The Imbiber's Report

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


January 23, 2016


StargazingAcross Ontario over the next 2 weeks or so, it is possible to see all five ‘naked eye’ planets just before sunrise. This phenomenon is being provided to everyone free of charge and you can visit the stars as many times as you like. For those of you who live in Toronto, the southern horizon is easily seen across the lake. Mercury may be a bit difficult to pick out as it is the lowest in the horizon and the smallest of the five. Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will all form a line and be visible with the naked eye. Here’s a link to an article in the Toronto Star that provides a bit more detail.

We would usually suggest a glass of wine with your stargazing but since you’ll be up very early in the morning, stick to tea or coffee and save the wine for later.

A Portuguese Primer is featured in the latest Vintages release and showcases two wines from our portfolio. We also have a new Chilean Sauvignon Blanc that is garnering all sorts of accolades and scores. We are very pleased to have Sue-Ann Staff’s Baco Noir in this release too (she has sold out at the winery – so this will be your last chance to buy some).

Speaking of Sue-Ann Staff, this week’s Ontario shout-out goes to her neighbour, Flat Rock Cellars for their 2013 Twisted. A blend of Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Chardonnay, it’s one of those blends like d’Arenberg’s Stump Jump white that is fun to drink and easy to share.

We have included a Portuguese stew recipe that will go well with all three reds this time around. There are few announcements about upcoming wine shows including Second Harvest’s announcement of this year’s Toronto Taste. We have some promotions at the LCBO you should know about too. Pouring a glass of something red and spicy would be a good move right now…



We are very pleased to announce the addition of Cask Islay to our portfolio as part of the Whisky Shop program at the LCBO.

Cask Islay Scotch WhiskyCask Islay
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
A.D. Rattray
Scotland, United Kingdom
432922 700ml bottle $74.95

A limited supply of this extraordinary whisky is available at LCBO stores that participate in the Whisky Shop program.

Check store availability here:

Here is some background information and tasting notes directly from A.D. Rattray:

The newest addition to our product portfolio, CASK ISLAY is a Small Batch, Single Malt Scotch Whisky.

We have specially selected this single malt for its wonderful Islay characteristics resulting in a heavyweight Islay classic with instantly recognizable peat and smoke aromas. It will delight the dedicated Islay malt fan but also appeal to those who want to expand their whisky region experience.

It offers an unusually sweet and complex palate achieved from a rare, for Islay, mix of bourbon barrels and sherry hogsheads sourced directly from small bodegas in Jerez. Bottled at 46% ABV, it takes you on a journey from dry to sweet with flavours of toffee, juicy barley and rich peat smoke.

Colour: Golden Islay sunset.
Nose: Warm and fiery, roasting peat kiln, some citrus notes after the smoke.
Palate: Oily, burnt toffee, juicy barley and rich peat smoke.
Conclusion: Lively, peaty and full of flavour.

Founded by Andrew Dewar Rattray in 1868, A D Rattray began trading as an importer of French wines, Italian spirits and olive oil. More importantly, however, the company also established itself as a specialist in the field of blending and storage of malt and grain whiskies.

A D Rattray Ltd is owned by Mr Tim Morrison, previously of Morrison Bowmore Distillers and fourth generation descendent of Andrew Dewar Rattray. The company’s resurgence came about in 2002 with the bottling of a ‘new’ Stronachie 12YO. In April 2004, using his extensive knowledge and expertise in the whisky industry, Mr Morrison then bottled a selection of his own handpicked stock of whiskies for market release and the A D Rattray Cask Collection was born.

Today the company’s principal purpose is to promote the Stronachie, Cask Islay and Bank Note brands and bottle unusual and exclusive casks of Scotch whisky as part of the A D Rattray Cask Collection range.


VINTAGES RELEASE, January 9, 2016

Cool coast SBCasa Silva Cool Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Colchagua Valley, Chile
419812 $16.95
280 (12 pack) cases available

4 ½ Stars, Exceptional-value wine - Susan Desjardins,
“This is an excellent example of Chilean winemakers’ venture into new areas as they offer cool-climate wines. The lovely alluring aromas bring together notes of white flowers and subtle tropical notes paired with bright citrus and delicate herbs. Dry, medium bodied, there’s a racy, tangy backbone with loads of fresh lemon-lime, mineral and herbal flavours and refined silkiness to the texture. Finishing with length and vibrancy, this is a uniquely flavourful and well-balanced Sauvignon Blanc at a great value”.

92 Points –
“Some of the best Chilean sauvignons are emerging from the far Colchagua coast, a region pioneered by Casa Silva at their Paredones Estate. This svelte wine offers brilliantly tart white fruit bound by lemony acidity and mineral notes. It's the kind of sauvignon that demands oysters”.

Casa Silva’s new Paredones Vineyard is located in the cool coastal region of the Colchagua Valley, only 6 kilometres away from the Pacific Ocean. The soil is granitic with a bit of clay as well a high percentage of quartz gravel. This mineral rich soil imparts a definite flinty characteristic to the Sauvignon Blanc.

Handpicked grapes are quickly cooled to 2C when they arrive at the winery. After another sorting, the grapes are pressed and that juice is left to settle for 24 hours to naturally separate some of the solids. The wine is fermented at 11C to 14C for 18 days. Lees are stirred daily to add texture and weight to the wine.

This ‘otherworldly’ Sauvignon Blanc is unlike anything you have tasted before. It has some of the best elements of Loire Sauvignon, but also a hint of Kiwi Savvy and a tropical note that reminds us of cool Cali Sauvignon Blanc. This zippy white is very intriguing and absolutely delicious.

Try with all sorts of seafood, especially oysters, scallops, deep fried calamari, tempura, fresh water fish or lemon chicken.


Staff Baco Noir 2014Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery Baco Noir 2014
Niagara, Ontario VQA
443606 $17.95
168 (12 pack) cases available

Sara d’Amato,
‘A juicy, zesty, nicely ripened Baco Noir with a good dose of spice. Widely appealing with notes of black cherry, cranberry and strawberry. Peppery, a touch earthy and with a finish of milk chocolate. A fresh vein of acidity adds balance. Medium-bodied with an abundance of flavour”.

Vintages Panel: “Sourced from 20-year-old vines planted on thin clay soils over limestone. Dark fruit dominates with awesome herbal undertones and black pepper spice notes. Blackberry, cherry, ripe black plums and spice on the juicy palate. The perfect accompaniment to a winter stew".

Stylistically, this is a vibrant, fruity Baco Noir with plenty of appealing aromatics and flavours. There’s an interesting balance between soft, smooth coca flavours and bright cranberry-like acidity. It’s medium-bodied and fruity overall and would be great with Moroccan stew, Split pea soup with smoky ham hock, bacon burgers or braised brisket with BBQ sauce. Chill this Baco Noir down in the fridge for 20 minutes before serving.




Altano Douro Red 2013Altano Red 2013
Douro Valley DOC, Portugal
579862 $12.95
588 (12 pack) cases available

4 ½ Stars, Exceptional-value wine – Vic Harradine,
“A value-laden, red blend of premium Port grapes—Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca—aromas of mixed spice, dark berry fruit and wisps of lilac drift easily from the glass. A lively, juicy stream of red and black cherry blends well with notions of blueberry pie filling. It’s medium weight with ripe tannin, good mouth feel and a fruit-forward, balanced finish. It’s good to go now and pours well with lasagne or steak and kidney pie”.

Sara d'Amato,, 88 Points
“An excellent value, this spicy, earthy floral red blend is brimming with character, Mid-weight with a touch of creaminess on the palate and notes of earl grey tea. Purple flower lingers on the finish of this sensual treat”.

Recommended -
“The Symingtons have the largest vineyard holdings in the Douro, producing Altano from a modern, relatively flat vineyard in the Douro Superior... Altano is bright and youthful, showing some heat and plenty of tarry strawberry-jam flavor... a more modern and fresh interpretation of the Douro”.

Grapes for Altano are sourced from the Symington Family’s vineyards located all along the Douro, principally from the prime Cima Corgo and Douro Superior (Vilariça) sub-regions of the Valley. Many of these vineyards also produce grapes for the various Port brands that Symington owns, like DOW’s.

The winemaking process for Altano is gentle and the wine is fermented at a relatively low temperature for a red, ensuring that the wine is full, fruity and easy to drink without too much tannin. It’s aged in a mix of stainless steel and large 400 litre French and American oak.

This is an incredible wine for the money. Pick up a few bottles for when you just want to have a glass of red wine: it’s that user-friendly. It will also match a wide variety of food and plays especially well with tomato-based dishes. Try the recipe below to get the idea. Serve this wine at 16C for best enjoyment.


Vale do Bomfim 2013Vale do Bomfim 2013
Douro Valley DOC, Portugal
167676 $15.95
308 (12 pack) cases available

4 ½ Stars, Exceptional-value wine – Vic Harradine,
“Perfumed aromas of tobacco, charred toast, grilled savory herbs and berry fruit abound. A rich, succulent torrent of sweet, ripe mulberry, black plum and dried currant coats the palate in this value-packed beauty. It’s a blend of 40% Tinta Barroca, 20% Touriga Franca, 20% Touriga Nacional, 10% Tinta Roriz, 10% Tinto Cão sourced from the vineyards of Dow’s premium Port
wine, Quinta Do Bomfim. This is full bodied and fully textured with a long, lip-smacking finish. Back up the van, it’s drinking well now to 2019". (Vic Harradine)

88 Points, Excellent Value - John Szabo, MS,
Gold Medal World Wine Awards –
“Give this a bit of air to evolve out of the glass; it's a fine and representative red from the Douro, on the softer and fruitier side as you'd expect from the entry level price, but with impressive complexity and range nonetheless. Drink or hold short term. I like the savoury fruit on offer”.

Vintages Panel: This easy-drinking and approachable blend of 30% Tinta Barroca, 25% Touriga Nacional, 25% Touriga Franca, 15% Tinta Roriz and 5% Tinto Cão is sourced from the same vineyards that supply the grapes for Symington's House of Dow Ports. The Vale do Bomfim was originally crafted to be the Symington family's personal house wine. The 2013 has great depth of red berry fruit, cherry and mulberry. Well-made and structured, it's a pleasant, plush and plummy wine that will be great with a hearty beef stew.

Here is a bit of background information directly from the Symington Family: “This wine comes from the Symington family’s Douro Valley vineyards in Northern Portugal, and in particular from those which traditionally supply the House of Dow’s, one of the family’s premier Port marques. For many years, the Vale do Bomfim red wine was made by the family solely for their own enjoyment and to serve to visiting guests, whose repeated complimentary remarks and encouragement, led to the wine’s launch commercially. First offered in the US market, where it has consistently received very favourable reviews, the Vale do Bomfim is being offered in a growing number of other countries.

The grapes are principally sourced from Dow’s Bomfim and Senhora da Ribeira vineyards, as well as from other vineyards, which have long supplied the company. The grape variety mix is: 45% Touriga Franca, 30% Touriga Nacional, 20% blend varieties and 5% Tinta Amarela”.

A little more concentrated and fuller-bodied than the Altano, Vale do Bomfim is a stellar food wine and will match grilled red meat, game, lamb and the stew recipe below.



Caliterra Sauv Blanc NEW Label Large87 Points – Beppi Crosariol, The Globe and Mail
Caliterra Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Central Valley, Chile
275909 $9.95
“Crisp, light-bodied and bursting with flavour, this zesty, grassy white comes across like a grapefruit orchard on a golf course – a wine for Canadians with dreams of wintering in Florida. Try it with oysters, goat cheese or salads”.

















2016 California Wine Fairs

Taste over 400 wines from +150 prominent California wineries for one low admission price. Highly regarded as ‘the’ wine show of the year, it usually sells out. There are no tickets sold at the door.

Purchase tickets now @ and have questions answered via the California Wine Fair Hotline (905) 336-8932 or 1-800-558-CORK (2675).  

The 37th annual California Wine Fair tour pours in Ontario on the following dates:

Ottawa: Friday, April 8

Toronto: Monday, April 11








Second Harvest has announced the date for this year’s fundraising event

Toronto Taste 2016
Lakeside, Corus Quay
25 Dockside Dr. Toronto
Sunday, June 12, 2016
Doors Open: 6:00 PM

To purchase tickets and for more details:

We will give you more details regarding our participation in the event as we get closer to the date.



 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:










“Notes” on Jazz.FM91

Chris and Mark joined Brad at Jazz.FM91 this past week and had a grand time tasting four different wines. We began with Wente’s Riva Ranch Chardonnay (which Brad loved), followed by Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône Reserve, Les Trois Couronnes Crozes Hermitage and First Press Napa Cabernet Sauvignon. Brad was suitably impressed by all four wines was stoked about the wine and food match. Here’s a link to the recipe from the show You can listen to the podcast here.










Churchill Cellars is on the air with Humble and Fred!

The latest instalment of #wineforbreakfast at Humble & Fred Radio began with Chris’ music pick from Hunter and the Bear  The discussion quickly went from recently deceased actors and musicians to the emotional impact it has on some people. The banter was relatively civil as we tasted Wente’s Riva Ranch Chardonnay and First Press Cabernet Sauvignon. Afterwards, we chatted a bit about home cooking as therapy and love. It was almost like being on Martha Stewart. 

To listen to our segment click here and go to the 1:13 mark.

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.  You may listen to the podcast anytime you please.

NOTE: Broadcast contains mature language.





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)





This recipe comes from Saveur Magazine and was part of a ‘love-letter’ to Portugal article written by Jean Anderson. Enjoy this dish with some crusty bread and either of the two Portuguese reds from this release.

Portuguese Meat and Chickpea Stew

chickpea-stew-with-lamb-pork-and-veal 800x1200Ingredients:
2 tbsp. lard or unsalted butter
6 oz. cured Portuguese chouriço sausage, sliced 1 1⁄2" thick
6 oz. boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 1 1⁄2" pieces
6 oz. boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1 1⁄2" pieces
6 oz. boneless veal shoulder, cut into 1 1⁄2" pieces
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. paprika
1⁄2 tsp. cayenne pepper
6 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" pieces
4 medium carrots, cut into 1⁄2" pieces
1⁄2 medium butternut squash (about 1 lb.), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1" pieces
1⁄3 roughly chopped mint
2 (15-oz.) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
Portuguese pão, or rustic country bread, for serving


Heat lard or butter in a 6-qt. Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until browned, 9–10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer sausage to a bowl; set aside.
Season lamb, pork, and veal with salt and pepper, and working in batches, cook meats, turning as needed, until browned, about 20 minutes. Transfer to bowl with sausage.
Add garlic and onions to pan; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly caramelized, about 20 minutes. Stir in paprika and cayenne; cook until fragrant, 1–2 minutes. Return sausage and meat to pan, along with stock and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, partly covered, until meat is tender, about 45 minutes.
Add potatoes, carrots, chickpeas, squash, salt, and pepper; continue to cook until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes more. Discard bay leaves and stir in mint. Ladle stew into bowls; serve with country bread on the side.

In keeping with the Portuguese theme, Bom apetite!

- Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum



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