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January 2017 Wine Ratings

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Canada

White

89 Château des Charmes St. David’s Bench Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, St. David’s Bench ($19.95)

Offers up a lot of flavour for the price, notably from the oak spectrum. Cream, vanilla, apple, pear, spice and roasted nuts are built on a medium body. Lovely acidity and length. Pair with seabass topped with a beurre blanc sauce. (ES)

Red

89 Henry of Pelham Pinot Noir Estate 2012, Short Hills Bench ($24.95)

Supple, maturing and ready to drink, this Pinot exhibits cherry fruit, graphite, beetroot, truffle, spice and dried earth. Beautiful length and a perfect fit with a duck terrine. (ES)

89 Southbrook Organic Triomphe Pinot Noir 2015, Niagara ($29.95)

Starts off with a burst of ripe cherry fruit which is the followed by red flowers and earth. Suave tannins and fresh acidity make for a magical pairing with braised short ribs with root vegetables. (ES)

88 Southbrook Organic Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2015, Niagara ($21.95)

A mid-weight Franc with a bouquet of cassis, black raspberry, herbs, violets and spice. The palate is linear with elevated acidity and fine tannins. Drink over the next five years. Contains 15% Merlot.  (ES)

France

White

92 Le Mesnil Brut Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Champagne NV, Champagne ($49.95)

A stellar value from the famed Chardonnay vineyard of Mesnil-sur-Oger which is rated Grand Cru per the Échelle des Crus classification. This bubbly is very toasty and autolytic with added nuance in the form of lemon, apple, nuts and hints of caramel. Lively on the palate with creamy bubbles and delightful length. (ES)

89 Domaine Laroche Chablis Saint-Martin 2015, Chablis ($23.20)

A soft and approachable Chablis with a personality of citrus, honey, green apple, anise and mineral. There is great length and just the right amount of acidity which allows it to pair perfectly with double cream brie or asiago cheeses. (ES)

Red

88 Chateau Tour Carmail 2011, Haut-Médoc ($19.80)

This well priced Left Bank Bordeaux features classic aromas of cassis, raspberry, herbs, tobacco, graphite, anise and vanilla. It possesses a medium body and very good length. Drink or hold for a couple of years. Serve with charcuterie or steak. (ES)

88 Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Les Aspres 2013, Côte de Roussillon ($18.95)

Les Aspres is a blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Grenache from Southern France. Dark plum, cassis, raspberry, Provencal herb, black pepper, smoke, vanilla cream and tar are all in play. Full-bodied with very good length and a healthy amount of tannins and fresh acidity. (ES)

88 Ferraton Père et Fils Samorëns Côtes du Rhône 2014, ($14.95)

A great value petit Rhône blend which serves up black pepper, lilac, cassis, plum, black olive. Medium body with very good length, soft tannins and ready to open with pasta or pizza. (ES)

Italy

93 I Castei Campo Casalin Amarone della Valpolicella Classico 2012, Veneto ($51.95)

From a top vintage and producer comes this Amarone which doles out the plum, cherry, raspberry, vanilla cinnamon, raisin and garam masala. Full-bodied, with 15.5% alcohol, it is balanced, concentrated and long-lasting. It will age well for a decade. (ES)

92 Sartori Corte Bra Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2009, Veneto ($49.95)

Starting to hit a sweet spot, this maturing Amarone reveals plum/prune, sweet cherry, leather, spice and cocoa. Brawny with a great finale. Will age gracefully for many more years. (ES)

92 Giacosa Vigna Mandorlo Barolo 2010, Piedmont ($53.95)

Just starting to hit its stride. Shows an evolved colour and classic aromas of cherry, prune, rose, liquorice and spice. Full bodied with tannins that will ensure another 15 years of life ahead, at least. (ES)

89 La Vite Lucente 2014, Toscana IGT ($34.95)

A Merlot dominant blend with Sangiovese and Cab acting as the backstop. Medium body, with blackberry, cherry, spice, earth and tobacco notes. Fine length and ready to drink. (ES)

Spain

91 Faustino I Gran Reserva 2004, Rioja ($34.95)

2004 was a superb vintage, and this has translated to a medium to full-bodied wine with dried fruit, leather, tomato concentrate, cedar, mint and game qualities. Excellent length with sound tannins, still. Pair with lamb chops.  (ES)

91 Senorio de P. Pecina Reserva 2009, Rioja ($29.95)

An obvious old-school Rioja with strawberry, stewed plums, coconut, red flowers, stewed tomatoes and cedar. Excellent length and ready to go. (ES)

Portugal

92 Quinta do Portal LBV Port 2012, Douro ($24.95)

This LBV easily matches and bests Vintage Ports, which are double or triple the price. From the fabulous 2011 vintage, this wine possesses an opaque black/purple colour and a profile of damson plum, kirsch, chocolate, mint and spice. Approachable now but has the stuffing to improve over the next decade. If you are a port lover, do not miss this opportunity! (ES)

USA

White

92 Paul Hobbs Chardonnay 2014, Russian River Valley ($64.95)

Full-bodied and rich, this superb Chardonnay is concentrated with peach, honey, quince jam, fig paste, apple, citrus, spice, cream and vanilla. Long-lasting with a pop of bright acidity, which is the hallmark of the vintage. Lobster and butter please! (ES)

90 La Crema Chardonnay 2014, Sonoma Coast ($29.95)

This stalwart of most Canadian wine stores is a creamy Chardonnay with a personality of citrus, green apple, peach, white flowers, honey, vanilla and spice. Excellent length with just the right amount of acidity. (ES)

90 Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc 2014, Napa Valley ($22.95)

Mostly Sauvignon Blanc with a dash of Sémillon. Citrus, lime, gooseberry, apricot and herbs come together in this crisp and elegant wine. Seared scallops all the way. (ES)

Red

93 Cliff Lede Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Stags Leap District ($114.95)

This is a powerful and dense Napa Cab with boatloads of crème de cassis, dark cherry, violets, mint, graphite. The palate boasts sweet fruit and enough tannins to age 20 years. Top notch juice! (ES)

92 Austin Hope Syrah 2013, Paso Robles ($40.95)

A big and brash Syrah which clocks in with 15.5% alcohol, a thick texture and intense flavours of dark plum, blackberry, black cherry, balsamic, spice and cocoa. Long finish. (ES)

89 Big Smooth Old Vines Zinfandel 2014, Lodi/Sonoma/Napa ($24.95)

The name says it all- this is a big, fruit-driven Zin with a soft and succulent texture, and of course, 15.5% alcohol. Dark and red fruit jam, raisins, black tea and spice gush from the glass. A hedonistic wine in the truest sense. (ES)

88 Joel Gott 815 Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, California ($24.95)

A multi-appellation blend which delivers plum, dark cherry, spice, vanilla and cocoa. It provides immediate gratification with its upfront personality but can go another five years in the cellar, if you so chose. (ES)

 

 

November 2016 Wine Ratings

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Canada

White

90 Two Sisters Vineyards Riesling 2014, Twenty Mile Bench ($35)

From the prized Foxcroft Vineyard comes the superb Riesling which balances acidity and sweetness to perfection, giving the impression of a dry wine. Pale water colour and textbook ‘Bench’ aromas of mineral, lime, white flower, white peach and hints of honey. Long, brisk finale. Drink or age, your choice. (ES)

90 Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc de Blanc 2011, Short Hills Bench ($44.95)

Made in the traditional method, from 100% Chardonnay grapes, and aged for five years on its yeast cells.  Lots of bread/toast, lemon, green apple and nuts here. Elegant and refined with fine bubbles and creamy texture. Pair with lobster and drawn butter or oysters on the half shell.

88 Coyote’s Run Red Paw Chardonnay 2015, Four Mile Creek ($24.95)

Still tight, the oak is the first that hits the senses in the form of vanilla, butterscotch and spice. The banana fruit, apple, citrus and white peach join in afterward. Great length and ideal with salmon filet topped with a mustard sauce. (ES)

Red

90 Two Sisters Vineyards Eleventh Post 2012, Niagara River ($39)

This blend of 50% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon is an impressive and seamless red which exudes dark cherry, cassis, raspberry, plum, chocolate, herbs and hints of graphite. Full bodied, ripe and long lasting, it is ready to drink now but can easily handle another 6 years of cellaring. (ES)

90 Two Sisters Vineyards Merlot 2012, Niagara River ($48)

This is what a great Merlot should be: delicious, ripe and mouth coating. Plum, chocolate, cherry, red/purple flowers, spice, smoke and mint combine to provide a gratifying experience. Excellent length. Drink until 2020. (ES)

90 Two Sisters Vineyards Cabernet Franc 2013, Niagara River ($48)

Considering the challenging nature of the vintage, this wine is somewhat of a minor miracle. It clocks in at a natural 14.2% alcohol and is classic Cab Franc with vanilla, raspberry, cassis, red pepper, cocoa and smokey tobacco attributes. Low yields provide a sweet/fruity palate with fine tannins. Drink until 2023. (ES)

90 Coyote’s Run Rare Vintage Syrah 2014, Four Mile Creek ($34.95)

Of all the ’14 Rare Vintage Reds, this is my favorite. Ripe, the style leans more to the Rhone model with a bouquet of cassis, violets, black pepper, oregano and hickory. Excellent density and aftertaste with enough structure to take it until 2022.

89 Coyote’s Run Rare Vintage Cabernet Franc 2014, Four Mile Creek ($34.95)

Fermented and aged in new French and American barrels, this rendition of this wine lets loose with aromas of blackberry, raspberry, spice, violets, cocoa, black olive and hickory. The palate adds cassis, smoke and tobacco. Stylish, there is a medium body, fine tannins and proper acidity. Drink over the next 5 to 6 years. (ES)

89 Two Sisters Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Niagara River ($62)

Of all the Two Sisters’ reds, this is the one with the most grip. Plum, blackberry, crème de cassis, violets, cedar and cocoa powder are all in play. Pair this baby with Osso Bucco or a NY strip with a rosemary demi-glace and let the magic happen. (ES)

89 Coyote’s Run Rare Vintage Meritage 2014, Four Mile Creek ($34.95)

Merlot is the dominant grape with both Cabs acting as a backstop. Mid-weight with black cherry, blackcurrant, raspberry, vanilla, smokey tobacco and pencil shavings. Tannins are present but unobtrusive, making for an excellent pairing with a rack of lamb. (ES)

89 Tawse David’s Block Merlot, Twenty Mile Bench ($49.95)

Dark cherry, plum, raspberry, vanilla, tobacco, cocoa and herbs are all in play in the med to full bodied red. Tannins are fine grained, and acidity is a touch on the higher end, so pair with some duck breast with a cherry sauce for an ethereal experience. (ES)

88 Tawse Grower’s Blend Cabernet Franc 2013, Niagara ($27.95)

A mid-weight and easy drink Franc with cassis, raspberry, violets, tobacco, cocoa and spice flavours. Ready to drink with a smoked pork loin topped with an herb demi-glace. (ES)

88 Two Sisters Vineyards Estate Red 2012, Niagara River ($23.50)

This red is only sold in restaurants. It is mid-weight and delivers lots of tobacco, cassis, plum, raspberry, herbs, cocoa and vanilla. Tannins are fine, and there is great length. Drink now. (ES)

88 Coyote’s Run Black Paw Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Four Mile Creek

My favorite Cab Sauv from this winery in the 2014 vintage. Mint, beef stock, blackcurrant, herbs, spice, vanilla are founded on some grippy tannins. Hold for a year and then drink until 2022. (ES)

Chile

White

89 Conchya y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Chardonnay 2014, Limari ($19.95)

The cool climate and combination of clay/limestone soils of Limari give this wine a decidedly elegant feel. Medium yellow with aromas of butterscotch, toast, vanilla, honey, pineapple, yellow apple and bosc pear. Medium body and vibrant acidity provide lift and symmetry. Lobster ravioli in a cream sauce would be divine with this wine. (ES)

Red

93 Concha y Toro Don Melchor Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley ($75)

Full bodied, this is a powerful and polished red with new oak influence of toast, cocoa and spice which melds with blackberry, plum, violets, mint, graphite and scorched earth. Concentrated, there is a thick texture and enough backbone to age 15 years. (ES)

91 Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Puente Alto ($21.95)

A solid Cabernet Sauvignon which dishes up cassis, plum, violets, mint, earth, graphite, spice and cocoa. Medium plus body with depth that carries long and finishes with fine tannins which will allow seven years of aging. (ES)

90 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Reserve Privada Cabernet Sauvignon 2015, Maipo ($17.95)

A bargain Cabernet Sauvignon! It hits the palate right away with dark fruit flavours of plum, cherry and blueberry. This is followed by mint, cocoa, spice and purple flowers. Texturally, it is round with unobtrusive tannins. Excellent length and ready to be drunk over the next 5 years. (ES)

90 Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Maipo Valley ($16.95)

This is your quintessential steak wine. Medium plus body, there is cassis, smoke, mint, vanilla, violets, herbs and mint. Ripe and flavorful, it has the ability to cellar for a couple years, if so desired. (ES)

90 Nativa Organic Community Blend 2012, Maule Valley ($16.95)

This organic wine is a blend of five grapes, with Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon acting as the lead. Ripe and easy drinking, you will find Rubina juice, cocoa, violets, bay leaf, vanilla and spice. Fullish, there is a long aftertaste. (ES)

88 Carmen Premier 1865 Carménère 2015, Colchagua Valley ($12.45)

This is an incredible value Carménère, so make sure to pick up a few bottles! Cassis, plum, vanilla, cocoa and mint are all in play. Lengthy with a fruit-driven personality and suave tannins. Perfect with red sauce dishes! (ES)

France

White

87 Côté Mas Blanc Méditerranée, IGP ($11.95)

A great price for this Mediterranean blend of primarily Grenache Blanc and Vermentino with hints of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Medium body, there is green apple, peach, lemon, honey and white flowers in play. There is moderate acidity and fine length.

Red

92 Château Mont-Redon 2012, Châteauneuf-du-Pape ($45.95)

From one of CNP’s top producers comes this four square red which exudes dark cherry, plum, cured meats, pepper and garrigue. Excellent depth and a long aftertaste with non-obtrusive tannins. Drink until 2022. (ES)

Italy

90 Sartori Corte Brà Amarone Della Valpolicella 2009, Veneto ($49.95)

A full-bodied Amarone with a sweet fruit personality of prune, cherry and fig, which then adds cocoa, spice and herbs on the backend. Rich, concentrated and succulent. It is ready to drink but still has some stride left. (ES)

New Zealand

88 The Ned Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough ($16.60)

Classic Kiwi-style SB with passion fruit, gooseberry, pink grapefruit, nectarine, tomato vine, lime zest and minerals. Vivid acidity carries the pure finale. Drink now (ES)

 

September 2016 Wine Ratings

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Argentina

85 Bodega Norton Barrel Select Sauvignon Blanc 2014, Mendoza ($13.20)

A grassy, sweet pea quality greets the senses, which is the followed by citrus, grapefruit, anise and vague florality. Light bodied. Chill well be serving. (ES)

Canada

White

91 Big Head Riesling Icewine 2014, Niagara Lakeshore ($68)

Fermented via natural yeasts, this brilliant stickie exudes petrol, honey, beeswax, honeycomb, thyme honey, coconut and spice. Rich with lifted acidity and a prolonged stone fruit/ lime aftertaste. (ES)

90 Big Head Old Vines Chardonnay 2015, Niagara Lakeshore

Made from 32-year-old-vines, this is a ripe and giving Chardonnay which exudes copious amounts of pineapple, peach, honey, sweet apple, banana, cream and spice. There is oak, but it was applied judiciously. Long, full-texture, succulent and ready to drink. (ES)

90 Big Head Big Bang Sparkling NV, St. David’s Bench ($45)

If you enjoy mature elements in your bubbly, this wine will fall smack dab in your wheelhouse. Yeast, caramel, bruised apple, honey, dried flowers and caramel flow out of the glass. Crisp, with creamy bubbles and long lasting. (ES)

90 Big Head B.A. Chenin Blanc 2014, Niagara Lakeshore ($34)

Partially affected by noble rot, this is  Chenin what with its honey, wax, mushroom, chamomile, apricot and bruised apple. Rich, off dry and long lasting with some warmth on the finale. Pair with a torchon of foie gras or red curry dishes. (ES)

90 Henry of Pelham Riesling Estate 2013, Short Hills Bench ($17.95)

My favorite Riesling from HOP as it regularly delivers above its price tag. It is delicate and flavorful with lots of tension.  There is lime, bergamot, smokey mineral, white flower and green apple. Even though there is some residual sugar; it comes across as dry because of the acidity. Drink over the next five years. Pair with Cajun spiced pork chops topped with an apple slaw. (ES)

89 Pondview Vidal Icewine 2014, Niagara ($19.95)

All Vidal with its honey, peach, apricot, lychee, orange marmalade and sponge toffee qualities. Rich and sweet with a good amount of acidity giving the proper lift. Ready to drink by itself or with some blue cheese. (ES)

89 McMichael Collection Group of Seven Chardonnay 2014, Niagara ($14.95)

Gold medal winner at this year’s Ontario Wine Awards this wine packs a lot of punch for the price. Mid-weight, the fruit and work in tandem to produce a profile of pear, apple, citrus, cream, spice and honey. It lingers with a crisp edge making for a beautiful partner with salmon or halibut. (ES)

88 Chateau des Charmes Paul Bosc Estate Chardonnay 2013, St. David’s Bench ($22.95)

Starting to show mature notes of crème brulée which melds with hazelnut, vanilla, apple, pear, baking spice and quince. Medium body with a creamy texture. Butter poached lobster would be Nirvana with this wine.

87 Pondview Estate Winery Viognier 2015, Niagara ($16.95)

A refreshing style of Viognier which captures some of the exotic nature of a Condrieu. Nectarine, citrus, honey, anise, fresh flowers. There is the classic Viognier yogurt/creaminess in the mouth with great length. (ES)

87 Henry of Pelham Riesling 2015, Niagara ($14.95)

From a warm vintage comes this soft Riesling, revealing peach, honey, lime cordial, white flower and some minerality. Off-dry and approachable, chill well and serve with sushi or General Tao chicken.

87 Château des Charmes Aligoté 2015, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($14.95)

A pale straw colour leads into a perfume of apple, lemon, pear, white flower and hints of honey. For an Aligioté, there is nice weight, depth and length. Ready to drink with fresh water fish or brie. (ES)

Rose

88 Sue-Ann Staff Fancy Farm Girl Foxy Pink 2014, Niagara ($14.95)

SAS’ Rosé is a singular blend of 92% Riesling and the remainder Cabernet Franc. Lime, raspberry, strawberry, grapefruit, green apple and peach are all present. Refreshing and off-dry, the fruit dances on the tongue for a long time. Pair with terrines tuna steaks. (ES)

Red

91 Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot Speck Family Reserve 2010, Short Hills Bench ($39.95)

This Bordeaux modelled blend has started to transition into adolescence as the tannins have softened and complexity has emerged. Cassis, tobacco, black cherry, mocha, vanilla, spice are apparent from start to finish. It is complex, layered and long. It will go another 6 years. (ES)

87 McMichael Collection Group of Seven Cabernet Merlot 2014, Niagara ($14.95)

A perfume of blackcurrant, cherry, herbs, cocoa powder, violets and spice meets up with a medium-bodied palate which presents soft tannins and sound acidity. Great length and ready to drink. (ES)

87 Pondview Estate Winery Lot 74 Cabernet Merlot 2015, Niagara ($14.95)

If you are looking for go to everyday dinner red, then this is your wine. A blend of Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon and Merlot, it offers pleasing cassis, plum, violet, herbs, cocoa and spice attributes. Mid-weight with very good length and supple tannins. Ready to drink. (ES)

Italy

86 Masi Modello  Delle Venezie Pinot Grigio 2015, Venezie IGT ($12.10)

This Pinot Grigio that is priced right.  It delivers some white peach, earth, lemon and spice. Light bodied with sound acidity and a linear structure. Fried seafood, please. (ES)

France

85 Jean-Claude Mas Syrah Reserve 2014, Pays d’Oc ($12.95)

A workhorse Syrah which is distinctly peppery with violets, cassis, vanilla and oregano. Ready to drink, preferably with charcuterie or hamburgers. (ES)

85 Jean-Claude Mas Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot Reserve, Pays d’Oc ($13.95)

From France’s land of sunshine comes this easy drinking blend which features cassis, plum, dark cherry, herbs, rubber, spice and cocoa. Medium length and ready to pair with pasta or pizza. (ES)

South Africa

91 Waterkloof Circumstance Syrah 2012, Stellenbosch 2012 ($22.95)

Most definitely a cool climate interpretation of Syrah. Grown at higher elevations and on granite soils (which Syrah loves), it is elegant, with black pepper, violets, plum, oregano, cured meat and hints of hickory. Tannins are flush and provide five years of cellaring if so desired. Rack of lamb marinated in rosemary and garlic is the way to go.  (ES)

Spain

88 Torres Ibéricos Crianza 2013, Rioja ($16.95)

Made from 100% Tempranillo and aged 12 months in a combination of American and French, of which a portion was new. Strawberry, raspberry, plum, cedar, coconut, vanilla and tomato concentrate are all in play. Fine length with suave tannins. Lamb chops I the way to go with this wine (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.