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May 2015 Wine Ratings

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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)


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)


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)


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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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)


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)


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)


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)


February 2015 Wine Ratings

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92 Bachelder Wismer Vineyard Chardonnay 2012, Twenty Mile Bench ($44.95)

Of Bachelder’s two single vineyard Chardonnays, it is this one which shows the best in warm vintages, as was the case in 2012. Medium to full body, the aromas of toast, apple, roasted hazelnut, baked apple and spice mesh with cream and citrus on the long aftertaste. Hold until 2016 and then drink until 2020. (ES)

91 Bachelder Saunders Chardonnay 2012, Beamsville Bench ($44.95)

Possessing a moderate 12.5% alcohol, this Chard reveals of bouquet of banana, peach, caramel, toast and cinnamon apples. Further complexity arrives in the form of minerals, earth and anise on the on- going finale. Drink over the next 3 to 4 years. (ES)

91 Vineland Estates Elevation Riesling 2008, Niagara Escarpment ($30)

For me, 2008 was one of the best vintages ever for Riesling in Niagara. That said, Brian Schmidt, Vineland’s winemaker, saw something special in this wine, and decided to age a few cases so as to allow nuance to develop in the bottle – a judicious call! Perfumed, the bergamot, honey, peach, lime, crushed rock and white flowers beguile. The balance, crisp acidity, concentration and a long finale will ensure another a decade of aging, at least. If you are a Riesling lover, do not miss out on this beauty! (ES)

90 Mike Weir Family Vineyard Limited Edition Unoaked Chardonnay 2012, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)

This non-forested Chardonnay offers up generous aromas of peach, honey, mango, banana, pineapple and sweet apple. The palate is ripe and concentrated, adding dashes of spice and cream, as well as a long finale. It is ready to drink tonight with a filet of mahi mahi topped with a fruit salsa or roast chicken. (ES)

90 Peller Estates Signature Series Riesling Icewine 2013 ($72/375ml)

This is a refined Icewine with a personality of honey macerated peaches, lime, minerals, petrol and wet leaves. Excellent length and a wonderful acidity provides grace and symmetry. (ES)


91 Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Cabernet Franc Icewine 2012, Niagara ($59.95/375ml)

Copious amounts of strawberry and cherry jam, raisins, plums and cocoa leap out of the glass and onto the taste buds. It is luscious with excellent length. A top notch stickie! (ES)

90 Ravine Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, St. David’s Bench ($35)

Elegant, the opaque black colour heralds the cassis, vanilla, spice, mint, violets, cocoa and smoke which are framed on a refined, medium bodied frame. There is great length and suave tannins, so drink until 2020. Pair with rack of lamb. (ES)

89 Vineland Estates Cabernet Bo-Teek Vineyard 2012, Niagara Escarpment ($25)

This blend of 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon doles out smokey tobacco, cassis, violets, cocoa, toast, graphite and a slight animal quality. The palate is ripe, with lots of fine tannins, fresh acid and great length. Drink until 2021. (ES)

89 Jackson-Triggs Winery Grand Reserve Meritage 2012, Niagara ($24.95)

Almost equal parts of all three major Bordeaux red grapes were used to make this polished medium to full-bodied red. There is a bouquet of plum, spice, cassis, cherry, raspberry, violets and black olive. The palate adds smokey tobacco and vanilla notes. Excellent length. (ES)

88 Peller Estates Private Reserve Meritage 2012, Niagara ($22.95)

This delightful Meritage spent twelve months in a combination of French and American barrels, of which 20% were new. It serves up plum, cherry, cocoa, spice, earth and floral notes on a smooth as silk texture. Very good length and ready to drink.


91 Bachelder Nuits St. Georges La Petite Charmotte, Burgundy ($65)

A single vineyard Pinot Noir with a heady perfume of cherry, plum, toast, earth, thyme, iron and spice. The palate is linear, but long, with a slightly dry finish which will work well when matched up against a medium rare magret de canard. (ES)


91 Fontanafredda Barolo Serralunga d’Alba 2010 ($39.95)

A wonderful perfume of dark chocolate, plum, dark cherry, violets, leather, tobacco smoke and spice beguile the senses. It is full-ish with ample persistency and Nebbiolo tannins rounding out the experience. Braised lamb shank required. Time frame: 15 years of cellaring.

90 Marchesi di Barolo Barolo 2010 ($34.95)

This mid-weight red delivers cherry, vanilla, spice, cocoa and violets on the nose, which transitions to the palate and melds with a long raspberry cream finish. Tannins are in proportion and there is  splendid persistency. A Barolo to be drunk over the next decade.

90 Vietti Barolo Castiglione 2010 ($59.95)

This wine is still shy right now, but given its track record and underlying density, it will open up and start to strut its stuff by 2017 and then should be drunk until 2028. Strawberry, cherry, rose petals, licorice, tar and herbs weave together on the medium body. Excellent length.

89 Ascheri Barolo Pisapola ($44.95)

This wine is a solid Nebbiolo offering, but not of the elite status. Strawberry, earth and dried flowers are present. It is mid weight, with a lean structure and very good length. Tannins dive in on the finish, but based on the depth of the wine, my suggestion would be to drink it over the next 8 to 10 years.

89 Fontanafredda Barolo 2010 ($30)

This is probably the best bang for the buck Barolo you will ever come across. Not a powerhouse, but a good mouthful of cherry, licorice, dried flowers, spice and chestnut. Solid length and tannins. Drink until 2020. It is made for osso bucco and harder, saltier cheeses. (ES)

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Wine Facts

Wine is often called the nectar of the gods, but Sangiovese is the only grape named after a god. Sangiovese means “blood of Jove