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Wine Reviews

June 2021 Wine Ratings

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Canada

White

91 Rockway Vineyards Brut Cuvée NV, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($29)

This impressive sparkling wine is a blend of 67% Chardonnay and 32% Pinot Noir. Aged for 32 months on the lees, it is rich and ripe with yellow apple, peach, citrus, toast and pear flavours. On the palate it is creamy and concentrated as well as being at the higher end of sweetness for the Brut designation. At this price, I would suggest purchasing a couple of bottles. Ready to drink. (ES)

90 Chateau des Charmes Blanc des Blancs 2016, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada ($34.95)

This vintage dated 100% Chardonnay bubbly spent three years on its yeast cells before being disgorged. This has created a pale-yellow colour and a profile of toast, elderflower, honey, pear, Macintosh apple, citrus and minerals. Medium body with a fine perlage and length. A chilled seafood tower would be bliss. (ES)

90 Westcott Vineyards Brilliant 2017, Vinemount Ridge, Canada ($39)

A terroir-based bubbly! From a cool vintage comes this 2/3rd Pinot Noir, 1/3rd Chardonnay assemblage. Pale in colour, the bouquet features brioche, green apple, lemon rind and mint. This intersects with a huge streak of minerality onto the palate. Linear and long lasting and perfect for oysters on the half shell with mignonette. (ES)

87 Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Riesling 2018, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($19)

Off dry, this light bodied Riesling possesses a personality of pear, apple, lime, honey, white peach and minerals. Pair with grilled octopus marinated in Moroccan spices. (ES)

Rose

89 Malivoire Vivant Rosé 2020, Beamsville Bench, Canada ($19.95)

A distinctive blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Gris. Cherry, strawberry, watermelon on the nose meets with cranberry, grapefruit and hints of spice on the palate. Dry and lithe with lovely acidity and a lengthy aftertaste. Try with salmon rillettes.  Recommended (ES)

88 Speck Bros. Aria Sparkling Rosé 2020, Ontario, Canada ($14.95)

This sparkling Rose is easy quaff which will resonate with the masses. Off dry, a bouquet of peach, strawberry, roses and honey are all in play. Perfect as a patio sipper or for Sunday brunches. Drink now. Recommended. (ES)

Red

88 Cave Spring Pinot Noir 2019, Niagara Escarpment, Canada ($19.95)

A lovely Pinot with a fragrant bouquet of cherry, cranberry, rose, nutmeg graphite. Medium body, soft tannins and easy finale. Try with pork tenderloin or smoked salmon. (ES)

88 Chateau des Charmes Gamay Noir ‘Droit’ 2018 St. David’s Bench Vineyard, St. David’s Bench, Canada ($19.95)

Medium ruby in colour, this Gamay features a nose of dark cherry, plum, raspberry and smoke. This also carries over onto the palate where savoury herbs and hints of white pepper chime in. Mouth watering acidity and suave tannins round everything out. Made for charcuterie. (ES)

California

90 Bonny Doon Vineyards Vin Gris de Cigare 2020, Central Coast ($19.95)

From the original Rhone Ranger comes this homage to Southern Rhone Roses. Its name is derived from the singular 1954 Chateauneuf-du-Pape law that prohibited flying saucers (cigars) from landing within the appellation’s boundaries. Yup, you cannot make this stuff up! Anyways, this Grenache dominant blend is a delicious tipple full of strawberry, raspberry, cherry, rhubarb, pepper and oregano. Texturally, it is creamy with sound acidity and great length. Hamburgers please. Recommended.  (ES)

France

Rose

90 Gérard Bertrand Cote Des Roses Rosé 2020, Languedoc, France ($19.95)

The name Gerard Bertrand is synonymous with Southern French Wines. The former rugby player turned winemaker owns/manages sixteen estates and produces a portfolio of high-quality wines at different price ranges. This wine, with its distinct bottle, continues to be a favorite in the Canadian market. Mediterranean through and through, it is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault. Strawberry, cherry, blackcurrant, red flower and pepper are at the crux of the delightful Rosé. Excellent length, dry and good to go with pizza. Recommended. (ES)

90 Maison Saint Aix Rosé 2020, Coteaux D’Aix En Provence, France ($24.95)

The 2020 Aix Rosé is majoritarily Grenache with Syrah and Cinsault in a supporting role. Pale salmon in colour it reveals strawberry, rhubarb, cassis, bubble gum, white pepper and garrigue. True to the ‘Aix’ style, it is dry, and the finish is protracted. Tuna tartare or bouillabaisse is the way to go. Recommended. (ES)

86 Delas Saint-Esprit Côtes du Rhône Rosé 2019, Rhone Valley, France ($17.95)

This is a well made, straight-forward Rosé which candied flavours of raspberry and cherry alongside white pepper and herbs. Medium length with a supple texture and ready to drink. (ES)

Red

87 George Vigouroux Pigmentum Malbec 2018, Cahors, France ($15.95)

Long have I been a fan of the wines of South-West France, especially the wines of Cahors - the spiritual homeland of Malbec. This rendition is easy drinking and features plum, mulberry, raspberry, violets and clove. Medium body with a sweet texture and fine-grained tannins.

Italy

White

85 Adesso Chardonnay 2019, Italy ($8.30)

Tastes more like Sauvignon Blanc what with all the gooseberry, passion fruit, grapefruit and green apple flavours. It is technically well-made and for the price a multiple bottle purchase makes absolute sense. Try with mild cheeses or fish topped with lemon. (ES)

Red

85 Adesso Merlot 2019, Italy ($8.30)

Much like the white version, this is a smooth and easy drinking wine which is priced right. Textbook flavours of plum, cherry, boysenberry, cocoa and vanilla are here. Perfect as a sipper or as a base for Sangria. (ES)

Portugal

87 Bicycle Thief Red 2018, Portugal ($15.75/1.5L)

Wow, really great value here – less than $8 for 750ml!   Packaged in a versatile 1.5L pouch, it is a fruit forward offering full of dark cherry, plum, raspberry, strawberry, orange peel and white pepper. Smooth as silk and ready to drink. Ideal for picnics or get togethers with friends. A blend of Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. (ES)

Spain

87 Humante, Navarra, Spain ($9.20)

Easily recognizable via its label featuring a red bearded hombre. Made from Grenache, it is a fragrant offering full of strawberry, raspberry, plum and cassis. There are notes of spice, cocoa and herbs on the palate as well as supple tannins. Fine length and ready to drink. Perfect for the BBQ season. (ES)

 

May 2021 Wine Ratings

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Canada

91 Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs NV, Beamsville Bench, Ontario ($29.95)

One of my favorite Niagara Traditional Method Chardonnays. Refined, there is a pale golden colour and a bouquet of toast/yeast, lemon, green apple and almond. Fine length with pinpoint, creamy bubbles and lovely acidity. Very satisfying! (ES)

90 Château des Charmes Chardonnay St. David’s Bench Vineyard 2016, St. David’s Bench, Ontario ($24.95)

From a warm vintage comes this maturing Chardonnay which spent a year in barrel. Soft and creamy, there is golden apple, peach, pineapple, jasmine and notes of honey. Excellent length with just the right a mount acidity which makes paring with lobster and drawn butter a must! (ES)

90 Henry of Pelham Riesling Estate 2019, Short Hills Bench, Ontario ($19.95)

The Speck Brothers, owners of HOP, are some of the most down to earth/affable personalities in the Niagara wine biz. From a vineyard planted in 1984 comes this zippy Riesling which expresses itself in the form of lime zest, white peach, white flower and green apple. There is some residual on the finale, but it comes off as dry. Drink until 2030. (ES)

89 Cave Spring Riesling 2019, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($15.95)

From one of the OG Ontario Riesling specialists! This is Cave’s entry-level, off-dry Riesling but for all intents and purposes, it feels dry. Lime, bergamot, mineral, lemon juice and minerals mix together on a brisk palate. Sushi was the first food pairing which came to mind. Drink over the next 5 years. (ES)

89 Reif Estate Winery Riesling Reserve 2020, Niagara River, Ontario ($20)

The warm vintage has imbued this wine with sweet peach, honey, powdered candies, and citrus. This is a mid-weight and easy drinking Riesling with a touch of sweetness. Ready to drink.  Think tacos el pastor or ceviche. (ES)

88 Westcott Vineyards Butler’s Grant Riesling 2020, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario ($19)

This a straight-up, easy quaffing Riesling with peach compote, pear, mineral, lime and honey. Chill well and serve as an aperitif or with mild cheeses. (ES)

Rose

91 Malivoire Ladybug Rosé 2020, Niagara Peninsula ($16.95)

Arguably, the most recognisable Rosé from Ontario. The warm vintage of 2020 amped up this wine helping to create a concentrated mix of strawberry, rhubarb, raspberry, cassis, pink grapefruit and sweet herbs. Excellent length and value. Ready to drink so try with souvlaki skewers. Majoritarily Cabernet Franc backstopped by Gamay and Pinot Noir. (ES)

88 Westcott Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé 2020, Vinemount Ridge ($24)

This is a winery that you need to discover if you have not done so yet. Their 2020 Pinot Rosé is a subtle but lengthy offering with strawberry and cranberry on the nose which then adds cassis and cherry on the palate. Add in a creamy texture buttressed by some lively acidity and you have a winner. Pair with grilled salmon filets. (ES)

88 Cave Spring Rosé 2020, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($14.95)

Bone dry, this pale cotton candy coloured Rosé is lithe but flavorful. Made from Cabernet Franc it reveals strawberry, raspberry, pink grapefruit and herbs. Very good length. Pair with terrines or pâtés. (ES)

88 Drea’s Wine Co. Rosé 2019, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($26.90)

This Rose is produced by Andrea Kaiser, daughter of Canadian wine making icon Karl Kaiser, who has started her own winery. It is made from 100% Dornfelder, a rare red varietal originally from Germany, notable for deep coloured wines. Strawberry, raspberry, earth, red flower and herbs are the hallmarks of this offering. Try with grilled pork chops or hamburgers. (ES)

Portugal

White

85 Quinta Vale D. Maria Rufo 2018, Douro ($16.95)

This blend of Arinto, Códega de Larinho and Rabigato is an easy quaff which is showing a singular profile of wet wool, citrus, pear and honey. Ready to drink. Try with claims in a butter/garlic sauce. (ES)

Red

95 Quinta Vale D. Maria 2017, Douro, Portugal ($88)

Outstanding juice alert! From Cristiano Van Zeller, one of the leaders of the dry Douro wine movement comes this blockbuster purple-tinged red which clocks in at 15.5% alcohol.  It is a single vineyard blend of indigenous varietals which are over 60 years old. The bouquet of cassis, plums, dark cherries, violets, herbs, violets, cocoa, spice, and vanilla rolls over onto the concentrated and powerful palate. That said, it requires a few years in the cellar to come together, so hold until 2025 and then drink until 2040+, preferably with roast leg of lamb. Superb length and worth every penny! (ES)

88 Quinta Vale D. Maria Rufo 2018, Douro, Portugal ($16.95)

Smooth and easy drinking, this deep ruby/purple coloured blend of Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca features damson plum, cassis, blackberry, cocoa, vanilla and baking space. Medium plus body with suave tannins and admirable length. Drink over the next 2 to 3 years. (ES)

Spain

89 Torres Gran Coronas Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2016, Penedes, Spain ($19.95)

From one of Spain’s hallowed wine producers. This wine is always a solid value and the 2016 edition continues this streak. Medium body with cassis, raspberry, violets, smoke, earth, olive and sweet herbs. Tannins are present but refined. Drink over the next 3 to 4 years. (ES)

USA

White

88 Edna Valley Vineyard Chardonnay 2019, Central Coast, California ($21.95)

The grapes for this wine were sourced from three different counties - Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. Thirty percent of this wine was aged in new French oak for eight months with weekly bâtonnage. The result is a mid weight Chardonnay with toast, cream, honey, sweet peach, pear and white flower attributes. Very good length and ready to drink, especially with brie or creamy cheeses. (ES)

Red

91 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars Artemis Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Napa Valley ($89.95)

Artemis is the Greek goddess of the hunt. This structured Cab from cooler Napa slopes is full-bodied offering which combines ripeness and elegance. Here you will find crème de cassis, boysenberry, raspberry, plum, mint/herbs and dark cocoa. Hold until 2022 and then drink until 2035. (ES)

92 Signorello Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2017, Napa Valley ($129.95)

Owned by Canadian Ray Signorello, this unfiltered assemblage of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 7% Cabernet Franc, 6% Merlot clocks in at 14.7% alcohol.  Punchy, it offers complexity in the form of cassis, dark cherry, smoke, sweet herbs, tar, violets, licorice and vanilla. Superb length and enough structure to take it to the late 2030s. (ES)

91 Rodney Strong Russian River Valley Estate Pinot Noir, Sonoma County, California ($29.95)

The raspberry, cherry, strawberry, iron and mineral of the grape meses with oak influence in the form of coffee, cocoa and smoke. Mid-weight, there is good extraction, a creamy palate and a long finale. Grilled quail served on mushroom risotto is the way to go. Drink over the next three years. (ES)

90 Brewer Clifton Pinot Noir 2016, Sta. Rita-Hills ($44)

A lithe Cali Pinot with pretty aromas of cranberry, raspberry, red currant, thyme and rose. Medium body with saline minerality adding an extra layer of complexity. Vibrant acid and excellent length. (ES)

 

April 2021 Wine Ratings

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Spain

91 El Gringo Dark Red Tempranillo 2018, Vino de La Tierra de Castilla, Spain ($13.95)

From Central Spain comes this mandatory case purchase wine! The deep ruby colour leads into a bouquet of black cherries, strawberries, cocoa and spice. On the palate, plum and coffee bean add another layer. Medium to full body with moderate tannins and excellent length. Lamb chops all the way! (ES)

88 Radio Boka Tempranillo 2019, Castilla VDT ($11.95)

This, the little brother to El Gringo is no slouch in the flavour and bang for the buck categories. It is a fruit forward offering of red fruits (strawberry/cherries) with some cassis and vanilla undertones.  Fine length with a touch of sweetness and ready to drink. The wine is also available in a 3L bag-in-the-box format for summer camping trips.  (ES)

Canada

87 EastDell Pinot Grigio 2019, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($13.95)

EastDell’ s entry level white wines always deliver typicity and bang for the buck. The newest vintage of their Pinot Grigio is light bodied and extremely quaffable with a mix of pear, white peach, green apple and notes of honey. Dry, the fresh acidity completes the experience. Chill well before opening.  (ES)

France

White

88 Gustave Lorentz Resérve Sylvaner 2019, Alsace, France ($16.95)

Sylvaner, in my opinion, is an underappreciated varietal. Long has the grape been backbone of Edelzwicker, the infamous blended wine of Alsace. Today, it is producing delicious mono-varietal wines. Case and point this bottling which comes from a house which was established in 1836. It flows forward with lemon, green apple, white flowers and lovely streak of minerality. A sublime pairing with oysters and mignonette. Drink over the next 3 years. (ES)

Red

88 Chateau Puyfromage 2018, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux, France ($17.25)

This stalwart Bordeaux has been readily available in most Canadian wine shops for many years now. The 2018 rendition is a medium-bodied blend of 74% Merlot, 17 % Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Cabernet Franc. It serves up plum, raspberry, sour cherry, purple flowers and herbaceous elements. Fine length and a perfect foil for a NY Strip. (ES)

88 M. Chapoutier Les Vignes de Bila-Haut 2018, Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, France ($15.95)

Chapoutier, icon of the Rhone Valley, continues to churn out delicious wines from the southern Roussillon region. The 2018 vintage of this wine is a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. Plum, cassis, boysenberry, dark cherry, licorice, smoke and black pepper are all in play.  Smooth as silk and ready to drink with charcuterie or grilled sausages. (ES)

85 The Lion and The Lily Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Bordeaux, France ($17.85)

The tagline on the bottle reads - ‘Rich, Elegant & Smooth’ - which sums up the experience nicely. Produced by the co-operative, Les Vigneron de Tutiac, this easy drinking and fruit forward red features plum, cherry, spice, cocoa and earthiness. Medium length and ready to drink. Chill slightly before serving. (ES)

Greece

89 Troupis Fteri Moschofilero 2019, Peloponnese, Greece ($15.95)

I have long asserted that the Moschofilero grape is Greece’s answer to Spanish Albarino or Italian Pinot Grigio. Grown at high altitudes on Greece’s largest peninsula this wine is vibrant and features a bouquet of peach, pear, rose water, white flowers and minerals. The flavours echo long, and it is an ideal pairing with grilled octopus or vegetable fritters. (ES)

Italy

White

88 Pitars Friulano San Cristoforo 2018, Friuli, Italy ($16.95)

The Friulano grape is a child of the Friuli-Venezia-Giulia region of North-East Italy. This lovely rendition is fresh and friendly with a profile of pear, white peach, citrus, mineral and notes of honey. Dry and well suited for risotto or seafood. Great length and a solid value! (ES)

87 Santi Sortesele Pinot Grigio, Valdadige, Italy ($17.95)

Here is a straight-forward, friendly and accessible Pinot Grigio featuring peach, honey and lemon. Medium plus length and ready to drink. Think cheese platters or sushi! (ES)

Red

92 Cordero di Montezemolo Monfalletto Barolo 2015, Piedmont, Italy ($59)

Produced from grapes grown in the La Morra commune, this wine will find favour with new world palates with its sweet cherry, floral, chocolate and plum personality. Weighty, full and rich, there is considerable polish.  Excellent length and ready to drink but it has at least another fifteen years of life ahead. (ES)

91 Fontanafredda Barolo Serralunga D’Alba 2015, Piedmont, Italy ($49.95)

Crafted with accessibility in mind, this is a straight up Barolo with cherry, vanilla, undergrowth, spice and a mix of fresh and dry flowers. Medium plus body and perfect for short term cellaring. Five to seven years would be the ideal drinking window. (ES)

91 Aurelio Settimo Barolo Rocche dell'Annunziata 2015, Piedmont, Italy ($55.95)

Many consider Annnziata to be the finest cru from the village of La Morra. Of the 30 hectares, Settimo owns 3.5.  Classically styled, this Barolo features a pale colour with upfront cherry and raspberry aromas followed by undergrowth, flowers and truffle. Medium plus body, a refined texture and great persistency. Drink over the next decade. (ES)

91 Tenuta Rocca Barolo 2015, Piedmont, Italy ($43.95)

The price-quality ratio of this Barolo has always been attractive and because of this my cellar is stocked with older vintages. There is an evolved colour which leads into a complex bouquet of dried flowers, dried cherries, cured meats, leather and liquorice. Great length and concentration with sturdy tannins and 15% alcohol. Drink until 2030. This needs some serious protein, so braised lamb would be me my call. (ES)

 
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Wine Facts

Although “château” means castle, it may also be a mansion or a little house next to a vineyard that meets the requirements for winemaking with storage facilities on its property.