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April 2017 Wine Ratings

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91 Tawse Limestone Ridge North Block Riesling 2015, Twenty Mile Bench ($23.95)

White flowers, lime zest, honey, crushed rock, apple juice, peach and pineapple are all present in this rich and intense Riesling. There is lots of acidic verve on the finale, giving the impression of a dry wine even though there is 29g/l of residual sugar. (ES)

91 Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Riesling 2015, Vinemount Ridge ($24.25)

Peach, lime, bergamot, powdered candies, minerals, flowers and pear are built on a steely core of acidity. More linear than the Limestone North Block. There is electric acidity and 32 g/l of sugar, and like its brother, Limestone Ridge, it comes across as a dry. Long lasting minerality carries the finale. (ES)

91 Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, Vinemount Ridge ($35.35)

Oaky, but not over the top, as the aromas of vanilla, hazelnut and spice mesh with green apple, Bosc pear and white peach. Med plus body, there is excellent length with a creamy/acidic interplay making for a delicious pairing with lobster and drawn butter. (ES)

90 Flat Rock Cellars The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2013, Twenty Mile Bench ($24.95)

The Rusty Shed continues to over-deliver for its price point, or in other words, one of the best value Chardonnays to be found in Niagara. Toast, spice, vanilla, white flowers on the nose meet up with honey, cream, citrus, pineapple and banana on the palate. Brilliant persistency with freshness squaring everything up. (ES)

90 Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2013, Twenty Mile Bench ($45.95)

A bouquet of toast, anise, vanilla, green apple and lilac gives way to a mineral driven palate with notes of cream and spice. There is no lack of freshness here, and it carries long on the taste buds. (ES)

90 Trius Showcase Wild Ferment Chardonnay Oliveira Vineyard 2014, Lincoln Lakeshore ($36)

Banana, cream, peach, golden apple, spice and hints of hazelnut are all present in the wine. There is a rich mouthfeel, with creamy notes intermixing with freshness. Long lasting and a brilliant match with shrimp risotto. (ES)

89 Stratus Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($29)

An oaked Sauv Blanc with honey, peach, white flowers, grapefruit, fig, spice and gooseberry. There is crisp acidity interplaying with creamy notes. Great length. Try with red Snapper Veracruz-style. (ES)

88 Burnt Ship Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Niagara ($14.95)

This Sauvignon Blanc delivers above its pay grade. A huge bouquet of nectarine, guava, passion fruit, poached pear and grapefruit. On the palate, it is dry with fresh acidity and very good length as well as added nuances of lemon balm and minerals. Ceviche please! (ES)

88 Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling 2016, Short Hills Bench ($17.95)

Sweet peach, applesauce, lime, minerals, white flowers and honey coalesce around fresh acidity. Very good length. Drink now. (ES)

87 Eastdell Riesling 2016, Niagara ($13.95)

A lovely Ontario Riesling at a friendly price! White peach, lime, honey, bergamot, mineral and green apple flavours are supported by acidity. Off-dry and ready to go with Sushi. (ES)

86 Eastdell Chardonnay 2015, Niagara ($13.95)

A clean, well-made and unoaked Chardonnay with a personality of peach, sweet apple, pineapple and citrus, Dry, with some fleshiness and medium plus length. Summer fun wine! (ES)

87 Reif Estate Winery Pinot Grigio 2016, Niagara ($16.95)

A ripe Grigio, benefiting from the heat of the 2016 vintage. Peach, banana, honey and spice burst on the palate, turning dry and citrusy on the finale. Chill and serve this summer on the patio or with fresh water fish. (ES)


91 Trius Showcase Red Shale Cabernet Franc Clark Farm 2014, Four Mile Creek ($45)

The best Cabernet Franc I have tasted so far from the 2014 vintage. Concentrated and elegant, there is cassis, raspberry, tobacco, violets, vanilla, spice, turned earth and a hint of olive. On the fuller end of the spectrum, there is excellent length and is ready to drink now or cellar until 2023. (ES)

90 Tawse Chery Ave Vineyard Pinot 2012, Twenty Mile Bench ($48.95)

This Pinot packs quite a punch as there is lots of extract as well as elevated, dry tannins. Cherry, raspberry, plum, spice, dried earth and flowers are all in play. Excellent length. This wine needs food, so duck breast will do the trick, quite nicely. (ES)

90 Creekside Estate Winery Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, St. David’s Bench ($39.95)

From the fabulous 2012 vintage, this robust red spent 32 months in barrel and 18 months in bottle before being released. Cassis, raspberry, violets, herbs, vanilla, dark cocoa and spice are built on 14% alcohol and masses of tannins. That said, my preference would be to drink it over the next seven years, with some medium rare beef. (ES)

89 Tawse Redfoot Vineyard Gamay Noir 2015, Lincoln Lakeshore ($28.95)

The mid-weight Gamay offers up strawberry, raspberry, plum, fresh earth and black pepper flavours. Nice depth, suave tannins and just the right amount of lift make this is a proper pairing with roast pork or rillettes. (ES)

89 Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2013, Twenty Mile Bench ($29.95)

Lovely and seductive, this Pinot beguiles with red berry fruit: cherry, raspberry and strawberry. Add red flowers, spice and herbal notes, and you have a complex wine ready to paid alongside Boeuf Bourguignon or grilled quail. (ES)

88 Thirty Bench Double Noir 2015, Niagara ($19.95)

This blend of 60% Gamay Noir and 40% Pinot Noir is Thirty Bench’s answer to a Bourgogne Passe-Tout-Grains – but vastly superior! Cherry, raspberry, pepper, spice, cocoa and earth are built on a soft and easy drinking texture. (ES)

88 Fielding Estate Winery Cabernet Franc 2015, Niagara ($21.95)

Accessible and cheerful, this Franc features raspberry, red flowers, cassis, mint/herbs and chocolate. Medium body and ready to drink. Solid value! (ES)


88 Chateau Vrai Caillou 2014, Bordeaux Supėrieur ($15.95)

This blend of 50% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon offers punch for its price. Dark cherry, plum, cassis, raspberry, cocoa, anise, purple flower and herbs are present as well as pinpoint tannins. Braised lamb shanks or steak tartare would be brilliant accompaniments. Drink until 2019. (ES)

New Zealand

89 Sacred Hill Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Marlborough ($18.95)

No denying that this is Sauvignon Blanc what with its nectarine, passion fruit, fruit salad, line zest and tomato vine. Crisp and dry with a lingering finale. Pair with halibut ceviche or chicken souvlaki. (ES)


89 Pencarow Pinot Noir 2015, Martinborough ($24.95)

Pencarow is Palliser’s soft/easy drinking range of wines. This Pinot Noir, which exemplifies said style, offers up sweet cherry, plum, liquorice, red flowers, vanilla and baking spice notes. Medium body, with good freshness and a good amount of fine-grained tannins. Lengthy with red fruit carrying the finish. (ES)


90 La Crema Chardonnay 2015, Monterey ($26.95)

On the full-side, this is quintessential Cali Chard with its nose of cream, pineapple, vanilla, mango and fig. The palate adds a creamy texture and tropical fruit as well as an interesting black olive note. There is also some heat. Great length. (ES)


March 2017 Wine Ratings

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92 Trius Vidal Icewine 2015, Niagara ($54)

This is the first vintage of this wine not to be aged in old wood, thus imbuing it with a more fruit driven, fresher personality. Honey, sponge toffee, brined olive, peach compote, pink grapefruit and apple juice. Long sweet finale with lovely acidity. (ES)

91 Pondview Vidal Icewine 2014, Niagara ($19.95/200ml)

Superb value alert! This stickie inundates then palate with honey, peach, pineapple, lemon, lime, smoke and pear. Excellent length and perfect by itself or with a vanilla cheesecake. (ES)

90 Strewn Riesling Icewine 2013, Niagara ($63)

Mature elements of petrol, buckwheat honey, spice, cherry pith, lime on the nose mesh with caramel, wax and candied honey on the palate. Excellent length, luscious and ready to be served well chilled. (ES)

90 Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, Niagara ($30)

This Chardonnay was barrel fermented and aged in 20% new oak which has produced a wine of great balance and flavour. Toast, honey, vanilla, honey, peach, fig and yellow apple are all in play. Medium body with great length and ideally suited for lobster or crab dishes. (ES)

88 The Hare Wine Co. Frontier Collection Riesling Icewine 2013, Niagara ($65)

An easy drinking Riesling Icewine with moderate aromas of lime, mineral, peach, apple and sponge toffee. Very good length. Try with foie gras.

88 Strewn Winery Terroir French Oak Chardonnay, Niagara ($27.15)

Fifty percent new oak has added vanilla cream aromas to the green apple, peach, pineapple and fig. The palate shows sweet fruit qualities, fresh acidity and a spice tinged finale. Halibut, please! (ES)

87 The Hare Wine Co. Crown Land White 2014, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($18.50)

An off-dry blend of 55% Gewurztraminer and 45% Riesling. Petrol, peach, smokey minerals, flowers and spice flavours. Ready to drink and I would choose Szechuan cuisine as the perfect foil. (ES)



90 Kacaba Vineyards Winery Terrace Vineyards Syrah 2014, Niagara Escarpment ($29.95)

This is a powerful, youthful and somewhat backwards Syrah. The colour is inky purple and there is cassis, raspberry, cracked pepper, game, leather, chocolate and oregano. Full-bodied and concentration it should evolve nicely over the next 7 to 8 years. (ES)

89 Chateau des Charmes St. David’s Bench Vineyard Gamay Noir Droit, St. David’s Bench ($17.95)

This wine always more punch than your typical Gamay thanks to the ‘Droit’ clone that CDC discovered almost 20 years ago. Medium to full body, there is plum, cherry, strawberry, raspberry and black pepper qualities. There is enough stuffing here to pair with a porcini crusted pork loin topped with a mushroom demi-glace. (ES)

88 The Hare Wine Co. Crown Land Red 2013, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($25.50)

This new winery, on Niagara-on-the Lake’s Highway 55, first offerings are a solid lot. This Cabernet Franc (70%) based blend is a mid -weight and serves up cassis, herbs, tobacco, violets and cocoa. Elegant there is depth with fresh acidity and subdued tannins. Drink or hold. (ES)

88 Stoney Ridge Excellence Merlot 2015, Niagara ($24)

Plum, cherry, raspberry, vanilla, spice and cocoa are all present in this mid-weight Merlot. Nice density, fine-grained tannins and fresh acidity will ensure five years in the cellar, but it can be

broached right now, with some duck breast or rib eye steaks. (ES)

88 Mike Weir Limited Edition Cabernet Franc 2013, Beamsville Bench ($29.95)

Winemaker, Jeff Hundertmark, has pulled off a minor miracle considering that 2013 was a difficult one for red varietals in Ontario. Plum, cassis, red currant, herbs, violets, tobacco are all present in this fresh and friendly red. Ready to drink with braised meats or charcuterie. (ES)

87 Château des Charmes Cabernet Franc Estate Bottled 2015, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($14.95)

This is a straight up, well made and well priced Franc which delivers cassis, raspberry, tobacco, herbs, olive, cocoa and spice. Medium bodied, the tannins make this a go-to wine for the upcoming BBQ season. Fine length. (ES)


90 Rutherford Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Napa Valley ($26.95)

An incredible value Napa Cab and a multiple bottle purchase is mandated! Smooth a silk, there is plum, blackberry, raspberry, vanilla, raisins and a touch of smoke in the full-bodied wine. Excellent length and ready to drink with NY strip. (ES)

89 Sextant Zinfandel 2013, Central Coast ($21.95)

For those who like hedonistic, over the top, jammy Zin, this is your ticket. Full bodied with gobs of red and dark fruit, tobacco and raisins. Concentrated with no harsh edges and ready to go with Memphis-style dry rubbed ribs. (ES)

89 Fess Parker Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills ($33.95)

A delightful Pinot Noir with cherry, raspberry, cranberry, porcini mushroom, dried flowers, vanilla, humus and tobacco. Ready to drink with salmon or roasted pork tenderloin with an herb jus. (ES)


92 Primus Carmenère 2013, Colchagua Valley ($19.95)

From Colchagua, which is prime Carmenere growing land, comes this full-bodied rendition with a distinct mix of blackberry, cassis, raspberry, tar, black olive, spice, herb, cured meats and Tahitian vanilla.  Long lasting and enough tannic backbone to age for another 6 or 7 years. (ES)


92 Jean-Max Roger Cuvée C.M. Sancerre Blanc 2014, Loire Valley ($27.95)

When Sancerre is done right, it is truly a thing of beautiful- case and point, this baby. Gooseberry, honey, nectarines, herbs, honey, white flowers and a boat load of minerals linger into the sunset. The brisk acidity and great depth will allow cellaring, but it is already approachable, especially when served alongside seafood. (ES)

New Zealand


89 Marisco Vineyards The King’s Thorn Pinot Gris 2016, Marlborough ($19.95)

Here you will find a full-bodied Gris which offers a rich mouthfeel, fine acidity and flavours of peach, cream, spice, honey, smoke and citrus. Dry with a gratifying finale. Pair with butternut squash soup or double cream brie. (ES)

88 The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2016, Marlborough ($16.60)

Quintessential Kiwi Sauv Blanc with huge aromas of passion fruit, pink grapefruit, nectarine, honey, lime, guava and tomato vine on display. Brisk acidity and fine length round out the experience. (ES)


88 The Ned Pinot Noir 2014, Marlborough

An overt Pinot Noir with a bouquet of dark cherry, plum, spice, chocolate, earth and toast. The palate is all fruit and oak-driven with lovely acidity, supple tannins and great length. Pair with grilled quail or duck breast topped with a red fruit infused demi-glace. (ES)


January 2017 Wine Ratings

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89 Château des Charmes St. David’s Bench Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, St. David’s Bench ($19.95)

Offers up a lot of flavour for the price, notably from the oak spectrum. Cream, vanilla, apple, pear, spice and roasted nuts are built on a medium body. Lovely acidity and length. Pair with seabass topped with a beurre blanc sauce. (ES)


89 Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir Estate 2012, Short Hills Bench ($24.95)

Supple, maturing and ready to drink, this Pinot exhibits cherry fruit, graphite, beetroot, truffle, spice and dried earth. Beautiful length and a perfect fit with a duck terrine. (ES)

89 Southbrook Organic Triomphe Pinot Noir 2015, Niagara ($29.95)

Starts off with a burst of ripe cherry fruit which is the followed by red flowers and earth. Suave tannins and fresh acidity make for a magical pairing with braised short ribs with root vegetables. (ES)

88 Southbrook Organic Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2015, Niagara ($21.95)

A mid-weight Franc with a bouquet of cassis, black raspberry, herbs, violets and spice. The palate is linear with elevated acidity and fine tannins. Drink over the next five years. Contains 15% Merlot.  (ES)



92 Le Mesnil Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne NV, Champagne ($49.95)

A stellar value from the famed Chardonnay vineyard of Mesnil-sur-Oger which is rated Grand Cru per the Échelle des Crus classification. This bubbly is very toasty and autolytic with added nuance in the form of lemon, apple, nuts and hints of caramel. Lively on the palate with creamy bubbles and delightful length. (ES)

89 Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint-Martin 2015, Chablis ($23.20)

A soft and approachable Chablis with a personality of citrus, honey, green apple, anise and mineral. There is great length and just the right amount of acidity which allows it to pair perfectly with double cream brie or asiago cheeses. (ES)


88 Chateau Tour Carmail 2011, Haut-Médoc ($19.80)

This well priced Left Bank Bordeaux features classic aromas of cassis, raspberry, herbs, tobacco, graphite, anise and vanilla. It possesses a medium body and very good length. Drink or hold for a couple of years. Serve with charcuterie or steak. (ES)

88 Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres 2013, Côte de Roussillon ($18.95)

Les Aspres is a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache from Southern France. Dark plum, cassis, raspberry, Provencal herb, black pepper, smoke, vanilla cream and tar are all in play. Full-bodied with very good length and a healthy amount of tannins and fresh acidity. (ES)

88 Ferraton Père et Fils Samorëns Côtes du Rhône 2014, ($14.95)

A great value petit Rhône blend which serves up black pepper, lilac, cassis, plum, black olive. Medium body with very good length, soft tannins and ready to open with pasta or pizza. (ES)


93 I Castei Campo Casalin Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012, Veneto ($51.95)

From a top vintage and producer comes this Amarone which doles out the plum, cherry, raspberry, vanilla cinnamon, raisin and garam masala. Full-bodied, with 15.5% alcohol, it is balanced, concentrated and long-lasting. It will age well for a decade. (ES)

92 Sartori Corte Bra Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2009, Veneto ($49.95)

Starting to hit a sweet spot, this maturing Amarone reveals plum/prune, sweet cherry, leather, spice and cocoa. Brawny with a great finale. Will age gracefully for many more years. (ES)

92 Giacosa Vigna Mandorlo Barolo 2010, Piedmont ($53.95)

Just starting to hit its stride. Shows an evolved colour and classic aromas of cherry, prune, rose, liquorice and spice. Full bodied with tannins that will ensure another 15 years of life ahead, at least. (ES)

89 La Vite Lucente 2014, Toscana IGT ($34.95)

A Merlot dominant blend with Sangiovese and Cab acting as the backstop. Medium body, with blackberry, cherry, spice, earth and tobacco notes. Fine length and ready to drink. (ES)


91 Faustino I Gran Reserva 2004, Rioja ($34.95)

2004 was a superb vintage, and this has translated to a medium to full-bodied wine with dried fruit, leather, tomato concentrate, cedar, mint and game qualities. Excellent length with sound tannins, still. Pair with lamb chops.  (ES)

91 Senorio de P. Pecina Reserva 2009, Rioja ($29.95)

An obvious old-school Rioja with strawberry, stewed plums, coconut, red flowers, stewed tomatoes and cedar. Excellent length and ready to go. (ES)


92 Quinta do Portal LBV Port 2012, Douro ($24.95)

This LBV easily matches and bests Vintage Ports, which are double or triple the price. From the fabulous 2011 vintage, this wine possesses an opaque black/purple colour and a profile of damson plum, kirsch, chocolate, mint and spice. Approachable now but has the stuffing to improve over the next decade. If you are a port lover, do not miss this opportunity! (ES)



92 Paul Hobbs Chardonnay 2014, Russian River Valley ($64.95)

Full-bodied and rich, this superb Chardonnay is concentrated with peach, honey, quince jam, fig paste, apple, citrus, spice, cream and vanilla. Long-lasting with a pop of bright acidity, which is the hallmark of the vintage. Lobster and butter please! (ES)

90 La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Sonoma Coast ($29.95)

This stalwart of most Canadian wine stores is a creamy Chardonnay with a personality of citrus, green apple, peach, white flowers, honey, vanilla and spice. Excellent length with just the right amount of acidity. (ES)

90 Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2014, Napa Valley ($22.95)

Mostly Sauvignon Blanc with a dash of Sémillon. Citrus, lime, gooseberry, apricot and herbs come together in this crisp and elegant wine. Seared scallops all the way. (ES)


93 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Stags Leap District ($114.95)

This is a powerful and dense Napa Cab with boatloads of crème de cassis, dark cherry, violets, mint, graphite. The palate boasts sweet fruit and enough tannins to age 20 years. Top notch juice! (ES)

92 Austin Hope Syrah 2013, Paso Robles ($40.95)

A big and brash Syrah which clocks in with 15.5% alcohol, a thick texture and intense flavours of dark plum, blackberry, black cherry, balsamic, spice and cocoa. Long finish. (ES)

89 Big Smooth Old Vines Zinfandel 2014, Lodi/Sonoma/Napa ($24.95)

The name says it all- this is a big, fruit-driven Zin with a soft and succulent texture, and of course, 15.5% alcohol. Dark and red fruit jam, raisins, black tea and spice gush from the glass. A hedonistic wine in the truest sense. (ES)

88 Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, California ($24.95)

A multi-appellation blend which delivers plum, dark cherry, spice, vanilla and cocoa. It provides immediate gratification with its upfront personality but can go another five years in the cellar, if you so chose. (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.