The Imbiber's Report

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


December 20, 2014


In the spirit of the holiday, we wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. We hope that 2015 is good to you and your kin and that you enjoy a safe and prosperous year. Thank you for your continued support.

As usual, there isn’t a mid-December Vintages release. That’s OK since LCBO stores and Vintages locations are well stocked with Holiday goodies. If you are still looking for a few last minute gifts for the Imbiber on your list, here are a few of our suggestions currently available through Vintages:


For lovers of vibrant and toasty Chardonnay:
ChapelHill-Chardonnay 2012Chapel Hill Chardonnay 2012
McLaren Vale, Australia
34397 $19.95








Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay NVWente Riva Ranch Chardonnay 2012
Arroyo Seco, Monterey, California
979344 $21.95










For the collector or traditionalist, a solid Pinot Noir from an esteemed Burgundian producer:
Moillard Pinot Noir Tradition 2012Domaine Moillard Bourgogne 2012 Tradition Pinot Noir
Burgundy, France
66399 $24.95










For the Zinfandel enthusiast, an elegant Napa Valley version:
Girard Old Vine Zinfandel highResGirard Old Vine Zinfandel 2012
Napa Valley, California
#394429 $29.95










And a couple of suggestions from the regular LCBO cache:

Something very special and quintessentially northern, an elixir from the Eastern Townships:
Cidre de Glace bottle and tubeDomaine Pinnacle Cidre de glace – Ice Cider
94094 375ml $24.95
This wine took home the Best of Show Sweet Wine and a Gold Medal from the Ottawa Food and Wine Festival this year. It has also been awarded over 60 Gold Medals from various competitions. If you have not tried this yet, give it a whirl with some paté, blue cheese or fruit tart.








small Uber Caesar no backgroundCrazy Uncle Über Caesar
370650 1.0L On sale until January 3, 2015 for only $16.95
There’s no need to spend time preparing Caesars over the holidays when you have a Crazy Uncle in the kitchen.  With all natural ingredients and the rimmer salt included on each bottle, nothing could be easier.  Just give the 1L bottle a shake and pour into a glass.  Make it your own by adding a lobster tail on a skewer or other garnish.  It also makes a great hostess gift, especially if everyone else is taking wine.








As Editor of the Imbiber’s Report, I get to pick what I liked over the year from our regular portfolio.

Morning Fog Chard Med-Small1. Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay, Livermore Valley, California
$16.95 #175430
There seems to be a little swagger going on at Wente these days. Not in a bad way, but in a ‘hey, we really are doing it right’ sort of way. With a handsome new label (on both the Chardonnay and the Cab) and 91+ Point score from the Toronto Star’s Gord Stimmell and a 90 Point score Top 20 under $20 from Wine Align’s Steve Thurlow, the Morning Fog has come in to its own this year. There is a solid citrus and mineral core here with just the right amount of oak.




HERMANOS TEMPRANILLO Med2. Hermanos Lurton Tempranillo, Toro, Spain
$16.90  #372342
Second place (and it was close) goes to the neophyte in the portfolio. Garnering 91 and 90 Point scores from the Star and the Globe and Mail respectively, this big red from Spain’s hinterland has really shaken things up. Lurton has molded a New World (ish), very drinkable wine from notoriously difficult Tempranillo. Polished, big and well balanced, this red will get your attention.





SV Brut Reserva New Sm-Med3. Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava DO, Spain
$14.25 #216960
Dressed in the finery of a newly designed label and foil, Segura Viudas now looks as good as it tastes (almost). This amazing Cava racked up too many awards and scores to mention this year. Simply put, it is probably the best value wine available at the LCBO. Considering the amount of work that goes into making a bottle of Segura Viudas, it should cost much, much more. Keep it around for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s always a great way to greet company too.





Chateau de Gourgazaud Med4. Château de Gourgazaud, Minervois AC, France
$12.95 #22384
Sliding under the radar again this year, Gourgazaud continues to deliver exceptional value for a single estate Château bottled wine. This family owned and operated estate from the south of France is an absolute jewel that is well worth seeking out. Syrah takes centre stage here and expresses the region’s characteristic terroir, laced with spice and garrigue. This is the wine to share with your wine geek friends, but be prepared for them to say there is no way it costs less than $13.00.





Alace Willm Riesling5. Willm Riesling Réserve, Alsace AC, France
$15.95 #11452 Vintages Essentials
Alsace’s long, dry warm growing conditions produce Rieslings like no other place on earth. They are concentrated, focused and dry. Like biting into a granny smith apple, there is a little party in your mouth as the acidity and fruit dance on your palate. Try this with a wide variety of holiday foodstuffs including turkey, ham and seafood.





Deakin Estate Shiraz Sm-Med6. Deakin Estate Shiraz, Victoria, Australia
560821 $9.95
It’s one thing for a twenty dollar bottle of wine to rack up a few 88+ point scores from a number of different sources, but it’s a completely different situation when an under ten dollar wine gets 91 Points and is named one of the 50 great wines under $50! (James Halliday Wine Companion 2015). Even Billy Munnelly, who is not a fan of Aussie Shiraz, wrote “why am I recommending the Deakin? Because the usual Aussie ripe fruitiness is delivered with a refreshing tang, and a bistro feeling that invites food”. Sounds great Billy.  Deakin Shiraz for all!





Caliterra Rva SB 2013 SmMed7. Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva, Chile
$9.95 #275909
A new label adorns Caliterra’s Sauvignon Blanc and signals a vintage change to 2013, offering fresh zippiness that Savvy lovers will appreciate. This is another wine that punches well above its weight and is an absolute steal at $10. You’ll find lots of green pepper, gooseberry and tropical fruit wrapped around a crisp lemon-lime core. Drink this with grilled lemon chicken, seafood or pesto pizza. It’s also great by itself as an apéritif. This past summer, we often mixed it with soda water and a slice of lime for a refreshing alternative to beer.




Casal Thaulero Sangiovese Med8. Casal Thaulero Sangiovese, Terre di Chieti IGP, Italy
$7.75 #588996
You should really consider having all three Casal Thaulero wines on hand – the Pinot Grigio and the Merlot Cab (which got the #8 slot last year) are both super values for the price. This Abruzzo Sangiovese will give any sub-$10 Tuscan a run for its money. If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck.  Chill this down a few degrees below room temperature and enjoy with all sorts of Mediterranean inspired dishes. We love it with pizza.





7 Deadly Zins Med9. 7 Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel, Lodi, California
$24.95 #59311
We can’t help but love this big, burly bear of a wine. Yes, it’s over the top, yes, it’s a style that could only come out of Lodi California and yes, it racked up a 92 point score from The Star’s Gord Stimmell this year. Almost a food-group on its own, 7 Deadly Zins is unapologetically hedonistic to the core and a real whopper of a red wine. Try it with authentic barbecue, unauthentic gas-grilled baby back ribs with BBQ sauce, Peking Duck, Steak Teriyaki or anything that has a sweet and sour spiciness to it.




VERAMONTE SAUVIGNON BLANC Med10 Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca Valley, Chile
367748 $12.95
Another new edition to the portfolio, this is actually Veramonte’s second foray into the LCBO.  The first was an appearance as the LCBO’s Wine of the Summer in 2012. We love the straightforwardness of this Sauvignon Blanc, as does James Suckling, who awarded it 90 Points and wrote, “A crisp and lively sauvignon blanc with lemon peel and hints of mineral character. Medium body, bright finish. Where are the oysters?”  Where’s the Chèvre Omelettes or the pesto tortellini or the Scallop Ceviche? Your choice…















Churchill Cellars is on the air with Humble and Fred!

Chris and Mark joined Humble & Fred on December 10 for #wineforbreakfast.  Château La Caminade (Cahors) and 6th Sense Syrah were shared along with some home made cheese scones. As you can imagine there was no end of fun with the name Cahors, but the boyz eventually managed to control themselves enough to sample the wines. Tune in to the 25.10 mark to hear Chris’ musical selection. Click here.


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.










Notes on JAZZ.FM 91
Chris and Mark also appeared on our JAZZ FM91 Notes feature on December 10th when they tasted through four of Vintages wines: Chapel Hill Chardonnay, Wente Riva Ranch Chardonnay, Grove Street Cabernet Sauvignon and First Press Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Brad was super-impressed with all four wines and has taken a bit of a shine to Chardonnay. Listen to the podcast here.



Jazz fm



Churchill Cellars is sponsoring the JAZZ.FM91 inaugural Piano Series featuring some of the world's greatest pianists. Coming to Jazz Bistro in 2015:


Date: Tuesday, February 3, 2015 - Jazz Bistro
1st Show - 7:00 p.m.                     2nd Show - 9:30 p.m.
One of the world's premiere jazz pianists, Bill Charlap has performed with Phil Woods, Tony Bennett, Wynton Marsalis and is known for his interpretation of American popular songs. This Grammy award-nominated pianist has recorded albums featuring the music of Hoagy Carmichael, Leonard Bernstein and George Gershwin. Signed to Blue Note Records in 2009, Charlap was pianist and musical director for the Blue Note 7, an all-star jazz septet celebrating the legacy of Blue Note Records on its 70th anniversary.
Members Pre-Sale: $25
Regular Price: $27.50


Date: Tuesday, March 3, 2015 - Jazz Bistro
1st Show - 7:00 p.m.                     2nd Show - 9:30 p.m.
Hailed as perhaps the most exciting hard-swinging, hard-bop pianist to ever emerge from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. Beginning his touring life with Betty Carter, to being chosen as the first recipient of the City of Toronto's Glen Gould International Protégé Prize in Music by Oscar Peterson, Green has appeared on well over 100 recordings with legacy artists, in addition to performing previously at JAZZ.FM91's JAZZ LIVES.   
Members Pre-Sale: $25
Regular Price: $27.50


Date: Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - Jazz Bistro
1st Show - 7:00 p.m.                     2nd Show - 9:30 p.m.
JAZZ.FM91 features Cyrus Chestnut, who the New York Times described as a 'highly intelligent improviser with one of the surest senses of swing in jazz'.  Chestnut has earned a reputation for his skillful versatility, ability for blending sounds and for unabashedly bringing gospel into the club performance he gives.  Throughout his career, he has worked with an array of artists including jazz legend Wynton Marsalis, Chick Corea and trumpeter Roy Hargrove. Recently Chestnut has collaborated with vocalists Anita Baker, Bette Midler and Brian McKnight
Members Pre-Sale: $25
Regular Price: $27.50


Date: Tuesday, May 5, 2015 - Jazz Bistro
1st Show - 7:00 p.m.                     2nd Show - 9:30 p.m.
From a pianist, organist, arranger, music director and composer, Hyman has had a long career involving film scores, orchestral compositions, concert appearances and has recorded well over 100 albums under his own name!  Performing with the likes of George Gershwin and Duke Ellington, Dick Hyman was one of the first to record on the Moog synthesizer.  This Emmy award-winner has also created the scores for Woody Allen Films; is a member of the Jazz Hall of Fame of the Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies; and an alumni performer of JAZZ.FM91's Sound of Jazz Series.    
Members Pre-Sale: $25
Regular Price: $27.50


This EXCLUSIVE Members Pre-Sale offers tickets at the following prices from Wednesday, December 17, 2014 through Sunday, December 21, 2014:    
Presale Pricing:
Presale Tickets: $25
Presale Series Subscription: $85
Regular Pricing:
General Admission: $27.50
General Series Subscription: $95
For tickets and more details click HERE.






The following promotions are available now until January 3, 2015 at the LCBO:


Save $2.00 on Alsace Willm Riesling Réserve (11452)

Save $2.00 on Gran Feudo Reserva Navarra DO (479014)

Save $2.00 on Crazy Uncle Uber Caesar (370650)

Save $1.00 on Vodka Mudshake Chocolate (5280)

Earn 12 Bonus Air Miles on Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider (94094)

Receive a free sparkling wine bottle stopper with the purchase of Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava (216960) where applied





Petite Piquant Cheese Onion and Olive Scones

This year we’ve included measuring units that are typically used by home cooks in Ontario.
This is an adaption of Delia Smith’s devilishly moreish, slightly spicy scones that make perfect appetizers and will match almost any kind of wine thanks to the combo of old Cheddar and Parmesan cheese – Cheers!

1 ½ cups self-raising flour
- 1 medium onion finely diced
- 1 Tblsp olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp mustard powder
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper
- ¼ tsp freshly milled black pepper (or more to taste)
- 2 Tblsp butter – cubed at room temperature
- ¼ cup Parmesan cheese grated
- ¼ cup old strong Cheddar cheese
- Approximately 2-3 Tblsp milk
- 1 large egg
- 6 black olives, stoned and minced

A 3cm pastry cutter will come in handy (you can substitute a shot glass)

Use a lightly greased baking sheet or a silpat

Pre-heat oven to 400F

Fry the onion over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes stirring frequently until they are a deep golden brown colour, but no burnt. Transfer to a plate to cool.
In a large mixing bowl sift: flour, salt, mustard powder, cayenne pepper and a good grinding of black pepper (the scones should have a piquant bite to them). Rub in the butter, add cooled onion, olive, ¾ of the cheese and mix evenly. Beat the egg separately and add to mixture, add enough milk to make dough soft, but not sticky. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead it gently until smooth. Roll dough out to a minimum of 2 cm thickness. Next, use the 3 cm cookie/pastry cutter to make scones, giving it a sharp tap to cut cleanly. Lightly knead the remaining trimmings and make more scones until finished. Place scones onto baking sheet, brush them with milk and top them with the remaining grated cheese. Bake them in the top 1/3rd of the oven for 10-12 minutes until GB&D (golden brown and delicious), being careful not to scorch the bottoms. Let scones cool slightly before serving or move them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Scones can be made ahead and frozen. Defrost and re-heat them at 350F for about 4 minutes before serving. You can also split them and add herbed cream cheese or Cambozola and warm them at 275F for 2-3 minutes.


- Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum




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