The Imbiber's Report

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


March 21, 2015


tulipsThis month’s Vintages release falls on the first day of spring. Yes, it’s still a little chilly in most parts of the province, but the signs of spring are here. Sap is starting to run, Cardinals and Blue Jays are more abundant, a few buds are swelling, and tulips have appeared at green grocers. A few warm days and soon things will be bursting through the ground.

We have five new wines in this Vintages release including one white and four reds. We are excited to be working with Clos Pegase and are very pleased to add a new Chardonnay to the fold. We have an award winning Carmenere from Chile, two new additions from California and a rock-solid release from Bordeaux.

Bertani Valpolicella Rispasso has made its way to most Vintages locations this past week and garnered a 90+ score from Gord Stimmell of the Toronto Star, who called it “Today’s best valued Italian red”.

Let’s begin with a gorgeous Carneros Chardonnay…


VINTAGES RELEASE, March 21, 2015

ClosPegase Chardonnay Mitzuko largeClos Pegase
Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay 2012
Carneros, Napa Valley, California
986737 $29.95
112 (12 pack) cases available

91 Points –, John Szabo, MS
“A rich and finely appointed, generous and dense chardonnay that doesn't sacrifice freshness for all that richness. This has fine intensity and weight, abundant oak influence to be sure, yet there's also impressive fruit extract to compensate. I'd revisit this in 2-3 years when the wood will have integrated into the ensemble. For the price, this should impress widely”.

90pts, Stephen Tanzer’s IWC
Gold, Vinalies International '14

Mitsuko's Vineyard was acquired and named in 1989 by Jan Shrem, the founder of Clos Pegase, who named it after his wife as a surprise Valentine's Day gift. Jan filled a gift box with soil from the new vineyard, wrapped it in a ribbon and excitedly presented it to her. Mitsuko, thinking she'd been the victim of a practical joke, was furious until her husband explained the source of the soil and told her he'd named the 365-acre vineyard for her in honour of 'every day of the year I love you.' Situated just three kilometres from San Francisco Bay, the vineyard is relatively cool - though clearly nowhere near as cool as Jan under pressure - and creates elegant, bright Chardonnay brimming with tropical fruit flavours

The Mitsuko’s Vineyard Chardonnay possesses intriguing complex aromas of Meyer lemon, ripe pineapple, apricots, crème brulé, honeysuckle and beeswax, framed by subtly spicy toasty oak. A broad mid-palate with an energetic drive and delicious fruit leads to a finish with a fascinating balance of length, opulence and minerality. Try with linguini in lobster cream sauce, Dungeness Crab cakes, roasted chicken or a wild mushroom risotto.

Tremendous care is taken by the winemaking team to get the grapes to the winery in top condition. The fruit is hand harvested at night and brought to the winery where they are gently whole-cluster pressed. Most of the juice goes directly into oak barrels, where it ferments and undergoes malolactic fermentation. The wine is left to sit on its lees for eight months before racking.



Carmenere Gran Terroir largeCasa Silva
Gran Terroir Los Lingues Carmenere 2012
Colchagua Valley, Chile
59477 $15.95
560 (12 pack) cases available

91pts, Wine Spectator
90pts, Wine Enthusiast

Gold Medal - Vinalies Internationales, 2014
[translated from the French]
“Dark purple colour with black in the red and purple tints. A beautiful shine and even more density. The nose is complex with the vegetal freshness of green pepper, the fresh wild strawberry and the languor of fresh butter. On the palate, there's an abundance of sweet spices, licorice and caramel. The tannins are silky and beautifully thick. What a talent! What harmony!"

You’ll find intense aromas of ripe black fruit with hints of earth and tobacco. It is nicely balanced on the palate with good interplay between fruit, oak and tannins. Rich dark fruit flavours, spice, anise, and vanilla all add complexity to this medium-bodied but intense wine. Try with braised lamb shanks (recipe below), grilled meat, tomato based pasta dishes or pizza.



Ryan Patrick Rock Island Red 2012 largeRyan Patrick Vineyards
Rock Island Red 2012
Wahluke Slope, Columbia Valley, Washington
403402 $24.95
224 (12 pack) cases available

90 Points – Wine Enthusiast, Sean Sullivan
“A blend of Merlot (58%), Syrah (35%), Petite Sirah (5%) and Primitivo, this hedonistic wine offers appealing suggestions of coffee, vanilla and cherry. Ripe, silky soft milk chocolate flavors finish warm”.

Ryan Patrick’s Rock Island Red is produced in the American Viticultural Area of Wahluke Slope in Washington State. The Katherine Leone, King Fuji, Clifton and Northridge vineyards all contribute fruit for the blend. The blend reflects the warm Wahluke Slopes terroir with warm concentrated aromas and flavours. It’s a generous red blend that is a perfect match for grilled meat.





FREAKSHOW largeMichael David Winery
Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Lodi, California
405175 $24.95
528 (12 pack) cases available

89 Points – Beppi Crosariol, The Globe and Mail
"There’s a circus muscleman on the label, which is apt not only because of the wine’s name. This sappy red from the hot Lodi region sports a thick torso, but it also does a freakishly accurate impersonation of chocolate fondue".

From Michael David – “This wine is FREAKing amazing! Over each vintage, the intensity has been kicked up exponentially. This fourth incarnation has more of everything…more depth, more ripe fruit, more pizazz! Nicely balanced with fruit (pomegranate) and oak (showing some smoke). Warning—it’s gulpable!

The fruit for this brute of a Cab comes from the original “super freak,” Michael Phillips’ vineyard located only a medicine ball’s toss away from the winery”.

2012 was an exceptional year for grape growing in Lodi and is noted for its well-timed rain and perfect temperatures. All varietals benefited from the fantastic weather, especially Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah (of which there is a smattering in this wine).





Chateau Bel Air 2010 largeChâteau Bel Air
Haut-Médoc AC Cru Bourgeois 2010
Bordeaux, France
403717 $28.95
280 (12 pack) cases available

91 Points –, James Molesworth
“Features dark, roasted alder and mesquite notes mixed together, followed by juicy layers of Linzer torte, blackberry pâte de fruit and plum sauce. The long, anise-framed finish displays a serious graphite spine for length and definition. Best from 2014 through 2020”.

Bel Air’s vineyard is located in Cussac-Fort-Medoc and borders the famous Saint-Julien de Beychevelle. The vineyards face the Gironde River and are comprised of gravelly soil over a substrate of blue clay. The 2010 is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon and 35% Merlot which has been aged for 12 months in oak barrels.

Still quite young and tightly wound, you’ll find an intense bouquet of blackberry, blackcurrant and cherry. Intense dark fruit flavours are well integrated with generous silky tannin and bright lively acidity. The finish is long and persistent with lingering notes of spice and vanilla.





Bertani Ripasso 2011 med90+ Points – Gord Stimmell, Toronto Star / / Metroland Media
Bertani Valpolicella Ripasso DOC 2011
Veneto, Italy
395087 $17
“Today's best value Italian red delivers expressive black cherry, cedar, blueberry, anise, vanilla and plum aromas and flavours. Food suggestion: Lamb lasagne”.




Morning Fog small90 Points, Best Buy – Wine Enthusiast
Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2013
Livermore Valley, California, USA
175430 $17.95
“Robust in mouth feel, this offers subtlety in flavor and an appetizingly tangy texture. It seems to develop more with each sip. Look for light aromas of apple and fig, flavors that gain a touch of butter and almond, and medium body.” 













Churchill Cellars is on the air with Humble and Fred!


#winewednesday again coincided with #wineforbreakfast this week as we dropped by to show Humble and Fred ou new Vintages Food & Drink discovery – Bertani Valpolicella Ripasso. We also dipped into some Footbolt Shiraz from d’Arenberg. We fed the boyz some home-made pizza and some store bought mortadella and Humble made bacon and pork jokes. Find our feature at about the 56 minute mark <click here>

Chris’ musical choice for the segment was Clare Maguire’s Don’t Mess Me Around. Check it out!

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.  You may listen to the podcast anytime you please.









“Notes” on Jazz.FM91

Mark Friesner, winner of our Notes contest, joined Chris, Mark and Brad at Jazz.FM91 this past Wednesday and tasted (in order) Francois Lurton Pinot Grigio, Bertani Valpolicella Ripasso, Bleasdale Mulberry Tree Cabernet Sauvignon and Kunde Estate Sonoma Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Mark F. and Brad were also treated to some Savoury Galette. We also shared a recipe with Jazz.FM91 listeners, which you can see below.

You can listen to the podcast here.









Thanks to everyone for supporting the JAZZ.FM91 Piano Series.  Both of the final shows have sold out.  Here’s a little background info for those who are attending. Stay tuned for more Jazz announcements.


Date: Sunday April 5, 2015 - Jazz Bistro
1st Show - 12:30 p.m.                     2nd Show - 7:00 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

For tickets and more details click HERE.





The following promotions are available from now until March 28, 2015 at the LCBO:


Save $0.50 on Dos Locos Lime Tequila Margarita (370668)

Save $1.00 on Patriarche Pinot Noir (522649)

Save $1.00 on Pisse-Dru Beaujolais (2881)

Save $1.00 on Willm Riesling Reserve (11452)

Save $1.00 on Vodka Caramel Mudshake (319467)

Save $1.50 on Crazy Uncle Uber Caesar (370650)

Save $2.00 on Chic Choc Spiced Rum (402867)

Save $3.00 on Chapel Hill Chardonnay (34397)

Earn 4 Bonus Air Miles on Marques de Riscal Rueda (36822)

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




Here’s a great braising method that you can use with lots of different cuts of meat. Here, a bit of heat from Chipotles is balanced with sweet honey to give this dish an almost ‘sweet n sour’ feel to it. It would match full bodied, fruity reds like Casa Silva Carmenere, Rock Island Red and Freakshow Cab.

‘Sweet Heat’ Braised Lamb Shanks

lamb shank1 Tbs. canola oil
4 lamb shanks, 14 to 16 oz. each, blotted dry
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup red wine (Casal Thaulero Merlot / Cabernet)
8 oz. (2 cups) fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup lower-salt beef broth
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbs. minced canned chipotles in adobo
2 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus 1 Tbs. for garnish

Use a cast-iron skillet for this recipe if possible since the pan keeps the temperature steady and even. You can braise other cuts of meat like short ribs too.

Position a rack in the centre of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F.

Heat a 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until very hot, about 2 minutes. Add the oil, swirling the pan to coat the bottom; then add the lamb shanks and cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until browned on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and transfer the shanks to a plate. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Cook the onion in the skillet over medium heat, stirring with a wooden spoon until softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Stir in the wine, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the skillet, and bring the mixture to a boil.

Stir in the cranberries, broth, honey, chipotles, and cumin and cook until the cranberries begin to pop, about 5 minutes. Arrange the shanks in the skillet, cover tightly with an ovenproof domed lid or heavy-duty aluminum foil, and put the skillet on a rimmed baking sheet (to make it easier to transfer without spilling). Transfer to the oven and cook, turning the lamb shanks 2 or 3 times during cooking, until they are fork tender, 2 to 2-1/2 hours.

Transfer the shanks to a medium bowl and cover to keep warm. Skim any fat from the sauce in the skillet and boil over high heat until the liquid lightly coats the back of a spoon, about 8 minutes. Stir in the 1/4 cup cilantro and season to taste with salt and pepper. Return the shanks to the skillet, briefly turning them in the sauce, and serve sprinkled with the remaining 1 Tbs. cilantro.


- Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum





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