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Wine Reviews

June 2015 Wine Ratings

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Canada

White

90 Flat Rock Cellars Riesling 2014, Twenty Mile Bench ($17.15)

Gold Medal winner in the Semi-Dry Riesling category at this year’s Ontario Wine Awards. A huge bouquet of peach, honey, mandarin, bergamot, lime and mineral beguils. The crisp acidity is held in check by some residual sugar, but for all intents and purposes, it comes across as a dry wine. All I kept thinking about when drinking this wine was a huge plate of sushi and sashimi. (ES)

89 Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling 2012, Short Hills Bench ($17.95)

A textbook Niagara Riesling that bursts forth with peach, lime, apricot, pear and honey. It comes from a warm vintage, so the acids are slightly lower than usual and there is some residual sugar to balance things off. All and all, another great Riesling from the boys at HOP! (ES)

90 Tawse Quarry Road Chardonnay 2012, Vinemount Ridge ($34.95)

Organic and Biodynamic, the 2012 Quarry Chardonnay is an open an accessible offering with pear, anise, honey, yellow apple, pineapple and vanilla qualities. Medium body, there is excellent length and sound acidity. Perfect with lobster and drawn butter of grilled salmon filet. (ES)

88 Tawse Sketches Riesling 2014, Niagara ($17.95)

The new release of Tawse’s entry level Riesling is a solid offering as per usual. Peach, honey, lime, powdered candies, jasmine, crushed rock and hints of honey find themselves meshing with an electric palate of acidity. There is a hint of sweetness, which reigns everything, as well as a lengthy finale. (ES)

87 Kacaba Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay, Niagara ($14.95)

This pure expression of Chardonnay exudes lemon, pear, green apple, white peach and smokey minerals. On the taste buds, it is mid-weight and dry with moderate acidity and a lengthy finale. (ES)

86 Kacaba Vineyards Riesling Reserve 2014, Niagara Escarpment ($17.95)

Dry, this Riesling displays moderate aromas of lime, lemon, mineral and peach. It is light and airy on the palate with fresh acidity making it food friendly. Pair with grilled sausages or a mustard and herb crusted rack of pork. (ES)

Red

91 Trius Showcase East Block Cabernet Sauvignon Clark Farm Vineyard 2012, Four Mile Creek ($45)

In all my years of evaluating wine professionally, I have never seen an Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon with such a saturated/black colour. Then again, 2012 was an exceptional vintage for reds. This gold medal winner at this year’s Ontario Wine Award is full bodied with a personality of crème de cassis, raspberry, herbs, mint, dried earth, spice and dried cocoa. The remarkable length and ripe tannins will ensure a decade of positive evolution. (ES)

90 Kacaba Vineyards Merlot Reserve 2010, Niagara Escarpment ($44.95)

Gold Medal winner in the Merlot category at the Ontario Wine Awards - and it is easy to see why! Medium to full body, a perfume of coffee, violets, blackberries, plum, spice, chocolate, roasted nuts and roasted herbs meets up with raspberry and smoked qualities on the palate. Great length and ready to drink now. (ES)

90 Huff Estates South Bay Unfiltered Merlot 2012, Prince Edward County 2012 ($40)

I tasted this wine from barrel last year with winemaker Frederic Picard and at that time I thought that it had the potential to be the best South Bay Merlot to date. Well, I am happy to say that the final product has lived up to my expectations! Medium to full body, there is an underlying linearity and grip to the cherry, plum, cocoa, smoke, tobacco, spice and herbs flavours. Excellent length. Hold until 2016 and then drink until 2021. (ES)

89 Malivoire Gamay 2013, Niagara ($17.95)

The fresh and fruit driven Gamay doles out strawberry, raspberry, cracked pepper, fresh earth and herbs. Light bodied, there is great length. Don’t expect the power of Malivoire’s top end Gamays, but it does deliver in spades on the pleasure/quaffable scale. This wine is made for pasta, pizza and antipasto. (ES)

89 Colio Bricklayer’s Reward Old Farm Cabernet Franc 2012, Lake Erie North Shore ($19.95)

From the good folks at Colio Winery, comes this solid Franc with an enormous bouquet of smokey tobacco, raspberry, cassis, blackberry, herbs and black pepper notes. Very good length and suave tannins bode well for five years of cellaring. (ES)

88 Kacaba Vineyards Cabernet/Syrah 2012, Niagara Escarpment ($30)

The Syrah component dominates the nose with its black pepper, violets, cassis and rosemary. Afterwards, the Cabernet contingent chimes in with raspberry, roasted herbs and tobacco. There is a ripe mid-palate, with very good length and enough tannin to suggest holding until this winter to pair with braised meats and roasts. (ES)

Greece

92 Santo Wines Santorini Assyrtiko Grand Reserve 2012, Santorini ($30)

I have the highest respect for this co-op which represents close to 1000 growers as it always turns out bang for the buck wines. But now they have taken it to the next level with the introduction of this beauty, which blew me away! From 100 year old vines and aged in partial new oak, it features a golden colour and a huge bouquet of toast, peach, bay leaf, honey, golden apple, spice, resin and white flowers. The same flows over onto the taste buds where Assyrtiko’s telltale crystalline/saline acidity carries the long finale. A wild ride in the best possible sense!

92 Hatzidakis Santorini Assyrtiko de Mylos Vielles Vignes 2014

This single vineyard Assyrtiko spent 12 hours on its skins to give more depth before fermentation started via natural yeasts. Full bodied, it exudes yeast, golden apple, ripe peach, lemon, pineapple, toast and spice. An extended finale and thick texture make for a wine that will work with steak or lamb. (ES)

92 Karamolegos Winery Vinsanto 2006 ($40)

Simply put, this is a brilliant stickie! The deep amber colour heralds the bergamot, black tea, mint, raisins, orange marmalade and dried prunes. The 252 grams of sugar is held in check by the fresh acidity. There is one heck of a long finish, which allows for drinking by itself at the end of the meal or with baklava.(ES)

91 Argyros Assyrtiko Santorini 2014 ($21.95)

From one of my favorite producers comes this pristine white with telltale aromas of white peach, citrus, salty rock and honey. The same carries over onto the concentrated palate and is joined by brisk acidity, which puts everything into proportion. It is still tightly wound, so hold for a couple of years and then drink until 2022.(ES)

91 Hatzidakis Mavrotragano 2013

Mavrrotragano, an indigenous red of the island, only accounts for 2% of all plantings. Regardless, it is a high-quality varietal, and growers are starting to plant more. This intense rendition pumps out the dark cherry, raspberry liqueur, plum, tobacco, spice, cocoa and graphite. Concentrated and long, it will age well for 5 to 6 years. A must try! (ES)

91 Domaine Sigalas Santorini 2014 ($24.95)

Without a doubt, Paris Sigalas is a master of Assyrtiko. I had the opportunity to do a mini vertical of this wine (going back to 2008) while visiting the winery this past summer. All wines were impressive, especially the 08, which reminded me of a salty Puligny-Montrachet 1ere Cru.  The current offering is still tightly wound, but at this early stage, there is peach, mint, minerals, apples and citrus, all built on a full bodied frame. Assyrtiko’s intense acid will ensure great longevity. Hold for at least 2 years before opening and then drink until 2024. (ES)

89 Domaine Sigalas Mavrotragano 2013 ($50)

Three different pickings ensured a natural alcohol of 14.5%. The cocoa, smoke and spice from new French oak aging has meshed with the dark plum, sweet cherry, violets and earth qualities of the Mavrotragano grape. Full bodied, there is excellent length and enough tannin to age for 8 years. (ES)

90 Assyrtiko by Gaia Wild Ferment 2014 ($29.95)

Partially fermented in new French and American oak and fermented via natural yeasts, this brilliant white doles out aromas of toast, smokey minerals, cream, apple, flowers, apricot and peach. The palate contributes spice and saline acidity. Roast pork or salmon was made for this wine.(ES)

89 Karamolegos Winery Nykteri 2014 ($20)

Nykteri means ‘night-work’ and references the fact that the grapes were harvested and crushed in the evening so as to avoid excessive temperatures and ensure freshness. Karamolegos’ rendition was aged in new oak for three months and serves up a bouquet of peach, bergamot, lemon, vanilla and mineral. The palate is expansive with creamy notes adding extra depth. Splendid length. (ES)

89 Argyros Atlantis White 2014 ($18.95)

This perennial bang for the buck Santorini wine is a blend of 90% Assyrtiko, 5% Aidani and 5% Athiri. It doles out peach, honey, herbs, pear, mineral and floral notes. Elegant, the flavours echo long, with crisp acdity giving lift.  (ES)

89 Gaia Thalassitis Santorini 2014 ($27.75)

Made from 80-year-old vines, this aromatic rendition exudes minerals, apple, lemon, white flowers and pear. Tangy, there is great length. Drink over the next 5 years. Pair with a simple grilled fish drizzled with olive oil and fresh oregano. (ES)

88 Santo Wines Santorini Assyrtiko 2014 ($18)

Santo’s entry level white is the pure essence of Assyrtiko: citrus, white peach, white flowers and crushed volcanic rock. Fine length and crisp acid make for a great partner with fried kalamari or sushi. (ES)

88 Boutari Santorini ($16.95)

A straight-up, well made Assyrtiko with a perfume of peach, honey, apricot, bay leaf and lemon. The palate adds touches of white pepper, grapefruit and green elements. There is very good length and it is ready to drink.(ES)

Italy

94 Pira Vigna Rionda Barolo 2010, Piedmont ($115)

From a top notch vintage, this modern Barolo flaunts sweet cherry, plum, red flowers, anise and herbs. Once it hits the palate, the weight and tannins stand up and carry themselves with refinement, all the way to a lengthy exit. Hold until 2018 and drink for a good two decades. (ES)

92 Vietti Castiglione Barolo 2011, Piedmont ($72)

From a warm vintage comes this forward and soft (for Barolo that is) red with aromas of fraise de bois, plum, cherry, vanilla and tobacco. The palate displays a slight creamy texture with elements of earth, tar, spice and cocoa adding dimension. Excellent persistency and 15 years of life ahead. (ES)

89 Marziano Abbona Papà Celso Dogliani 2013, Piedmont ($19.75)

Dolcetto, like its Piedmontese brother Barbera, has risen from an everyday drink to high-quality juice, in the right hands. Dogliani is the birthplace of the Dolcetto grape and this rendition pumps out blueberry, dark cherry plum, spice, anise, white pepper and cola. Full-bodied, with fresh acidity and medium tannins, this wine will age for a decade if you so choose to. As a side note, while visiting the winery this past summer, I tasted a vertical of this wine, going back to 2004, and all were still incredibly vibrant. (ES)

South Africa

88 Glenelly Grand Vin Chardonnay 2012, Stellenbosch ($19.95)

A mid-weight Chardonnay that wears its oak upfront: toast, hazelnut, smoke and spice. The fruit comes in afterwards in the form of peach, yellow apple, sweet pear and ripe melon. Very good length and balanced with just the right amount of acidity giving a lift at the end. (ES)

 

May 2015 Wine Ratings

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Canada

White

90 Thirty Bench Winery Small Lot Riesling Triangle Vineyard 2013, Beamsville Bench ($30)

From a vineyard planted in 1981, comes this redolent Riesling full of bergamot, kaffir lime, white peach, petrol and smokey minerals. The tension between acid and slight residual sugar is beautifully. The long finale will ensure a decade or more of life ahead. Red snapper in a red curry/peanut sauce or chicken satay will be magical with this wine. (ES)

89 Thirty Bench Winery Small Lot Riesling Steel Post 2013, Beamsville Bench ($30)

Always the most austere of the Thirty Bench Rieslings, this tight wine is just starting to show peach, white flower, grapefruit, lime and smokey minerals. It is best left untouched for a couple of years and then consumed until 2025. (ES)

89 The Foreign Affair Enchanted 2013 ($17.95)

This one of a kind blend of 45% Riesling and 55% Sauvignon Blanc reveals a huge perfume of passion fruit, honey, sweet peach, cassis, violets, guava and white flowers. The same follows through on the palate, where bergamot and citrus chime in. Fresh acid, off dry and ready to drink. (ES)

Red

94 The Foreign Affair Gran Q 2010, Niagara ($150)

The name of this wine is a tip of the hat to the famed Amarone producer Guiseppe Quintarelli, whose wines were the reference point for Len Crispino, when he decided to start the Foreign Affair, a decade ago.  The grapes for this 17%+ alcohol monster were dried for 3 months before being pressed.  It possesses the texture of syrup, and a sexy profile of plum, dried olives, maraschino cherries, anise, mint, milk chocolate and vanilla.  Yes, the price is out of reach for most of us mere mortals, but this is a singular wine, which will continue to evolve for the next 15 to 20 years - and I have never said that about Ontario red before! Serious meditation wine here! (ES)

92 Thirty Bench Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2012, Beamsville Bench ($40)

After winning three gold (including this wine) and two silver medals at this year's Ontario Wine Awards, it is no wonder that Emma Garner also took home the winemaker of the year trophy. This powerful and concentrated Franc pumps out the cocoa, violets, cassis, raspberry, grilled red peppers, graphite and earth. Elegant, the sweet mid-palate, long finish and ripe tannins mean that this wine will cellar until 2022. (ES)

91 The Foreign Affair Dream 2012, Niagara

This appassimento-style blend of 33% Merlot, 33% Cabernet France, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Petit Verdot is truly impressive. Clocking in at 14.7% alcohol, it sings with chocolate, blackberry, kirsch, violets, dark cherry, prunes and a hint of rubber. Full-bodied, with some residual sugar, the wine is already approachable, but will handle another 5 to 6 years in the cellar. (ES)

91 Thirty Bench Small Lot Benchmark Red 2012, Beamsville Bench ($60)

This 14% plus alcohol Meritage is smooth and concentrated with loads of plum, vanilla, raspberry, dark cherry, mint, chocolate, vanilla. The palate is rich with a long finish and a tannic backbone.  Hold for a year and then drink until 2023. A blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. (ES)

90 Thirty Bench Small Lot Merlot 2012, Beamsville Bench ($40)

A textbook example of Merlot. Plum, dark cherry, spice, roasted herbs, chocolate and red/purple flowers flow from the glass. The 14.4% alcohol, suave tannins and excellent length make for one tasty drop of juice. Drink until 2022. (ES)

88 The Foreign Affair Conspiracy 2013, Niagara ($19.95)

Modelled after a Ripasso, this wine contains 62% Cab Sauv, 22% Cab Franc and 16% Merlot. Plum, cherry, blackberry, cinnamon, vanilla, cocoa powder, incense, green jalapeno and violets are all in the glass. Medium body, fresh acid and great length round out the experience. Pair with a grilled veal chop or moussaka. (ES)

Greece

92 Santo Wines Assyrtiko Grand Reserve 2012, Santorini ($30)

I have the highest respect for this co-op which represents close to 1000 growers as it always turns out bang for the buck wines. But now they have taken it to the next level with the introduction of this beauty, which blew me away! From 100 year old vines and aged in partial new oak, it features a golden colour and a huge bouquet of toast, peach, bay leaf, honey, golden apple, spice, resin and white flowers. The same flows over onto the taste buds where Assyrtiko’s telltale crystalline/saline acidity carries the long finale. A wild ride in the best possible sense! (ES)

South Africa

90 DeMorgenzon Reserve Chenin Blanc 2011, Stellenbosch ($29.95)

Opulent, this Chenin serves up toast, sweet apple, smoke, cream, lilac, spice and slight light tropical edge. Full bodied with a ying-yang of cream and acid which carry the long finish. Pair with pan seared halibut. (ES)

88 Vinum Chenin Blanc 2012, Stellenbosch ($15.95)

Always a solid value! If you are a fan of oaked Chardonnay, spread you wings and try this wooded Chenin. Peach, toast, honey, spice, wet wool and are underpinned by fresh acidity and splendid length. Tandoori chicken or a filet of salmon will pair brilliantly with this wine. (ES)

88 Ken Forrester Old Vine Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch ($17.95)

Peach, yellow apple, honey, pineapple, pear, white flowers and mineral find a home in this crisp white. Great length and read to drink, preferably with a cheese board or freshwater fish. (ES)

Red

92 Kanonkop Pinotage 2012, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch ($44.95)

Until about five years ago, the majority of Pinotage wines were bitter and ridden with loads of brettanomyces (leathery, gamey qualities.) Today, as a means to gain favour with international palates, Coffee Pinotage has taken over, a style which emphasizes heavy oak flavours of chocolate, mocha and coffee as a means to cover the undesirable qualities. That said, there have always been a few producers who have churned out profound Pinotage, and Kanokop is certainly at the top of my list. The 2012 shows lovely raspberry, cassis, sweet cherry, vanilla, herbs and a touch of animal. Full bodied, there is excellent length and structure to take it into the late 2020s. (ES)

91 Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Simonsberg-Stellenbosch ($47.99)

From a top producer comes this equally Cabernet Sauvignon. Full-bodied and elegant, it doles out the cherry, plum, blackberries, cassis, vanilla, violets and earth. The palate shows sweet fruit and  suave tannins,  allowing  for a decade of cellaring. (ES)

89 Constantia Glen Three Cape Peninsula, Constantia ($21.95)

This great value, fruit forward Bordeaux-styled blend doles out plum, dark cherry, smoke, game and iodine qualities. No need to cellar, so drink up with some bbq. (ES)

89 Boeschendal 1685 S&M 2013, Simonsberg Paarl ($19.95)

All jokes of Fifty Shades of Grey aside, S&M is a Rhone blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre. Full bodied, there is lots of oaky mocha and vanilla rubbing shoulders with raspberry, dark cherry, blackberry, black pepper and game. Lengthy, there is a creamy texture, which rounds everything out. (ES)

 

March 2015 Wine Ratings

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Canada

White

90 Big Head Wines Chenin Blanc 2013, Niagara ($22)

For me, this is the best Chenin Blanc currently being made in Ontario. Naturally fermented, the lovely balance between the acidity and sweetness supports the lemon, lime, honey, peach, apple juice, pineapple, honey and minerals. Excellent length. Try with an ashed goat cheese.

90 Stratus White 2012, Niagara ($44)

The release of this Stratus White celebrates 2 important milestones- the 10th bottling of this wine as well as the 10th anniversary of the opening of the winery itself. Unlike previous renditions, this full-bodied white is a blend of only three grapes (usually 5 to 6) - 43% Chardonnay, 42% Sauvignon Blanc and 15% Semillon. A bouquet of peach, pineapple, honey, pear, spice, vanilla, wax and cream is complimented by sound acidity. Fleshy, with excellent length, it should drink well over the next 3 to 4 years. (ES)

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

From a warm vintage comes this overt Chardonnay with peach, white flowers, pineapple, honey, red apple and spice on the nose. The same follows through on the palate with creaminess and minerality adding dimension. Ready to drink now. (ES)

88 Big Head Wines Sauvignon Blanc, Niagara ($19)

Another natural ferment wine from Big Head. Petrol, passion fruit, guava white flowers and grass are built on a medium-bodied frame. Crisp acidity and a mineral edged finale compliments everything. (ES)

88 Lakeview Cellars Sauvignon Blanc Tregunno Family Vineyards, Niagara ($17.95)

Here you will find an approachable Sauvignon Blanc with a personality of peach, apricot, fresh herbs, grapefruit and a slight toastiness from some barrel aging. There is very good length and fresh acid, making a perfect partner with freshwater fish. (ES)

88 Legends Estates Terroir Semillon 2013, Lincoln Lakeshore ($17.50)

This is one of the few mono-varietal Semillons produced in Ontario- a grape which suffered substantial damage from the severe winter of 2014. Peach, honey, kiwi, wax, spice and lanolin meet up with crunchy acidity and a slight sweetness. Drink now. (ES)

Red

91 Trius Grand Red 2012, Niagara ($55)

If you thought the 2012 Trius Red was great, wait until this beauty crosses the lips. Full-bodied and elegant, the layers of cassis, dark cherry, vanilla, violets, herb, spice and earth carry long on the finale. The fine tannins will ensure it ages over the next decade. A blend of 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot and 27% Cabernet Franc. (ES)

91 Rennie Estate Winery “G” Assemblage 2012, Niagara ($55)

An excellent follow-up to the impressive 2011, this Amarone inspired Meritage was aged in new oak for 18 months. It packs a wallop, with its 16% alcohol, concentrated mid-palate and profile of vanilla, raspberry, toast, cassis, plum, chocolate, raisins and spice. A long finish and loads of ripe tannins make the case for a decade of cellaring, if so desired. FYI- the grapes were dried for 100 days! (ES)

90 The Foreign Affair Petit Verdot "On Assignment" 2012 , Niagara ($49.95)

Fifteen percent of the grapes for this wine were dried à la Amarone. Full bodied, this 14.5% beauty doles out raspberry, cassis, dark cherry, violets, spice, cocoa and earth. The mid-palate shows a sweet/jammy texture before the ripe tannins sweep everything up. It should age well over the next decade. Braised lamb shanks or beef ribs were made for this wine. (ES)

90 Vineland Estates Winery Cabernet Franc Reserve 2012, Niagara ($40)

Full bodied with lots of smokey tobacco, cassis, vanilla, violets, raspberry, herbs, cocoa and spice. Excellent length and lots of ripe of tannins will ensure eight years of positive evolution. Pair with a NY strip topped with an herb demi-glace. (ES)

89 Malivoire Stouck Vineyard Meritage2011, Lincoln Lakeshore ($29.95)

Here you will find a great Meritage from a less than easy vintage for dark grapes. Medium body, the raspberry, cassis, savoury herbs, tea, toast and violets are supported by some granular tannins. Great length. Now to 2018. (ES)

Chile

88 Miguel Torres Las Mulas Sauvignon Blanc 2014 ($11.95)

There Sauv Blanc offers good depth of flavour, especially for the price.  Leans to the pungent side of the varietal, the ammonia, asparagus, guava, passion fruit, citrus and passion fruit are all preasent on a crisp frame. Drink now with fried appetizers. (ES)

New Zealand

90 Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Marlborough ($19.95)

This brilliant and focused Sauv Blanc pumps out a huge perfume of nectarine, followed by bergamot, passion fruit, guava, jalapeno and papaya. Fresh acidity, a concentrated mid-palate and long finale make this a sublime partner for a ceviche infused with some tropical fruit or tuna/salmon sashimi. (ES)

Spain

87 Miguel Torres Coronas Tempranillo 2012, Catalunya ($13.95)

This stalwart of the LCBO general list once again delivers the goods. Mid-weight, the cherry, plum, licorice, tobacco, leather and herbs glide across the palate. It is lengthy, with soft tannins and is ready to drink. Perfect for the bbq season- hamburgers and sausages! (ES)

United States

91 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley ($34.95)

Another solid Mondavi Napa Cabernet Sauvignon! Full-bodied and elegant, this lovely wine doles out the cassis, black cherry, earth, mint, smoke, herbs vanilla and spice. Excellent length and ripe tannins will ensure a decade of life, with the best drinking starting around 2016. (ES)

 


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Wine Facts

To prevent a sparkling wine from foaming out of the glass, pour an ounce, which will settle quickly. Pouring the remainder of the serving into this starter will not foam as much.