The Imbiber's Report

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


July 11, 2015



adirondack-chairs-at-lakeAll sorts of veggies are beginning to show up at farmer’s markets as well as herbs and loads of different berries. If you can’t get to a farmer’s market, at least keep your eye out for the Product of Ontario signs at your grocery store. Have a look through the list of markets below.  Farmers have made a huge effort to get produce into towns and cities and your neighbourhood and may have a market that you don’t even know about.

We have few nice reviews to tell you about, a link to this week’s Humble & Fred episode and some pretty good deals at the LCBO which you can peruse below.

Vintages Catalogue No. 566 does not contain any Churchill Cellars’ products which is the first time in recent memory that we have not had anything in the release bulletin.  

As a public service, we would like to give a little shout out to a few wines in the catalogue that are not part of the Churchill Cellars portfolio, but are worth hunting down because they taste great and/or are very interesting. 1) Marqués de Cáceres Rosado from Rioja, Spain $13.95 – a terrific Tempranillo based Rosado that is vibrant and full of flavour. Buy a bottle or two to try and then go back to drinking our Gran Feudo Rosado afterwards. 2) Flat Rock ‘The Rusty Shed’ Chardonnay, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara VQA $24.95 – I’ve tasted every vintage of this wine and (IMHO) it keeps getting better. Flat Rock is within earshot of Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery and really worth visiting after you drop by to say hello to Sue-Ann. The Rusty Shed vineyard lies directly below Flat Rock’s winery and is clearly visible from the tasting room. This is one of the best examples of Twenty Mile Bench Chardonnay available. 3) The rare Clos de Saint Yves Savennières from Domaine des Baumard 2011 $34.95 in Flagship Vintages locations – for those not familiar with this Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley, it is one of the most distinctive white wines produced in the world and Baumard is one of its champions. Drink it now or age it for up to ten years. It will develop a lovely nuttiness over time. It’s a real treat.

We thought this would be a good opportunity to review our Vintages Essentials wines. We’ve rounded up some reviews and included a bit of background info for each.  



Alace Willm Riesling largeWillm Riesling Réserve 2013
Alsace AC, France
11452 $15.95

88 Points – Steve Thurlow,
“2013 is another good vintage for this classic Alsatian Riesling. It is clean, fresh and vibrant with aromas and flavours of pear fruit with apple skin, with a strong mineral tone and a hint of petrol. It is midweight dry and crisp with lots of flavour and is finely balanced with a bone dry finish. Try with sautéed seafood. Very good length”.

Winemaker’s Notes: “The Riesling is the King of Alsace and among the world’s greatest grapes. The juice is white and the wines are dry, racy with great definition of the fruit. Grown on mineral soils, it expresses floral and mineral character offering great ageing potential. In Alsace, Riesling acquires distinctive concentration perfectly balanced by the acidity. It is one of the best wines to dine with”.

Grapes for Willm’s Riesling are grown in their estate vineyard in the Barr region in northern Alsace. Shielded from Willm and Guacamolewestern rain by the Vosges Mountains, Alsace has some of the driest growing conditions in France. The sunny microclimate is perfect for ripening cool climate grapes like Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer. The soils are, for the most part, granitic and clay-calcareous which imbue the wines freshness and finesse.

This dry, racy Riesling is perfect with all sorts of fish, seafood and sushi. It will also play nicely with grilled chicken sausage or grilled pork chops. We served it recently with some spicy guacamole and it worked wonders.


Gran Feudo Reserva NVGran Feudo Reserva 2008
Navarra DO, Spain
479014 $16.95

90 Points – Jane Staples,
“A wonderful rich full-bodied red blend from northern Spain, with all the complex nuances of leather, spice and tobacco from the Tempranillo, dark berry flavours from the Cab Sauv and velvety smooth mouthfeel from the Merlot. A winner with beef, game and stews. Aged for at least 18 months in oak, with further evolution in bottle”.

Gran Feudo’s benchmark Reserva from Navarra exemplifies the modern, accessible style of Spanish wine that has become an international success. This Tempranillo based wine adheres to the appellation’s rules which allow for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to make up to 20% of the blend. The wine is vinified in small batches and aged separately for a minimum of 18 months in a mix of new and old French and American oak. It is blended and ready to drink now or it could be aged for a few more years to develop more complexity.





7 Deadly Zins New Packaging Large7 Deadly Zins 2012
Michael David Winery
Lodi, California
59311 $24.95

90 Points, Robert Parker, The Wine Advocate
“Another outstanding value is the 2012 Zinfandel 7 Deadly Zins. Aged in American oak, it is an opulent, delicious, sexy, full-throttle Zinfandel boasting lots of briary, peppery, mulberry and black cherry fruit notes, a full-bodied texture and terrific purity as well as opulence. It is a delicious, staggering value in Zinfandel, and the fact that there are 230,000 cases blows my mind. Drink it over the next several years”.

Proprietor brothers, Michael and David Phillips, have blended Zinfandel from seven of the finest old vine Zinfandel growers in Lodi. The result is a big concentrated wine that typifies the opulent Lodi style. There is a small amount of Petite Sirah in the blend as well. This full-throttle Zin has an affinity for authentic barbecue and will match smoky ribs with tangy bbq sauce. Chill it down a little and share a bottle ‘outside of a meal’ with a friend or two. We’ve heard that 7 Deadly Zins and Natcho Cheese Doritos are to die for.




Can you spot the difference?  Lurton Pinot Grigio now looks like this:

 Francois Lurton PG vs Piedra Negra


Bodegas Piedra Negra
Alta Coleccion Pinot Grigio 2014
556746 $12.95

Francois Lurton planted the first Pinot Gris/Grigio in Argentina in the Uco Valley. Recognizing the unique aspect of the high altitude growing region, they planted a number of different grapes that they knew would do well there. Pinot Grigio ripens early and completely in the Uco Valley and is packed with flavour and fine acidity. This is a medium to full bodied white with amazing fruit intensity. It’s lively, well balanced and absolutely delicious. Give it a spin with fish and seafood, grilled chicken or pork, creamy risotto or Caesar salad. Try it with the grilled salmon burger recipe below.

If you’re wondering about the drastic label change, the wine has been sold under the Piedra Negra name for quite some time in other markets.  Ontario is the last market to change to the new look and for those of you who have come to know and love the wine, it is exactly the same as what is in the bottles with the old label.



Wines to Watch…

In case you missed the last issue’s announcement, both Fancy Farm Girls will be available throughout the summer at a limited number of LCBO stores in the VQA section. Here’s what the LCBO says about the program: The LCBO Wines to Watch collection is a premium, changing assortment of Ontario wines available in 62 stores. Offered for a limited time and priced from $13.95 to $19.95, these wines allow you to discover delicious new products. Every four months, we will refresh the selection, so come back soon.  Please buy lots of both wines so we can turn these into regular listings!

Fancy Farm Girl WhiteFancy Farm Girl Frivolous White 2012
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
394072  $14.95
120 (12 pack) cases available

Vintages Panel: “There's nothing frivolous about this Fancy Farm Girl. Sue-Ann Staff is a fifth-generation grape-grower and one of Ontario's leading winemakers. This is bright and crisp and marvellously dry, with impressive grapefruit, white peach and green apple throughout”.

3.5 Stars – Susan Desjardins,
“Floral notes combine enticingly with citrus and a basket of ripe Niagara stone fruit on the nose of this proprietary blend. It’s off-dry and nicely balanced with a touch of mineral combining with fresh acidity to lift the tasty fruit flavours. It’s easy-going and appealing with clean, silky texture. It’s a down-to-earth wine to be enjoyed well-chilled”.





Fancy Farm Girl Red largeFancy Farm Girl Flamboyant Red 2012
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
394080 $14.95
120 (12 pack) cases available

Vintages Panel: “Sue-Ann Staff, a fifth-generation grape-grower, is the winemaker and 'Fancy Farm Girl' behind this wine, which is quite lifted and perfumed with red plums, currants and spice notes. Fruity, dry and easy to enjoy”.

Medium-bodied, fruity and dry, this is a very pretty wine that would match well with wide variety of food. Try it with burgers, pizza with bacon on it or barbecued ribs.








UngavaChristine Sismondo’s article on Gin in the Toronto Star includes an excerpt about Ungava: “By far the most surprising colour on the wheel, intensely herbal and aromatic Ungava gin comes in bright yellow, a colour that is nothing if not divisive. Distiller Charles Crawford says that the shock of yellow is imparted from the wild rosehips, juniper, cloudberries and crowberries foraged by his team in the Canadian tundra. Faced with the option of clarifying his gin, he decided that the unusual colour was a distinguishing feature that would help it stand out. And it certainly does that”.

Here’s the entire article:


Castle Rock Col Valley Chard 201391 Points – Gord Stimmell, The Toronto Star and other Metroland media publications
Castle Rock Chardonnay 2013
Columbia Valley, Washington
414193 $19.95
“Lemon meringue, pineapple and fresh fruit salad aromas and elegant smooth flavours of melon, pineapple, guava and golden apple. Food suggestion: Lobster with drawn butter”




Animus89+ Points – Gord Stimmell, The Toronto Star and other Metroland media publications
Animus 2013
Douro, Portugal
385302 $14.95
“A nose of bold black cherry, licorice and raspberry, with vanilla flavours chiming in as well. Evident acidity cries out for tomatoes. Food suggestion: Tomato sauced penne”.





Dows 10 Year Old TawnyPICK OF THE WEEK
90 Points - Beppi Crosariol, The Globe and Mail
Dow’s 10-Year-Old Tawny Port, Portugal
246967 $34.95
“Tawny ports, matured in wood versus tank or bottle, develop dried-fruit characters and tend to taste drier and lighter than the more deeply red styles, such as ruby and vintage. This one is dry enough to enjoy as an aperitif, though it would also work splendidly with an end-of-meal cheese course or not-too-sweet chocolate desserts. Candied orange and dried-fruit characters mingle with a pronounced essence of roasted nuts. Well-balanced. Food Pairing: Cheese course, chocolate desserts”.
Published Monday, July 6, 2015












Churchill Cellars is on the air with Humble and Fred!


This week Wineforbreakfast with Humble & Fred featured Castle Rock Chardonnay from Washington and Animus from the Douro Valley in Portugal. Humble worked his Bill Cosby imitation into the segment as we talked about salmon burgers, jam, wine and music. Listen to the episode here starting at the 55 minute mark.

Chris pulled out an obscure but very listenable bluesy track called Soubour from a recording called Music in Exile from a group called Songhoy Blues. The group hails from Mali, where in 2012 there was a coup which facilitated the introduction of Sharia Law (which forbids Western music).

If you would like to know a little bit more about the group and what the government has done to music in Mali, take a couple of minutes to watch this clip:

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.

NOTE: Broadcast contains mature language.






The following promotions are available now to July 18, 2015 at the LCBO:


Save $3.50 on Chic Choc Spiced Rum (#402867)

Save $1.00 on Vodka Mudshake Chocolate (#5280)

Earn 4 Bonus Air Miles on Marqués de Riscal White Rueda (#36822)

Earn 4 Bonus Air Miles on Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc (#275909)

Receive a free Coolie Sleeve (where applied) with the purchase of Vodka Mudshake Caramel (#319467). Collect all four fun colours while supplies last!

Receive a free 50ml Chic Choc Spiced Rum (where applied) with the purchase of Ungava Premium Gin (#374231)





Grilled Salmon Burgers

There are a ton of salmon burger recipes out there. The simplest versions (but the most difficult to grill) use only salmon, spices and a bit of liquid like lemon juice. The problem with grilling this type of patty is that it tends to stick to the grill and fall apart. Enter the binder and filler. Recipes divide into two camps: those that use egg(s) to hold things together and those that use mayonnaise. This recipe is from Weber’s recipe collection and uses mayo along with panko bread crumbs. These patties have good consistency and flavour. This recipe uses basic ingredients and you can use other herbs or spices if you want. Just be careful not to add too much more moisture.

Make sure that your grill is spotless and well-oiled and that the patties have been well chilled in the fridge for at least an hour. This will help prevent them from sticking.

We like to play around with the toppings but still keep it pretty simple by adding only one thing like Guacamole, caramelized onions, dill infused Mayo and the like.  


Salmon Burger1 skinless salmon fillet, about 1 pound, pin bones removed, cut into 1-inch pieces
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
4 hamburger buns, split
4 leaves butter lettuce
Tomato - sliced
Red onion – thinly sliced



In a food processor pulse the salmon pieces five to ten times until coarsely chopped (but not finely chopped). Transfer the salmon to a large bowl. Add the remaining patty ingredients, including ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper, and stir gently to combine. With wet hands, form four patties of equal size, each about ¾ inch thick. Arrange the patties on a platter, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Prepare the grill for direct cooking over medium heat (350° to 450°F).

Brush the cooking grates clean. Lightly brush the patties on both sides with oil. Grill the patties over direct medium heat, with the lid closed, until nicely browned, 6 to 8 minutes, carefully turning once. During the last minute of grilling time, toast the buns, cut side down, over direct heat.

Build each burger on a toasted bun with lettuce, a patty, tomato slices, onion and your favourite topping or condiment.

Serve immediately.

You can serve these burgers with just about any white wine and it also plays well with rosé. Chilled Pisse-Dru Beaujolais would work as well, provided you don’t use any vinegar based condiments (except Dijon mustard).


- Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum




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