The Imbiber's Report

Our Bi-Weekly Newsletter with Product Reviews and Much More!


November 22, 2014


winter-weather-new-york-pictures-2014111-015Imbiber’s Report subscribers know that we have a thing for the weather and for significant metrological events. As you know, our friends in western New York experienced one of the most memorable snow storms of the past century. We hope that everyone is OK by mid next week and that the ensuing rain doesn’t cause too much harm. A great sense of humour really helps in these situations and one of our favourite jokes this week was accompanied by a photo of cars completely buried in snow. The caption: “Buffalo - come for the wings and stay because you can’t find your car”.

And so it goes…

Sue-Ann Staff’s new sparkling wine is up first. It’s only available in a few stores, but we wanted to include it here so we could include a link on how to get to the winery (which is now open all year round). They LOVE visitors, especially Sue-Ann's dog Brix…

Three very different Chardonnays from around the globe take us to New Zealand, Australia and California. They are all fantastic in their own right and well worth exploring. Chardonnay is a great wine to have on hand during the holiday season because it matches most comestibles and is particularly well suited for those special things we tend to serve like shrimp. A favourite red from d’Arenberg returns as well.

We have the latest LCBO promotions, news about our recent radio appearances and a terrific recipe from Wente that is perfect for all of our Chardonnays.

Feeling some love for a glass of Chardonnay? Grab some Morning Fog Chardonnay and read along…   


VINTAGES RELEASE, November 8, 2014

Sparkling and Icy no backgroundSue-Ann Staff Sparkling and Icy 2011
VQA Niagara Peninsula
390344 $34.95
12 (6 pack) cases available in Regional Stores

This delightful sparkling wine is made from 100% Riesling and is topped up with a dosage of Icewine which adds complexity and a touch of lemony sweetness.  There are aromatic notes of pronounced citrus, mango, apricot, ripe apples and saltine crackers with zippy acidity, balanced semi-sweetness and an elegant palate that all marry together. Perfect with smoked fish paté, spicy nuts or all by itself. Open a bottle for tree trimming.

If you can’t find Sparkling and Icy at the LCBO, it’s also available at the winery, which is now open daily!  Here’s how to get there






Waimea ChardonnayWaimea Chardonnay 2012
Nelson, New Zealand
650242 $21.95
168 245 (12 pack) cases available

Gold International Wine Challenge

5 Stars – Wine Orbit

89 Points – John Szabo MS,
“A mid-weight, zesty-fruity Chardonnay with minimal oak and plenty of citrus and stone fruit flavours. A touch of CO2 lightens up the palate. Well-balanced and a pleasure to drink”.

This has a soft and rich nose with concentrated aromas of ripe citrus fruits, savoury yellow stone fruits and subtle layers of creamy, buttery barrel-ferment elements intermixed with toast and flinty complexities. Full-bodied, with a concentrated core of ripe citrus and stone fruit flavours, the palate has richness and gentle waves of flavour that unfold, revealing toast, nuts and flint. The mouth-feel is smooth and lush, balanced by fine lacy acidity.

The same conditions that help to build some of New Zealand’s best Sauvignon Blancs in Nelson are perfect for growing cool climate Chardonnay. Waimea’s soil, full of river bed minerals, also contributes to creating exciting Chardonnay here and the wines have an unmistakable mineral thread that runs through them.



Chapel-Hill-Chardonnay 2012Chapel Hill Chardonnay 2012
McLaren Vale, Australia
34397 $19.95
512 (6 pack) cases available

89 Points –, David Lawrason
“For a $20 chardonnay this captures good structure and complexity. It's a leaner cool climate, nutty, toasty style - no fruit bomb. I like the balance, good acidity, not too much alcohol and a dusty feel”.

There are a couple of interesting things that you should know about the 2012 edition of Chapel Hill Chardonnay. All of this year’s fruit comes exclusively from their Kangarilla Vineyard located at the edge of McLaren Vale in the foothills of Mt. Lofty.  Here, cooler temperatures and gully winds help to achieve optimum flavour concentration and lower sugar levels. And, after 20 years of carefully crafting Unwooded Chardonnay, the wine making team has decided to add a soupçon of oak to the wine. The grapes were whole-cluster pressed and that free run juice was left to settle. After fermentation was established, a portion of it was transferred to 3, 4 and 5 year old French oak hogshead barrels to continue fermenting for 8 months. The final blend contains 17% oaked Chardonnay with the remainder finished in stainless steel. This technique adds a hint of spice and toast but still helps to maintain Chapel Hill’s signature citrus characteristics and stone fruit purity.

This ain’t yer average Aussie Chardonnay… Chapel Hill’s 2012 Chardonnay is bright, tangy and refreshing with juicy white peach, melon and citrus flavours. It’s a light to mid weight wine with exceptional flavour intensity. All in all, it is a lot of fun to drink. Try it with things that come from the sea, especially crab or scallops. It would also work well with a wide variety of appetizers including pan-Asian flavours and little bites that have a little heat.



Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay NVWente Riva Ranch Chardonnay 2012
Arroyo Seco, Monterey, California
979344 $21.95
280 (12 pack) cases available

41/2 Stars –, Vic Harradine
“This is a classic California Chard from a treasured viticulture area and an iconic producer—it’s balanced and structured showcasing complexity, structure and balance. Aromas of peach, pear and mango are harbingers of a rich, luscious stream of ripe nectarine, apple and pear bathing the palate robed in notions of hazelnut and toasty bits, framed with good acidity. Good value here. Give this a go with roast bird or steamed lobster”.

(See On Food and Wine below for a recipe from Wente specially developed with Chardonnay in mind).

Wente is America’s oldest, continuously operating family-owned winery. Wente’s original Chardonnay clone is planted across California and to a great extent is responsible for the grape’s popularity in the state. Wente crafts a number of top quality Chardonnay and Riva Ranch holds a special place in the portfolio. Riva Ranch was planted by Karl L. Wente who pioneered winegrowing in Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco in 1962 and who is grandson of the winery’s founder, and grandfather of present winemaker Karl D. Wente.

From Wente’s website:
“Arroyo Seco is widely regarded as one of the best places in California to grow Chardonnay. Riva Ranch is the name of the Wente family’s vineyard in Arroyo Seco, where we have been growing Chardonnay since the 1960’s. Wente Vineyards was the first California winery to produce a wine labelled as Chardonnay in 1936. Today, many of the great Chardonnay vineyards in California are planted with the Wente Clone. Riva Ranch is presently planted to three Dijon clones and two Wente clones: clone 2A which had been originally selected for its intense varietal character and low yield, and clone 4, a second generation Wente clone. The cool growing season and the deep gravelly soil ripen the Chardonnay perfectly, creating a natural balance of sugar and acidity”.

If you would like to learn more about Arroyo Seco click here:


The High Trellis Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
McLaren Vale, Australia
943456 $19.95
448 (12 pack) cases available

90 Points –, James Halliday
“Planted in the late 19th century and was the first to have a trellis above knee height. The standard modus operandi of d'Arenberg works well here, with soft tannins and integrated oak woven through the fresh cassis fruit flavours of the light-bodied palate”.

This user-friendly Cab makes a return to Vintages. High Trellis is part of d’Arenberg’s Original Range, along with the likes of the Dry Dam Riesling and The Custodian Grenache. It delivers super value for under $20 and is an excellent choice to have on hand to enjoy by itself or with a wide variety of wintery foods.





Marques de Riscal Rueda Screw cap no vintage88+ Points -
Marqués de Riscal 2013
Rueda DO, Spain
036822 $12.95
“100% Verdejo. Medium-high aromatics showing lovely floral, herbal nose, with a backdrop of earth, and hints of guava and banana. Very complex nose. Palate is medium+ bodied with herbal, white grapefruit, passion fruit and hints of tropical fruit. Fresh acids are nicely balanced, while the dry finish is very good. Excellent value! Get the 2013 while it's still available”.




Marques-Riscal-Red90 Points -
Marqués de Riscal Reserva 2008
DOC Rioja, Spain
32656 $24.65
“Mostly Tempranillo with 7% Graciano and 3% Mazuelo (Carignan). Plum and old, wet wood aromas. Medium+ intensity aromas featuring dried fruit, cedar, blackberry, plums and hints of underbrush. It's medium-bodied with an earthy core surrounded by notions of black cherry, blackberry, dried fruits, and herbally notes. Acids are still very fresh. Tannins are slightly dusty, but otherwise very smooth. Excellent length on the cherry-earthy finish. Recommended buy”.













JazzFM.91 Notes with Brad Barker

Chris and Mark joined Brad at JazzFM.91 on the 19th of November. One white and three big reds were the order of the day: Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc, Calittera Tributo Carmenere, Kunde Zinfandel and Chapel Hill Shiraz. Brad snacked on crusty bread and Bolognese with the reds and really hit it home with his in-depth analysis. You can listen to the podcast here. Follow the link on JazzFM to a fantastic Bolognese recipe.









Chris and Mark were on the air with Humble and Fred!

It was Naughtycowforbreakfast on November 12th with Humble and Fred when Chris and Mark dropped by with some Chocolate Milk for Grownups. Before they got to dessert, the boyz sampled Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Heredad (in the very fancy bottle) and Chapel Hill Shiraz (which Howard hogged for himself). They tucked into some olive oil and Dukkah and much fun was had by all.  Listen to the podcast here. You’ll find us around the 53:00 minute mark.


NOTE: Broadcast contains mature language.

You can listen to Humble & Fred on SiriusXM on Canada Laughs, Channel 168 from 7:00 to 9:00 am and 10:00 am to noon every weekday as well as rebroadcasts on Newstalk 1010 at midnight.




Jazz fm



Sound of Jazz Concert Series 2014

Churchill Cellars is once again sponsoring the JAZZ.FM91 Sound of Jazz Concert Series, now in its 39th year.  The next concert is November 24.  Please drop by, say hello, and try one of our featured wine selections: Casal Thaulero Pinot Grigio and Sangiovese, Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay and Gran Feudo Reserva.

The Sound of Jazz is the first concert series to be announced as part of JAZZ.FM91’s On Stage Season.

This year’s remaining performances are:

Monday, November 24th, 2014
On this special evening in the Sound of Jazz Concert Series, Juno Award-winning jazz saxophonist, P.J. Perry will share the stage with some of the most talented up and coming musicians today, the JAZZ.FM91 Youth Big Band!

Featuring Ernesto Cervini & Chris Donnelly
Monday, December 8th, 2014
In this special holiday edition to the JAZZ.FM91 Sound of Jazz Concert Series, drummer extraordinaire Ernesto Cervini and Juno-nominated pianist Chris Donnelly team together to present Christmas, All Jazzed Up. With a full jazz band, featuring everyone’s favourite holiday melodies, this energy filled performance is an evening for the whole family.

To purchase concert tickets, visit CLICK HERE or call 416-595-0404.

Ticket Prices:
$39 per Ticket
Special discounts are available for students & JAZZ.FM91 Members

The Old Mill Toronto
21 Old Mill Road
Toronto, Ontario
M8X 1G5
Local - 416-236-2641
Toll Free – 1-866-653-6455

Please note that all Sound of Jazz Concert Series tickets are general admission. Seating is on a first come, first seated basis. JAZZ.FM91 will not be responsible for, or process refunds for poor sightlines and seating obstructions.
Doors open at 5:30 pm with all concerts beginning at 8:00 pm.
General admission tickets do not include dinner.  If you would like to make a dinner reservation at the Old Mill Inn, please call 416-236-2641.





The following promotions are available from now until November 29, 2014 at the LCBO:

Save $0.25 on Dos Locos Lime Tequila Margarita (370668)

Save $1.00 on Caramel Vodka Mudshakes (319467)

Earn 4 Bonus Air Miles on Château de Gourgazaud Minervois AC (22384)







One of our favourite things to serve at dinner parties where you really want to show off an exceptional bottle of wine is ravioli. The combos usually include a few different flavours and you can tailor the sauce and filling to really match the wine. This is an excellent example of how it works.

Note: substitute Chinese Five Spice blend if you don’t have access to these spices. In a pinch you can use mixed spice or pumpkin spice.

Goat Cheese Pumpkin Farce

1lb Cooked pumpkin (passed through chinois)
1/2lb Goat Cheese
1/4lb Mascarpone
1tsp Salt
1tsp Spice Mix

1g Bay leaf (ground)
3  Whole nutmeg (grated on microplane)
4g Allspice (ground)
4g Fennel seed (ground)
8g Fenugreek (ground)
10pc Clove (ground)
1g Star anise (ground)


1. Clean the skins of the pumpkin and cut into large chunks.

2. Roast pumpkin with a little bit of olive oil on a sheet tray at 350 degrees until tender and golden brown

3. Blend in a food process until smooth and pass through a fine mesh screen

4. Mix all ingredients in a stand mixer with paddle attachment until smooth and fluffy. Place mixture in pastry bags

5. Roll out thin sheets of your favourite pasta recipe and make ravioli

6. After cooking the ravioli toss in a pan with a little bit of brown butter and water and season with salt

7. Garnish with thinly sliced speck prosciutto, thinly sliced pears, chopped hazelnuts, and aged balsamic

Chef’s Tip: Goat Cheese Pumpkin Farce pairs well with Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay and Wente Vineyards Riva Ranch Chardonnay. Enjoy!



- Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum





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