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January 2015 Wine Ratings

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Argentina

88 Secreto Patagonico Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Patagonia ($18.95)

Here is a straight up, unpretentious steak wine with masses of dark fruit, cocoa, clove, earth and tobacco smoke. There is very good length, supple tannins and some heat, so put a slight chill to it before diving into that medium rare cut. (ES)

White

91 Tawse Winery Quarry Road Gewürztraminer 2013, Vinemount Ridge ($24.95)

Without a doubt, this is a brilliant off-dry Gewurz! It serves up peach, honey, rose water, cardamom, ginger, cold cream, lychee and pineapple. The palate is thick with soft acidity, 12% alcohol and a super satisfying finale. Drink until 2016 to take full advantage of it exuberance. Pair with foie gras or Thai food. (ES)

90 Redstone Winery Chardonnay 2012, Niagara Peninsula ($18.95)

This wine is unofficially known as the “Bistro” Chardonnay and is only sold at restaurants.  Barrel fermented and aged for 12 months, the wine exudes ripe pear, apple, peach, honey, spice, white flower, vanilla, cream and toast. It is medium bodied with excellent length and refreshing acidity. Lobster ravioli in a beurre noissette sauce or filet of halibut are well suited for this wine. (ES)

88 Bachelder Chardonnay 2012, Niagara ($29.95)

This wine has graduated to the LCBO Vintages Essentials program. Rather easy going, this Chardonnay features moderate aromatics in the form of peach, toast, apple, pineapple and anise. It is a carbon copy on the palate with minerals and a slight nuttiness. Very good length and ready to drink. (ES)

Red

92 Bachelder Pinot Noir Lowrey Vineyard 2012, St. David’s Bench ($44.95)

Back in 1993, Inniskillin partnered with the Burgundy house of Jaffelin to produce Alliance, Ontario’s first premium Pinot Noir. That wine and partnership have long ago given up the ghost, but those old vines have now been scooped up by Thomas Bachelder for his Niagara project. The pale colour might make you think that this is a timid wine- but don’t be fooled. The bouquet of cherry, plum, toast and earth meets up with spice and sage on the palate. Excellent length. Drink until 2020. (ES)

91 Reif Estate Winery Meritage 2012, Niagara River ($34.95)

For the number lovers, this is a blend of 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. For the wine lovers, this is a full bodied red with a complex bouquet if sweet vanilla, cassis, violets, raspberry, cocoa and mint. Length is fabulous with tannic structure to ensure a decade of aging. (ES)

90 Reif Estate Winery Merlot Reserve 2012, Niagara River ($25.95)

There is almost a port like quality with all the over ripe plum, blackberry and cherry qualities. Add in the spice, cocoa and earth, as well as a rich texture and great length and you have one fine bottle of Merlot which will age gracefully over the next 5 years. (ES)

90 Château des Charmes Merlot St. David’s Bench Vineyard, St. David’s Bench ($29.95)

This is one serious Merlot which has benefited from the heat of the 2012 vintage. Full bodied, it hits the senses with plum, blackberry, vanilla, cocoa, vanilla, anise and dried herbs. Concentrated, there is a long finale and gritty tannins which require some more bottle age to sort themselves out. Drink from 2016 to 2021. (ES)

89 Redstone Winery Pinot Noir Limestone Vineyard 2012, Twenty Mile Bench ($29.95)

Even though this Pinot comes from the warm 2012 vintage, it displays poise and elegance. The brilliant ruby colour heralds the plum, raspberry, cherry, earth, cocoa and spice. The acid is fresh and the tannins are supple, so drink now over next two to three years. Pair with charcuterie or ahi tuna steak. (ES)

89 Rockway Vineyards Meritage 2012, Twenty Mile Bench ($19.95)

This wine proves why we blend Cab Sauv, Franc and Merlot together - each varietal compliments the others! This rich and velvety red doles out the dark fruits, mocha, vanilla, anise, coconut, mint and violets. It is stylish with excellent length. Drink over the next 8 years.

89 Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block 11-140 Cabernet Franc, Twenty Mile Bench ($24.95)

With 18 months of barrel aging under its belt, this medium to full bodied Franc shows off raspberry, coconut, herbs, cassis, violets and vanilla qualities. There is very good length as well as some unresolved tannin which suggests aging until the end of 2015 and then drink until 2022. (ES)

89 Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block Blend Merlot, Twenty Mile Bench ($21.95)

The deep ruby colour heralds the plum, cherry, vanilla, mocha, herbs and graphite. The palate is a combination of richness and tannin, which will allow for 5 years of aging ahead. Duck confit or a bison burger are perfect partners for this rock solid Merlot. (ES)

88 Rockway Vineyards Small Lot Block Cabernet Sauvignon 12-120, Twenty Mile Bench ($22.95)

This Cabernet Sauvignon reveals a combination of fruit and savoury. Cassis, vanilla, Indian spice, coconut, mint and herbs are supported by some solid tannin. Hold until 2016 and then drink until 2023. Rack of lamb was made for this red. (ES)

88 Henry of Pelham Family Tree 2012, Niagara ($18.95)

This delicious blend of 48% Shiraz, 23% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Merlot offers enticing flavours of  pepper, plum, cassis, roasted peanuts, cocoa, roasted herbs, vanilla and incense. There is richness on the palate before the juicy acid and round tannins fill in the finale. Very versatile as a food wine! (ES)

88 Redstone Winery Cabernet 2012, Niagara ($19.95)

This blend of 70% Cabernet Franc and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon is the red “Bistro” companion for the Chardonnay. Mid weight, a perfume of raspberry, cassis, smoke, tobacco leaf, violets and herbs carries over to the palate. Very good length and ready to go with steak frites. (ES)

USA

92 Bachelder Pinot Noir Johnson Vineyard 2012, Yamhill-Carlton District ($55)

Two thousand twelve was a great vintage in Oregon. The combination of low yields and constant warmth throughout the growing season, with little rain, produced ripe and elegant wines. This medium bodied organic Pinot typifies said style. It starts off with cherry, cranberry, iron and toast qualities; then the plum, cocoa, earth, red flowers and spice chime in on the long finale. Tannins are suave, allowing for five years of cellaring. (ES)

 

December 2014 Wine Ratings

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Australia

White

88 Beckett’s Flat Five Stones White Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2013, Margaret River ($19)

From the cool Margaret River comes this Kosher and Vegan friendly wine. This blend shows a personality of peach, honey, apple, lime, cream, herbs and minerals. The palate is mid-weight with very good length and a slight sweet edge. Put a good chill to it before serving. (ES)

Red

91 Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Coonawarra ($27.95)

This wine is a recent addition to the Vintages Essential program at the LCBO. Polished and dense, Coonawarra’s hallmarks of eucalyptus/menthol and cassis mesh with violets, graphite, dark cocoa, smoke and raspberry. Hold until 2016 and then drink until 2024. I also had the opportunity to try the 2012 and it is right on par with the 2010! (ES)

Canada

White

89 Palatine Hills Sauvignon Blanc Neufeld Vineyard 2013, Niagara Lakeshore ($18)

This is a superb barrel fermented Sauvignon Blanc. Huge fruit salad, honey, passion fruit, guava, pink grapefruit, cream, spice and mineral weave around a core of refreshing acidity. Fine depth and excellent length make for an ideal partner with a halibut filet or even a grilled rosemary scented veal chop. (ES)

88 Palatine Hills Prestige NV, Niagara Lakeshore ($22.95)

Even though the label says it is non-vintage, the majority of the base wine for this bubbly came from the cool 2009 vintage, which was perfect for sparkling wine production. Made from 100% Chardonnay, it spent 30 months on the less, imbuing the wine with yeast, brioche, cream, peach, anise, and apple qualities. The palate shows fine mousse, fresh acidity and very good length. (ES)

Red

89 Palatine Hills Merlot Neufeld Vineyard 2012, Niagara Lakeshore ($25)

Winemaker Jeff Innes has really upped the quality of the wines since his arrival at Palatine. Case and point, this Merlot which absolutely flatters with huge plum, dark cherry, cola, spice and vanilla. It is ripe, with good depth, a round texture and enough tannins to allow 5 years of aging. (ES)

89 Henry of Pelham Baco Noir Reserve 2012, Ontario ($24.95)

For my taste, this is the best Baco in Ontario. Full bodied, there is copious amounts of jammy dark fruit which is supported by smoke and cocoa notes from new barrel aging. Fresh acidity and a slight sweetness rounds out the texture. There is solid length and 5 to 6 years of life ahead. (ES)

88 Palatine Hills Meritage Neufeld Vineyard 2012, Niagara Lakeshore ($30)

Slightly tight at this early stage, this Meritage might even turn out to be better than their Merlot. Cassis, earth, vanilla, cherry, roasted red pepper, oregano and red/dark flowers reveal themselves. The tannins still need to resolve themselves, so hold until 2016 and then drink until 2022. (ES)

Chile

89 Concha y Toro Winemaker’s Lot 148 Carmenère 2012, Rapel Valley ($18.95)

This is a solid Carmenère, which features cassis, blackberry black cherry, violets, anise, mint, roasted herbs and chocolate.  It is medium plus bodied with an attack of rich fruit which leads to some dry tannins on the finale. Drink over the next 3 years. (ES)

87 Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Reserva Carmenère 2012, Rapel Valley ($12.95)

For its price point, this Carmenère really over delivers. Cassis, violets, raspberry, cocoa and the tell-tale spice/herbal note of the varietal are built on a medium bodied frame. It is elegant, with some dusty tannins which make pairing with a medium-rare grilled steak a fine choice. (ES)

France

90 Piper-Heidsieck NV Champagne Brut, Champagne ($54.95)

It has been a long time since I tasted a non-vintage Piper this good. Toast, caramel, citrus and apple weave through a creamy texture, fresh acidity and long finish. Oysters on the half shell anyone? (ES)

Portugal

91 Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009, Porto ($18.55)

This LBV shames some vintage ports – easily! From a hot vintage comes this super ripe and opulent wine with loads of dark fruit, chocolate, raisins, violets, pepper and orange peel.  It is long on the finish with some unresolved tannins which will allow for short term aging, if so desired. (ES)

89 Sandeman Late Bottled Vintage Port 2009, Porto ($16.95)

In the past decade, Sandeman has really elevated their game. This full bodied Port is ripe and elegant on the palate. Plum, cassis, violets, spice, earth and smoke flavours are long lasting. A quintessential fireside sipper with Stilton cheese.  (ES)

Italy

88 Batasiolo Barolo 2010, Piedmont ($29.95)

The hallmark of the fabulous 2010 Barolo vintage is florality - and there is certainly none lacking in this wine. Add the cherry, plum, tobacco, earth, round tannins and very good length and you have a solid value Barolo, which has mid-term aging potential. Pair with a mushroom risotto topped with duck breast. (ES)

Spain

88 Miguel Torres Sangre de Toro 2013, Catalunya ($12.95)

This wine really packs in the flavour, and for the price, it is a steal. It is rich and flavorful, full of raisins, plum, vanilla, licorice and lilac. There is density, very good length and some underlying tannins. Pair with sausage and peppers or vegetable casseroles. (ES)

USA

90 Belle Glos Clark and Telephone Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013, Santa Maria Valley ($45)

Caveat emptor - please read this tasting note before purchasing! If you are Pinot Noir lover, then you will be alarmed with what is in the bottle, and probably score it in low 80s, as it has more in common with Australian Shiraz or Argentinian Malbec. That said, this is a purple coloured, super concentrated, oaked monster which gushes jam: plum, dark cherry, raspberry, as well as cocoa, vanilla and clove. Based on these attributes and the ambitious nature of this wine, is why I give it 90 points. (ES)

88 Louis M. Martini Caberent Sauvignon 2012, Sonoma County ($18.95)

A superb value from the realm of California Cabernet. The blackberry and blueberry fruit meets up with violets, roasted herbs, vanilla and spice. Medium plus body with very good length and some gritty tannins on the aftertaste. Drink over the next 3 years. (ES)

88 Smoking Loon Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, California ($14.95)

Cassis, blackberry, raspberry, mint, violets, vanilla and anise are all present in this friendly and accessible Cab. It is balanced, with no overt alcohol, soft tannins and a slightly sweet finish. Drink now. (ES)

 

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September 2014 Wine Ratings

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Argentina

91 Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2012, Mendoza ($19.95)

This is the best Ultra Malbec to date! The saturated black/purple colour heralds a full bodied wine which is racked, backed and stacked with plum, blackberry, fig, cocoa, smoke, violets, vanilla, earth and anise. The texture is lush with excellent length and well integrated tannins. For the price, a multiple bottle purchase is mandatory. (ES)

Australia

White

90 Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013, Adelaide Hills ($24.95)

This is a superb follow up to the delicious 2012. Refined and complex, this Chardonnay exudes peach, pineapple, banana, red apple, honey, toast, cream, white flowers and minerals. The finish is long and the fresh acidity provides balance and definition. Lobster and crab with drawn butter were made for this beauty. (ES)

Red

91 Nugan Estate Alfredo Dried Grape Shiraz 2012 ($26.95)

Here is something different: an Amarone inspired wine from Australia. Full-bodied and fruit driven, the plum, blackberry, black cherry, raisins, cocoa, vanilla, anise  and eucalyptus carry from the nose over to the palate, where fresh acidity,  firm tannins and a long finish join the mix. The price is right, especially considering that Italian versions of comparable quality are close to double. Drink over the next decade. (ES)

87 Nugan Estate Alfredo Second Press Shiraz ($15.95)

This Rispasso-styled wine is the little brother to the Alfredo “Amarone.” It is soft and crowd pleasing with blackberry, black cherry, prune, vanilla and dark cocoa flavours. Very good length, supple tannins, fresh acidity and a slightly sweet edge round everything out. (ES)

Italy

88 Vallone Vereto Salice Salentino Rosso 2010, Apulia ($17.95)

This 100% Negroamaro grape is a medium bodied offering which reveals plum, dried cherries, raisins, leather, violets, earth and cocoa. On the palate it is ripe, but not heavy, with some juiciness giving lift. The tannins show a dusty edge, so pair with braised veal or confit de canard. (ES)

88 D’Alfonso del Sordo Guado San Leo Uva di Troia, Apulia ($17.95)

Here is a great value aged red! Uva di Troia (the grape of Troy) is an under the radar varietal from the province of Apulia, in Southern Italy. Dark cherry, plum, vanilla, raisins, dried tomato, herbs and cinnamon make for a complex, medium bodied red. There is very good length, a tannic background and fresh acid. (ES)

Canada

White

89 Ravine Vineyard Riesling 2013, Niagara ($30)

Resembles a fine Mosel Kabinett. It is off-dry, with tangy acidity and a personality of lime zest, bergamot, apple, mineral, honey and peach. Very good length and 8% alcohol make for an enjoyable and easy drinking experience. (ES)

89 Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2013, Niagara ($17.95)

Tawse’s entry level Riesling once again delivers above its price point. Crisp and off-dry, it dazzles with apple, bergamot, lime and mineral. A lengthy aftertaste makes for an ideal partner with oysters on the half shell or spicy tuna sushi. (ES)

88 Ravine Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Niagara ($28)

Lime, gooseberry, nectarine, white grapefruit, herbs and minerals weave around a medium body and crisp personality. It is linear with very good length and is a perfect pairing for a grilled vegetable salad topped with goat cheese or chilled shellfish. (ES)

Red

91 Pondview Winery Bella Terra Cabernet Sauvignon Unfiltered 2012, Four Mile Creek ($34.95)

Being a big fan of the 2010 version of this wine, I was hoping that the 2012 rendition would be just as glorious; well, it is! Full-bodied, yet elegant, this 14.3% alcohol wine doles out the blackberry, cassis, violets, raspberry, mocha, mint, roasted herbs and graphite qualities. The tannins are still forceful, so hold for two years and then drink until 2022. (ES)

91 Pondview Winery Bella Terra Cabernet Franc Unfiltered 2012, Four Mile Creek ($34.95)

Of all of Pondview’s top tier reds, this is the one that is the most approachable. Cassis, tobacco, cocoa, vanilla, violets, green olive, coconut and spice all come to play in this impressive Franc. It is ripe, concentrated and with enough grip to allow it age for another six to seven years.  (ES)

89 Coyote’s Run Black Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012, Four Mile Creek ($29.95)

This is a seriously structured Pinot which requires a couple of years of bottle age so as to bring harmony. Dark cherry, raspberry, plum, humus, potpourri, vanilla and chocolate make for a thoroughly complex wine. From 2016 to 2020.  (ES)

88 Coyote’s Run Red Paw Vineyard Syrah 2012, Four Mile Creek ($24.95)

Plum, violets, clove, root beer, pepper and vanilla waft out the glass and onto the taste buds. Supple tannins, fresh acidity and very good length make this a fine choice for rack of lamb or roasts. (ES)

88 Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($22.95)

Cassis, raspberry, herbs, cocoa, vanilla, spice are on full display in this biodymanic wine. There is some residual sugar, and a few might find it too sweet, but for me, it combines with the tannins, acidity and moderate alcohol to produce a well-balanced wine. It  should age well over the next 4 to 5 years. (ES)

Chile

90 Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Puente Alto ($19.95)

From the Maipo valley comes this polished Cabernet Sauvignon with ripe cassis, dark cherry, cocoa, menthol, spice, vanilla and dark olive qualities. Full bodied, there are lots of velvety tannins which makes me want to lay this wine down until the middle of 2015 and then drink until 2020. (ES)

United States

89 Ca’Momi Zinfandel 2012, Napa Valley ($19.95)

The 2012 vintage of this wine is a well-priced, textbook example, loaded with jam: raspberry, blackberry, cherry and blueberry. Raisins, pepper, earth and vanilla add complexity to the mix. Very good length and soft tannins assure immediate accessibility. Pair with braised meats or dry-rubbed ribs. (ES)

 


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Wine Facts

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