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March 2006 Wine Ratiings

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90 Peninsula Ridge Chardonnay Vintners Reserve 2003, Niagara ($42)

Put this in a blind tasting of Puligny/Chassagne Montrachets and you will be amazed at the quality and hard pressed to tell the difference. Multi layered and powerful, with hazelnuts, yeast, green apple and caramel. Long finish showcasing caramel, green apple and cream. Now to 2011. (ES)


89 Peninsula Ridge Fume Blanc 2004, Niagara ($24.95)

“I like the oak to honour the grape, not overwhelm it,” says winemaker Jean-Pierre Colas of his Fume. True to his word, the caramel flavours act as a backdrop to the citrus, honey, passion fruit, gooseberry and mineral flavours. Excellent length with a refreshing tang. (ES)


87 Henry of Pelham Reserve Riesling Reserve 2004, Niagara ($14.95)

Pale white gold colour with a bouquet of honey, lime, bubble gum and peach. It displays a crisp personality with loads of mineral, lime and lemon in the mouth. Lingering finish. Drink over the next 6 to 7 years. (ES)


86 Henry of Pelham Chardonnay Reserve 2004, Niagara ($13.95)

Banana custard, vanilla, citrus and green apple on the nose. The palate starts out with caramel flavours, then dips a bit and returns with green apple and cream. Medium length. (ES)




92 Pillitteri Cabernet Franc Family Reserve 2002, Niagara ($50)

This offering won the best red wine category at this year Cuvee Gala. Rightfully so considering the concentration, length and power it offers. Thirty months aging in a combination of French and American oak has given the wine a nice smothering of cocoa, vanilla and spice to compliment the cassis, violets, raspberries and herbs. Still a pup and somewhat closed, so age for 1 year and drink until 2015. As a side note, winemaker Sue-Ann Staff told me that the 2002 Family Reserve Merlot is still in barrel and won’t be released until next Cuvee, due its youthfulness. If the Cab Franc is any measure of the quality, hold on to your hats folks. (ES)


90 Henry of Pelham Cabernet Merlot Speck Family Reserve 2002, Niagara ($50)

This wine is only made in top years (made only once before in 1998) and from yields under 2 tons per acre. Backwards and still puckery, this is an elegant and structured offering with menthol, cassis, vanilla and tobacco on the nose. Forget about this wine in a dark corner of your cellar until 2009 and consume until 2020. (ES)


89 Creekside Merlot Reserve 2002, Niagara ($25)

Some may call it great business savvy, others providence, but whatever descriptor you prefer,  Barry Katzman, president of Creekside has done one hell of a job of re-asserting Creekside as a serious producer, like he did for Stoney Ridge a few years back. Of course it dosen’t hurt matters when you have the talented Canadian-Aussie winemaking duo of Rob Powers and Craig McDonald.  Take for example this which is loaded with plums, raspberries, mint, pistachio, spice and chocolate. Very good length and drink until 2011. (ES)


88 Niagara College Teaching Winery Pinot Noir Reserve 2004, Niagara ($27.95)

Ontario winemaking patriarch Jim Warren and his protégé Jordan Harris continue to churn out quality wines at Niagara College. This, the top point getter in the Pinot Noir category at Cuvee delivers cherry, plums, vanilla and earth on the nose and palate. Solid  length with a touch of bitterness at the end. Now to 2010. (ES)


86 Pillitteri Cabernet Franc 2002, Niagara ($18)

A modest Cab Franc which greets the nose with aromas of fresh dill, cassis and raspberry. Soft texture with medium length and fresh acid. (ES)

U.S.A. - California


92 Merryvale Clone 6 Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Rutherford ($152.95)

A recent trip to Napa valley allowed me to try the entire portfolio of this highly respected producer. The Clone 6 was the star, displaying a somewhat thick personality as well as having a serious backbone of tannin. Cassis, raspberry and smoke on the nose with a mouthful of plums, cherries, plums and licorice. Superb length, still young and 15 years ahead of it.  (ES)


91 Merryvale Profile 2001, Napa ($135.95)

Profile is one of Merryvale’s top tier wines, and this coupled with the great 01 vintage has produced an excellent offering. Stylish, with a fragrance of cocoa, plums, tobacco, raspberry and vanilla. Lots of sweet berry fruit in the mouth and a lengthy finish. Drink over the next 10 years. Mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with a sprinkle of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. (ES)


90 Merryvale Profile 2002, Napa ($140.80)

Compared to the 01, the 02 is a touch more pronounced on the nose, while the prior is riper and has a touch more length. Once again lots of cocoa, raspberry and black fruit flavours. Now to 2011. Merryvale wines are represented in Ontario and Quebec by Barrique Wine Imports/Vino Wine Merchants. (ES)



90 Merryvale Vineyard X Cabernet Sauvignon 2001, Oakville ($113.95)

Plums, raspberry jam, vanilla, chocolate and a certain animal quality. The mouth is coated with much of the same. Finishes long with a solid vertebra of tannin. Age for two years then drink until 2015. (ES)


88 Merryvale Merlot Las Amigas 2002, Carneros ($62.95)

From the cool Carneros region comes this wine with a lifted nose of cherry, plums, cloves and smoke. Raspberry, tobacco, earth and spice on the taste buds add to the wine’s mojo. Crack it open over the next 3 years. (ES)




87 Mayacamas Chardonnay Reserve 2002, Carneros ($51.55)

Greets you with a huge oaky nose of caramel, this thanks to the 17 months in oak, of which 54% was new. On the lips the wine is somewhat lean, but shows very good length with more of the caramel coating the pear and apple. Even though there is 14.5% alcohol, the wine is balanced with a crisp personality. (ES)


January 2006 Wine Ratings

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93 Barbi Brunello di Montalcino Riserva 1999, Tuscany
A few years back I did a story about 99 Tuscany and the quality of the Sangiovese based wines. In it, I stated that an on the whole, the 99 vintage was a better than the highly touted 97s. I still stand by that comment, and as proof I offer up this wine. A powerhouse with a bouquet of tobacco, sweet cherries, humus, cassis and rubber. Full bodied with excellent length. A wine to drink or cellar. (ES)


92 Allegrini Amarone 2000, Veneto
This wine continues to be one the great Amarones, but sadly the price has gone through the roof. It has a bouquet of tobacco, black cherries, plums and chocolate and a sweet mid palate of chocolate drenched cherries. Long finish. Now to 2018. (ES)


91 Fontanafredda Barolo Serralunga
d'Alba 2000, Piedmont
What a beauty! Just like cracking open a jar of maraschino cherries, with plums and vanilla thrown in for good measure. Excellent length and easily 10 years ahead of it-but why wait! (ES)


91 Masottina Montesco Colli di Conegliano 1999, Veneto
The blend is 47% Cab Sauv, 30% Merlot, 13% Cab Franc and 10% Marzemino, an indigenous grape of the region. It displays a black cherry colour and aromas of spice, cherries, blackcurrant, pencil shavings and a slight vegetal streak. The palate is ripe with a long finish. Now to 2012. (ES)


89 Fontanafredda Barolo 2000, Piedmont
Usually, I am not a big fan of this bottling. But this is a perfect example of a great vintage elevating an average wine. Lots of sweet cherry and raspberry fruit with tobacco and spice rounding out the profile. Super value from this rather expensive region. Now to 2011. (ES)


88 Barbi Brunello di Montalcino 2000, Tuscany
A mid weight Brunello with good density and lots of tannin. It is best consumed over the next 5 years to take advantage of the fruit. Cherries, vanilla, Indian spice and tobacco. (ES)


86 Masottina Piave 2004,Veneto ($16)
This is an attractive wine for both consumers and restaurants looking for a textbook example of Merlot at a reasonable price. Cherries, plums and spice. Good fruit in the mouth and medium length. (ES)


New Zealand

88 TeAwa Cabernet Merlot 2003, Hawkes Bay ($27.10, PQ)

It is a joy to find a great red wine from New Zealand's pre-eminent red wine region , this given the fact that most liquor monopolies only desire to purchase Sauvignon Blanc from kiwi land. Medium body, it resembles a well made left bank Bordeaux, but with more sweet blackcurrant fruit. Tobacco, cocoa and spice are also present. Drink over the next 3 to 4 years. (ES)


91 David Franz Lehmann Shiraz Benjamin's Promise, Barossa
($54.95, Stem Wines)
From one of Australia's top vintages comes this elegant and flavorful red. Plums, cinnamon, vanilla and tar are showcased on the nose and palate. Finishes long, but not heavy, thanks to the acid. Drink over the next 4 years. Also, for those who are fanatical about packaging, the bottle is one of the "sharpest" ones that I have seen in a long time. (ES)


87 Sticks Shiraz 2004, Yarra Valley ($21.95, Stem Wines)
From the cooler Yarra Valley comes this wine, chock full of plums, black pepper, mint, violets, candied cherry and asphalt. Medium body and very good length. Now to 2008. (ES)


85 Woolshed Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Victoria ($14.95)
A workhorse red which offers a core of ripe berry fruit and a touch of mint. Medium length and clean on the finish. An ideal restaurant wine, for sale by the glass. (ES)



92 Mountain Road Wine Company Cabernet Franc Icewine 2001, Niagara ($44.95/200ml)

What an incredible offering! Blackberry, plum and cherry jam interweave with vanilla and spice. Super rich and concentrated with loads of plums, cherries, blackberries and chocolate on the palate. The finish is long and succulent. Still youthful so drink over the next 5 years. (ES)


89 Mountain Road Wine Company Cabernet Franc Icewine 2002, Niagara ($44.95/200ml)

Lighter in colour than the 2001 with a nose that leans more to the red fruit spectrum-raspberries and strawberries with side notes of herbs. On the taste buds there is a floral/ earthy/herbal quality which works hand and hand with the raspberry flavours. A touch of heat at the end. Now to 2009. (ES)


88 Chateau des Charmes Brut NV, Niagara ($19.95)

Over the holidays I decided to do a little Canuck sparkling wine tasting with a few of my wine loving friends. Unanimously, this was the winner. Made in the traditional method, so there is a lot of pinpoint bubble to accompany the aromas of biscuit, lemon and green apple. The mid palate loses a little but the finish come on strong. Hands down a great value. (ES)


87 Jackson Triggs Grand Reserve Brut 2001, Niagara

This, the second place vote getter in the tasting is also made in the traditional method and aged 25 months on its lees. It displayed a lemony/green apple profile with some yeastiness in the background. (ES)


84 Harbour Estate Rielsing 2004, Niagara ($11.50)

When I first smelled the wine, there was intense passion fruit, but that soon gave way to peach, lime and minerals. In the mouth the wine is soft and shows a honey/fruit cocktail quality. Soft finish, good length and ready to drink. (ES)


October 2005 Wine Ratings

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90 Vineland Estate Vidal Icewine 2002, Niagara ($24.95/200ml)
This wine has put on more weight and has developed complexity since I tried it earlier this year. Viscous, with peach, honey and sponge toffee flavours. Excellent length with just the right amount of lift provided by the acidity. (ES)

88 Henry of Pelham Chardonnay Barrel Fermented 2004, Niagara ($19.95)
A more assertive wine than last year’s offering. There is a strong new oak influence which combines nicely with the green apple, mineral, honey and tropical fruit scents. Thick in the mouth with a lengthy finish which resonates with cream and spice. Drink over the next 5 years. (ES)

87 Vineland Estate Riesling St. Urban 2004, Niagara ($20)
I will say this again, Vineland has done a great job with their Rieslings in 2004. The12$ bottlings represent great value and are case purchase/cellar wines. This wine which comes from their oldest vines is more of an austere style with minerals, citrus and vague bergamot/peach aromas. Very good length with vibrant acidity. Drink over the next 7 years. (ES)

87 Creekside Estate Sauvignon Blanc Reserve 2004, Niagara ($19.95)
Moderate oak flavours add to the fresh cut grass, passion fruit, ammonia and apple character of the wine. Medium to full bodied with very good length and a touch of spice on the finish. (ES)

86 Creekside Estate Pinot Gris Reserve 2004, Niagara ($18.95)
Shows more depth than their Pinot Grigio. A bouquet of peach, smoke, lanolin, nut, honey and pear leads to a mouthful of citrus, spice and cream. Acid is fresh with medium length. Drink now. (ES)

86 Vineland Estate Chardonnay 2004, Niagara ($12.95)
A pale yellow color with a nose of corn on the cob, caramel, spice, mineral and green apple. Light to medium body with tropical notes in the mouth and a spicy, caramel/cream finish. (ES)

86 Mike Weir Estate Winery Chardonnay 2004, Niagara ($15.95)
The second vintage of Chardonnay from the famed golfer’s winery displays a pale straw colour and a bouquet of melon, peach, spice, caramel and a touch of roasted hazelnuts. Medium body and length with a creamy/citrusy finish. (ES)

86 Vineland Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2004, Niagara ($18.95)
Almost water colour with moderate aromatics of grass, gooseberry, lime, citrus, flint and fruit salad. Crisp, lively and light bodied. Try with a shrimp and scallop civiche. (ES)

85 Henry of Pelham Gewurztraminer 2004, Niagara
A perfumed nose or cold cream, roses, peach, honey and spice. Pineapple nuances appear in the mouth with a slight alcohol burn. Medium length. (ES)

84 Creekside Pinot Grigio 2004, Niagara ($12.95)
A delicate nose of pear, melon, honey, cream and a touch of tutti frutti. The palate is clean and full of citrus. Good length. Drink now. (ES)

88 Vineland Estate Merlot 2002, Niagara ($30)
There is no mistaking this for anything but Merlot. Aromas of chocolate, plums, cherries and hints of toast. Medium to full bodied with cherries and chocolate on the palate. While many Niagara Merlots display some weedy/vegetal aromas, this is not one of them. It is succulent, ripe, nicely extracted, balanced and elegant. Drink over the next 3 years. (ES)

87 Creekside Estate Signature Grand Meritage 2001, Niagara ($34.95)
The 01 Meritage shows high quality oak laden nose of chocolate covered coffee beans which envelopes the dark and red fruit aromas. The palate is medium bodied with fresh acid and solid length. Drink it over the next 3 years, preferably with a nice prime rib roast. (ES)

86 Creekside Estate Shiraz 2003, Niagara ($15.95)
It is my belief that Creekside is the Ontario winery that consistently does the best job with the Shiraz grape. These wines showcase intensity worthy of the “Shiraz” name. The 03 vintage, as I have mentioned before was a difficult vintage for the winemakers of Niagara. None the less, Creekside’s offering displays a saturated colour with a textbook nose of blackberries, plums, black pepper/spice and a touch of animal. Good density and structure with medium length. Lay away a bottle or two in the cellar for a hearty stew or osso bucco this winter. As a side note, the 04 barrel sample which I tasted was impressive. (ES)

85 Creekside Estate Cabernet Merlot 2002, Niagara ($12.95)
There is a nice mocha overlay to the tobacco, black fruit, cherry, spice and vegetal aromas. Medium bodied with good length and supple tannins. Drink over the next 2 to3 years. (ES)


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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.