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  • Date publishedSaturday, January 30, 2021

Indómita Old Vines Dry Farmed Gran Reserva Carignan 2018 (Chile) - Wine Review



red wine review is a lovely Carignan from Chile. It is new to the LCBO and arrived on shelves across Ontario last weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

It is produced by Viña Indómita, a relatively young winery located on a hillside in Casablanca with a gorgeous view of the valley, 64 km northwest of Santiago and just 18 km from the Pacific Ocean. They have 100 hectares of vineyards planted on clay soils that are rich in minerals. The climate in this area is fresh with high diurnal temperature variation.

Sustainability is an integral part of Viña Indómita. In addition to organic production, they also manage waste treatment, generate renewable energy, and use lightweight bottles to reduce carbon emissions. They also help protect local forests, flora and fauna, and native species. Viña Indómita also socially responsible by supporting local individuals and businesses by promoting economic activities in the areas of wine production, tourism and gastronomy.

The grape for this wine come from Maule Valley, Chile's oldest wine region, on land that has been worked for nearly 5 centuries. Maule Valley is filled with small farmers that have rustic customs and age-old cultivation techniques that have been passed down to the next generation. The grapes are de-stemmed and crush, followed by fermentation in tanks. A portion of this wine is aged in barrels for almost 1 year, while the rest remains in tank.

Looking back on my notes, I see that I liked every single Indómita wine that I tasted previously and would expect this Carignan to be just as enjoyable. Let's see how this red wine is tasting tonight...

Indómita Old Vines Dry Farmed Gran Reserva Carignan 2018 (90 pts)


Tasting Note:

INDÓMITA OLD VINES DRY FARMED GRAN RESERVA CARIGNAN 2018 - DO Maule Valley, Chile (#16627) (XD) - $17.95
A blend of 95% Carignan and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, the medium-high intensity nose is ripe with a mix of red and black fruits like raspberry, cherry, and blackberry nuanced with rustic, earthy, and dried spice aromas. It's medium+ bodied on the palate with juicy, sour acidity to support the very saline, red and black berry fruit, and charcuterie flavours surrounding the savoury core. Slightly dusty tannins are subtly textured and well-integrated. Nicely balanced throughout with pleasing earthy, savoury notes lingering on the long finish. Another winner from Indómita! Score: 90 pts

While no other wines from Viña Indómita are currently available at the LCBO, they can be ordered via their Agent - Rare Earth Wines.


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  • Date publishedWednesday, January 27, 2021

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Blanc 2018 (Midi) - Wine Review

white wine review is a lovely Côtes du Roussillon Blanc by M. Chapoutier that returned to the LCBO as part of the recent LCBO VINTAGES Release.

The origins of this historic and highly-acclaimed winemaking company date back to the year 1808, with the Chapoutier name entering the picture in 1897 and Marius Chapoutier becoming the sole owner of the company in 1922. In 1929, Marius created the new winery at the foot of the Hermitage hill. Upon the passing of Marius, his son, Marc, took over the family business and changed the name to what we see today - M. Chapoutier.

In 1990, current owner and legendary Michel Chapoutier became the head of the company and began to apply the principles of biodynamic cultivation. In 2000, Chapoutier purchased its first estate in Roussillon. This particular wine is from Domaine de Bila-Haut, a domain that Chapoutier founded in Latour-de-France, Roussillon. At first, there were a couple of wines created to express this terroir, then followed by six years of reflection, observation, and analysis. Over time, more wines were added to the portfolio, as well as adding other sites in Roussillon.

Today, Mathilde and Maxime, the children of Michel, form the next generation of the Chapoutier family to join business. Together, they perpetuate the family tradition and vision to craft wines based on the concept of terroir.

I enjoyed the 2015 Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Blanc back in and am delighted to open the 2018 vintage tonight. This bottling is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Macabeu varietals that were grown on sites belonging to Domaine de Bila-Haut. Some of the grapes come from limestone, clay soils, and gneiss in the Agly Valley, while the rest were from granite soils located on higher altitude (500 metres elevation), later ripening sites. The grapes were manually-harvested and hand-sorted to protect the aromas, while vinification occurred in stainless steel tanks, and ageing lasted only a few months to enhance freshness and minerality. Let's see how this white wine from Roussillon is tasting tonight...

Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Blanc 2018 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

LES VIGNES DE BILA-HAUT CÔTES DU ROUSSILLON BLANC 2018 - AP, Midi, France (#485656) (XD) - $15.95
This blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Macabeu has lovely floral, lemon citrus, grapefruit, and ripe apple aromas of medium+ intensity with touches of smoky mineral. The dry, medium+ bodied palate is slightly fleshy with fresh, crisp and lively acidity to support the ripe lemon citrus, grapefruit and white floral flavours, with fine mineral notes arriving on the long, crisp finish. Recommended buy. Score: 89 pts

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


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  • Date publishedMonday, January 25, 2021

Les Hauts de Lagarde Blanc 2019 (Bordeaux) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely organic and vegan-friendly white wine from Bordeaux that came to the LCBO over the weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

It is produced by Maison Raymond, a vigneron and negociant family that has a history of winegrowing that dates back to the year 1850. Maison Raymond is located in the southeastern end of Entre-Deux-Mers, Bordeaux's largest appellation, within the commune of Saint-Laurent-du-Bois. Entre-Deux-Mers stretches from near the city of Bordeaux and moves southeasterly, between the Garonne and Dordogne rivers. In addition to growing wines in Saint-Laurent-du-Bois, they also have vineyards in the villages of Saint-Martial and Saint-Felix de Conclude, where wines have been grown since medieval times.

The family property of the domaine du Château de Lagarde has been built up over years by successive generations and uses a combination of ancestral traditions and efficient, modern technologies to craft its wines. In 2000, Lionel Raymond purchased the organic vineyard of Château Joumes Fillon and because he had strong respect for the environment and terroir, he also converted his own vineyard - all 130 hectares - to organic agriculture. Most winemakers in the area thought he was crazy as it was twice the work of a conventional vineyard. Today, Maison Raymond is one of Bordeaux's largest organic wineries and one of the few in the region that has made the commitment to organic viticulture.

This particular organic white wine is a blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Sémillon that was grown on a hillside vineyard with clay-limestone soil and gravels in Saint-Laurent-du-Bois, where the climate is mild due to the influence of the Atlantic Ocean. I enjoyed tasting the 2018 vintage of this wine when it arrived in LCBO VINTAGES in April 2019 and expect this latest vintage to be just as lovely.

Les Hauts de Lagarde Blanc 2019 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

LES HAUTS DE LAGARDE BLANC 2019 - Vegan, AC Bordeaux, France (#387787) (XD) - $18.95
This organic wine is a blend of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Sémillon that was grown on clay-limestone soil and gravels. The highly aromatic nose is fragrant and pretty with notes of ripe lemon/lime, citrus, passion fruit, kiwi, and white flowers. It's medium+ bodied on the ripe palate with lovely aroma replays plus touches of honey that are balanced by crisp, balanced acidity. Slightly chalky mineral textured on the mid-palate, while the long finish is juicy with oyster shell mineral and lime notes. Recommended buy. Score: 89 pts

Other lovely wines from Maison Raymond can be found via their Agent - Rare Earth Wines.


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  • Date publishedSaturday, January 23, 2021

San Pedro 1865 Tayú Pinot Noir 2018 (Chile) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely Pinot Noir from the Malleco Valley, Chile's southernmost wine region. This exciting red wine is a new arrival to the LCBO as part of LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Tayú, which means "ours" in the Mapudungun language, is the proud result of an honest collaboration between the people of Buchahueico and San Pedro winery to celebrate Chile's indegenous roots. Buchahueico is located in the foothills of the Nahuelbuta Mountains in the Purén area of the Malleco Valley in the Araucanía region, approximately 540 km south of Santiago, in south-central Chile. The families of the Buchahueico community, known as Mapuche - meaning "people of the land" - have a deep connection to the earth that goes beyond what can be understood oenologically.

The Mapuche worked together with San Pedro's winemakers, to harness their intimate knowledge of the soils and craft a Pinot Noir that truly expresses its origin. The vineyard in Buchahueico is divided into two 2.5 hectare sites that have very old, red-coloured soils of granitic origin with a clay-loam texture and abundant quartz and granite. The soils are quite acidic and corrected with agricultural lime to make them neutral, thus lending itself to create wines with vibrant acidity. Due to the site's proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the microclimate of the Nahuelbuta Mountains, and it's latitude of 38° South, the temperature in this area is considered moderate, ranging from 4.2°C from to 27.8°C during the growing season, thus allowing the grapes to ripen slowly and later than other regions.

The Pinot Noir in this wine is made using Clones 115, 777, and 828, with each contributing its own unique characteristics. Clone 115 imparts spicy and herbal tones, while Clone 777 provides fresh red fruit and floral notes. Lastly, Clone 828 contributes black fruit and earthy aromas, as well as adding structure to the wine. After manually harvesting and sorting the grapes, 15% was fermented in concrete eggs with the remainder in stainless steel tanks. It was aged in a combination of concrete eggs (15%), untoasted French oak foudres (40%), and the rest in used French oak barrels. Let's see how this red wine is tasting tonight...

San Pedro 1865 Tayú Pinot Noir 2018 (91+ pts)

Tasting Note:

SAN PEDRO 1865 TAYÚ PINOT NOIR 2018 - Buchahueico, DO Malleco Valley, Chile (#16628) (XD) - $19.95
With an eye-catching label on the outside, this Pinot Noir is very impressive on the inside as well with its fresh, medium-high intensity, and complex aromas of wet earth and bright red fruits, and wild herb flecked with minerals, raspberry, spice, and touches of floral. It's light-to-mid-weighted on the palate with lovely sour cherry, raspberry, red fruit tones, spice, wet earth, and hints of tea leaf flavours. It gains weight in the mouth with its fresh, citrusy acidity, and lightly structured, fine tannins that have a touch of pleasant grip towards the back palate. Nicely balanced throughout with some interesting salty notes joining the wet earth characters on the long, succulent, minerally finish. Highly recommended buy! Score: 91+ pts

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


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  • Date publishedThursday, January 21, 2021

Laya 2018 (Spain) - Wine Review

wine review is a nice Spanish red wine that arrives at the LCBO this weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Bodegas Atalaya is part of the Gil Family Estates group of wineries. The family's winemaking story begins with humble beginnings in 1916 in the heart of Jumilla, Spain, and has continuously remained in the family, now spanning four generations. Today, Gil Family Estates is run by brothers Miguel and Ángel Gil. They have over 1,400 hectares of vineyards among their many wineries in Spain's winegrowing regions.

Bodegas Atalaya is located in DOP Almansa, the easternmost and one of the smallest wine regions in Castilla-La Mancha, and bordered by the Mediterranean Sea further to the east. The climate is dry, hot, arid, and very lightly influenced by the sea. The very old bush vines of Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) and Monastrell (Mourvèdre) flourish in the limestone soils of low fertility and little rain to produce concentrated fruit that is bursting with flavour and fragrance.

This unique red wine is a blend of Garnacha Tintorera and Monastrell that were grown on bush vines in the region of Almansa in southeastern Spain on calcareous soils located between 700 to 1,000 metres above sea level. The grapes were fermented separately in stainless steel tanks, followed by a short passage through French wood, then remained in stainless steel tanks prior to bottling.

Laya 2018 (88 pts)

Tasting Note:

LAYA 2018 - DOP Almansa, Spain (#132605) (D) - $17.95
A blend of Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) and Monastrell (Mourvèdre) bush vines raised mostly in stainless steel tanks. The medium-high intensity nose is fruit forward and ripe with blueberry, bramble, black tea, and savoury aromas. It's medium+ bodied on the sweetish palate with more ripe blueberry, blackberry, and black tea flavours with some savouryness and touches of pepper spice. It has fresh, juicy acidity and polished tannins that offer a subtle, textural grip, along with some warmth on the mid-palate. Dark berry and savoury notes linger on the finish, with good length. Score: 88 pts

Other wines from Bodegas Atalaya and Gil Family Estates can be found at the LCBO or through their Agent - Profile Wine Group.


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  • Date publishedThursday, January 21, 2021

January 23, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release Wine Picks: Chile + British Columbia

LCBO Wine Picks: January 23, 2021 VINTAGES Release
The second release of the year is the January 23, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release and features wines from Chile as the main theme, while the mini-theme looks at the six top producers from British Columbia. As usual, there also many other lovely wines throughout the rest of the release, and all of these wines should be on shelves by this Saturday.

We begin with the main theme that looks at the wines of Chile and its values and virtues. In addition to first-class winemaking and well-priced wines, Chile is known for its numerous sustainable winemaking initiatives. Chile is also diverse in its climates, regions, and grape varietals. In this release as part of the theme, there are twelve wines featured and four are included among my top wine picks. First up is an organic sparkling wine that always provides pleasure and consists of 85% Chardonnay and 15% Pinot Noir. There are also three fine reds from Chile. From the Central Valley area, the Travesy is a blend of 38% Malbec, 33% Carignan, and 29% Syrah, while the single varietal Carignan is from old vines that were dry farmed in the Maule Valley, which is located in the southern part of the Central Valley. Last, but not least, there is a lovely Pinot Noir from the up-and-coming Malleco Valley, Chile's southernmost official viticultural region.

San Pedro 1865 Tayú Pinot Noir 2018 (91+ pts)Indomita Old Vines Dry Farmed Gran Reserva Carignan 2018 (90 pts)

Emiliana Organic Brut Sparkling (88 pts)

The mini-theme features wines from 6 top producers in the Okanagan, British Columbia. There is one wine from each producer, and four of the wines are included among my top wine recommendations. The lone red is the always lovely Merlot from Burrowing Owl. In white wines, there is a dry Pinot Gris by Mt. Boucherie, as well as a dry Riesling from Quails' Gate. And lastly, the sparkling wine from British Columbia is a blend of mostly Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with a splash of Pinot Gris made by Blue Mountain.

Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut Sparkling (90 pts)

Red wines from the rest of the release include the latest vintage of the Chianti Classico that consists of 82% Sangiovese, 15% Canaiolo, and 3% Syrah, while the red from Costières de Nîmes is a blend of 80% Syrah, 10% Grenache, and 10% Mourvèdre. From Almansa in Spain, this red wine is a minimally-oaked blend of Garnacha Tintorera (Alicante Bouschet) and Monastrell (Mourvèdre). The lovely Brunello is 100% Sangiovese, while the other Italian red is a Nero d'Avola from Sicily. Other single varietal wines include a Cabernet Sauvignon from Margaret River, a Shiraz from South Africa, and a pair of Malbec wines from Argentina.

Caparzo La Casa Brunello di Montalcino 2013 (92 pts)Château Grand Escalion Safranée 2018

Feudo Montoni Lagnusa Nero d'Avola 2018Domaine Naturaliste Discovery Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (90 pts)

Laya 2018 (88 pts)La Posta Pizzella Family Malbec 2018 (87 pts)

Among my white wine picks, the Roussillon is a blend of Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Macabeu, while the white Bordeaux consists of 60% Sauvignon Blanc and 40% Semillon. The rest of the white wines are all single varietal wines, including Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa, and a Chardonnay from British Columbia. For Riesling wine lovers, there is a dry Riesling from Alsace, as well as a pair of sweet Riesling Kabinett wines from Mosel.

Les Hauts de Lagarde Blanc 2019 (89 pts)Les Vignes de Bila-Haut Côtes du Roussillon Blanc 2018 (89 pts)

Enjoy my wine recommendations from this release. Cheers!

Red Wine:

  • CHÂTEAU GRAND ESCALION SAFRANÉE 2018 - AP Costières de Nîmes, Rhône, France (#18141) (XD) - $14.95  review coming soon...
  • LA POSTA PIZZELLA FAMILY MALBEC 2018 - Mendoza, Argentina (#166298) (XD) - $16.95  87 pts  wine review
  • ALAMOS SELECCIÓN MALBEC 2017 - La Consulta, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#322800) (XD) - $16.95
  • LAYA 2018 - DOP Almansa, Spain (#132605) (D) - $17.95  88 pts  wine review
  • INDOMITA OLD VINES DRY FARMED GRAN RESERVA CARIGNAN 2018 - DO Maule Valley, Chile (#16627) (XD) - $17.95  90 pts  wine review
  • RUSTENBERG STELLENBOSCH SHIRAZ 2018 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#399246) (XD) - $16.95
  • SAN PEDRO 1865 TAYÚ PINOT NOIR 2018 - Buchahueico, DO Malleco Valley, Chile (#16628) (XD) - $19.95  91+ pts  wine review

  • DOMAINE NATURALISTE DISCOVERY CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2017 - Margaret River, Western Australia (#489906) (XD) - $24.95  90 pts  wine review
  • FEUDO MONTONI LAGNUSA NERO D'AVOLA 2018 - DOC Sicilia, Italy (#523738) (XD) - $24.95  review coming soon...
  • ODFJELL WINEMAKER'S TRAVESY CARIGNAN / MALBEC / SYRAH 2016 - Vegan, Central Valley, Chile (#17238) (XD) - $29.95
  • ISOLE E OLENA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2017 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#704346) (XD) - $38.95
  • BURROWING OWL MERLOT 2018 - BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada (#585737) (XD) - $39.95
  • CAPARZO LA CASA BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO 2013 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#20750) (XD) - $79.95  92 pts  wine review

White Wine:

  • LES VIGNES DE BILA-HAUT CÔTES DU ROUSSILLON BLANC 2018 - AP, Midi, France (#485656) (XD) - $15.95  89 pts  wine review
  • LES HAUTS DE LAGARDE BLANC 2019 - Vegan, AC Bordeaux, France (#387787) (XD) - $18.95  89 pts  wine review
  • MT. BOUCHERIE PINOT GRIS 2019 - BC VQA Similkameen Valley, British Columbia, Canada (#17864) (XD) - $19.95
  • QUAILS' GATE DRY RIESLING 2019 - BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada (#308312) (XD) - $19.95
  • VAN LOVEREN CHRISTINA THE HERITAGE COLLECTION SAUVIGNON BLANC 2020 - WO Western Cape, South Africa (#13354) (XD) - $19.95
  • DOMAINE FERNAND ENGEL HERITAGE RIESLING 2017 - AC Alsace, France (#17891) (XD) - $20.95
  • QUAILS' GATE CHARDONNAY 2018 - BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada (#377770) (XD) - $24.95
  • MAX FERD. RICHTER ELISENBERGER RIESLING KABINETT 2018 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#665984) (S) - $26.95
  • ANSGAR CLÜSSERATH TRITTENHEIMER RIESLING KABINETT 2017 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#18128) (MS) - $32.95

Sparkling Wine:

  • EMILIANA ORGANIC BRUT SPARKLING - Vegan, Traditional Method, DO Casablanca Valley, Chile (#536607) (XD) - $19.95  88 pts  wine review
  • BLUE MOUNTAIN GOLD LABEL BRUT SPARKLING - Traditional Method, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada (#206326) (XD) - $34.95  90 pts  wine review

Fortified:

  • LOUKATOS MUSCAT OF PATRAS - PDO, Greece (#290718) (S) - $9.95  FE


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  • Date publishedMonday, January 18, 2021

Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block 150-183 Riesling 2014 (Niagara) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely, just off-dry Niagara Riesling that I purchased at the winery in St. Catharines during my visit to the region for the Niagara Grape & Wine Festival in . Based on my notes, I had tasted this particular vintage on a couple of occasions and eventually decided to purchase a bottle because I really enjoyed it's profile at the time, plus it was on promotion.

This white wine has shown consistent quality as I've tasted at least three consecutive vintages of this wine, including the 2015 Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block 150-183 Riesling that I enjoyed back in February 2019.

Of course, this bottle of Riesling by Rockway Vineyards is sold out by now. However, the I can see that the latest vintage is 2018 and available for purchase through the winery. Currently, Rockway is offering free shipping within Niagara, as well as free shipping elsewhere on orders of $50 or more.

Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block 150-183 Riesling 2014 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

ROCKWAY VINEYARDS SMALL LOT BLOCK 150-183 RIESLING 2014 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#424176) (M) - $20 $18
Screw cap. The lovely, highly aromatic nose delivers aromas of petrol, white floral, wet stone, and apple with touches of lime citrus. It is medium+ bodied on the palate with tart lime citrus, apple, and floral flavours in an off-dry profile. It has a slightly viscous mouthfeel with juicy, balanced acidity. Maturing waxy and petrol notes are followed by lime citrus and touches of stony mineral on the long lasting, slightly chalky and dry finish. Score: 89 pts


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  • Date publishedFriday, January 15, 2021

Karlo Estates Cabernet Franc 2015 (Prince Edward County) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely cool-climate Cabernet Franc from Prince Edward County that arrived at the LCBO more than three years ago as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

It is produced by Karlo Estates, a winery located in Prince Edward Country, Ontario, that was co-founded by Sherry and her late husband Richard Karlo in 2005 after purchasing the property from the Stevenson family which had owned the family property since the early 1800s. Sherry and Karlo began planting vines in 2006 and today have 14 acres of vines planted across the 93 acre property.

This vegan-friendly Cabernet Franc was crafted by Derek Barnett, a former Winemaker of the Year and one of the top winemakers in Canada. He joined Karlo Estates in 2015 and this was the first year he had full control of the vintage from winegrowing, to harvest, and vinification. I spoke to Derek about this wine back in April 2017 - when I got to taste a barrel sample - and at the time he had mentioned that this was the best Cabernet Franc he had ever made

While this vintage is no longer available for purchase, the 2017 vintage is available through the winery with free shipping when you buy at least 6 bottles of any Karlo Estates wines.

I last enjoyed the 2015 Karlo Estates Cabernet Franc just over , and back in 2017 I commented that it should be enjoyed over the next 3-4 years, so, let's see how it is tasting tonight in 2021.

Karlo Estates Cabernet Franc 2015 (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

KARLO ESTATES CABERNET FRANC 2015 - VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada (#524389) (XD) - $39.00
This vegan-friendly, wild-fermented Cabernet Franc was aged in barrel for 15 months. The fragrant nose offers a lovely, complex, and maturing nose of dried berry compote, spice, and savoury earthy aromas with touches of floral. On the light-to-medium bodied palate it has fine, tart, juicy acidity that frames the dark berry compote, sweet tobacco, earthy, savoury, and sandalwood spice flavours in a somewhat mature profile. Smooth, fine-grained tannins are fold into the wine very nicely, with some grip on the back palate. It's well-balanced throughout with savoury wet earth, tobacco, and maturing berry flavours on the long finish. In a lovely place right now and should continue to drink well over at least the next couple of years, and possibly longer. Score: 91 pts


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  • Date publishedMonday, January 11, 2021

Niagara College Les Marmitons Gastronomy Chardonnay 2017 (Niagara) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely barrel-fermented Chardonnay from Niagara College Teaching Winery that I purchased at the winery during my visit to Niagara for the Icewine Festival in .

The Les Marmitons range of wines were created by Niagara College after being approached by members of Les Marmitons Niagara - the local chapter of an international gastronomic and social club for men interested in fine food, wine and the culinary arts. Although Les Marmitons wines were first launched in 2016, I only discovered them last January and enjoyed tasting all three wines bearing the Les Marmitons label - this Chardonnay, a Fumé Blanc, and a Pinot Noir. While the Chardonnay is sold out (apparently the price was reduced to $20 at some point), the other two wines are available for purchase and proceeds from the sales of Les Marmitons wines help to support student learning.

Niagara College Les Marmitons Gastronomy Chardonnay 2017 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

NIAGARA COLLEGE LES MARMITONS GASTRONOMY CHARDONNAY 2017 - VQA St. David's Bench, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $24.95 Sold out
From estate-grown Chardonnay that was wild and barrel-fermented, along with 11 months 'sur lie' in French barriques. Screw cap. Lovely butter, golden apple, pear, leesy, and lemon citrus aromas with touches of vanilla oak rising out of the glass. On the well-balanced, medium-full bodied palate it is creamy with nice concentration and fine acidity supporting the apple, pear, butter, and vanilla flavours. Leesy and yeasty characters linger on the finish, with very good length. Lovely! Score: 89 pts


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  • Date publishedSaturday, January 9, 2021

Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (Chile) - Wine Review

wine review is this lovely Cabernet Sauvignon from Chile. This red wine is a frequent visitor to Ontario due to its popularity and I'm delighted to see this particular vintage return to the LCBO today as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

In 2008, Viña Tarapacá merged with Viña San Pedro to form VSPT Wine Group, however, their story actually begins when they were founded at the foothills on the Chilean side of the Andes Mountains in 1874 to become one of Chile's most traditional and historical wineries, as well as a benchmark for Chilean viticulture.

Renowned winemaker Don Francisco de Rojas y Salamanca founded the winery under the name "Viña de Rojas" in the Maipo Valley. In 1892, the winery was acquired by Don Antonio Zavala and became "Viña Zavala". After Zavala's divorce, the winery became the property of his ex-wife, Doña Mercedes, and she renamed the winery to "Viña Tarapacá Ex Zavala" in gratitude to Don Arturo Alessandri, one of those most influential Chilean politicians of the 20th century and twice President of the country, whose nickname was "The Lion of Tarapacá". In 1927, the guest house was built in a Tuscan style at Viña Tarapacá and today this casona adorns the labels of all Tarapacá wines, as well as the embossed seal on wines from the Gran Reserva Tarapacá range.

Viña Tarapacá is continually committed to quality winemaking and sustainable practices that cover economic, social, and environmental areas, as well as conserving the biodiversity surrounding their vineyards. Impressively, Viña Tarapacá was the first Chilean winery to have a mini hydroelectric plant to generate 60% of winery's energy consumption, with any electricity not consumed fed into the national grid to provide the country with clean energy.

I've tasted the Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon on numerous occasions over the years, and based on my database records going back to at least the 2005 vintage that I enjoyed in 2010. The grapes for the 2018 vintage are from their 2,600 hectare El Rosario Estate, of which 611 hectares are planted to vine. The estate and winery is located in Isla de Maipo - about 50 km southwest of Santiago - an area surrounded by mountains and the Maipo River and considered the finest and most traditional for the production of fine wines in Chile.

Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

VIÑA TARAPACÁ GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2018 - DO Maipo Valley, Chile (#18721) (XD) - $17.95
The fragrant nose has a nice mix of spice, dried herb, dark berry, ripe blackberry, and smoky oak aromas with subtle touches of mineral adding further complexity. The full-bodied palate is very ripe with blackberry, spice, herbs, currant, cassis, and oak flavours supported by balanced acidity. The smooth, refined tannins have some structure and a pleasant, chalky texture. Earthy wood spice, cocoa, and mineral notes accented by currant and cassis notes linger on the long, juicy finish. Recommended buy. Score: 90 pts

Other lovely wines from Viña Tarapacá can found at the LCBO, as well as through their Agent - Dandurand.


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  • Date publishedWednesday, January 6, 2021

Ravine Vineyard Sand & Gravel Cabernet Franc 2017 (Niagara) - Wine Review

wine review is this lovely Cabernet Franc from Niagara-on-the-Lake's Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery. I purchased this bottle while visiting the winery during the Days of Wine & Chocolate Festival in . Of course, this particular vintage is sold out, however, the 2019 is available for purchase at winery or online from their website.

Ravine Vineyard's Tasting Room is situated in the Wm. Woodruff House that was originally built in 1802 by David Secord - the namesake of the town of St. Davids in Niagara-on-the-Lake. The farm property was purchased by the Lowrey family in 1867, and two years later the first grape vines were planted on the site. Fast forward to 2008 when Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery opened to the public. I have been to Ravine on a number of occasions over the years - whose grapes on the 34 hectare family property are all organically farmed - and have always loved their wines.

Of all the Bordeaux red varietals planted in Niagara, it is Cabernet Franc that consistently performs the best - showcasing its tolerance for our cold winters and its ability to ripen in Niagara's cool climate. I noted that this wine was a bit young and grippy when I tasted it at the winery a couple of years ago, but it should be in fine form now. Let's see how this Niagara Cabernet Franc is tasting tonight...

Ravine Vineyard Sand & Gravel Cabernet Franc 2017 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

RAVINE VINEYARD SAND & GRAVEL CABERNET FRANC 2017 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $19.95
Aged in French oak for 10 months and enclosed by screw cap. Medium-high intensity nose offers earthy and bretty aromas layered over complex ripe red and black berries, spice, thyme, bay leaf, and herbal notes. It is quite full with very good concentration on the palate that has savoury, earthy notes mingling with ripe red and black berry, and dark cherry flavours. Some peppery spice on the mid-palate, with very good acidity, and smooth tannins that are well-integrated with subtle chalkiness. Earthy, wood spice, and some vanilla notes linger on the very long finish. Score: 89 pts


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  • Date publishedTuesday, January 5, 2021

January 9, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release Wine Picks: Smart Buys + Organic Wines

LCBO Wine Picks: January 9, 2021 VINTAGES Release
Happy New Year! The January 9, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release is the first Release of the year. As per the usual, it is the annual Smart Buys Release, but new for 2021 is the addition of a feature on Organic wines. Overall, this is a noticeably smaller Release than past years, and is perhaps a sign of things to come for future VINTAGES Release - time will tell. Nevertheless, there are some fantastic wines in this Release and all should be on shelves across Ontario by this Saturday.

We begin with the main theme on Smart Buys. It's a large feature with 20 wines listed, of which five that are all under $20 and included among my top wine picks. At the top of this list is a lovely Malbec from Argentina (2018 vintage tasted here). Also from the Southern Hemisphere, there is a nice Carmenère from Chile, as well as a lovely Australian Shiraz that returns to my list of recommended wines, and a fine Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. The only "Smart Buy" from the Northern Hemisphere is a Cairanne from Rhône that consists of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 20% Mourvèdre.

Apaltagua Envero Gran Reserva Carmenère 2015 (88+ pts)

From the mini-theme on organic wines, there are only five wines listed, but a couple are included among my top organic wine recommendations. First up is a Viognier from Australia, while the second wine is the always lovely Emiliana Coyam from Chile that is a blend of 43% Syrah, 29% Carmenère, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Mourvedre, 3% Petit Verdot, 3% Carignan, 2% Malbec, 2% Garnacha, and 1% Tempranillo.

Emiliana Coyam 2017 (91 pts)

Among my red wine picks, from France, the Châteauneuf-du-Pape is a blend 75% Grenache, 20% Syrah, and 5% Mourvèdre, while the Bordeaux red consists of mostly Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, with a splash of Petit Verdot. The only other blend is from Tuscany, a Super Tuscan that consists of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon and 30% Sangiovese. Single varietal wines include the Barolo that is made with Nebbiolo and an Aglianico from Campania. There are also a pair of lovely Cabernet Sauvignon wines - one from Argentina and one from Chile.

Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (90 pts)Trapiche Medalla Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 (89 pts)

It was a very small Release of white wines, thus, my list of white wine recommendations is also smaller than usual. There are a pair of fine Chardonnays - one from Burgundy and one from Argentina, as well as a lovely Albariño from Spain. Last, but definitely not the least, there is a fine, higher-end Pinot Grigio from Südtirol – Alto Adige in Northern Italy.

Enjoy my wine recommendations from this Release! Cheers and stay safe!

Red Wine:

  • TRAPICHE MEDALLA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2016 - Mendoza, Argentina (#568865) (XD) - $17.00  89 pts  wine review
  • VIÑA TARAPACÁ GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2018 - DO Maipo Valley, Chile (#18721) (XD) - $17.95  90 pts  wine review
  • APALTAGUA ENVERO GRAN RESERVA CARMENÈRE 2015 - Apalta, Colchagua Valley, Chile (#481010) (XD) $18.95  88+ pts  wine review
  • COLAB AND BLOOM SHIRAZ 2018 - McLaren Vale, South Australia (#16043) (XD) - $19.95
  • ZUCCARDI Q MALBEC 2019 - Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#723478) (XD) - $19.95
  • ENTRE RESTANQUES ET GARRIGUES 2016 - AP Cairanne, Rhône, France (#15449) (XD) - $19.95
 
  • MASTROBERARDINO IRPINIA AGLIANICO 2018 - DOC Irpinia, Campania, Italy (#93112) (XD) - $23.95
  • CHÂTEAU PIERRE DE MONTIGNAC 2015 - Cru Bourgeois, AP Médoc, Bordeaux, France (#437954) (XD) - $25.95
  • EMILIANA COYAM 2017 - Los Robles Estate, Colchagua Valley, Chile (#63891) (XD) - $29.95  91 pts  wine review
  • TENUTA SAN GUIDO LE DIFESE 2018 - IGT Toscana, Italy (#147876) (XD) - $37.95
  • CHÂTEAU BEAUCHENE VIGNOBLES DE LA SERRIÈRE CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE 2017 - Haute Valeur Environnementale, AC, Rhône, France (#13518) (XD) - $48.95
  • RENATO RATTI MARCENASCO BAROLO 2016 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#713479) (XD) - $71.95

White Wine:

  • YALUMBA ORGANIC VIOGNIER 2019 - Vegan, South Australia (#288217) (XD) - $16.95
  • VIGNERONS DE BUXY BUISSONNIER BOURGOGNE CHARDONNAY 2018 - AC, Burgundy, France (#10349) (XD) - $17.95
  • FOLLAS NOVAS ALBARIÑO 2019 - DO Rías Baixas, Spain (#488981) (XD) - $18.95
  • CATENA CHARDONNAY 2019 - Mendoza, Argentina (#918805) (XD) - $19.95
  • MOUNT RILEY LIMITED RELEASE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2019 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#447425) (XD) - $19.95
  • NALS MARGREID PUNGGL PINOT GRIGIO 2018 - DOC Südtirol – Alto Adige, Italy (#395756) (XD) - $31.95


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  • Date publishedSunday, January 3, 2021

Zuccardi Q Malbec 2018 (Argentina) - Wine Review

For my first wine of 2021, wine review is a lovely Malbec that is a frequent visitor to the LCBO as a VINTAGES listing and most recently arrived on shelves across Ontario as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release. While a few bottles of the 2018 may still be available throughout the province, the 2019 will be arriving aplenty as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Viticulturist Sebastián Zuccardi grew up in a winegrowing family that had a strong visionary and innovative spirit which began with Sebastián's grandfather in prior to 1963 and passed down to his father. Sebastián studied at the Agricultural School, becoming a winemaker and continued his studies as an Agricultural Engineer.

Today, Sebastián is the third generation of the winegrowing family and leads a young agricultural and winemaking team with the goal of crafting wines that express the place and region through the continuous exploration of the different terroirs in the Uco Valley. Since 2008, under Sebastián's initiative, Zuccardi established an area of research and development dedicated to the study of the terroir and the many variables that affect the production of the wine.

I've tasted and enjoyed many Zuccardi wines over the years, including several from the Zuccardi Q line that was launched in 1999, but this is the first time I've profiled the Q Malbec. The "Q" stands for Quality, and the project was a great yearning for Sebastián Zuccardi's dad as he did the work in the vineyards that were started by Sebastián's grandfather in 1963. The Zuccardi Q line of wines is special for the family as they were the first wines to bear the Zuccardi name.

In the vineyard, the best plots of each vineyard are marked with a "Q", denoting that these vines require special attention to achieve grapes of exceptional quality. which in turn help to produce exceptional wines. Zuccardi also employed the farm workers with better skills to work these particular plots. The Zuccardi Q Malbec is a regional wine, using specially selected grapes from specially selected vineyards in the micro-regions of Paraje Altamira (San Carlos) and Los Chacayes (Tunuyán), the two main sub-regions within the Uco Valley in Mendoza. Los Chacayes is a distinct area that previously used to be part of the broader Vista Flores region, hence the labelling on the bottle.

Zuccardi Q Malbec 2018 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

ZUCCARDI Q MALBEC 2018 - Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#723478) (XD) - $19.95
100% Malbec from Paraje Altamira (San Carlos) at 1,100 metres elevation and Los Chacayes (Tunuyán) at 1,000 metres elevation. It was vinified using gravity-flow, native yeasts, and underwent malolactic fermentation. It was also aged in a combination of concrete and oak. The medium-high intensity nose has a savoury core surrounded by ripe blackberry, smoky mineral, and spice accented with violet florals. The palate is medium-bodied with more ripe blackberry flavours followed by spice, violet, and smoky mineral notes. There's some warmth on the mid-palate, along with fresh, lively acidity and smooth, fine-grained tannins that are nicely textured. Finishes with smoky mineral notes and some chalkiness on the long, satisfying finish. Score: 89 pts

There are many fine Zuccardi wines available at the LCBO, while other wines not found at the LCBO can be ordered through their Agent - The Bacchus Group.


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