The Imbiber's Report

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


February 6, 2016

WINE LOVE        

valentines-dayWith Valentine’s Day just around the corner, we have a fortunate confluence of off-dry, aromatic and flavourful white wines that are available in the VQA section at the LCBO, through Vintages and as part of the Classics Collection. The Classics Collection also features Angove’s Flagship Shiraz from Australia, which is a highly sought after collectable from the McLaren Vale.

We have some nice accolades for two of our favourite French red wines, Château de Gourgazaud and Les Trois Couronnes Crozes-Hermitage as well as a 90 Point score for d’Arry’s Original. There are some terrific promotions at the LCBO we will draw your attention to and we’ve included a warm winter salad recipe to match most of the wines in this release.

One more thing: if you are celebrating Valentine’s Day, don’t forget to stock up on Segura Viudas Brut Cava and or another bubbly like Fresita Sparkling Wine (#383901, $13.95), which is a sparkling wine infused with real strawberries. We poured this last month at the London Wine and Food Fair and it was our most popular wine. We even converted some die-hard red wine drinkers!

Pour a glass of something light, white and aromatic and read on…



Fancy Farm Girl WhiteSue-Ann Staff Estate Winery
Fancy Farm Girl ‘Frivolous White’ 2014
Niagara Peninsula VQA, Ontario
394072 $14.95

Congratulations Sue-Ann Staff! Fancy Farm Girl ‘Frivolous White’ is officially listed and available all year long in the LCBO's Ontario VQA section. You will see the new 2014 vintage begin to populate shelves this week. This charming Riesling-based white has some serious pedigree. Fruit comes from Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery vineyards in Jordon, inside the 20 Mile Bench sub-appellation. The 2014 Frivolous White clocks in at 21.9 Residual Sugar and 8.8 Total Acidity, which makes it a smidge (official wine term) drier than Loved by Lu Riesling, but still in the same 'off-dry' ballpark. Try it with grilled pork, 'Hawaiian' pizza, spicy 'Tex-Mex', sushi, warm bacon spinach salad (recipe below) and a wide variety of soft and semi-soft cheeses.









Ordering for the February 4th Classics Collection began this week. For information on how to order, click here We have two wines in this month’s collection.

Alsace Clos Gaensbroennel 2011Alsace Willm
Gewurztraminer 2011
Alsace Grand Cru Kirchberg de Barr
Clos Gaensbroennel Willm
Alsace, France
308601 $36.00
30 (12 pack) cases available

93 Points – Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast
“From a parcel within the Kirchberg de Barr Grand Cru, this is a structured, serious Gewurztraminer. It has weight as well as sweetness, but it's the potential and ageability that is so impressive. Spice and gingerbread notes, as well as fine acidity, lend complexity to the honeyed, yellow fruits. Drink from 2016”.

A true Grand Cru situated in the heart of the Grand Cru Kirchberg de Barr, Clos Gaensbroennel is a unique vineyard surrounded by a very old stone wall. The Gewurztraminer grown on this site has long been famous for its quality and is considered to be some of the best in the world.

From Willm’s archives:
“The Clos Gaensbroennel lies within the Grand Cru vineyard Kirchberg of Barr and is situated on the side mid-slope of this mountain. The name Gaensbroennel (“Goose Fountain”) refers to the stone fountain decorated and carved with the image of a goose situated just outside the Clos (a walled vineyard). The total size of the Clos Gaensbroennel is approximately 12,5 Acres (5 Ha.) of which Willm owns 11,12 Acres (4,5 Ha.). The geology of this vineyard is made of fairly deep marley limey soils where the Gewurztraminer is at its best. The Willm surface area planted with Gewurztraminer is 9,88 Acres (4 Ha.). The culture of our properties is part of a renewed and demanding production chart in order to optimize its expression and concentration even more. The Clos Gaensbroennel provides exceptional fruit and rich extract offering distinctive, spicy, mineral character and dimension, very typical for marley limey soils. They have great ageing potential. The Clos Gaensbroennel shares the same history record as the Kirchberg of Barr”.


Angove Medhyk ShirazAngove Family Winemakers
The Medhyk Shiraz 2012
McLaren Vale, Australia
437749 $70.00
18 (6 pack) cases available

96 Points – James Halliday,
“The vineyard may be relatively small, and the production a minuscule part of Angove's total annual production, but it's a worthy flag bearer. This is a wine of real distinction and class. While it has all the depth and structure needed for long cellaring, it is so supple and well balanced it can be enjoyed any time, its velvety blackberry fruit flavours wreathed by supple tannins and perfectly integrated quality oak”.

First released to commemorate 125 years of winemaking by the Angove family in South Australia, The Medhyk is Angove Family Winemakers’ flagship wine. Medhyk is Cornish for doctor and the wine was named in honour of the company’s founder, Dr William T. Angove, a Cornish-born medical practitioner.







VINTAGES RELEASE, February 6, 2016

New to Vintages…

Loved by Lu Riesling 2014Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery
Loved by Lu Riesling 2014
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada
322636 $16.95
168 (12 pack) cases available

Vintages Panel: “This beloved Riesling is enchanting once again with the 2014 vintage, offering aromas and flavours of candied pear, citrus, apple, peach and a touch of tangy lemon. Brilliant acidity lends a crisp, zesty quality, and there's plenty of fresh pear character on the palate”.

Loved by Lu Riesling is named after Sue-Ann Staff’s Grandmother Lula. Lula was fond of this off-dry, light-hearted style of wine and would say to Sue-Ann “I love your Riesling”. In honour of her Grandmother, Sue-Ann named this wine Loved by Lu. This wine is so popular that she has run out of it at winery and it is only available through Vintages now.

This style of wine is fun to match with food because it has a little bit of residual sugar in it. Try with a warm spinach salad with mandarin oranges and almond with a bacon dressing (see the recipe below).







Tiki-Estate-Pinot-Gris-2014Tiki Estate Pinot Gris 2014
Marlborough, New Zealand
295279 $17.95
112 (12 pack) cases available

Vintages Panel: “Bright and fruity on the nose, with yellow plum and peach pit standing out. Crisp acidity along with a creamy, rich texture in the mouth. The ripe fruit introduces some sweetness mid-palate. Juicy and fresh, this will be a good match for lightly spiced Thai dishes”.

The tiki (pronounced “tick-ee” and not “tee-kee”) is a hand carved Maori treasure which, when gifted, bestows good fortune and love on others.

Winemaker’s Notes: “The Tiki Estate Pinot Gris has an aromatic nose with fruit aromas of ripe nashi pear, honeysuckle and quince. The palate is full and lush with flavours of apple, custard and pear with a touch of ginger. It pairs well with lightly spiced Asian cuisine such as Thai fish cakes.

Tiki is committed to sustainable winegrowing and to working with the environment without compromising quality. We care for our vines under the guiding Maori principles of Kaitiakitanga guardianship, protection and preservation of the earth”.  

Similar in style to Pinot Gris from Alsace or the Willamette Valley, this is a fuller-bodied version with more intensity and mouthfeel than northern Italian Pinot Grigio. It really works well with all sorts of pan-Asian cuisine like medium spicy curry, coconut based Thai dishes or spicy Chinese fish preparations.







dArrys Original90 Points – Best Buy – Wine & Spirits Magazine, February 2016
d’Arenberg d’Arry’s Original Shiraz-Grenache 2012
McLaren Vale, Australia
#942904 $19.95
“Chester Osborn may be known for his creative variations on old-vine Grenache and Shiraz, but when it comes to preserving the legacy of his father’s original blend, he’s remarkably consistent. This is clean, savoury, smooth and generous, its juicy dark fruit firmly structured with smoky tannins that will be right at home around the grill”.






Chateau de Gourgazaud Large NV no backgroundUnder-$20 wines that fall outside the usual comfort zone
BEPPI CROSARIOL, The Globe and Mail

One advantage of not being super-rich, besides knowing you’ll never have to run into a Kardashian in the waiting room at a private-jet terminal, is that it nudges you to discover offbeat wines.

Don’t get me wrong. Most days I, too, would be happy to kick back in a stretch limo sipping nothing but the best. But when it comes to wine styles, that typically means living in a narrow universe. The vast majority of luxury cuvées encompass roughly 12 grape varieties (among thousands in existence), a handful of blue-chip regions (notably Bordeaux, Burgundy, Napa and Champagne) and a limited field of producers.

We of humbler means are forced to scour the globe for value. The upside – if we’re adventurous in our tastes – is that it can lead down interesting back alleys. I’ve got some under-$20 suggestions that fall outside the usual comfort zone.

89 Points- Beppi Crosariol, The Globe and Mail
Château de Gourgazaud Minervois 2013, France
22384 $12.95
“A blend of Syrah and Mourvèdre from southern France, this major bargain dishes up no shortage of cherry- and plum-like fruitiness, but the real draw is in the licorice and Mediterranean-herb savouriness. Medium-bodied, it would pair beautifully with roast leg of lamb or, frankly, pretty much anything you’d find in a French bistro”.



Les Trois Couronnes medium4 ½ Stars – Great Value –, Vic Harradine
Les Trois Couronnes
Crozes-Hermitage AC 2013
Rhône Valley, France
421065 $17.95
“This punches well above the price—quite elegant and charming. This 100% Syrah jumps from the glass with smoke, oak and toast aromas. Black currant, sweet vanilla and black juicy Bing cherry mingle with spice and mocha on the palate infusing the long aftertaste. It’s medium-full weight with good texture and great structure from a solid tannin underpinning and framed with delectable red berry tang. Aerate/decant two hours before serving with grilled strip loin”.















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:











Churchill Cellars is on the air with Humble and Fred!

Last week’s instalment of #wineforbreakfast at Humble & Fred Radio began with Chris’ music pick from the James Hunter Six called Baby Hold On:  It’s in the classic R&B vein and features the Dap-Kings horn section.  Have a listen and try not to tap your feet!

Our featured wines were both from the Symington Family in Portugal: the Altano Tinto and Vale do Bomfim from the last Vintages release.  After we compared notes about our various ailments and started to talk about the wines, an ex-wrestler named Virgil called in.  After that, we resumed our tasting and discussion about all things Portuguese and the great value these wines offer.  Click here and we’re on just before the 1 hour 6 minute 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 February 27, 2016 at the LCBO:


Earn 4 Bonus Air Miles on Dunavar Pinot Grigio (#335422)

Earn 6 Bonus Air Miles on Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc (#275909)

Earn 8 Bonus Air Miles on Sprucewood Shores Lady in Red VQA (#266486)

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

Save $1.00 on Segura Viudas Brut Reserva (#216960)

Save $1.50 on Deakin Estate Artisan’s Blend Cabernet Sauvignon (#399238)

Save $1.50 on Vodka Mudshake Chocolate (#5280)

Save $2.00 on Wente Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon (#301507)

Save $2.00 on Les Dauphins Côtes Du Rhône Reserve (#385385)

Save $3.00 on Seven Deadly Zins (#59311)

Find the following wines chilling in the Wine Fridge in Select Stores:
House of Mandela Sauvignon Blanc (#407882)





Spinach Salad with Warm Bacon-Honey Mustard Dressing

One of the first recipes that I ever collected was a version of this salad. The combinations of flavours and textures intrigued me and I thought – who would think of putting all of these things together? Years later, I found out that it was a sweetened up interpretation of a ‘classic’ French bistro salad. Here is my current take on it.

For the salad:

spinach-salad-with-warm-bacon-vinaigrette300g baby spinach leaves or equivalent (bagged or boxed baby spinach leaves works well here)
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and sliced
1 cup sliced Cremini mushrooms
4 strips excellent quality bacon (from the butcher or Farmer’s market).
300g grated old white cheddar (you can substitute your favourite cheese here, some recipes call for crumbled blue or Swiss. For a real local feel, use grated Niagara Gold from Upper Canada Cheese Company – just down the road from the Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery).
1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds
1/2 a small red onion, thinly sliced

For the dressing:

3 Tbs. bacon fat
3 Tbs. red wine vinegar
½ tsp. Dijon mustard (Kozlik’s Dijon Classique (the mustard formerly known as 'Double C')
1 Tbs honey
salt and pepper to taste


Gently fry the bacon and remove to a paper towel to drain, reserving 3 tablespoons of the rendered fat. Crumble the bacon and set aside.

Transfer the fat to a small saucepan set over low heat and whisk in the red wine vinegar, honey and Dijon mustard. Season with a small pinch each of kosher salt and black pepper.

Add the mushrooms, almonds and the sliced onion to the spinach and toss. Add the dressing and bacon and toss to combine. Divide the spinach between 4 plates or bowls and evenly divide the egg and cheese among them. Season with pepper, as desired. Serve immediately.

Enjoy with Sue-Ann Staff Loved by Lu Riesling, Tiki Estate Pinot Gris, Fancy Farm Girl Frivolous White or Sprucewood Shores Riesling.

Cheers! - Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum




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