The Imbiber's Report

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


April 16, 2016


patioWe honestly didn’t think spring was going to make it here this year. After a messy, yo-yo of a winter (with no ski season in Ontario to speak of), the snow and cold temperatures arrived in April! Well, hang on to your seats, because this weekend’s balmy temps will slingshot us into almost summer like weather. Plan to do some café patio lounging this weekend (if you can score a sunny spot). At any rate, get out and enjoy the first taste of spring and start thinking about eating outside.

We spotted the first wild ramps of the season at the Cheese Boutique last week, so keep an eye out for them at local farmer’s markets. If we are lucky, fiddleheads may also make an appearance here and there this weekend as well. Keep your eyes open and happy hunting!

We have two brilliant Kiwi wines in this Vintages release, along with couple of sunshine-infused Cabernets from California. There are some great promotions to tell you about at the LCBO, including $2.00 off House of Mandela Sauvignon Blanc (just in time for the upcoming Asparagus season). We’ve posted Wente’s concert series listings in case you are planning a trip to Cali. You’ll also find info and a link to Toronto Taste, which is quickly approaching.

Pouring a glass of something summery would be an excellent move right about now: Cava, Fresita or one of our zippy, light whites….


VINTAGES RELEASE, April 16, 2016

Waimea Chardonnay     Waimea Family Estate Wines Chardonnay 2014
Nelson, New Zealand
650242 $24.95
112 (12 pack) cases available

89 Points - John Szabo, MS,
“A clean, tightly wound, fresh but fleshy example of Chardonnay from Nelson on the South Island next door to Marlborough, with pure and pristine apple/pear flavours inflected with a touch of flint. Good to very good length - this is stylish and attractive wine”.

Silver Medal - International Wine Challenge 2016
“Fresh fruit driven with bright melon notes. Refined in style but still very tasty and beautifully balanced”.

Wine Maker’s Notes: “This barrel fermented Chardonnay has aromas of ripe stone fruit, tropical flowers and a hint of sandalwood. These flavours lead through onto the palate and are chased by ripe fleshy citrus. A mineral thread derived from stony soils is ever present and draws this wine out to a long finish”.

Nelson’s cool-climate growing season is warm, long and slow, without high temperature spikes or the risk of frost. Grapes reach naturally healthy sugar levels here, while also maintaining well balanced acidity. The resulting wine is full of hallmark Chardonnay characteristics that are both familiar and a tad exotic. It would be very difficult to pin this wine down in a blind tasting. This is a style of Chardonnay worth trying for the experience.

2014 was an excellent vintage for Waimea with warm, dry conditions that had fruit fully ripened a couple of weeks ahead of schedule. This was good timing, because a week after the grapes were in the winery, the region experienced excessive rain.

Waimea’s Chardonnay is harvested from different blocks during the cooler hours of the day and brought to the winery where the grapes are gently pressed without being crushed first. The juice is put into stainless steel until it naturally settles and then racked into a mix of new and seasoned French oak barriques and puncheons. Waimea uses a variety of different yeast strains to enhance varietal character. After the wine has fermented, it is left on its lees and stirred to build body and mouthfeel. A portion of the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation until the acidity levels are deemed correct. A tremendous amount of work and effort goes into producing this world-class Chardonnay and it delivers excellent quality and value for the money.

Try with grilled salmon, shrimp, poultry or pork. It would be great with leek and bacon quiche.


GROVESTREETCABERNETGrove Street Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
California, USA
161190 $18.95
672 (12 pack) cases available

Vintages Panel: "Grove Street Winery was founded in 1988. Their vines are planted in shallow, rocky soils and enjoy warm daytime temperatures that are moderated by cool ocean-influenced breezes at night. This allows for great concentration of ripe fruit flavours as well as a focused acidity. The 2013 is layered with floral notes, rich cassis and a ripe dark fruit character. Long, intense and complex. Try it tonight with grilled lamb or a T-bone steak”.

Wine Maker’s Notes: “There are intense fruity aromas of mixed berries, plum and cherry followed by subtle notes of caramel and toasty oak. Substantial, yet supple on the palate, this rich, fruit-forward wine offers flavours of black cherry, boysenberry and notes of sweet vanilla interwoven tobacco and toasty oak on the finish”.

Grove Street continues to offer excellent quality wine at an unbeatable price. The expert winemaking team has been crafting wine at 1451 Grove Street, Healdsburg for more than twenty years. The bulk of the fruit is sourced from vineyards in Sonoma County and the north central coast, where cool ocean temperatures moderate the climate, providing moderately warm daytime temperatures and cool nights. The 2013 vintage of Grove Street Cab contains 23% Merlot which lends ripe dark fruit flavours and silky smooth tannins.

Grove Street Cab is one of the most food-friendly reds that we’ve come across. It will pair well with roast beef, lamb, veal and game, grilled mushrooms, chicken, beef ribs, flank steak and barbecued chicken. Also try it with pan-Mediterranean dishes like pasta puttanesca, pizza or ratatouille.  



Mission Estate Reserve MerlotMission Estate Winery
Gimblett Gravels Reserve Merlot 2013
Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand
447524 $19.95
200 (12 pack) cases available

90 Points – David Lawrason,
“This is from one of oldest wineries in the warmish Hawke's Bay region, where Bordeaux varieties like merlot prosper nicely. This has impressive colour depth. The nose is ripe blackberry jam, cedar, meatiness and well applied oak. Quite complex and very Bordelais. It's medium-full bodied, fairly dense and elegant with firm tannin and underlying sour tension. The length is excellent. Great value here”.

Recommended - Sue Courtney,
Inky blackberry red. Enticing red wine fragrance to the bouquet with a subtle cedar smokiness, floral notes and a touch of chocolate. Full bodied and robust in the palate with fresh acidity and tobacco underpinning the plum and bramble fruit, velvet edged silky tannins, and a long dry finish. Great value with plenty of oomph for the price.

Wine Maker’s Notes: This is a rich and complex Hawke’s Bay Merlot single vineyard wine. The nose shows vibrant aromas of cedar smokiness, flowers and a touch of chocolate. It’s full-bodied and robust on the palate with fresh acidity and tobacco underpinning the plum and bramble fruit, velvet edged silky tannins, and a long dry finish. The wine is harmonious, showing balance and softness: a result of dedication, care and passion in the vineyard and winery.

This is another terrific value wine from New Zealand with an unusual and interesting background. The history of winemaking in Nelson, and New Zealand to a large measure, can trace its roots back to the founding of Mission Estate in 1851. French Missionaries, who sailed to New Zealand in 1838 with vine cuttings, eventually settled in Hawke’s Bay, where they built a sanctuary and planted vines. Over the years, many of the Brothers sailed back to France to learn more about winemaking and brought those skills back to Hawke’s Bay. The winery and building has survived floods, earthquakes and even having the building moved (it was cut up into 11 pieces and hauled by tractor to its current location). Today, seminary students are housed in Auckland and the winery continues to operate as a commercial interest.

In the early 1980s, a large flat river bottom known as the Gimblett Gravels was first planted with red grape varieties. Farmers in the region had given up on the gravels and used it for sheep grazing because nothing they planted there would take. Red grapes, however, flourished immediately and during the 1990s, the Gimblett Gravels experienced a planting frenzy and eventually all 800 hectares of the riverbed were planted with grapevines. Mission Estate’s Gimblett Road Vineyard was planted in 1994 and supplies all the grapes for the Reserve Merlot.

Match this Merlot with pepper steak, grilled lamb chops, lamb sausages or a charcuterie board.


Arrive in Style

FREAKSHOW largeMichael David Winery
Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Lodi, California, USA
405175 $26.95
660 (12 pack) cases available |

89 Points – Robert Parker Jr.,
“A real winner is the 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon Freakshow. The label is amazing, as is the quantity produced - 150,000 cases. This is a heck of a value. A dense, rich, full-bodied, meaty, almost Mediterranean style of wine that is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, possesses loads of black and red currants, notes of roasted Provençal herbs, licorice and loamy soil undertones in a dense, full-bodied, supple and silky style. It is meant for immediate consumption, but should age easily and hold onto its fruit for another several years at minimum”.

Freakshow Cab with StickersWe poured Freakshow Cab at iYellow’s California Carnevale and the California Wine Fair this past week. At the iYellow Carnavale it was ‘fan-favourite’ and received 55 approval stickers, including a number of sunglasses, happyfaces, blushy-smileyfaces, Super! and a penguin. The California Fair goers were just as enthusiastic about the Freakshow Cab and kept sending friends over to our table. “My friend said it’s her favourite wine of the show and that I HAVE to try it”. Needless to say we ran out.

Try Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon with barbecue ribs (see recipe below).





Tamyra Gray Jackie Burns  Anthony Rapp. Photo by Joan Marcus










A gaggle of Churchill Cellars’ staffers attended the opening of If/Then this past week, the latest offering at the Princess of Wales Theatre.  This is a thoroughly modern new musical which is smart, clever and funny.  Set in New York, the show explores one woman’s choices in life and the different outcomes depending on her decisions.  Sets and staging are excellent, but it is the cast which really makes this show shine.  Jackie Burns as Elizabeth (Liz or Beth depending on the path) displays a vocal range which often sends shivers down your spine, and over the course of 2½ hours, we laugh and cry along with her.  Anthony Rapp and Tamyra Gray portray the two main instigators influencing Elizabeth’s decisions and are the perfect foils to one another: he as the dedicated social activist and she as the party girl.  If you’re looking for a great night out, we can heartily recommend this show.  If/Then runs at the Princess of Wales Theatre until May 8.  For tickets, go to



d’Arenberg and the Environment

Here’s a great environmental initiative that d’Arenberg is undertaking, using some very old technology.










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.



The concerts at Wente





The Concerts at Wente Vineyards in California showcase world-renowned entertainers in the winery’s picturesque natural amphitheater in Livermore, about 60 minutes east of San Francisco.  Although not all the shows have been announced, this year's lineup includes:

Tuesday, June 28th – CHICAGO
Thursday, July 7th – DIANA ROSS
Wednesday, August 10th – HUEY LEWIS AND THE NEWS
Tuesday, August 16th – LYNYRD SKYNYRD
Tuesday, September 13th – CHRIS ISAAK

The full lineup will be available Friday, April 8th. Visit
If you plan to visit California over the summer, this is a great way to spend an evening.  Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Wednesday, May 11, 2016 at 10 a.m. For tickets, go to or call them at 1-800-745-3000.











Churchill Cellars is on the air with Humble and Fred!

Last week’s #wineforbreakfast kicked off with a killer track from The Record Company called Off the Ground from their new Give It Back To You recording.  U.S. politics and cheese dominated some of the early conversation before we got around to tasting The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne from d’Arenberg and the Howard Park Miamup Cabernet Sauvignon from Western Australia. Finally, we spoke about golf and wine since the Masters was in full swing (that’s a golf joke…)

Our portion of the podcast begins at the 1:02:45 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.









“Notes” on Jazz.FM91 with Brad Barker

We’ll be on JAZZ FM this coming Wednesday, April 20 at around 4:00 pm working our way through four more great wines: the above-mentioned Hermit Crab and Miamup Cab Sauv, as well as Ricasoli’s Rocca Guicciarda Chianti Classico and Michael David’s The Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon.  Tune us in at 91.1 on your FM Dial.




The following promotions are available now until April 23, 2016 at the LCBO:

Earn 4 Bonus Air Miles on Casal Thaulero Pinot Grigio IGT (#73163)

Earn 8 Bonus Air Miles on Vodka Mudshake French Vanilla (#4606)

Earn 12 Bonus Air Miles on Marqués de Riscal Reserva Rioja DOC (#32656)

Save $2.00 on House of Mandela Sauvignon Blanc (#407882)

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





Long-time Imbiber’s Report subscribers might recognize this recipe because we have reproduced it over the years in time for summer grilling and barbecue season. The confluence of recent events including the Ketchup Wars, the Spring Maple Syrup run and the release of Freakshow Cab, inspired us to reprise this recipe.

It’s based on a past winner in The American Royal World Series of Barbecue Sauce Contest. I called it The Girls’ Best Barbecue Sauce because my two daughters decided that we should make a Canadian version by adding maple syrup. We tweaked the recipe to include some good old Ontario ingredients like apple cider vinegar and French’s Ketchup.

They also help to prepare a few batches each summer.

BBQ SauceThe Girls’ Best Barbecue Sauce
1⁄4 tsp. ground allspice
1⁄4 tsp. ground mace
1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1⁄2 tsp. curry powder
1⁄2 tsp. chili powder
1⁄2 tsp. paprika
1⁄4 cup apple cider vinegar
1⁄2 tsp. hot sauce, such as Tabasco (or to taste)
1 cup  French’s ketchup
1⁄4 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup (medium or amber if available)

1. sift together all spices into a bowl and mix.

2. in a medium sized sauce pan, bring the spices, vinegar, hot sauce and ketchup to a simmer, stirring frequently. Add molasses and maple syrup and gently bring the sauce to a simmer for 2-3 minutes.

3. let the sauce cool and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Use barbecue sauce to finish ribs, hamburgers, chicken, salmon or pulled pork. Enjoy!

Freakshow Cab will be the perfect partner to any of the above.

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