The Imbiber's Report

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


January 24, 2015


snowshoeing tracks lgSure, it’s a made up word but you get the gist. Have a quick look around your favourite social media platform for hashtags like #lovewinter #wintercamping #snowshoeing #getoutside and #skiing and you’ll get a very good idea of what sort of fun you can have outside this winter. La Maurice National Park in the Laurentians is encouraging snowshoe tagging on lakes in the park (think crop circles in the snow using snowshoes). Snow is your friend, so get outside and play with it.

After (Aprés), you can reward yourself with a platter of cheese and charcuterie (you’ll need to replace the thousands of calories you just spent) along with a glass or two of your favourite wine. For many people, the sharing of wine and food after a day of playing outside is an important part of the whole experience. Crashing in front of a fire with some friends and family while sharing stories of the day is just about as Canadian as it gets.

We have five new wines released though Vintages this weekend that we would like to tell about. All of them are fireside-friendly and great with food. We begin with a couple of California Chardonnays from two very different regions. Then, it’s on to Australia’s McLaren Vale for one of that region’s best values in Shiraz. Next we’ll visit Argentina for some Malbec before heading north to Bordeaux for a classic Cab-Merlot blend that is one of the highlights of the release.

We also have a fabulously delicious new red from the Rhône valley that is now available at most LCBO outlets. Along with it, we’ll share the Food & Drink recipe that they chose to match the wine.

Pour a glass of something red and relax for few minutes.  There won’t be a test at the end…



Les Dauphins CdR Reserve Red largeWe are so very happy to announce a new addition from a very old partner. Cellier des Dauphins is one of our originals, having been with Churchill Cellars since the beginning in 1985. They have designed a colourful,  package for their new Côtes du Rhône Réserve which evokes a style reminiscent of Paris in the roaring 1920s. Inside, the wine is fruit-forward, bursting with ripe summer fruit flavours that are nicely complemented by spice and herbs. It's fantastic with tomato based pasta dishes, pizza with olives and sausage, grilled or roasted meat, pork and even roasted poultry.

The blend consists of 75% Grenache, 20% Syrah and 5% Mourvedre (our Aussie friends would call it a GSM).

See the bottom of the report for the Food & Drink recipe that is feature on-line and in the magazine (pages 8-9).

Les Dauphins
Côtes du Rhône Réserve Red
385385 $12.95






VINTAGES RELEASE, January 24, 2015

First Press Napa Chard largeFirst Press Chardonnay 2011
Napa Valley, California
199810 $19.95
650 (12 pack) cases available

88 Points Editor’s Choice – Wine Enthusiast, Steve Heimoff
“What a bargain in a fine Chardonnay. There is a hint of vanilla, flavours of pears, apples and melons and a rich mouthfeel, perfectly balanced by ample acidity”.

4 Stars, – Vic Harradine
“This lovely California Chardonnay offers up aromas of toffee, toast and tropical fruit before bathing the palate with a persistent wash of butterscotch, crisp green apple and ripe pear. It’s medium-full bodied with good mouth feel and a lovely balanced finish replaying flavours along with wonderful citrus acidity, all balanced and beautiful”.

The 2011 vintage required patience and a bit of luck. Cool wet temperatures in the spring delayed the bloom by an uncomfortably long time. When things did get on their way, a relatively cool summer persisted and the grapes were slow to mature. Fortunately, a dry, very warm October provided just enough heat to get the grapes to perfect sugar levels. The result is an elegant, citrus-driven Chardonnay with excellent balance and perfectly integrated oak. Try with roasted chicken, fish and seafood or pork with apples.


New to Vintages…

MD Chardonnay largeMichael David Chardonnay 2013
Lodi, California
396283 $22.95
300  (12 pack) cases available

90 Points –, David Lawrason
“This is a fairly deeply coloured, bright yellow chardonnay. The nose is lifted, sweetish and ripe with melon/peach fruit, clove, dusty, burlap and spiced apple strudel. Some clove as well. It's mid-weight, smooth, sweetish and warm, packing excellent flavour depth. Very spicy and woody but has some brightness as well”.

Vintages Tasting Panel Notes:
“The Michael David winery produces some of Vintages customers' favourite wines, including our Essentials product the 7 Deadly Zins (59311). Their handcrafted 2013 Chardonnay is sourced from the family vineyard and is loaded with vanilla, fruit and smoke notes. Ripe and fresh with a sweet fruit centre and a long finish, it's a great match for grilled chicken".

To make a well balanced Chardonnay in the relatively hot climes of Lodi, Michael David made several different styles of wine and carefully layered them together in a final blend. Some fruit was selected early to give the final wine acidity and fresh citrus fruit aromas and flavours. These grapes were cool fermented in stainless steel and stored cold until blending. Just over half of the fruit was barrel fermented in different types of oak and aged sur lees for softer, rounder characteristics and a dash of vanilla spiciness. The final blend shows a wide range of aromas and flavours with a well-balanced, medium-bodied palate that is rich and smooth. It's a terrific wine for those who love California Chardonnays with all the bells and whistles. Try it with lobster poutine, butter chicken, smoked salmon pasta or gourmet mac and cheese.


Chapel Hill Parsons Nose Shiraz largeChapel Hill
The Parson’s Nose Shiraz 2012,
McLaren Vale, Australia
339705 $19.95
392 (12 pack) cases available

92 Points Good Value –, James Halliday
“Deep crimson-purple; the fragrant, spicy bouquet, with overtones of licorice and dried herbs, leads into a vibrant medium-bodied palate, the dark fruits framed by subtle French oak. A wine that speaks more of the great vintage than its region of origin”.

4 Stars,, Julie Stock
“This is a lovely deep purple with aromas of blueberries and forest floor. It’s been aged in French oak which lends vanilla toastiness melding with black cherries, blueberries and a little smoke. It’s a strong bold wine with assertive backbone and firm tannins, something that’s sometimes lacking in Shiraz. I smell a roast leg of lamb with rosemary and garlic”.

Chapel Hill’s winemaker, Michael Fragos, spends a lot of time thinking about what McLaren Vale Shiraz should be. The winery’s stated philosophy is: “We are striving to craft wines that display purity in regards to varietal and vineyard site characters, wines that have a deep soul and a sense of place”.

With that end in mind, here’s what he has to say about The Parson’s Nose Shiraz: “McLaren Vale is deservedly recognised as one of the world’s leading Shiraz producing regions. This can be attributed to the vitality and generosity of the region and these virtues are ultimately expressed in its wines. The Parson’s Nose Shiraz is dedicated to showcasing the delicious array of primary varietal characteristics. The aim is to then nestle these unique flavours within an opulent mouthfeel and a charismatic firm tannin structure. Oak only plays a supporting role and is utilised delicately so to not override the presentation of the primary varietal characteristics”.

Try this Shiraz with pan-Mediterranean influenced dishes, grilled red meat or roasted winter veggie risotto.


Pure Yum…

Los Clop Reserva Malbec largeLos Clop Reserva Malbec 2009
Maipu, Mendoza, Argentina
186650 $17.95
672 (12 pack) cases available

90 Points –, Neal Martin
“The 2009 Reserva Malbec has a clean, pure bouquet of black currant, blueberry, iodine and violet that unfurl nicely with aeration, the oak well-integrated into the fruit profile. The palate is medium-bodied and succulent in texture. It offers a swath of rounded blackberry and strawberry flavours, intermingled with cedar and tobacco, while the finish is well-balanced and slips down the throat with ease. Very fine”.

4.5 Stars, Value Wine, – Julie Stock
"This Malbec is really out of this world bursting with powerful flavours. Floral aromas introduce flavours of blackberry pie, plums and currants washing over and through the palate. It’s structured and rich as velvet with soft tannins and a long, dark, fruity finish with a little dust at the end. This is pure, Yum”.

Los Clop adorns the back cover of the current Vintages catalogue and is decorated with a 90 Point Wine Advocate sticker from This should make it easy to spot in the Vintages section at the LCBO. The wine is part of a Double Header feature on Argentina and Chile, and at $17.95 it should sell through rather quickly. Make sure to pick some up sooner rather than later.

The Los Clop family moved to Argentina in 1880 and planted vineyards soon thereafter. Fruit for the Los Clop Reserva Malbec comes from the Lujan de Cuyo vineyard in Mendoza at an altitude of 900 metres above sea level. The wine is aged in new French oak barrels for twelve months before it is blended and bottled.


Blaignan largeChâteau Blaignan 2010
Médoc AC Cru Bourgeois
Bordeaux, France
400606 $23.95
294 (12 pack) cases available

92 Points, Editor’s Choice – Wine Enthusiast, Roger Voss    
#32/100 Top Wines of 2013
“Aromatic hints of new wood translate onto the smooth palate. It has smoke and black currant flavors, with tannins that are already well integrated. Attractive acidity gives this a final lift. Keep it for 5-6 years” – March 2013”.

4.5 Stars, – Susan Desjardins
“Opaque, deep purple, this Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot blend is designed for the cellar offering great depth and structure. Lovely complex aromas of dried herbs, tomato leaf, cedar, cassis, black cherry and smoky toast waft easily. Deftly balanced and medium-full bodied, the firm structure and lively acidity frame tasty black cherry, plum and berry fruit along with the hints of cocoa and sweet spice”.

This relatively famous Cru Bourgeois is located in the Pauillac commune of Medoc, Bordeaux in the company of three of the region's First Growths. The 97 ha property is planted with vines that average 30 years of age. The blend for the 2010 comprises 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 42% Merlot and 3% Cabernet Franc. This is excellent value for a wine of this calibre and could be enjoyed now with grilled steak or cellared for a few more years and enjoyed with leaner cuts of red meat.




INCOGNITO largeTop 5 affordable vintages that won’t hurt your wallet – Gord Stimmell, Toronto Star
“California provides us with Michael David Incognito, a dance of mainly syrah but with petite sirah, carignan, mourvèdre, cinsaut and grenache in the hopper. Actually, it is a field blend, so the vineyard provides the blending. Very cool and a very European tradition, mainly from the old days”.

Michael David
Incognito Red Wine Blend 2013
Lodi, California, USA
394890  $19.95

91+ Points – Toronto Star, Gord Stimmell
“A wild six grape Rhône style cornucopia, this is all big blackberry, smoked sausage, vanilla, mulberry, mocha and chocolate power. Food suggestion: Coffee crusted steaks”.













Churchill Cellars is on the air with Humble and Fred!

Chris and Mark joined Humble & Fred this week for #wineforbreakfast with sausages (we know).  We poured a zippy white from the Loire Valley called Domaine du Bois Malinge 2013, Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie AC (224246 $13.95) and the fantastic red blend from Michael David called Incognito (394890 $19.95) Click here and tune in to the 43.00 minute mark to hear Chris’ musical selection, My Dear by Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics.  A warning that the conversation goes off the rails pretty quickly, so have a listen when appropriate.

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




Churchill Cellars is sponsoring the inaugural JAZZ.FM91 Piano Series at Toronto's Jazz Bistro featuring some of the world's greatest pianists.


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


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 31, 2015 at the LCBO:


Save $1.00 on Vodka Mudshakes French Vanilla (4606)

Earn 3 Bonus Air Miles on Casal Thaulero Sangiovese (588996)

Earn 5 Bonus Air Miles on Alsace Willm Gewurztraminer Réserve (269852)

Earn 5 Bonus Air Miles on Deakin Estate Shiraz (560821)

Earn 10 Bonus Air Miles on Marqués de Riscal Reserva (32656)


The following promotions are available from February 01 to 28, 2015 at the LCBO:


Save $0.20 on Big Rig Brewery Gold (398255)

Save $1.00 on Segura Viudas Brut Reserva (216960)

Save $1.00 on Vodka Mudshake Chocolate (5280)

Save $1.00 on Alpine Valley Sauvignon Blanc (241810)

Save $1.50 on Cellier des Dauphins Carte Noire Côtes du Rhône (110197)

Save $3.00 on Slava Ultra Premium Vodka (600585)

Earn 8 Bonus Air Miles on Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc (367748)

Earn 3 Bonus Air Miles when you buy one Caliterra Cabernet Sauvignon (257329) or one Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva (275909). Buy one of each and earn 9 Bonus Air Miles.

Receive free gift wrap paper with the purchase of Fresita Sparkling Wine (383901) where applied




Beef Pot Roast with Fall Vegetables

Beef cheeks can be difficult to find so we used stewing beef cubes to mimic the cheeks.

Pot RoastIngredients:
1 cup (250 mL) red wine
3 cloves garlic, peeled
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 lbs (1 kg) stewing beef, cut in 2 inch (5 cm) pieces
¾ cup (175 mL) peeled rutabaga, cut in 1 inch (2.5 cm) dice
¾ cup (175 mL) Spanish onion, cut in 1 inch (2.5 cm) dice
¾ cup (175 mL) peeled parsnip, cut in 1 inch (2.5 cm) dice
¾ cup (175 mL) peeled carrots, cut in 1 inch (2.5 cm) dice
3 cups (750 mL) mini red potatoes, peeled and quartered
1/3 cup (80 mL) vegetable oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1½ cups (375 mL) halved button mushrooms
1 cup (250 mL) leeks, dark green part discarded, cut into ½ inch (1 cm) rounds
4 cups (1 L) beef stock
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp (30 mL) chopped parsley

1.     Combine red wine, garlic and thyme in a small pot. Bring to a boil and reduce mixture by half, about 5 minutes. Set liquid aside to cool. Place meat in a bowl, add wine reduction and mix until beef is well coated. Set aside to marinate overnight, refrigerated.
2.    Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C).
3.     Combine rutabaga, onion, parsnip, carrots and potatoes in a bowl and toss with 2 tbsp (30 mL) oil, salt and pepper. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until vegetables have begun to soften and colour but are not fully cooked. Remove from oven.
4.    Reduce oven heat to 325°F (160°C).5 Add 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil to a skillet on medium high heat. Stir in mushrooms, leeks and a pinch of salt and pepper, tossing occasionally. Cook until the leeks have just begun to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
5.     Add 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil to a skillet on medium high heat. Stir in mushrooms, leeks and a pinch of salt and pepper, tossing occasionally. Cook until the leeks have just begun to soften, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
6.    Drain any liquid from beef and pat dry. Heat 2 tbsp (30 mL) oil in a heavy Dutch oven over high heat. When oil begins to smoke, reduce heat slightly and add beef in batches searing them on all sides for 1 to 2 minutes until nicely browned. Remove meat to a plate.
7.    Slowly stir in the beef stock scraping any bits on the base of the pot. Add roasted vegetables, bay leaves and beef. Adjust liquid to make sure beef and vegetables are just covered.
8.    Bring the stew to a boil, cover the pot tightly and place in oven. Cook for 1½ hours, add the leeks and mushrooms and cook another hour or until beef is fork-tender. Carefully remove the bay leaves, sprinkle with parsley and serve.
Serves 4 to 6



- Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum



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