The Imbiber's Report

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


March 19, 2016

SYRUP TIME        

maple syrupWelcome to our annual friendly reminder to get out and support Ontario’s Maple Syrup Producers. Buying local may mean a short trip to a Farmer’s Market or an actual excursion to a Sugar Shack, but it is well worth the effort. The OMSPA has developed a new logo to make it easier to spot locally made syrup. This spring look for ‘Sweet Ontario’ Pure Maple Syrup on tins, jars and jugs to ensure you are getting 100% pure Ontario Maple Syrup! Happy hunting…

We have seven new red wines released through Vintages this weekend. Each of them is outstanding in their own right and worthy of your attention. There is something for everyone, from super-affordable Carmenere and Petite Sirah, to astoundingly good wine from Tuscany and Bordeaux with a few other wines in between.  You’ll also discover which of our wines has been rated “one of the best white wine values at the LCBO”.  Please take some time and peruse at your leisure.   


VINTAGES RELEASE, March 19, 2016

Tributo CarmenereCaliterra Tributo Carmenere 2013
Colchagua Valley, Chile
56630 $16.95
550 (12 pack) cases available

91 Points – Wine & Spirits
90 points Wine Enthusiast
“Cool aromas of cola and dark fruits come with bold spice accents. Ripe and creamy in feel, with wild berry and peppery flavours, this Carmenere from a cool vintage is on the money as it finishes with a strong oak base and related spice notes”.

Grapes for this benchmark Carmenere come from a single vineyard block called Baldo. The grapes are crushed and de-stemmed and then go through a relatively long fermentation of up to 30 days. All of the wine is put through malolactic fermentation and then aged in a mix of new and old oak barrels for 12 months.

This solid Carmenere is read to drink now. Try it with grilled red or white meat, sausages, spicy dishes and medium strong cheese.





Handcraft Petit Sirah HandCraft Petite Sirah 2013
California, USA
361907 $17.95
448 (12 pack) cases available

95 Points – Gold Medal, California State Fair Wine Competition

Winery Notes: “HandCraft Artisan Collection wines celebrate the California home and Italian heritage of third generation winery proprietor Cheryl Indelicato. She gives classic grape varieties her own personal touch by adding a playful dash of Italian and heritage varietals as a nod to the vineyard-to-barrel field selections that found their place daily at the Italian table when she was growing up. The result is a distinctive, fruit forward wine. This blend of Petite Sirah with a touch of Zinfandel was aged 4-6 months in French oak. It shows aromas of ripe plum, blueberries and mocha, followed by flavours of blueberry compote, plum, cocoa and vanilla. This full-bodied wine has an elegant tannin structure and balanced acidity that leads to a long finish”.

For those of you who have never tried a Petite Sirah from California, HandCraft is the perfect introduction. It is a real joy to drink and match with a wide variety of food, including Mediterranean inspired dishes and casual food like pizza and ribs.




Howard Park Miamup Cab Sauv largeHoward Park Miamup Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Margaret River, Australia
410019 $22.95
448 (12 pack) cases available

94 Points – James Halliday, Australian Wine Companion
92 Points – Gary Walsh, The Wine Front

Here are Howard Park’s Technical Notes for the 2013 Vintage:
“Margaret River began the growing season with a rain filled soil profile and full catchments. Late spring was mild and windy with a 4 day period of damaging north westerly winds during flowering. This common spring weather pattern did affect flowering, set and yields in some varieties. Other than the blustery start, the vintage was uniformly warm to hot and without significant summer rains. With yields below average, the wines produced from the 2013 vintage are full of ripe varietal fruit, bright acidity and supple tannins. This vintage is excellent for Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
Vineyard: Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are sourced from several select vineyard sites located in the Wilyabrup sub region and north to Wildwood Rd in an endeavour to capture ripe fruit flavours, supple tannins and the distinctive perfume of Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon.

Howard Park hand pickingVinification: The individual vineyard blocks that contribute to Miamup Cabernet are vinified separately. After fermentation on skins the malolactic is conducted in tank prior to barrel maturation. Maturation occurs in our favourite French oak for 18 months. This length of time in oak allows for the thorough integration of oak and fruit tannins. Bottling occurs in September of the wine’s second year and released when ready.

Tasting Note: A deep and inviting black cherry colour with floral notes of violets and fruity, doughy aromas of just baked blackberry muffins. The palate is soft, inviting, and full of free range forest fruits, vanilla, cocoa and loads of supple, fine tannin. Look for aromas of violets and freshly baked blackberry muffins with underlying earth and hints of dried herbs. Soft vanilla and luscious forest fruits give way to a savoury, meaty weight and a cocoa, coffee-like finish with lovely tannins coating the palate”.

Howard ParkMargaret River Cabernet Sauvignon is beautifully represented here by Howard Park’s Miamup 2013. This should be on your explorer’s list of wines to try. We don’t see too much Western Australian wine at Vintages, especially at this very affordable price. Give it a whirl with grilled steak and blue cheese.






Arrive in Style…

rocca guicciarda 170wBarone Ricasoli
Rocca Guicciarda
Chianti Classico Riserva DOCG 2012
Tuscany, Italy
943613 $24.95
800 (12 pack) cases available

90 Points – Wine Spectator
“Bright plum, black cherry and leather flavors pick up accents of spice as this red builds on the palate. Firms up on the finish, but lingers with a crisp feel and echoes of spice. Best from 2017 through 2024”

Barone Ricasoli’s experimentation with Sangiovese in the 19th century and his subsequent development of a ‘recipe’ for Chianti is fascinating history. You can read about it on Ricasoli’s website here Have a look around as there are some great photos of Casa Brolio, its art and architecture. You can even have a little virtual tour.  This gorgeous wine makes regular appearances through Vintages and sells out quickly.  It’s also one of the most beautiful labels in our portfolio and is certain to impress the next time you need to show up somewhere with a bottle of wine in hand.




Fonreaud 2012Château Fonréaud Listrac-Médoc AC
Cru Bourgeois 2012
Bordeaux, France
444083 $29.95
210 (12 pack) cases available

90 Points – Wine Enthusiast
“Fonréaud’s vineyard is on the highest point in the Médoc (all of 120 feet), at the southern end of the Listrac appellation. This wine, as often with this property, has started out rugged and solid with firm dry tannins. The fruit though is all there and will show with increasing intensity over the next few years. Drink this powerful wine from 2018”.

The 2012 vintage is a blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot and 4% Petit Verdot. Different plots are harvested and fermented separately for 20 to 25 days. The wines then spend 12 months in a mix of new and old French oak barrels before final blending.

Fonréaud takes its name from Font-réaux or ‘Royal Fountain’. The legend goes back to the 12th century when Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine stopped to drink from the cool spring that was on the property. In the 1850s, the Leblanc de Mauvesin family built a fine Château to produce and warehouse fine wine here. In 1962, Léo Chanfreau, a wine grower in Algéria, visited several châteaux in France. He fell in love with Fonréaud and decided to settle down with his family. Today, the vineyard is still operated by the family with Jean, Marie-Hélène and Caroline Chanfreau-Philippon at the helm.


Château Coufran 2005Château Coufran Haut-Médoc AC 2005
Cru Bourgeois Supérieur
Bordeaux, France
446666 $56.95
98 (12 pack) cases available

92 Points – Wine Enthusiast
“If you're looking for great, ripe black currant fruits, this is where to come. The wine is full and hugely fruity, but it still manages a good Bordeaux sense of proportion”.

90 Points – Robert Parker, Wine Advocate.

Château Coufran is called the ‘Pomerol of Médoc’, referring to the right bank wine growing region where Merlot dominates the blend. Courfran is a blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon. It is aged for 12 months in tightly grained French oak barrels, 25% of which are new.






Flagship Store Exclusive…

Casalferro Rosso Toscana IGT 2010Barone Ricasoli
Casalferro Rosso IGT 2011
Tuscany, Italy
122598 $51.95
40 (6 pack) cases available

94 Points – Wine Spectator
Pure black cherry and raspberry flavors are countered by accents of sweet spice and tobacco. The tannins dominate the finish, which is long and mouthwatering. Needs air, so decant now or cellar. Merlot. Best from 2017 through 2024.
92 Points – James Suckling
92 Points – Wine Enthusiast

Barone Ricasoli’s Casalferro is100% Merlot from a single plot of land in Gaiole, Chianti. There are notes of cherries, blackberries and balsamic on the nose which carry through on the palate with flavours of chocolate and spice.  It’s worth the drive to your nearest flagship LCBO location to lay your hands on one of the 240 bottles.






dArenberg The Custodian Grenache90 Points – Beppi Crosariol, The Globe & Mail
d’Arenberg The Custodian Grenache 2012
McLaren Vale, Australia
713040 $19.95

“Sweet raspberry and cherry jam with citrus zest on the top and an earthy-tobacco undercurrent. It all adds up to a complex wine for the money, supported by gentle, chewy tannins. It would do justice to a wide range of dishes, but mostly big red meats”.





Wine Align - Steve Thurlow’s Top 50 Value Wines for March 2016

Caliterra Sauv Blanc Mock Up largeCaliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015
Casablanca Valley, Chile
275909 $9.95
“Consistently one of the best white wine values at LCBO. Good varietal character with lots of flavour. Try with cheesy pasta sauces or roast chicken”.







Caliterra Cab Sauv Mock up largeCaliterra Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2014
Colchagua Valley, Chile
257329 $9.95
“A typical Chilean Cabernet at a great price. Juicy full bodied and well balanced. More complexity than you would expect for such an inexpensive wine. Try with a steak”.







Wine Align - Steve's Top 50 Value Wines for March 2016
20 Under $20 at the LCBO

Dunavar PG Large87 Points – Steve Thurlow,
Dunavár Pinot Grigio 2014
$8.95 (335422)

“This is a good, well priced basic Grigio and though simple, it is quite flavourful and very easy to drink. Expect aromas of apple pear fruit with some floral and nutty notes. It is midweight with a slight spritz adding to its freshness. It finishes cleanly and firmly with a lemony acidity tone to the apple fruit. Well balanced and quite zippy with very good length. Great as an aperitif, it will also work with cheese and mildly flavoured white meats”.






The Italian Trade Tasting and Vintages Brunello di Montalcino event was held at the AGO on Tuesday, March 8. We poured two vintages of the Val de Suga, the 2010 and the 2011. The 2010 is classically structured and shows outstanding intensity and elegance. It is harmonious and perfectly balanced. This wine will improve with medium-long cellaring, and drink well until 2029. The 2011 presented soft, round fruitiness with a plush tannins and excellently balanced acidity. Drink now through 2025.















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 three shows are now history with one more pianist to be featured.  The last show features 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 #wineforbreakfast segment began with a chat about the state of radio after Chris introduced a new music selection called Turn Up from The Heavy. We talked about the death of George Martin and the influence various producers had on different groups like The Beatles over the decades.  We introduced Humble and Fred to the Caliterra Tributo Cabernet Sauvignon and the d’Arenberg Custodian Grenache. We chatted about Chile, Australia, long flights and Mark’s garlic and kale sausages.

Our portion of the podcast begins shortly after the 1:05:00 mark. Click here to listen.

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 March 26, 2016 at the LCBO:


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

Earn 5 Bonus Air Miles on Alsace Willm Gewurztraminer Réserve (#269852)

Earn 6 Bonus Air Miles on Marqués de Riscal White Rueda DO (#36822)

Earn 7 Bonus Air Miles on Cellier des Dauphins Carte Noire (#110197)

Earn 7 Bonus Air Miles on Patriarche Pinot Noir VdP (#522649)

Earn 8 Bonus Air Miles on Château Bel Air Bordeaux AC (#665430)

Earn 9 Bonus Air Miles on Fresita Sparkling Wine (#383901)

Earn 10 Bonus Air Miles on Crozes Hermitage Les Trois Couronnes (#421065)

Save $0.50 on Dos Locos Lime Tequila Margarita (#370668)

Save $1.00 on Alsace Willm Riesling Réserve (#11452)

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 in Select Stores:
House of Mandela Sauvignon Blanc (#407882)





Grilled Hanger (Skirt) Steak with Maple Syrup Glaze

In Ontario, the skirt or hanger steak is the cut of beef that comes from the animal’s diaphragm.  A similar US cut is sometimes called a flap steak or sirloin tip, which in turn, is similar to the French Bavette. It needs to be marinated and when properly cooked, it can be tender and flavourful.

skirt flankIngredients:

For the marinade

3 Tbs. Ontario maple syrup
3 Tbs. soy sauce
3 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
4 garlic cloves, chopped


1 Kg of steak


Blend the marinade ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Toss steaks with mixture. Cover and marinate steaks in the fridge for 8 hours.

Prepare a grill for direct-heat cooking over hot charcoal (high heat for gas).

Discard marinade and pat steaks dry.

Oil grill rack, then grill steaks, covered only if using a gas grill, turning occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes total for medium-rare. Let rest on a plate, uncovered, 10 minutes.

To serve, cut the steak against the grain into good sized slices.

Enjoy with a wide range of red wine such as the HandCraft Petite Sirah and the Tributo Carmenere featured above.  It would also match The Wanted Zin, Château de Gourgazaud and Deakin Estate Shiraz.

Cheers! - Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum




   facebook     twitter                     instagram          

Telephone: 416-368-5108 Fax: 416-368-1349
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Download PDF of our most recent General List Price List

Download PDF of our most recent Vintages Price List