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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)

January 2015 Wine Ratings

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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)


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)


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)


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)


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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