The Imbiber's Report

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


February 20, 2016


Bunny with Heart PNG Picture The stretch of days between Valentine’s Day and Easter is a strange time. You know spring is just around the corner, but for those of us who live in Ontario, you also know that winter hasn’t quite finished with us. Retailers know this too. They no longer wait a week or two after Valentine’s to put up Easter displays; rather it’s out with hearts right away and in with the eggs. As a harbinger of spring the changeover is a little easier to stomach this time of year. It’s not like seeing Halloween décor in August or Christmas displays before Remembrance Day. Instead we welcome it, as a reminder that spring is close.

This Vintages release brings a number of solid reds to the portfolio from Australia, Chile and Argentina, as well as a Kiwi Pinot Gris from Nelson that is worth hunting down. We would also like to draw your attention to a re-release (of sorts) of Sue-Ann Staff’s Fancy Farm Girl Flamboyant Red, which will be available until mid-July in selected stores.

On the events front, the California Wine Fair is fast approaching as is Second Harvest’s Toronto Taste fundraiser. Have a look at both events below (we think Toronto Taste is one of the best wine and food events of the year).

Pour yourself a glass of something red, settle into comfy chair and relax a spell…

WINES TO WATCH, February 14 – July 16

This directly from page 19 of the Vintages catalogue No. 581:    


STARTING FEBRUARY 14, you’ll find a special limited release of new and exciting wines from some of our favourite local producers, and yours! These fine wines won’t be on Vintages shelves, though; look for the collection in the LCBO Ontario wines section of about 70 select stores until July 16. Use the product search on to locate them in a store near you.

Fancy Farm Girl Red largeSue-Ann Staff Estate Winery
Fancy Farm Girl
Flamboyant Red 2014
Merlot / Cabernet Franc
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
452276 $14.95

Vintages Panel: “Sue-Ann Staff, a fifth-generation grape-grower, is the winemaker and 'Fancy Farm Girl' behind this lifted, perfumed wine. Expect to find suggestions of red plums and currants, with spice notes adding depth and complexity. A fruity, dry, easy-to-enjoy wine. This is a VQA wine”.

4 Stars ...drink now...Oh Canada! – Susan Desjardins,   
"Grilled herb and red pepper aromas mingle with berry fruit on the nose. The palate offers tasty flavours of ripe berry, cherry and plum, the roasted red pepper replaying with a dash of black pepper. This is a flavourful, approachable red, dry, medium bodied with a pleasing round texture, good balance and tasty finish - stock up. Bring on the crowd and serve with BBQ back ribs"
Follow this link to find out where you can find the Fancy Farm Girl

VINTAGES RELEASE, February 20, 2016

Waimea Pinot GrisWaimea Pinot Gris 2012
Nelson, New Zealand
408682 $18.95
150 (12 pack) cases available

92 Points – James Suckling,
“The Nelson double act of ripeness with brightness is alive and well. Lovely white and yellow stone fruits here. The palate has supple texture and concentrated flavour with a handy flicker of acidity to add pizzazz”.

92 Point – Beppi Crosariol, The Globe and Mail
“Plump and fleshy, this is big like an Alsatian (the wine as well as the dog) and almost as smooth as LeBron James on the basketball court. Succulent preserved peaches coated in butter and a spark of gingery spice”.

4.5 Stars - Susan Desjardins,   
“Showing remarkable weight and intensity, this jewel is replete with floral and spice notes, stone fruit and honeydew melon aromas. The ripe stone and citrus fruit flavours flow across the palate in a silky wave underpinned by refined acidity and minerality. It’s fruity and spicy through the lingering finish. This impressive medium-bodied Gris is a terrific value”.

Winemaker’s Notes: “The fragrant bouquet shows peach, tropical fruit, pear and floral notes, followed by a concentrated and succulent palate filled with delicious flavours such as clover honey. This off-dry wine makes a pretty and stimulating apéritif with enough texture and interest to make a satisfying food wine”.

This solid Pinot Gris reminds us stylistically of Alsace or Oregon, rather than Italy. Its weight, intensity, and texture put it in the same range as an unwooded Chardonnay or maybe even a Viognier/Marsanne blend. If you are interested in exploring and learning about different styles of wine, this one is worth hunting down.

Try it with grilled salmon, pork tenderloin or shellfish bisque. You could also give it a spin with spicy pan-Asian dishes.

Tributo Cab SauvCaliterra Tributo Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Colchagua Valley, Chile
205567 $16.95
336 (12 pack) cases available

90 Points – Michael Schachner, Wine Ethusiast
“Briary, herbal berry aromas are dry, earthy, foresty and show a note of olive. This Cab is full of life on the palate, with energy and good overall balance. Spicy flavors of baked plum, olive, herbs and tobacco finish long, with amplified oak”.

4 Stars - Susan Desjardins,   
“The earthy nature of this wine is on display on the nose—tapenade, dried herbs, autumnal notes—complemented by sweet ripe dark fruit and toasty oak. Dry, full bodied, this is a lively, well-balanced red with supple tannins and fine acidity. The earthy qualities replay, while lashings of black plum, cassis and currant caress the palate through the spicy warm finish. Enjoy with barbequed meats”.

Winemaker’s Notes: “This ruby red wine presents a nice aromatic intensity. Blackberry, red currant and cassis appear rapidly on the nose, leading to spicy notes of cinnamon, tobacco leaf and black pepper. The palate stands out for its balance and volume, with soft tannins and sharp acidity. It pairs perfectly with red meats, duck and soft ripened cheeses”.

Tributo delivers outstanding value. As we sometimes joke – this is a great $25 bottle of wine for 18 bucks. Pick up a few bottles, we promise you won’t be disappointed.

Follow Caliterra on Instagram @caliterrawinery or on Twitter @Caliterra – they post some fun wine and food lifestyle pics and recipes.

Vintages Back Cover…

Los Clop Reserva Malbec largeLos Clop Reserva Malbec 2010
Maipú, Mendoza, Argentina
186650 $17.95
756 (12 pack) cases available |

90 Points – Luis Gutierrez,
“The 2010 Los Clop Reserva Malbec is a bright-looking, modern, clean Malbec with notes of cedar wood, tobacco and a mixture of red and black berry fruit. The palate is medium-bodied, with fine tannins and great intensity of flavors. A good Malbec, at a good price point”.

4 Stars - Susan Desjardins,   
“This attractive Malbec has an earthy character matched to fresh aromas of red and black berry and subtle toast. The flavours of plum and berry are intense with fresh acidity and finely-wrought tannins bring balance. There’s toasty oak and notions of spice and pepper through the dry finish adding further interest to this medium-full bodied Malbec. Enjoy with robust red meat dishes”.

Describing a wine as ‘fun’ can be pejorative, as though fun denotes a lack of seriousness. That’s the conundrum with Malbec, as it is fun and enjoyable to drink but its complexity makes it interesting. At or below $10, Malbec is ‘easy-drinking’ and ‘crowd-pleasing’ (and fun), and that’s its reputation. Los Clop is different: It’s from a single family-owned estate, the grapes are managed, picked and fermented in small lots; The wine spends 3 months in new French oak barrels and a further 3 months in bottle before release. The result: The ‘fun’ Malbec is still there, but it’s wearing a well-tailored European-styled suit.

In some ways this style of Argentine Malbec feels Italian; it would be at home on a table in Tuscany. Try it with tomato-based pasta dishes, grilled sausage, game paté or a selection of charcuterie and medium-strong cheese.


dArenberg The Custodian Grenached'Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2012
McLaren Vale, Australia
713040 $19.95
1000 (12 pack) cases available

94 Points - James Halliday,
“... a drop-dead bargain, its fruit flavours given shape and persistence by fine-grained, savoury/earthy tannins”.

91+ Points – Robert Parker

4 Stars - Vic Harradine,
“d’Arenberg is a member of the exclusive (only 12 family-owned wineries) Australia’s First Families of Wine. Lifted aromas of piquant spice, black licorice and dark berry fruit foretell a tang-laden stream of pie cherry, black and red currant interlaced with red licorice and savoury herbs bathing the palate infusing the finish and aftertaste. There’s purity of fruit, good acidity and firm structure brought about by a solid tannin underpinning. Aerate/decant three hours before pouring”.

From the inside cover of the Vintages catalogue:

The benchmark for Australian Grenache

The heat-loving Grenache variety achieves greatness in a handful of warm winegrowing regions around the globe, among them the Southern Rhône, Spain and McLaren Vale in Australia. In the 1980s, the South Australian wine scene underwent a vine pull scheme in response to a temporary oversupply, and old Grenache bush vines were targeted. Taking the long view, d’Arry Osborn refused to touch the old Grenache in his vineyards and, in fact, expanded his holdings to preserve all the precious old vines he could. Today, d’Arenberg is the keeper of nearly one-third of McLaren Vale’s old bush vine Grenache, and its role as custodian is reflected in this wine’s name. The 2012 Custodian offers an ideal combination of supportive tannins and rich, ripe fruit”.

The folks at d’Arenberg treat Grenache with great respect. The grape, whose ancestral home is in the south of France, is usually blended with other grapes to make wines like Châteauneuf-du-Pape and other important appellations in the southern Rhône, but is seldom the centre of attention.

The Custodian comes from old bush vine Grenache that is neither trellised nor trained. The grapes are crushed gently and transferred to five tonne headed down open fermenters, where they begin fermentation naturally. Two thirds of the way through fermentation, the grapes are foot-trodden, then basket pressed in small batches before transfer to new and old French and American oak to complete the process. The barrel ferments are aged on lees and  not racked until final blending. The Custodian is neither fined nor filtered.

Katnook estate Cabernet SauvKatnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Coonawarra, Australia
590471 $29.95
336 (6 pack) cases available

94+ Points - Winefront
92 Points - Wine & Spirits

95 Points - Campbell Mattinson,
“In immaculate form. Fresh fruit, firm tannin, oak folded snugly within. Both longevity and pleasure are assured. It tastes of blackcurrant, boysenberry, spearmint and an assortment of red berries and dry, leafy herbs. Tannin flicks firmly through the finish, as it should with a wine of this gravity”.

90 Points – John Szabo MS,
“Lively, complex and concentrated, Katnook Estate has crafted a fullish and ripe but fresh and balanced, varietally accurate cabernet here in 2012, which also reflects the region well. Dark fruit mingles with pleasant herbal character, and wood is carefully dosed. I'd give this another year or two in the cellar for full development, but there's no need for long term cellaring”.

On the nose there are complex notes of ripe fruit, dark plums, mulberry and cassis combined with savoury earthiness and hints of mint. Katnook Estate Cabernet Sauvignon has a richly layered palate of dark berry fruits, plum, and subtle oak flavours, including mocha and spice. There are robust tannins with a long finish.


Tiki-Estate-Pinot-Gris-2014 small90 Points – Beppi Crosariol, The Globe and Mail
Tiki Pinot Gris 2014
Marlborough, New Zealand
295279 $17.95
“The estate was named after the hand-carved pendants of Maori culture, designed to echo the craft-oriented approach of this estate, owned by former high-flying investment bankers Royce and Sue McKean. Hinting at sweetness in the mid-palate but finishing delectably dry, it shows plum and quince fruit on a fleshy texture. Suitable for light curries”.



Wente Family Estates strikes gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition!
About the competition: The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition is known as the largest competition of American wines in the world. They name the Best of the Best: After receiving 7,164 entries from 28 states across the country, the SFCWC hailed as the largest competition of American wines in the world, has once again successfully narrowed thousands of wines down to an exclusive few.

Morning Fog  Chard Gold Medal – San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition
Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay 2014

The competition also awarded the 2014 Riva Ranch Single Vineyard Chardonnay a gold medal as well. Currently, the 2013 Riva Ranch Chardonnay is available at Vintages.
















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 some Leafs trade talk and segued quickly into the wine portion. We tasted Tiki Pinot Gris with some 3 year old Cheddar from the Jensen Cheese company. We briefly discussed creepy childhood television personalities before tasting Chateau de Gourgazaud with some tapenade. Howard promised to Google Carcassonne later in the day and we finished on a visual of Howard licking Gwyneth Paltrow. Click here to listen and we're on at the 1:27:45 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)





Here’s a comfort food recipe with a twist. We saw it on à la Carte Kitchen’s Facebook feed and thought it would be a great thing to share.

Here’s a short Tip Hero video -

Serve this with a smooth, fruity red wine, like Tributo Cab or Los Clop Malbec.


Serves 4
Prep Time: 10 minutes Total Time: 40 minutes

Sheppard Pie potato skins Ingredients:

Baked Potato Mash

4 large russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
¼ to ½ cup whole milk
2-½ tablespoons butter
½ teaspoon salt


1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium onion, diced
8 ounces ground beef
2 tablespoons flour
1 cup beef broth
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1-½ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon black pepper
1-½ cups frozen vegetables


1.    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2.    Prick the potatoes with a fork and microwave on high for 5 minutes. Rotate and cook another 5 minutes. Test with a knife to make sure they’re done.
3.    Cut the tops off the potatoes and scoop the insides into a bowl, leaving a ¼-inch wall around the skin.
4.    Add the milk, butter and salt to the bowl of potato and mash until smooth. If you’ll be piping the potatoes, place them into a piping bag fitted with a large star tip and reserve for later.
5.    In a sauté pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent.
6.    Add the ground beef and cook, breaking into smaller pieces, until browned and cooked through.
7.    Sprinkle the flour over the beef and stir to combine. Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper and frozen veggies to the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the sauce has thickened and become glossy. Remove from the heat.
8.    Fill each potato evenly with the beef mixture. Pipe the mashed potatoes over the filling, covering the meat mixture completely. (You might not have to use all of the potatoes.)
9.    Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tops of the potatoes start to brown.


In step 2, you don’t have to microwave the potatoes if you don’t want to— just bake them instead! Rub olive oil, salt and pepper all over the cleaned potatoes. Place potatoes directly on an oven rack and bake at 425 degree Fahrenheit for 40 to 50 minutes until done.

Cheers! - Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum



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