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Wine Reviews

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)

 

November 2018 Wine Ratings

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Argentina

89 Luigi Bosca Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Mendoza ($19.95)
Here you will find a structured Cabernet with lots of black fruit qualities -blackberries and cassis- accompanied by spice, smoke, mint/herbs and vanilla. Medium plus body with good cellaring potential. Prime rib all the way! (ES)

Canada

White

91 Tawse Chardonnay South Bay Vineyard 2015, Prince Edward County ($34.95)
Tawse trucked in Chardonnay grapes from PEC to make this fine and delicious Chardonnay. White fruit (pear, apple) and citrus find are underpinned by oak in the form of vanilla and spice. Freshness is not lacking and there is excellent length. Lobster or halibut would be divine with this wine! (ES)

87 Kacaba Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay 2017, Niagara Peninsula ($15.95)
A pure expression of Chardonnay with pear, yellow apple, peach, white flowers and mineral. Dry, the fresh acidity and very good length. A great wine for those weeknight chicken or finish dinners. (ES)

Red

93 Thirty Bench Winemakers Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Beamsville Bench ($50)
Of all of Thirty Bench’s Small Lot series in 2016, this is my favorite. It is a concentrated, complex and powerful Cab full of smoke, coffee, cassis, plum, raspberry, sweet herbs, graphite, vanilla and spice. Excellent length. Still very much youthful, it requires three years of cellaring and will age at least 15 years. Impressive juice!

92 Thirty Bench Winemakers Small Lot Merlot 2016, Beamsville Bench ($50)
A fabulous follow up the stunning 2012. Full-bodied and rich, there is plum, dark cherry, chocolate, vanilla, herbs, and spice both on the nose and palate. The finale is long, with the chocolate qualities carrying into the sunset. It will cellar for a decade.  (ES)

92 Thirty Bench Winemakers Benchmark Red 2016, Beamsville Bench ($60)
This wine is only released in the best years, the previous two being the 2010 and 2012. It is also the wine which is the hardest to gage in its youth and usually requires 3 to 5 years of cellaring before being broached. That said, my gut feeling is that this wine will eventually be the best of the Small Lots when the time arrives. Vanilla, cassis, plum, cherry, tobacco, mint and spice are what are in play right now. Concentrated and long with masses of tannins. (ES)

91 Thirty Bench Winemakers Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2016, Beamsville Bench ($75)
Plum, cassis, raspberry, sweet tobacco, spice, graphite and vanilla are all found in this Cabernet Franc. The acid is surprisingly elevated for such a warm vintage. Combined with the tannins, it will cellar nicely for 12 years. Rack of lamb with this beauty please!   (ES)

91 Reif Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2015, Niagara Peninsula ($34.95)
A lovely Cabernet Sauvignon with a bouquet of cassis, raspberry, plum, violets, tobacco and smoke. On the palate, much of the same is found, with a minty/herbal streak running through. Great finish and can be drunk now or aged for 5 to 7 years. (ES)

90 Reif Estate Meritage 2015, Niagara Peninsula ($39.95)
A medium plus body Meritage with a bouquet of smoke, cherry, plum, cassis, spice, leather and tobacco. Lovely depth on the palate with cocoa and herbs adding an extra layer. Excellent length. (ES)

90 Tawse Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2017, Niagara ($35.95)
A delightful red Icewine with a luscious personality of guava, cassis, raspberry, cocoa and herbs. Sweet with high acidity providing definition and lift. (ES)

89 Reif Estate Merlot Reserve 2016, Niagara River ($29.95)
Merlot all the way what with the chocolate, plum, cherry, spice, coffee and earth.  Nice depth and persistence. Ready to drink or can cellar for up to 5 years. (ES)

89 Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir Speck Family Reserve 2017, Short Hills Bench ($34.95)
There is a really lovely balance here with the cherry, cranberry and mushroom qualities of the grape melding with spice, vanilla and cocoa from the oak. Excellent length with correct acidity and tannins. Confit de Canard please. (ES)

89 Tawse David’s Block Merlot 2013, Twenty Mile Bench ($49.95)
This is the last vintage ever for this wine as the vines gave up the ghost after the brutally cold 2014 winter. Medium body and elegant, maturity has set in with some savoury/leather notes weaving between the plum, cherry, chocolate, herbs and spice. Ready to drink. (ES)

89 Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot Estate 2015, Short Hills Bench ($24.95)
Medium plus body, this is always a quality representation of white Niagara can do vis a vis the Bordeaux varietals. Cassis, raspberry, cherry, chocolate, smoke, herbs and graphite are all in play. Lovely balance and aftertaste. (ES)

89 Tawse Growers Blend Pinot Noir 2016, Niagara ($25.95)
Aromatic on the nose with cherry, raspberry, red flowers and earth. Spice, cassis and plum add nuance on the palate. Tannins and acidity are on the plus side of medium. Lengthy and ideal with a mushroom risotto topped with roasted quail. (ES)

88 Thirty Bench Winemakers Red 2016, Beamsville Bench ($24.95)
A solid Bordeaux-styled red featuring cassis, cherry, vanilla, cocoa, coffee, herbs and violets. Weighty, there is very good length and lots of tannins in the background. Drink over the next 5 to 7 years. (ES)

88 Redstone Meritage 2012, Niagara ($45.95)
Punchy, this blend of 60% Merlot and equal parts of both Cabs serves up plum, dark cherry, cassis, blackberry, olive, smoke, graphite, anise and mint. It is concentrated with grippy tannins, so grill up a rib eye medium rare and go to town. (ES)

86 Kacaba Vineyards Winery Cabernet 2016, Ontario ($14.95)
A smooth drinking blend of 90% Cab Franc and 10% Cab Sauv. Cherry, cassis, raspberry, green herbs, toast and spice. Medium body and length. Ready to drink. (ES)

France

White

90 Taittinger Nocturne NV, Champagne ($69.95)
The funky purple disco ball packaging will attract many, but it is the wine inside which is the real attraction. Done in the Sec style (off-dry, 17 g/l), this Champers reveals, apple, peach, cherry and a floral personality. There is a creamy texture with high acidity which helps to temper the sweetness. It is made for spicy dishes or at the end of the meal, alongside cheeses. (ES)

88 Gerard Bértrand Réserve Spéciale Viognier 2016, Pays D’Oc ($14.95)
A textbook version Viognier with peach, apricot, honeysuckle, orange blossom, spice and fresh yogurt. Rather dense on the palate and dry with a soft end. Solid value! (ES)

87 Baron de Hoen Pinot Gris Réserve 2016, Alsace ($14.95)
Off-dry, this is an easy drinking Gris with peach, apricot, orange blossom, spice and honey. A smooth palate and fine length make for a solid pairing with butternut squash soup or Oka cheese.

Red

91 Chateau Mont-Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley ($45.95)
Cherry, strawberry, plum, licorice, and some garrigue are present in this well-made and approachable CNP. There are tannins for sure, but the entry is plush and there is some sound acidity to provide symmetry. Excellent length. Drink or hold. (ES)

90 Gérard Bertrand Grand Les Aspres Syrah-Mourvèdre-Grenache 2016, Côtes du Rousillion ($18.95)
There is lots of finesse to be found in this medium plus body red from Southern France. Crème de cassis, Chambord liqueur, black pepper, baking spice, toast and vanilla are in the mix.  Refined, balanced and just the right amount of underlying grip. Drink until 2024. (ES)

Spain

89 Goru El Blanco Moscatel - Chardonnay 2017, Jumilla ($13.95)
Goru continues to produce wines which deliver above their pay grade. Rich and aromatic, it features peach, orange blossom, pineapple, honey and spice. Acidity is soft and the finale carries long. Try with mahi-mahi topped with a fruit salsa of Tacos Al Pastor.

 
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Wine Facts

The lip of a red wine glass is sloped inward to capture the aromas of the wine and deliver them to your nose.