The Imbiber's Report

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


January 9, 2016


CaliforniaWelcome to 2016! This year’s inaugural Vintages release is called The Smart Buys Issue and features some exceptionally good wines at very reasonable prices. In it, we have a beautiful Chardonnay from Monterey County, California – and a recipe below that is a perfect match. We also see the return of a perennial favourite from Napa Valley, First Press Cabernet Sauvignon, which graces the back cover of the catalogue.

If you are in the London area next weekend, swing by the Western Fair District for the London Wine and Food Show, where we will be pouring a selection of wine and spirits from our portfolio. Details are below in the Events section.

Pour a splash of Chic Choc Spiced Rum into your coffee and take the chill off…


VINTAGES RELEASE, January 9, 2016

Wente Riva Ranch DOBS 150dpiWente Riva Ranch Chardonnay 2013
Arroyo Seco, Monterey, California
979344 $24.95
252 (12 pack) cases available

90 Points – Mike Potashnik,
“The Chardonnay Riva Ranch from Wente's Arroyo Seco vineyard is medium yellow gold in colour and displays a warm, waxy hazelnut and golden tropical fruit nose. Aged for 8 months in oak, it has lovely mouth feel, full and rich in lanolin, good flavour and toasted oak. Refined and rich tasting.”

94 points, Gold, Best of Region White, California State Fair, June 2015

91 points, Tasting Panel, Aug-Sept 2015

Wente’s wines are divided into different tiers or ranges. The first tier is the Estate Grown wines, which includes Morning Fog Chardonnay and Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon, available at the LCBO. The next level is the Single Vineyard range, which includes Riva Ranch Arroyo Secco Chardonnay, located in Monterey County. Here is the overview from Wente’s website:

“Karl L. Wente, grandson of the winery’s founder and grandfather of present winemaker Karl D. Wente, pioneered winegrowing in Monterey County’s Arroyo Seco district when he planted vineyards in the region in 1962. Like other winemakers to follow, he was impressed by the climate of the Arroyo Seco river region, the availability of excellent water, and the well-drained, rocky soils. The foresight of his decision is evidenced by the sustained production of critically acclaimed wines from the area.

Arroyo Seco is a sub-appellation within the Monterey AVA, with topography that begins in the west as a steep, narrow canyon and widens in the east as it nears the edge of the Salinas Valley floor. Arroyo Seco has many meso-climates, including the mouth of the canyon in the west, where red Bordeaux grape varieties flourish, warmed by reflective heat generated from the soil and nearby cliffs. The eastern part of the region is relatively cooler, due to strong Salinas Valley winds, providing ideal conditions for growing white Burgundy grape varieties. The soil in the Arroyo Seco area is primarily elder loam, underlain by river stones deposited over thousands of years by the Arroyo Seco River. These “Greenfield Potatoes,” as they are known, are an integral part of the soil because they store and release heat and promote excellent drainage, keeping the vines’ vegetative growth and fruit production in balance.

Arroyo Seco, Monterey is a cooler region with an extended growing season, making it more favorable for cool-climate varietals. Soils replete with shale and limestone deposits provide excellent drainage and minerals that impart significant flavor components to the vines. These factors also result in smaller, more intense berries and concentrated flavors. Among the varieties planted are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Riesling”

The website also includes some excellent background information on California’s First Family of Chardonnay:

First Press Napa Cab Sauv Btl ShotFirst Press Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Napa Valley, California
188110 $22.95
1288 (12 pack) cases available

Vintages Panel: “Always a great value from Napa, this offers a nose of ripe dark fruit, milk chocolate, vanilla, spice, herbs and a touch of mint. Rich and full-flavoured with good concentration and generous replays. Round, ripe and pleasurable”.

4 Stars –
90 Points – Natalie MacLean
88 Points – Best Buy, Wine and Spirits Magazine
Gold Medal – San Francisco International Wine Competition

Although it's not an Essentials listing which would make this wine available all the time through Vintages, it does grace Vintages' shelves a few times a year and sells out quickly.  Our advice is to snap it up quickly since this price for a Napa Cab is becoming harder to find.







Sprucewood RieslingRecommended – Wayne Cuddington, Ottawa Citizen
Sprucewood Shores Estate Winery
Riesling VQA Ontario, 2014
326249 $13.95
“This is a lovely, off-dry, and nicely priced Ontario Riesling. The fruit is solid from start to finish, with light sweetness and well balanced by the clean, crisp acidity. This is a natural for spicy pork, seafood or vegetarian dishes”.





Chic Choc largeRecommended – Peter Rockwell, Toronto Star
Chic Choc Spiced Rum
402867 $33.75
“Made in Quebec, this rum is a blend of Nordic spices, including peppery green alder and whiterod berries harvested from the province’s Chic Choc Mountains. Nice and spicy, it’s a great base for holiday cocktails”.





Les Trois Couronnes medium88 Points – Beppi Crosariol, The Globe and Mail
Les Trois Couronnes Crozes-Hermitage 2013,
Rhône Valley, France
421065 $17.95
“Based on the star red grape of the Crozes-Hermitage appellation in the northern Rhône, this is nonetheless relatively lean in body, so don’t expect a fruit bomb. The fruit hints at plum and cherry, enlivened by black pepper, smoke, gamy meat and bright acidity. A well-crafted and a fairly priced example of Rhône Syrah”.




Wanted Zin Zinfandel IGT med87 Points – Beppi Crosariol, The Globe and Mail
The Wanted Zin Zinfandel Old Vines 2014,
Puglia, Italy
4106487 $13.95  
“The label looks like a poster that would be nailed to a tree in the Wild West, complete with the description “Carefully Matured in American Oak.” Zinfandel may be America’s heritage wine grape, but guess what? This red comes from Italy, specifically the southern region of Puglia, where zinfandel normally goes by a less popular synonym, “Primitivo.” Attractive for the price, this is smooth, full-bodied and accessible, with plump stewed fruit, blueberry and raisin flavours on a rounded, sweet core infused with baking spices and toasted coconut”.







 London Wine and Food Show Logo







London Wine & Food Show

Thursday, January 14: 5:00 pm - 10:30 pm
Friday, January 15: 12:00 pm - 10:30 pm
Saturday, January 16: 12:00 pm - 10:30 pm

845 Florence Street

Thursday and Friday
Admission: $12.00 Advanced (prior to January 13 – 11:55 pm)/ $16.00 at the door
Sample Coupons: $26.50 Advanced / $30.00 at the door
Couples Package: $45.00 (Advanced Only)
2 Admissions + 30 Sample Coupons

Admission: $15.00 Advanced / $20.00 at the door
Sample Coupons: $26.50 Advanced / $30.00 at the door
Couples Package: $55.00 (Advanced Only)
2 Admissions + 30 Sample Coupons

The Churchill Cellars Booth is centrally located at number 720F. We will be pouring just over 20 products from around the world including First Press Napa Cab from Vintages, Chic Choc Spiced Rum, Ungava Premium Gin and Slava Vodka as well as Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider and Fresita. Sprucewood Shores Riesling and Lady in Red will also be available for sampling at our booth as well as in an area that features wines from southwestern Ontario and Lake Erie North Shore. We really hope to see you there.

For tickets and more information visit:




 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 two shows have already happened but two more pianists will be featured over 4 shows.  Rita Marcotulli appears 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 30, 2016 at the LCBO:


Save $1.00 on The Wanted Zin Zinfandel IGT (#416487)

Save $2.00 on Gran Feudo Reserva (#479014)

Save $4.00 on Chic Choc Spiced Rum (#402867)

Earn 4 Bonus Air Miles on Casal Thaulero Sangiovese (#588996)

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

Earn 6 Bonus Air Miles on Caliterra Cabernet Sauvignon (#257329)

Earn 15 Bonus Air Miles on Marques de Riscal Rioja Reserva (#32656)

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

Receive a $5.00 Online Rebate for Bleu Lavande (where applied) with the purchase of Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider (#94094). 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)





Veal Scallops with Meyer Lemon and Tarragon Sauce and Lemon-Flavoured Rice

Veal ScallopiniFrom Sharing the Vineyard Table – A Celebration of Wine and Food from the Wente Vineyards Restaurant, here is Carolyn Wente’s recipe for Veal Scallops. The cookbook is divided into seasons and this dish appears in the winter section. In her introduction to the recipe she mentions that you can substitute regular lemons for Meyers but the dish will be slightly more tangy. It’s Meyer Lemon season now, so you should be able to find them at better grocery stores.

Enjoy this dish with Riva Ranch Chardonnay.

Serves 4


8 medium-sized veal scallops (about 2 by 4 inches and ½ inch thick)
¼ cup unsalted butter
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 ½ tsp minced garlic
2 Tbs minced shallot
¾ cup dry white wine (unoaked)
¼ cup of Meyer lemon juice
1 Tbs coarsely chopped fresh tarragon leaves
1 Tbs arrowroot blended with 1 Tbs hot water
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Lemon-Flavoured Rice

2 cups chicken or veal stock
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 Tbs butter
1 Tbs finely chopped lemon zest
Thinly sliced lemon rounds

2 Tbs chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves for garnish


To prepare the veal: Place each scallop between 2 sheets of waxed paper or plastic wrap. With a mallet or cleaver, flatten each scallop to about ¼ inch thick. Pat each scallop with a paper towel to dry.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil. When the butter begins to brown place several scallops in pan. Don’t crowd them. Sauté 2 minutes a side until nicely browned, remove from pan and set aside and continue to cook the remaining scallops in the same manner. Do not overcook or the veal will lose its tenderness,

To prepare the sauce: Place the same skillet, with the veal juices, oil and butter remaining in the pan, over medium heat, add the remaining butter, the garlic and shallots. Sauté for about 2 minutes, until transparent. Add the white wine, lemon juice and tarragon and reduce until there is about ¾ cup liquid. Add the arrowroot-water mixture and stir until sauce is thickened. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To prepare the rice: In a saucepan over high heat, bring the stock to a boil. Add the rice and butter. Cover, turn to low and simmer for 20 minutes until rice is cooked and the stock has been absorbed.

When done, mix in the lemon zest while fluffing the rice.

To serve, place the scallops back in the skillet and warm over medium heat, turning once to cover with the sauce and heat through, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat, place the scallops on a platter and spoon the sauce over the top. Garnish with the parsley. Place the rice in a serving bowl with overlapping lemon slices arranged around the rim. The lemon slices add a nice flavour to the rice and the veal and are easily eaten when sliced so thinly.

This dish would also be brilliant with the ‘regular’ Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay.


- Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum




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