Saturday, October 24, 2009

Inside WineAlign

(Since blogging this item I am no longer a subscriber to WineAlign. I guess I'm not 'a joiner'.) 
I’m not one to subscribe to Wine Newsletters, on-line Wine Cellars or any other web promo that has a fee attached. I think it’s mainly because I haven’t found a wine critic close enough to my wine tastes for any one to be a consistent source of recommendations.  (Screen images used with permission)

And you may say the same of my blog… everyone’s likes, dislikes, mood swings, food with wine preferences can be as different as ‘chalk and cheese‘, as my grandmother use to say (about my brother and I). Anyone can be trained, as a sommelier for instance, without changing these personal factors. But I’m inclined to think, after using
WineAlign a short month (part of my free trial) this product is so different, it’s so powerful on your behalf, it‘s worth your try.

Let me list some reasons:
  • The Free Trial period is long enough to ’kick the tires’ thoroughly.
  • Not one but at least nine (as of writing) local wine critics participate in wine reviews.
  • (My favourite) You can pick from the critics, as part of setting up your personal profile, giving each one a weighting: low, medium, high or not at all - as to how their rating of a wine contributes to a recommendation for you.
  • You can elect to ’follow’ the tastings and ratings of other subscribers (‘friends‘).
  • You can set a price ceiling for wines of interest, local and international, in LCBO’s complete inventory.
  • You can search for wines based on three criteria: type, country, price
  • You can designate nearby LCBO outlets for wine availability
  • You can designate a postal code or town/city in Ontario to look for wines
  • You can be advised of wine events and participate in discussions of news articles and areas of interest
  • You can find a list of wineries in each of Ontario’s wine regions
  • It’s not tied to just your computer but also Twitter and Blackberry etc.
And so much more…

One hurdle to cross: As with anything new you have to play with it. You have to get the hang of where things are so you cut to the chase - your chase.
It makes finding value wines easier possibly saving you time and money… and the rest comes along free.  I'm going to give it a whirl!

Don’t forget ‘ You heard it here!’

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Birthday Picks, 2009: 10 Tasted of 10

The turkey is in the fridge and veggies all prepared waiting for the crowd to come tomorrow, Thanksgiving Sunday. I tend to think of the celebration differently… it’s my Birth Weekend. Yes, the Day is on the tenth but I spread it over the weekend trying to convince guests that’s the real reason for getting together.

Also on the Day of the year my BH generously bestows on me several choices from Vintages and LCBO shelves which are listed below. And today it’s similar to a Leap Year - my Birth Day falls on a Vintages Release.

When tasted the wine, red then whites, will appear in bold sequenced by rating.Cheers, Ww
  • Sterling Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 Napa Valley, 92-2 -- V, California, USA, #314575 $24.95
  • Volpaia Citto Toscana 2007, 90-2 -- V, Chianti, Italy, #134817 $13.95
  • Masi Tupungato Passo Doble Malbec Corvina 2007, 88-1 -- G, Tupungato, Argentina, #620880 $13.95
  • Familia Zuccardi Fuzion Shiraz Malbec 2009, 84 -- G, Maipu, Argentina, #083188? $7.45

  • Tedeschi Capitel Tenda Soave Classico 2008, 92-3 -- V, Verona, Italy, #730903 $15.95
  • Malivoire Chardonnay 2007 VQA Niagara Escarpment, 88-1  -- V, Beamsville, Ontario, #573147 $19.95
  • Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Marlborough, 88 -- V, NZ, #735043 $24.95
  • Familia Zuccardi Fuzion Chenin Chardonnay 2009, 86-1 -- G, Maipu, Argentina, #119800 $7.45

  • Malivoire Ladybug Rosé 2008 VQA Niagara Escarpment, 85 -- V, Beamsville, Ontario, #559088 $15.95
  •  Schlumberger Brut Sparkling Méthode Traditionelle, 83 -- V, Vienna, Austria, #284596 $14.95
(G - General listing, V – Vintages, O - Other, r-v - Rating-Value)


STERLING VINEYARDS CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2006 Napa Valley, Califormia, USA, 14.2% D, #314575 $24.95 (Tasted October 30, 2009) CS
Released by Vintages on October 10, 2009 and described anonymously (undated) as “One of the best values for Napa Valley Cabernet, this refined and focused wine features rich aromas of cassis, spicy plum, and hints of chocolate and suede. Bold and flavourful with loads of ripe fruit mingling with sweet oak, this wine will have your tastebuds dancing. With its refined supporting tannins and its long, complex finish, it's the perfect match for prime rib roast or roast leg of lamb.” My notes: A blend of 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 11% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc. A deep purple ruby, rich in the glass with a firm film forming slow tears on the glass. A sharp jab wakes up the palate with delicately flavoured black currant, berries and mild liquorice then leaving a lasting bright fruit and cedar tone as a finish. Smooth to sniff with a spicyiness. Close to full-bodied with a sweet fruit added to fine tannins makes this an interesting sipper. Have with any grilled beef, a flavourful crock pot stew or rack of lamb. Three years old now and could improve over the next four. 92
VOLPAIA CITTO TOSCANA 2007, Chianti, Italy, 14.0% XD, #134817 $13.95 (Tasted October 17, 2009) CS
A Vintages release on October 10, 2009 described anonymously (undated) as “Volpaia's Citto is a blend of Sangiovese with a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon to add depth to the flavours. The wines are unoaked, thus putting the fresh fruit aromas and flavours front and centre. Look for cherry, blackberry, cassis and a hint of underbrush on the nose. Even without the oak, it has exceptional structure that will stand up to intense meat-based pasta dishes or even reward 2-4 years in a cellar.” My notes: A deep ruby with a purple tint and nose of spice and black cherries. Flavours include black berries, red currants, anise and the texture is full-bodied with a good tannin level and a sharpness that offsets any remaining fruit sugars. The finish is dry on the lips, bright on the palate and warm flavours that last a long while. Have with pepperoni pizzas or chorizo sausage and tomato sauced pasta. If you like bold and sharp it’s a sipper but more of a meal red that will attack any food with gusto. Cellared five years may evolve into a smoother, milder and even more complex red. 90
MASI TUPUNGATO PASSO DOBLE MALBEC CORVINA 2007, Tupungato, Argentina, 13.5% XD, #620880 $13.95 (Tasted October 22, 2009) CS
A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Medium deep red cherry colour; aromas of dried herb and fruit, with black cherry and spice notes and a hint of vanilla; dry, medium to full bodied, rich, with sweet dried fruit flavours, good balanced acidity and supporting tannins, long finish. Serve with rich meat dishes, including stews, casseroles and grilled steak.” My notes: Masi double ferments Argentean Malbec with a touch of Merlot and Veneto's Corvina grape which has been mat dried (20 days), in Spanish the process is 'semiappassita'. Except for 2004, the 2000 and 2003 vintages previously tasted improved after cellaring a few years. Flavours of this 2007 vintage are fruity and mildly spiced, smooth textured and full-bodied so continual sipping is not a problem. Not a touch of sweetness and a light touch of tannins lays a plush carpet for flavours of blackberries, dried black cherries and just a touch of leather. Serve with rich meat dishes, including stews, casseroles and grilled steak. Laying down for a few years should be OK. 88

FAMILIA ZUCCARDI FUZION SHIRAZ MALBEC 2009, Maipu, Argentina, 13.5% D, #083188 $7.45 (Tasted October 19, 2009) CS
A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Pale ruby purple colour; aromas of crushed berries and spice; dry, medium-bodied, flavours of candied berries and black pepper. Serve with burgers, red onions and spicy sauce.” My notes: A deep ruby, a slight aroma of plums and berries and a swirl that films the glass showing slow tears. The first sip has both a spicy pepper and mild cedar wrapped flavours of ripe berries. The finish has a brambly touch before a tinge of spicy berries carries on. A house red for a general crowd, straightforward with the roughness of a bulk harvest. Went well with a seared pork chop in a bing cherry sauce with a side of carrot, peas and shallot mix. A drink now. 84
SERESIN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008, Marlborough, NZ, 13.5% XD, #735043 $24.95 (Tasted October 27, 2009) CS

A Vintages release on September 12, 2009 rated 4½ of 5 and described by Michael Cooper (2009) a NZ critic as “The 2008 vintage is weighty and complex, sweet-fruited and concentrated with ripe, limey, slightly minerally flavours, showing good complexity and texture, fresh acidity and a dry finish ...Full of personality, it's already delicious.” My notes: A pale gold colour and aromas of a gooseberry and nettle blend, nothing memorable with 5% Semillon adding a side note to flavours and nose. The first sip is lightly flavoured with a touch of sweetness although the fruit develops more over the long finish - lime and gooseberry. Bright on the tongue with a touch of oil and a dry lime ending. A full flavoured sipper that should be OK with a creamy salmon pasta dish or sliced cold chicken on greens. A drink now. Not a value. 88
SCHLUMBERGER BRUT SPARKLING MÉTHODE TRADITIONELLE, Vienna, Austria, 11.5% D, #284596 $14.95 (Tasted October 24, 2009) CS

A Vintages release on October 10, 2009 described anonymously (undated) as “Established in 1842, Schlumberger is the oldest sparkling wine house in Austria. Made with 100% Welschriesling (no relation to Riesling), this sparkler always fits like a glove with dishes like grilled prawns, grilled herbed chicken breast, or pork chops with apple sauce.” My notes: The Welschriesling grape must be delicately flavoured as this is delicate in every respect: a light yeasty scent, a faint gold colour accenting bubbles of every size, a lively zest on the palate, a light lime and hint of apple flavour finishing dry with a silky softness and perhaps some remnant sugar. Nothing exceptional but a sipper to have on any occasion with family and friends or with light seafood dishes: crab cakes or lobster tails, scallops or chicken cubes on skewers with light veggies. A drink now. 83
MALIVOIRE LADYBUG ROSÉ 2008 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Beamsville, Ontario, 12.0% D, #559088 $15.95 (Tasted October 22, 2009) CS
A Vintages release on October 10, 2009 rated 4 of 5 and described by local critic Tony Aspler (March 19, 2009) as “Style: Rosé Medium-bodied. Appearance: Pink. Nose: Big raspberry and cherry. Taste: Big cherry.” Beyond the turkey dinner, it is also a fine match for grilled salmon.” My notes: A blend of Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Pinot Noir, we paired it with grilled Char, broccoli and a creamy conchigliette. Shows as a deep pink in the glass with aromas of raspberry and white cherry. The taste has a pronounced raspberry and green apple peal combination, dry, finishing with a tart fruit and mineral note. An improvement over the 2007 Ladybug (Ww79, June 2008) but less round, medium-bodied, crisp, leaving the palate chalky. Better off-chill as a sipper and more of a meal rosé to have with turkey or chicken, ham or pork cutlet or vinaigrette salad. A drink now. 85
TEDESCHI CAPITEL TENDA SOAVE CLASSICO 2008, Verona, Italy, 12.5% XD, #730903 $15.95 (Tasted October 23, 2009) CS

A Vintages release on October 10, 2009 rated 2 of 3 and described by Kyle Phillips (April 20, 2009) as “… a selection of the best grapes from their Soave vineyards. It's brassy yellow with brassy reflections, and white rim; the bouquet is bright and rich with heather supported by deft greenish acidity and spice from grapes; it displays nice balance… On the palate it's full and rich, with heather and vegetal acidity with underlying minerality that flows into a clean mineral finish with underlying bitterness. Welcoming; it will be nice as an aperitif or with rich first courses, creamy pesto sauces come do mind, as do fish-based pasta dishes and risotto.” My notes: A pale straw colour and wild floral scents on the spicy side with a firm acid of the Garganega grape. The first sip is full of stone fruit with a mineral tartness, well balanced for pairing with the roasted Italian herb chicken my BH brought in for supper. Would also go with seafood or mushroom pasta dishes. The finish is smooth, long with a carry over of the flavours ‘til the dry ending. A scrumptious sipper with an interesting aroma and flavour mix. Should cellar well, say two years. 92
FAMILIA ZUCCARDI FUZION CHENIN CHARDONNAY 2009, Maipu, Argentina, 13.0% D, #119800 $7.45 (Tasted October 19, 2009) CS
A General listing not described by the LCBO. My notes: The right light gold, the right nose albeit it light, a firm film with lots of tears and flavours of fruit balanced by a light cream and acid to warrant sipping nonstop or matching with seafood or chicken breast entreés. Citrus, apple, possibly pear in the blend for a fruit cocktail that’s very prominent to the taste buds and lasting long after the sip. I think this would please most at a social get together - by the case. There is some sweetness lurking behind the tart. To me, it comes across in favour of dry. Not for the cellar. A real value drink now. 86

MALIVOIRE CHARDONNAY 2007 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Beamsville, Ontario, 13.0% D, #573147 $19.95 (Tasted October 15, 2009) CS
A Vintages release on October 10, 2009 described anonymously (undated) as “This soft and creamy Chardonnay is sourced from Malivoire's Estate and Moira vineyards... certified organic. This wine possesses complex aromas of apple, citrus, butter, spice, and toast. It's dry and well-balanced, displaying juicy apple flavours with mineral notes, and a toasty finish. Match it with pork tenderloin or grilled halibut.” My notes: The winemaker’s notes on the website describes the process and equipment used to preserve the care in timing the maturity and hand harvesting of the grapes for this lightly oaked chardonnay. The 2006 vintage ($21.95) was tasted on March 13, 2008 and rated Ww89. The VQA has expanded from the Beamsville Bench to multiple sub-appellations included in ‘Niagara Escarpment‘. This appears well polished in the glass with a light straw shade and faint aromas, for me too subtle to tell - perhaps a soft lanolin. An appealing light cream in the first sip with mild apple, citrus and toast flavours blended evenly then developing more as the palate is refreshed. Finishes with a soft apple-citrus touch. This would pair well with delicately seasoned halibut or sole, scallops or crabmeat and also would have wide appeal as a sipper. Not much to cellar but might go a few years. 88


Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Creeping Commercialism

I’m trying to assemble a picture of Wine and Grape organizations in Ontario. You know, the governing bodies that form the vision, set the direction then promote a maturing wine industry in Ontario. I’m prompted to do this as a result of seeing the CIC debacle develop into prosperity for some at the expense of others and wonder how this could possibly happen with so many interested in the development of this cornerstone business. I’ve called it ‘Creeping Commercialism’ as a bottom line conclusion.

Every time I travel the Niagara Wine Route there are new wineries. During these visits I sometimes hear restrained criticism and sense a hidden frustration and a reluctance to openly comment on support, or lack of, for the small to medium sized wineries of the region. And yet I’m firmly convinced it’s these craft or artisan wineries that will set the standard earning a reputation for excellence that ultimately leads to international recognition.

But now, as well as CICs and Corporate entities, I’m beginning to see products from faux wineries on LCBO shelves. Wineries not having vineyards, winemakers nor production facilities often poaching off another winery’s facilities - wineries themselves struggling to keep afloat in a sea of commercial plonk.

Below I’ve summarized salient points from the associations I found by googling. I’ve included part of their statement of ‘purpose’ and encourage you to investigate further on their websites. It’s best to be informed every time you enter an LCBO outlet or listen to a someone who says they represent Ontario’s wine interests. You’re not just buying wine. You're taking part in shaping the Ontario wine industry.

Ontario Viniculture Association

“… a group looking to improve the political climate for small to mid-size wineries in Ontario… “

The following are excerpts from the OVA Information Release #14. This is a clear indication of the ‘on the ground’ status of the Ontario wine industry. The full text is online.

“As Ontario vineyards head toward the 2009 harvest, it is with considerable disappointment and distress that OVA would like to bring you up to date on the state of the industry. As wine growers, as wine makers, as consumers, and as Ontarians, we at OVA regret to report that:

  • Many Ontario grape growers will have no market for their grapes again this year, which for some may lead to bankruptcy.
  • The Wine Council Ontario (WCO) and the Grape Growers of Ontario (GGO) were unable to resolve the issue of foreign content versus Ontario grape content in Cellared in Canada (CIC) wines.
  • Many Ontario wineries will continue to face bureaucratic restrictions on the amount of Ontario-grown grapes they may buy.
  • The LCBO has failed to achieve its promised sales target of 50% Ontario wine.
  • The WCO, the GGO, the LCBO, and the Government of Ontario all believe that what is good for a small number of wineries that produce CIC wines is good for the industry as a whole.
  • Wineries selling Quality Certified but non-VQA 100% Ontario-grown wines face discriminatory policies when trying to sell to the LCBO or direct to licensees.
  • Many Ontario wineries that produce 100% Ontario-grown, quality wine are not able to use the word Ontario on their wine labels.
  • The “Official Guide to Ontario Wineries” again excludes wineries that do not belong to the Wine Council of Ontario -- some 50% of Ontario wineries.
  • OVA is appalled that Ontario continues to maintain a highly profitable alcohol sales system which, in concert with government policy, discriminates against the majority of Ontario’s wineries…
  • Etc.”
My notes: It’s a surprise to me that, in April 2008, 100 members (of 160 licensed wineries in Ontario) felt obliged to form an association to have a voice in an industry represented by so many regulatory and business steering bodies.

So my question is: What has (past tense) each one of the following done for our craft or boutique wineries?

Canadian Vintners Association

“… encourages the growth and development of a vibrant, competitive, and economically viable Canadian wine industry through focused leadership. It does this through effective representation of its members’ interests to government and to the public, the advocacy of supportive government policy and programs, and the provision of information to members and to the public, so as to enhance the business environment in which the wine sector operates.”

My notes: The Board of Directors listed has a majority of Corporation members.

Grape Growers of Ontario

“… the advocate of all processing grape growers in Ontario working on their behalf to ensure their grape growing needs are met. We will see the markets for Ontario grapes and wines expand domestically and internationally, on a continuous basis - always finding new markets for our products. Ontario-grown grape products will be demanded at home and recognized internationally.”

My notes: Seems as though this group is fighting a losing battle with CIC and Government revenue interests.

Wine Council of Ontario

“… a non-profit trade association with a leadership role in marketing and establishing policy and future directions for the wine industry in Ontario. It acts as a liaison and coordinating body between Ontario wineries, grape growers, and government groups. Membership in the WCO is open to all commercial producers of wine in Ontario, with the criteria that a member must be an Ontario resident and the winery must be located in the province. The Wine Council represents 81 winery properties in Ontario.”

My notes: A list of WCO executives was not available at their website but from the documentation appears to be mainly composed of Government Ministeries with some representation from a selected segment of the Ontario wine industry. Of 160 licensed wineries in Ontario only half are members of the WCO, weighted to corporately owned or affiliated wineries. A review of the ‘strategic plan’ (Poised for Greatness, undated) concluded it’s neither ‘strategic’ nor a ‘plan’ but a collection of platitudes, wishful thinking and self adulation. The vision sets a date of 2020 for: ‘More than 60 percent of their [Ontario people who love wines] purchases will be rich Ontario reds and crisp fruity whites’. It appeared to me that CIC volumes, largely offshore blending wines, would need to be included to attain this projection.

Ontario Wine Producers Association

“… founded in May 2005 by a group of quality minded producers of wine made with 100 percent Ontario grown grapes. Our members are dedicated to making authentic wines from Ontario vineyards. Our member wineries share a passion for making quality wines that represent Ontario’s terroir. Our purpose is to ensure that the policies, regulations and actions of the Government of Ontario are consistent with what needs to be done to earn Ontario due recognition as one of the world’s great wine regions both domestically and abroad.”

My notes: Links to this website and various affiliated sites are not working. It may be defunct?

VQA Ontario

My notes: A provincial Food & Drug and labelling regulatory body rather than an organization promoting the interests of small and medium wineries. There’s little if any representation of small to mid-size wineries on the Board of Directors for 2009.

Hey, It's not hard to understand what’s gone wrong!
Cheers, Ww

Related articles:

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Cellared in Canada

[Dec 10, 2011:  Although much has changed in the world of CICs much has stayed the same. Now read International Blends instead of CICs with longer and more shelves of foreign juices blended with Canadian the next aisle from VQA and nonVQA wines. Anything to make a buck off the backs of the unsuspecting Consumer imho]

Once in awhile, not often, I start to organize a tasting of Cellared In Canada (CIC) wines… but I’m so averse to the practice of importing offshore wines and blending them in volume production runs with local wines I quickly shrug it off. And as I think about it there are many more reasons: appearing to legitimize labelling a non-Canadian product as Canadian, encouraging something so detrimental to local vintners and to the international reputation of Canadian wines… and even more: the larger carbon footprint of tankered in juices, Niagara crops left on the vines supplanted by offshore juices. On a recent Niagara trip a vintner suggested CIC wines should at the very least be shelved in the imported section to lessen the inference of their being local. The LCBO does the exact opposite - shelving CICs with VQA wines perpetuating the illusion of legitimacy. When the motivation is profit, ethics come last - and please don’t tell me…‘but I like them! And they’re cheaper!’ If CICs weren’t around we’d get better value at a lower VQA price and would see our local industry thrive.
Test the effectiveness of LCBO’s marketing of the two: banners of CELLARED IN CANADA glaring you in the face in outlets or the current goLOCAL campaign featuring the dulcet tones of Dalton McGuinty weaving a tale of wonder. Can you find the goLOCAL sign in the photo? and Why is the Premier the spokesperson for the LCBO?
In Ontario, selling five times the quantity of VQA wines, the CIC label is a money maker for both the large bottling companies and the Ontario government. Consequently, there’s a strong lobby supporting CICs.
For a discussion of CICs from three different perspectives: an International critic, a CIC bottler and an Ontario vintner, listen to CBC Radio One, Anna Maria Tremonti’s TheCURRENT with host Jan Wong, Part Two (September 25, 2009) . It’s worth the ten minutes.
On a related note, Vincor has contributed their CIC wines, originally slated as Jackson-Triggs Esprit CICs for the 2010 Olympics, to be used as a source of fuel for the Olympic flame travelling across Canada - a more fitting use imho. Vincor will replace it with J-T Esprit VQA wines. Public opinion works! If you would like to show your opposition to CIC wines in Ontario one option is to join Facebook's Boycott “Cellared in Canada” Wines.
I ask you to support Ontario small to medium sized vintners - our Monopoly doesn't.

Cheers, Ww

PS (Oct 14, 2009): The Ontario government appears to have got the message... taxes on blended CIC wines will be phased in next year. Always cynical I'll wait and see.
  • Will local grape growers and wineries have reason for optimism in their market?
  • Will results happen soon enough to avoid bankruptcies in the near term?
  • Will consumers see any incentive to switch to VQA wines?
  • Is increasing Ontario content to 40 percent (from 30) sufficient?
  • When will misleading labelling and LCBO practices be resolved?
Seems there's still an elephant in the room.
And this is Beppi Crosariol’s view (October 21, 2009).


October 2009 Wines: 22 Tasted of 22

Some of the following are from the September 26th Vintages release - no CICS here. When tasted, wines are listed red then white each sequenced by rating.
Cheers, Ww

  • Pillar Box Red 2007, 92-2 -- V, Padthaway, Australia, #685941 $17.95
  • Malivoire Red 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 90-2 -- G, Beamsville, Ontario, #141523 $14.95
  • Zenato Valpolicella Superiore 2007, 90-2 -- V, Veneto, Italy, #995704 $16.95
  • Illuminati Riparosso Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2007, 90-2 -- V, Tuscany, Italy, #328997 $13.95
  • J.P. Chenet Premier de Cuvée Merlot - Cabernet 2007, 89-2 -- G, Languedoc, France, #621995 $11.95
  • Konzelmann Pinot Noir Spaetburgunder 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 88-2 -- G, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #200584 $12.70 
  • Farina Le Pezze Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2006, 88-1 -- V, Veneto, Italy, #134684 $14.95
  • Vitae ‘Vino d’Italia’ Sangiovese 2007, 86-1   -- G, Puglia, Italy, #621029 $10.95
  • J.P. Chenet Premier de Cuvée Merlot - Cabernet 2008, 83 -- G, Languedoc, France, #621995 $11.95
  • Flat Rock Pinot Noir 2008 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, 78 -- V, Jordan, Ontario, #001545 $19.95
  • Peller Estates ‘Peller Family Series’ Cabernet/Merlot 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 74 -- G, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #058628 $11.45*
  • Equifera Estate Red Wine ‘Pinot Noir’ 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 74 -- G, Niagara, Ontario, #134163 $16.95
  • Malivoire White 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 92-3 -- G, Beamsville, Ontario, #141531 $14.95
  • Martin Steimer Pinot Gris 2008, 91-2  -- V, Alsace, France, #106807 $17.95
  • Riff Terra Alpina Pinot Grigio 2008, 90-2 -- V, Veneto, Italy, #066415 $13.95
  • Konzelmann Reserve Riesling 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 89-2 -- V, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #200527 $15.20
  • Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2008, 89-2 -- G, Marlborough, NZ, #426601 $15.95
  • Konzelmann Pinot Blanc Weissburgunder 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 88-2 -- G, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, #219279 $9.95*
  • Lone Kauri Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2008, 86 -- V, Marlborough, NZ, #138974 $14.95
  • Santa Rita Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2008, 86 -- G, Casablanca Valley, Chile, #275677 $13.95
  • Equifera Estate White Wine ‘Chardonnay’ 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, 76 -- G, Niagara, Ontario, #134155 $14.95
  • Hardy’s ‘Stamp of Australia’ Chardonnay / Semillon 2007, 64 -- G, South Eastern Australia, #129825 (250mL) $4.25
(G - General listing, V – Vintages, O - Other, n/a - no longer available, r-v - Rating-Value)
PILLAR BOX RED 2007, Padthaway, Australia, 15.0% D, #685941 $17.95 (Tasted October 12, 2009) CS
A Vintages release on September 26, 2009 rated 90/100 and described by Jay Miller (Feb. 2009) as “… a blend of 65% Shiraz, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Merlot. Purple-coloured, it exhibits an expressive nose of spice box, earth notes, blueberry, and black currant. Ripe, sweet, and layered, this nicely rendered red has exceptional balance and length for its humble price.” My notes: The 2004 vintage ($14.95) was tasted on December 27, 2007 with a rating of Ww90. The 2007 vintage has reversed the roles in the blend giving Shiraz prominence over the Cabernet Sauvignon. The colour is a purple ruby, deep and vibrant. The nose has tones of blackberries, currants and raspberries with a delicate spice. Velvety smooth and cutting sharp, seems contradictory but they appear as layers on spicy currant, berry and a touch of liquorice. The long finish is very warm and raises a burr on the tongue with berry freshness. Have with braised ribs, rack of lamb or a T-bone. Full-bodied, drinking boldly now and could soften nicely over five years. 92
FARINA LE PEZZE RIPASSO VALPOLICELLA CLASSICO SUPERIORE 2006, Veneto, Italy, 13.5% D, #134684 $14.95 (October 17, 2009) CS
A Vintages release on September 26, 2009 described by the Vintages panel (March 2009) as “… Approachable and food-friendly, this is a wine with pleasure written all over it. Red berries and dried fruit mingle with subtle spice notes, leading to a spicy/savoury finish. An ideal wine for baked lasagna, sun-dried tomato pizza, or a variety of rich pasta dishes.” My notes: The colour has earthy scarlet tones of darkened grape skins and a berry nose suitably mellowed by earth and wood, not French oak, ageing. A firm film with slow tears comes ahead of a full-bodied, smooth, bright burst of herbs and berries. A slight sting makes this ripasso stand out and the tang continues into a long dry, berry compote finish. Have with spicy Italian or grilled back ribs - not the boiled kind but coated with Barberian's rub and BBQ’d at a high heat. A bold, some would say rough, drink now or cellar for a few years. 88
ILLUMINATI RIPAROSSO MONTEPULCIANO D'ABRUZZO 2007, Tuscany, Italy, 13.5% D, #328997 $13.95 (Tasted October 11, 2009) CS

A Vintages release on September 26, 2009 rated 88/100 and described by Ian D’Amato (July/Aug 2009) as “Opaque medium dark ruby with purple highlights. The intense juicy fruitiness of the candied raspberry and bubble gum aromas had me thinking of carbonic maceration. Suave and sweet, with a dominant raspberry flavor and moderate concentration. Not especially long but finishes smooth, with a pleasant saline note. I'd drink this attractive wine now, or enjoy it over the next couple of years.” My notes: I rated the 2005 vintage ($12.45) Ww86 when tasted on January 7, 2008 saying it was a ‘good value for a dry house red’. The 2007 has cedar tainted blackberry aromas with a spicy edge to perk up the sniffer. A thin film with fast legs, lots of them, and the first sip is full of tangy fruit. Red berries with red currant makes it very interesting, followed by a finish that carries the best fruit forward to a long, dry, bright end. A delicious sipper that shouldn’t be alone. Have with a cheese tray, a pepperoni pizza, tomato pasta dish or veal parmigiana. Drink now or cellar for up to four years. 90
ZENATO VALPOLICELLA SUPERIORE 2007, Veneto, Italy, 13.5% XD, #995704 $16.95 (Tasted October 7, 2009) CS
A Vintages release on September 26, 2009 described anonymously as “… dry, medium bodied with fresh and juicy blackcurrant and plummy fruit and an undertone of roasted almond. This is a charming, velvety wine to serve with pasta primavera or mushroom risotto.” My notes: The 2006 vintage ($17.95) was rated Ww90 when tasted on July 6, 2008. The 2007 has an opaque ruby colour and aromas of earthy sweet plum, black cherries and a spicy tinge but subtle. A luscious first sip like chomping on cherries soaked in cerise liqueur, smooth. Finishes very warm and full of fruit and lasting forever. A sipper you can meditate over, bright and bold. Have with rich tomato sauces and ground beef or cheesey pizzas covered with pepperoni and garlic. This should cellar well for several years gaining more velvet and flavour nuances. 90
KONZELMANN PINOT NOIR SPAETBURGUNDER 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, 12.0% D, #200584 $12.70 (Tasted October 6, 2009) CS
A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Ruby red colour; aromas of light berry, black cherry, red liquorice, a touch of spice/oak & earth; dry, med-bodied with good acidity, light earthy/mineral notes, ripe strawberry & raspberry fruit flavours; quite smooth with soft tannins & a fruity finish. Serve with grilled or poached salmon steaks; vegetable kebabs; pizza; pork; ham; poultry.” My notes: When this vintage was tasted on February 1, 2008, labelled as a ‘Reserve 2006 CIC’ ($12.05), it was “Not for cellaring and not a value” and rated Ww78. Now with a VQA label this has a garnet cast ruby colour and a subdued nose of earthy black cherries. A firm film with a few slow tears intro a silky smooth but tart flavouring of chocolate dipped cherries - a ‘sweet and sour’ pinot noir. The long finish is flavourful right to an ending that has a mineral twinge. I think this should lay down for two more years - may introduce more silk. A marginal sipper but improves as it breathes. Pair with rack of lamb, a pork tenderloin, or ham steak with cloves or raisins. 88

FLAT ROCK PINOT NOIR 2008 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Jordan, Ontario, 11.5% XD, #001545 $19.95 (Tasted October 3, 2009) CS
A Vintages release on May 23, 2009 described anonymously (undated) as “In a few short years, Flat Rock Cellars has emerged as one of Ontario's finest producers of Pinot Noir. This vibrant example shows pretty rose petal, raspberry, spice, beetroot and cedar aromas and flavours. A layer of crisp acidity and moderate tannins add balance. Enjoyable now with grilled veal chops or barbecued salmon fillet. It will also reward 2-4 years in a cellar.” My notes: The 2007 vintage was tasted on September 24, 2008 with a Ww88 rating suggesting it was ‘young‘ needing ‘several years hoping for some silkiness‘. The 2008 has a bright ruby colour and an almost imperceptible nose of black tea and slight berry. The film remains in place with no tears and the first sip has a moderate tartness and red currant flavour. Light-bodied, some silk and a finish consisting mostly of red currant retaining the tang then ending with a dry mineral edge. Not a sipper but could pair with light meat dishes: pork tenderloin, turkey or veal. 78
EQUIFERA ESTATE PINOT NOIR 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Ontario 12.7% D, #134163 $16.95 (Tasted October 3, 2009) CS
EQUIFERA ESTATE CHARDONNAY 2007 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara, Ontario, 12.8% D, #134155 $14.95 (Tasted October 4, 2009) CS
General listings. My notes: The back label gives the same address as Pillitteri Estate on Niagara Stone Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake. However, it also states Equifera Estates is located in Short Hills, the most easterly Bench before entering the NOTL area. Googling ‘Equifera’ leads to the Kruger website, a Quebec marketing and packaging company that has created ‘Domaine Equifera Estates‘. As confusing as the label is we can still taste and rate the wine inside the bottle.
The Pinot Noir is described as “Ruby in colour, the Pinot Noir releases a spicy aroma accentuated with a seductive hint of raspberry and red berries. On the palate, this balanced wine is pleasantly fruity and offers a sustained finish. Pair with spiced meat, large game, duck, salmon, pork roast, chicken.” There’s a granite cast to the mid ruby colour with a nose imperceptible to my senses. A swirl gives a thin film that recedes evenly occasionally leaving a few tears. The first sip is silky smooth with, if I use my imagination, light cherry and a touch of tang on the tongue making this a somewhat bland sipper. Finishes round with a softness and ending with a mineral tang. Pair with salmon, chicken or a mild seafood pasta. A 'take it or leave it' red that won't flatter a family gathering. A drink now - not for cellaring - not recommended. 74
The Chardonnay is described as “Brilliantly golden with greenish hues, this Chardonnay is complete with delicate woody and mineral aromas followed by floral and fruity notes. On the palate, it is pleasant and round, and presents a lovely acidity. Pair with seafood, poultry, fresh vegetables, pasta with light and creamy sauces.” My notes: This is a light blond colour in the glass with a delicate stone fruit and floral nose, easy to miss… and has a smooth texture, light medium-bodied, an orange tinted green apple flavour and a mild tartness on first sip. The finish is smooth on the lips with a diluted off-melon ending. An unusual flavouring but a tolerable sipper for unexpected guests or with mild pastas or fish dishes. A drink now - not for cellaring - not recommended. 76
MARTIN STEIMER PINOT GRIS 2008, Alsace, France, 13.0% MD, #106807 $17.95 (Tasted October 14, 2009) CS
A Vintages release on September 26, 2009 described by the Vintages panel (May 2009) as “The 2008 vintage in Alsace shows early signs of being a classic. This off-dry Pinot Gris is a case in point, balancing its moderate sweetness with ripe cantaloupe, orange zest and peach fruit, as well as intriguing floral notes. Finely structured, sporting a lengthy, lip-smacking finish. Makes a spectacular sipper, or enjoy it with richer cheeses.” My notes: A pale golden in the glass with aromas of honey, lemon and floral but subtle. Very smooth, a refreshing acidity and more light honey, lemon and a taint of orange that carries through to a long luscious finish. This was great with whole wheat linguine in a tuna sauce and lobster tail. Cellaring for several years should be OK for this medium-bodied sipper or just indulge. 91
RIFF TERRA ALPINA PINOT GRIGIO 2008, Veneto, Italy, 12.0% D, #066415 $13.95 (Tasted October 1, 2009) CS

A Vintages release on September 26, 2009 described by UK critic Jane MacQuitty (June 13, 2009) as “Italian wine producers, having doubled their acreage of pinot grigio vineyards from l990 to 2000... Pinot grigio has found itself planted out in superior single vineyard sites, yields have been cut and fuller-bodied, fuller-flavoured wines are the result ... try the finer, verdant, nutty Veneto fruit of Alois Lageder's 2008 Riff Pinot Grigio.” My notes: A shiny gold in the glass with aromas of spicy pear and apple. Medium-bodied and full of lemon, grapefruit and apple pleasantly tart and refreshing. Finishes fruity: fresh lemon, a smooth texture, chalk dry and long. Have with anything fishy and lightly sauced pasta - spicy green lipped mussels sounds good right now. A value meal white and OK to sip too. Lay down up to two years. 90
LONE KAURI RESERVE SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% XD, #138974 $14.95 (Tasted October 7, 2009) CS
A Vintages release on September 12, 2009 described anonymously as “… Made by the people behind Coopers Creek, this Sauvignon Blanc is filled with passion fruit, peapods, gooseberry and citrus aromas and flavour. Flavourful, without being aggressive, this fine wine is an excellent choice for a vast array of seafood dishes.” My notes: A faint golden colour with aroma of nettles, gooseberries and kiwi - didn’t get the passion fruit. There’s a flavour of spice and green gooseberries and a sweet edge to an acidic seam that leaves flavours to linger a long while. An unusual but interesting sauvignon blanc and a refreshing sipper. It also paired well with a chicken, zucchini, Italian herb and ricotta linguine dish. A drink now and up to two years. 86

KONZELMANN PINOT BLANC WEISSBURGUNDER 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, 12.5% D, #219279 $9.95* (Tasted October 2, 2009) CS
A General listing described anonymously as “Straw yellow colour; floral, fruity peach & melon nutty tone in aroma; medium body and fruit flavour fresh finish, good food wine. Serve chilled with pasta or vegetarian dishes.” My notes: The 2007 ($10.95) was tasted on September 24, 2008 and rated Ww89: the 2006 ($10.10), on February 1, 2008 at Ww84. The 2008 is part of the current goLOCAL promotion supporting Ontario wines and has been discounted a dollar. It has a light blond colour and delicate aromas of stone fruit and apple. Fruity flavours of apple and light melon coming first then finishing with lemon, peach and ending with a dry mineral edge. A straightforward white with enough tang and a tinge of sugar to add to the interest. Have as a summer sipper or with lightly flavoured seafood or vegetarian fare. A drink now rather than cellaring. 88
KONZELMANN RESERVE RIESLING 2006 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, 12.5% MD, #200527 $15.20 (Tasted October 9, 2009) CS
A Vintages release on January 10, 2009 described by the Vintages panel (Nov. 2008) as “Pear, floral, lime, nectarine and red grapefruit aromas are front and centre here. Medium dry with a beautiful seam of acidity to make it lively and fresh. Medium full-bodied with an impressively long crisp/fruit finish. Try it with grilled prawns, vindaloo chicken and other spicy Asian dishes.” My notes: The 2005 vintage ($13.95), labelled ’Late Harvest’, was tasted August 19, 2007 before Ww ratings, I thought "Not everyone will come back for seconds…” . I expected a later vintage than 2006 and wondered where it’s been sitting for the three years? Still an attractive light golden colour and aromas of lime and stone fruit are just discernible. There’s a sweetness balanced by tart apple, melon and lemon making this a great companion for sushi or Chinese noodles. The flavours continue into a long smooth finish and fade slowly. Medium-bodied and succulent as a sipper and full flavoured enough begging an accompaniment after a few sips: crab cakes, veggies and dip, chicken wings, grilled shrimp etc. Cellaring for a few more years would be OK. 89
HARDYS ‘STAMP OF AUSTRALIA’ CHARDONNAY / SEMILLON 2007, South Eastern Australia, 13.0% D, #129825 (250mL) $4.25 (Tasted October 13, 2009) CS
A General listing without description. My notes: A label produced by a Constellation Wines Company. The last Hardy’s product I tasted was their regular sized 2007 riesling/gewurz blend (#448548, $9.95) in June 2008. Rated Ww72 it was reasonably priced for a fairly bland thirst quencher. Priced at $12.75 for 750mL the convenience of the package could be worth the extra if the contents were OK. The colour is a rust tinged yellow, not appealing unless you’re into a delectable Late Harvest. The nose is a combination of smoky lemon and ripe apricot but muted so it’s not invasive. Medium-bodied, the flavour starts as a tart butterscotch switching to overripe apples and ending woody - mindful of an oaked chardonnay found in my car trunk after a long summer trip. Not a sipper - not for cellaring - not recommended. 64
MALIVOIRE RED 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville, Ontario, 13.0% D, #141523 $14.95 (Tasted October 4, 2009) CS
A General listing described by the winery as “An inviting nose of raspberry, cherry, vanilla and cedar emerge from this blend of 45% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Gamay. The palate greets you with flavours of plum, black currant, dark chocolate and a long finish.” My notes: A deep ruby regal in appearance, a nose of subtle black cherry and spice, and a firm film with few slow legs all make this attractive in the glass. The first sip also has subtlety in its flavours along with a smooth texture and bright edge, medium-bodied. The finish starts mellow fading slowly as red cherry and plum mix with fine tannins, cedar and dryness that leaves the mouth refreshed. Have with grilled T-bone or rack of lamb, beef tenderloin or a seared pork chop - a very flexible, polite red. Young yet and could cellar for several years increasing in complexity. Gets points for potential. 90

MALIVOIRE WHITE 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Beamsville, Ontario, 12.0% D, #141531 $14.95 (Tasted October 5, 2009) CS

A General listing described by the winery as “Luminous golden colour with an aromatic nose of peach, lemon zest and subtle notes of vanilla. This blend of 80% chardonnay, 15% Riesling and 5% Gewürztraminer is round and full-bodied with a refreshing tropical fruit finish.” My notes: This has a gold taint, crystal clear in the glass with a thin film and no tears. The nose is softly aromatic with lemon zest and melon followed by a touch of sweetness evenly matched with tartness. The finish starts silky smooth and vapours linger warming the palate. I found this to be a delectable sipper - and pairing with rotisserie’d chicken pieces drizzled with lemon and rosemary went well. Cellaring for two years should do this white well building body while mellowing some of the tartness. A super value. 92
SANTA RITA RESERVA SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008, Casablanca Valley, Chile, 13.5% D, #275677 $13.95 (Tasted October 8, 2009) CS
A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Straw yellow colour; Intense herbal, grassy, cooked asparagus and gooseberry aromas; Dry, medium bodied with gooseberry/citrus and mint flavours; pronounced acidity on finish. A great starter wine; try with seafood, Goat's cheese, vegetarian dishes, herbed dishes.” My notes: Vintages 2004, 5 and 6 were tasted all prior to Ww ratings. The LCBO writeup hasn’t changed from first purchase in 2005. There has been consistency ‘though the price has increased from $12.45. The colour is a pale golden and there’s an aroma of gooseberries with a noticeable touch of nettles. A nice balance of fruit and acid cleanses the taste buds leaving them refreshed, drier this vintage with some citrus but mostly green gooseberries. An interesting drink now, fairly straightforward with not much potential for cellaring. Have before dinner with crab cakes or bacon wrapped asparagus and follow with a seafood dinner. 86
PELLER ESTATES ‘PELLER FAMILY SERIES’ CABERNET/MERLOT 2008 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, 12.8% D, #058628 $11.45* (Tasted October 9, 2009) CS
A General listing and an Andres Wine Ltd. winery described anonymously (undated) as :Ruby purple; aromas and flavours of black fruit & cocoa, with notes of fresh herb; dry, medium bodied, with crisp but balanced acidity. Great with vegetable lasagna and most vegetarian dishes. Try also with pizza a la marinara.” My notes: Sale priced a loonie lower as part of goLOCAL promotion. John Peller is President and CEO of Andrew Peller Ltd. of CIC note (some say infamy) so I wanted to try a VQA from a related winery. The colour of this blend is a mid ruby and a swirl shows a thin film with fast legs. There’s no discernible nose and the first sip is well balanced and has a good mouth feel. The body is shallow and flavour lacks interest, not definably fruity and lacking oak treatment or process finesse. The finish continues with the nondescript flavours altho’ doesn’t offend, and ends on a woody note. Not a drink now and would not complement a meal favourably - did not pair well with an Italian Subway Sub. Not recommended. 74
VILLA MARIA PRIVATE BIN SAUVIGNON BLANC 2008, Marlborough, NZ, 13.0% D, #426601 $15.95 (Tasted October 12, 2009) CS
A General listing described anonymously (undated) as “Pale straw colour; intense aromas of gooseberry, lime, grass and asparagus; dry, medium bodied, crisp acidity, and flavours of bell pepper, gooseberry citrus; clean, crisp finish. Serve with goat cheese dishes, fish, vegetarian fare or herb roasted poultry.” My notes: A pale blond colour crystal and shining in the glass. A thin film recedes slowly and natural gooseberry aromas waft for sniffing. On the light side of medium-bodied, the first sip wakens the taste buds with a sharp flavouring of sweet gooseberries or the burst of passion fruit seeds and leaves a refreshed palate. Have with any seafood appetizer or entreé or, if the day is warm and sunny, just slowly sip. Cellaring for a few years likely will be OK but drinking well now. 89
VITAE ‘VINO D’ITALIA’ SANGIOVESE 2007, Puglia, Italy, 12.5% D, #621029 $10.95 (Tasted October 14, 2009) CS
A General listing with an anonymous (same as in 2006) description of: “Deep ruby colour; aromas of plum fruit, spice, sweet oak, earth and anise; medium-bodied, with good plum/cherry fruit, integrated with sweet oak, anise, tar, earth notes; medium finish. Serve with veal parmigiano.” My notes: An attractive package, bottle style, capping and labelling. Not tasted since the 2003 vintage ($10.60) on Feb 1, 2006 and this purchase was prompted by a question from an Anonymous reader. A ruby tinged with purple making this compatible with its attractive packaging. The nose has a smoky taint to a mild black cherry and blueberry mix. A smooth texture, tannin and mild acid frame flavours of blueberry and red currant for an acceptable sipper tho' ends a tad brambly. Have with Italian anything as long as it has some tomato in the recipe. Store up to a year. Would be a value as a house red. 86
J.P. CHENET PREMIER DE CUVÉE MERLOT - CABERNET 2007, Languedoc, France, 14.0% D, #621995 $11.95 (Retasted October 21, 2009) CS

My notes: A name change since tasted in December 2008 and rated Ww89. A firm film with slow tears and an aroma somewhat subdued but showing a mild earthiness and berry plum scents. A rich ruby colour and the first sip includes fine tannins, a brisk acid and mineral notes on flavours of currants and berries. The finish is bright and long. The second sip reinforces the first with warmth and the blending of oak with ripe fruit. A bold sipper with enough zip to challenge the palate preparing it for grilled ribs, a seasoned T-bone or rich stews. Priced for value. Likely at peak. 89
J.P. CHENET PREMIER DE CUVÉE MERLOT - CABERNET 2008, Languedoc, France, 13.5% D, #621995 $11.95 (Tasted October 25, 2009) CS

My notes: I went back to stock up on the 2007 and the 2008 was on the shelf - no orange Medal on the label for this vintage. The deep ruby has a purple cast to it and the aromas are a spicy and subtle black cherry. The film and tears are the same as the previous vintage, firm and slow respectively. The flavour has less black fruit with more tannin, a stemmy aftertaste and limited fruit to carry to the finish and ending on a liquorice note. Well made, medium-bodied, bright with a smooth texture that makes this acceptable but not a popular social sipper. OK at the price whereas the 2007 was a value. Perhaps a year or two in the cellar will make a difference - but I don't think so. 83