Archive for ‘If I only had $100…I would buy these wines at LCBO Vintages’

What do Organic Wine Labels mean?

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, August 9th, 2018
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These days, products labelled as “organic, green, gluten free or vegan” are often confusing and have different meanings depending on whether the item is eggs, apples or grapes. Personally, in general terms, I tend to think organic wine is one that has not had pesticides or other chemicals used in its vineyard or winemaking process. If that is indeed the case, I can’t help but wonder if this extra attention results in a difference in taste too.

My curiosity gets the better of me and nose dive into some ‘research’.

The David Suzuki Foundation offers some great explanations of terms that I have interchanged. For example, when the wine label states “made with organically grown grapes”, this means that the wine is made with a minimum of 70% organic grapes.  Turns out this is not the same as certified organic grapes.  The term Certified Organic means that the producers use 100% organic grapes and cannot use toxic pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers that would infiltrate both the soil and the grapes.

Biodynamic wine is defined by renowned winemaker Ann Sperling (of Sperling Vineyards, Southbrook Vineyards and Versado) as, “Uber organic”.  Biodynamic is organic but natural resources are used to cultivate grapes and must meet the standards imposed for organic-certified farming. This kind of wine production also takes into consideration the lunar calendar, astrology, plants, animals, insects;  it’s not just about the grapes.

I admit that I find the idea of the slant of the moon’s light on a vineyard making a difference in grape-growing a little mind-boggling. In order for a winery to declare itself as biodynamic, it must have achieved the highest level of certification through Demeter Canada and maintained it for a minimum of three years. It’s no wonder that there are only a handful of biodynamic wineries across the country.

Wine Country Ontario lists wineries in Ontario that sell organic, vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian and biodynamic wines. All these labels embrace sustainable winemaking or economical farming practices. Whether the wine tastes any different with these labels depends on your opinion.

The recent release at LCBO’s Vintages is promoting several organic wines. I have a couple of recommendations from this release and also suggestions in the general list of organic wines. Many LCBO stores have an organic wine section, so have a look the next time you are in one. You might find something new from this issue to impress your vegan friends!

From the August 4 release. 

 

Murviedro Luna Organic Brut Cava

Spain
$17.95 (Vintages #547224) 11.6% alcohol

Cava in Spain is akin to Prosecco in Italy and it never hurts to have one of these chilling in the fridge. This happens to be a Gold Medal winner at the 2017 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. Whenever I see those gold labels, it’s never a risk to buy the bottle.

Cava is known for its light sparkling citrusy moussey bubbles, made from the Macabeo grapes and is always a delight for brunch, Happy Hour or to kick off a party.

 

 

Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2016

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
$24.95 (Vintages #172338) 12% alcohol

Southbrook Vineyards is known as the first winery in Canada to earn both organic and biodynamic certification in the vineyard. It is also one impressive winery to visit in Niagara. The architecture of this biodynamic winery is different from its neighbors and their elegant wines are always memorable.

During the release tasting, I did not get to sample this 2016, but previous Chardonnays made by Ann Sperling have been knock out delicious.

Enjoy a glass in the sunshine, unwinding while the sun goes down, with fish or chicken off the BBQ or a summertime salad.

 

Montes Alpha Syrah 2015

Colchagua Valley, Chile
$19.95 (Vintages #612) 14.5% alcohol

The label on the bottle of this dark blackberry nectar states “dry farmed”.  What does this mean? Basically the grapes are cultivated without any irrigation in regions where there is little rain. The grapes feed off any residual moisture in the soil which deeply extends their vine roots and consequently their flavour.

I really liked the leathery finish on this wine.  It would be great with any grilled chops.

 

Organic Wines available all year round at the LCBO

 

Lurton Piedra Negra Pinot Grigio Organic

Argentina
$13.80 (Vintages #55674) 12.5% alcohol

This is a “pretty” soft white, dry, medium-bodied white wine. Luscious tropical and citrus flavours present loads of fresh fruit on the palate.

I picked this up on my lookout for general list organic wines at the LCBO (regularly available on the main store shelves) and it has easily become a favourite in my house.

It’s refreshing and delicious on its own or served with fish tacos, sushi, cold pasta salad.

 

 

El Abuelo Organic Tempranillo Monastrell

Almanzo D.O., Spain
$9.95 (Vintages #524520)  14% alcohol

Don’t let the price fool you. This great organic wine from Spain is full-bodied with loads of black fruit flavours.

Bone dry and smooth, it packs lots of punch at 14% alcohol but does not taste hot on the palate.

It goes well with burgers or spaghetti or just to sip in a glass.

 

Travel tip and wine stop in Hockley Valley, Mono, Ontario 

 

My husband and I recently returned from a trip to the Hockley Valley Resort (North of Toronto near Orangeville) and discovered the Adamo Winery Estate. The resort offers a shuttle to the winery, but if you prefer to walk, it’s a short distance but all uphill.

The resort and winery are family owned and operated, clearly taking great pride in both their wines and the upscale resort. Have a look at the pictures online, it is indeed as lovely as it looks.

The farming practices in the 25 acre winery are both organic and biodynamic. Shauna White, Vineyard and Winery Manager, uses thermal blankets in the winter to cover the vines so that they are insulated and protected from ice and snow. This method is done instead of hilling up vines (burying them in the earth), like they do in Prince Edward County.

At the winery, the Paddock Café offers small plates of local cheeses, olives and charcuteries overlooking the 23,000 vines. It is also a wonderful photo-op beside an amazing golf course. We visited the winery 3 times in 3 days to take in the ambience and sample more wines. The Rieslings and Viognier wines were favourites with many grapes being sourced from the Niagara region.

Coincidentally, 6 years ago, I had met Shauna when I interviewed her for our Savvy Selections wine-o-month club featuring Ravine Estate Winery.  Shauna was the winemaker. Needless to say, the surprise to see her again at Adamo was a delight and made for an over the top vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dashing through the LCBO….

Posted by Julie

Monday, December 11th, 2017
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It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Champagne, stunning gift boxes, ice wine, suggestions for “Holiday Gatherings” is what the final Vintages release of the year is all about.

There are so many awesome products in this release that I have to remind myself of my meager budget of $100 for this blog. Here is my shopping list – including some bottles to splurge on too.

And if you were able to get your hands on the LCBO’s latest Food and Drink Magazine, talk about eye candy – glossy photos with lots of great recipes for appetizers, cocktail parties and novel recipes for main courses too. Where do they get this new twists on the traditional?

For those of you who have a more robust budget than my$100 for wine shopping, I have several recommendations. There’s a new Sandeman 20-year old Tawny Port (Vintages #116178) $64.95 which was absolutely delicious.  Burrowing Owl Meritage (Vintages #343038) $58.95 is a red wine from British Columbia that will knock your expensive socks off.  The LCBO’s Wine of the Month – Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon (Vintages #189795) $119.95 is extra special and Sortilege Prestige, a 7 year old Canadian Whiskey with pure maple syrup (Vintages #317206) $49.95 is another treat.

So until next year, wishing you a wonderful holiday season full of great sips!

-Julie

 

If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday December 9, 2017

Veuve Ambal Grande Cuvée Brut Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne

Traditional Method, AC Burgundy, France
$19.95 (Vintages #439257) 12% alcohol

An enticing pale pink that shimmers like a Christmas decoration in the glass, bubbles (fine mousse) galore dance on the palate while croissants, raspberries and little ripe strawberries arrive seductively to the taste buds. Clean and fresh, it’s a classic Crémant that returns yearly with quality and taste.

A perfect aperitif, wonderful as a party accompaniment. It’s also festive, pretty and everyone loves it.

 

Sunnybrook Signature Series Cranberry 2015

Niagara
$23.95 (Vintages #539049) 11% alcohol

Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery is proud to use 100% locally grown fruits for their wines and this stunning nectar won double gold at the Canadian Wine Awards 2017. I was surprised to see this featured under dessert wines since I did not find it overly sweet.

Awesome cranberry colour loaded with soft cranberry fruit and on first sip I thought it would be absolutely perfect with turkey or pork as a dinner wine. A lengthy seam of acidity on the delicious finish and dare I say, I almost got some green apple. Wine Gods forgive me, but we all taste something different.

I’ll just sum it up by saying this would go through dinner to dessert (would be heaven with some blue cheese). How different is a fruit wine? and this would also make a lovely gift.

D-e-e-elicious.

 

The Tragically Hip Fully Completely Grand Reserve Red 2015

VQA Niagara Peninsula, Stoney Ridge
$24.95 (Vintages #411595) 13.5% alcohol

This red wine was a creation by band members Gord Downie, Paul Langlois, Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair, and Johnny Fay in conjunction with Stoney Ridge Estate Winery’s Head Winemaker Jeff Hundertmark. It is a class act wine.

Wonderful rich blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. On the label is an exact replication of the original artwork that appeared on the “Fully Completely” album cover that all Hip fans know so well.

Inside the bottle, deep dark delicious aromas awaits with tastes of ripe berries, some sweet spicy notes and tannin. It’s balanced and lengthy, an elegant addition for ta prime rib or steak not to mention pretty nice table bling.

Hands  down, this will make a great gift for those Gord Downie fans.

 

Aneto Red 2011

DOC Douro, Portugal
$16.95 (Vintages #314930) 14% alcohol

I learned on my trip to Portugal this year that there are more than 100 indigenous grape varietals approved for wine production in the Douro region of Portugal but five primary grapes make up most Port and table wines.

Touriga Nacional is the most prominent known for its floral aromatics, deep color, and tannin. Along with Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo) help to provide backbone to the wine and adds bright acidity and red fruit flavors.

Aneto, (which by the way is the name of a plant) is power-packed with ripe red and dark berries on the palate, full-bodied with lovely soft tannin and a little leather on the finish. It’s a fairly big wine with lots of punch and I plan to serve this with with ribs and Caesar salad.

 

Casteno Solanera Vinas Viejas 2015

DO Yecia, Spain
$18.95 (Vintages #276162) 14.5% alcohol

A blend of Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, aged in French and American oak. This red wine is a big, ripe, round and juicy for those of us that like a heavy duty wine. Flavours of ripe blueberries and black plums are the core backbone with a gentle seam of acidity and soft tannin. There’s a little spice alongside a subtle pinch of pepper on the finish.

This wine is not for the faint of heart so I’m suggesting to pour alongside garlic mash and grilled beef ribs – we are talking five star good.

 

Grand Total = $104.75

(So…in my last blog, I saved you $6, so splurge a little this time….besides it’s Christmas!)

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If I only had $100, I would buy….

Posted by Julie

Friday, November 24th, 2017
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With the devastating news about the forest fires in Napa & surrounding area, there has been alot of focus on California wines.  Coincidentally, premium California wines are the main feature in this release at LCBO Vintages this weekend. While most bottles were too rich for my $100 budget for this blog, I was so pleased to sample & create this shopping list with an interesting assortment of fine wines that are easy on the credit card statement. Remember that I am working on a $100 budget, yet I highly recommend that you do splurge by adding a California wine into your shopping cart.

I also found several sparkling wines and beautiful icewines, that you can pick up to stash away for the gifting season.

As always, my shopping basket for this blog is always on the look out for bottles of wine that are priced lower than they actually taste.

I hope you like my picks!

Julie

 

If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday November 25, 2017

 

Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Sparkling Riesling 2015

Traditional method, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontari
$20.95 (Vintages #370361) 12% alcohol

Green apples, lemon zest, crispy brioche all meld into a delicate creamy mousse that is crisp and clean on the palate and swirls on the tongue.

Lots going on in this sparkling Riesling with a hit of flint that seems only to come from Niagara Escarpment Rieslings.  Talk about a gift from Mother Earth and speaking of gifts – this one I highly recommend.

A great match for seafood or pick up a chilled bottle and some sushi one night for supper – now that would be a treat!

 

 

Robert Oatley Signature Series Chardonnay 2016

Margaret River, Western Australia
$18.95 (Vintages #350900) 12.5% alcohol

While certainly not a new wine in LCBO Vintages, this is always an easy Chardonnay to add to my shopping list. It’s a no-brainer for those Chardonnay lovers and those firmly in the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd could easily be persuaded.

Full-boded yet crisp and refreshing for a Chardonnay with a multitude of tropical white stone fruit flavours (think white peach) on the palate and loads of tangerine citrus on the finish. Talk about a beautifully balanced white wine with just enough acidity to send you back for another sip.  And another.  And another.

A perfect wine to have with lunch for crab or lobster bisque with a puff pastry topping or chicken pot pie (for the less daring to cook).

 

Zuccardi Q Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Mendoza, Argentina
$19.95 (Vintages #140855) 13.9% alcohol

In such warm climate, grapes can ripen to their fullest so it is not a bit of wonder the product ends up being full-bodied and rich.

Big black fruit, ripe blueberries, blackberries mingle smoothly with silky lush tannin. The mouthfeel is plush and loaded with dark berry flavours.

A lovely lengthy aftertaste sprinkled with pepper. One great Cabernet Sauvignon to serve alongside ribs or a Sunday roast.

 

 

San Felice Chianti Classico 2015

DOCG, Italy
$19.95 (Vintages #282996) 13% alcohol

Predominantly Sangiovese with personality of ripe cherries and raspberries, a pinch of violet that also profiles this delicate Chianti. Medium-bodied and fruity it is a classic Chianti.

There’s some dustiness and leather whiffs on the finish, typical of wine aged in Slovonian oak casks for 10-12 months. Tannins are delicate and fresh, a wonderful wine to serve with your favourite pasta dish or a spicy lasagna.

 

 

Honoro Vera Monastrell 2015

DOP, Jumilla, Spain
$13.95 (Vintages #167684) 14.5% alcohol

DOP certification ensures that the grapes are locally grown and bottled. Dark and inky, some sweet spice aromas, bursts of ripe plums on the palate mixing cherry and mocha flavours on the lengthy finish.

Medium to full-bodied, fairly assertive tannins with a pinch of leather on the aftertaste.

You get a lot of pow for your dollar here and cannot beat the price point. This would be wonderful with a hearty stew and crusty bread.

This wine certainly grabs your attention with the cool label!

 

Grand Total = $93.75

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Time for Ports & Sherry!

Posted by Julie

Sunday, November 12th, 2017
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Now that the temperature continuously dips below zero degrees, it’s time to start thinking about stocking up for the winter months and of course the upcoming holiday entertaining season. I don’t recall Vintages ever focusing on “After Dinner Drinks”, but I found some in this release worth tipping you off.

Although the ice wines are too pricey for my $100 budget, there are some beauties to pick up or gift as fine gifts.

In this release, there is also a huge selection of sparkling wines including Champagne, always a great start to any get together with friends.

The advantage of stocking up on after dinner drinks is that they are bound to last longer than other bottles of wine and have a much longer shelf life.

Here’s to the “finishing” drinks,

Julie

 

If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday November 11, 2017

Burmester 10-Year Old Tawny Port

DOP, Portugal
$28.95 (Vintages #223958) 19.5% alcohol

DOP is short for (Denominação de Origem Protegida) meaning Protected Designation of Origin. This certification only found in Portugal ensures that products are locally grown and packaged.

This past fall, my husband and I visited the Burmester Port house in Oporto, Portugal on the side of the Douro river in an area called “Gaia”.  While it is not as large as Taylors Fladgate or Grahams, the ports made a Burmester are of premium quality.

This Tawny Port has a deep copper in colour with flavours that remind me of fruit cake, sweet spice with a caramel finish. Light-bodied and goes down smooth, capital S. Positively delicious and a perfect after dinner drink.

City of Oporto. The Burmester Caves where this port was made is on the left of the photo. Credit: Julie Stock

Hildalgo Faraon Oloros Sherry

DO, Spain
$21.95 (Vintages # 471078) 18% alcohol

I don’t often think of sherry as an after dinner drink but his one is an exception. Similar to port it is a fortified wine, yet made only in Spain.

This deep golden nectar is like sipping a bowl of roasted nuts with a great savoury finish. Bone dry with a little orange pith on the palate.

It would be absolutely divine with some assorted cheeses, dried fruit and of course, warm toasted nuts at the end of a meal. It’s a special kind of sherry.

 

Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling

VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario$24.95 (Vintages #578625) 11% alcohol

I’m not often wowed by off-dry Riesling but this is one is an elegant beauty. Apparently I’m not the only one that was lured to this wine since it won Platinum at the Wine Align Intervin awards this year.

Fresh and clean, flinty with soft lemon custard flavours on the palate and a round citrusy finish.

This white wine is positively delicious and would make a decadent afternoon sipper or pair with some spicy shrimps.

 

 

Reif Estate Reserve Gewurztraminer 2015

VQA Niagara River, Ontario
$18.95 (Vintages #360255) 13% alcohol

In my view, Reif Estates always offers good price points for the quality of their wine. It’s always a good thing to have a Gewurztraminer in the fridge for those chilly nights where a hot Indian curry like Chicken Vindaloo or take-out Thai meal would warm you up – all perfect pairings for Gewurztraminer.

Fresh floral aromas, some lychee but loads of tropical fruits on the palate show in this white wine. Look for ripe apricots and peach nectar with some toasty hazelnuts on the finish.

It’s a dy-na-mite!

 

For 2 white wines & 2 after dinner drinks, my Grand Total = $94.80

 

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Wines from around the world for Thanksgiving

Posted by Julie

Friday, September 29th, 2017
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With Thanksgiving right around the corner, what better time for LCBO’s Vintages to focus on drinks to serve with the family gathering with a headline of ‘Family Matters”.

With the family theme in this release, the LCBO is featuring family run vineyards & estates that have been handed down through the generations.  There are some great wine finds to accompany whatever dishes you are putting on your Thanksgiving table but I’m not taking any chances, I’m picking up one of each. to have on hand in case anyone drops in over the long weekend.

And there are some of the LCBO’s In Store Discoveries too that are worth putting in your shopping cart. Hope my tried & tested shopping list helps make your long weekend a breeze.

Happy Thanksgiving to you & your family!

– Julie

 

If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday September 30, 2017

 

Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc 2016

WO Stellenbosch, The Winery of Good Hope, South Africa
$14.95 (Vintages #739995) 12.5% alcohol

Chenin Blanc goes by different names;  in France this white wine it is known as Pineau de la Loire, and in South Africa it goes by the name of Steen. Either way the grape varietal displays succulent flavours of tropical fruit with every sip.

On the palate is a melange of ripe pears and apricots, pineapple and hazelnuts. Full bodied and rich, smooth as silk with a crisp refreshing finish. It’s a beauty and the price point is unbelievable. It’s bound to be a partner to serve with a feast of turkey or roasted ham for sure.

 

 

 

Famille Perrin Reserve Cotes Du Rhone Blanc 2015

AC, France
$14.95 (Vintages  #499509) 13% alcohol

Your first introduction is a delicate floral nose with great aromatic freshness.

This svelte white wine offers light, crisp apple and peach flavours bound by slight mineral notes on the finish.  Lots of finesse and depth for this price point and a perfect marriage with seafood or Mediterranean fare, bruschetta prepared with with heirloom tomatoes would be remarkable.

 

 

 

 

Tessellae Rosé 2016

IGP Côtes Catalanes, France
$15.95 (Vintages # 450817)  13.5% alcohol

This is an all year round Rosé wine. Pale salmon in colour, fresh, crisp and delicate. Ripe strawberries, tangerines and apricot flavours mingle with zesty lemon-lime notes on the finish. Talk about a fruit bowl!

It is a perfect afternoon sipper or to serve as an aperitif with some mild cheese or grilled shrimps, or with a ham for Thanksgiving, one lovely beverage.  Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Kaiken Las Rocas Ultra Malbec 2015

Mendoza, Argentina
$24.95 (Vintages #50849) 14.5% alcohol

Lavender and blueberry aromas, full bodied and firm, it’s an outstanding Malbec. On the palate of this red wine, there are layers of ripe plums and dark berries, the tannins are ripe and refined. It’s smooth, rich and focussed with excellent length, a Malbec at its finest.

I’d pair this with braised short ribs and a mushroom risotto.

 

 

 

 

Tarima Monastrell 2015

DO Alicante, Spain
$14.95 (Vintages #310151) 14.5% alcohol

The heady nose on this red wine is almost electric with savoury and dark fruit.  Blackberries and blueberry flavours dance on the palate just bursting with flavour.

Look for dark, slightly spicy berries with a pinch of licorice on the finish. Great smooth aftertaste that integrates soft tannins, and juicy fruitiness.

It is absolutely delicious. Begs for something from the grill!

 

 

 

MAN Family Skaapveld Shiraz 2015

WO Coastal Region, South Africa
$13.95 (Vintages #71332)

I did not have the opportunity to taste this particular Shiraz, but I wanted to offer another bottle in my price point since the above was such incredible value. I mean…a Shiraz from South Africa at $13.95?

The Man Family website states that “Skaapbeld” refers to the grazing land for sheep that adjoins their Shiraz vineyards. And it has won more than one award, so I will be popping a bottle of this into my shopping cart and giving it a try.

 

 

Grand Total = $99.70

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6 wines for under $100!

Posted by Julie

Friday, September 15th, 2017
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In Niagara Falls, every August, the judging for the Intervin Wine Competition takes place. These wine awards are designed to recognize the very best of international wines available to Canadian consumers.

Although the 2017 results will not be released until November it is fitting that LCBO Vintages is showcasing Ontario wines and Flagship In-Store-Discoveries (FISD) in this release.  Most of these “Flagships” are too pricey for my budget, but I had no difficulty finding some other gems at incredible price points.

My go to wine is always Ontario. This province has the VERY best of everything: from farm to table food, to sports and entertainment; our wine selection is unbeatable and incomparable. Harvest time will soon be here and I hope you’ll be inspired to pick up a few bottles you’ve not tried before. I can almost guarantee you may find a new favourite.

Here’s to Ontario wine shopping, a place to stand, a place to grow, Ontario-ario- ario !

That jingle never grows old!
– Julie

 

If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday September 16, 2017

 

Creekside Marianne Hill Riesling 2015

VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$20.95 (Vintages #443572) 10.5% alcohol

Stunning and expressive, well deserved for the Gold Medal winner at the 2017 National Wine Awards of Canada.

I can’t wait to see what other accolades may be in store for Creekside and this gem. Beautifully balanced with flavours of green and yellow apples, peaches and flinty wet stone which shows in many Niagara escarpment Rieslings.

Light-weight with gentle fruit flavours, a perfect afternoon wine to sip or to try with crab cakes, sushi or lighter lunch fare. Mellow and delicious.

 

Featherstone Four Feathers 2016

VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$14.95 (Vintages #341586) 12.5% alcohol

I have written previously on different Featherstone Estate Winery wines and this one is so lovely I could not neglect it in this release.

The blend of  Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc brings out the very best in each of these varietals. Slightly off-dry, delicate and aromatic, well structured and layered with flavours of apples and stone tree fruits that decorate the palate in one lovely wash. It has a lingering fruity finish.

Perfect for salads, grilled shrimp or fish tacos; an easy sipper and a wine that has something for everyone.

I cannot imagine anyone who could not like this wine.

 

 

Firebird Legend Pinot Grigio 2016

PGI Vulcansti, Moldova
$12.95 (Vintages #74351) 12% alcohol

The very odd time I feature a wine that I was not able to taste and this is one of those. Moldova is a country sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania in the Black Sea basin where the vines grow.

Historically, there are over 112 thousand hectres of vineyards and over 30 types of varietals so I assume these folks must have achieved some finesse somewhere along the lineage.  One website boasted tropical fruit flavours with zippy acidity, so for that price point, for me, it is worth a try.

 

Tawse Sketches of Niagara Rosé 2016

VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$17.35 (Vintages #172643) 12%  alcohol

Not just any Rosé, this blend of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Gamay makes a lively entry with it’s handsome cranberry colour and aromas of ripe cherries and a pinch of white pepper. On the palate are impressive strawberry and watermelon flavours.  It’s driven by lively acidity and some rhubarb on the elegant finish.

Bone dry which makes it a perfect accompaniment to grilled chicken, salmon or just on its own with some soft cheeses.

Always a class act.

 

13th Street Red Palette 2016

VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$15.95 (Vintages #244558) 13 % alcohol

13th Street Winery has to one of the prettiest wineries along the Niagara Escarpment I think. Not only is there a spacious tasting room with floor to ceilings windows, but upon entry, the long spectacular table gives it an art gallery feel. The bakery farmhouse next door also makes it a worthwhile stop for lunch or to grab an outstanding butter-tart.

This Red Palette blend is so juicy; bursting with red cherry and ripe raspberry flavours with just a hint of green savoury spice on the finish. Medium bodied, the varietals of 62% Merlot and 38% Cabernet Franc make it a perfect accompaniment to turkey, ham or salmon (I am already thinking about Thanksgiving!). Well rounded and perfectly balanced with soft tannins and a hint of smokey acidity on a decent cherry finish. You could partner this alongside just about anything from fish to pork/veggie kebabos or mild Thai take-out. Simply delicious.

 

Traipiche Fina Las Palmas Gran Reeserva Malbec 2014

Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
$16.95 (Vintages # 186668) 14.5 % alcohol

Malbec is Argentina’s signature grape and no one grows it better than Traipiche. At altitudes higher than the CN tower, Trapiche was one of the first Argentinian wineries to enter the international scene. In 1889, the winery received its first international award in Paris.

Dark and inky in colour, rich and expansive on the nose your senses are fillled with luscious black and ripe red fruits that flow through on the palate. Everything Traipiche produces is worth picking up and their wines are a great price point. This Malbec is full-bodied and not for the faint-hearted, structured with layers of blueberry and ripe plum favours, some spice and tobacco on the finish. It’ll be forever in memory with braised short ribs and spicey sausages.

I can’t wait to pick this up and head to the butcher.

 

Grand Total = $ 99.10 
6 wines – now that is VALUE !!

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Yeah! Make it a Chardonnay!

Posted by Julie

Monday, July 10th, 2017
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It’s that time of year again when the annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (also known by those in the wine biz as ‘i4C’ or #i4C17) descends upon the Niagara region. Everyone gathers for this special i4C weekend to celebrate the most popular grape varietal in the world.

It is an incredible weekend – July 21 to 23 – where 30+ wineries from around the world PLUS 30 Ontario wineries gather to showcase their finest wines made with Chardonnay grapes – everything from sparkling, fresh Chardonnay, aged ones, Chablis style, fermented with wild yeast and those aged in barrels from around the world.  You get to sample everything. Even fine sweet wines made from Chardonnay grapes.  It is a heavenly weekend event!

At i4C, winemakers attend along with wine enthusiasts, Sommeliers, wine writers, restaurant owners and those who are simply visiting Niagara wanting to take in a top-notch event.  A number of us from the Savvy Team have attended and it is hands down an incredible learning and entertaining experience not to mention absolutely delicious & tasty. I highly recommend making i4C the reason for a weekend getaway to Niagara (if you need a reason!).

And for those of you who are ABCers (aka like Anything But Chardonnay), there is an incredible white wine from Spain that I discovered in the recent LCBO Vintages release from the feature or Spanish wines.  Spain often offers great value wines that taste like they should cost more, but my recommendations on those will have to wait for another time as I am filling my basket with 100% Chardonnay for this blog…and can’t wait to get sipping.

Long live i4C!
-Julie

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If I only had $100, I would buy…
LBCO Vintages Release for Saturday July 8, 2017

 

Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2015 

VQA Niagara-on-the Lake
$24.95 (Vintages #172338) 12.5 % alcohol

In 2008, Southbrook was the first wine estate in Canada to earn both organic and biodynamic certification for its vineyard and winery. This is one smooth Chardonnay from start to finish. There is some minerality in this white wine which is unusual for a Chardonnay, but this only enhances the soft tropical fruits.

Mid-weight and beautifully balanced with some baked pear on the finish, it’s one lovely drink. Would partner nicely with BBQed chicken or salmon.

 

 

Emiliana Natura Unoaked Chardonnay 2016

Casablanca Valley, Chile
$15.95 (Vintages #439398) 14 % alcohol

In the last release I featured Emiliana Winery for their sparkling wine. And here they are again on my top picks list!

This unoaked Chardonnay wine is anything but “typicity”.  In winespeak, this is the degree in which the grape varietal reflects or demonstrates its characteristics from the origin or region. I found just a hint of effervescence, light-bodied with lime tanginess which is unusual for a Chardonnay.  It’s fresh and clean with a green apple finish. I really liked it and this white wine is definitely going into my shopping basket & right into my fridge for a hot summer afternoon where I will uncork it for lunch or a light dinner with something like a Watermelon, Feta Cheese & Black Olive Salad.

 

 

Buena Vista Chardonnay 2015

Sonoma County, U.S.A.
$24.95 (Vintages #396440) 13 % alcohol

In a little corner bordering Sonoma and Napa’s southern boundaries is the celebrated vinicultural area called Carneros. While only about 90 square miles, the region is recognized for producing world class Chardonnays.

This white wine is a style that is heavier and creamier than what comes from other Chardonnay growing regions but for those who love a ‘Big Bold Chard’, this wine is for you!  I put extra stars beside my tasting notes, indicating that I love this wine. Aromas of buttered popcorn, rich and smooth on the palate as the tropical fruit simply takes over the senses and abounds.  It’s dry, crisp with a lingering finish. Elegant and refined, a class-act Chardonnay. Would easily stand up to a dinner of Steak & frites…yes white wine with steak!

 

 

Invivo Gisborne Chardonnay 2016

Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand
$15.95 (Vintages #499855) 13 % alcohol

Although this was not available at my tasting, Invivo Wines is going to be present at i4C represented by Winemaker and Co-founder, Rob Cameron. I never have any difficulty recommending a wine from New Zealand, especially the Gisborne region, since wines that are produced are always top notch. Tasting notes indicate an easy drinking style with citrus and ripe stone fruit on the palate.

At this incredible price point, (remember it travelled half way around the world to get onto the LCBO shelves), this white wine is definitely going in my basket. It is worth a try!

 

A dynamite wine from Spain you have to try …

Barón De ley Blanco 2016

DOCa Rioja
$13.95 (Vintages #145995) 12 % alcohol

A blend of Viura (90%) and Malvasia (10%) grapes, this fresh aromatic white wine is easy to drink. While not common grape varietals, these are quite at home in Navarra in the DOC Rioja region.

The winemaking process is carried out in stainless steel tanks which lends to its super fresh lemon lime flavours with a citrusy finish. Fresh and a light-bodied whine, makes for a terrific wine on a hot summer’s day.

 

 

Grand Total = $95.75

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6 Sparkling wines under $100

Posted by Julie

Thursday, June 22nd, 2017
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What perfect timing! Canada Day, Canadian Winemakers Around the World and Bubbles are featured in this release. LCBO & Vintages sometimes does this to me, all my favourite wine topics are featured at once – Oh Canada!

I plan to celebrate my “Canuck-ness” with bubbles. I will raise some “fizz” to toast Canada’s 150th birthday of accumulated strength in heritage and multiculturalism – this is the country where there is something for everyone.

This is also true of my selections for this release;  SIX sparkling wines from SIX countries to demonstrate a mosaic of diversity. I hope you find at least one to enjoy and join me as we raise a glass together.

Happy 150 years Canada!

-Julie

 

 

If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday June 24, 2017

Vieni Momenti Sparkling Wine

Charmat Method, VQA Ontario
$13.95 (Vintages # 435784)  11.3% alcohol

 Last fall, I had the opportunity to taste this sparkling wine at one of our Taste & Buy events and recently “re-enjoyed” it since a friend of mine had purchased several bottles too.  It was a top seller at our event….and no doubt it will fly off the Vintages shelves too.

Pale yellow in colour, this unique blend of Vidal and Pinot Grigio grapes is fresh and aromatic. It has a light fine mousse (tiny bubbles) embracing soft tropical fruit flavours. At that price point you cannot go wrong. I will definitely be stocking up on this delicious sparkling wine. Great on its own or with lighter fare.

 

Chevalier Monopole Brut Rosé

AC, Champagne Region, France
$15.95 (Vintages #485920) 12% alcohol

First, I loved the unusual pale tangerine colour but then secondly, when several LCBO Product Consultants (aka wine experts who work in the Vintages section) are all smacking their lips, exclaiming what a fabulous wine not to mention great value, I knew I’d hit the bulleye!

Monopole is a term meaning “wholly owned” and can be used by a producer when the grapes used in the wine are exclusively owned buy the winemaker and not purchased.  It’s an easy sipping sparkling wine, full of citrusy orange and lime flavours, gentle, soft and juicy with enough acidity to pair with grilled chicken or tacos. Absolutely. Delicious.

 

Emiliana Organic Brut Sparkling

Charmat method, Casablanca Valley, Chile
$15.95 (Vintages #451914) 13% alcohol

Emiliana is Chile’s biggest organic wine producer. Artfully crafted , pale golden in colour with amazing aromas and tastes of ripe pineapple and papaya.

A Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend (classic grape varieties used for sparkling wines) that is easy going and fresh with a citrusy lime aftertaste. Nicely balanced with noticeable acidity.  This bubbly from Chile is another great sipper on its own or  with fish, summer salads, or sushi.  Perfect for a picnic with the easy snap top bottle.

 

Graham Beck Brut Rosé

Méthode Cap Classique, WO Western Cape, South Africa
$19.95 (Vintages #175588) 12.5% alcohol

A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes, silvery pink and shimmery in colour just like a cocktail dress, this just glows with excitement. Loads of sweet and sour cherries, raspberries, other red berries, smooth on the palate and loads of the above berries on the aftertaste.

It has a healthy weight for a sparkling wine but in South African style, would pair well with anything grilled, salad on the side.  Another delicious bubbly.

 

Castillo Perelada Brut Rosé Cava

Traditional method, DO, Spain
$15.95 (Vintages # 226266) 11.5% alcohol

An elegant pale pink colour this sparkling wine shimmers in the glass. To start, it just looks pretty. Then, as you take in the aromas and tastes of strawberries, cherries with a little peppermint on the light-bodied finish it is no wonder that Spain has become famous for its Cava (winespeak: Spanish sparkling wines).  Cavas are typically affordable priced and this is no exception. Would be perfect for a wedding reception or bridal shower or more importantly no occasion at all.

 

Valdo Marca Oro Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore

DOCG, Italy
$16.95 (Vintages #422840) 11% alcohol

Year round Prosecco is a great sparkling wine. Floral and croissant aromas hover around the bubbles that burst playfully with suggestions of citrus, green apple and apricot flavours.  Fresh and always delicious, it pairs with just about anything under the sun from charcuterie to pan seared fish.

 

Grand Total  = $98.75
I was thrilled to find 6 sparklers within my $100 budget!

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If I only had $100, I would buy at Vintages….

Posted by Julie

Friday, June 9th, 2017
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Trust the LCBO to shine the spotlight on single malt scotch, cognac and specialty wines just in time for Father’s Day. This release also focuses on Flagship ISD (in-store-discoveries) from Australia and France. That covers a wide span of the wine world.

While Dad may be part of the focus in this release, I discovered two great sparkling wines from Niagara that were so reasonably priced you could pick something up for Mum as well.

Contraband Sparkling Chardonnay (#443705)
and Contraband Sparkling Riesling (#400127), both under $20.
These bubblies are full of lively fruit flavours that is perfect for Mum, Dad or to ring in Canada Day.

I hope you find more than one wine to enjoy in the picks that I ‘bought’ on my $100 budget.

-Julie

If I only had $100, I would buy …
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday June 10, 2017

 

Creekside Reserve Viognier 2014 

Queenston Road Vineyard, VQA St. David’s Bench, Niagara-on-the-Lake, ON
$29.95 (Vintages #264168) 14 % alcohol

I don’t usually spend so much on one bottle of wine for obvious reasons, yet this time, I have to make an exception.

There aren’t many wineries in Ontario that produce Viognier because it is such a difficult grape to grow.  It’s prone to mildew, low yields and it has to be picked when it’s absolutely prime & ripe or it fails to develop its amazing colour, aromatics and fine fruit flavours. Creekside Winery won a gold medal winner in 2010 for their Viognier and this 2014 release is too delicious for words.

Aged for 9 months in French oak, this white wine delivers lush lingering aromatics of honeysuckle, mango, peach flavours that carry through to the palate. Slightly oily but fresh. Weighty and balanced – it’s one class act.  It also makes a beautiful gift for someone, especially someone who knows their wine. It’s so good on its own but could handle a spicy foods like a Moroccan Tagine or fresh sushi with panache.  Only 136 cases produced so I’ll grab a couple of bottles and leave the rest for you.

 

 

Medeiros Rosé

Vinho Regional Alentejano, Portugal
$12.95 (Vintages #451385)  12.5% alcohol

A pretty blend of Touriga Nacional (45%), Syrah (41%) and Aragonês or Tempranillo (14%) grapes.  This Rose is unreal at this price point. Pale pink in colour, with a little peach, almond and green melon flavours on the palate.  It is so light and refreshing. There’s not a huge finish but a great patio sipper or with seafood/summer salads. Summer in a glass!

 

 

Sister’s Run Bethlehem Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Gomersal, Barossa, South Australia
$18.95 (Vintages #360636) 14.5% alcohol

Aromatic hints of  concentrated black fruit translate onto the palate. Bone-dry, full-bodied red wine with black currant and raspberry flavours. Gentle tannins that make it quite approachable on the palate and a very easy summer sipper.

It would be fabulous with assorted cheeses, lamb burgers or spicy sausages hot off the BBQ.

 

Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Grès De Montpellier Syrah Grenache

AP Languedoc, France
$18.95 (Vintages #493635) 15% alcohol

Aged in French oak barrels for 12 months lends hearty robust flavours to this classic red wine blend.  Ripe plums and layers of dark fruit flavours are velvety smooth on the palate with a peppery, charcoal edge on the finish and length.

It’s a big, rich red wine that would partner beautifully with BBQed steak with all of the trimmings or saucy ribs off the grill.

 

Tomassi Arele Parziale Appassimento 2015

IGT Della Venezie, Italy
$19.95 (Vintages #224188) 13% alcohol

You expect full flavour, texture and richness in a blend with Corvina, Rondinella, Oseleta and Merlot grapes.  This red wine holds no surprise. “Arele” is the name of the wooden trays used to partially dry the grapes that is part of the magic in creating this unique wine.

Loaded with dark fruit berry flavours, ripe red currants with hints of violets. Medium to full-bodied with a persistent sweet spice finish and a touch of cedar. Mark my words, this red wine is hard to resist. Perfect choice to accompany some grilled meats or summer vegetable lasagna. Stock up!

Grand Total = $100.75

The 3 extra quarters are totally worth going over budget!

 

 

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If I only had $100, I would buy at Vintages…

Posted by Julie

Thursday, May 25th, 2017
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South Central Italy & Flagship In Store Discoveries (LCBO speak: ISD) as well as California are a prominent features in this LCBO Vintages release.  Where to start?

Frankly, the ISD’s are a little rich for my $100 budget for this blog, yet there are some pretty enticing looking wines.  Worth saving your pennies (or I guess it is now nickles!)

With the weather changing, I’m in a white wine mood so that’s what will be focused on finding the best to put in my shopping basket. You can’t go wrong with any of these great wines but remember when buying wines in the Vintages section, if you find something you like – grab a few bottles since they won’t be here again until next year and even that’s not a rule of thumb either!

Enjoy,

Julie

 

If I only had $100, I would buy . . .
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday May 27, 2017

 

Santa Barbara Winery Chardonnay 2015

Santa Barbara County, California
$24.95 (Vintages # 989152) 13.7% alcohol

Talk about typicity! It doesn’t get much richer or better for a classic California Chardonnay.  If you can imagine putting your nose in a creamy rich butter bar, or creme caramel, you’d probably not be far off when smelling the aromas in this wine. Lots of ripe pineapple and baked apple flavours, a full-bodied white wine, balanced, lots of fruity layers, creamy smooth with a citrusy finish. Rich, fragrant and delicious. Enjoy with seafood or chicken alfredo pasta, sounds like a dinner party to me.

 

 

Beauvignac Picpoul De Pinet 2016

AP, Les Costières Pomerols, France
$14.95 (Vintages #350124) 12.5% alcohol

This light, crisp perfect summer wine called “Picpoul” is a direct reference to the vibrant natural acidity of this grape. A loose translation of Picpoul means “stings the lip” which refers to the high acidity level in this varietal. It’s super fresh and floral, white blossoms and lemon-lime flavours are too easy on the palate.

There’s a bounty of  green Granny Smith apple flavours in this white wine which also offer natural acidity that makes it so refreshing. Serve well chilled with a seafood salad, or cold poached salmon and you’ll have rave reviews.

 

Vesevo Beneventano Falaghina 2015

IGT Beneventano, South Central Italy
$16.95 (Vintages #289538) 13% alcohol

One sip reminded me of sitting in an piazza in Rome, starring at busts of bronze and a nearby coliseum. Fresh, lots of minerality and tastes of wet stone (this is a good thing), especially if you are prone to liking some earthy wine with loads of lemon flavours. A light white wine and delicate and a perfect afternoon sipper. If you happen to have a few shrimps handy – serve chilled or grill em up to have an awesome afternoon snack.

 

Frescobaldi Castelo Di Pomino Bianco 2015

DOC,  Tuscany, Italy
$19.95  (Vintages #65086) 12.5% alcohol

The history books state that in 1855, Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc were planted in Tuscany for the first time. Pomino (meaning little apple in Italian) is a small DOC located in central Italy that includes vineyards within the Chianti Rufina sub-zone in the province of Florence. It earned it’s DOC status in 1983.

Softly floral, ripe apricots and gentle peach flavours coat the palate with a lemony finish. A Fresh white wine that is delicate and delicious.

 

 

Feudo Maccari Grillo 2015

IGP Terre Siciliane, Italy
$14.95 (Vintages #477877) 12.5% alcohol

If I wrote in a sommelier exam that the wine tastes like fresh green grapes, I probably wouldn’t have passed the course but it is what it is (keeping in mind all our taste buds are different). This pale golden nectar is aromatically floral with some minerality on the palate and a pinch of effervescence, perhaps from the citrusy fruit flavours. It’s crisp and dreamy and a very easy white wine sipper especially at this price point. Salads, soft cheese, fish tacos or on its own.

Bottom line…I’m stocking up, this wine is too good to be true!

 

 

Grand total = $91.75 

5 great wines and look what I’ve saved you

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