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November 2018 Wine Ratings

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89 Luigi Bosca Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Mendoza ($19.95)
Here you will find a structured Cabernet with lots of black fruit qualities -blackberries and cassis- accompanied by spice, smoke, mint/herbs and vanilla. Medium plus body with good cellaring potential. Prime rib all the way! (ES)



91 Tawse Chardonnay South Bay Vineyard 2015, Prince Edward County ($34.95)
Tawse trucked in Chardonnay grapes from PEC to make this fine and delicious Chardonnay. White fruit (pear, apple) and citrus find are underpinned by oak in the form of vanilla and spice. Freshness is not lacking and there is excellent length. Lobster or halibut would be divine with this wine! (ES)

87 Kacaba Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay 2017, Niagara Peninsula ($15.95)
A pure expression of Chardonnay with pear, yellow apple, peach, white flowers and mineral. Dry, the fresh acidity and very good length. A great wine for those weeknight chicken or finish dinners. (ES)


93 Thirty Bench Winemakers Small Lot Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Beamsville Bench ($50)
Of all of Thirty Bench’s Small Lot series in 2016, this is my favorite. It is a concentrated, complex and powerful Cab full of smoke, coffee, cassis, plum, raspberry, sweet herbs, graphite, vanilla and spice. Excellent length. Still very much youthful, it requires three years of cellaring and will age at least 15 years. Impressive juice!

92 Thirty Bench Winemakers Small Lot Merlot 2016, Beamsville Bench ($50)
A fabulous follow up the stunning 2012. Full-bodied and rich, there is plum, dark cherry, chocolate, vanilla, herbs, and spice both on the nose and palate. The finale is long, with the chocolate qualities carrying into the sunset. It will cellar for a decade.  (ES)

92 Thirty Bench Winemakers Benchmark Red 2016, Beamsville Bench ($60)
This wine is only released in the best years, the previous two being the 2010 and 2012. It is also the wine which is the hardest to gage in its youth and usually requires 3 to 5 years of cellaring before being broached. That said, my gut feeling is that this wine will eventually be the best of the Small Lots when the time arrives. Vanilla, cassis, plum, cherry, tobacco, mint and spice are what are in play right now. Concentrated and long with masses of tannins. (ES)

91 Thirty Bench Winemakers Small Lot Cabernet Franc 2016, Beamsville Bench ($75)
Plum, cassis, raspberry, sweet tobacco, spice, graphite and vanilla are all found in this Cabernet Franc. The acid is surprisingly elevated for such a warm vintage. Combined with the tannins, it will cellar nicely for 12 years. Rack of lamb with this beauty please!   (ES)

91 Reif Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2015, Niagara Peninsula ($34.95)
A lovely Cabernet Sauvignon with a bouquet of cassis, raspberry, plum, violets, tobacco and smoke. On the palate, much of the same is found, with a minty/herbal streak running through. Great finish and can be drunk now or aged for 5 to 7 years. (ES)

90 Reif Estate Meritage 2015, Niagara Peninsula ($39.95)
A medium plus body Meritage with a bouquet of smoke, cherry, plum, cassis, spice, leather and tobacco. Lovely depth on the palate with cocoa and herbs adding an extra layer. Excellent length. (ES)

90 Tawse Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2017, Niagara ($35.95)
A delightful red Icewine with a luscious personality of guava, cassis, raspberry, cocoa and herbs. Sweet with high acidity providing definition and lift. (ES)

89 Reif Estate Merlot Reserve 2016, Niagara River ($29.95)
Merlot all the way what with the chocolate, plum, cherry, spice, coffee and earth.  Nice depth and persistence. Ready to drink or can cellar for up to 5 years. (ES)

89 Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir Speck Family Reserve 2017, Short Hills Bench ($34.95)
There is a really lovely balance here with the cherry, cranberry and mushroom qualities of the grape melding with spice, vanilla and cocoa from the oak. Excellent length with correct acidity and tannins. Confit de Canard please. (ES)

89 Tawse David’s Block Merlot 2013, Twenty Mile Bench ($49.95)
This is the last vintage ever for this wine as the vines gave up the ghost after the brutally cold 2014 winter. Medium body and elegant, maturity has set in with some savoury/leather notes weaving between the plum, cherry, chocolate, herbs and spice. Ready to drink. (ES)

89 Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot Estate 2015, Short Hills Bench ($24.95)
Medium plus body, this is always a quality representation of white Niagara can do vis a vis the Bordeaux varietals. Cassis, raspberry, cherry, chocolate, smoke, herbs and graphite are all in play. Lovely balance and aftertaste. (ES)

89 Tawse Growers Blend Pinot Noir 2016, Niagara ($25.95)
Aromatic on the nose with cherry, raspberry, red flowers and earth. Spice, cassis and plum add nuance on the palate. Tannins and acidity are on the plus side of medium. Lengthy and ideal with a mushroom risotto topped with roasted quail. (ES)

88 Thirty Bench Winemakers Red 2016, Beamsville Bench ($24.95)
A solid Bordeaux-styled red featuring cassis, cherry, vanilla, cocoa, coffee, herbs and violets. Weighty, there is very good length and lots of tannins in the background. Drink over the next 5 to 7 years. (ES)

88 Redstone Meritage 2012, Niagara ($45.95)
Punchy, this blend of 60% Merlot and equal parts of both Cabs serves up plum, dark cherry, cassis, blackberry, olive, smoke, graphite, anise and mint. It is concentrated with grippy tannins, so grill up a rib eye medium rare and go to town. (ES)

86 Kacaba Vineyards Winery Cabernet 2016, Ontario ($14.95)
A smooth drinking blend of 90% Cab Franc and 10% Cab Sauv. Cherry, cassis, raspberry, green herbs, toast and spice. Medium body and length. Ready to drink. (ES)



90 Taittinger Nocturne NV, Champagne ($69.95)
The funky purple disco ball packaging will attract many, but it is the wine inside which is the real attraction. Done in the Sec style (off-dry, 17 g/l), this Champers reveals, apple, peach, cherry and a floral personality. There is a creamy texture with high acidity which helps to temper the sweetness. It is made for spicy dishes or at the end of the meal, alongside cheeses. (ES)

88 Gerard Bértrand Réserve Spéciale Viognier 2016, Pays D’Oc ($14.95)
A textbook version Viognier with peach, apricot, honeysuckle, orange blossom, spice and fresh yogurt. Rather dense on the palate and dry with a soft end. Solid value! (ES)

87 Baron de Hoen Pinot Gris Réserve 2016, Alsace ($14.95)
Off-dry, this is an easy drinking Gris with peach, apricot, orange blossom, spice and honey. A smooth palate and fine length make for a solid pairing with butternut squash soup or Oka cheese.


91 Chateau Mont-Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape, Rhone Valley ($45.95)
Cherry, strawberry, plum, licorice, and some garrigue are present in this well-made and approachable CNP. There are tannins for sure, but the entry is plush and there is some sound acidity to provide symmetry. Excellent length. Drink or hold. (ES)

90 Gérard Bertrand Grand Les Aspres Syrah-Mourvèdre-Grenache 2016, Côtes du Rousillion ($18.95)
There is lots of finesse to be found in this medium plus body red from Southern France. Crème de cassis, Chambord liqueur, black pepper, baking spice, toast and vanilla are in the mix.  Refined, balanced and just the right amount of underlying grip. Drink until 2024. (ES)


89 Goru El Blanco Moscatel - Chardonnay 2017, Jumilla ($13.95)
Goru continues to produce wines which deliver above their pay grade. Rich and aromatic, it features peach, orange blossom, pineapple, honey and spice. Acidity is soft and the finale carries long. Try with mahi-mahi topped with a fruit salsa of Tacos Al Pastor.


September 2018 Wine Ratings

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87 Luigi Bosca Chardonnay 2017, Mendoza ($19.95)

A weighty Chardonnay which sees fruit and oak come together, creating a melange of peach, pineapple, melon, apple, vanilla, cream and spice. Very good length with minerality and acidity carrying the finale. (ES)


91 Flat Rock Cellars The Rusty Shed Chardonnay 2016, Twenty Mile Bench ($26.95)

An overt, rich and fruit forward Chardonnay, full of banana, pineapple, honey, sweet peach, fig, honey, vanilla and spice. Rich, flavorful and ripe, the essence of this wine carries long on the palate. (ES)

91 Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Prince Edward County ($29.95)

This is a ripe and creamy Chardonnay with moderate aromas of peach, pineapple, vanilla, spice, butterscotch and a slight minerality. Leans to the full end of the spectrum and has lovely density as well as persistency. (ES)

90 Bachelder Saunders Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, Beamsville Bench ($44.95)

From a small 2.5 acre vineyard comes this Chardonnay which is chock full of honey, apple, peach, yeast, white flowers and minerals. There is a touch of volatility which adds an extra layer of complexity. Cream and caramel bring the curtain down. A solid bottling, but there have been better renditions. (ES)

90 Hidden Bench Chardonnay 2016, Beamsville Bench ($29.95)

Hidden Bench has hit a home run with their entry-level Chardonnay. The wine displays honey, peach, pear, apple, citrus, yeast, cream, spice and vanilla qualities. Excellent length, lovely acidity and a brilliant match for lobster or crab. (ES)

89 Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2016, Niagara ($24.95)

Bachelder’s workhorse Chardonnay is a natural ferment offering which features apple, honey, citrus, lemon and yeast. Medium body with an elegant personality, featuring a spice, mineral and earth finale. (ES)

89 Westcott Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2016, Vinemount Ridge 2016 ($27.95)

An absolute delight to drink. Sweet apple, yellow peach, honey, cream, vanilla and spice flood the senses. There is a round/creamy texture with a protracted finale. (ES)

88 Palatine Hills Chardonnay Neufeld Vineyard 2016, Niagara Lakeshore ($24.95)

An overt Chardonnay which hits 14.5% alcohol. Wall to wall peach, cream, honey, banana, fig, yellow apple, spice and vanilla. The palate is creamy with very good length and some heat creeping in at the end. (ES)


90 Arterra Pinot Noir 2016, Niagara ($29.95)

Made in an open, friendly style which will appeal to many. Concentrated and ripe, there is a fantastic nose of rose, dark cherry, plum, raspberry, vanilla and spice. Still needs another year to settle down and come together. (ES)

90 Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery Cabernet Franc 2016, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($38)

The warmth of 2016 has created a Franc with cassis, violets, herbs/ mint, cocoa and vanilla. Medium plus body, ripe tannins and excellent length. I think that a tomahawk steak with a rosemary butter sauce would be a phenomenal pairing. Drink over the next 6 to 7 years. (ES)

90 Stratus Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2015, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($38)

Yes, another winner Franc from Stratus! Deep ruby with a beguiling nose of crème de cassis, raspberry, damson plum, vanilla, mint, chocolate and spice. The sweet fruit palate adds nuances of vanilla and grilled herbs. Weighty and long. Now until 2024. (ES)

90 Huff Estates South Bay Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2016, Prince Edward County ($29.95)

Huff’s first ever Franc from the South Bay Vineyards is a real winner! It is stacked with fruit: blackberry, cassis, plum and raspberry. New oak adds vanilla, smoke and spice, helping to create a beautifully complex wine. Fresh acidity and fine-grained tannins will ensure mid-term cellaring. (ES)


89 Concha y Toro Marqués de Casa Concha Syrah 2016, Maipo ($21.95)

Lots of licorice, pepper, blackberry, raspberry and herbs are all in play in this full-ish Syrah! Great for those heavier/richer autumn meals. Drink over the next 5 years. (ES)



90 Gérard Bertrand Cuvée Thomas Jefferson Crémant de Limoux Brut 2015, Limoux ($19.95)

One of the best value traditional method sparkling wines you will find from France! Toast, peach, pear, binned apple, lemon, mushroom and spiciness are all present. The rich texture, lively acidity and protracted finale make for one fine bubbly! A blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Mauzac. (ES)


89 Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir La Clape 2015, Languedoc ($18.95)

A blend of Syrah, Carignan and Mourvèdre. Full-bodied and structured, this red serves up cassis, blueberry, plum, cherry, spice, black pepper and red flowers. There is great length with a tannic edge which will do well when paired alongside a rack of lamb. (ES)

88 Ferraton Père et Fils La Tournée Rouge 2016, Vin de France ($13.95)

A superb value red from Southern France. This blend of Syrah and Grenache features cherry, plum, spices, violets and herbs. Smooth and drinking beautifully now. It is a wine made for weeknight dinners, alongside pasta and pizza. (ES)

87 Gérard Bertrand Fitou 2015, Languedoc ($16.95)

Fitou wines are known for their easy drinking personality and this wine exemplifies this. Cherry, pepper, red flowers and garrigue are all in play. A little chill will go a long way. (ES)


88 Bellissima Prosecco Brut NV, Veneto ($24.95)

This organic bubbly is aptly named as it belongs to Christie Brinkley. The beauty continues in the glass with a bouquet of peach, pear, apple, toast and white flowers.  Light bodied and elegant, the wine possesses great length. Pair with oysters on the half shell or sushi. (ES)

South Africa

90 Waterkloof Seriously Cool Chenin Blanc 2017, Stellenbosch ($17.95)

Made from old bush vines, which produce naturally low yields. This is a juicy Chenin which flaunts honey, melon, yellow apple, lemon, and white flowers.  Great length, and a wine that calls out for shrimp or scallops. (ES)


92 Torres Mas La Plana 2013, Penedès ($64.95)

Torres’ flagship Cabernet is a polished offering with waves of cassis, plum, olive, mint, smoky herbs and vanilla. There is depth, refined tannins and a long lasting impression. Roast leg of lamb is a sublime pairing with this beauty! (ES)

92 Torres Perpetual 2015, Priorat ($49.95)

Torres’ top-end Priorat is a structured red, made from 80 to 100-year-old vines. Plum, cherry, raspberry, thyme, cinnamon and chocolate hits the palate like a long-distance runner, with flavour, tannic strength and stamina building over time. It should age well for 15 years. A blend of 95% Carignan and 5% Grenache. (ES)

91 Torres Salmos 2015, Priorat ($39.95)

Salmos is one of two Priorats produced by Torres and the one that is made for ‘early drinking’. It is also noteworthy to mention that is one of the values of the appellation.  Hearty, this blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah is redolent with kirsch, plum, raisins, chocolate, vanilla and anise. On the palate, red flowers and scorched earth carry the protracted finale. (ES)


August 2018 Wine Ratings

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88 13th Street Cuvee Rosé NV, Niagara ($27.95)

Aged two years on the lees, it is the yeast and strawberry which first greets the taster, followed by cherry, earth and spice. Pinpoint bubbles caress the palate and there is fine length. (ES)

87 Fielding Estate Winery Sparkling Rose NV, Niagara ($29.95)

A blend of 69% Pinot Noir and 31% Chardonnay. Mild aromas of strawberry, vanilla cream and toast. Pale salmon colour, delicate with a fresh finale and ready to drink. (ES)


91 Rosehall Run Vineyards JCR Rosehall Vineyard Chardonnay 2016, Prince Edward County  ($34.95)

A sublime Chardonnay with a perfume of pineapple, yellow apple, honey, banana, cream, smoke, vanilla and clove. Elegant with fresh acidity and quintessential PEC minerality wrapping up the package. Try with roasted chicken or grilled salmon. (ES)

88 Malivoire Chardonnay 2016, Beamsville Bench ($19.95)

Medium body with cream, pineapple, apple, pear, spice and vanilla. Easy drinking and food friendly, especially with prawns or lobster with drawn butter. (ES)

88 Fielding Estate Pinot Gris 2017, Lincoln Lakeshore ($21.95)

Contains wine from vines that are 30 years old. Huge peach and banana on the nose followed by spice and cream on the palate. Good lift and fine length. Drink with a coquille St-Jacques or mahi-mahi with a jalapeno/fruit salsa. (ES)

88 Malivoire Brut NV, Beamsville Bench ($29.95)

Aged for 52% months on the lees, this 80% Chardonnay bubbly features toast, apple, almond, white flower, green apple and citrus. Very good length with a creamy texture featuring small pinpoint bubbles. (ES)

88 13th Street Winery White Palette 2017, Niagara ($15.95)

A real crowd pleaser for sure! Off-dry with a delightful perfume of nectarine, peach, cantaloupe, wisteria and honey. Mostly Riesling and Pinot Gris with Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurztraminer acting as a backstop. Chill and serve alongside sushi.  (ES)

87 Pondview Winery Riesling 2016, Niagara ($17.95)

Bone-dry, with zippy acidity and profile of lime, mineral, white peach, grapefruit, apple and button mushroom. This is a wine which is made for food, especially oysters, so chill it down and shuck to your hearts content!

87 Malivoire Pinot Gris 2017, Beamsville Bench ($21.95)

Dry with a personality of white peach, pear, apple, almond and a touch of honey. Medium body with great length, hitting mineral and spicy notes on the finish. (ES)

87 13th Street Winery June’s Vineyards Chardonnay 2017, Creek Shores ($21.95)

The nose completely flatters in this non-oaked chardonnay: banana, jasmine, yellow apple and cream. Medium body, round texture and ready to drink. (ES)

87 13th Street Burger Blend White 2017, Niagara ($14.95)

A 60/40 blend of Riesling and Pinot Grigio. It is easy drinking with a cantaloupe, honey, lime and apple personality. There is a touch of residual and it is ready to go with cheese boards and fish tacos. (ES)

87 Malivoire Musqué Spritz 2017, Beamsville Bench ($21.95)

Made from the aromatic clone of Chardonnay (Musqué), this off-dry white has a slight spritz as the name dictates alongside peach, honey, yellow apple and white flowers. Fine length. (ES)


91 Rosehall Run Vineyards JCR Rosehall Vineyard Pinot Noir 2016,  Prince Edward County ($39.95)

From my favorite PEC producer comes this terroir driven Pinot redolent with strawberry, cranberry, cherry, floral, vanilla, earth and mineral notes. There is sweet fruit on the palate with fresh acidity and suave tannins which will ensure five years of aging, at least.  Very pretty indeed! (ES)

91 Malivoire Courtney Gamay 2016, Beamsville Bench ($29.95)

Malivoire’s top Gamay is a stunning rendition in 2016, having benefited from the heat of the vintage. Dark cherry, strawberry, vanilla, cocoa, earth, tar and spice explode on the senses. Full-bodied with a concentrated mid-palate and protracted finale. Drink over the next five years. (ES)

90 13th Street Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Creek Shores ($29.95)

Kudos to winemaker Jean-Pierre Colas for turning in this top-notch Cab Sauv! Mint, cassis, cinnamon, violets, earth and vanilla are all in play in this full-bodied red. Still youthful and tannic , it requires some cellaring to let it express its full potential. Drink from 2020 to 2028. (ES)

90 Malivoire Wismer Cabernet Franc 2016, Twenty Mile Bench ($27.95)

Strawberry, vanilla, cassis, green olive, violets and herbs are layered in this full-bodied red. It is concentrated with lots of tannins, mandating two to thre years of cellaring before been broached. A medium rare rib eye steak is the way to go. (ES)

88 Fielding Estate Cabernet Franc 2016, Niagara ($24.95)

A structured Cab Franc with lots of tannins underpinning the cassis, violets, thyme, graphite and spice and vanilla. Great length but still needs a year or two in the bottle to come together. Require something grilled, preferably along the lines of cow. (ES)

88 Fielding Estate Cabernet-Syrah 2016, Niagara ($29.95)

Even though it is an almost equal blend of Cab Sauv and Syrah, it is the pepper and smoke of the Syrah which first greets the senses. This is then followed by cassis, violets, cocoa and oregano. Medium body and fine length. (ES)

88 Malivoire Stouck Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Lincoln Lakeshore ($34.95)

A job well done as Malvoire winemaker, Shiraz Mottiar, has turned in a serious Cabernet Sauvignon from a challenging red wine vintage in Niagara. On the full end of the spectrum, there is a complex mix of cassis, chocolate, green olive, violets, tobacco, spice, cocoa and vanilla. Great length and ready serve alongside a rack of lamb. (ES)

88 Malivoire Small Lot Gamay 2017, Niagara ($19.95)

A sexy nose of cherry, strawberry, oregano, black pepper and violets carry to the palate where blue fruits enter the picture. Very good length, lively acidity and a subtle tannins structure. Perfect for  BBQ fare. (ES)

88 Malivoire Gamay 2017, Niagara ($17.95)

Always one of Niagara’s top Gamays. Lovely strawberry, raspberry, rhubarb, black pepper, herbs and vanilla. Juicy with soft tannins and ready to drink. A crowd pleaser to be sure! (ES)

87 Fielding Estate Winery Estate Bottled Cabernet Franc 2016, Lincoln Lakeshore ($39.95)

Medium ruby with a bouquet of raspberry, rhubarb, cassis, cinnamon and vanilla. The palate chimes in with the same, alongside black pepper and cocoa. Very good length with a juicy edge. (ES)

87 13th Street Winery Gamay 2017, Niagara ($19.95)

Strawberry, violets, black pepper, thyme and hints of leather jump out of the glass and onto the taste buds. Smooth, with a mouthwatering personality and suave tannins. Very good length.  Made for those pasta and pizza evenings. (ES)


93 Champagne Collet Blanc de Blancs NV, Champagne ($84.95)

A stunning 100% Chardonnay bubbly from the oldest co-operative in all of Champagne. Aged 5 years sur lie,  it will appeal to those who like a more mature/autolytic (yeasty) style as it features baked apple, toast, caramel, yeast, anise and nuttiness. There is lovely freshness, splendid length and loads of pinpoint bubbles. Chapeau! (ES)

South Africa

91 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2017, Hemel-En-Aarde Valley ($44.95)

From one of SA’s best Chardonnay producers comes this lovely rendition. Medium plus body with cream, baked apple, pineapple, spice, vanilla and honey. Long lasting with apple being the dominant echo. (ES)


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Wine Facts

Although “château” means castle, it may also be a mansion or a little house next to a vineyard that meets the requirements for winemaking with storage facilities on its property.