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  • Date publishedSunday, February 28, 2021

La Chevalière Rasteau 2017 (Rhône) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely red wine from Rasteau, a Cru of the Southern Rhône Valley. It is brand new to the LCBO and will be widely available across Ontario as Wine of the Month from the upcoming LCBO VINTAGES Release.

It is produced by Les Grandes Serres, a negociant firm based in the Southern Rhône Valley, using grapes sourced from the village of Rasteau, north of Vaucluse county. Winegrowing activities were revived in Rasteau in the Middle Ages, becoming the largest vineyards in Vaucluse by the 18th century. In 1937, Rasteau became part of the Côtes du Rhône AOC appellation and in 1966 it was promoted to Côtes du Rhône Villages status. After much hard work and dedication, the dry red wines of Rasteau were elevated to Cru status in 2010.

The village of Rasteau offers a variety of terroirs that includes red marl and sandstone, clay and limestone soils. Much of Rasteau is also covered with the famous rolled pebbles that the Rhône Valley is known for. These pebbles retain heat from the Mediterranean sun during the day and release it to the vines at night, thereby producing excellent concentration in the grapes. The distinctive wines of Rasteau are known for their structure, richness, and intensity. Let's see how the La Chevalière is tasting tonight...

La Chevalière Rasteau 2017 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

LA CHEVALIÈRE RASTEAU 2017 - AC Rasteau, Rhône, France (#18502) (XD) - $20.95
Predominantly Grenache with Carignan, Mourvèdre, and Syrah completing the blend. The medium-high intensity and fresh aromatics are intriguingly herbal with spice, dark red berry, raspberry, and touches of stone, charcuterie and meaty notes adding further interest. The medium-full bodied palate is rich, structured and slightly warming with dark red berry, garrigue, licorice, spice, clove, and hints of plum flavours. Acids are juicy and well-balanced, while the structured tannins are smooth, refined and have a subtle chalky texture. Savoury and earthy notes come to the fore on the long, juicy finish. Enjoy over the next 2-3 years. Score: 90 pts

Other lovely wines from La Chevalière can be ordered through their Agent - DBINO David Beauroy Selections.

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  • Date publishedFriday, February 26, 2021

Flor de Maio Mayflower 2016 (Portugal) - Wine Review

wine review is a nice Portuguese red ideal for a Friday night. It arrived at the LCBO last weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

In 2011, winemaker Carlos Lucas founded his winery, Magnum - Carlos Lucas Vinhos, It was born out of a dream to produce quality wines with a team that was dynamic and continuously interested in innovation, while also respecting tradition and history. Carlos is originally from Dão and the company has various production facilities throughout all of the major wine regions of Portugal, including his own private domain in Dão - Quinta do Ribeiro Santo. He has always had concern for the environment and respect for the land, and is now pursuing a sustainable growth strategy with the goal of producing authentic wines from each region where it grows vines.

This red wine is named after the many flowers that bloom every May, including the green fields filled with red poppies in Alentejano in the South of Portugal. It is a blend of Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, and Syrah from vines that are 13 years old and sourced from poor soils (remember, this is good for wine) that consist of mainly clay, granite, schist and limestone from the Mora municipality within the Évora district in central Alentejano, which itself is a large region that covers the lower third of Portugal. The south-facing, 60 hectare vineyard is located on a low-altitude, slightly sloped plain. The wine was fermented and aged without the use of any oak, and bottled in May.

Flor de Maio Mayflower 2016 (87 pts)

Tasting Note:

FLOR DE MAIO MAYFLOWER 2016 - Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal (#427195) (XD) - $13.95
Fermented and aged completely in stainless steel tanks, this unoaked red wine is a blend of Trincadeira, Touriga Nacional, and Syrah, and has generous aromas of black fruit, blackberry, spice, and black plum with some savoury notes rising out of the glass. It's medium-bodied on the palate with ripe, dark-fruited, blackberry, spice, and savoury flavours. Acids are still fresh, while the rounded tannins are slightly chalky textured. Nicely balanced with very good length on the succulent, savoury and spicy finish. For the price, this is very good wine. Score: 87 pts

Other delicious wines from Magnum - Carlos Lucas Vinhos can be ordered through their Agent - Rare Earth Wines.

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  • Date publishedWednesday, February 24, 2021

Modernist Dry Riesling 2019 (Rheinhessen) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely dry Riesling from Germany that is a new arrival to the LCBO as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Crafted for UK wine merchant Awin Barratt Siegel Wine Agencies, the Modernist was designed to be a contemporary take on the most versatile of grape varietals - Riesling - which can be crafted in fully dry styles to those that are very sweet. The brightly coloured label, which takes its cue from the German Bauhaus period, is eye-catching along with the distinctive cobalt blue bottle.

Modernist Dry Riesling 2019 (88+ pts)

Tasting Note:

MODERNIST DRY RIESLING 2019 - Rheinhessen, Germany (#18668) (D) - $16.95
This Riesling was grown on the rolling hill vineyards of Rheinhessen with its clay and chalk soils, from vines that are 10 to 35 years old, and had some time on the lees during vinification. Elegant, medium+ intensity aromas of white peach, floral, and pear, with whiffs of grapefruit and orange. It shows very good fruit concentration on the the medium-full bodied palate with a vague impression of sweetness on the mostly dry palate with flavours of grapefruit, lemon pith, white peach, and white florals with touches of honey. It has fresh, zesty acidity and a slightly chalky textured mouthfeel on the mid-palate. Very good length on the dry, slatey finish. Enjoy nicely chilled over the next few years. Score: 88+ pts

Other delicious wines from this producer can be found through their Agent - Eurovintage Wines & Spirits.

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  • Date publishedTuesday, February 23, 2021

New Zealand Wine Week - Feb. 2021 + Albariño, Pinot Noir & Syrah Wine Reviews

New Zealand Wine Week 2021
During the week of February 8 - 12, 2021, I attended the first ever New Zealand Wine Week. There were many activities planned throughout the week across Canada, USA, UK, and Ireland, including tastings, discussions, and online activities.

I managed to attend a couple of fascinating classes - one titled "Pinot Noir Soils" and another on Syrah. To assist with the learning, I also received a specially-curated Sustainable Wine Tasting Kit that contained three lovely wines which are reviewed below. To reduce environmental impact, the wines were packaged in low-waste, recyclable tetra-paks. Given the current pandemic, I can't help but wonder if more wine tasting kits will be provided in this manner in the future.

New Zealand produces 1% of the world's wine and 17% of the world's Sauvignon Blanc. While most of New Zealand's wine production is devoted to Sauvignon Blanc, ranking second is Pinot Noir with 7% of the country's wine production. New Zealand's soils are approximately 42 million years old, relatively new by comparison to other wine regions, and most of it has been moved by water. As such, there can be expected a variety of soil types which are layered. Pinot Noir prefers free-draining soils such as those found in Wairarapa, North Island. In Marlborough, as I learned during my visit to New Zealand last year, the Southern Valleys of the Wairau Valley have predominately clay soils - a prime area for growing fuller-bodied Pinot. As vines with age go deeper and deeper into soil in the search for water and nutrients, the different layers of soils reveal themselves and develop additional character in the wines. In Pinot Noir, clay gives density to wines, gravelly soils build tannins, and limestone gives vibrancy and length to wines. In a short period, New Zealand has built a reputation for producing quality Pinot Noir, with Central Otago leading much of this notoriety, although interesting Pinot Noir is produced throughout all of New Zealand's wine regions.

Syrah is the oft-forgotten variety of New Zealand. It represents just 1% of all vines in New Zealand and ranks 7th by acreage. Although it is speculated that Syrah was first planted in New Zealand in the 1830s. it is known that the first Australian cuttings were brought to New Zealand in 1900. The oldest modern Syrah vines were planted in 1984. Of the 437 hectares of Syrah planted in New Zealand in today, 339 hectares are planted in the warmer North Island region of Hawke's Bay - a region I had the pleasure of visiting last year because I discovered NZ Syrah several years prior. I also visited Waiheke Island last year and it has the second-most Syrah in the country with 51 hectares planted to the varietal.

A lovely Albariño from the Awatere Valley in Marlborough was also part of this tasting kit and reviewed below. Originally from Spain, Albariño has found a home in New Zealand. I discovered New Zealand Albariño after tasting a few wines during my visit to NZ last year. Only 27 hectares of Albariño are planted within the country, with most of the plantings concentrated in Gisborne, Marlborough, and Hawke's Bay.

The most recent vintage was also among the many topics discussed. While the 2020 vintage will always be remembered as the COVID-19 harvest, it was actually an excellent summer throughout most of New Zealand and the 2020 vintage is expected to be outstanding.

Sustainability was also a major theme of the week. New Zealand was the first wine industry to establish a national sustainability programme - Sustainable Winegrowing New Zealand (SWNZ) - which first started 1994. Today, 96% of New Zealand's vineyard producing area is certified by the programme. With a strong commitment from winemakers and grape growers, New Zealand is able to craft exceptional wines while also helping the natural environment, local businesses, and communities thrive. The six areas of focuses with sustainability efforts are water, waste, pest and disease, soil, climate change, and people.

Tasting Notes:

THE HUNTING LODGE SEASONAL ALBARINO 2019 - Awatere Valley, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (XD) - $19.95
Mostly fermented in stainless steel tanks, with 10% fermented in French oak barriques, as well as 3 months ageing on the lees. Fresh aromatics deliver an intriguing mix of ripe citrus, stone fruits, and floral with touches of vanilla, yeasty, and seashell notes. On the medium+ bodied palate it has a slightly creamy mouthfeel that’s balanced by fresh, zesty acidity. It has ripe, honeyed flavours of citrus and stone fruits on the flavour profile, while yeasty, seashell mineral, and touches of vanilla linger on the juicy finish, with very good length. Agent: Nicholas Pearce Wines. Score: 90 pts

The Hunting Lodge Seasonal Albarino 2019 (90 pts)

CHURTON NATURAL STATE PINOT NOIR 2019 - Waihopai Valley, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (XD) - $31.95
Grown according to biodynamic and organic principles from the Southern Valley of Waihopai, this single block Pinot Noir was naturally fermented with indigenous yeast and has medium-high intensity aromas are very ripe with black cherry, raspberry, blackberry, and floral notes with touches of bramble. It is medium-bodied and mildly structured on the palate with nice, fruity aroma replays plus some earthy and tea leaf flavours. It has balanced, juicy acids and elegantly textured tannins. Very good length on the finish with notes of savoury black cherry. Vegan-friendly. Agent: Le Sommelier. Score: 90 pts

Churton Natural State Pinot Noir 2019 (90 pts)Esk Valley Winemakers Reserve Syrah 2014 (92 pts)

ESK VALLEY WINEMAKERS RESERVE SYRAH 2014 - Gimblett Gravels, Hawke's Bay, North Island, New Zealand (XD) ~$60
From the Cornerstone Vineyard, the medium+ intensity nose seems a bit closed, but offers notes of black plum, dark berry, blackberry, and some wood spice aromas. The structured, medium-full bodied is lovely with blackberry, black pepper, earth, eucalypt, and wood spice flavours that are supported by juicy acidity and well-integrated tannins. The savoury, earthy, black pepper spice, and dark chocolate notes continue through to the long, satisfying finish. Still has many years of enjoyment ahead. Agent: Perigon Beverage Group. Score: 92 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, February 22, 2021

Catena Lunlunta Old Vines Appellation Malbec 2018 (Argentina) - Wine Review

wine review is an excellent Malbec by from Argentina that arrived at the LCBO over the weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release and is one of the Wines of the Month.

Founded in 1902 by Nicola Catena, the family run winery is now operated by Dr. Laura Catena, the fourth generation of the family and daughter of Nicolás Catena Zapata. By now, Catena should be a household name as they are one of the most iconic and influential wine families of the past 100+ years while developing Mendoza into a world-class wine region. In 1995, Laura established the Catena Institute of Wine to focus on the study of terroir, and other research projects. Today, Catena wines are produced from six historic family estate vineyards and each of these vineyards is divided into parcels according to their soil composition, with each parcel farmed individually. Nearly all of Catena's vineyards are farmed sustainably and organically, focusing on lower yields and biodiversity.

Catena has a broad range of quality wines, and this particular bottling is from their Appellation "Village" wines collection that focus on rural towns with beautiful and historical vineyards in Mendoza. This bottle of Malbec is from one of their six historic family estate vineyards - the Angélica Vineyard in Lunlunta, an idyllic district of small orchards and tree-lined country roads. The Angélica Vineyard, named after Nicolás Catena Zapata's mother, is Catena's oldest vineyard and was planted in the 1930's. Lunlunta is well-known for its ancient Malbec vines and the constant breeze coming from the adjacent river bed. The vineyard is over 900 metres above sea level, while the soils in Lunlunta are alluvial in origin and have loamy clay in the topsoil with 5% surface stones. In addition, the sandy and loamy soils are 50% sand, 30% silt, and 20% clay, with subsoils composed of rounded rocks.

After loving the 2017 when it came to VINTAGES in , let's see how this latest vintage is tasting tonight...

Catena Lunlunta Old Vines Appellation Malbec 2018 (91+ pts)

Tasting Note:

CATENA LUNLUNTA OLD VINES APPELLATION MALBEC 2018 - Mendoza, Argentina (#11769) (XD) - $22.95
From 65 year old vines, this Malbec has a perfumed, fragrant, and highly aromatic nose that is ripe with complex notes of blackberry, stony mineral, black plum, dark berry, violet, spice, and touches of earth. The stony mineral and touches of smoke really leap out of the glass with time in the glass. It's medium-full bodied on the elegant palate with lovely dark berry, blackberry, stony mineral, violet, and spice flavours backed by fresh, balanced acidity and elegant, fine-grained tannins that have a mild grip on the back palate. Mineral, blackberry, and violets on the long, juicy, satisfying finish. Highly recommended buy to enjoy over the next 4-5 years. Score: 91+ pts

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

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  • Date publishedSaturday, February 20, 2021

E. Guigal Gigondas 2009 (Rhône) - Wine Review

For wine review, I opened up this excellent Gigondas that I picked up back in .

Guigal was established in 1946 by Etienne Guigal in Ampuis - a small, ancient village just south of Lyon in the heart of the Côte-Rôtie appellation in northern Rhône, and overlooked by unique vineyards where wines have been made for more than 2,400 years. In 1961, a still very young Marcel Guigal took over management of the domain from his father. In 1973, Marcel was joined by his wife, Bernadette, and two years later their son, Philippe, was born. Today, Philippe is the domain's oenologist and represents the third generation of the family to work at the domain.

After expanding the family business and acquiring several estates in the Rhône Valley, Guigal strived to further improve their knowledge of winemaking in 2003 by venturing into barrel making. This artisanal and ancient craft enabled them to master another skill within the charming historical surroundings of Château d'Ampuis - one of the famous estates they acquired a decade prior.

This Gigondas is part of The Collection range of wines at Guigal. Vintage after vintage, wines from The Collection have become symbols of the family's ethos of supreme quality wines. Marcel and Philippe Guigal pay meticulous attention throughout the winemaking process, including selection, blending, and ageing to craft wines with consistency and excellence, while representing the great appellations of the Rhône Valley.

While this vintage is long sold out, this red wine is a frequent visitor to LCBO VINTAGES and most recently arrived in November 2020. A few bottles of the latest vintage are available across Ontario, but I am sure can also be ordered through their Agents - Vinexx in Ontario and Sélection Fréchette in Québec. Let's see how this Gigondas is tasting tonight...

E. Guigal Gigondas 2009 (92 pts)

Tasting Note:

E. GUIGAL GIGONDAS 2009 - AC, Rhône, France (#331900) (XD) - $31.95
A blend of 65% Grenache, 25% Mourvèdre, and 10% Syrah from 40 year old vines grown on ancient alluvia, red clay, and gravelly slopes, and aged for 2 years in oak foudres, 50% new. Lovely, elegant, medium-high to highly aromatic nose offers maturing dried dark berry, sweet cinnamon spice, floral, and wood aromas. It is medium-full to full-bodied on the palate with very good concentration and lovely savoury, sweet spice, dried dark berry, and wet earth flavours with a touch of olive on the mid-palate. It has balanced acidity, while the fine tannins have integrated very nicely, with a slight chalky texture. Well-balanced overall with earthy, savoury, and dried berry notes lingering on the long finish. Drinking great now and still has a few more years of enjoyment ahead. Score: 92 pts

Tasting Note from 2013:

Intense aromas are earthy, meaty, and dark fruited, all of which follow through nicely on the full-bodied palate. It's well-balanced with dusty tannins and balanced acidity, and excellent length on the finish. Nice! Score: 91 pts

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  • Date publishedSaturday, February 20, 2021

February 20, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release Wine Picks: France + New World Pinot Noir

LCBO Wine Picks: February 20, 2021 VINTAGES Release
The main theme of the February 20, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release focuses on French wines, while the mini-theme looks at New World Pinot Noir. All of these wines, plus those from the rest of the release should be on LCBO VINTAGES shelves across Ontario today.

We begin with the main theme that focuses on French wines and where they come from. Since French wines rarely mention the grapes used to make their wines on the label, it is very helpful to know which grapes are grown in which regions. Of the fifteen wines featured, six are included among my top wine picks. We begin in Champagne, where the primary grapes are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and the Blanc de Blancs (which means "white of whites) refers to sparkling wines made exclusively with the white wine grapes, namely Chardonnay. Chablis is part of northern Burgundy and known for its fine Chardonnay. The Saint-Véran is also from Burgundy and made with Chardonnay. Southern Rhône is all about Grenache and Syrah, and mostly blends using these two grapes. Three wines from this wine region are included among my wine recommendations - the Côtes du Rhône-Villages is a blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah, while the Cairanne is a 50/50 blend of Grenache and Syrah. Lastly, the Gigondas consists of 70% Grenache, 15% Syrah, and 15% Mourvèdre.

The mini-theme of this release takes a look at New World Pinot Noir. Although Pinot's home is in Burgundy, the grape has found success in the cool-climate New World wine regions of Ontario, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, California, and Oregon. Eight wines are featured as part of this theme and, while these aren't among the finest examples of cool-climate New World Pinot Noir, there are a couple of wines worth checking out. First up is a sustainable Pinot Noir from Wairarapa, a wine region located on the southeastern corner of the North Island in New Zealand. The second wine is a Pinot Noir from the cool-climate region of Elgin, South Africa, that is nestled among the mountains and only 12 kilometres from the South Atlantic Ocean.

Matahiwi Estate Me Pinot Noir 2018 (88+ pts)

Red wines from the rest of the release includes a lovely Bordeaux red that is a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon. There are also a pair of wines from Southern France, both consisting of 40% Grenache, 40% Syrah, and 20% Mourvèdre. Notable single varietal wines includes a fine Malbec from Argentina that is also one of the Wines of the Month, a lovely Carmenère from Chile, and a pleasantly dry Zinfandel from California.

Château Clarke 2016 (92+ pts)Catena Lunlunta Old Vines Appellation Malbec 2018 (91+ pts)

Viña Tarapacá Gran Reserva Carmenère 2019 (89 pts)

Among my white wine picks, the only blend is from Greece and it consists of 90% Assyrtiko, 5% Athiri, and 5% Aidani. For Riesling wine lovers, there is the off-dry (i.e. slightly sweet) Riesling from Germany, as well as the medium-sweet Riesling from Niagara.

Modernist Dry Riesling 2019 (88+ pts)

Enjoy my wine recommendations from this release! Santé!

Red Wine:

  • VIÑA TARAPACÁ GRAN RESERVA CARMENÈRE 2019 - DO Maipo Valley, Chile (#57513) (XD) - $17.95  89 pts  wine review
  • MATAHIWI ESTATE ME PINOT NOIR 2018 - Sustainable, Wairarapa, North Island, New Zealand (#12606) (XD) - $19.95  88+ pts  wine review
  • SUTHERLAND PINOT NOIR 2018 - WO Elgin, South Africa (#624924) (XD) - $19.95
  • TESSELLAE OLD VINES GRENACHE/SYRAH/MOURVÈDRE 2018 - AP Côtes du Roussillon, France (#343517) (XD) - $19.95
  • CATENA LUNLUNTA OLD VINES APPELLATION MALBEC 2018 - Mendoza, Argentina (#11769) (XD) - $22.95  91+ pts  wine review
  • LANGE TWINS OLD VINE ZINFANDEL 2017 - Sustainable, Lodi, California, USA (#575480) (XD) - $24.95
  • DOMAINE SAINT-ANDÉOL EXCELLENCE CAIRANNE 2016 - AC, Rhône, France (#464735) (XD) - $25.95
  • DOMAINE LE CLOS DES CAZAUX LA TOUR SARRASINE GIGONDAS 2018 - AC, Rhône, France (#18388) (XD) - $32.95
  • CHÂTEAU CLARKE 2016 - AC Listrac-Médoc, Bordeaux, France (#503904) (XD) - $54.95  92+ pts  wine review

White Wine:

  • MODERNIST DRY RIESLING 2019 - Rheinhessen, Germany (#18668) (D) - $16.95  88+ pts  wine review
  • FLAT ROCK RIESLING 2018 - VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#43281) (M) - $17.95
  • ERADUS SAUVIGNON BLANC 2020 - Awatere Valley, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#225557) (XD) - $19.95
  • TERRES SECRÈTES LES PRÉLUDES SAINT-VÉRAN 2018 - AC, Burgundy, France (#16725) (XD) - $21.95
  • ATLANTIS DRY WHITE 2019 - PGI Cyclades, Santorini, Greece (#371658) (XD) - $26.95
  • WILLIAM FÈVRE CHAMPS ROYAUX CHABLIS 2018 - AC, Burgundy, France (#461640) (XD) - $29.95
  • MARCO FELLUGA AMANI FRIULANO 2019 - DOC Collio, Friuli, Italy (#17363) (XD) - $30.95  FE

Sparkling Wine:

  • WOLFBERGER BRUT CRÉMANT D'ALSACE - Traditional method, AC, Alsace, France (#460832) (XD) - $19.95
  • VOLLEREAUX BRUT BLANC DE BLANCS CHAMPAGNE - AC, France (#629469) (XD) - $52.95


  • QUINTA DO GRIFO VINTAGE PORT 2015 - DOP, Portugal (#18362) (S) - $64.95

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  • Date publishedMonday, February 15, 2021

Château d'Aigueville Côtes-du-Rhône Villages 2016 (France) - Wine Review (Feb. 2021)

wine review is a lovely Côtes-du-Rhône Villages red wine that is widely available at LCBO outlets across Ontario as it is a General List product.

Château d'Aigueville is the Southern Rhône project of Burgundian producer Henri de Villamont. The estate is located on a plateau between the villages of Sérignan and Uchaux, just north of Orange, and has exceptional terroir similar to nearby Châteauneuf-du-Pape with a very large proportion of pebbles. Château d'Aigueville has more than 100 hectares of vines, with the oldest vines more than 80 years old, and produces five wines from the ten grape varieties that they grow. They also have five hectares of olive groves.

This particular red wine is classified as a Côtes-du-Rhône Villages appellation wine because it's quality is superior to that of generic Côtes-du-Rhône wines. The Grenache, Syrah, and Carignan that is used to produce this wine comes from vines that are 30 years old and grown on the hills in Uchaux at 100 to 250 metres above sea level. The soils consist of pebbles and siliceous or clay limestone, while the plots are separated from each other by garrigue and olive groves. As a Villages wine, it indicates a sense of place, which in turn is also an indication of terroir and quality.

I have enjoyed the 2016 Château d'Aigueville Côtes-du-Rhône Villages on a couple of occasions now, lastly in June 2019, and it has always impressed. Back in 2019, I wrote that it still had five years of enjoyment ahead. Two years later, and five years from vintage, let's see how this bottle is tasting now...

Château d'Aigueville Côtes-du-Rhône Villages 2016 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

CHÂTEAU D'AIGUEVILLE CÔTES-DU-RHÔNE VILLAGES 2016 - AC, Rhône, France (#544031) (XD) - $17.65
From 30 year old vines, this blend of 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Carignan, and 10% other varietals has complex, medium-high intensity aromatics that are smoky, earthy, and mineral, joined by black cherry, violet, dark plum, garrigue, and spice notes. It's medium-full bodied on the slightly warming palate with smooth, refined tannins that have a supple texture. Savoury flavours of scorched earth, mineral, black cherry, black plum, violet, garrigue, and peppery spice are supported by juicy acidity. Long and savoury with scorched earth and mineral notes lingering on the finish. Versatile Rhône Red that over delivers on price to quality. Drinking great now and will hold in your cellar over the next 2-3 years. Score: 89 pts

While this is the only wine from Château d'Aigueville available at the LCBO, others can be purchased through their Agent - Eurovintage Wines & Spirits.

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  • Date publishedSaturday, February 13, 2021

Great Italian Wines - Understanding Indigenous Grape Varieties - Nebbiolo & Valpolicella

Great Italian Wines - Understanding Indigenous Grape Varieties - Nebbiolo & Valpolicella
On , I had the pleasure of attending a masterclass titled "Great Italian Wines" that focused on understanding the indigenous varietals of Italy. This class was the first in a series being held by the Italian Chamber of Commerce of Ontario Canada (ICCO Canada) and focused on Nebbiolo and the varieties of Valpolicella.

Italy is the world's largest producer of wine by volume, representing 20% of the global production of wine. Approximately 40% of Italy's wine is exported to other countries, with Canada among the top 5 export destinations. With approximately 2000 indigenous varietals, Italy has the greatest number of varietals of any country. Approximately 300 to 400 of these varietals are actively used throughout Italy's 20 wine regions, with each region having it's own distinct varietals and styles.

Nebbiolo is almost exclusively grown in Italy, at the foothills of the Alps in Langhe, Piedmont, in northwestern Italy. It has been cultivated since the middle of the Roman Age and used to be known as 'Nubiola' (Latin for fog) because of the deep, intense fog that sets in the area of Langhe. The grape also develops a fog-like veil as it reaches maturity, and became known as a Nebbiolo in the 1200s. Nebbiolo is medium-sized and blue-black in colour. It is one of the earliest to bud, while also being the latest to harvest in late-October or early November. It needs ample sun exposure and a dry climate, while also preferring calcareous marl soils and higher altitudes in the range of 200 to 550 metres above sea level. Nebbiolo is the most terroir-expressive red grape in Italy and produces wines known for their high acidity and strong tannins, and can be aged for decades. The highly acclaimed wines of Barolo DOCG and Barbaresco DOCG are made with Nebbiolo.

Valpolicella translates to "The Valley of Many Cellars" and is not a grape. It is, in fact, a 25 km area in western Veneto, within the province of Verona, near Venice, at the foothills of the Alps and bordered by the Lessini Mountains to the north and east, and Lake Garda to the west. The cultivation of vines in this area can be traced back to prehistoric and Roman times. The soils are a mix of ancient volcanic tufa, calcareous, limestone and clay rich soils.

Valpolicella wines are blends with the indigenous Corvina the most important varietal. Corvinone and Rondinella grapes also play important roles, while other varietals such as Molinara, Oseleta, and Croatia can also be included as part of the blend. Corvina, meaning "Little Raven", has been in use since at least the 18th century and is mainly grown only in Veneto. Corvina is a thick-skinned grape that is good for drying, and produces light coloured wines with low tannins and high acidity. Corvinone means "big Corvina" and is a distinct grape that produces large clusters of grapes on the vine. Corvinone is a source of tannins, adding structure to the wines, making it a fine companion for blending with Corvina. Rondinella, meaning "Little Swallow", is a versatile grape that has a high sugar content and is good for drying, adding perfume and fruitiness to the wine.

Besides Valpolicella DOC and Valpolicella Superiore DOC wines, there are Valpolicella Ripasso DOC wines which are young Valpolicella wines that undergo a second fermentation - a "re-pass" or "go over again" - using the grape skins left from Amarone and Recioto wines. Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG wines use the Appassimento technique and significant ageing to create concentrated, structured wines that are age-worthy. The last style of Valpolicella wines are the Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG wines - a sweet, dessert wine made from dried grapes.

Both of the wines tasted as part of the masterclass are represented by Cavinona, an Ontario-based wine agency that specializes in Italian wine. They represent more than 70 Italian producers to offer a great selection of Italy's vast array of indigenous varietals. These producers are small, mostly family-run businesses that have been passed down over generations and have a commitment to craft quality and authentic wines that best express the native grapes and soils of their region.

These delicious wines are available for purchase by the case through Cavinona's online web store, as well as by the bottle at Terroni restaurants and wine shops. Additionally, the food items such as DOP Grana Padano (similar to Parmigiano-Reggiano) and DOP Piave cheeses are also available at Terroni restaurants.

With two more masterclasses on other Italian indigenous varietals to come, you can also attend by registering for the free class here. These classes are more enjoyable with the wines being tasted. As such, you will be able to purchase the wines for these classes from La Bottega di Terroni. To participate on social media, follow @trueitaliantaste and these hashtags on Instagram: #ExtraordinaryItalianTaste #TrueItalianTaste #iffoodcouldtalk.

Tasting Notes:

ODDERO LANGHE NEBBIOLO 2018 - DOC, Piedmont, Italy (XD) - $45.06
100% Nebbiolo from La Morra. The medium-high intensity aromatics offer red berry, cherry, floral, spice, and earthy tones with a hint of balsamic and orange rind. The palate is light-bodied with flavours of dark red sour cherry, spice, floral, and earth. Acids are fresh and juicy, along with a touch of warmth on the mid-palate, but still well-balanced. Tannins are fine-grained and textured with a supple grip. Savoury, earthy notes flecked with cherry and floral linger on the long, juicy finish, with excellent length. Enjoy over the next 5-6 years. Score: 91 pts

Oddero Langhe Nebbiolo 2018 (91 pts)Piccoli 'Rocolo' Valpolicella Superiore 2016 (91+ pts)

Blend of 40% Corvina, 30% Rondinella, 25% Corvinone, and 5% Oseleta, Molinara, and Croatina. The lovely, elegant, fragrant and complex nose has perfumed aromas of floral, red berry, dried herb, sweet wood spice, meaty, and barnyard notes with touches of olive that continually evolve in the glass. It is light-to-medium bodied on the dry palate with more floral, sweet wood spice, berry, and vanilla flavours supported by fresh, lively acidity and smooth, refined, and well-knit tannins. Floral and savoury notes linger on the long, succulent finish. Score: 91+ pts

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  • Date publishedWednesday, February 10, 2021

New Zealand Wine Tasting - Waiheke Island (Mar. 2020)

Cable Bay Vineyards, Waiheke Island, New Zealand
While visiting New Zealand for the first time ever last year (which feels like eons ago due to the pandemic), I had the pleasure of visiting Waiheke Island on a fine afternoon. This was the first day of what ended up being five straight days of wine tasting in New Zealand - more on the rest of the trip is to come.

Waiheke Island is a hilly, wine-producing region located about 20 km east of Auckland, just off the coast of North Island. Most of the vineyards here are separated by thin layers of soil and clay from massive sequences of Jurassic strata that range from 145 to 158 million years in age. The multi-faceted hills were created by early tectonic activity, resulting in various aspects in relation to the sun, along with wind, rainfall, and rock strata that helped determine which varietals would be planted where. In general, Waiheke vineyards are highly mineralised with stiff to hard soils that are criss-crossed with mineralised veins and stained with iron and manganese oxides. Being a small island of just 92 square kilometres, Waiheke Island is very much influenced by the maritime climate and has a long, hot growing season. As such, Waiheke is widely known for growing Bordeaux varietals, and it all started when winemaking began in 1979 after two couples planted Cabernet Sauvignon. However, over the years, it was determined that the climate in Waiheke resembled more closely to Northern Rhône, home of Syrah. Today, Syrah is the most widely planted varietal on the island. This excited me the most about visiting Waiheke Island as Syrah is my favourite red grape.

The day began by taking the Fullers Ferry from the downtown Ferry Terminal in Auckland to the western end of Waiheke Island. Upon arrival, we took a taxi over to the first scheduled appointment - Tantalus Estate. It was a fine, sunny Autumn day, and as such, the place was very busy. We were seated in the main tasting area, overlooking their craft brewery, and just before the restaurant seating.

Tantalus Estate Pinot Gris grapes

Tantalus Estate Pinot Gris

Tantalus Estate is located in the heart of Waiheke Island's Onetangi Valley at an elevation of 12 to 61 metres above sea level. The latest chapter of the Tantalus Estate story begins in 1998, when the original vineyard of 3.7 ha of Cabernet Sauvignon was planted. In 2002, 1.8 ha of Syrah, Merlot, Malbec, Chardonnay, and Pinot Gris was planted. In 2013, Campbell Aitken and Carrie Mendell, entrepreneurs with backgrounds in hospitality and dining looking for a new challenge and discovered the 8.3 hectare property on Waiheke Island. The entire winery was redeveloped, with under-performing vines ripped out and replaced by new, low-cropping, and high-quality Cabernet and Syrah clones, as well as establishing a beautiful restaurant that opened out onto the vineyard.

Tantalus Écluse Reserve 2015 (92 pts)
The area is protected from the cold and wet west and southwesterly winds, with ridgelines to the west and southwest provide further protection. The climate on the island is drier and hotter than the mainland, with a long growing season that is ideally suited to premium grape growing. Vines are grown in sandy soils over weathered clay and clay-based rock, with deposits of iron and manganese oxide. Tantalus is fully accredited under the New Zealand Sustainable Winegrowing Programme. To reduce their impact on the environment and promote biodiversity, Tantalus has significantly upgraded the wetland and forested areas around the winery, planting thousands of native plants and pulling out exotic species and weeds, while also continuing to improve the habitat to welcome a variety of birds and insects.

At Tantalus Estate, the winemaking philosophy is to make wines of distinction. In order to gain a better understanding of the wines of Tantalus, we opted for the "Complete" wine tasting that consisted of ten wines, five of which were from Waiheke Island, and the rest from Marlborough and Hawke's Bay. There wasn't a bad wine among the group, but I was definitely impressed by the wines from Waiheke Island that included a field blend dry Rosé made with Syrah and Bordeaux varietals, an Alsatian-style Pinot Gris, a Syrah co-fermented with Viognier, and a pair of Bordeaux blends. Wine tasting notes of a few of my favourites are provided below. After the tasting, we took a stroll through the vineyards before heading out to the next winery.

Cable Bay Vineyards
Located on the western coast of the island, I arrived at Cable Bay Vineyards and was greeted by winemaker Chloe Somerset, and one of the owners, Loukas Petrou. Cable Bay planted its first vineyard on Waiheke Island in 1998 and its first vintage was an award-winning 2002 Chardonnay. More varietals were planted soon thereafter and in 2007 they opened their brand new gravity-flow winery, cellar door, and dining room. With continued success, Cable Bay continued to grow by adding an outdoor kitchen and acquiring vineyards in the Awatere Valley. All of their vineyards are accredited with New Zealand Sustainable Winegrowing, and some are organic under the BioGro program.

Chloe took us to the vineyard at the back, just beyond the Bistro and Verandah where one can enjoy a fine meal and wine while have a spectacular view of the bay, and told us about the vines, which have deep roots, are dry-farmed, and grown on clay iron soils which sit atop a bedrock of ancient sandstone and mudstone from the Jurassic period. Sitting among soils are also mineralized veins that run through the rock. All of this comes through in the wines as distinct minerality and texture - desirable qualities when seeking quality wines with a sense of place.

The surrounding sea in this region also has a role to play in winegrowing. With cool sea breezes during the day coupled with an insulating effect at night, this results in a climate with low diurnal temperature variation. Therefore, temperatures remain relatively high throughout the growing season, allowing varietals that require warm climates and long growing seasons to thrive, such as those varietals found in the Rhône Valley and Bordeaux. The grapes in this area are also resistant to disease because of the salt content in the maritime sea winds.

Chloe Somerset, Winemaker - Cable Bay Vineyards

After a quick tour through the gravity-flow production facility and barrel cellar, we headed back upstairs to the Bistro to taste the wines. Cable Bay has estate-owned vineyards on both Waiheke Island and in the Awatere Valley in Marlborough. On Waiheke Island, they plant Pinot Gris, Viognier, Marsanne, Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, and Malbec and are picked by hand, while in the Awatere they have planted Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. All of the wines are crafted with a gentle hand, with some using natural yeasts, and oak playing a minimal role. I tasted through quite a few wines with Chloe from both regions and all of the wines were delicious. I was most impressed with the Five Hills (full wine review below) red wine, a minerally-driven Malbec blend that really showcased the terroir and potential of the varietal on Waiheke Island. Cable Bay Vineyards is a worthy stop when you visit Waiheke Island. In Canada, at the moment their wines are only available in Alberta, but Chloe and I are both hoping their wines show up in Ontario soon!

View from Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant
The final stop of the day was a very short drive away at Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant. Since we were quite early for our appointment, we had an opportunity to tour the property. Mudbrick is set into the side of a rolling hill, and when you reach the top you get a gorgeous 360° view of the sea, vineyards, and Auckland. There is also a lovely outdoor terrace where we grabbed a glass of vino and and then sat on the bean bags that lay upon the hills to enjoy the views and ambience while lounge music played in the background. I honestly could have sat there the rest of the afternoon as the experience was very relaxing! Alas, I had work to do, so we headed back down to the tasting room.

Mudbrick was founded in 1992 when owners Robyn and Nicholas Jones - who were in their late 20's - purchased a lifestyle block of bare land in the western part of Waiheke Island that had wonderful views of the sea and held much promise. They wanted to plant a vineyard, live off the land, and quaff the fruit of the vines. They began to realize their goal by visiting the property every weekend to plant vines and trees. Robyn's mother, who already lived on Waiheke, helped out as well.

Eventually, they built the Barn/House/Winery out of mud bricks with Nicholas having the knowledge that mud brick buildings do not vary their internal temperature by more than one degree in any 24-hour period - ideal conditions for aging and storing wine. To complement their wines in this fine environment, they wanted to set-up a "Cafe", but Robyn demanded that it had to be a nice one. Thus, Mudbrick Vineyard & Restaurant was born.

Mudbrick Vineyard Wines

Robyn and Nicholas did not have any winemaking or hospitality experience when they started this venture, but have learned along the way. Their main philosophy is to operate from a customer's point of view. As a life-long project, they have continually updated and added to the buildings, vineyards, and winery. Mudbrick has two distinctly different vineyards on Waiheke Island - the Mudbrick Vineyard at Church Bay and the (purchased in 1998) Shepherds Point Vineyard at Onetangi. The Mudbrick Vineyard has a maritime-influenced, mostly north-facing clay slopes, while the Shepherds Point Vineyard is within a valley on gently undulating terrain. Having two distinct sites allows Patrick Newton, Mudbrick's winemaker since 2011, the opportunity to blend the wines from the two sites to create more complex and rewarding wines that are balanced with elegance and finesse.

I tasted through the wines with Bob Scot, aka The Resident Wine Nut, who lived on the Waiheke Island for many, many years and has been the Cellar Master at Mudbrick for 16 years. Bob took me through a number of Mudbrick's amazing Waiheke Island wines, many of which showcased the elegance and finesse that Patrick aspires to have in the wines he creates. Wine review of my top wines from Mudbrick are provided below. They have increased their capacity, including the addition of wines from Marlborough and Central Otago, so I hope to see their wines at the LCBO in the near future - although they do not have representation in Ontario at the moment. I loved my visit to Mudbrick as it very much felt like I was transported to a different world and would highly recommended you pay the winery a visit if you are ever in New Zealand.

After visiting Mudbrick, we took a cab back to the Ferry and returned to Auckland. All in all, I was very pleased with my first ever visit to Waiheke Island. And with more than 20 wineries located on the island, along with my favourite red varietal - Syrah - having great success on Waiheke, I could foresee another trip to the island in the future. A majority of the wine produced on Waiheke Island is consumed locally, but some bottles do leave New Zealand. Although none of the three wineries I visited currently have representation here in Ontario, I am hopeful that one day the fabulous wines from these wineries will be available in Ontario.

Tasting Notes:

TANTALUS PINOT GRIS 2017 - Waiheke Island, New Zealand (XD) - $68 NZD
Crafted in an Alsatian style, this Pinot Gris has spent 9 months in French oak barriques. The medium-high intensity nose is sweet fruited with stone fruit, citrus, and some honeyed and waxy characters. It's nicely textured on the dry palate with just a kiss of sweetness and lemony, stone fruit, and citrus flavours, with some slightly mature fruit characters. Still has very good acidity. A touch chalky on the long, lemon pith finish. Should continue to drink well for another 2-3 years. Score: 91 pts

Tantalus Pinot Gris 2017 (91 pts)

TANTALUS VIOLÉ RESERVE SYRAH 2015 - Waiheke Island, New Zealand (XD) - $90 NZD
A Syrah co-fermented with 2% Viognier, this has a lovely, aromatic, and very floral nose that is joined by ripe plum, black cherry, and blackberry aromas. It’s medium-full bodied with nice replays on the flavour profile, along with oak spice and milk chocolate notes. Medium-level, gritty tannins add a nice texture. Acids are well-balanced. Cocoa-dusted, dark berry, and floral characters on the long finish. Score: 91+ pts

Tantalus Violé Reserve Syrah 2015 (91+ pts)Tantalus Écluse Reserve 2015 (92 pts)

TANTALUS ÉCLUSE RESERVE 2015 - Waiheke Island, New Zealand (XD) - $105 NZD
The flagship wine from Tantalus, this is a Cabernet blend dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with small amounts of Merlot and Malbec, all of which spends 1 year in French oak barriques. The nose is highly aromatic, elegant, and perfumed with floral, red & black fruits, sweet tobacco, and plum. It's full-bodied with lovely aroma replays joined by touches of smoke, tobacco, and earthy nuances that add complexity and supported by fine, structured, and sweet tannins. Acids are juicy, while the persistent finish is balanced with excellent length. Will age gracefully over the next 5-7 years. Score: 92 pts

CABLE BAY RESERVE PINOT GRIS 2019 - Waiheke Island, New Zealand (XD) - $34 NZD
This Pinot Gris was fermented and aged in concrete tanks for 7 months. It has a nice, ripe, medium+ intensity nose of honeysuckle and floral, with whiffs of apricot and lemon citrus. The medium+ bodied palate is dry and nicely textured with more stone fruit, honeysuckle, and citrus flavours. Some saline notes arrive on the mid-palate and continue through to the long, clean finish. Score: 90+ pts

Cable Bay Reserve Pinot Gris 2019 (90+ pts)

CABLE BAY SYRAH 2018 - Waiheke Island, New Zealand (XD) - $48 NZD
Excellent results from a cool, wet year, this Syrah has a fragrant, black pepper spice, dark currant, and dark berry nose with hints of floral. It's medium+ bodied with lovely aroma replays. Juicy fruit and elegant tannins add to the experience. Earthy notes arrive on the fine, long finish. Score: 91 pts

Cable Bay Syrah 2018 (91 pts)Cable Bay Five Hills 2018 (91 pts)

CABLE BAY FIVE HILLS 2018 - Waiheke Island, New Zealand (XD) - $48 NZD
This blend of 70% Malbec and 30% Merlot has a fresh, medium-high intensity nose of purple fruits, violet, dark berry, dark currant, and spice, with some smoky mineral notes. The fine, medium-bodied palate has lovely mineral-driven aroma replays that are nuanced with dark fruit and smoke characters. It has balanced acids and fine tannins, and a long, minerally finish. Score: 91 pts

MUDBRICK RESERVE CHARDONNAY 2019 - Waiheke Island, New Zealand (XD) - $59 NZD
Rich, elegant, and complex with ripe, buttery, vanilla, apple and pear aromas and flavours that are very well balanced. It's creamy textured on the medium-full bodied palate with fine, succulent acids. Earthy-clayey mineral and hints of nut add further complexity. Impeccably balanced throughout and a long, satisfying finish. Score: 93 pts

Mudbrick Reserve Chardonnay 2019 (93 pts)

MUDBRICK SHEPHERD'S POINT SYRAH 2018 - Waiheke Island, New Zealand (XD) - $45 NZD
The medium+ intensity nose is earthy with an array of dark fruits like blackberry, black cherry, black plum, and black pepper spice joining the fray, It's medium-full bodied on the palate with lovely aroma replays, plus hints of cranberry. It has juicy acids and structured tannins that come through on the back palate. Finishes peppery, earthy, and long. Will reward 3-4 years in cellar and drink to 2030. Score: 92 pts

Mudbrick Shepherd's Point Syrah 2018 (92 pts)Mudbrick Reserve 2019 (92 pts)

MUDBRICK RESERVE 2019 - Waiheke Island, New Zealand (XD) - $75 NZD
This Bordeaux blend consists of 45% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and the rest equal parts Petit Verdot and Malbec. It has a highly aromatic nose that is herbaceous with black currant, cassis, dark cherry, black plum, and oak spice aromas. It's medium-full bodied with very nice herbally aroma replays joined by some peppery spice flavours. Acids are fresh and juicy. Dry, structured palate with tannins that come to the fore on mid-palate. Excellent finish length. Drink over the next 7-9 years. Score: 92 pts

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  • Date publishedMonday, February 8, 2021

Volcanic Hills Wine Tasting - New Zealand (Feb. 2020)

Volcanic Hills Winery
On a lovely during my visit to New Zealand last year, I was in Rotorua, a hot tourist spot on the North Island, about 2 hours away from Auckland and came across Volcanic Hills Winery.

Volcanic Hills was founded in 2009 using borrowed winery space. The brand was born from the Volcanic Plateau that is surrounded by the volcanic peaks of Ngauruhoe, Ruapehu, and Tarawera. The winery's own production facility opened in 2013 and sits at the base of the Skyline Gondola, while the Tasting Room, which opened in 2012, is located at the top of the Skyline Gondola and offers a gorgeous view of Lake Rotorua.

The winery was set up by Winemaker Brent Park and his wife Larissa. Brent went to school in Rotorua and has lived and worked in and around New Zealand for many years. He followed that up with winemaking stints in South Africa, USA, Australia and France. With over 20 years of winemaking experience, Brent decided to settle in Rotorua and make it a tourist attraction.

Volcanic Hills Winery

In case you didn't know, there are actually no grapes in Rotorua, so they source their grapes from the best wine regions in New Zealand such as Marlborough, Hawke's Bay, and Central Otago and bring them to Rotorua. The grapes arrive fresh and cold, de-stemmed by machine - the stems are then provided as feed to the animals - and continue their journey to become fine wine.

Volcanic Hills Winery is very much a small, boutique winery, with a total annual production of 5,500 cases, and all of the wines are hand-crafted in small batches. My server for the tasting, Annie, took me through a tasting of a few wines from their portfolio. Wine reviews of my favourites are provided below.

Wines from Volcanic Hills Winery have appeared at the LCBO, but the for the moment they can be ordered through their Agent - Wilson Wines & Spirits.

Tasting Notes:

VOLCANIC HILLS CHARDONNAY 2017 - Hawke's Bay, North Island, New Zealand (XD) - $29 NZD
Having spent 10 months in new French oak, this Chardonnay has a rich, medium-high intensity nose that has buttery, buttered popcorn, and vanilla aromas layered over stone fruit and apple notes. It's medium-full to full-bodied on the rich palate with more buttery, vanilla, buttered popcorn, and apple flavours. Notable oak influence is nicely integrated. The long, balanced finish has more buttery, apple, and vanilla notes. Score: 89 pts

Volcanic Hills Chardonnay 2017 (89 pts)Volcanic Hills Syrah 2018 (89 pts)

VOLCANIC HILLS SYRAH 2018 - Hawke's Bay, North Island, New Zealand (XD) - $28 NZD
The medium-high intensity nose offers lovely raspberry, red berry, and plum aromas with hints of peppery spice, oak, and earthy nuances. It's medium+ bodied with light, supple tannins on the palate and pleasing dark red berry flavours mingling with spice notes. Nicely textured on the mid-palate with succulent acids. The medium-long finish has dark berry and spice tones. Score: 89 pts

VOLCANIC HILLS PINOT NOIR 2017 - Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand (XD) - $37 NZD
My favourite of the visit, this has a pretty, medium-high intensity, and clean nose that leads with black cherry and strawberry aromas, followed by earthy, forest floor, and spice notes. It's medium-full bodied on the palate with very good fruit concentration and balanced acidity. Lovely aroma replays of black cherry, earth, beetroot, and spice come through on the flavour profile. Supple with smooth, fine tannins that have some heft. Long, spiced finish. A Pinot on the bigger side of the spectrum. Score: 90+ pts

Volcanic Hills Pinot Noir 2017 (90+ pts)Volcanic Hills Rosé 2019 (89 pts)

VOLCANIC HILLS ROSÉ 2019 - Hawke's Bay, North Island, New Zealand (XD) - $28 NZD
Made with 100% Pinot Noir, this rose has fresh strawberry, cherry, pink grapefruit, and citrusy aromas of medium-high intensity. It's dry on the medium+ bodied palate, with nice aroma replays on the flavour profile supported by fresh acidity and some tannic textural characters. Citrusy notes come through on the long, satisfying finish. Score: 89 pts

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  • Date publishedFriday, February 5, 2021

Mon Frère Vintner's Selection California Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (USA) - Wine Review

red wine review is a new California Cabernet Sauvignon that arrived at the LCBO last month as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

It is produced by Mon Frère Winery, French for "My Brother", and was established in 2019 to champion the very best in quality wine making and exceptional value from California. Mon Frère is a celebration of our connections to each other, to those special people with whom we choose to share life’s triumphs and tribulations.

Mon Frère is led by chief winemaker Tom Hinde, who brings a wealth of experience and knowledge in crafting a fine range of wines using grapes that are sourced from some of the California's finest vineyards which impart the richness and character of the region.

The Mon Frère portfolio consists of a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir, and this Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Sauvignon is a blend of grapes from Napa, Sonoma, Lake County, Mendocino, Lodi, and Paso Robles, with coastal growing sites adding layers of ripeness, fruit flavours and acidity. Other wines from the Mon Frère range can be ordered through their Agent - Dionysus Wines & Spirits Ltd.

Mon Frère Vintner's Selection California Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 (87 pts)

Tasting Note:

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from Napa, Sonoma, Lake County, Mendocino, Lodi, and Paso Robles that was aged in mostly used French oak barrels. The medium intensity nose has rich, dark berry, currant, and smoky aromas with touches of cassis and dried herb. It's full-bodied on the palate with smooth, ripe, and rounded tannins and slightly sweet flavours of currants, red and black fruits, and wood flavours. Acids are fresh and well-balanced, while woody and currant notes linger on the finish, with very good length. Crafted in a crowd-pleasing style for current enjoyment. Score: 87 pts

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  • Date publishedWednesday, February 3, 2021

Margan Family Hunter Valley Semillon 2018 (Australia) - Wine Review

wine review is a lovely Semillon from the Hunter Valley in Australia that arrives at the LCBO this weekend as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Margan Wines was established in 1996 by Lisa and Andrew Margan in the picturesque Broke Fordwich wine region of Hunter Valley. Prior to establishing Margan Wines, Andrew learned the art of grape growing and winemaking at Tyrrell's for 20 years, along with working as a flying winemaker in France. Together with his wife, Lisa, the Margans have evolved to become the leading winery in the Broke Fordwich sub-region of the Hunter Valley.

Today, they have over 100 hectares of quality vineyards, some of which were planted in the late 1960s. All of the wines are single vineyard, Estate Grown wines that are hand-crafted at the Estate by Andrew. The uniquely-styled wines of Margan are strongly defined by the climate of the Hunter Valley and the ancient red volcanic soils of the Fordwich Sill which run through the area. These soils are free-draining, but the soils cell structure absorbs moisture quickly and releases it slowly, a beneficial feature for inland, high-latitude (32.5 degrees South) regions such as Broke Fordwich. These free-draining, alluvial soils and sandy loams also produce particularly fine Semillon - the variety for which the Hunter Valley is best known.

Environmentally sustainable practices are a core value at Margan Wines. They are fully accredited with sustainable winegrowing Australia and committed to looking after the land and be sustainable for generations to come. They have many sustainability initiatives at the winery and restaurant - too numerous to mention here - and are also looking to become carbon neutral.

I have enjoyed Hunter Valley Semillon for many years now. They can be enjoyed young, but are best with some age on them. Let's see how this Semillon is tasting tonight...

Margan Family Hunter Valley Semillon 2018 (90 pts)

Tasting Note:

MARGAN FAMILY HUNTER VALLEY SEMILLON 2018 - Estate grown, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia (#493338) (XD) - $18.95
Screw cap. From 40 year old, low-yielding and mature vines grown on the red volcanic soils of the ancient Fordwich Sill, the medium-high intensity nose is elegant with distinctive lanolin, earthy mineral, grapefruit citrus, lemon, and floral aromas. It's light-to-medium bodied on the dry, racy palate with bright acidity and flavours of lanolin, citrus, floral, and touches of herb. Very good length with citrus, herb, earthy mineral notes lingering on the juicy finish. Enjoyable now, but I would cellar this for 5 years to allow for additional complexities to develop. Score: 90 pts

Other lovely wines from Margan Family can be ordered through their Agent - Connexion Oenophilia.

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  • Date publishedWednesday, February 3, 2021

February 6, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release Wine Picks: Italy + Local Heroes

LCBO Wine Picks: February 6, 2021 VINTAGES Release
The main theme from the February 6, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release focuses on Italian wine & food, while the mini-theme focuses on six Niagara producers who are Local Heroes. All of these wines, plus those from the rest of the release will be on shelves across Ontario by this Saturday.

We begin with the main theme that focuses on Italian wine & food. In this feature, there are twelve wines listed from some of Italy's most popular wine regions and four are included among my top wine picks from Italy. Food pairing suggestions are also included with each wine. The only white wine featured as part of the theme is a Pecorino from Abruzzo. Among the reds, there are a pair of Nebbiolo wines from Piedmont, including a lovely Barolo. Lastly, the Amarone is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara.

Rocca Barolo 2015 (91 pts)

The mini-theme is titled "Local Heroes" and features six Niagara producers. There is one wine from each producer, thus a grand total of six wines, of which two are included among my top wine recommendations. Both of these wines are on the sweeter side, with the semi-sweet Riesling from Vineland Estates always a favourite of mine. The second wine is a lusciously sweet Vidal Icewine for $23.

Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling 2018 (90 pts)

Among my red wine picks from the rest of the release, the always lovely Chianti Classico is a blend of mainly Sangiovese, while the Portuguese red is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, and Syrah. The rest are all single varietal wines, including a fine Australian Shiraz, a Cabernet Franc from Niagara, a lovely Malbec from Argentina, and the Beaujolais is made with Gamay.

Los Haroldos Reserva Malbec 2015 (89 pts)

From my white wine picks, there is a fairly wide array of options to try, all of which single varietal wines. Besides the Chardonnay from Australia, the rest could fall into the category of going off-the-beaten track. From Hunter Valley, there is a fine Semillon, while the Austrian wine is made with Grüner Veltliner. Although NZ Sauvignon Blanc is very common, the version from Waimea is from Nelson, on the northern tip of South Island. There is also a lovely barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc from South Africa. Lastly, the Riesling Kabinett from Mosel is made in an off-dry (i.e. only slightly sweet).

Margan Family Hunter Valley Semillon 2018 (90 pts)Wakefield Estate Chardonnay 2019 (88 pts)

Enjoy my wine recommendations from this release! Cin cin!

Red Wine:

  • GLENELLY GLASS COLLECTION SYRAH 2017 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#493841) (XD) - $15.95
  • LOS HAROLDOS RESERVA MALBEC 2015 - Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#646612) (XD) - $16.95  89 pts  wine review
  • CAVE SPRING CABERNET FRANC 2018 - VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#523001) (XD) - $17.95
  • CHÂTEAU DES GIMARETS MOULIN-À-VENT 2015 - AC, Beaujolais, France (#442632) (XD) - $18.95
  • VALE DA MATA RED WINE 2017 - Vinho Regional Lisboa, Portugal (#18296) (XD) - $19.95
  • VOYAGER SHIRAZ 2016 - Margaret River, Western Australia (#713115) (XD) - $29.95
  • VILLA ANTINORI RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2016 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#540971) (XD) - $30.95
  • FARINA LE PEZZE AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2017 - DOCG, Veneto, Italy (#171587) (D) - $36.95
  • ENRICO SERAFINO PICOTENER NEBBIOLO 2018 - DOC Langhe, Piedmont, Italy (#12736) (XD) - $41.95
  • ROCCA BAROLO 2015 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#395103) (XD) - $43.95  91 pts  wine review

White Wine:

  • WAKEFIELD ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2019 - Clare Valley & Padthaway, South Australia (#711556) (XD) - $16.95  88 pts  wine review
  • FERZO ABRUZZO PECORINO SUPERIORE 2019 - DOP, Italy (#573683) (XD) - $17.95
  • TRITTENHEIMER ALTÄRCHEN RIESLING KABINETT TROCKEN 2018 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#18222) (D) - $17.95
  • DOMÄNE WACHAU TERRASSEN FEDERSPIEL GRÜNER VELTLINER 2019 - Sustainable, vegan, Qualitätswein, Austria (#31534) (XD) - $18.95
  • MARGAN FAMILY HUNTER VALLEY SEMILLON 2018 - Estate grown, Hunter Valley, New South Wales, Australia (#493338) (XD) - $18.95  90 pts  wine review
  • WAIMEA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2019 - Vegan, Nelson, South Island, New Zealand (#714295) (XD) - $19.95
  • VINELAND ESTATES ELEVATION ST. URBAN VINEYARD RIESLING 2018 - St. Urban Vineyard, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario, Canada (#38117) (M) - $19.95  90 pts  wine review
  • STELLENBOSCH MANOR BARREL FERMENTED CHENIN BLANC 2018 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#17443) (XD) - $19.95

Sparkling Wine:

  • FAMÍLIA OLIVEDA JOVE BRUT CAVA - Traditional method, DO, Spain (#647883) (D) - $15.95  88 pts  wine review
  • PIERRE SPARR BRUT RÉSERVE CRÉMANT D'ALSACE - Traditional method, AC, Alsace, France (#388603) (D) - $18.95  88+ pts  wine review
  • PONGRÁCZ CAP CLASSIQUE ROSÉ - Traditional method, WO Western Cape, South Africa (#646968) (D) - $18.95
Pierre Sparr Brut Réserve Crémant d'Alsace (88+ pts)Família Oliveda Jove Brut Cava (88 pts)


  • DOW'S QUINTA DO BOMFIM VINTAGE PORT 2006 - DOC, Portugal (#18285) (S) (375 mL) - $29.95  FE

Dessert Wine:

  • LAKEVIEW CELLARS VIDAL ICEWINE 2018 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#522672) (S) (200 mL) - $22.95

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