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Stocking up on great wines for Labour Day

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Approaching fall, the LCBO recognizes we’ll be drinking more red wine, this upcoming Vintages release on September 5th reflects this seasonal trend. Over the years, I have noticed that generally, red wine can have a higher price point….and this release supports that trend. However, savvy shoppers can compensate for this by getting out of their comfort zone and trusting their palate to explore lesser-known wine regions and grape varieties. Below are my six picks that will total under $100.00 when you are at the LCBO checkout this weekend.

LCBO Vintages magazine Sept 5In LCBO Vintages, you’ll also find lesser-known hidden gems – Nardo, Bierzo and Jumilla wine regions along with Negroamaro grape variety, Mencia grape variety and Melon de Bourgogne grape varieties in my shopping list.

With these top picks, it is a prime opportunity to taste red wines with a bit of age – there’s one that is seven years old and another that is nine years old. Wine develops in bottle and I found that these are good examples of two that have aged gracefully.

For those interested in knowing only the wine, the price and how it smells, feels and tastes, it’ll be a lightening quick read. If you’re interested in knowing a bit more about the wine, winery, the grapes involved and enhanced enjoyment, it’ll still be a short read, but should enhance your understanding, hopefully enjoyment, of each wine. If you read and consider each one, purchase a couple or more and enjoy them… mission accomplished!

Vic Haradine
our special guest blogger & long-time Savvy friend from


If I had $100, I would buy these wines at LCBO Vintages…
Saturday September 5, 2015


Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay MusqueCave Spring ‘Estate Bottled’ Chardonnay Musqué 2013

VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula
$15.95 (246579) 13.5% alcohol

The Skinny – there are room-filling aromas of orange blossom, fresh-grape nuances and musk-like perfume. Viscous, slightly off-dry flavours of white nectarine and tropical fruit, Meyer lemon and peach skin abound. It has good weight and texture, a long finish and just enough acidity to keep it crisp and refreshing.

More – this white wine is made from a clone of Chardonnay known for its heady, perfume-like aromas. It’s another triumph for Cave Spring Cellars and co-founder/winemaker extraordinaire, Angelo Pavan. Sip on its own or pair with grilled or pan-seared seafood.


Domaine La Haute Févrie Sur Lie Muscadet Sèvre & MaineDomaine La Haut Févrie Muscadet Sèvre et Maine 2015

AOC Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, France
$13.95 (390625) 12.0% alcohol

The Skinny – hints of smoke and leesy notes mingle with ripe tropical fruit on the nose. There’s a nicely textured stream of caramel-tinted baked apple, sharp spice and lemony tang. It’s medium bodied with a lengthy mouth-watering aftertaste. Pour alongside steamed mussels or pan-seared freshwater fish.

More – This white wine is made from 100% Melon de Bourgogne grapes from 35-year-old vines, hand harvested and left seven months on lees a.k.a. spent yeast cells that fall to the bottom of tanks, eventually removed, but adding texture to the finished wine. Sèvre et Maine refers to the two rivers that make their way through this appellation.


Schola Sarmenti Roccamora Nardo' Negroamaro 2006Schola Sarmenti ‘Roccamora Nardo’ Negroamaro 2006

DOC Nardo, Puglia Italy
$16.95 (379768) 13.5% alcohol

The Skinny – Aromas of sandalwood and black plum interlace with baking spice and gamy notes on the involved nose. It rolls over the palate in a delectable spice-laden wash of dried-berry fruit, black cherry and hints of black currant concentrate. It showcases good structure, balance and a lingering dry finish. Pours well with barbecued meats.

More Nardo wine region is centered around the town of Nardo, Italy where the climate is hot and dry. Negroamaro is indigenous to the area, the heel of Italy’s boot. Salice Salentino wine region is considered where the best Negroamaro wines are made and it neighbours Nardo. Due to the heat, grapes ripen easily, winemakers must be diligent in harvesting before grapes are over-ripe or the wine becomes alcoholic, unbalanced.


Abad Dom Bueno Mencía 2008Abad Dom Bueno Mencía 2008

DO Bierzo, Spain
$16.95 (291989) 13.5% alcohol

The Skinny – alluring aromas of espresso roast, herbs, spice and dark berry fruit abound on this aged gem. Dense and delicious on the palate, sweet, ripe mulberry and juicy black cherry interweave with black licorice and pipe tobacco. This is full bodied and fully textured red wine with a long aftertaste replaying palate flavours with sweet vanilla and tannins.

More – you’ll enhance your experience by aerating this. Carefully pour the wine into another empty, clean wine bottle using a funnel. Then pour it back into the original bottle, again, carefully with the funnel. If you have a wine decanter, wide-bottomed is best, pour wine and let sit an hour or two before serving. Mencia is indigenous to NW Spain, said to be similar to Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s only recently been promoted and becoming very popular!


Alceño Premium 50 Barricas Syrah 2012Bodega Alceño ‘Premium 50 Barricas’ Syrah 2012

DO Jumilla, Spain $13.95 (398933) 14.5% alcohol

The Skinny – Dark and alluring in the glass and on the nose, aromas of dark berry fruit, earthiness and spice box set the table for a smorgasbord of rich luscious flavour—black berry, cassis and red currant interweaving with vanilla and dark coffee. It’s mid-plus weight with good mouth feel and a long, fruity and well-balanced aftertaste.

More – The Jumilla region escaped the nasty phylloxera bug until the late 1980s when the area was attacked and vines devastated. They ripped out vines and replanted, much of it with the indigenous Monastrell along with international varieties. There’s 15% Monastrell in this wine. With the rebirth of this wine region, it’s a go-to spot for value-laden, good-quality reds. BTW – Barricas means barrels.


Tessellae Côtes du Roussillon Old Vines Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre 2013Tesselai ‘Old Vines’ Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre 2013

AOP Côtes du Roussillon, France
$17.00 (343517) 14.5% alcohol

The Skinny – This Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre red blend leaps from the glass with lifted aromas of black currant, piquant spice and black licorice. It’s mid weight with good texture, balance and charm. Palate-bathing flavours abound with juicy black cherry, bramble berry and earthy/gamy notes to the fore. I STRONGLY recommend to pick up a case of this wine…and start the car!

More –It’s difficult to find inexpensive wine from some regions of France e.g. Bordeaux, Champagne, Burgundy, Châteauneuf-du-Pape. However, southern France is a wonderful lake to cast bait. You’ll find less-expensive wine, some showcasing good value, in Languedoc-Roussillon, Provence and a few regions in the southern Rhone.





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

Posted by Debbie

Friday, August 21st, 2015

Are you off to the LCBO to pick up the latest releases from Vintages this weekend?  Look no further, we have you covered. This is a surreal moment…the person who began my wine soaked journey – Vic Haradine – called me and asked if he could write a blog or two for us! Without hesitation, I said yes…and gave him $100 to spend at Vintages. Well, not the hard cold cash, rather the goal to find wines in this release that would tally to be no more than $100.

Vic knows his wines. He was one of the pillars of the Algonquin Sommelier Program (and my Wine Tasting 101 instructor), he is a wine judge and does countless wine reviews under his banner –

LCBO Vintages Magazine Aug 22Here is Vic’s If I had $100…I would buy these wines at Vintages:

This release is chockfull of quality wine with many at attractive prices. I’m feeling very fortunate to have a great deal of choice in the quest to find high-quality wine with a favourable price-quality ratio.

With $100 in my pocket, I chose four whites and two red wines – one each from Canada, Austria, South Africa, Italy and two from Australia. Warm weather is still with us so numerous opportunities to drink and enjoy white wine. Your barbecue grill and red wine is a match made in heaven. This wide assortment may entice you out of your usual hunting grounds, and that can be good thing.

For those interested in knowing only the wine, the price and how it smells, feels and tastes, it’ll be a lightening quick read. If you’re interested in knowing a bit more about the wine, winery, possibly the grapes involved, it will still be a short read, but should enhance your understanding and hopefully enjoyment of each wine. If you read and consider each one, purchase a couple or more and enjoy them… mission accomplished!



If I had $100, I would buy these wines at LCBO Vintages…
Saturday August 22, 2015


Featherstone 4 Feathers 2014 Riesling BlendFeatherstone Estates ‘Four Feathers’ 2014

VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada
$14.95 (341586) 12.0% alcohol

The Skinny –This off-dry white blend delivers a wash of tropical fruit, lemon-pie filling and grilled pineapple. It’s medium-full bodied with a long, textured, balanced aftertaste. Pick up a few to sip or pour with lighter appetizers or spicy Asian cuisine.

More – Featherstone is family owned and managed, producing carefully crafted, well-made wine from sustainably farmed fruit; the quality-price balance tips in your favour.


Lenz Moser Prestige Gruner VeltlinerLenz Moser ‘Prestige’ Grüner Veltliner 2013

Qualitätswein, Niederösterreich, Austria
$13.95 (71233) 12.5% alcohol

The Skinny – Floral, spice and notions of lemongrass on the nose, this dishes up a lovely mouthful of ripe tropical fruit, yellow peach and plum on the palate and fruit-filled finish. Sip this white wine on its own or serve well chilled with spicy Asian cuisine.

More – This is unique Grüner Veltliner with very little tang and acidity, it’s quite attractive & will find many admirers. Qualitätswein is a step up from a Landwein designation; Niederösterreich is the premium & largest Grüner growing area in Austria.


MAN Vintners Free Run Steen Chenin BlancMAN Vintners ‘Free-Run Steen’ Chenin Blanc 2014

WO Coastal Region, South Africa
$13.95 (126847) 13.5% alcohol

The Skinny – This white has loads of lemon citrus notes with notions of orchard fruit on the nose. It streaks over the palate with a fairly balanced river of ripe pineapple and lemon-lime yoghurt and notes of tangy orange. There’s a snappy, crisp finish. Serve with prawn ceviche or pan-seared fish.

More – Steen was the name of a grape first planted in South Africa in the 1600s from unknown European cuttings. It was eventually identified as being identical to Chenin Blanc from Loire Valley, France. MAN is the acronym from the first names of wives owning this winery—Marie, Anette, Nicky.


Willow Bridge Dragon Fly Sauvignon Blanc SemillonWillow Bridge Estate ‘Dragonfly’ Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2014

Geographe, Western Australia
$16.95 (418368) 12.3% alcohol

The Skinny – Citrus and grassy aromas give way to a crisp wash of racy lemon-lime and white grapefruit joining ripe nectarine and tropical fruit on the palate. It has good mouth feel and oodles of charm. Serve with grilled seafood or steamed mussels.

More – This white blend is signature Australian, although Geographe—two hours south of Perth—is a relatively new wine area, established in 1999. The maritime climate, with a cool afternoon sea breeze, makes it an ideal growing area. Family owned and managed, Willow Bridge Estate has 150 acres under vine.


Castelliani Filicheto Vino Nobile di Montipulciano 2011Castellani Filicheto Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2010

DOCG Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano, Italy
$19.95 (184937) 13.5% alcohol

The Skinny – Involved aromas of savory spice, red and black currant, grilled herbs and pipe tobacco swirl from the glass. This red wine has a rich, luscious stream of dark berry fruit, juicy black cherry and cassis coat the palate, balanced, beautiful. It’s an elegant, value-laden treat.

More –Vineyards surround the town of Montepulciano tracing its history back 12 centuries, the ‘Nobile’ (know-buh-lay) may stem from a Pope’s cellar master’s quote, ‘wine fit for a Nobleman’. The main grape is Prugnello gentile, a variation of Sangiovese.


Turkey Flat Butchers Block Shiraz MourvedreTurkey Flat ‘Butcher’s Block’ Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvèdre 2012

Barossa Valley, South Australia
$19.95 (90241) 14.5% alcohol

The Skinny – Aromas of mocha, cedar and black cherry unleash a structured, balanced and elegant flow of ripe mulberry, mixed spice and mocha. This is deftly balanced red wine showcasing polished tannin, purity of fruit and a lingering, dry, fruity finish.

More – Some of the fruit in here was sourced from 1847, non-irrigated, bush vines. Turkey Flat is family owned and world renowned, still retaining its artisan ways producing only 20,000 cases annually.

Grand Total: $99.70





Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day!

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Deb in vinesThe third Thursday of November – today – is a milestone date in the wine world –wine stores have a special delivery of Beaujolais Nouveau wine.

What is all the fuss about? Beaujolais Nouveau or ‘first wine’ is wine made from grapes that were picked in the most recent harvest.  By the time the bottles arrive at your local LCBO or wine shop, the contents are generally 7 to 9 weeks old. According to history books, over a century ago, casks of brilliant coloured ruby red wine, typically made from Gamay grapes, were shipped from the Beaujolais wine-producing region (near Lyon) to harvest festivals and bistros throughout France.

The popularity of this wine became an international phenomenon to the point that, in 1985 the French Government established that the third Thursday of November is the worldwide release date of Beaujolais Nouveau wines. Today, wine shops around the world stock their shelves to give wine lovers a taste of what this year’s grape harvest will produce with fully aged wines. Every year there is a good showing of Nouveau wines from France, a few from Italy & Canada with some bottles from other parts of the world.  This year there are 9 Nouveau wines that got in the spirit.

What to expect from Beaujolais Nouveau when you pop the cork?

Beaujolais NouveauTypically, Beaujolais is made from Gamay grapes.  This variety creates a light wine that is bright red in colour with cherry and strawberry aromas and tastes.  As Beaujolais Nouveau was picked, bottled and shipped in less than two months, consider drinking this styled wine similar to eating chocolate chip cookie dough. Fresh, easy drinking and best with simpler dishes of pasta, pizza, burgers or lots of cheese rather than a big steak or roast beef.

The general ‘rule of thumb’ is to pop the corks & enjoy the wine before Christmas, as they tend not to improve with age, rather they lose their vibrant characteristics.

With all kinds of powerhouse and velvety wines available, why would anyone want something so grapey? The reason is simple – to celebrate this year’s grape harvest.

 More info about the region, the wines & festivities can be found at



On the shelves at the LCBO

From France…

Art’s Beaujolais Primeur Nouveau
The funky design on the bottle sets the mood for this fun wine.  A light red wine that smells like candy (think Swedish berries). Each sip is loaded with cherry flavours combined with a taste that reminds me of fresh-out-of-the oven strawberry rhubarb pie. Fresh acidity on the finish.  It is an easy drinking wine that would be good with pizza, pasta or burgers.

DeBoeuf Gamay Nouveau
Georges DeBoeuf is a well-known producer of Beaujolais wines and Nouveau Beaujolais.  Uncorking a bottle of DeBoeuf Nouveau wine you’d expect quality. This one is a classic, medium bodied, solid wine full of cherry & strawberry aromas and taste – exactly what you’d expect when you open up a bottle of Nouveau.

Catalans Primeur Syrah Merlot
A French twist – breaking away from tradition & doing something completely different– making Nouveau wines with grapes other than Gamay.  The result of this experiment is a wine that reminds me more of Koolaid than red wine.  Honestly though, this is a characteristic of Beaujolais Nouveau so it is not a bad thing.  Bright ruby colour, fresh juicy cherries & cotton candy.

Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau
Sorry – no review as this wine was not available at the tasting

From Italy…

Negrar Novello Del Veneto
I had to double check that the label stated 2014, because this wine was like no other Nouveau I have ever tried.  I was knocked over with the HUGE aromas and tastes of over ripe red fruit…perhaps that means that Italian wines from Veneto region will be big & bold this year….jury is still out.

Tollo Novello Rosso Terre di Chieti
Ask for the Nouveau wine with the lion on the label & you will be impressed with this Italian wine.  Medium to full body (uncommon for Nouveau wines), jammy over ripe fruit shows through on this one too with some acidity on the finish.  Mama Mia, bring on the pizza for this wine.

From Ontario…

The Fool Reif Estate Gamay Nouveau VQA
No foolin’ around here! Reif has created this Nouveau wine with classic characteristics that you’d expect of a  freshly made wine.  Juicy aromas and tastes of cherry pie filling or is it fresh pomegranate juice with a fruity & acidity combo. The sweetest wine of the bunch, so grab some creamy cheese to calm down the punch of the flavours that will no doubt mellow out as other Reif red wines age in the cellar.  This wine certainly shows promise that 2014 is a good vintage for Ontario wines….red wines worth waiting for.

You’ll find these in LCBO Vintages…

From France…

Beaujolais Villages Nouveau (Joseph Drouhin)
Joseph Drouhin keeps good company with Georges Duboeuf when it comes to making Beaujolais Nouveau wines.  These are definitely the leaders of the pack.  This is a good red wine that surprised me that it was Nouveau.  Cranberry & herbal combination in the aromas that continued into the taste, this wine is worth the highest price tag of the lot.

Beaujolais Villages Nouveau
It was hard to compare this wine with the $9.95 version (see above) as they were equally good red wines.  In my notebook, I have written & circled ALIVE.  Dark in colour with fresh juicy red & black cherries combined with tart cranberries that creates some lively acidity on the finish. A solid red wine.

And which one(s) to choose?

I had the time to taste all of these wines twice and for fun, I exchanged my top 4 wines with another reviewer (and extra ordinary wine teacher – afterall I caught the wine bug from him!) Vic Haradine of  Our list overlapped on just two…showing that there is a Beaujolais Nouveau for everyone.  Click to read Vic’s tasting notes.

Grab a few of these colourful wines and toast to the 2014 harvest & the red wines to come!


Taken by Debbie Trenholm, Savvy Company

Taken by Debbie Trenholm, Savvy Company