Barefoot Cellars Merlot

Date May 20, 2008 | Chuck | Merlot & Red Wine & USA

Here's an economy California merlot that if you lived in California would probably run you about 5 bucks a bottle. The company reminds be a bit of two-buck-chuck and yellow tail. Striving to make a consistent wine year after year (hmmmm...kind of like beer)
Although I wouldn't make this one of my regulars, I could see this being a chilled summer sipper.
Tip: serve chilled
At a Glance
Taste blackberry, boysenberry, sweet plum
Smell boysenberry, plum, anise
Food bbq chicken
Sweetness off dry
Price $9.95
LCBO# 53991

Hope Estate Shiraz 2006

Date May 18, 2008 | Sean | Australia & Red Wine & Shiraz

Picked up this wine on a Friday night after a long and exhausting work week. It was one of several that made it in to the basket somewhere between some inexpensive Sangiovese and some white stuff. Talk about a rose between two thorns.
The moment the cork came out of the bottle I knew something was up, which immediately prompted a call to Chuck telling him to get to the liquor store. This is a very lively and expressive wine, full of fruit and spices with a nice bold middle and easy finish. It had all the hallmarks of Shiraz but with a something a little more interesting that kept me coming back for more. 6 bottles will me making their way in to my collection for sure.
Tip: I'm a very picky Shiraz drinker, loved this one.
At a Glance
Taste wild strawberry, wild raspberry, pepper
Smell black cherry, raspberry, plum
Food mediterranean, bbq
Sweetness extra dry
Price $16.95
LCBO# 59998
Hope Estate Shiraz

Hillebrand Trius Red 2004

Date May 17, 2008 | Chuck | Canada & Red Blend & Red Wine

The wine makers at Hillebrand have combined Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc to create a blend known around the world as a Bordeaux style blend.
The Red has definite oak notes and firm tannins (specifically oak tannins). Although not a fruity wine, the herbaceous notes of the Cabernet Franc still shine through.
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste red berry, spice, oak
Smell black currant, oak, herbaceous
Food bbq steak, grilled red meat
Sweetness extra dry
Price $19.95
LCBO# 303800

Taste Sensation

Date May 16, 2008 | Sean | Editorials & Food Pairing

While Port doesn't usually fall in the sub$20 range, most people (or their parents) seem to have a bottle kicking around. This was passed on to me by a Product Consultant. Take a really good cut of meat, filet mignon perhaps. Get the BBQ screaming hot! Char the hell out of the meat leaving the inside a nice medium-rare. Enjoy with a small glass of port and be prepared for a party in your mouth! (For health and "gross factor" reasons does not suggest eating under cooked meat. Cook red meat to government recommended temperatures...or whatever.)

Forrest Estate Riesling 2007

Date May 16, 2008 | Sean | New Zealand & Riesling & White Wine

I got my hands on this after a press only tasting weeks ahead of it's scheduled release. I was warned that it was an impressive bottle.
While this bottle just barely makes the under $20 cutoff for it is VERY worth it. This was one of the most impressive bottles of white wine I have had in a long time. This wine reminded me of a more mature and dry version of Conundrum (a white blend from California as the name suggests you can't guess whats in it). The pineapple and tropical fruits explode on the tongue followed by a honey and floral finish that is clean and amazingly crisp. Let's just say this bottle didn't last very long. Now I have to break the bank and pick up a few of these guys. Hey, I was warned. Now you have been too.
Tip: Coming soon to a store near you.
At a Glance
Taste pineapple, honey, white flowers
Smell flowers, honey, ginger
Food tapas
Sweetness off dry
Price $18.95
LCBO# 60103
Forrest Estate Riesling

Valpantena Torre Del Falasco Valpolicella Ripasso 2005

Date May 14, 2008 | Chuck | Italy & Red Wine & Valpolicella

Ripasso is known as the 'Baby Amarone'. Allow me to drop a little knowledge here. Amarone in my books is the lobster/caviar/cadillac of wines and with that label, goes a price tag that is not everyday affordable (at least for me). That said, when I buy ripasso, I always feel as if I'm getting a terrific deal.
Ripasso starts as valpolicella, but during fermentation the winemaker adds the unpressed skins from their prior batch of amarone and restarts the fermentation process. The addition of the amarone skins (which are simply dried grape skins) gives the valpolicella a fuller body, more complex aromas, deeper flavours and a little more alcohol.  Presto! your medium bodied valpolicella just became a chewy, full-bodied ripasso.
Tip: LBCO wine of the month (March 2008)
At a Glance
Taste ripe red berry, raisin, leather
Smell casis, rasin
Food filet mignon, gnocchi with gorgonzola sauce
Sweetness dry
Price $17.95
LCBO# 642421

Peller Estates Heritage Series Baco Noir 2006

Date May 12, 2008 | Chuck | Baco Noir & Canada & Red Wine

Here's a sub ten dollar VQA that I was going to mark as being off-dry but then changed it to medium-sweet just because the sugars and tartness kept lingering on in the finish.
If you're a fan of Niagara's baco and have found one you like, buy a few bottles because in my tastings I have yet to find two vintages that even remotely resemble each other. Nevertheless, it keeps you on your toes!
Tip: if you want to drive the 'wine guy or girl' at the party nuts, have them blind taste a baco noir :)
At a Glance
Taste currant, sweet raisin anise
Smell cherry, sweet oak, plum
Food grilled vegetables
Sweetness medium sweet
Price $9.95
LCBO# 582841

Chateau Pesquie Terrasses 2005

Date May 9, 2008 | Sean | France & Red Blend & Red Wine

O.k., this one was a little tricky. I feel like I'm walking on a sharp edge here. Just before being released this wine scored a VERY high mark from a well known wine critic. Sometimes when this happens our expectations for a sub $20 bottle of wine go through the roof.
This bottle of French wine was, well, obviously French. It held the characteristics of French wine from the medium structure tannins to earth notes and that rustic feeling that's hard to describe. However, upon further sipping you'll notice round fruit and implied sweetness breaking through. Then a marriage of tannins, fruit and alcohol suddenly come alive. While we throughly enjoyed this wine, perhaps our hopes were set a little too high?
Tip: In the bottle: Syrah and Grenache
At a Glance
Taste strawberry, plum, cedar
Smell plum, raspberry, vanilla
Food anything bbq
Sweetness extra dry
Price $14.95
LCBO# 652313

Botalcura Reserve El Delirio Syrah Malbec 2005

Date May 7, 2008 | Sean | Chile & Red Blend & Red Wine

This bottle was picked up on a whim while looking for something cheap and cheerful while cruising through the liquor store on Tuesday evening after work. The blend of Syrah and Malbec was immediately interesting as both these grapes have some very specific characteristics. Syrah of course with it's bold and mouth filling spice and Malbec with its tannins and forward fruit. A match made in heaven?
The first sniff of the glass told me I was in for a treat. Right away the earthy Malbec was apparent followed by the raspberry and dark cherry of the Syrah. For the price, this is a very pleasing, mouth filling, lip smacking bottle of wine under $15.00!
Tip: Try it on it's own then with food, it softens so well. Going back to buy a few bottles.
At a Glance
Taste black cherry, raspberry, earth
Smell earth, cherry, plum
Food chicken souvlaki with tzatziki
Sweetness dry
Price $12.95
LCBO# 18630

Stonechurch Riesling VQA 2006

Date May 2, 2008 | Sean | Canada & Riesling & White Wine

Having been at one time a major Ontario wine collector I hate to admit that Ontario Rieslings have been struggling the last few years. During the Toronto Wine & Cheese Show we got to sample this pleasant and refreshing Riesling which was a bit of a surprise.
The first thing I asked the wine maker representative before tasting the wine was "What with the bottle?". She didn't look put off for one moment, she even seemed to anticipate the question. The bottle has a squared off shoulder instead of the usual sleek shape. My immediately fear was someone was pushing crappy wine in a fancy bottle hoping your eyes are doing the buying and not your other senses. That IS NOT the case at all! Thank you for reminding me that Ontario DOES make good Riesling!
Tip: Don't let the sugar code fool you, it is well balanced.
At a Glance
Taste orange blossom, citrus, melon
Smell green apple, honey, peach
Food couscous salad
Sweetness off dry
Price $12.85
LCBO# 65714
Stonechurch Vineyards

Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Date May 1, 2008 | Chuck | Cabernet Sauvignon & Red Wine & USA

Here we have a nice California cab which the LCBO has dubbed as a 'Vintages Essential'. Best of all, this bottle has an affordable price tag.
Overall this wine is a winner. It strikes a nice balance between fruit, acidity and tannins. The wine is quite dry, but works surprisingly well on it's own.
Tip: saying it comes from 'Paso Robles' is catchy
At a Glance
Taste blackberry, dark cherry, spice
Smell ripe red fruit, cherry, vanilla
Food grilled, braised or roasted meats
Sweetness extra dry
Price $16.85
LCBO# 738823

Domaine des Aspes Viognier 2006

Date April 29, 2008 | Sean | France & Viognier & White Wine

It was Domaine des Aspes that first got me hooked on Viognier about 2.5 years ago. Viognier (like Riesling) can be produced in a range of styles from reserved and floral to bold and tropical. This particular version from France is well rounded, balanced sweetness against acid with clear citrus and peach.
I can't encourage you enough to try the variety of grape. I turned to it when I just couldn't drink another Chardonnay or Riesling. With its re-emergence in modern wine making this will be the come back kid for the next few years.
Tip: Enjoy on it's own any day of the year.
At a Glance
Taste honeydew, white peach, green apple
Smell firm melon, pear, white flowers
Food Frittata
Sweetness dry
Price $14.95
LCBO# 712638
Viognier Label

Morgenhof Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2007

Date April 27, 2008 | Sean | Sauvignon Blanc & South Africa & White Wine blind tasted this wine and admittedly, it gave us a little trouble. We poked around Chardonnay, Viognier but couldn't nail it at first. Once the wine had warmed up a few degrees it was instantly clear that it was Sauvignon Blanc. Just another reminder to take your whites out of the fridge a few minutes before drinking to get the full effect.
This was a really well balanced Sauvignon from South Africa. Would have liked to tasted a little bit more of an edge like some others, but overall, great smells and flavors.
Tip: pull it out of the fridge 15 minutes before serving
At a Glance
Taste grapefruit, orange, grass
Smell grass, gooseberry, citrus
Food tapas
Sweetness dry
Price $12.95
LCBO# 18507
Mogenhof Bottle

Lindemans Bin 40 Merlot 2006

Date April 24, 2008 | Chuck | Australia & Merlot & Red Wine

Bursting with ripe plum and dark berry flavours, this off dry Australian merlot can be sipped on it's own or paired with food. Noticeably, this wine is designed to be very palatable from the first pour to the last, it does not open up or oxidize as you make your way through the bottle.
For those taking note, get your pen out, as you could call this wine flabby.  To be balanced, it would need more tannin and acidity.
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste grape, plum, vanilla
Smell plum, vanilla, menthol
Food roast beef
Sweetness off dry
Price $12.35
LCBO# 458679

Vina Carmen Chardonnay 2006

Date April 20, 2008 | Sean | Chardonnay & Chile & White Wine

While many Chardonnays can be really overpowered by oak in the form of vanilla and butter this wine is well balanced and crisp. The finish has a great mild acidity that leaves behind a slight citrus note.
This certainly isn't a fruit salad, but you will notice the apples and pears. A very easy drinking Chardonnay, and for the price a good deal. Very refreshing.
Tip: chill well
At a Glance
Taste green apple, pear, tropical fruit
Smell pear, honeysuckle
Food baked chicken with mushroom sauce
Price $9.90
Carmen Chardonnay

Hillebrand Trius Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

Date April 17, 2008 | Chuck | Cabernet Sauvignon & Canada & Red Wine

The Trius cabernet sauvignon is a delicious medium-full bodied, slightly off-dry red that is a great value. Many times we think to ourselves when trying a slightly less expensive wine: "for a couple extra dollars I could have gotten something much better". This is one of those better wines for an extra tooney.
Winemaker's Notes: "Traditional skin contact, subtle French oak integration and full malolactic fermentation produced a wine with a fruit-forward style."


What all means is that the wine is well balanced. You won't find it too oaky, too tannic or too dry.
Tip: the elegant bottle design makes it a great hostess gift
At a Glance
Taste dried fruit, dark red fruit, spice
Smell blackberry, oak
Food roast beef, aged cheddar
Sweetness off dry
Price $14.95
LCBO# 587956

Spinelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo

Date April 15, 2008 | Sean | Italy & Montepulciano & Red Wine

VALUE!!! Now that I got that out of my system, lets begin. The night we tasted this wine the menu was hamburgers, chicken pot pie, and a salad that had red cabbage, onion, mango, kiwi and parmesan cheese in it (don't knock it till you try it, it was amazing). If you asked a somellier what to pair with that manic menu they would probably over heat and suggest beer.It's been hit and miss for me with lower priced Italian wines, but I think we might have found a new house favorite. Very pleasant red wine, non-offensive with nice soft fruit that left you wanting another sip.
Tip: Serve this to someone and ask them to guess the price.
At a Glance
Taste plum, fruity, earth
Smell ripe cherry, stone fruit, herb
Food beef stroganoff
Sweetness dry
Price $6.95
LCBO# 454629

Red Guitar Old Vine Tempranillo Garnacha

Date April 12, 2008 | Sean | Red Blend & Red Wine & Spain

Take note of this wine from Spain, unlike other wines with cutesy names and uniform taste this wine is playing a different tune. Spanish wines are often very dry, dense and sharp. Spain has been making wine for a long time, but like Chile and South Africa its profile is on the rise.
I believe the wine maker set out to produce something different that would be welcome by most palats. And he succeeded. With lots of dark fruit flavors, berries and soft tannins this is an easy drinking wine on any occasion. As a bonus you can discover two grapes you may not have had yet.
Tip: Garnacha is Spanish for Grenache.
At a Glance
Taste currant, raspberry, plum
Smell spice, berries
Food braised beef, mushrooms
Sweetness off dry
Price $12.65
LCBO# 54007
Red Guitar

Hillebrand Trius Unoaked Chardonnay 2006

Date April 10, 2008 | Chuck | Canada & Chardonnay & White Wine

Having been aged in stainless steel tanks rather than oak barrels gives this chard a crisp, clean, citrus edge that you won't find in the oaked version
So what's the hype about 'un-oaked' chardonnay? Well the difference is only in where the wine aged, but the result is leaps and bounds, especially in North America. Chardonnay (especially in North America) has a bad reputation for being over oaked, producing a strong vanilla flavour and a heavy mouth-feel. This style is obviously to many people's likings but to others it's just overkill. Choosing stainless steel vats over oak barrels for chardonnay could trick you into thinking your enjoying a crisp Riesling if your not careful :)
Tip: balloon glass
At a Glance
Taste citrus, apricot
Smell apple, melon
Food tilapia
Sweetness off dry
Price $13.95

Hernder Estates Fumé Blanc 2006

Date April 9, 2008 | Chuck | Canada & Sauvignon Blanc & White Wine

Little did I know that fumé Blanc is an accepted synonym for Sauvignon Blanc. This vintage could have fooled me because it tastes and smells nothing like a typical blanc, which may be good or bad depending on where your tastes lie.
For those who don't (or can't) drink red and need a toasty, smoky white to pair with a big dish, you could give this a try.
Tip: try this if you are a big fan of oaky whites
At a Glance
Taste melon, chalk
Smell smoky, lemon
Food grilled shrimp
Sweetness off dry
Price $13.95

2008 Toronto Wine & Cheese Show

Date April 7, 2008 | Sean | Editorials & Events had full access passes to the Toronto Wine & Cheese Show held at the International Centre in Toronto April 4 - 6, 2008. This article takes you inside the show and offers some tips to make your visit more fun. In the coming weeks additional articles will be published stemming from the people we met and things we learned. Be sure to check out the photo blog at the end of the story.  Lets begin by saying that on Saturday the show was a complete success, maybe too much of a success actually. When we arrived the line-up was out the door and around the building.



As we checked in and picked up our passes we were told that the show had been "locked down" due to over attendance. That certainly spoke to the popularity of this annual event. As you enter the show you're given a standard tasting glass to carry around and a bag with brochures and show information. We ditched the bag of brochures in favour of out tasting sheets and binders. If you do the same don't make the mistake we made, get the show guide out of the bag then ditch it. The map comes in handy. Once inside the show you'll need to get your hands on some tasting tickets. The tickets are $1 a piece plus tax. To get a taste of the wines being displayed you'll need between 1 and 50 tickets. Most of the wines are between 1 - 3 tickets, so $1 - $3 per sample. The 50 ticket wine was a thousand dollar bottle of Bordeaux offered by the LCBO, that wasn't on our agenda today. Chuck mused that when you're dealing with tickets you disassociate them with money and readily "spend" them without thinking. Set a budget and stick with it.



Tip: Some booths have a bit more of a party atmosphere, you'll get a lot more mileage out of your tasting tickets if you know what I mean...


We doubt you open 500 bottles of wine at home on a Saturday afternoon (if you do, kindly email us your address. See you next Saturday). Hence the benefit of going to an event like this, the wines are from all over the world and at a range of prices, generally under $20.00. Once you start tasting it can be hard to stop, it's like being a kid in a candy store. The show wasn't setup for spitting so keep in mind that 12 samples is about the same as 5 glasses of wine. sampled over 40 wines at the event, pouring out much of the sample even though we used public transit.


Tip: If you do wish to spit, get two tasting glasses on the way in and use one as a receptacle. (Do yourself a favour and don't confuse the glasses, gross.)


If you're feeling a little hungry there is no shortage of food to be had at the show. Of course as the name of the show suggests lots of cheese was on hand and even at some of the tasting booths. The food booths are grouped together and feature pastas, sausages, chocolate, fruit, hors devours - the usual wine pairing suspects. Food can be purchased using the same tasting tickets used for the wine, and the prices were generally inexpensive. The atmosphere was fun and relaxed with lots to taste, see and smell. Overall it was a good event which we will return to next year. We do recommend pre-purchasing admission tickets online so you don't end up out in the cold, literally.


More photos from the show can be found at by clicking here


Special thanks to the following exhibitors who went above and beyond to provide information to

Bill and Jillian from Select Wine Merchants and Concha Ye Toro

Suzanne from Stonechurch Vineyards

New York Wine & Grape Foundation

Churchill Cellars

Oak Heights Estate Winery


For more information about the show visit



Sunday Burger and Wine

Date April 6, 2008 | Sean | Editorials & Food Pairing

Finally some spring like weather is upon us, with a high of 13.3 Celsius and sunny it was time to fire up the BBQ. Grilled some hamburgers and topped them with roasted garlic goat cheese, sautéed onions and mushrooms accompanied by Laura Hartwig Reserve Merlot 2001. It was a fantastic combo, the salt from the cheese softened the tannins of the wine. The earthy notes complimented the mushrooms giving a rich feel to what would otherwise be a rather ordinary meal. Fire up those BBQ’s and break out some wine. Let us know what wines you like to match with your favorite burger! Weather information provided by

Wolf Blass Eagle Hawk Shiraz 2006

Date April 5, 2008 | Chuck | Australia & Red Wine & Shiraz

Wolf Blass' Eagle Hawk shiraz is well crafted and simply put, an excellent value at under $13
This well balanced shiraz is definitely a crowd pleaser. I found it off-dry, fruit forward with a subtle spicy note on the finish along with medium tannins.
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste ripe plum, red berries, spice
Smell black cherry, caramel, pepper
Food grilled red meat
Sweetness off dry
Price $12.85
LCBO# 589564

Memoria Primitivo di Manduria 2004

Date April 2, 2008 | Chuck | Italy & Primitivo & Red Wine

Via DNA fingerprinting, it has been determined that Primitivo is essentially the same grape as California's Zinfandel, this vintage proves that grape type does not always result in a cookie cutter style.
Although quite palatable, it took me a few sips to lock down the aroma, but once I did, I found it a bit tough to get past it. My intention was to get California Zinfandel for a bargain basement price, but in this case I'll have to keep looking. If you looking for a very earthy, mushroomy, wet hay type of wine, you've just found it.
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste wet hay, plum, green
Smell barnyard, earthy
Food old cheese
Sweetness dry
Price $12.95
LCBO# 687210

Demystifying Vintages - Part II | Special Feature

Date March 30, 2008 | Sean | Editorials & Special Features

In Demystifying Vintages Part I we introduced you to the Vintages concept and what to find there. In Part II we look at the people who work at Vintages and some tips to make your visit quick and painless. It's ok to walk in to Vintages without any forethought. You could browse around for hours, get lost in the countries and fancy labels. In case you have a job, kids, friends or other silly things taking up your time there is some free help to speed this up. In almost every store with a sizable Vintages section comes your own personal guide, a wine Sherpa. They actually prefer to be called Product Consultants (I like Sherpa better. Them, not so much) The Product Consultant is a little different from the other LCBO employees roaming the aisles or working the cash. They have received additional training and have the opportunity to sample hundreds of wines every month. In some stores they have access to the wine makers and wine critics. Also, Product Consultants must complete a certification similar to the one from the International Sommelier Guild (which is the same certification I have; seriously I got it framed and everything. Friends call it my license to drink, and it comes with tights and a cape). If you live in Ontario you are probably familiar with the Food & Drink magazine. If not, here's the low down. Food & Drink is a free magazine produced by the LCBO 5 times a year (1 per season plus a huge Holiday edition). It has loads of recipes and pairings with wine, beer and spirits. It has countless entertaining tips and covers a wide range of food and drink related topics. It's several hundred glossy pages of perfectly photographed, exquisitely laid out, air brushed porn for foodies and drinkers. (Darlene H, a friend of who did a three year jaunt in Europe enjoys it so much she had it air-mailed across the pond. Devotion!) All that being said, there is another magazine you need to concern yourself with. It's called Vintages (little on the nose, don't ya think). Vintages is published twice per month in connection with the bi-weekly product releases. This is a catalogue of what will be coming to a store near you in the next two weeks. You need to get your hands on one of these books before the release and browse through it. Look for keywords in the descriptions that you are familiar with like "cherry", "blackberry", "crisp". Off to Vintages! Wait, hold on. Warning: You will be asked by the Product Consultant "What food will you be serving with this wine?" The Product Consultants are trained to approach your dilemma from a food perspective. That way they can help you find something that will compliment your meal, is in your price range and you'll hopefully buy again. So, to help them, help you, be honest. Whether it's macaroni and cheese with hot dogs or a standing rib roast let them know. You know what you're going to eat, you've circled some things that interested you in Vintages or printed off some reviews (we prefer you do the second one, I'm just sayin) and are ready to work with the Product Consultant. Chances are you will come home with something you're impressed with and didn't break the bank. In the third and final installment of this feature we look at some highlights of Vintages including The Wine of the Month, In Store Discoveries, and Essentials.

Yellow Tail Chardonnay 2006

Date March 28, 2008 | Chuck | Australia & Chardonnay & White Wine

This is my second yellow tail review and I've noticed something similar, these wines don't follow the typical varietal characteristics at all. Both the merlot and this chardonnay tasted too sweet and over manipulated.
It's not a big surprise to me, they say it on the label 'the nose leaps from the glass and displays a peachy, vanilla and coconut aroma'. The first two are fine, I can deal with them. But the coconut triggers something in me that says "don't drink suntan lotion"
Tip: balloon glass
At a Glance
Taste coconut, apple, vanilla
Smell coconut, butterscotch
Food seafood
Sweetness off dry
Price $11.20
LCBO# 627802

Château des Charmes Gamay Noir 2006

Date March 25, 2008 | Chuck | Canada & Gamay Noir & Red Wine

I'm betting the extra 5 dollars to get out of Chateau des Charmes' entry level gamay would have paid off.
Gamay is a light red to begin with, but I would have liked to taste some more prominent flavors in this vintage.
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste cherry, raspberry
Smell raspberry, cherry, berries
Food grilled chicken
Sweetness dry
Price $12.45
LCBO# 57349

Domaine des Salices Viognier 2006

Date March 23, 2008 | Sean | France & Viognier & White Wine

Sometimes you just don't want another Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. You crave for something familiar but different enough that you'll reawaken your taste buds and remember that there is something other than red wine. With Spring at our door step its important to bring back the white. Soon it will be hot and steamy and nothing hits the spot on a sunny afternoon better than a well chilled white.
Viognier is making a slow comeback. People are discovering a bold and complex white that is crisp and clean. Viognier can range from tropical fruit to very floral and dry. This particular bottle is full of floral and citrus notes and very dry, but very approachable.
Tip: March 15 Vintages Release
At a Glance
Taste citrus, white flowers, clove
Smell orange blossom, citrus, green apple
Food salmon with light cream sauce
Sweetness dry
Price $13.95
LCBO# 487272
Salices Viognier

Goats do Roam 2006

Date March 22, 2008 | Chuck | Red Blend & Red Wine & South Africa

Before trying this wine, I've never seen a blend composed of so many different grapes before. The LCBO calls it a 'very popular blend-o-rama' and Fairview has made it work.
This vintage is a blend of primarily Shiraz (50%) and Pinotage (20%) with Cinsaut (10%), Mourvèdre (10%), Grenache (5%) and Carignan (5%)
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste red plum, pepper
Smell medium red fruit, light spice, oak
Food burgers
Sweetness dry
Price $13.85
LCBO# 718940

The Basics of Organic Wine

Date March 21, 2008 | Chuck | Editorials & Wine Basics

From reading industry magazines and trolling the wine shelves, one will notice a few bottles with a new designation, "Organic Wine" or "Made from Organic Grapes". What does this really mean? Is the wine better for it? Is 'regular' wine unhealthy? Read on... There aren't any global standards for making organic wine. Sometimes not even country-wide standards. Therefore it's usually the growers who take it upon themselves to adhere to a standard set of rules created by a local independent regulatory body to certify their grapes and practices as organic.


Question: What are the main steps a winemaker would follow to certify his or her wine as organic? Answer(s):
  • Do not use synthetic pesticides, fertilizers or herbicides.
  • Limit or eliminate the use of copper sulphite and prefer a canopy rig to promote airflow over and between vines.
  • Limit or eliminate the use of sulphur dioxide to prevent oxidation.
  • Plant grass in the vine rows to battle weeds and prevent earth erosion.
  • Use natural products to clean all equipment.
  • Use wild or ambient yeast.
  • Keep filtration to a minimum, or not do it at all.
  • Keep your vineyard organic for 3 years before labeling wine as organic.


Question: Is the wine better for it? Answer(s): It's truly hard to tell since many old-world wineries have been growing organic for many years but don't go through all the extra trouble (and red tape) of having their wines reviewed and certified.


Question: Is ‘regular' wine unhealthy compared to organic wine? Answer(s): Absolutely not. Wine (of all kinds) has been touted for years as having health benefits. In terms of pesticide use, the agents used are regulated by health authorities and have no discernable affect to humans. Some people are more sensitive to chemicals than others and should take precautions as necessary, but that's nothing specific to wine.


Question: If the differences in taste are negligible, why should I choose organic wine? Answer(s): The main reason to buy organic wine (or anything organic for that matter) is that it's more environmentally responsible.


Question: How much of the world's wine today is certified as organic? Answer(s): 1% or less, but as the market demand grows (which it is) we will soon start seeing more and more wines going through certification.


Question: Does organic wine still have sulphites? I think that's what gives me headaches. Answer(s): Some people do believe that wine (specifically red wine) gives them headaches due to the sulphite levels, and I don't debate that fact one bit. All wines contain sulphites as it's a naturally occurring substance while in fermentation. Organic wines do however contain LESS sulphites (not none completely) and therefore may not trigger a headache in some.

Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2005

Date March 20, 2008 | Sean | Cabernet Sauvignon & Chile & Red Wine

A favorite for sure. We first found this wine a couple of years ago in a Vintages release and it was love at first drop. We have been recommending it and buying it ever since. I got to meet the wine maker back in November. I might have made an "I'm an obsessed scary stalker fan" first impression. More on that another time. Now to the wine...
This is a big bold gutsy wine and it's proud of it. Deep aromas and flavors of blackberry, chocolate, cherry. Just enough alcohol to warm the mouth and throat without being offensive. Get your butcher to cut you a perfect piece of moo and fire up the BBQ. Perez Cruz is coming to dinner.
At a Glance
Taste currants, chocolate, ripe berry
Smell toasted oak, ripe berry, cherry
Food bbq steak, pasta with meat sauce
Sweetness dry
Price $14.85
LCBO# 694208]
Perez Cruz Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva Bottle

Henry of Pelham Baco Noir 2005

Date March 19, 2008 | Chuck | Baco Noir & Canada & Red Wine

Baco Noir is something every wine explorer should try. This intensely dark purple red isn't comparable to anything else, especially when it's characteristics did not line up at all with the last baco noir I reviewed from Pelee Island, therefore, if you find a winery who makes baco to your tastes, buy a few bottles.
This particular baco is medium bodied, acidic, lightly oaked and off-dry.
Tip: tulip glass after 2 years of bottle aging
At a Glance
Taste sour cherry, plum
Smell plum, smokey, sweet
Food cheddar cheese
Sweetness off dry
Price $13.65
LCBO# 270926

Rosenblum Zinfandel 2005

Date March 17, 2008 | Chuck | Red Wine & USA & Zinfandel

If your eyes are bugging you, see an ophthalmologist. If your tooth hurts, see a dentist. If you want a good benchmark zinfandel, try Rosenblum.
I think of zinfandel as the middle ground between cabernet sauvignon and shiraz with a zesty punch. Zinfandel is a terrific varietal, if only more people would be open to it, without a doubt it could (and should) be a staple in everyone's home. Don't forget that zin was the merlot of the 80's, times and palates change and like fashion, it all happens in cycles.
Tip: tulip glass
At a Glance
Taste strawberry, raspberry, menthol
Smell strawberry, raspberry, vanilla
Food mediterranean, bbq
Sweetness dry
Price $17.80
LCBO# 284653

Mount Riley Chardonnay 2005

Date March 15, 2008 | Chuck | Chardonnay & New Zealand & White Wine

My second chardonnay review from Marlborough, New Zealand ( first was Oyster Bay ) and already I've found a common bond, a high price tag.
This wine was quite nice and had nothing at all wrong with it, but it certainly lost points in the value area. Chardonnay is not a tough wine to make and there is plenty of it, and the majority under $18.90. You have to dress to impress to charge that much in this category.
Tip: balloon glass
At a Glance
Taste pineapple, passion fruit
Smell melon, vanilla, butterscotch
Food chicken with mushroom sauce
Sweetness off dry
Price $18.90
LCBO# 32318

Peller Estates Heritage Series Cabernet Franc 2005

Date March 13, 2008 | Chuck | Cabernet Franc & Canada & Red Wine

The noble cab franc is not always a great match for the beginning connoisseur’s palate. This wine like many others has it extremes and unfortunately this wasn’t on the end on the extreme one thrives to be on.
Most aromas and flavours weren’t very pronounced (possibly due to over blending and importing juice). All in all, it’s a fairly inexpensive dry red, however I do like my francs a little more fruit forward.
At a Glance
Taste smokey red and blackberry
Smell currant, spice
Food roast beef
Sweetness dry
Price $11.50

Black Anvil Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

Date March 12, 2008 | Sean | Cabernet Sauvignon & Red Wine & USA

This cab was sitting on the bottom shelf at the liquor store and I decided to give it a home. This wine certainly tries hard, but misses the mark. Not so much because of the wine its self, but the value. For about 2 bucks more there is some fierce competition this wine has to contend with.
The wine is a average attempt at Cabernet Sauvignon. Nothing was particularly interesting about it and nothing really wrong. When first opened it was tough to get through an alcohol smell to find the unripe cherries and plum scents. Hardly any detection of tannins, which could be good for people who don't like making that funny face like when standing to close to "buy a frigin bar of soap" guy on the subway.
Tip: Major improvements after being open 45 minutes.
At a Glance
Taste raspberry, cherry juice
Smell dark fruit, unripe cherry, plum
Food roasted vegetables
Sweetness off dry
Price $12.45
LCBO# 45575
Black Anvil Cabernet Sauvignon Bottle

Cline Syrah 2007

Date March 10, 2008 | Chuck | Red Wine & Shiraz & USA

Coming from Sonoma, California this Syrah is an excellent value wine. The blueberry/blackberry is very forward but not overpowering of the spicy/peppery finish. The only critique I have with it is the slightly bitter finish which lessens as the wine breathes.
By the way, incase you were wondering: Shiraz, Syrah, potatoe, potato. But if you every find yourself in Australia or South Africa, say Shiraz. Otherwise, Syrah.
Tip: balloon glass
At a Glance
Taste blueberry, plum, leather
Smell blueberry, pepper
Food grilled meat
Sweetness dry
Price $12.85
LCBO# 733758

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