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December 2014 Wine Ratings

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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)


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)



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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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)


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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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)



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)


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)


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)



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)


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)


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)


August 2014 Wine Ratings

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89 Peter Lehmann H&V Chardonnay 2012, Eden Valley ($20)

This is not your parents’ Aussie Chardonnay! Planted on rock soils, in the cool Eden Valley, this wine is all about restraint and elegance. Huge citrus, apple, honey and minerals are supported by cinnamon and vanilla notes from partial barrel aging. The crisp personality, 12% alcohol and long finish make this well suited for grilled salmon or roasted chicken.  (ES)


89 Peter Lehmann Layers Red 2011, Barossa ($17.95)

A definite crowd pleaser! From a cool vintage comes this GSM plus Tempranillo blend. Dark plum, sweet cherry, strawberry and raspberry mesh with the oak flavours of vanilla, cocoa and spice. Rather full bodied, the texture is soft, and there is very good length. Ready to drink, preferably with boeuf bourguignon or lamb chops. (ES)



91 Hillebrand Showcase Series Wild Ferment Oliveira Vineyards Chardonnay 2012, Lincoln Lakeshore ($36)

This impressive Chardonnay doles out toast, honey, apple, fig, citrus, honey and caramel qualities. It is full bodied with excellent length and a fine spine of acid. Pair with butter poached lobster. (ES)

88 Rosehall Run The Finisher Liquoreux 2013, Prince Edward County ($17.95/375ml)

This playfully named dessert wine is a blend of 85% Ehrenfelser and 15% Muscat. With 70g/l of sugar (think Auslese), fresh acid, and a profile of peach, honey, white flowers and spice, this dessert wine is a perfect foil for foie gras or fresh fruit custard desserts topped with an apricot glaze. (ES)

88 Peller Estates Private Reserve Chardonnay 2012, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($18.95)

Apple, citrus, white flowers, honey and hints of tropical fruit are all in play in this medium bodied, refined wine. There was no malolactic, so there is fresh acid as well as very good length. (ES)

88 Hidden Bench Estate Chardonnay 2012, Beamsville Bench ($28.75)

Yes, there is oak, but it is kept in check by the fruit, producing a mix of caramel, honey, vanilla, peach, pineapple, citrus and sweet apple. Medium to full body, there is sound acid and a lengthy aftertaste. (ES)

88 Soutbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2012, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($22.95)

The ripe and round Chardonnay has seen 50% oak. That said, it is not overt, rather the fruit and wood are in balance, producing a lifted nose of pear, pineapple, grilled peach, apple, vanilla and caramel. It is mid-weight with a lengthy aftertaste and good acidity.  Ready to drink. (ES)

86 Coyote’s Run Gewürztraminer 2013, Niagara ($14.95)

Coyote’s first ever Gewürz is a textbook sample. Peach, rose water, orange blossom, honey, cinnamon and pineapple find themselves on a medium bodied frame. Dry, there is moderate length and uplifting acidity. (ES)


90 Rosehall Run The Certain Ratio 2012, Ontario ($29.95)

The grapes for this Meritage were sourced from PEC and Niagara. The ratio is 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot and 21% Cabernet Franc. Full-bodied, concentrated and layered; the tobacco, dark cherry, plum, olive, spice, mocha and vanilla flavours are underpinned by loads of ripe, yet unobtrusive tannins. It should age well for the next eight years. (ES)

90 Coyote’s Run David Sheppard Vintage 30 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($36.95)

This one-shot release was created to commemorate winemaker David Sheppard’s 30th harvest in the Niagara wine business. It is full bodied and backwards, and at this early stage, plum, vanilla, spice, and cassis are present. The tannins are elevated, so two options exist. The first, if you wish to drink now, is to pair with an extremely rare cut of beef.  The second, as well as my personal preference, is to cellar for three years and then drink until 2025. (ES)

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

A huge bouquet of damson plum, sweet cherry, mocha, vanilla are all present in this 14.5% alcohol wine. It is ripe and concentrated with the sweet fruit on the palate meshing with a light herbal note. There is a long finish and firm tannins, so hold for two years and then drink until 2020. (ES)



91 Ktima Biblia Chora Assyrtiko/Sauvignon Blanc 2013, Pangeon IGP ($22.95)

This 40/60 blend starts off with a pale straw colour and then leads into a perfume of fresh cut grass, bergamot, passion fruit, white pepper, mango, green apple and honey. Once on the taste buds, the minerals and citrus kick-in, creating a long finale.  Great juice and the price is right! (ES)

90 Ktima Tselepos Amalia Brut, Arkadia IGP ($25.95)

This 100% Moschofilero, traditional method sparkling wine is my favorite Greek bubbly. It totally flatters with peach, honey, white flowers and spice qualities which become enveloped by the small pinpoint bubbles.  It is dry with a long finish and is an absolute delight with any appetizer course or celebration. (ES)

90 Ktima Biblia Chora Ovilos 2013, Pangeon IGP ($29.25)

Many believe that Greece’s finest wines are those that are blends between indigenous and French grapes. Here, you will find a marriage of Sémillon and Assyrtiko. The prior provides the weight and aroma and the later balances with freshness and minerality. Peach, red apple, mineral, honey, wax, evergreen and pineapple on the nose meshes with lanolin, spice and cream on the palate. Long aftertaste. It will age well, especially if you find the mature qualities of Sémillon enticing. (ES)

89 Domaine Gerovassiliou Malagousia 2013, Epanomi ($29.95)

Depending on your point of view, Malagousia is Greece’ answer to Gewürz or Muscat. One of the main difference between it and the aforementioned grapes is the fact that it retains acidity. Gerovassiliou’s version serves up honey, peach, spice, orange blossom, bergamot, citrus and spice qualities. Superb length makes this wine a natural partner for sushi or deep fried appetizers. (ES)

89 Domaine Gerovassiliou White 2013, Epanomi ($22.95)

This is a 50/50 blend of Malagousia and Assyrtiko, the famous white grape of Santorini, which has now been transplanted all over Greece. By blending the two, the exotic aromas of Malagousia find a home with Assyrtiko’s mineral driven, crisp personality. Peach, honey, white flowers, crushed rock and spice are all in play. Splendid length and ready to drink. (ES)


91 Domaine Gerovassiliou Avaton 2011, Epanomi ($44.95)

This intriguing, indigenous blend of Limnio, Mavroudi and Mavrotragano is a big wine full of plum, smoke, violets, cherry jam, earth and mocha aromas. The palate is quite punchy with lots of tannin enveloping the raisin, red and dark fruit flavours. Excellent length and a decade of life ahead. (ES)


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Wine Facts

The lip of a red wine glass is sloped inward to capture the aromas of the wine and deliver them to your nose.