Paula's Altitude blend series and named after the altitude (1,350 metres) of their Alluvia Vineyard in Gualtallary where the grapes were grown. It is a blend of nearly equal parts Cabernet Franc and Malbec, plus a small amount of Casavecchia - a rare Italian grape variety which was first planted by Doña Paula in 2006. The soils at the Alluvia Vineyard are sandy with alluvial and calcareous stones, while the climate has warm days and cool nights. Since the beginning, all of the vineyards at Doña Paula have been managed using sustainable agricultural practices.

The 2017 vintage in Mendoza was fantastic in terms of quality and considered one of the best vintages in recent years with a return to its characteristically warm and dry climate, albeit with reduced yields. While the 2015 vintage of this wine was lovely, I would expect the 2017 vintage to be even better. Let's see how it is tasting tonight...

Doña Paula 1350 2017 (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

DOÑA PAULA 1350 2017 - Gualtallary, Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#17382) (XD) - $24.95
A blend of 50% Cabernet Franc, 45% Malbec, and 5% Casavecchia that was aged in mostly used French oak barrels for 14-16 months. Fresh, intense aromatics are savoury and spicy with stony mineral, dark berry, blackberry, and wet earth aromas along with touches of dried herb and floral. On the fresh, medium+ bodied palate it has fine spicy, stony mineral, black fruit replays, plus some woody notes supported by refreshing acidity and grainy, structured, and grippy tannins. Minerally with dark berry and dried herb notes lingering on the finish, with excellent length. Enjoyable now and will improve with a few years in the cellar. Highly recommended buy. Score: 91 pts

Some of the many lovely wines from Doña Paula are available at the LCBO, while others can be ordered through their Agent - Select Wines.


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  • Date publishedMonday, March 22, 2021

Château de Tréviac Corbières 2017 (Languedoc) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely unoaked red wine from the Corbières appellation in Languedoc that arrived at the LCBO over the weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Château de Tréviac is a 20 hectare estate located in Talairan, a small and sunny village in the South of France, between the towns of Carcassonne and Perpignan, in the heart of the Corbières appellation. It is owned by the young and dynamic winegrower Arnaud Sié, who decided to take over the family estate in 2000 after completing his studies in History.

Arnaud has worked tirelessly to modernize the wine cellars and the vineyard, and today has 20 hectares of vineyards, 14 hectares of which are located within the Corbières appellation. The south-facing vineyards are surrounded by garrigue and located between 200 to 350 metres altitude on very rocky limestone-clay soils, a perfect terroir for Syrah and Grenache. The Syrah vines are approximately about 15+ years old, while the Grenache is 35+ years old, and the yields are kept low to increase concentration in the wines. The crop is completely hand-harvested and sorted in the vineyard, and de-stemmed and crushed upon arriving at the cellar.

I have enjoyed previous vintages of this red wine, including most recently the 2016 Château de Tréviac Corbières back in and fully expect this vintage to also be highly pleasurable.

Château de Tréviac Corbières 2017 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

CHÂTEAU DE TRÉVIAC CORBIÈRES 2017 - AP, Languedoc, France (#670505) (XD) - $18.95
This tank-aged blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache has a medium-high intensity nose that is rich, swarthy, and quite pretty with dark berry, cherry, black licorice, garrigue, pepper, anise, and subtle stony-smoky mineral aromas. On the full-bodied, concentrated palate it has lovely black cherry, licorice, black pepper, spice, and stony mineral flavours supported by fresh, lively acidity and refined tannins that have a somewhat chalky, grippy texture. Black cherry, licorice, and savoury, stony, smoky mineral notes linger on the long finish. Enjoy this great buy over the next few years. Score: 90 pts

Other lovely wines from Château de Tréviac can be ordered through their Agent - Connexion Oenophilia.


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  • Date publishedSaturday, March 20, 2021

Wakefield Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (Australia) - Wine Review

wine review is the latest vintage of the always reliable and delicious Wakefield Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon from Australia that arrived at the LCBO recently as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release - with plenty of bottles still widely available across the province.

Wakefield Wines are crafted by the Taylors family. They have been making wines since the 1950s and founded their own winery by the Wakefield River in South Australia's Clare Valley in 1969. With three generations of the family involved in the business, their principle is to create fine wines made with great dedication and care, while also respecting the fruit. Being family-owned and -operated, they wish to leave a legacy for future generations and operate the business in a responsible and sustainable manner.

This red wine is part of their Jaraman range where they search for parcels of extraordinary fruit to craft wines that showcase their distinctive regional characteristics and style. Recent vintages of the Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon have leaned heavily towards fruit from Coonawarra over Clare Valley. For the 2017 vintage, there is slightly more Clare Valley fruit (56%) versus Coonawarra (44%). In Clare Valley, the weather was favourable throughout much of the growing season and the vintage was declared to be above average in quantity and fruit quality. It was a cooler growing season in Coonawarra, and combined with a large rain event during harvest resulted in not all of the fruit being harvested. The end result was less fruit being picked, although what was picked was of good quality.

Having enjoyed previous vintages of this wine, including most recently the 2016 Wakefield Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon last , I would expect a wine of similar quality, but perhaps a slightly different profile for this vintage. Coonawarra Cabernets tend to have a range of fruit flavours when young, and develop earthy, savoury, and spicy notes with age. Clare Valley Cabernets are strong, bold, powerful, and earthy. Let's see how this Australian Cabernet Sauvignon is tasting tonight...

Wakefield Jaraman Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

WAKEFIELD JARAMAN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2017 - Clare Valley & Coonawarra, South Australia (#142398) (XD) - $24.95
100% Cabernet Sauvignon from both Clare Valley (56%) and Coonawarra (44%) that was raised in used French oak barrels for 10-12 months. Screw cap enclosure. The medium+ intensity nose has a pretty, minty-eucalypt-herbal notes layered over currant, cassis, and blackberry aromas, all of which surrounds a savoury, earthy core. The full-bodied, structured palate has more minty-herbal flavours mingling with red currant, cassis, savoury earth, and wood spice flavours. It has juicy, well-balanced acidity and smooth, fine-grained tannins. Very good length on the textured, savoury, earthy, and minty finish. Enjoy this fine Australian Cab over the next 6-7 years. Score: 89 pts

Other lovely wines from Wakefield Wines are available at the LCBO, and can also be ordered through their Agent - Profile Wine Group.


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  • Date publishedThursday, March 18, 2021

Tonel 78 Barrel Select Malbec/Bonarda 2017 (Argentina) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely blend consisting of Argentina's two most widely planted grapes - Malbec and Bonarda. This red wine is a new arrival to Ontario and was released into LCBO VINTAGES on - with plenty of bottles still available across the province.

It is produced by Bodega Los Toneles, a winery founded by the Armando family in 1922. It was initially known as Armando Hermanos, but soon changed its name to Bodega de los Toneles - meaning "winery of the tuns" - due the prominent, huge French oak barrels in which its wines were aged. In 2002, the winery was purchased by the Millán family and they revived its vintage spirit by combining it with a modern approach to return the estate to its former glory.

The winery is located within the city of Mendoza, but its vineyards are scattered across the province. From the beginning, Bodega Toneles determined that wine was the manifestation of the earth and the work of human beings. Thus, they decided that the winery would only use grapes from small-scale vineyards where quality is favoured over quantity, thus preserving the values and personality of each vineyard. The Don Arturo Vineyard is located in El Manzano (Uco Valley) at 1,400 metres above sea level and has calcareous and sandy soils with a high percentage of rocks, resulting in wines of great intensity and aromas, and touches of minerals. The Mantrax Vineyard is located in Chacayes (Uco Valley) at 1,250 metres above sea level and has poor soils with very little rainfall, resulting in small berries with high concentrations of polyphenols.

This Tonel 78 red wine is a unique blend of 50% Malbec and 50% Bonarda that was crafted from selected grapes across their vineyards. It is a tribute to the great Argentine national soccer team that won the '78 World Cup. Let's see if this wine is also a winner...

Tonel 78 Barrel Select Malbec/Bonarda 2017 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

TONEL 78 BARREL SELECT MALBEC/BONARDA 2017 - Mendoza, Argentina (#17380) (XD) - $20.95
This 50/50 blend of Malbec and Bonarda was aged in French oak barrels for 12 months. The medium+ intensity aromas offer ripe dark berry, blackberry, and plum that mingle with smoky mineral and wood notes. It's full-bodied on the palate with lovely, balanced aroma replays of ripe dark berry, blackberry, plum, mineral, and wood spice. It has fresh acidity with refined, dense, and chewy tannins and some spicy notes on the mid-palate. Smoky mineral and wood spice notes linger on the slightly grippy finish, with very good length. Enjoy this winner over the next 3-4 years. Score: 90 pts

Other lovely wines from Bodega Los Toneles can be found through their Agent - Perigon Beverage Group.


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  • Date publishedThursday, March 18, 2021

March 20, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release Wine Picks: Brand New Wines + Easter

LCBO Wine Picks: March 20, 2021 VINTAGES Release
The main theme of the March 20, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release features Brand New Wines specially selected by the LCBO buyers, while the mini-theme looks at wines for Easter. All of these wines, plus those from the main release should be on shelves by Saturday.

We begin with the main theme that looks Brand New Wines specially selected by the buyers. Of the thirteen wines featured, two are included among my top wine picks. First up is a wine from South Africa's classic white grape - Chenin Blanc, while the second wine is the O: Tu Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

Wines for pairing with Easter entrées is the mini-theme of this release and of the twelve wines featured, just one is included among my wine recommendations. The lone wine is a Gamay from Beaujolais that is suggested to pair with vegetarian mains.

There are many lovely red wines from the rest of the release. First up is the excellent wine from Chile that consists of 92% Carmenere and 8% Petit Verdot, while the Portuguese red is a blend of Trincadeira, Aragonez (Tempranillo), and Castelão. From France, both Rhône reds are made with Syrah, while the Corbières is a tank-aged blend of 60% Syrah and 40% Grenache. From Italy, the Chianti Classico is a blend of 80% Sangiovese, 13% Merlot, and 7% Malvasia Nera, while the always lovely Amarone is a blend of traditional grapes Corvina, Rondinella, Oseleta, and Molinara. Single varietal wines include the Malbec from Argentina, and the Barolo that is 100% Nebbiolo.

Montes Purple Angel 2017 (92 pts)Château de Tréviac Corbières 2017 (90 pts)

Kaiken Ultra Las Rocas Malbec 2018 (89 pts)

Among my white wine recommendations from the rest of the Release, the only blend is a white wine from Rhône that consists of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Clairette, and Viognier. For those that prefer sweeter wines, check out that Niagara Riesling that is $3 off for a limited time. The rest of the white wines consist of a fine Sauvignon Blanc and a lovely quartet of Chardonnay wines from British Columbia, Niagara, Burgundy, and California.

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2019 (91 pts)

Enjoy my wine recommendations from this Release! Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • CARMIM TERRA LENTA PREMIUM 2018 - DOC Alentejo, Portugal (#646083) (XD) - $13.95
  • TERROIRS DU VENT LA VIOLETTE SYRAH 2017 - IGP Pays d'Oc, Languedoc, France (#18501) (XD) - $17.95
  • VAUCHER PÈRE & FILS FLEURIE 2018 - AC, Beaujolais, France (#534339) (XD) - $17.95
  • CHÂTEAU DE TRÉVIAC CORBIÈRES 2017 - AP, Languedoc, France (#670505) (XD) - $18.95  90 pts  wine review
  • KAIKEN ULTRA LAS ROCAS MALBEC 2018 - Vegan, Mendoza, Argentina (#50849) (XD) - $19.95  89 pts  wine review
  • FAYOLLE LA CUVÉE NICOLAS CROZES-HERMITAGE 2017 - AC, Rhône, France (#19283) (XD) - $33.95
  • CASTELLO DI AMA SAN LORENZO GRAN SELEZIONE CHIANTI CLASSICO 2016 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#12751) (XD) - $57.95
  • CORINO DEL COMUNE DI LA MORRA BAROLO 2015 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#17538) (XD) - $58.95
  • MASI RISERVA DI COSTASERA AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2015 - DOCG, Veneto, Italy (#324137) (D) - $69.95
  • MONTES PURPLE ANGEL 2017 - DO Colchagua Valley, Chile (#62364) (XD) - $69.95  92 pts  wine review

White Wine:

  • THE WINERY OF GOOD HOPE BUSH VINE CHENIN BLANC 2019 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#18685) (XD) - $13.95
  • GABRIEL MEFFRE SAINT-VINCENT CÔTES DU RHÔNE-VILLAGES 2019 - AP, France (#17890) (XD) - $16.95
  • TAWSE SKETCHES OF NIAGARA RIESLING 2017 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#89029) (M) - $18.95 $15.95 until Mar. 28
  • O: TU LIMITED RELEASE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2019 - Otuwhero Top Block Vineyard, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#17548) (XD) - $19.95
  • DOG POINT SAUVIGNON BLANC 2019 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#677450) (XD) - $27.95  91 pts  wine review
  • DOMAINE CHARLY NICOLLE PER ASPERA CHABLIS 2018 - AC, Burgundy, France (#18469) (XD) - $29.95
  • BACHELDER LES VILLAGES CHARDONNAY 2018 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#16059) (XD) - $34.95  FE
  • STAGS' LEAP WINERY CHARDONNAY 2018 - Napa Valley, California, USA (#655381) (XD) - $39.95
  • QUAILS' GATE STEWART FAMILY RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2017 - BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada (#639641) (XD) - $44.95  FE

Sparkling Wine:

  • CHARLES MIGNON CUVÉE COMTE DE MARNE BRUT GRAND CRU CHAMPAGNE - AC, Champagne, France (#18133) (XD) - $69.95  FE
  • BILLECART-SALMON BRUT NATURE CHAMPAGNE - AC, France (#458570) (XD) - $85.95


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  • Date publishedTuesday, March 16, 2021

Zuccardi Q Chardonnay 2019 (Argentina) - Wine Review

wine review is the first in a series of wines from Argentina that arrived at the LCBO earlier this month as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release that featured the wines of Argentina - The Land of Extremes.

Sebastián Zuccardi of Zuccardi Wines crafted this fine Chardonnay. He is the third generation of a winemaking family that's had a strong visionary and innovative spirit that began in 1963 when Sebastián's grandfather planted his first hectares of grapevines in Maipú, Mendoza. Sebastián inherited his father's determination and desire to constantly strive for excellence to help make Zuccardi Wines a leader in Argentina wine production.

Like the 2018 Zuccardi Q Malbec that I enjoyed back in January, this lovely white wine is also a frequent visitor to Ontario and comes from Zuccardi's Regional collection of Mountain Wines. The 2019 vintage of this lovely Chardonnay comes from selected vineyard lots in Gualtallary that was grown at 1,250 metres above sea-level, and in El Peral at 1,150 metres altitude. Gualtallary and El Peral are actually neighbouring wine regions in Tupungato that stretch from the base of the Andes Mountains down into the Uco Valley. Gualtallary is one of the most exciting wine regions in South America due to the combination of its most diverse climate and soils. The soil profile of this Chardonnay is alluvial, with gravel covered with calcium carbonate at a shallow depth, and caliche and calcareous sands. With the 2019 vintage considered to be exceptional, I fully expect this consistently delicious Chardonnay from a quality producer to also be exceptional. Let's see how it's tasting tonight...

Zuccardi Q Chardonnay 2019 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

ZUCCARDI Q CHARDONNAY 2019 - Tupungato, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#232702) (XD) - $19.95
100% Chardonnay from Gualtallary and El Peral that was fermented using native yeasts in concrete and used oak barrels, and aged "sur lie". The medium-high intensity aromatics are ripe with stone fruit, pear, apple, and citrus with hints of pineapple and banana. It's medium-full bodied on the ripe, fruit forward palate with stone fruit, apple, and pear flavours along with a touch of vanilla in a slightly honeyed profile. Acids are crisp and fresh, while leesy mineral notes come through on the long, slightly spicy, chalky textured finish. Lovely! Score: 89 pts

Other lovely wines from Zuccardi are available at LCBO, while the full portfolio can be ordered via their Agent - The Bacchus Group.


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  • Date publishedSunday, March 14, 2021

Château Clarke 2016 (Bordeaux) - Wine Review

wine review is an excellent Left Bank Bordeaux red wine from the Listrac-Médoc AOC that arrived at the LCBO last month as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release - with plenty of bottles still available across Ontario.

Château Clarke bears the name of the Irish family that acquired this wine estate in 1771. Over the next 200 years, the estate has been handed down over several generations while keeping the winemaking tradition alive. With a love for wine like many of his family members, Baron Edmond de Rothschild acquired Château Clarke in 1973 with a dream to turn this intimate, unassuming, and promising vineyard into a masterpiece with the pursuit of excellence. After the acquisition, the neglected vineyard was re-created over several years to the 54 hectares of vines that exist today. The focus on excellence in the vineyard and cellar has elevated Château Clarke to rank among best wines of Médoc. With the passing of Baron Edmond de Rothschild in January, the estate was inherited by his son, Benjamin de Rothschild.

Listrac-Médoc AOC, which itself is located in lower-central Médoc, is known for its three gravel terraces on limestone foundation soils. The nearby Atlantic Ocean gives the terroir in Listrac-Médoc a freshness that is reflected in the aromatic brilliance of the wine. While all Left Bank Bordeaux wines are usually blends with Cabernet Sauvignon the dominant varietal, there are exceptions such as Château Clarke. The vines at Château Clarke are planted on clay-limestone hilltops that are ideal for Merlot. Thus, this red wine is predominantly Merlot, and the 2016 is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon.

I've had the pleasure of tasting previous vintages of this wine and have always been impressed by it. From an excellent 2016 Bordeaux vintage, let's see how this is tasting tonight...

Château Clarke 2016 (92+ pts)

Tasting Note:

CHÂTEAU CLARKE 2016 - AC Listrac-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (#503904) (XD) - $54.95
Blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. The shy nose slowly reveals itself with aromas of crushed dark berry, blackberry, black cherry, raspberry, and earthy wood aromas with whiffs of pretty red florals and herb. The full-bodied, concentrated, and structured palate has elegance and very good depth of fruit with nicely balanced spicy flavours of dark berry, black cherry, raspberry, and savoury earthy notes joined by stony mineral and sour cherry flavours. There's a touch of warmth on the mid-palate, but it's still well-balanced by juicy acids and firm, slightly chalky tannins. Savoury, stony mineral, and red berry flavours linger on the finish, with excellent length. A lovely Bordeaux to enjoy now through to the mid-2030s. Score: 92+ pts

To find other lovely wines by Château Clarke, please contact Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.


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  • Date publishedFriday, March 12, 2021

Great Italian Wines - Understanding Indigenous Grape Varieties - Sangiovese & Vernaccia di San Gimignano

Great Italian Wines - Understanding Indigenous Grape Varieties - Sangiovese & Vernaccia di San Gimignano
After enjoying last month's masterclass on Great Italian Wines - Understanding Indigenous Grape Varieties featuring Nebbiolo & Valpolicella, I travelled to Tuscany yesterday evening (virtually, of course) to learn about the grape varietals Sangiovese & Vernaccia di San Gimignano. This class is the second in the series being held by the Italian Chamber of Commerce of Ontario (ICCO).

Tuscany is Italy's oldest wine producing region with winegrowing activities by the Etruscans occurring as far back as the 8th century BC. The hilly terrain is ideal for producing world class wines, and although Tuscany is the 4th most widely planted wine region in Italy by acreage, they are 6th most by volume due to the focus on lower yields and higher quality. Of the total wine production, 85% is devoted to producing red and rosé wines, and 15% to white wines. Sangiovese is the most widely planted varietal in Tuscany, while Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG is considered to be Tuscany's most noblest white wine.

Vernaccia is a white wine grape grown mainly in the commune of San Gimignano within the province of Siena, Tuscany, in north-central Italy. The earliest record of Vernaccia in San Gimignano dates back to the year 1276. Vernaccia is yellow-green and amber coloured and grows in big bunches with medium-sized berries. It prefers sandstone with marly clay soils at altitudes between 200 and 400 metres above sea-level.

Vernaccia di San Gimignano DOCG is a designation of quality, similar to the French AOC system. To meet DOCG standards, 85% of of the wine must be cultivated within San Gimignano, and 15% of the wine can be blended with other local white, non-aromatic grapes. Riserva wines are aged in wood for a minimum of 11 months, plus a further 3 months in bottle prior to release. Typical aromas and flavours of Vernaccia di San Gimignano wines are white flowers, green apple, citrus, and honey, as I detected in the fine, unoaked example that was featured in the masterclass.

Il Colombaio di Santa Chiara Selvabianca Vernaccia di San Gimignano 2019 (91 pts)

Sangiovese is one of the most important grape varieties in Italy and among the top 10 in the world. Approximately 10% of all vineyards in Italy are planted to Sangiovese, while more than 60% of vineyards in Tuscany are home to Sangiovese. Although Sangiovese's origins are unknown, it is thought to come from domesticated wild vines of Etruscan origin. There is also some DNA evidence that suggests it came from the south as a cross between varietals Ciliegiolo and Calabrese di Montenuovo. The name "Sangiovese" comes from the latin term "sanguis Jovis", which translates to "the blood of Jove or Jupiter".

In the vineyard, Sangiovese buds early and is slow to ripen. It thrives on hillsides and higher altitudes (up to a certain point), and prefers the direct sunlight, warmth, and dry climate that is found in Tuscany. Sangiovese is very sensitive to terroir and prefers soils with limestone such as Galestro and Alberese. As the king of Tuscan viticulture, Sangiovese produces wines of many different styles from many places in Tuscany. Notable wines include Chianti DOCG, Chianti Classico DOCG, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG, Morellino di Scansano DOCG, and the Super Tuscans. Typical fruit aromas and flavours are in the red cherry, sour cherry, strawberry, and raspberry spectrum, plus savoury notes of earth, leather, licorice, and tobacco, as well as floral notes. High acidity and firm tannins are also characteristics of Sangiovese wines, lending itself to be highly ageable.

Istine Vigna Cavarchione Chianti Classico 2017 (92 pts)

Both of the lovely wines featured in the masterclass are represented by Cavinona, an Ontario-based wine agency that specializes in Italian wine, and can be purchased by the bottle at their wine shops - contact Cavinona directly for details. You can also purchase the Vernaccia by the case and use discount code ICCOMARCH for 10% off until April 14th. This special discount code can be used on any case purchase on cavinona.com.

The small bites included as part of the tasting package contained some Pecorino Toscano DOP and Grana Padano DOP cheeses, as well as Taggiasche and Baresane Olives. The package also included Patè di Fegatini with crostini (Tuscan chicken liver patè) and Focaccia Toscana, all of which were made in-house by Chef Boris and Head Butcher at Spaccio, Terroni's production kitchen.

The final masterclass in the series is on April 15th and will focus on the grape varieties Aglianico & Montepulciano. You can join us by registering for the free class here. To order your wines for the April 15th masterclass, please visit Bottega di Terroni. To participate on social media, follow @trueitaliantaste and these hashtags on Instagram: #ExtraordinaryItalianTaste #TrueItalianTaste #iffoodcouldtalk.

Tasting Notes:

IL COLOMBAIO DI SANTA CHIARA SELVABIANCA VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMIGNANO 2019 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (XD) - $29.24
100% Vernaccia di San Gimignano that was organically grown on sandy soils rich in stone and fossils, and deep soil with mixed consistency and pebbles. Hand-harvested and fermented in cement vats and stainless steel tanks, while also spending some months on the lees. Fresh, medium-high intensity nose offers delightful aromas of white florals, lemon citrus, green apple, leesy mineral, and wet stone characters. It's medium-full to full-bodied on the ripe, concentrated, palate with flavours of honeysuckle, floral, lemon, and stony-leesy mineral notes. It has succulent, juicy acidity while leesy, mineral and some saline notes linger on the long, chalky textured finish. Best enjoyed on the cool side. Score: 91 pts

ISTINE VIGNA CAVARCHIONE CHIANTI CLASSICO 2017 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (XD) - $57.49
Organically farmed, 100% Sangiovese from the best selection of the vineyard in the Radda in Chianti sub-zone. It was fermented in concrete tanks and aged in 20 hL Slavonian oak barrels for 12 months. Fragrant, intense, perfumed aromatics are elegant with notes of red cherry, cinnamon, red floral, sweet spice, and clove. On the medium-full to full-bodied on the palate it has very good fruit concentration with lovely aroma replays of red cherry, floral, sweet cinnamon spice, and savoury earthy notes. It has very good acidity and some structure to the slightly chalky textured tannins. Excellent length on the long, savoury, and juicy finish. Gorgeous! Score: 92 pts


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  • Date publishedMonday, March 8, 2021

San Pedro 1865 Selected Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (Chile) - Wine Review

red wine review is a fine Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile that returned to the LCBO over the weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Founded in 1865 in the Curicó Valley by the Correa brothers, Viña San Pedro is today one of Chile's most important producers. The brothers were pioneers in bringing different varieties from the Old World to the Curicó, exploring the rich and varied soils of Chile, while also welcoming new opportunities to further the progress of Chilean winemaking. Viña San Pedro produces a diverse range of wines of exceptional quality from distinct origins, while also working in harmony with nature and the environment to meet their sustainable goals.

This particular Cabernet Sauvignon is from the 1865 Wines Collection - a distinct set of wines that was created in 1997 to honour the founding of San Pedro in 1865 and highlights the unique regions and styles. Each bottle of 1865 wine is the product of careful selection of emblematic varietals from Chile's most recognized wine regions. The grapes for this Cabernet Sauvignon come from Chile's finest terroir in the Maipo Valley. It was grown mainly in the Los Piedros Vineyard at the foothills of the Andes Mountains where the soils are poor and gravelly. In this vineyard, there is also a second terrace that has alluvial soil from the Maipo River, a terroir that helps produce Chile's best Cabernet Sauvignon.

I have tasted and recommended previous editions of this fine Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon, so let's see how the 2018 is tasting tonight...

San Pedro 1865 Selected Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

SAN PEDRO 1865 SELECTED VINEYARDS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2018 - DO Maipo Valley, Chile (#37911) (XD) - $19.95
The medium+ intensity nose offers fresh red and black berry fruit, and cassis with touches of minty herb, wood spice, and a whiff of earthy mineral. The full-bodied, concentrated palate is spicy with more red and black fruit, and savoury oak flavours. It has fresh, lively acidity and refined, structured tannins that have some chalky grip. The minty herbal notes arrive on the mid-palate, joined by savoury oak on the satisfying finish, with very good length. Score: 89 pts

Other lovely wines from Viña San Pedro can be found at the LCBO, as well as through their Agent - Philippe Dandurand Wines Ltd.


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  • Date publishedSaturday, March 6, 2021

Michael David Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (California) - Wine Review

wine review is a delicious California Cabernet Sauvignon from the Lodi Appellation. The Freakshow is a frequent visitor to the LCBO and the latest vintage arrived in Ontario today as part of the March 6, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release.

It is produced by Michael David Winery, a family-run producer that has long and deep roots in Lodi - a wine region that sits east of San Francisco Bay and the west of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Founded by brothers Michael and David Phillips, they are the 5th generation of the Phillips family that have been farming the soils of Lodi since the 1860's and winegrowing since the early 20th century. Michael's son, Kevin, and daughter, Melissa, are now the 6th generation of the family to join the team.

With a drive to leave the land in a better condition for future generations, it is a family legacy to focus on sustainability. Although Michael David wines can be unconventional, they are all responsibly grown in a sustainable manner - environmental, social, and economic - according to appellation rules, of which there are more than 100 standards that account for all aspects to making quality wine.

There are a few ranges of wines in the Michael David portfolio, including some that are packaged in cans. Thus, there is something for everyone. Michael and David are also known for their quirky personalities, while their wines are known for standing apart from the crowd, as the label of this wine illustrates. This particular red wine is from their Freakshow range, with the Cabernet Sauvignon coming from "Super Freak" himself, Michael Phillips' own Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard.

Michael David Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

MICHAEL DAVID FREAKSHOW CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2018 - Lodi, California, USA (#405175) (D) - $29.95
A blend of 82% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16% Petite Sirah, and 2% Syrah that was raised in French oak (40% new), it has an inviting and somewhat exotic medium+ intensity aromas of Bing cherry, red berry, cinnamon, strawberry preserve, baking spice, and touches of milk chocolate wafting out of the glass. On the nicely balanced, full-bodied palate it has flavours of ripe cassis, cherry, red berry, clove, and baking spice notes that are supported by smooth, refined tannins and juicy acidity. Closes with savoury, earthy, clove spice, and chocolate notes on the juicy finish, with very good length. Freakishly delicious! Score: 89 pts

Other delicious wines from Michael David Winery can be found at the LCBO, as well as through their Agent - Churchill Cellars.


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