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Wine Reviews

September 2015 Wine Ratings

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Canada

White

92 Cave Spring Riesling Icewine 2013, Niagara ($49.95)

Always one of Niagara’s star Riesling Icewines. Peach, apricot, lime, apple juice, pink grapefruit and smokey minerals are all in play. The tension between the sweetness and acidity is brilliant, and there is sublime length. No need for dessert with this beauty! (ES)

92 Le Clos Jordanne Le Grand Clos Chardonnay 2011, Twenty Mile Bench ($65)

The “Grand Cru” of the Clos Jordanne portfolio is a full-bodied and layered offering with waves of peach, pear, apple, citrus, honey, hazelnut, toast and spice. The palate is dense, yet refined, with an underlying current of minerality as well as fresh acidity. Ready to drink.  A triple cream brie or roast chicken stuffed with mushrooms would be sublime with this wine. (ES)

91 Charles Baker Riesling Ivan Vineyard 2014, Twenty Mile Bench ($27)

Charles Baker continues to produce some of Niagara’s most profound Rieslings. This vintage is leaner but still possesses great persistency. Pale straw with a green tinge, the bergamot, white peach, lime zest, honey and lilac on the nose meet up with apple, pear and huge minerality on the palate. Long finish with zesty acid and slightly off-dry. I dream about Choucroute garnie with this beauty! (ES)

91 Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Chardonnay 2012, Twenty Mile Bench ($40)

Pale straw colour with peach, sweet apple, pear, mineral, vanilla, spice and a hint of nuttiness. There is 14% alcohol, smooth texture and excellent length. Nice balance. No need to cellar as it is ready to drink. (ES)

90 Southbrook Estate Grown Small Lot Wild Ferment Chardonnay, Four Mile Creek

Only seven barrels of this impressive Chardonnay were produced. A medium golden colour leads into a layered bouquet of coconut, butter cookies, honey, anise, golden apple, Bosc pear and white flower. On the palate, it is all about minerality, citrus, spice, toast and green apple melding with high acidity and a long aftertaste. Pair with grilled salmon topped with an herb cream sauce. (ES)

89 Malivoire Wine Moira Chardonnay 2011, Beamsville Bench ($39.95)

Banana, peach, tutti frutti, cream, spice, honey and vanilla are present on a medium-bodied frame. The alcohol plays well on the palate, with a creamy texture and excellent length, echoing spice, sweet corn and minerality. (ES)

89 Malivoire Wine Mottiar Chardonnay 2012, Beamsville Bench ($29.95)

Reminiscent of a top Puligny! The green apple, mineral and citrus on the nose meets up with smokey minerals, spice, vanilla and toast on the palate. Elegant and poised, there is sound acidity and great length.  (ES)

89 Cave Spring Riesling The Adam Steps Estate Bottled, Beamsville Bench ($24.95)

This is Cave’s take on a Mosel Riesling Kabinett, with its lower alcohol and slightly higher residual sugar. Fermented via natural yeasts, the peach, pink grapefruit, honey, lime and apple juice are built on brisk acidity and great length. Hold for another year as this wine as it still evolving. (ES)

88 Le Clos Jordanne Village Reserve Chardonnay, Niagara ($30)

This Chardonnay is starting to show mature notes of nuttiness and bruised apple that accompany the cream, lemon, green apple and mineral profile. Mid-weight and ready to drink. (ES)

88 Cave Spring Riesling Estate Bottled, Beamsville Bench ($17.95)

Sweet peach, white flowers, tutti frutti, spruce beer, orange rind and mineral jump off the nose and onto the palate. Off-dry, with crisp acidity and very good length, this wine will partner brilliantly with a platter of sushi/sashimi or shrimp tacos. (ES)

86 Cave Spring Dry Riesling 2013, Niagara ($14.95)

Huge lime, mineral, orange peel and honey on the nose. It is mineral driven and dry on the palate with a floral element lingering on the finish. (ES)

87 Colio Lily Sparkling Wine NV, Ontario ($16.95)

A new classy label for this stalwart Ontario bubbly that won a silver medal at this year’s Ontario Wine Awards. Made from 100% Riesling and off-dry, it features baked apple, peach, citrus and minerals. Perfect with spicy appetizers or coconut shrimp. (ES)

Red

93 Stratus Red 2012, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($44)

Quite possibly the best Stratus Red to date! A saturated ruby colour leads into a complex mix of blackberry, cassis, raspberry, cocoa, coconut, vanilla, violets, mint and pepper/anise. It is concentrated and long lasting with sweet fruit on the mid-palate before the firm, dry tannins make an appearance. Hold for four years and then drink until 2025, preferably with a NY strip.  A blend of all three Bordeaux varietals plus a smidge of Tannat. (ES)

89 Henry of Pelham Estate Cabernet Merlot 2010, Short Hills Bench ($24.95)

From a great red wine vintage comes this maturing Bordeaux blend. Cedar, cassis, raspberry, herbs/tobacco, dark cocoa and dried violet are all on a medium body frame. Still somewhat tannic, so drink or hold until 2020. (ES)

89 Cave Spring Cabernet Franc Estate Bottled 2012, Niagara ($29.95)

A rather hefty and complex Franc with smoke, cassis, raspberry, cedar, graphite, black olive, violets and vanilla. Still grippy on the palate, I suggest holding it for another twelve months and then drinking it until 2020. Pair with espresso rubbed steaks. (ES)

89 Malivoire Stouck Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Lincoln Lakeshore ($29.95)

Made from 27-year-old vines, this wine features a black colour with a ruby rim. Aged for 18 months in new French oak, it displays a perfume of lilac, BBQ spice, cassis, raspberry, dark cocoa and vanilla. Elegant in the mouth with great length and fine-grained tannins, steak was made for this wine. (ES)

89 Malivoire Wine Mottiar Pinot Noir, Beamsville Bench ($34.95)

Medium ruby in colour with a bouquet of sweet cherry, black raspberry, spice, dried earth, violets and anise. Good depth, with a fruit driven palate that reciprocates what is on the nose. Nice freshness, suave tannins and ready to drink. Serve with confit de canard. (ES)

89 Malivoire Wine Gamay 2014, Niagara ($17.95)

Wowser- delicious Gamay alert! Juicy, yet concentrated, the raspberry cream, strawberry, dried herbs, and white pepper are just magic in the glass.  With all of its upfront flash, it is ready to drink, with or without food. (ES)

88 Malivoire Wine Courtney Gamay 2013, Niagara ($25.95)

Somewhat tight, earth, roasted herbs, vanilla, black pepper, dark raspberry, sweet strawberry and red flowers reveal themselves. Splendid length. Drink over the next 2 to 3 years. (ES)

88 Malivoire Wine Cabernet Franc 2013, Creek Shores ($24.95)

Sings Cabernet Franc on the nose: smokey tobacco, herbs, cassis, red currant and graphite. Dark cocoa chimes in on the palate, with moderate tannins and fine length.  Ratatouille or spaghetti would be heavenly pairings. (ES)

88 Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2013, Niagara ($21.95)

Here, you will find a refined Franc with cassis, red currant, raspberry, herbs, lavender and smoke qualities. Mid-weight, there is bright acid, supple tannins and a great finale. Ready to go. (ES)

88 Cave Spring Cabernet Franc 2013, Niagara Escarpment ($19.95)

From a cool vintage, this wine achieved an impressive natural alcohol of 14.5%. A combination of cassis, raspberry, fresh herbs/mint, smoke, vanilla and anise are featured.  On the attack, the initial perception is that of sweet/ripe fruit, before turning elegant, and finishing with fine-grained tannins. Drink over the next 3 to 4 years. (ES)

88 Cave Spring Pinot Noir Dolomite 2013, Niagara Escarpment ($23.95)

Very Cote de Beaune with all of its strawberry, cherry, iron, red flowers, spice and cocoa flavours. There is considerable refinement, with fresh acidity and soft tannins rounding out this medium bodied wine. Ready to drink. (ES)

86 Cave Spring Gamay 2013, Niagara ($15.95)

A rather pleasing Gamay which will multi-task with different menu items: pasta, pizza, charcuterie and grilled sausage. Put a slight chill to it and enjoy all the juicy strawberry and cherry flavours that work alongside black pepper, biscuit and herbal elements. (ES)

86 Hat Trick Cabernet Merlot 2014, Ontario ($14.95)

The NHL Alumni Association has partnered with Colio Estates to produce the newest edition of this wine. Easy drinking, it doles out cassis, plum, herbs and vanilla. Grab some pizza or pasta, crack open the bottle and watch your favorite team play on Saturday nights. (ES)

Greece

90 Domaine Sigalas Kavalieros 2013, Santorini ($31)

Another great performance from Sigalas! This single vineyard Assyrtiko, made from vines over 50 years old, spent 18 months on its lees so as to give more complexity. It pumps out massive quantities of peach, pear, honey, white flowers, oregano, citrus and volcanic minerals. Full bodied, there is brisk acidity and great length, ensuring 8 years of cellaring. (ES)

90 Estate Argyros Assyrtiko 2014, Santorini ($25)

Every sip of this wine evokes memories of whitewashed homes, azure waters, bucket-list sunsets and the freshest seafood possible.  The average age of the vines used in the production of this wine were 150 years and because of this it churns out a complex mix of white peach, banana, toast, mineral, lemon and apple. High acidity, great concentration and a long aftertaste will allow this wine to age until 2022. (ES)

Italy

92 Oddero Poderi E Cantine Barolo Riserva Bussia Vigna Mondoca 2009, Piedmont ($100)

A powerful Barolo from the village of Monforte d’Alba. It features a complex personality of cherry, plum, earth, spice, cocoa, chicken broth and dried rose.  Full-bodied, with a long tannic finish, it has at least 20 years of life ahead. (ES)

92 Rivetto Dal 1902 Barolo Riserva Leon 2009, Piedmont ($80)

A Barolo which leans towards the old school style. Tar, dried earth, dried cherry, dried rose, spice, cocoa are all present. On the palate, the fruit still shows sweetness along with enough tannins that will ensure twenty years of longevity. (ES)

92 Paolo Scavino Barolo Riserva Rocche Dell'Annunziata 2009, Piedmont ($150)

An impressive Barolo that combines ripeness and judicious new oak.  Dark in colour, there is ripe cherry, plum, spice, cocoa and rose.  Nice weight, suave tannins and excellent persistency. It will only get better with time. (ES)

92 Cordero Di Montezemolo Barolo Riserva Gorette 2009, Piedmont ($80)

Hugely aromatic with cherry, plum, vanilla, earth, rose, spice and cocoa. Concentrated on the palate with magnificent length and at least two plus decades of life ahead. (ES)

 

 

August 2015

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Australia

87 Lindemans Bin 95 Sauvignon Blanc 2015, South Eastern Australia ($10.95)

For the price, this wine packs a lot of flavour. Light bodied, there is lime, grapefruit, gooseberry, pear, grass and some tropical nuance. Fine length and ready to drink, so make sure to pick up a couple of bottles. (ES)

Canada

White

92 Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Chardonnay 2013, Short Hills Bench ($29.95)

Made from yields of 2 tonnes per acre and fermented in French oak, this beauty is elegant and concentrated. It reveals a multi-dimensional personality of toast, honey, apple, sweet peach, pineapple, banana, hazelnut, mineral and caper berry. Lobster or crab served with warm butter was made for this wine. (ES)

91 Hidden Bench Chardonnay Felseck Vineyard 2012, Beamsville Bench ($38)

A pale gold colour leads into aromas of peach, orange rind, vanilla cream, banana, red apple, oregano and spice. Concentrated, ripe and elegant, the palate shows more spice and cream, with sound acidity framing everything quite nicely. (ES)

90 Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay 2013, Short Hills Bench ($19.95)

For the price, this wine packs a lot of punch. Medium body and well balanced, the pineapple, golden apple and honey of the grape is gently caressed by oaky notes of vanilla, spice and toast. On the palate, it is ripe with brisk acid and a long aftertaste of banana cream.  It should evolve well over the next four years. (ES)

90 Stratus Chardonnay 2013, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($48)

A strong oak presence melds with sweet pineapple, ripe peach, banana, tutti frutti, earth and white flowers. Rather fullish, there is some warmth, as well as a creamy finish. Drink now.

90 Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2013, Prince Edward County ($39)

Classic Hardie style of reductive winemaking in play here. Currently, it is the new wood that dominates, with smokey minerals, lemon, lime and green apple snuggling up.  Bright acidity, fine length and a modest 12.2% alcohol make for a refined drop of Chardonnay. (ES)

89 Westcott Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2013, Vinemount Ridge ($26)

Toast, peach, honey, anise, baked apple, pineapple and smoke weave together on the nose in this mid-weight white. The palate reveals a creamy texture with a spine of minerality and great length. Cream based dishes are perfectly suited for this wine. (ES)

88 Malivoire Chardonnay 2013, Beamsville Bench ($19.95)

Here you will find a balanced Chardonnay with subtle oak flavours of cream, spice and vanilla that combine with peach, honey, lime, golden apple, cantaloupe, and citrus. Very good length and ready to drink. (ES)

88 Peller Estates Private Reserve Chardonnay 2013, Niagara ($18.95)

Peach, honey, anise, cream, honey, banana and crisp acidity all work together on a medium-bodied frame. Great length and ready to drink. (ES)

88 Westcott Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay 2013, Vinemount Ridge ($20)

Peach, baked apple, cream, tutti frutti, anise, white flowers and honey are all on display in this non-forested Chardonnay. Crisp acidity, a medium body and great length round everything out. (ES)

88 Château des Charmes Chardonnay St. David’s Bench 2012, St. David’s Bench ($19.95)

A complex nose of yellow plum, fresh sliced apple, vanilla cream, honey, lanolin and spice are all in play. Mid-weight, there is sound acidity, and it is ready to drink. (ES)

88 Ravine Vineyard Chardonnay 2013, Niagara ($25)

Some tropical notes combine with caramel, brioche, smoke, apple and citrus. Mid-weight, there is admirable depth and concentration with crisp acidity and a mineral backbone chiming in on the finale. Pair with creamy cheeses or filet of halibut. (ES)

86 Niagara College Teaching Winery Balance Unoaked Chardonnay 2013, St. David’s Bench ($14.95)

Moderately aromatic, this non-wooded Chardonnay serves up aromas of peach, honey, nectarine, tutti frutti and lemon. Medium length, refreshing and ready to drink with chilled shellfish. (ES)

France

White

95 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2005, Champagne ($205.95)

Absolutely brilliant! Comtes is Taittinger’s Cuvee Prestige and is made from 100% Chardonnay. It possesses a pale gold colour with mature notes of toast, caramel, honey, mushroom, chalk, anise and binned apple.  On the palate, there is fabulous length, with well-integrated acidity and a punchy finale. There is at least another decade of life ahead, especially if you enjoy the complexity of aged Champagne. (ES)

92 Taittinger Prélude Grands Crus NV, Champagne ($79.95)

Made of equal parts Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, all the grapes were harvested from the top villages known as Grand Crus - hence the name. A medium gold colour and a bouquet of yeast, toast, apple, cream, lanolin, banana cream, cherry and earth beguiles. There is superb length with fresh acid rounding out the experience. (ES)

88 Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint-Martin, Burgundy ($25)

A tad fuller than your typical Chablis. Green apple, lemon, chalky/salty minerals and a slight herbal element are present. Bright acid and fine length make the case for oysters or steamed clams.

Red

94 Château Lamartine Cuvée Expression 2011, Cahors ($41.50)

Two-thousand-eleven was a superb vintage for the region of Cahors. Powerful and concentrated, this 100% Malbec, made from 60-year-old vines exudes blueberry pie, plum and dark cherry jam, vanilla custard, earth and smoke, which carries long into the sunset.  Make sure to pick up a few bottles for the cellar. Drinkability - over the next 20 years! (ES)

90 Château Lamartine Cuvée Particulière 2011, Cahors ($22.15)

A powerful Malbec which will probably appeal more to Argentinean lovers than Francophiles. Full bodied, the wine drips blackberry, blueberry, raspberry liqueur, cherry, spice, vanilla, smoke and molasses. Ripe, there is enough tannin to allow 10 to 12 years of cellaring, but with all of its upfront personality, there is no need to wait.  Cote de boeuf all the way! (ES)

Greece

White

87 Tetramythos Roditis 2014, Patras ($16.45)

Most Roditis tends be a neutral product, but this wine kicks it up a notch with its peach, honey, apple, yeast and mineral profile. Linear, there is fine length and fresh acid. Chill well and serve with fresh water fish or oysters on the half shell. (ES)

Red

88 Tetramythos Agiorgitiko 2013, Peloponnese PGI ($16.70)

Organically grown and fermented via natural yeasts, this is a real crowd pleaser what with all of its cherry, raspberry, chocolate and spice/pepper personality. Fresh acid and soft tannins complete the package. (ES)

87 Tetramythos Black of Kalavryta 2014, Achaia ($17.40)

The Black of Kalavryta is an indigenous Greek grape that almost disappeared a decade ago. Thankfully, a handful of producers have started to repopulate in the vineyards of Achaia, located in the western portion of the Peloponnese. Stylistically, this wine reminds me of a solid Gamay with its pale colour and flavours of cherry, plum, black pepper, spice and red flowers. Soft and easy drinking, it should be served chilled, and paired with charcuterie or tomato based dishes. (ES)

Italy

92 Cordero di Montezemolo Barolo Enrico VI Villero 2011, Barolo ($90)

Full bodied, this Barolo has seen some new oak in the form of vanilla and cocoa which weaves between the tar, cherry, raisin, plum, anise, cured meats and floral elements. Rich and grippy, there is an exquisite aftertaste and twenty years of cellaring ahead. (ES)

91 Tenute Cisa Asinari dei Marchesi di Gresy Barbaresco Riserva Camp Gros Martinenga 2010, Barbaresco ($75)

Made in a modern style, the plum, toast, cherry, tobacco and spice qualities are built on a full-bodied frame. There is a sweet mid-palate, superb length with raspberry notes echoing long. All in all, an excellent expression of the Nebbiolo grape. (ES)

91 Boroli Barolo Villero 2011, Barolo ($75)

On the nose, cherry, plum, earth, floral, spice, cocoa and earth reveal themselves. The delicate palate exudes vanilla, cherry and raspberry flavours, which are long lasting. Drink over the next 15 years, (ES)

91 Paolo Manzone Barolo Serralunga 2011, Barolo ($70)

A deep colour paves the way to a complex wine full of cherry, plum, earth, spice, cocoa, earth, vanilla and dark cocoa. There is exquisite length and a grippy finale. Hold until 2017 and then drink until 2030. (ES)

91 Manzone Giovanni Barolo Gramolere 2011, Barolo ($75)

Gramolere is a single vineyard located in the village of Monforte d’Alba. Cherry, vanilla, earth, anise, licorice, bacon fat, smoke, earth and vanilla echo long. Well made in the modern style. (ES)

90 Batasiolo Barolo Briccolina 2011, Barolo ($50)

Elegant and flavorful with vanilla, cocoa, earth, spice, graphite, cherry and pencil shavings working there way out of the glass. It is ready to drink, preferably with Osso Bucco or pot roast. (ES)

South Africa

90 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2013, Hemel-En-Aarde ($45)

Hemel-en-Aarde translates as Heaven on Earth and is a cool climate enclave in the Western Cape of South Africa. A golden colour and heavily toasted nose are the first things to greet the senses. Smoke, toast, pineapple, ripe peach, honey, leather, spice and yellow apple are all layered on a medium body full of cream and acid. Excellent length. (ES)

United States

92 Sandhi Bentrock Chardonnay 2013, Santa Rita Hills ($120)

This natural yeast fermented white shows great depth and a profile of peach, lime zest, white chalk, Macintosh apple and herbs. It is mid-weight, with fresh acidity and a long, graceful finish. (ES)

 

July 2015 Wine Ratings

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Australia

89 Kellermeister The Funk Wagon GSM 2011, Barossa ($16.30)

GSM refers to a Southern Rhone inspired blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mataro (Mourvèdre). Full bodied, there is a rich texture and a profile of sweet cherry, raspberry, plum, black pepper, anise and earth. Soft tannins and ready to drink. Pair with baby back ribs or chorizo sausage. (ES)

Canada

White

90 Casa-Dea Estates Winery Eva, Prince Edward County 2014, Prince Edward County ($44.95)

This Chardonnay was made a la Amarone method and clocks in with a warming 14.9% alcohol. Sweet peach, golden delicious apple, pineapple, mango, honey, candied ginger and spice are all present. The palate is ripe and concentrated with some residual sugar and excellent length. Ready to drink. (ES)

90 Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay 2012, Prince Edward County ($29.95)

Medium yellow colour with the fruit and oak working in tandem to help create a complex wine:  pineapple, golden apple, quince, honeyed peach, vanilla, yeast, toast and spice. The mouthfeel is a combination of creaminess and acidity with the County’s telltale minerality providing a defining undercurrent. A long finale makes a perfect partner with lobster thermidor or salmon topped with hollandaise. (ES)

90 Tawse Oak Aged Chardonnay Icewine 2013, Niagara ($34.95/200ml)

Even though the wine spent six months in new French oak, any trace of wood has been absorbed by the richness of the wine. Pineapple, golden raisin, apple blossom, honey drizzled apricots and peach candy are all present. Full bodied there is freshness which keeps any overt sweetness in check. Excellent length and perfectly suited for cream and custard desserts. (ES)

89 Tawse Limestone Ridge Riesling 2013, Twenty Mile Bench ($21.95)

Made from 15-year-old vines this Riesling displays moderate aromas of lime, lemon, green apple and wet stone. The bright acid, slight sweetness and linear palate make for a fine partner with sautéed scallops or lighter cheeses. (ES)

89 Huff Estates Pinot Gris 2013, Prince Edward County ($20)

A portion of this wine spent eight months in new oak which has imbued the wine with a creamy texture that envelopes the apple, pear, white peach, honey and spice. Medium body, there is great length and enough depth to pair up against cream based dishes. (ES)

88 Casa-Dea Estates Winery Melon de Bourgogne, Prince Edward County ($18.95)

Casa-Dea has now entered the Ontario Melon market with this solid textbook offering. Almost water colour, this zesty white wine reveals green apple, pear, white flower, lemon and salty minerality. Light bodied and dry, there is very good length. Of course, the classic pairing of oysters on the half shell is what is required for this wine. (ES)

Red

93 Pillitteri Estates Riserva Famiglia Cabernet Franc 2010, Niagara ($78)

The grapes for this Amarone-styled red were dried for 26 days before being pressed. Following fermentation, it was aged in French oak for 24 months. Needless to say, this 14.9% wine is a powerful monster redolent with blackberry, plum, dark cherry, cassis, raspberry liqueur, sweet herbs, smokey tobacco and spice. There is brilliant length and enough tannin to age for a decade - at least! (ES)

91 Culmina Hypothesis 2012, Okanagan ($39.95)

For number lovers, this blend of 57% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon and 19% Franc spent 16 months aging in 70% new French oak. It is a full-bodied offering that exudes dark cherry, blackberry, cassis, plums, chocolate, spice, toast and mint/eucalyptus. It is concentrated and ripe with considerable refinement and suave tannins. Drink over the next five years. (ES)

91 Huff Estates Quarry Road Pinot Noir 2013, Vinemount Ridge ($30)

This wine is the result of a fruit swap between Huff and Tawse wineries. Huff obtained Pinot Noir from the acclaimed Quarry Vineyard in Niagara and Tawse opted for the Chardonnay from the equally prized South Bay vineyard in PEC. It is the epitome of poise and elegance with red fruit, beetroot, mushroom, mineral and vague spice are all built on a medium-bodied frame. Superb length, fresh acid and soft tannins. Drink until 2018. Oh yes, I should also mention that this is the Gold Medal winning Pinot Noir at this year’s Ontario Wine Awards. (ES)

91 Jackson-Triggs Delaine Syrah 2012, Niagara ($32.95)

It is my belief that this is the best Syrah being made in Ontario. Unlike many other renditions, which tend be over extracted and manipulated so as to appear more Shiraz like, this wine embraces its Ontario origins. Full bodied, it busts out the pepper, smoke, hickory, violets, cassis, oregano and raspberry. The tannins are smooth and the flavours echo long. (ES)

89 Tawse Meritage 2011, Niagara ($59.95)

A blend of 36% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon and 32% Cabernet Franc. It is the Merlot which greets the senses first with damson plum, cherry, blueberry, cocoa and spice. Afterwards, the Cabernets chime in with cassis, raspberry, cassis and roasted herbs. Vanilla and smoke from the oak ties it all together. Very good length, fresh acid and moderate tannins will ensure 5 to 6 years of cellaring, if so desired. (ES)

89 Thirty Bench Small Lot Pinot Noir 2012, Beamsville Bench ($35)

A lovely Pinot that starts off with a perfume of kirsch, plum, black raspberry, beetroot, mushroom and rose. The palate is weighty and chimes in with oak notes of cocoa and spice. Some gritty tannins appear at the end. Pair with grilled quail or duck confit. (ES)

89 Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Beamsville Bench ($45)

Medium plus body, there is a complex nose of cassis, raspberry, vanilla, tobacco, bell pepper and dried earth. Linear, the wine is still tightly wound and tannic, so hold for a couple of years and then drink until 2024. (ES)

89 Southbrook Organic Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2013, Niagara ($21.95)

Mid-weight and smooth drinking, this textbook Franc doles out the cassis, raspberry, herbs, cedar/herbs, pencil shavings, violets and vanilla. Splendid length, fresh acid and fine tannins round out the experience. Pair with a pepper steak or ratatouille. (ES)

Chile

90 Errazuriz Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Aconcagua ($19.95)

Dark ruby, almost opaque with a purple tinge, this Cab is generous but not overt. Full bodied, there is cassis, blackberry, mint/cedar, vanilla, anise, smoke and dark cocoa flavours. There is great length with supporting tannins. A real crowd pleaser and solid value for the price. Drink until 2019. (ES)

Greece

White

92 Hatzidakis Assyrtiko Cuvée 15 2014, Santorini ($35)

This organic wine spent twelve hours on its skins to give more aroma and flavour and eight months on the lees to give more weight. Full bodied, it is stunning, revealing a bouquet of sweet peach, honey, pear, white flowers and candied lemon. Round and smooth in the mouth, the acidity and minerality are tucked nicely beneath. Long finale and still young; it will evolve nicely over the next five years. Pair with shrimp kabobs or pork chops. (ES)

89 Karamolegos Winery Assyrtiko Barrel Aged 2014, Santorini ($34)

Aged in new wood for six months, the mineral, citrus, peach, honey, white flower and grapefruit is supported by vanilla and cream qualities. On the palate, spiced apple and salty rocks add dimension. With its depth and complexity, I suggest pairing with grilled fish topped with lemon and olive oil. (ES)

88 Karamolegos Winery Santorini 2014, Santorini ($30)

There is an almost Grüner quality to this wine; lime zest, white flowers, grapefruit, white pepper, honey and a slight vegetal note work their way out of the glass. Brisk acidity and crystalline minerality carry the finish. (ES)

Red

88 Agiorgitiko by Gaia 2013, Nemea ($19.75)

The Agiorgitiko grape is known for producing supple wines with moderate tannins – case and point, this wine. Aromas of cherry, raspberry, plum, tobacco and vanilla are in play. Ready to drink or hold for up to three years. (ES)

Italy

95 Vietti Barolo Lazzarito 2011, Piedmont ($150)

My personal favorite of all of Vietti’s Cru Baroli! Powerful, rich, ripe and extracted, this Barolo just flatters with all of its plum, blackberry, dark cherry, tobacco, anise, violets, vanilla and cocoa powder. The palate is already approachable, offering sweet fruit, concentration and an incredible aftertaste. Great now, but it will continue to improve over the next twenty plus years. (ES)

94 Vietti Barolo Rocche di Castiglione 2011, Piedmont ($150)

Every year, when I visit Piedmont for Nebbiolo Prima, the annual new vintage release tasting of all things Nebbiolo, I always make sure to book a side visit to Vietti. Last year, I was seduced by all their 2010s and can say emphatically that their 2011s are right on par. Rich and layered, there is dark cherry, plum, vanilla, anise, cocoa and mint. Full bodied with a crazy finish and structure to take it 25 years. Absolute brilliance! (ES)

93 Vietti Barolo Brunate 2011, Piedmont ($150)

From a warm vintage come this dark coloured Barolo, which is stacked full of cherry, plum, vanilla, earth, licorice, rose, leather and dried earth. Full bodied with grippy tannins and a superb finale, this wine still needs 3 to 4 years in the bottle and should be drunk of the subsequent two decades. (ES)

Spain

89 Luis Cañas Crianza 2011, Rioja ($17.95)

A blend of 95% Tempranillo and 5% Garnacha, this wine delivers ripe red fruit qualities along with rose, black pepper, earth, and roasted herbs. It is mid-weight on the palate with uplifting acidity and soft tannins. Ready to drink with red pizza or lamb chops. (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.