The Imbiber's Report

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


Christmas 2015


Joey Bautista Christmas Sweater Thank you Imbiber’s Report readers for another year of your continued support. On behalf of the entire Churchill Cellars team, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a safe and prosperous New Year. Go Jays!

As mentioned in the last Imbiber’s Report, the next Vintages release isn’t until January 9, 2016. This report is out early, so that you can use our Top Ten wines list to help with your Holiday imbibing.

If you are looking for a special bottle of bubbly this week there are still a few bottles of Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad here and there. This is magnificent Cava and it’s really worth hunting down

Another amazing Vintages wine to consider as a gift is Barone Ricasoli Castello di Brolio Chianti Classico DOCG Gran Selezione 2011 Tuscany, Italy 942607 $59.95, which garnered a 96 Point score from James Suckling.



There are some really fantastic wines in the Churchill Cellars’ portfolio this year, and many of the wines have seen vintage turnover since we put together last year’s list.

Before we get on with our list, we would like to mention that Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider was awarded Best of Show and a Gold Medal at the Ottawa Wine and Food Festival and more recently a Gold Medal at the 2015 Artisan’s Award in San Francisco. Since we just mentioned it here, it’s not on our Top 10 list which is really just a cheeky way for us to include 11 wines.  It’s a perfect tipple to enjoy over the holidays. Give it a whirl with some Bleu Bénédictin, also from Quebec, for one of the best matches you will ever taste.

Also worth mentioning as ‘Best-Buys’ under $10 are Casal Thaulero Pinot Grigio ($8.95), Casal Thaulero Merlot/Cab and Sangiovese (both at $8.25), Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon (both at $9.95), the Dunavar Pinot Grigio from Hungary at $8.95, as well as our perennial favourite bargain – Deakin Estate Shiraz ($9.95).  All of these are great if you have large crowds showing up for the holidays.

Here’s the list.  Consider the first three wines as your one white, one bubbly and one red essentials.

Morning Fog  Chard 1. Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay 2014, Livermore Valley, California
$17.95 #175430
For the second year in a row, we have to give top billing to this fantastic Chardonnay from Wente. It continues to impress and the new 2014 vintage is as seamless and as well built as it has been now for the past three vintages. I poured this for a wine seminar at the Ottawa Wine and Food Fest and it was the crowd favourite! If you are a ‘I don’t like Chardonnay’ kind of person, you owe it to yourself to give this wine a try. Lifted citrus-apple with hints of lemon-curd and spice with racy citrus acidity, finish with a stellar intensity of fruit and perfectly integrated oaky spice.






SV Brut Reserva New Bottle 2. Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava DO, Spain
$14.25 #216960
The Judge’s Choice and Best Value Winner at InterVin this year, Best Value from the Wine Spectator and a number of 90 Point scores from around the world, this is, quite simply, the best wine for the money that is currently available at the LCBO. You can taste the passion and love that goes into making every bottle. Have it on hand for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It plays nicely with salty snack food, chevre and hard cheeses.







Marques-Riscal-Red3. Marqués de Riscal Reserva Rioja 2011 DOC, Spain
$23.95 32656
The flagship wine of this, the oldest winery in the region, has recently undergone a noticeable increase in quality due in part to the acquisition of about 300 hectares of established vineyards at Marqués Arienzo from Pernod Ricard in 2010. A blend of Tempranillo, Graciano and Mazuelo that has been aged in smaller oak barrels for 26 months, this is sensuous and elegant with incredible complexity. Enjoy this now or put it down for a few years and let it develop even more complexity.







Willm Riesling 2014 large4. Willm Riesling Réserve 2014, Alsace AC, France
$15.95 #11452 Vintages Essentials
Described by many in Alsace as a ‘classic’ vintage, 2014 saw cooler damp conditions in August which helped to maintain natural acidity levels in the grapes. This dry, fruity version of Riesling surprises most with its pure granny smith apple and citrus flavours wrapped around a core of citrus acidity and minerals. Drink it with cream sauces, sushi, fish and slightly spicy pan-Asian dishes.








7 Deadly Zins New Packaging Large5. 7 Deadly Zins Old Vine Zinfandel 2012, Lodi, California
$24.95 #59311 Vintages Essentials
Like the kid in the room who wants everybody’s attention, 7 Deadly Zins just won’t give up. The problem is that this brat keeps piling up the awards and scores. 92 Points from Gord Stimmell and 91 Points from Parker just bolster its incorrigible behaviour. We’ve given in as well. 7 Deadly Zins is an over-the-top big red wine that can be enjoyed by itself or with grilled red meat or pork, real barbecue (pulled pork, smoked ribs) or anything with a little spicy kick to it.







Gran Feudo Reserva NV6. Gran Feudo Reserva 2009, Navarro DO, Spain
$16.95 #479014 Vintages Essentials
Grab this while you can since the 2009 is drinking perfectly right now and we are not sure when the changeover to a newer vintage will take place, but it will likely be soon. Winner of a Gold Medal at the 2015 Concours Mondial Bruxelles, this Tempranillo-based Reserva has 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in it, making it feel modern and classic at the same time. We love sharing this wine with friends and family since it always makes an excellent impression.







Wente Southern Hills Large7. Wente Vineyards Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Livermore Valley, California
$17.95 301507
It says Cabernet Sauvignon on the front label because that varietal makes up 77% of the blend. Add a smidge (12%) of Petit Verdot, a dollop (5%) of Petite Sirah and a pinch of Malbec for nuance and spice and you have a wine that is difficult to pin down but easy to enjoy. Washington State? Italy? There’s a bit of an old world feel to this California Cab that seduces and charms. Elegant and balanced, this is a wine made for the table. Roast or grilled beef, lamb or game would be an excellent match.







Alpine Vlly SB 14 New Label Large8. Alpine Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Marlborough, New Zealand
$15.95 241810
This should be the best selling Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc at the LCBO. Small lot production, family made and certified sustainable, Alpine Valley is a superior version of Marlborough Savvy. The intensity of this wine is silly: unsuspecting drinkers experience the strange sensation of having their mouths ‘water’ as they sip it.  It’s a delight to drink and will go with a wide variety of food including fish and chips.








Wanted Zin Zinfandel IGT med9. The Wanted Zin 2014, Zinfandel IGT, Puglia, Italy
$13.95 416487
This ‘Old Vines’ Primitivo is aged in American Oak and dressed in an unapologetically looking Wild West label that screams California Zinfandel. It’s not. There is a fruit forward sweetness to this wine, but the follow through is definitely Southern Italian. The soil’s terroir spoils the charade and gives this ’Zin away. We’ve had difficulty keeping this wine in stock, so if you see it, pick up a few bottles for pasta or pizza. Chill this down a bit before serving and share this great find with family and friends.








Deakin Viognier med10. Deakin Estate Viognier 2015, Victoria, Australia
$10.80 399253
A new addition to the portfolio and the last white in the top ten is the sibling to our Shiraz. Estate grown in the Red Cliffs region of northern Victoria, this was one of our favourite wines this summer. It goes with practically everything a white wine should and is particularly friendly with grilled chicken Caesar salad, spicy shrimp and garlicky hummus. In winter give it a spin with pesto pizza and cream based pasta dishes.
















Churchill Cellars is on the air with Humble and Fred!

Not sure what to say about this episode except that you should probably go right to the 1:05:30 mark as the preceding schtick was sometimes rude. When things settled down, we played “go big or go home” with Michael David’s 6th Sense Syrah and Petite Petit. We talked a bit about chocolate, Fred’s place and Ontario’s archaic liquor laws. Things wrapped up nicely with some kind Holiday wishes from the boyz and we were on our way.

You can listen to Humble & Fred on SiriusXM_Canada's_comedy_channel, Canada_Laughs. (channel 168) from 7:00 to 9:00 am and 10:00 am to noon every weekday and again on Newstalk 1010 at midnight each weekday.  The show is also available as a podcast.
NOTE: Broadcast contains mature language and subject matter.




 Notes on JAZZ.FM 91

Once each month Chris Churchill and Mark Donaldson can be heard on JAZZ FM with our feature called "Notes".  Together with host Brad Barker, we explore wines and music comparing the notes in certain wines and similar notes in jazz.  

You can find JAZZ FM at 91.1 on your FM dial in southern Ontario or on line at
Chris and Mark visited Brad on December 16th when they tasted through four Vintages wines with the theme of ‘all red, all the time’. The line-up included d’Arenberg’s d’Arry’s Original Shiraz Grenache, Chapel Hill Cabernet Sauvignon, Michael David’s 6th Sense Syrah and Michael David’s Petite Petit. The wines all tasted amazing. Listen to the podcast here. We shared the recipe below with the JazzFM listeners.



 Jazz FM Italian series sign









JAZZ FM Sounds of Italy Concert Series

Three of our Italian wines, Casal Thaulero Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese and The Wanted Zin Old Vine Zinfandel are sponsors of this interesting series featuring four Italian jazz pianists. The first show was this past week but three more pianists will be featured over 6 shows.  Mirko Signorile appears on November 10, Rita Marcotulli on February 22 and Giovanni Guidi on March 22.  Show times are 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm on those nights at the Jazz Bistro, but we suggest you arrive earlier to enjoy dinner with some wine before the show.

To see more information about the shows and order tickets, go to:





The following promotions are available now until January 2, 2016 at the LCBO:


Earn 6 Bonus Air Miles on Patriarche Pinot Noir (#522649)

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

Earn 10 Bonus Air Miles on Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider (#94094)

Receive a free 50ml Chic Choc Spiced Rum (where applied) with the purchase of Vodka Mudshake Chocolate (#5280) OR Vodka Mudshake French Vanilla (#4606). While supplies Last.

Receive a free Key Chain (where applied) with the purchase of Segura Viudas Brut Reserva (#216960). While supplies Last.

Receive a free Chic Choc Tin Cup (where applied) with the purchase of Chic Choc Spiced Rum (#402867). While supplies Last.

Receive a free Key Chain (where applied) with the purchase of House of Mandela Sauvignon Blanc (#407882). While supplies Last.


Find the following wines chilling in the Wine Fridge:
Marques de Riscal White Rueda (#36822)
Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery Riesling, VQA (#326249)
Alpine Valley Sauvignon Blanc (#241810)
Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava (#216960)





Beef Bourguignon

This recipe is referred to by the CBC and Canadian Living as a ‘classic’ and is a relatively easy preparation of the dish. Enjoy it with any red wine. This dish is a great one to make ahead of time and re-heat when serving.

Beef Bourguignon1 pkg (14 g) dried porcini mushrooms
3 lb (1.5 kg) boneless beef cross rib pot roast
4 oz (125 g) thickly sliced bacon, chopped
3 tbsp (45 mL) vegetable oil
1 each onion and large carrot, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp (2 mL) each salt and pepper
1/3 cup (75 mL) all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups (375 mL) red wine, (such as Pinot Noir or Merlot)
1/2 cups (125 mL) beef broth
3 sprigs fresh parsley
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 pkg (10 oz/284 g) pearl onions
1 tbsp (15 mL) butter
3 cups (750 mL) button mushrooms
2 tbsp (25 mL) brandy
2 tbsp (25 mL) minced fresh parsley

Soak dried mushrooms in 1/2 cup (125 mL) hot water for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim fat from beef; cut meat into 1-1/2-inch (4 cm) cubes and set aside.

In a Dutch oven, sauté bacon over medium-high heat until crisp; transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Drain fat from pan.

Add 1 tbsp (15 mL) of the oil to pan; brown beef, in 3 batches and adding remaining oil as necessary. Transfer to bowl. Drain fat from pan.

Add chopped onion, carrot, garlic, salt and pepper to pan; cook over medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with flour; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Reserving soaking liquid, remove mushrooms and chop; add to pan along with soaking liquid, wine and broth. Bring to boil, scraping up any brown bits. Tie parsley, thyme and bay leaves together with string. Add to pan along with bacon, beef and any juices. Cover and braise in 325°F (160°C) oven until meat is fork-tender, 2-1/2 to 3 hours.
Meanwhile, in pot of boiling water, boil pearl onions for 3 minutes; drain and chill in cold water. Peel and trim, leaving root ends intact. In skillet, melt butter over medium heat; brown pearl onions, about 5 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer to bowl.

Add mushrooms to skillet; fry until browned, about 5 minutes.

With slotted spoon, remove beef to separate bowl. Add pearl onions, mushrooms and brandy to liquid in Dutch oven; bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened and onions are tender, about 25 minutes. Discard herbs. Return beef to pan and heat through. Sprinkle with parsley.

Serve with your favourite red wine.

Merry Christmas to all and Cheers!

- Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum




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