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December 2003 Wine Ratings

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92 d'Arenberg The Ironstone Pressings 2001, McLaren Vale (974816. $49.95 approx, ON)

This Chateauneuf "take off" requires some serious food-preferably osso bucco or venison stew. Full bodied, low acid and thick as aged balsamic. The wine is all kirsch, plums, vanilla and spice. LOOOONGGGG finish! Drink over the next 15 to 20 years. (ES)

88 d'Arenberg The Footbolt Shiraz 2001, McLaren Vale (984021, $18.95, ON)

A mid weight Shiraz with plum, cherry, vanilla, licorice and spice aromas. The palate is much off the same. Drink over the next decade. (ES)


92 Cesari Tauleto 1999, Emilia-Romagna (Lifford Wine Agency, $47.95, ON)

Tauleto is a premium bottling of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Longanesi (local dialect for Brunello). Full bodied and black as night the wine is tightly wound. If you wish to drink it now, decant for an hour to let the black fruits, vanilla, plum, animal and chocolate scents unfurl. If you can wait, cellar for 2 years and drink until 2015. (ES)

90 Castello di Fonterutoli Chianti Classico 2000, Tuscany (948984, $57, ON)

Always one of the most consistent producers, Fonterutoli has produced an excellent product in Tuscany's rough year of 2000. Medium to full bodied with a complex nose of black cherries, spice, chocolate, plums, and blackberries. Nice weight turning fresh on the finish. Can hold 5 to 8 years, but why wait. (ES)

89 Cesari Liano 2000, Emilia-Romagna (Lifford Wine Agency, $27.95, ON)

I have been extolling the virtues of this wine for the past 2 years- great producer, great price and a great alternative to Chianti. Made up of 70% Sangiovese and 30% Cab Sauv the wine offers a bouquet of plums, spice, chocolate, leather, tobacco and ripe cherries. Somewhat jammy, the wine delivers the goods with a lingering finish. (ES)




89 Angels Gate Old Vines Chardonnay 2002, Niagara (winery, $23.95, ON)

Barrel aged for 6 months in new French oak, the 2002 Old Vines displays a nose of caramel, citrus, lemon and fig. The palate adds melon nuances to the mix, while the fresh acid provides a lemony/tangy finish. Drink over the next 3 years. (ES)

88 Thirty Bench Late Harvest Pinot Gris 2002, Niagara (winery, $19.95, ON)

Believe it or not-16% alcohol. Moderately aromatic with peaches, honey, white flowers and spice. Concentrated and off dry, the mouthfeel is somewhat oily with loads of spice, some nuttiness and creaminess, with traces of heat on the finish. Unique and worth trying. (ES)

87 Angels Gate Chardonnay 2002, Niagara (winery, $16.95, ON)

An easy drinking Chardonnay with a bouquet of tropical fruits, honey, flowers, green apple and citrus. Very good length. Drink now. (ES)

92 Kacaba Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2002, Canada (winery, $35 approx., ON)

This is Ontario's answer to a St Emilion Garage Wine. It required 2 days to show its pedigree. Cropped at 2 tons/acre the wine displays a black/purple colour with a bouquet of vanilla, blackberries, fudge and violets. The wine is concentrated and dense with raspberry, smoke, violets and vanilla thrown in on the palate for good measure. From 2006 to 2018. (ES)

92 Kacaba Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Niagara (winery, $35 approx., ON)

Coffee, mocha fudge, blackberries, plums, cinnamon and vanilla are found in the glass. The wine is still an infant and very much backwards, needing 48 hours to start strutting its stuff. Huge, enamel removing tannins necessitate 5 years of aging. Hold off until 2008 and drink well into the next decade. Harvested at 1.8 tons/acre. (ES)

91 Kacaba Vineyards Merlot 2002, Niagara (winery $25 approx., ON)

Kacaba has positioned themselves as serious red wine producers. Their wines are reference points for the vintage. The Merlot, like its siblings is black/purple, but more open knit. Plum, mint, black cherry, black raspberries, peppermint and chocolate are all present. Rich on the palate with excellent length. From 2006 to 2016. (ES)

91 Kacaba Meritage 2002, Niagara (winery, $35 approx, ON)

The most closed and undeveloped of Kacaba's reds. Black/purple with spice, vanilla, raspberry and mint discernable at this early stage. Full bodied with good richness and excellent length. Tannins are high, so aging is mandatory. From 2008 to 2016. Hats off to winemaker Rob Warren for one hell of a job with his 02 reds! (ES)

89 Angels Gate Angels III 2002, Niagara (winery, $35, ON)

I'll be back"and like any good sequel, A3 is a worthy succesor to last year's inaugural vintage. This Meritage style wine is medium bodied with a bouquet of vanilla, plums, raspberry, cinnamon, earth and black fruits. Adds some spice and chocolate on the palate along with fresh acid and solid tannin and you have an award winner. Drink over the next 5 to 8 years.

88 Angels Gate Cabernet Sauvignon, Niagara (winery, $24.95, ON)

Coffee, smoke, Indian spice and blackberry flavors are present on the nose of this medium to full bodied wine. More approachable than the A3 with a hint of jamminess on the mid palate and a lingering finish. Drink over the next 5 to 7 years.

88 Angels Gate Cabernet Franc Icewine 2002, Niagara (winery, $39.95, ON)

Pale pink/orange colour and a bouquet of Jolly Rancher red candies and herbaceous notes. Full bodied with fresh acid and a lingering finish.


88 13th Street Wine Corp. Pinot Noir Reserve Funk Vineyard 2002, Niagara (winery, $32, ON)

This wine is decidedly elegant with a nose of cherries, black fruits, earth and vanilla. Medium bodied with very good length, supple texture and a good vertebra of tannin. Drink over the next 3 to 4 years. (ES)


89 Chateau Bouscasse 2000, Madiran (743385, $19.95, ON)

Madiran like Bordeaux experienced a fabulous vintage in 2000. Purple in colour with a nose of cassis, plums, earth, yeast and spice. Fullish body with very good length and typical Tannat tannic structure. At this price stock the cellar. From 2007 to 2018. (ES)


November 2003 Wine Ratings

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98 d'Arenberg Dead Arm Shiraz 2001, McLaren Vale (981183, $42.50 approx., ON)

Tasted with owner Chester Osborne at this year's Vinexpo. My comment to him was that this is the best Dead Arm ever produced-his responded by smiling and saying "I believe so." Full bodied and massively concentrated, the wine is crammed full of plum, blackberry, licorice vanilla, black cherry and spice. Incredible length with substantial tannins that will take it 25 years. (ES)

91 d'Arenberg The Galvo Garge 2001 (907584, $25.55 approx., ON)

The Osborne's version of a Bordelaise "Garage Wine". Even though the wine is predominately Cab Sauv based, the Merlot component dominates at this time. Plums, dark cherries, chocolate, vanilla, licorice and mint are present. Fine grained tannins and fresh acid give the wine solid structure and ageability-10 years. (ES)

92 d'Arenberg The Ironstone Pressings 2001, McLaren Vale (974816, $42.65 approx., ON)

D'Arenberg's take on a Chateauneuf du Pape. An opaque purple colour with aromas of kirsch, plums, vanilla and spice. It is somewhat chunky with 14.5% alcohol but has loads of fruit on the palate with hoards of tannin to go along with it. Drink over the next 15 years. (ES)

90 d'Arenberg Footbolt Shiraz 2001, McLaren Vale (984021, $18.95 approx., ON)

A mid weight Shiraz with a plump mid palate and flavors of plums, cherries, vanilla, licorice. Nice length and already enjoyable. (ES)


91 Chateau des Charmes Chardonnay St Davids Bench 2000, Niagara (430991, $19.95, ON)

This wine stands somewhere between the new world with all the oak, and the old world with all the earthy, mineral qualities. Add tropical fruit tones, peaches and cream corn, honey and pear puree, and you have a very complex wine. Full bodied with excellent length. Winner of the gold medal at the Ontario Wine Awards. (ES)

90 Henry of Pelham Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2002, Niagara (268342, $18.95, ON)

HOP continues to be one of Ontario's most elegant Chardonnay. The 02 offering is medium plus bodied with aromas of caramel, figs, butter, pear puree and hazelnuts. The palate is fine with lots of citrusy, mineral flavors and a crisp finish. Drink until 2007. (ES)

90 Peninsula Ridge Equinox 2002, Niagara (winery, $39.95, ON)

This is the first vintage where PR has added 20% Viognier to Equinox's traditional blend of Sauv Blanc and Chardonnay. Although the Viognier portion is small, it is what dominates on the nose as witnessed by the peach, apricot, white flowers and spice, which work along side the green apple, citrus and mineral aromas. Dry with a crisp finish. It will be interesting to see how this wine develops. As a side note, PR is now producing a limited quantity of Viognier, which I scored 88 and is only available through the winery. (ES) *****

88 Peninsula Ridge Inox 2002, Niagara (winery, $24.95, ON)

Jean Pierre Colas' Inox continues to be PR and Canada's answer to Chablis. Lots of citrus, mineral, smoky/ flinty, green apple and pear aromas. Very elegant, with a crisp mouthfeel and a clean finish.

88 Kacaba Vineyard Riesling 2002, Niagara (winery, $18, ON)

A beauty of a Riesling from this relatively new winery in Vineland. Very Rheingau like, with peach, flowers, citrus and petrol on the nose. Very good length and a tangy green apple finish. Drinking now but can go 5 plus years. (ES)

87 Malivoire Chardonnay Estate 2002, Niagara (573147, $22, ON)

This Chard offers up aromas of white flowers, honey, banana and minerals. Medium bodied and classy with notes of caramel on the palate and a citrus finish. Time for oysters on the half shell. Drink over the next 2 to 3 years. (ES)

86 Vineland Estates Riesling Semi Dry 2002, Niagara (232033, $9.95, ON)

Fruitier than the 00 and 01. Citrus, flowers, peach are on the nose while the palate serves up gooseberry and green apple. There is some sweetness which is balanced nicely by Vineland's classic acidity (ES)

85 Reif Pinot Grigio 2002, Niagara (winery, $14.95, ON)

A pretty Grigio with aromas of flowers, peach and citrus. The wine is dry with banana, citrus and nutty flavors with good lemony acidity. (ES)

90 Lakeview Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2001, Niagara (winery, $24.95, ON)

As in the usual style of Lakeview, this is a big, take no prisoners style of red. Full bodied with chocolate, cassis, black cherries, raspberries and some vegetal tones from drought stress. Rich and ripe on the palate with spice and vanilla flavors. Good structure with somewhat dry tannins. Can age 5 to 7 years. (ES)

90 Lakeview Cellars Baco Noir Reserve 2001, Niagara (winery, $19.95, ON)

A refined Baco (if I may use that term for the grape) which is oak driven with aromas of licorice, chocolate, spice, vanilla, raspberry and leather. The "Baco" acidity kicks in on the palate and the wine finishes long with some heat at the end. (ES)

88 Cave Springs Gamay Reserve 2002, Niagara (289082, $17.95, ON)

Always a great Gamay. Medium ruby colour and a little bit closed at this time with cherry, spice and animal scents showing right now. Ripe core of fruit chimes in with strawberry fruit and black pepper adding dimension. Good persistency. (ES)

87 Malivoire Pinot Noir Estate 2002, Niagara (winery, $26, ON)

All the grapes from the premium Moira vineyard bottling have been included in this wine, which in turn has kicked the quality up a notch. Aromatic with earthy, floral, red and black fruits, vanilla and smoke on the nose. Very good length with soft tannins and an easy finish. (ES)

87 Hillebrand Trius Grand Red 2000, Niagara (981050, $52, ON)

One of Ontario's finest reds from the difficult 2000 vintage. Medium to full bodied with chocolate, cassis starting on the nose and leading into the mouth. Somewhat thick textured with good ripeness and fresh acid at the end. Drink over the next 3 years. (ES)

88 Vineland Estates Cabernet Sauvignon 2002, Niagara (winery, $18.95, ON)

Very chocolatey with plums, black fruits, vanilla, vegetal tones and animal notes. Medium plus bodied with a ripe core of fruit, namely blackcurrant and black cherries, firmish tannins and very good length. From late 2004 to 2009.

87 Peninsula Ridge Merlot 2002, Niagara (592261, $19.95, ON)

A purple/ruby colour wine with a bouquet of raspberry, black cherry, chocolate and red flowers. Medium body with vanilla/minty notes coming through in the mouth. Already accessible, but solid tannins will allow the wine to age gracefully, if you so choose.

86 Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc 2002, Niagara (winery, $12.95, ON)

At this price this is a definite purchase by the case! Ruby colour with a nose of chocolate, bell pepper, dark cherries and black fruits. Medium bodied with admirable length and enough tannins to take it a few years. (ES)

85 Malivoire Gamay Estate 2002, Niagara (winery, $16, ON)

Crack open a jar of mixed berry jam and you essentially have the nose of this wine. Light bodied with a tangy personality a good length. (ES)



October 2003 Wine Ratings

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90 13th Street Wine Corp. Sandstone Gamay Reserve 2001, Niagara (winery, $25, ON)

The top billing for Ontario’s best Gamay continues to belong to 13th Street. Full bodied with lots of earthy, dark fruits, spice, vanilla and animal qualities on the nose. The palate is the same with raspberry and hazelnuts thrown in for good measure. Excellent length, drink from 2004 to 2011. (ES)


88 Chateau des Charmes Cabernet-Merlot Estate Bottled 1999, Niagara (222372, $18.95, ON)

The wine enters the palate with a good burst of cassis, raspberry, tobacco leaf, spice and vanilla flavors, eventually turning slim on the lengthy finish. Built on a solid backbone of tannin, my preference would be to drink it over the next 5 years to take full advantage of the fruit. (ES)


86 13th Street Wine Corp. Erv’s Burger Blend 2001, Niagara (winery, $15, ON)

Always looking to have fun with labeling, the good ol’ boys at 13th Street have created this easy drinking red blend of 50% Merlot, 40% Gamay and 10% Syrah. Medium bodied with a fruity core of raspberry surrounded by chocolate and pepper. Drink over the next year or two. (ES)


86 Lakeview Gamay Noir 2002, Niagara (433672, $11.95, ON)

Vanilla infused cherries, plums and spice greet you as you swirl your glass. Sweet red fruits on the tongue with fresh acidity and a suprisngly nutty finish. Very interesting stuff! Ready to drink


91 Jackson Triggs Grand Reserve Riesling Icewine 2002, Niagara (593970, $62.95, ON)

Honey drenched white flowers, super ripe peaches, apricots and vanilla poached pears all vie for dominance in this wine. Full bodied, with lots of flavor, power and sweetness to spare. Long finish with great acid balance, which provides release from any heaviness.


91 Crown Bench Vintners Select Vidal Icewine 2000, Niagara (winery, $79.95, ON)

This is a super duper icewine, with a hefty price tag to go along with it. The nose is that of dried apricot, honeycomb, raisins and pear. The taste buds entice you with much of the same. Fresh acidity offsets the richness of the wine. Full bodied with a long finish-a definite winner! (ES)


90 Crown Bench Barrel Fermented Vidal Icewine 2000, Niagara (winery, $79.95, ON)

This the same wine as the Vintners Select except that it has spent time in oak. By doing so the wine’s acidity has softened and it has become thick textured, with hints of oxidized fruit. Full bodied with honey, peach, figs, and caramel. Excellent length, but I prefer the VS as it has better balance. (ES)


88 Crown Bench Livia’s Gold 2000 (winery, $24.95/ 375 ml, ON)

This stickie is made from Chardonnay, which has been affected by botrytis. A rarity on two fronts-first that Chardonnay does not take easily to botrytis and second it is Canadian! Mid weight with flowers, pear, citus, spicy/ noble rot flavors and hints of oxidation. A discovery which is ready to drink.(ES)


89 Jackson Triggs Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2002 (winery, $17.95, ON)

Medium yellow colour, with a nose of caramel cream, banana, green apple and roasted nuts. Medium to full bodied, elegant, with fresh acid and lots of caramel, citrus and green apple flavors rounding out the finish. (ES)


87 Birchwood Select Late Harvest Vidal 2001, Niagara (winery, $11.95, ON)

At under $12 , this bottle represents one of Niagara’s best deals in Late Harvest. Medium bodied with aromas of peach, honey and flowers. The 120 g/l of sugar is nicely offset by fresh acidity, while the finish lingers, with a hint of bitterness at the end. (ES)


87 Chateau des Charmes Gewürztraminer St David’s Bench 2002, Niagara (453472, $14.95, ON)

Very Alsatian in style with a bouquet of lychee, spice, orange peel and tropical undertones. Medium bodied and dry with a good core of fruit, very good length and fresh acidity, which rounds out the mouthfeel. (ES)


87 Konzelmann Gewürztraminer Late Harvest 2002 , Niagara (200550, $13.95, ON)

Crack the bottle and the first thing you will smell is rose water, followed by aromas of honey, peach and clove. Medium bodied with very good length with some sweetness on the finish.


86 Konzelmann Riesling Traminer Late Harvest 2002, Niagara (605360, $22.50, ON)

Moderate aromas of flowers, peach, citrus, peach and honey show themselves on the nose. The palate is dry with lots of lime, citrus and minerals. Very refreshing. (ES)


85 Jackson-Triggs Gewurztraminer Delaine Vineyard 2002, Niagara (winery, $22.95, ON)

JT’s first kick at the Gewurz can from the Delaine Vineyard. Made from 3 year old vines the wine has moderate aromatics of lychee, flowers, peach and honey. Medium length with a hint of bitterness on the finish and fresh acidity. Solid potential as the vines mature.


85 Lakeview Cellars Chardonnay 2002, Niagara (307165, $9.95, ON)

A flavorful little wine for under a purple banknote. With a good dash oak, this bottling offers cream, straw, banana, green apple and tutti frutti. Light bodied with a fresh center and a creamy textured finish, with some alcohol showing through. (ES)


86 Chateau des Charmes Aligoté 2001, Niagara (028495, $10.95, ON)

After an absence from the LCBO’s general list, CDC’s Aligoté is back. This is a great aperitif wine or as a match with fresh water fish cooked with fresh lemon and herbs. Light bodied with a nose of citrus and green apple. Easy drinking, unpretentious and priced cheaper than the French competition. (ES)



94 Chateau Gruaud Larose 2000, St Julien (951178, $109, ON)

Majestic stuff! Big yet refined with a multi layered nose of smoke, cassis, chocolate, vanilla, black cherries and animal scents. Fills the mouth with loads of fruit, extract and tannins. Hold of until 2008 and drink until 2028.


91 Chateau Charmail 2000, Haut Medoc (981886, $43, ON)

One of the values in the insanely priced world of 2000 Bordeaux. Full bodied with cherry, black fruits, green tobacco and Indian spice. Sweet core of ripe fruit lives long on the palate. Wait until 2004 and drink over a decade.


88 Chateau Figeac 2000, St Emilion (942631, $169, ON)

Smells and tastes like an Ontario Cabernet Franc, and for 1/5 the price you are better off buying a well made OCF, as it will not cause ruination to your bank account.




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Wine Facts

Dom Perignon (1638-1715), the Benedictine Abbey (at Hautvillers) cellar master who is generally credited with “inventing” the Champagne making process, was blind.