The Imbiber's Report

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


May 14, 2016


Churchill Cellars Annual Portfolio Tasting
Monday, June 6th from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.
George Brown College Waterfront Campus
51 Dockside Drive, Toronto

We have received many calls from subscribers wondering about our annual portfolio tasting which we normally hold in May.  We appreciate your enthusiasm for this event and apologize for announcing it so late. We had hoped to host the event at The Ed Mirvish Theatre again this year but due to some on-going repairs, it isn’t possible. As a result, we are heading to the lake and a new venue! Invitations with details regarding transit and parking will be sent out early next week. We hope to see you there!

Big-Night-As you might imagine, ‘shop-talk’ at Churchill Cellars’ HQ often includes food – what we ate yesterday, what we are cooking tonight, where to get the best ingredients, and what restaurant has the best so and so, etc. This week, one of our conversations was about our favourite food movies and included films like Babette’s Feast, Chocolat and The Hundred-Foot Journey. One of the best films, it was agreed, was Stanley Tucci’s 1996 indie picture Big Night. It’s funny, passionate and sometimes painful to watch (can I get spaghetti and meatballs with my rice?). It has a fantastic soundtrack that features Luis Prima and a great cast. We have included a link to the New York Times recipe for Timpano, which is featured in the movie, below.

We have seven wines in this Vintages release, so let’s get right to it. It might be a good time for an Ungava Gin and Tonic…



A Vintages Customer Favourite…

“Pink Pride – Rose wines have long been a calling card in Provence and this one is a perennial darling with Vintages customers”. - Vintages

Carte noire roseLes Maîtres Vignerons de la Presqu’île de Saint-Tropez Carte Noire Rosé 2015
AP Côtes de Provence, France
319384 $17.95
880 (12 pack) cases available

Vintages Panel:This beloved blend of Grenache and Cinsault is a zippy, refreshing pink wine packed with fresh apricot, nectarine, red grapefruit, lavender and sage. It flirts with power while displaying grace. Chill and sip, or pair with grilled perch or salmon, or cold ham sandwiches with Provençal mustard”.

Winemaker’s Notes: “Beautiful pale peach colour with notes of white flesh fruits and citrus fruit on the nose. There are floral notes on the palate which are nicely balanced with a slightly spicy finish. This dry rosé is 90% Grenache and 10% Cinsault”.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Saint-Tropez and the Côte d’Azur, had an interesting problem on their hands. The films To Catch a Thief and And God Created Women (starring an 18 year old Bridget Bardot) had made the region famous. The rich and famous flocked to the French Riviera where they drank and ate Provençal wine and food, and Saint-Tropez became a brand that was used to sell everything from suntan lotion to cars. While the small wineries on the peninsula could supply the local demand, they imagined that together they could develop a wine brand that could supply the domestic French market and eventually export to Europe and America. In 1964, seven winegrowers formed a cooperative called Les Maîtres Vignerons de la Presqu’île de Saint-Tropez to produce a rosé wine called Carte Noire. More than fifty years later, Carte Noire is the international wine ambassador for Saint-Tropez and it is enjoyed around the world.

This Mediterranean rosé is incredibly versatile and will match a wide variety of food. Try it with grilled octopus and tapenade for a Provençal experience.



First Press Napa Chard largeFirst Press
Chardonnay 2013
Napa Valley, California, USA
199810 $22.95
748 (12 pack) cases available

Vintages Panel: “An amazing value, the First Press Chardonnay tends to the oak-kissed side of Napa Valley Chard, making it an ideal choice for smoked fish dishes such as crab or salmon, as well as grilled or blackened chicken. Expect suggestions of butterscotch and caramel with vanilla, peach, pear and tropical fruit”.

Winemaker’s Notes: “Elegantly structured, this medium-bodied Chardonnay has aromas of melon, white peach, lemon, vanilla and a hint of spice. Flavours of yellow apple, fresh pear and coconut lead to a well-balanced, lingering finish”.

Fruit for First Press is sourced from several different vineyards in Napa Valley located both in the upper valley and the cooler southern area. Mixing fruit from different areas adds depth and complexity. Grapes from the southern vineyards are picked earlier, in order to maintain acidity and citrus flavours. The juice is fermented in a mix of new and used French and American oak barrels for 6 months. Following primary fermentation, the wine undergoes malolactic fermentation which enhances its texture and mouthfeel.

Drink this with crab cakes, seafood pasta or grilled salmon.



San Leonino Chianti ClassicoSan Leonino
Chianti Classico DOCG 2012
Tuscany, Italy
412387 $19.95
300 (12 pack) cases available

3.5 Stars – Vic Harradine,
“You won’t find too many Chianti Classicos at this attractive price. Floral notes meld with cherry/berry aromas on the nose of this lighter-styled, racy Sangiovese. Red currant and cranberry streak over the palate, sleek and tang-laden. It finishes in a blaze with wisps of passion fruit on the aftertaste. Pour with lasagna or pastitsio”.

Vintages Panel: “Big and bold on the nose with dark cherry, vanilla, herbs and oak tones. The mouth is big too, but framed in a supple, easy-to-enjoy style that makes this very approachable. Lots of black cherry on the finish. A great wine for barbecue fare".

Winemaker’s Notes: “90% Sangiovese, 5% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. There are hints of cherry, prune and violet on the nose. On the palate the silky texture of the tannins are followed by floral and fruity flavours that are long and vibrant. This wine pairs well with traditional savoury Italian cuisine”.

We often refer to this type of wine as ‘a food wine’, because it’s medium to full-bodied with plenty of acidity and a little bit of tannin. If your meal is a sentence, this wine is a comma or a semi-colon: it adds to the enjoyment without distraction. Drink this with grilled Italian sausage and pasta with grilled veggies. It would also be prefect to drink while preparing the first stages of Timpano (see recipe link below).



Chateau de Panigon 2010Château de Panigon 2010
Médoc AC Cru Bourgeois
Bordeaux, France
348250 $19.95
400 (12 pack) cases available

90 Points - Ronan Sayburn MS,
“Delicate nose, some graphite and tobacco, dark fruits, touch of smoky oak. Balanced palate with harmonious tannin and acidity, and layers of bright fruit. Good length”.

89 John Szabo MS  –
“Here's a well-balanced, stylish and structured, nicely-flavoured left bank Bordeaux, with ripe but firm tannins and succulent acids - a wine that captures the inherent balance of the vintage beautifully. Length and depth are decent, though I suspect this will improve over the next 2-4 years, evolving into a very pleasant bottle for the money”.

3.5 Stars – Vic Harradine,  
“Exotic spice, cedar and mixed field berry fruit aromas herald a medium-full bodied rush of red and black currant with juicy black cherry, baking spice and racy tang coating the palate infusing the lingering aftertaste of this cellar dweller. All these flavours remain in the firm grip of still-evolving tannin and the effect of a healthy dollop of new oak”.

This family-owned estate’s history dates back to before the French Revolution. It is a highly regarded property and was cited in 1868 as a Cru Bourgeois.

Wines occasionally come through Vintages more than once because they are terrific value and/or because they offer the consumer something special. 2010 was a very special vintage in Bordeaux. The year produced wines of exceptional quality and quantity with excellent early ‘drinkability’, something not often associated with wines from the Medoc. This is a classically built Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon that is worth every penny.



Chapel Hill Parsons Nose Shiraz largeChapel Hill
Parson's Nose Shiraz 2013
McLaren Vale, Australia
339705 $19.95
504 (12 pack) cases available

90+ Points – Lisa Perrotti-Brown,
“Deep garnet-purple coloured, the 2013 Parson's Nose Shiraz has a pronounced nose of wild blueberries, crushed black plums and menthol with hints of cloves and anise. Full-bodied and richly fruited on the palate, the generous flavours are well supported by rounded tannins and lively acid before finishing with great length”.

4.5 Stars – Vic Harradine,
“In my Protestant home that part of the turkey was the Pope’s nose, but you get the idea. Inky-black hued in the glass, lifted aromas of grilled herbs, mixed spice and cedar abound. This is beautiful, balanced, luscious and great value with its creamy smooth river of full-bodied flavour—red and dark berry fruit robed in baking spice, black licorice and dark bittersweet chocolate. The finish lingers with ripe, soft tannin. Aerate/decant two hours before pouring with grilled steak, lamb or gourmet sausage”.

Chapel Hill prides itself on its ability to express the terroir of the McLaren Vale in all its wines. This is their entry level Shiraz and is no exception.  You’ll find hallmark aromas and flavours of ripe blueberries, eucalyptus and spice here. Try it with lamb (even if you don’t like lamb).



A Vintages Customer Favourite…

Ode to Enjoy – Visitors to Napa Valley are greeted by a Robert Louis Stevenson quote proclaiming that ‘wine is bottled poetry’. This bold Cabernet is particularly epic.

First Press Napa Cab Sauv Btl ShotFirst Press Cabernet Sauvignon 2011
Napa Valley, California, USA
188110 $22.95
1191 (12 pack) cases available Customer Favourites

4 Stars – Susan Desjardins,
“Deep ruby, this dry, full-bodied Cabernet offers classic aromas of cassis, cedar, spice and herbs. The structure is subtle, balancing the ripe black fruit, while a touch of dark chocolate and hints of smoke and toast add complexity. Very tasty and flavourful, this is an appealing, approachable wine”.

First Press Cabernet Sauvignon was a huge hit at the recent California Wine Fair. It hits the mark on so many different levels and is a great example of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Grab a few bottles (or a case) to enjoy over the course of the summer with grilled food and outdoor dining.

As a heads-up, Napa Valley Cab will be increasing in price and you will not likely see any from that region below the $25 mark in the future.





Val di Suga Brunello di MontalcinoVal di Suga
Brunello di Montalcino DOCG 2010
Tuscany, Italy
713719 $48.95
200 (12 pack) cases available

93 Points – Monica Larner,
“Val di Suga's 2010 Brunello di Montalcino is a full-bodied expression with opulent tones of dark fruit, spice, leather, tobacco and licorice. Much of the intensity comes from oak use with pretty layers of cinnamon and nutmeg that add to the overall concentration and density of the wine. Smooth and velvety in the mouth, the wine lasts long and delivers generous fruit flavors that add weight and importance to the finish. The wine adopts a plush and modern style, but it does so impeccably. This may be the best base Brunello ever made by Val di Suga”.

Editor’s Note: I poured both the 2010 and the 2011 at a Vintages event earlier this year and this was my favourite of the two. I had an opportunity to taste a couple of the other stars in the room and I can honestly say that for the money, the Val di Suga was the best wine at the show. I wasn’t alone since we received orders from a number of Toronto’s best restaurants and some of the city’s most serious wine collectors. A well-respected industry peer, who for a long time was employed Banfi, even purchased some.

If you have the patience and the time to make Big Night’s Timpano, this would be the wine to serve with it. Otherwise, grilled steak, game or pasta with a tomato-based sauce would be an excellent match.






For Mother’s Day past…

Morning Fog  Chard 89+ Points – Carolyn Evans Hammond
Wente Vineyards
Morning Fog Chardonnay
Livermore Valley, California
175430  $17.95
“When kids reach puberty (give or take three years), their response to parental rules can quickly tornado into a hyperbolic rant that ends abruptly with the epic door slam. Life is tough for teens but tougher for their moms. So when their emotional spewing and sharp negotiation skills leave you utterly spent, and they finally lay their angst-filled heads to rest, pour the 2014 Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay, from California). This joy juice aims to please with is silky crème brûlée, coconut and buttered popcorn flavours. Gets rid of perma-frown faster than Botox”.












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 May 4 #wineforbreakfast podcast with Humble and Fred began with music from Cameron Johnson called On My Own, talk about Fort Mac and tree planting. We tasted Waimea Chardonnay and Mission Estate Merlot and talked a lot about New Zealand, drinking local and cheese. On October 1, the boyz are moving to a new studio they just bought!

Listen to the podcast here. We are on at the 1:07:00 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 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)















As promised, here’s the link to Timpano alla “Big Night”.  We have no idea why he says it’s an “excavation” to eat this!


Cheers! - Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum





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