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  • Date publishedThursday, December 30, 2021

FRAM Shiraz 2019 (South Africa) - Wine Review

For my final post of 2021, wine review is this lovely Shiraz from South Africa that arrives at the LCBO in the New Year as part of the first LCBO VINTAGES Release of 2022 on .

This red wine is produced by FRAM Wines, a passion project created in 2013 by Winemaker Thinus Krüger. After working at Boschendal Winery for 12 long years, Thinus decided to take his experience and passion to make even better wines on his own. As CEO, President, Winemaker, and Grape Crusher, Thinus desired to craft wines oozing with personality that wine drinkers will enjoy drinking.

FRAM Wines is named after the Norwegian polar exploration vessel that went to both the North and South Poles more than a century ago. The name means "to move forward". In this spirit, FRAM Wines also sails into uncharted territory to boldly search for whatever great grapes lie behind the next hill, over the next horizon, or in previously unexplored territory.

Thinus Krüger is a member of the Swartland Independent Producers and this is my first time tasting any of his wines. He is known among his peers for having an experimental approach in the cellar, but also strikes a balance between tradition and personal expression. Thinus has become known for creating beautifully balanced wines that seek to reflect the terroir and soil.

Although Thinus works with various different blocks of Shiraz grapes each year, thus the final composition tends to change every year as well, he always tries to represent the unique character of the Swartland terroir. In particular, he believes that Shiraz truly reflects the singular soils in the area. Let's see how this Shiraz is tasting tonight...

FRAM Shiraz 2019 (90+ pts)

Tasting Note:

FRAM SHIRAZ 2019 - WO Swartland, South Africa (#21326) (XD) - $22.95
Mainly Shiraz from a vineyard on sandy granite soils on the eastern side of Malmesbury, plus 5% Grenache and 5% Mourvèdre to complete the blend. Screw cap. The medium-high intensity nose offers lovely meaty, black and blue fruit, blackberry, black pepper spice, anise, clove, and gentle wood spice aromas rising out of the glass. On the medium-full bodied, structured palate, it has good fruit concentration and is slightly warming with delicious dark berry, blackberry, black pepper spice, meaty, earthy, and licorice flavours. Slightly tangy on the mid-palate, with fresh, balanced acidity, and refined, slightly grippy tannins. Savoury, earthy, and cocoa notes linger on the long, juicy finish. Highly recommended buy! Score: 90+ pts

Other delicious FRAM Wines are available through their Agent - Noble Estates Wines & Spirits.

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  • Date publishedTuesday, December 28, 2021

Six-pack of LCBO General List Wines (Dec. 2021)

To wrap up the last batch of LCBO General List wines I received a few months ago, wine reviews are six wines that are readily available at LCBO outlets across Ontario, with a couple that are on promotion right now.

Six-pack of LCBO General List Wines (Dec. 2021)

While all of these wines in this post are represented by Dionysus Wines & Spirits (and Churchill Cellars), the Mare di Sirena and Popcorn Chardonnay are actually brands owned by Alex Patinios and made under his business Garage Wine Company. Alex is also President of the Ontario wine agencies Dionysus and Churchill Cellars.

The story of Popcorn Chardonnay (not to be confused with the California wine of the same name) began in early 2020 when some Ontario wineries realized that they had a surplus of Chardonnay in tank and barrel due to the pandemic. The ever opportunistic and entrepreneurial Alex purchased the wine and sent it to Niagara's Strewn Winery. He worked with Strewn's winemaker Marc Bradshaw to have it blended and finished to the desired taste profile, and bottled as Popcorn Chardonnay. The catchy label features a silhouette of a bag of popcorn and a single popped kernel in the center, just above the name.

It's possible that the 2019 Popcorn Chardonnay is sold out across the province as I have seen the 2020 vintage on LCBO shelves now. However, you should know that with the 2020 vintage, Alex purchased fruit specifically for this wine and Marc applied small-batch winemaking techniques such as sur lie, blending, and barrel fermentation with three different types of barrels. There may be vintage variation, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is sure to be delicious.

Let's see how these wines are tasting tonight...

Tasting Notes:

POPCORN CHARDONNAY 2019 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#20264) (D) - $15.95
Screw cap. This Chardonnay was barrel fermented and aged in French and American oak barrels and has a subtle nose offering suggestions of ripe orchard fruit, peach, lemon curd, poached apple, tropical fruit, and honeyed aromas. There's good weight on the creamy, medium-bodied palate with ripe apple, buttery, lemon curd, sweet vanillin, and a touch of honey adding a kiss of sweetness to the flavour profile. Acids are juicy and well-balanced, while some smoky, leesy, and saline notes add interest to the lingering dry finish, with very good length. Highly delicious! Score: 88 pts

Popcorn Chardonnay 2019 (88 pts)Mare di Sirena Pinot Grigio 2020 (87 pts)

MARE DI SIRENA PINOT GRIGIO 2020 - IGT Italy (#20054) (XD) - $8.90
Screw cap. Translates to Sea of the Mermaid, the myth is that the mermaids in the seas surrounding Italy blow cool air over vineyards during summer to enhance ripening of the grapes, and warm air during the winter to protect the vines from frost. The majority of this Pinot Grigio is from Central Italy at 350-600 metres above sea level and has aromas of fresh lemon citrus, pear, and white peach with herbal hints. On the mid-weighted palate it has lemon citrus, mandarin orange, and peach flavours supported by zesty, well-balanced acidity. Clean, dry and flavourful on the zesty, citrusy finish, with some leesy minerals adding interest. Very good length on the finish. Will surely please! Score: 87 pts

STREWN NURTURE WHITE 2019 - VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#20261) (D) - $14.95
Screw cap. This off-dry blend of 32% Riesling, 28% Gewurztraminer, 20% Sauvignon Blanc, 10% Pinot Gris, 9% Chardonnay Musque, and 1% Muscat has a fragrant nose offering attractive honeyed aromas of orange citrus, lemon, honeysuckle, and wild flower. The palate is just off-dry (i.e. lightly sweet) with delicious white flower, beeswax, orange citrus, lychee, and ripe apple flavours in a nicely textured profile. With balanced acidity, it leads to a floral, leesy, juicy, and dry-ish finish, with good length. Delicious! Score: 87 pts

Strewn Nurture White 2019 (87 pts)Bread & Butter Chardonnay 2019 (87 pts)

BREAD & BUTTER CHARDONNAY 2019 - California, USA (#19261) (D) - $18.95 $16.95 until Jan. 2
Crafted by award-winning veteran winemaker Linda Trotta in an honest, good, delicious, and uncomplicated style. Classic, traditional California Chardonnay with sweet vanillin oak, caramel, butter, ripe apple and pear aromas waft out of the glass. It's medium-full bodied and creamy on the sweetish palate with more vanillin oak, caramel, wood spice, and butter flavours with underlying apple and pear fruit notes. Slightly spicy on the mid-palate, with juicy acidity, while the vanilla, caramel, and butter notes linger on the finish, with very good length. Fans of Cali Chardonnay will like this. Score: 87 pts

STEL+MAR CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2019 - Lodi, California, USA (#20808) (D) - $17.95
Two friends (who grew up in Canada) and their families came together to create STEL+MAR. They make unpretentious and approachable wines that let the terroir speak for itself. This Cabernet Sauvignon has a medium+ intensity nose that offers ripe dark berry fruit, black currant, sweet cinnamon spice, and cassis aromas with savoury earthy undertones. On the medium-full bodied palate it is slightly sweet with ripe cassis, blueberry, blackberry, vanilla, cocoa, and oak spice flavours. Crafted in a very approachable style, it has well-balanced acidity and supple, structured tannins. Intriguing cassis and minty notes linger on the long, dry finish. Delicious! Score: 88+ pts

Stel+Mar Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (88+ pts)Sunny with a Chance of Flowers Pinot Noir 2019 (86 pts)

SUNNY WITH A CHANCE OF FLOWERS PINOT NOIR 2019 - Monterey, California, USA (#18946) (XD) - $17.95 $8.30
Sunny Wines are sustainably crafted for healthy lifestyle wine lovers with zero sugar, low calories, and low alcohol (9% abv). Screw cap. Earthy beetroot aromas with a hint of toasted oak mingle with ripe black cherry, black raspberry, and strawberry aromas. There's also a hint of tea leaf. The light-to-mid-weighted palate is dry with light, supple tannins that are slightly textured. Flavours of beetroot, earth, and tea leaf with fruity notes of black cherry and raspberry on the palate, turning quite bitter on the finish, with good length. Score: 86 pts

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  • Date publishedFriday, December 24, 2021

Trio of LCBO General List Wines (Dec. 2021)

Happy Holidays! wine reviews are a trio of General List wines I received several months ago and finally got around to tasting. Both red wines are new arrivals to the LCBO and available in standard 750 mL bottles, while the white wine from Abruzzo comes in a 1.5 L large format magnum bottle. All of the wines are readily available at LCBO outlets across Ontario.

Trio of LCBO General List Wines (Dec. 2021)

Tasting Notes:

CESARI ESSERE VALPOLICELLA 2019 - DOC Veneto, Italy (#19774) (D) - $13.95
Founded in 1936, Gerardo Cesari soon became synonymous with creating quality wines from the Verona area. Today, Cesari wines draw on tradition but also use the latest knowledge in vineyard cultivation and environmentally sustainable growing techniques to create elegant, balanced, and fine wines. This vegan-friendly red wine is a blend of 70% Corvina, 20% Rondinella, and 10% Negrara / Rossignola with a medium intensity nose that leads with a hint of bretty and funky earth characters, followed by delicate aromas of dried cherry, plum, and oak spice. On the medium-full bodied palate, it is tangy with red cherry, herb, and earthy spice notes in a dry flavours profile. It has balanced acidity and soft, supple tannins providing a subtle textural mouthfeel. Earthy wood spice notes linger on the finish, with very good length. Recommended buy. Score: 88 pts

Cesari Essere Valpolicella 2019 (88 pts)

FANTINI TREBBIANO D'ABRUZZO 2020 - DOC Abruzzo, Italy (#20082) (XD) (1.5 L) - $16.60
Fantini is part Farnese Group, an estate associated with quality winemaking since the late 1500s. This white white is enclosed by a 100% recyclable cork and made with Trebbiano from Abruzzo. The medium-high intensity nose is clean and fresh with lemon citrus, grapefruit, white floral, herb, and leesy aromas. On the ripe, medium+ bodied palate it has pleasing citrus, grapefruit, white floral, and herbal replays in a dry flavour profile and supported by fresh, balanced acidity. Lingering on the finish are notes of lemon pith and leesy characters, along with some bitterness, with good length. Pleasantly surprising and highly satisfying recommended buy. Score: 88 pts

Fantini Trebbiano d'Abruzzo 2020 (88 pts)

LISBON BY NIGHT RED BLEND 2018 - Vinho Regional Lisboa, Portugal (#18998) (D) - $9.80
Crafted by Vicente Faria, a winemaking family that settled in the Douro at the end of the 18th century to become one of the region's pioneer winemakers. This Syrah-based blend has a medium intensity nose with sweet and ripe aromas of black cherry, plum, pepper spice, and sweet oak. The medium-bodied palate is slightly sweet vanllin oak, ripe black cherry, and black plum flavours supported by balanced acidity and soft, rounded tannins. The slightly sweet black cherry, plum, and oak spice flavours continue through to the finish, with good length. Commercially styled crowd pleaser. Score: 86 pts

Lisbon By Night Red Blend 2018 (86 pts)

Other wines from these producers are available at the LCBO, as well as through their Agent - Profile Wine Group.

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  • Date publishedSaturday, December 18, 2021

Albert Bichot Sélection Parcellaire Beaujolais-Villages 2018 (France) - Wine Review

wine review is this lovely Gamay from Beaujolais that was slated to be released as a new arrival during the summer as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release but actually never made it into stores back then. However, it did arrive on shelves a few weeks ago and there are plenty of bottles still available.

It is produced by Albert Bichot, a family whose roots go back to the year 1214. In 1350, the Bichot family settled in Burgundy and their coat of arms and symbol, a doe (biche), has not changed since. Wine entered the picture in 1831 when Bernard Bichot founded a wine trading business. His grandson, the first Albert Bichot, gave the family business momentum in the late 19th century and settled in Beaune in 1912. The second Albert Bichot was born in 1900 and was a pioneer in international commerce, introducing the family's wines to wine lovers around the world. In the second half of the 20th century, Albert's four sons, one of which is the third Albert, inherited the know-how and began an era of expansion with the construction of a new winery, bottling centre, and ageing cellar.

The Beaujolais appellation is located in southern Burgundy and spread across the administrative departments of Rhône and Sâone-et-Loire. This particular wine is from the Beaujolais-Villages appellation, the majority of which is located in the Vauxonne and Ardières valleys and represents 25% of the Beaujolais region's total production. The vines from the Beaujolais-Villages AOC are under the influence of several microclimates, which enhances the characteristics of the wines. This red wine is made with 100% Gamay grown on granite-based and sandy soils, with some clay. It was fermented in stainless steel tanks and then aged for 6-7 months in vats.

Beaujolais-Villages wines first attained their glory and reputation in Lyon's bouchons, or small family-run restaurants, and are perfect for convivial meals and appetizing dishes. The 2018 vintage was considered the ideal vintage as it combined good volume and excellent quality. Let's see how this Gamay is tasting tonight...

Albert Bichot Sélection Parcellaire Beaujolais-Villages 2018 (88+ pts)

Tasting Note:

Crafted with 100% Gamay, the medium+ intensity nose has attractive aromas of strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, wild berry, and spices with a touch of savoury wet earth. On the medium+ bodied palate it is spicy with raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, and clove flavours in a dry profile. It has very good, juicy acidity and light, fine-grained tannins adding a nice texture to the mouthfeel. Clove spice and earthy notes linger on juicy finish, with very good length. Highly recommended buy. Score: 88+ pts

Other delicious wines from Albert Bichot are available at the LCBO, as well as through their Agent - Dionysus Wines & Spirits.

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  • Date publishedThursday, December 16, 2021

DGB - White Wines from South Africa

With today's mild weather, wine reviews are a trio of delicious white wines from South Africa. All three are readily available at LCBO outlets across Ontario, with one a VINTAGES Essentials product, while the other two being General List wines.

DGB - White Wines from South Africa

These wines are produced by DGB (Douglas Green Bellingham) - a classic company in a modern era that uses their many years of experience and a committed staff to build brands with an unrivalled passion. DGB is headquartered at their production facility in Wellington, but they also have production facilities in Franschhoek and Boschendal. Being a large producer, DGB also has their own laboratory to ensure product quality, a packaging plant, and their own cellar and storage facility.

South Africa has a rich and varied terrain and is famed for its ancient soils. As such, DGB has a dedicated Viticulturalist with extensive experience working with the diverse vineyards of the Cape Wetlands and provides a crucial link between growers and the winemakers in the cellar as they search for exceptional fruit from healthy vineyards. With passion and respect for the environment, the Viticulturalist is a great advocate for biological farming and is an important leader in DGB's sustainability projects.

DGB acquired Boschendal in 2005 and is just one of company's many brands. Boschendal - which comes from bush and dale in Dutch - is one of the oldest Wine Estates in South Africa and is located between Franschhoek and Stellenbosch in Western Cape. An iconic wine farm, Boschendal is nestled in one of the most picturesque valleys in the Cape Winelands and has a winemaking tradition that spans over 330 years.

At Boschendal, they believe that wines are made in the vineyard and seek specific terroir-driven sites best suited for their vines. They have also embraced sustainability techniques in both the vineyard and and cellar to retain the country's exceptional biodiversity. With teamwork a core value, all members of the Boschendal team share the same goal which is to craft exceptional and memorable wines, while striving for perfection and aspiring to improve.

Let's see how these delicious wines from Boschendal and The Beachhouse are tasting tonight...

Tasting Notes:

BOSCHENDAL 1685 CHARDONNAY 2019 - WO Western Cape, South Africa (#367698) (XD) - $16.95
This 100% Chardonnay was crafted with fruit from Stellenbosch, Elgin Valley and Boschendal farm, from vineyards planted on well-drained soils. With a combination of fermentation and ageing regimens, the final blend is composed of 70% barrel fermented and matured and 30% stainless steel tank Chardonnay, all spending 10 months on its lees. Screw cap. The fragrant, medium-high intensity nose offers a ripe mix of orchard fruit, apple, pineapple, butter, and some leesy mineral aromas. It has very good weight on the dry, medium+ bodied palate with juicy acidity supporting the buttery, apple, orchard fruit, sweet vanillin oak, and herbal flavours. Nice leesy mineral texture on the mid-palate that lingers through to long, balanced finish with apple, butter, and leesy mineral flavours with a hint of caramel. Recommended buy. VINTAGES Essentials. Score: 88+ pts

Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2019 (88+ pts)Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2020 (88 pts)

BOSCHENDAL THE PAVILLION CHENIN BLANC 2020 - WO Western Cape, South Africa (#281311) (XD) - $11.95
Screw cap. Aged on fine lees to add complexity, this 100% Chenin Blanc has a medium+ intensity nose that has a touch of sulphur, but once that blows off there is lovely ripe apple, lemon citrus, white floral, grapefruit, and herbal aromas. On the mid-weighted palate it is dry with apple, citrus, and grapefruit, with some leesy mineral flavours in a nicely textured profile and crisp, balanced acidity. Citrusy, grapefruit, and minerals linger on the crisp finish, with very good length. Highly recommended buy. General List. Score: 88 pts

THE BEACHHOUSE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2020 - WO Western Cape, South Africa (#122390) (D) - $11.95
Screw cap. The 100% Sauvignon Blanc has delicate and ripe aromas of tropical fruit, guava, and passion fruit with an herbal element. It has very good weight on the slightly off-dry palate with delicious tropical fruit, lemon citrus, and saline flavours. It has well-balanced acidity, while the lingering finish has tropical fruit, citrus and saline notes. Crowd pleaser. General List. Score: 87 pts

The Beachhouse Sauvignon Blanc 2020 (87 pts)

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  • Date publishedMonday, December 13, 2021

Tedeschi Capitel Nicalò Valpolicella Superiore 2019 (Veneto) - Wine Review

wine review is the latest vintage of a consistently well-made, and delicious red wine from the famous Valpolicella region within Veneto. It arrived at the LCBO over the weekend, as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

It is crafted by Tedeschi Wines, a winemaking family with over four centuries of history and tradition, including cru wine pioneers in Valpolicella. Since 1630, the Tedeschi family have been passionate in its interpretation of the Valpolicella region. Their wines are marked with personality to reveal aromas and flavours that are typical of the earth and characterize Tedeschi's identity. Tedeschi's winemaking philosophy is based on patience - to wait for the amount of time required both in the vineyard and in the winery - and dedication - to carefully attend to details and have the appropriate attitude towards their raw materials. They strive to combine long held family traditions with innovative research and production methods to craft wines that delivers the richness of Valpolicella.

Today, Tedeschi wines are synonymous with terroir and Valpolicella. Their profound attention to detail in the vineyard includes research to uncover the perfect interaction between the characteristics of the soil, micro-climate, sun exposure, selecting the most appropriate varietals, and the cultivation system. Research and experimentation are fundamental tools at Tedeschi. They have always respected the environment and are now sustainable and certified according to the standards of Biodiversity Friend and Equalitas.

This red wine is a blend of autochthonous varieties - 35% Corvina, 35% Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, and 10% Rossignola / Oseleta / Negrara / Dindarella - that were grown on Moraine Hills of clay and limestone in the heart of Valpolicella. It was crafted in the traditional Veronese manner of drying the grapes. In actual fact, it is a partial dehydration as the grapes are placed in crates for approximately one month, thereby losing 8-10% of their weight. This process naturally enriches the sugar content of the grapes, their dry extract, and the colour of the wine. After fermentation and maceration, the wine is aged for 12 to 18 months in Slavonian oak barrels, then aged for another 6 months in bottle prior to release. I've had the pleasure of tasting previous vintages of this wine and it always pleases. Let's see how this 2019 is tasting tonight...

Tedeschi Capitel Nicalò Valpolicella Superiore 2019 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

A blend of 35% Corvina, 35% Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, and 10% Rossignola / Oseleta / Negrara / Dindarella, the medium-high intensity offers stewed and dried dark berry, black cherry, and plum aromas mingling with spices and earthy wood notes. It has good weight on the spicy, medium-bodied palate with more stewed black cherry, currant, plum, wood spice, and earthy notes in a dry flavour profile that's lifted by fresh, lively acidity. Supple tannins have a nice, slightly chalky texture. Very good length with wood spice, stewed berries, and faint mineral notes lingering on the finish. Recommended buy! Score: 89 pts

While some lovely wines from Tedeschi can be found at the LCBO, others can be ordered through their Agent - Noble Estates Wines & Spirits.

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  • Date publishedSaturday, December 11, 2021

Lungarotti Rubesco Sangiovese/Colorino 2018 (Umbria) - Wine Review

After enjoying the lovely 2015 Lungarotti Rubesco Sangiovese/Colorino near two years ago, wine review is the latest vintage of this lovely red wine that arrived at the LCBO today as part of the LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Founded in central Italy the early 1960's, Cantine Lungarotti soon became a driving force that opened up new opportunities not only for Torgiano (a commune in the Province of Perugia in Umbria), but also for whole region of Umbria - with wine as the centrepiece.

This Rubesco is Lungarotti's most exported wine worldwide. The name "Rubesco" is derived from the Latin verb "rubescere", which means "to blush" (with joy). Depicted on the label is the harvest from a panel found at the Fontana Maggiore in the city of Perugia, one of Italy's most beautiful Medieval fountains. This fountain was built in approximately 1277.

The 2018 vintage of this wine remains a blend of Sangiovese and Colorino and although I wasn't able to confirm the exact composition, I would expect it to be similar to the previous vintage that was a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino. The grapes were grown on a mixture of looser structure soils on higher hillsides, and in other areas the soils had good structure with a limestone subsoil. Fermentation took place in stainless steel at controlled temperatures with 15 days of skin contact. It was then aged for one year in casks, followed by a year in bottle prior to release. Reports indicate that the 2018 vintage was a success for the region, producing beautifully balanced wines. Let's see how this 2018 red wine from Umbria is tasting tonight...

Lungarotti Rubesco Sangiovese/Colorino 2018 (89 pts)

Tasting Note:

LUNGAROTTI RUBESCO SANGIOVESE/COLORINO 2018 - DOC Rosso di Torgiano, Umbria, Italy (#368548) (XD) - $19.95
A blend of predominantly Sangiovese with Colorino adding colour and tannin, it has a pleasing, medium-high intensity nose has aromas of dark cherry, black plum, stony mineral, and pepper spice accented with violet. On the medium+ bodied palate it has spicy, tangy dark cherry, black plum, mineral, and tobacco flavours supported by fresh, juicy, and well-balanced acidity. The structured, dusty textured tannins have some chalky grip and will reward ageing. I like the stony mineral notes that linger on the long finish. Recommended buy. Score: 89 pts

You may find one or two wines from Lungarotti at the LCBO, while others from their lovely portfolio can be ordered through their Agent - Profile Wine Group.

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  • Date publishedThursday, December 9, 2021

Xavier Vignon Lirac 2019 (Rhône) - Wine Review

red wine review is a lovely red from the Lirac AOC in the southern Rhône Valley that arrives at the LCBO this weekend. Not only is this wine featured as part of the theme on "Elegant Wines for Holiday Entertaining" in the LCBO VINTAGES Release, but it also the Wine of the Month and will be widely available across the province by Saturday, if not already.

It is produced by Xavier Vignon, a man who for years was branding his wines under the "Xavier Vins" label. Xavier Vignon began his studies in the faculty of pharmacy in Reims, but caught the wine bug after a chance encounter with an oenologist. This encounter enabled Xavier to gain valuable experience working in several Champagne houses and began his journey to discover the world of wine.

Xavier studies oenology and agronomy and begins working for world class estates in France and Australia, mentored along the way. In 1998, he partnered with a friend to create their own consulting company, to great success, then started creating his own Rhône Valley blends a year later. In the first few years of the 21st century, Xavier builds his own brand of wines under the Xavier Vins label.

Today Xavier Vignon's fundamental values are the love for a job well done and the capacity to transmit knowledge. Xavier has in-depth knowledge of the Rhône Valley with many harvests under his belt. He is a terroir hunter and master blender, imparting his own history and style to craft unique wines while being respectful of the environment. His desire is to share his wines, the fruit of his passion, with people whether they are new wine drinkers, amateurs or connoisseurs.

This red wine from Lirac, a region I had the pleasure of , and is crafted using a blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah. The grapes were sustainably grown on clay and galets roulés (pebble stone) soils, with the vines averaging 40-50 years old. In the winery, the grapes were co-fermented to increase aromatic complexity and fermented at moderate temperatures to favour soft diffusion of flavor compounds. Only 30% of the wine was aged in barrel for 12 months, while the remainder was aged in concrete tank to preserve the purity of the fruit.

The last cru wine I enjoyed from this producer was the 2017 Xavier Vignon Ventoux a couple of summers ago, let's see how this Lirac red is tasting tonight...

Xavier Vignon Lirac 2019 (91 pts)

Tasting Note:

XAVIER VIGNON LIRAC 2019 - AP, Rhône, France (#636183) (XD) - $23.95
This co-fermented blend of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah was aged mostly in concrete tank. The medium+ intensity nose seems a bit shy, offering hints of spicy raspberry and blackberry, garrigue, plus whiffs of oak and mineral. The medium to medium-full bodied palate is fruit forward and uber-ripe with raspberry, dark berry, spice, and garrigue flavours surrounding a savoury core, plus touches of florality. It has juicy, lip-smacking acidity, and ripe, smooth, supple, and lightly chalky textured tannins. Nicely balanced throughout with a pleasing mix of berries and smoky mineral lingering on the long finish. Highly recommended buy to enjoy over the next 5-6 years. Score: 91 pts

Some of the lovely wines from Xavier Vignon are currently available at the LCBO, while others can be ordered through their Agent - Noble Estates Wines & Spirits.

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  • Date publishedThursday, December 9, 2021

December 11, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release Wine Picks: Holiday Wines

LCBO Wine Picks: December 11, 2021 VINTAGES Release
The upcoming December 11, 2021 LCBO VINTAGES Release is the final release of the year. It is a mono-thematic release that focuses on Elegant Wines for Holiday Entertaining, with many other elegant wines also available throughout the rest of release as well. All of the wines should be in stores across Ontario by this Saturday.

We begin with the theme on Elegant Wines for Holiday Entertaining, and of the thirty wines included as part of this thematic, only four wines are included among my top wine picks. First up is a lovely Lirac from Rhône that consists of 80% Grenache and 20% Syrah and is also the Wine of the Month. Also part of this theme is the 2017 Amarone that is a blend of 40% Corvina, 40% Corvinone, and 20% Rondinella. Single varietal wines include a Cabernet Sauvignon from Argentina, and the lone white which is a sophisticated 2020 Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

Xavier Vignon Lirac 2019 (91 pts)Bodega Piedra Negra Gran Lurton Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (90 pts)

From my top red wine recommendations, there are many lovely wines worth your attention, starting with an excellent 2012 Amarone that is a blend of Corvina, Rondinella, and Molinara that returned to Ontario. Staying in Italy, the Valpolicella Superiore is a blend of 35% Corvina, 35% Corvinone, 20% Rondinella, and 10% Rossignola / Oseleta / Negrara / Dindarella, while the red from Umbria is mainly Sangiovese with Colorino completing the blend. From Spain, the Rioja consists of 78% Tempranillo and 22% Garnacha. Some of the single varietal wines include the Barolo which is made with Nebbiolo, and the Chianti Classico that is made with Sangiovese.

Masi Mazzano Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012 (94 pts)Tedeschi Capitel Nicalò Valpolicella Superiore 2019 (89 pts)

Lungarotti Rubesco Sangiovese/Colorino 2018 (89 pts)

Among my white wine picks, the only blend is the Soave that consists of 85% Garganega and 15% Trebbiano di Soave. Among the single varietal white wines, both Lugana wines are made with 100% Trebbiano di Lugana, while the Sauvignon Blanc from Waipara (New Zealand) was fermented with indigenous yeasts and aged in old French oak barrels, and the white Burgundy is made with Chardonnay. If you prefer some sweetness, take a look at the off-dry Riesling from Niagara, or go even more sweeter with Riesling from Mosel.

13th Street June's Vineyard Riesling 2019 (90 pts)

Although there are many sparkling wines for celebrations in this release, just one made my list of wine picks - a Rosé Prosecco that is made with 85% Glera and 15% Pinot Nero. Other fine sparkling wine recommendations can be found in the previous release.

Enjoy my wine picks from this release! Happy entertaining and stay safe!

Red Wine:

  • TEDESCHI CAPITEL NICALÒ VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE 2019 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#984997) (XD) - $17.95  89 pts  wine review
  • FABRE MONTMAYOU RESERVA MALBEC 2019 - Mendoza, Argentina (#261867) (XD) - $18.95
  • LUNGAROTTI RUBESCO SANGIOVESE/COLORINO 2018 - DOC Rosso di Torgiano, Umbria, Italy (#368548) (XD) - $19.95  89 pts  wine review
  • SAN PEDRO 1865 SELECTED VINEYARDS CARMENÈRE 2019 - DO Valle de Maule, Chile (#249201) (XD) - $19.95  90 pts  wine review
  • SIDEWOOD SHIRAZ 2018 - Adelaide Hills, South Australia (#446146) (XD) - $19.95
  • XAVIER VIGNON LIRAC 2019 - AP, Rhône, France (#636183) (XD) - $23.95  91 pts  wine review
  • BODEGA PIEDRA NEGRA GRAN LURTON SINGLE VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2018 - Los Chacayes, Valle de Uco, Mendoza, Argentina (#980334) (XD) - $24.95  90 pts  wine review
San Pedro 1865 Selected Vineyards Carmenère 2019 (90 pts)

  • INVIVO CENTRAL OTAGO PINOT NOIR 2019 - Central Otago, South Island, New Zealand (#466029) (XD) - $24.95
  • VOLPAIA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2018 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#953828) (XD) - $30.95  FE
  • AURELIO SETTIMO BAROLO 2016 - DOCG, Piedmont, Italy (#291559) (XD) - $51.95
  • LA RIOJA ALTA VIÑA ARDANZA RESERVA 2012 - DOCa Rioja, Spain (#315531) (XD) - $54.95
  • FUMANELLI AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2017 - DOCG, Veneto, Italy (#475053) (XD) - $59.95
  • BAROSSA VALLEY ESTATE E&E BLACK PEPPER SHIRAZ 2016 - Barossa Valley, South Australia (#731620) (XD) - $99.95  93 pts  wine review
  • MASI MAZZANO AMARONE DELLA VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO 2012 - DOCG, Veneto, Italy (#597476) (XD) - $134.95  94 pts  wine review

Barossa Valley Estate E&E Black Pepper Shiraz 2016 (93 pts)

White Wine:

  • RIOLITE MALVASI LUGANA GRANDE 2018 - DOC, Lombardy, Italy (#17741) (XD) - $15.95
  • KEN FORRESTER OLD VINE RESERVE CHENIN BLANC 2020 - WO Stellenbosch, South Africa (#231282) (XD) - $17.95
  • ZENATO SAN BENEDETTO LUGANA 2020 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#707158) (D) - $19.95
  • 13TH STREET JUNE'S VINEYARD RIESLING 2019 - VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (#147512) (D) - $19.95  90 pts  wine review
  • PIEROPAN SOAVE CLASSICO 2019 - DOC, Veneto, Italy (#946848) (XD) - $19.95
  • RAPAURA SPRINGS ROHE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2020 - Sustainable, Blind River, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#12647) (XD) - $24.95
  • DR. PAULY-BERGWEILER WEHLENER SONNENUHR RIESLING KABINETT 2019 - Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany (#557652) (M) - $27.95  FE
  • MUDDY WATER GROWERS' SERIES SAUVIGNON BLANC 2019 - Waipara, South Island, New Zealand (#19766) (XD) - $29.95
  • AUNTSFIELD SINGLE VINEYARD CHARDONNAY 2019 - Sustainable, Southern Valleys, Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#12623) (XD) - $29.95
  • MARCHAND-TAWSE VIRÉ-CLESSÉ 2018 - AC, Burgundy, France (#648576) (XD) - $30.95

Sparkling Wine:

  • MASI MODELLO MILLESIMATO BRUT ROSÉ PROSECCO 2020 - DOC, Italy (#21049) (D) - $19.95


  • ALVEAR PEDRO XIMENEZ DE AÑADA 2017 - DOP Montilla-Moriles, Spain (#499152) (S) (375 mL) - $24.95

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  • Date publishedTuesday, December 7, 2021

Argentina National Wine Day Nov. 24, 2021 - Virtual Tasting Event

I had the pleasure of attending a virtual wine tasting event a to celebrate - an event held annually since November 24, 2010, the day when a presidential decree was signed recognizing wine as the country's national drink and honouring the wine industry's contribution to Argentina's national identity. This virtual event was presented by The Embassy of Argentina, The Consulate of Argentina in Toronto, and Wines of Argentina. Leading the tasting of the 4 wines (all are lovely and reviewed below) was Argentine wine writer and oenologist, Joaquin Hidalgo, and moderated by Christopher Waters, Dip, WSET, Director of Education at IWEG, as they explored the diversity, resiliency and culture of Argentina through its national drink: Vino Argentino.

Celebrating Argentina National Wine Day on Nov. 24, 2021

The first Vitis Vinifera vines were introduced in Argentina by Spanish settlers in 1551 and they soon discovered that the soil and weather conditions favoured the growth of vines, especially in regions near the Andes Mountains. With the first Quinta Normal de Agricultura (School of Agriculture) inaugurated in 1853, the wine industry expanded nationwide. Fast forward to more recent times, modernization of the wine industry occurred during the 90s, leading to more wine being produced, as well as much more wine being exported to markets worldwide. Today, Argentina is the world's 5th largest wine producer, and 10th largest wine exporter with 895 wineries producing Vino Argentino. Locally, Argentina is the 9th most consumer of wine, with Buenos Aires 2nd in wine consumption per capita, behind only Paris.

Winegrowing activities are spread throughout the Argentina, from Salta in the north to Patagonia in the south, as well as in the Atlantic provinces. However, the workhorse of winegrowing in the country is the Cuyo region, representing 95% of the country's cultivated surface area. Moreover, Cuyo is the most prolific winegrowing region in South America and one of the most important worldwide.

Cuyo means "desert country" in the Huarpe Millcayac language of the native peoples that inhabited this area, prior to the arrival of the colonizers. This area is an arid and fertile region located in the central-west of the country, at the foot of the Andes mountain range. Making up Cuyo are the provinces of La Rioja, San Juan, and the famous Mendoza. Importantly, it is in Cuyo where the diverse character of Argentine viticulture is most evident. The region has a semi-arid climate with scarce vegetation, cold winters and hot summers which are enhanced by the influence of the Andes that also shows off its highest altitudes here and provides the main source of irrigation. The pure snowmelt water from the Andes feeds the main rivers of the region, which are then used by a system of reservoirs and channels for the irrigation of crops.

All of the lovely wines included as part of this tasting are from Mendoza. Malbec is by far the most widely grown varietal in the country, and these two wines are a chance to compare and contrast. Cabernet Sauvignon is becoming more widely planted, while Semillon from Argentina is a rare treat here in Ontario. The Cabernet Sauvignon arrives in LCBO VINTAGES on the weekend, while the other 3 wines are available right now in LCBO VINTAGES for your enjoyment as you explore some of the diverse wines of Argentina.

Tasting Notes:

NIETO SENETINER SEMILLON 2019 - Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#19399) (XD) - $15.95
100% Semillon from vineyards planted in 1947 at more than 1,200 metres (3,930 feet) altitude, with 30% of the wine aged in barrels for 10 months. The elegant, fragrant, and complex nose delivers lovely aromas of paraffin, white floral, smoke, and herbs surrounding a core of white fleshed orchard fruit. The medium-full bodied, concentrated, structured, and powdery-textured palate is dry with spicy flavours of orchard fruit, tangy citrus, white floral, and herbs backed by fresh, lively, and juicy acidity. The paraffin and smoky flavours return on the leesy mineral finish, with excellent length. New in Oct. 30 LCBO VINTAGES Release. Agent: Sylvestre Wines & Spirits. Score: 90 pts

Nieto Senetiner Semillon 2019 (90 pts)

LUIGI BOSCA MALBEC 2019 - Mendoza, Argentina (#452672) (XD) - $18.95 $16.95 until Jan. 2, 2022
This 100% Malbec was grown in Luján de Cuyo and Uco Valley, from vines averaging 35 years of age, and between 900 to 1,100 metres (2,950 to 3,600 feet) altitude. It was aged for 12 months in French oak barrels. The fragrant, medium-high to highly aromatic nose offers lovely aromas of ripe, dark fruited, blackberry, black cherry, and dark currant aromas surrounding a core of smoky, earthy, and savoury mineral. On the ripe, full-bodied, and fleshy palate, it has spicy dark berry flavours of blackberry, black cherry, and grilled herb with violet and boysenberry accents, followed by savoury, stony mineral notes. Acids are fresh, juicy, and well-balanced, while the smooth, refined tannins are dusty textured. Subtly spicy on the mid-palate, with smoky, stony mineral notes lingering on the finish, with very good length. VINTAGES Essentials. Agent: FWM Canada. Score: 89 pts

Luigi Bosca Malbec 2019 (89 pts)Lupa Malbec 2018 (91+ pts)

LUPA MALBEC 2018 - Paraje Altamira, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#629964) (XD) - $38
100% Malbec from 60 year old vines grown on calcareous soils of alluvial origin at 1,180 metres (3,609 feet) above sea level. It was fermented in concrete tanks with native yeasts, then aged for 21 months in mostly used French oak barrels. Recyclable, plant-based cork. Fine, attractive, and highly aromatic nose has spicy and minerally aromas surrounding a core of ripe dark berry, blackberry, and purple fruit, accented with dried herbs and subtle wood spice. It’s medium-full bodied and slightly warming with spicy, ripe blackberry, violet, mineral, and wood flavours supported by juicy, mouth-watering acidity. The structured and refined tannins are lightly chalky textured and drying. Very satisfying, minerally aftertaste with excellent length on the finish. Enjoy over the next 5-6 years. VINTAGES Classics September 2021. Agent: DB Wine & Spirits. Score: 91+ pts

BODEGA PIEDRA NEGRA GRAN LURTON SINGLE VINEYARD CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2018 - Los Chacayes, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina (#980334) (XD) - $24.95
The fresh, fragrant nose offers lovely dark red fruited, cassis, currant, earthy, and mineral aromas accented with leafy herbs and whiffs of cocoa powder. On the full-ish bodied palate it is ripe and complex with tangy red and black fruits, currant, blackberry, raspberry, black plum, oak spice, and graphite flavours, all supported by fresh, juicy acidity. The structured and youthful tannins are quite firm and drying at this stage. Lovely graphite and dark berry notes linger on the long-lasting finish. Approachable now, but will reward cellaring for 2-3 years. Dec. 11 LCBO VINTAGES Release. Agent: Trajectory Beverage Partners. Score: 90 pts

Bodega Piedra Negra Gran Lurton Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 (90 pts)

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  • Date publishedThursday, December 2, 2021

Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2017 (New Zealand) - Wine Review

wine review is this excellent, off-dry Pinot Gris from New Zealand that arrived at the LCBO in limited quantities over the weekend as part of the recent LCBO VINTAGES Release.

Greywacke (pronounced Greywacky) is the Marlborough label of iconic winemaker Kevin Judd. After spending many years working at another winery, he wanted to create his own label of wines and established Greywacke in 2009. The name comes from New Zealand's most abundant bedrock and these understated grey river stones are found throughout Marlborough's rivers alluvial vineyard soils.

Today, Greywacke is very much a Judd family affair with a keep it simple and hands-on approach, with minimal intervention techniques adopted for winemaking. Greywacke is located in the heart of Marlborough's Omaka Valley, one of the Southern Valleys, and the fruit is sourced from mature vineyards in prime viticultural sites. All of the vineyards are sustainably managed, with substantial and increasing portions coming from organically farmed sites. Kevin is also a renowned photographer, using his own photos that adorn the labels of his wines.

Much of fruit for this 100% Pinot Gris is from the Selection Ovaille and Mission clones grown at the Wrekin Terrace Vineyard in the Brancott Valley, a valley floor site on gravelly clay-loam soils that is typical of the Southern Valleys. A smaller parcel of fruit is from the Entav 52 clone that is known for its small bunch and berry size and was grown at the Riverbrook Vineyard in Rapaura where the young alluvial soils contain high proportions of greywacke river stones. All of the grapes were hand-picked at high ripeness levels, then whole bunch pressed. Most of the resulting juice was naturally fermented with indigenous yeast in old French oak barriques, while the rest was fermented with cultured yeast in stainless steel tanks. Towards the end of the fermentation, all of the wine was combined into stainless steels tanks, then aged on yeast lees for a year, with 6 months spent in old barrels followed by 6 months in stainless steel tanks.

While I had the pleasure and honour of tasting this same Pinot Gris at the winery with Kevin back in March 2020, I am curious to see how it has evolved and tasting tonight...

Greywacke Marlborough Pinot Gris 2017 (93 pts)

Tasting Note:

GREYWACKE MARLBOROUGH PINOT GRIS 2017 - Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand (#994939) (D) - $29.95
Screw cap. The medium-high intensity nose offers an initial flinty, sulphide, yeasty mineral, and lightly nose tingling experience, but laying underneath are rich, ripe and complex aromas of stone fruit, pear, apple, peach, citrus, floral, and grapefruit with touches of honey. On the rich, ripe, concentrated, and creamy palate are off-dry flavours of poached pear, ginger, honey, and spice. Slightly warming on the mid-palate, but still well-balanced with juicy acidity. Honeyed ginger, citrus, spice, and yeasty minerals linger on the long finish, with excellent length. Highly recommended buy! Score: 93 pts

Small quantities of other excellent wines from Greywacke are available at the LCBO, while other wines from their portfolio can be ordered through their Agent - Connexion Oenophilia.

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