The Imbiber's Report

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


April 30, 2016


Wild leeksLast week we spotted the first greens of spring at the Cheese Boutique in Toronto. Small but tasty wild leeks or ramps were delicately displayed in a copper ‘bird bath’ in the centre of the produce section (yes they sell much more than cheese) as a beacon of spring. We then spotted some fiddleheads at two local green grocers as well as a number of Spruce bud photos and recipes on Instagram and Twitter. Rhubarb will soon be here as will the first crop of asparagus. Keep your eye out this weekend at your local farmer’s market or green grocer.

Remember to stock up on Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava for Mother’s Day. It will match anything you serve for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner.

We have two fantastic red wines in this Vintages release.  Both are benchmark wines for their region and exemplify their respective terroir. We have a full menu of news, reviews and much, much more in this edition of The Imbiber’s Report, including some terrific promotions available now at the LCBO.

Here’s a quick note about our annual portfolio tasting since many subscribers have asked about it.  No, you haven’t missed anything.  Although we normally host it in May, the Ed Mirvish Theatre, our venue for the last four years, will be undergoing extensive renovations in the next 6 or more weeks before Matilda The Musical opens.  Finding another suitable venue has been problematic and if we can’t find one soon for early June, we will move it to early fall. Watch this space for further details.

Hopefully, you picked up a few bottles of The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne featured in the last report, and have some chilling in your fridge right now. Grab a glass…


VINTAGES RELEASE, April 30, 2016

Flagship Store Exclusive…

De Grendel ShirazDe Grendel Wines Shiraz 2013
Cape Town, South Africa
174557 $24.95
55 (12 pack) cases available

You should buy this wine if for no other reason than to see if it lives up to this review!

92 Points - Michael Godel,
“Strapping, youthful, dark as night Cape of Good Hope Shiraz, full of rich beginnings, soil reduction and barrel imaging. Vivid off the charts, rich red fruit, mineral undercurrent, wreaths of floral tethering and a rip tide riding rolling waves of Cape intensity. Quite wow. Crazy good value”.

89 Points - Christian Eedes,
“It's a combination of pretty much equal parts Durbanville, Paarl and Stellenbosch grapes and it spent 12 months in 80% French and 20% American oak, about 25% new. It shows red and black fruit, some not unpleasant reduction and stacks of herbal notes - rosemary in particular. The palate is fairly bursting with fruit and has a nice freshness about it while the tannins are soft but not slippery making it very approachable”.

Winemaker’s Notes: “On the nose there are floral notes along with hints of coriander, lavender and white pepper. These notes translate on the palate and finish with a beautiful clove flavour. It is a full-bodied wine that is well supported by oak undertones and sweet ripe tannins”.

From DeGrendel’s website:
“Sir David Graaff first planted vines on De Grendel in 1999, almost 200 years after the last vines were destroyed. Since then De Grendel has become synonymous with exquisite wines, borne of the Graaff's love of the soil and scientific approach to winemaking. De Grendel, meaning latch or lock in Dutch, is one of Cape Town’s oldest farms, stretching out over almost 330 hectares on the fynbos-covered slopes of Tygerberg Hill.

The breathtaking view of Table Mountain from the farm, 350 meters above sea level, is arguably the best in the Cape winelands. On a clear day, you can see all the way from Table Bay to False Bay, and sometimes even on to Cape Point.

First awarded to the Danish settler Claas Mayboom by Governor van der Stel all the way back in 1720, De Grendel van de Tijgerberg was bought by the iconic South African businessman and politician Sir David De Villiers Graaff in 1890 to be used as a breeding and resting ground for the prized purebred Arab horses that he bought while travelling in Argentina”.

As you can imagine, we see a lot of winery websites. Occasionally, we come across one that needs to be shared, and DeGrendel’s is one such website. We could try to explain the view from the farm, which overlooks Table Mountain and Capetown, but it’s better if you see it for yourself (please come back after you’ve finished your tour)

Finally, these food suggestions are from DeGrendel’s technical sheet on the 2013 Shiraz.

Very versatile – from steaks, roasts and lamb shank to Springbok and sausage. Loves tomato-based sauces.



Charles Wetmore CabWente Vineyards
Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Livermore Valley – San Francisco Bay, California
963397 $24.95
448 (12 pack) cases available

94 Points - Kyle Swartz, Beverage Dynamics
“Aged 20 months in new French and neutral American and Eastern European oak barrels. Floral aromas with hints of tobacco, followed by flavors of ripe black cherry and dark plum with undertones of leather, coffee and spice”.

92 Points – Anthony Dias Blue, Tasting Panel Magazine
“Dark ruby colour; lush, spicy and rich blackberry, plumb and chocolate; smooth, dense and lush with depth and a long, intense finish”.

91 Points - Gord Stimmell, Toronto Star

Silver, San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

Winemaker’s Notes: “Our Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon has a great expression of Livermore Valley, with fruit sourced from our diverse soils such as our clay hillside vineyards and those planted on gravelly alluvial fans. These provide us with a Cabernet with bold tannins and ripe fruit characteristics, which coupled with the natural acidity from the long growing season, creates a beautiful wine” - Karl D. Wente, Fifth Generation Winemaker

From Wente’s Website: “For five generations, our family has been dedicated to the art of winemaking and to the philosophy that the quality of a wine originates in the vineyard. Our Estate Grown Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon is named after one of the Livermore Valley’s most prominent pioneers, California’s first agricultural commissioner renowned for planting vine cuttings from many of Bordeaux’s top Châteaux in the temperate Livermore Valley in the 1880s. The descendants of vines Wetmore brought from France thrive today in the gravelly loam soils of our certified sustainable estate vineyards between the Arroyo del Valle and the Arroyo Mocho, streams flowing from the southern hills of the Livermore Valley. From their origins in Margaux in the 19th century to the present, only the best of these Cabernet Sauvignon vines have been selected for each new generation planted. They are prized for making wines with intensity, depth of flavour, and a rich, lush body”.

We poured the Wetmore Cab at the recent California Wine Fair in Toronto to great acclaim. In a room full of fantastic wine, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, the Charles Wetmore was a standout for quality and value. People were sending their friends to the Wente table with instructions – “I was told by my Wine Guru friend that I had to try your $25 Cab – he said it’s the best in the room for the money”. We also poured it for Brad Barker for an upcoming episode of Notes on JazzFM.91.1, who absolutely loved it. We’ve tasted this wine half a dozen times recently and words ‘dense and intense’ are repeated and repeated.

Charles Wetmore Cabernet Sauvignon would be a fantastic match with any grilled red meat, duck, game or a charcuterie plate with paté, cured meat and moderately flavourful cheese.





Fancy Farm Girl White90 Points – Jane Staples,
Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery
Fancy Farm Girl Frivolous White 2014
VQA Niagara Peninsula  
394072  $14.95
“Refreshing green apple, peach, citrus and minerality on the nose, repeated delightfully on the palate. Crisp and dry with a long citrus finish. A happy wine discovery that I will definitely buy again!”





Marques-Riscal-White88 Points, Top Value Wine at the LCBO, Steve Thurlow,
Marqués de Riscal 2014,
Rueda, Spain
36822  $12.70
"This is a pure fresh crisp white with an aromatic nose of grapefruit, passion fruit, white pepper with some honey notes. Since it is lively and juicy with very good length and is so refreshing, it is a great selection for seafood and mildly flavoured white meats".









Sue Ann Staff Winery











This past weekend, we paid a ‘social visit’ to Sue-Ann Staff to see what she has available at the winery (that is not available at the LCBO), like Fancy Farm Girl Flirty Pink Bubbly and the brilliant Robert’s Block Riesling (92 Points – Natalie MacLean). Sue-Ann’s wines shop is located in the kitchen of her family’s original farmhouse, where she lives and works. If you want to visit her this spring or summer, the wine shop is open April and May from 11am to 5pm daily and June through October from 11am to 6pm daily. The atmosphere is friendly and relaxed - you might even be introduced to other family members, like Sue-Ann’s Mom, Wendy. The large, friendly Bernese mountain dog, who guards the house is named Brix. He could be the biggest suck on the Niagara Peninsula and loves to have his tummy rubbed.

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery
3210 Staff Avenue, Jordan, ON L0R 1S0
Toll Free: 1-877-566-1719 Local: 905-562-1719
or email - This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.











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!

The April 20 edition of #wineforbreakfast with the boyz was a relatively tame affair. We chatted about shoes without laces, the joys of driving manual transmission and about renting and driving cars in far-away lands. We tasted a couple of California Cabs – one from Grove Street Winery and one from the good folks at Michael David Winery in Lodi called Freakshow (the same people who make 7 Deadly Zins). Listen to the podcast here, we are on at the 1:02:45 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.









“Notes” on Jazz.FM91 with Brad Barker

We dropped by the station on the afternoon of Wednesday, April 20 for the latest Notes episode and tasted through some really great wines. We began with d’Arenberg Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne, which Brad took a shining to, followed by Ricasoli’s Rocca Guicciarda Chianti Classico and Miamup Cabernet Sauvignon (which were stellar with roasted sausage and grilled red pepper). We ended the tasting with Michael David’s The Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon. We finished up with a word about the roasted veggie and sausage recipe, which is a super easy Italian comfort food dish.  Listen to JazzFM at 91.1 on your FM Dial. Listen to the Notes podcast here.




The following promotions are available now until May 21, 2016 at the LCBO:

Earn 4 Bonus Air Miles on Casal Thaulero Sangiovese IGT (#588996)

Earn 6 Bonus Air Miles on Fancy Farm Girl Frivolous White (#394072)

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

Earn 6 Bonus Air Miles on Wente Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon (#301507)

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

Earn 8 Bonus Air Miles on Deakin Estate Artisans Blend Cabernet Tempranillo (#399238)

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

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

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

Save $2.00 on Vodka Mudshake Orange Cream (#448175)

Receive a free Chic Choc Tin Cup (where applied) with the purchase of Chic Choc Spiced Rum (#402867). While supplies Last.

Receive a free 50ml Chic Choc Spiced Rum (where applied) with the purchase of Ungava Premium Canadian Gin (#374231). While supplies Last.

Receive a free Koozie (where applied) with the purchase of Vodka Mudshake French Vanilla (#4606). While supplies Last.

New Low Price on the Alpine Valley Sauvignon Blanc (#241810). Was: $15.95 Now: $14.95!!

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






Roasted Italian Sausage, Peppers, and Onions

Simple and delicious, this is Italian comfort food.

Try to cut the veggies to be about the same size. Add more veggies if you wish and different types of sausage too. Keep the seasoning simple and serve this on a big family-style platter. You can also prepare this dish on a gas grill with an accurate thermometer.  


Roasted Italian Sausage Peppers and Onions1 pound sweet or hot Italian sausages (or a combination of the two), cut crosswise into thirds
1 pound small red potatoes cut into large chunks
1 large red onion, cut into 8 wedges
2 red , green or yellow peppers, cut lengthwise into 8 pieces
A few sprigs rosemary
2 Tbs., olive oil
A heaping teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper


Preheat oven to 450°F.

In a large bowl, toss the vegetables and rosemary in olive oil, salt and pepper.

Arrange everything on a shallow baking sheet in a single layer, making sure the sausages are evenly spaced apart.

Roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender and sausages are lightly browned, stirring once halfway through roasting.

Serve with a light side salad and crusty bread.

You can enjoy this with white, red or rosé wine.

Cheers! - Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum



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