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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 (ICCO) 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.

First image of this post
  • 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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