The Imbiber's Report

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


Christmas 2016


merry-christmas-and-happy-new-year-card 1015-258Thank you for continued support of The Imbiber’s Report and the Churchill Cellars portfolio. We hope that you enjoyed our musings and encourage you to share the report with your friends and family if you can. On behalf of the whole Churchill Cellars team, we wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Our next official Vintages release doesn’t take place until February 4th, when we have Barone Ricasoli’s Flagship Chianti Classico Gran Selezione and Casa Silva’s Reserve Carmenere coming through. There are two other wines that we will tell you more about in the New Year that are part of an Australian Vintages Event which takes place on February 1st.

We will hold off telling you about the grocery store wines until the New Year and focus our attention on ‘Our Best of 2016’ list and an icon of the McLaren Vale, Angove’s Medhyk Shiraz, which is available January 5th through Classics.

For the past several years we have chosen the ‘Top 10 Wines’ from the Churchill Cellars Portfolio. The list was always fun to put together and really made us consider the portfolio and track the reviews and awards garnered by the wines available in the ‘General List’ of the LCBO. The list excluded any wines that were available through Vintages.

This year, we are going to mix it up a little and give you ‘10 Wines to Try’ (in no particular order) from the regular LCBO listing and ‘4 Favourites from Vintages’ that are currently available in good supply.

It’s the holiday season and there’s probably something open already. Grab a glass and join us for a spell…



Angove Medhyk ShirazAngove
The Medhyk Old Vine Shiraz 2013
McLaren Vale, Australia
437749 $70.00

96 Points – James Halliday,
“The vineyard may be relatively small, and the production a minuscule part of Angove's total annual production, but it's a worthy flag bearer. This is a wine of real distinction and class. While it has all the depth and structure needed for long cellaring, it is so supple and well balanced it can be enjoyed any time, its velvety blackberry fruit flavours wreathed by supple tannins and perfectly integrated quality oak. Drink By 2037”.








10 Wines to Try

Before we begin, we would like to preface by saying that we have a portfolio full of excellent wine and are fortunate to work with some of the best suppliers in the industry. There isn’t a single wine in the stable that we aren’t proud of. Every wine in our portfolio is backed by families and companies with incredible stories. So have a read and see if there is something which tickles your fancy.


First Press Napa Cab Sauv largeFirst Press Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Napa Valley, California
188110 $24.95
First Press Cab has been a Vintages favourite for a number of years and this year successfully graduated to become a Vintages Essential listing meaning it’s available year round. This is a fantastic Napa Valley wine for under $25 and has a ton of character. The 2013 vintage was nearly perfect in Napa Valley and this wine reflects the quality of that year. It’s velvety smooth, full of fruit and spice. Try it with beef, lamb or game.  And here some insider imbiber information: Napa prices continue to rise so buy it now!








Marques de Riscal Rueda large Marques de Riscal 2015
Rueda DO, Spain
$12.70 #36822
Tired of the same old, same old? Too much flavourless Italian Pinot Grigio? Give this Verdejo-based white from Spain’s Rueda region a try. The 2014 won InterVin’s Best Value Awards and the 2015 is as good if not better than its predecessor. It reminds some people of Sauvignon Blanc, and while it does have some of the same savoury notes to it, it also has lots of melon, spice and honeysuckle (even though it’s completely dry). Try it with all sorts of salads, seafood, goat and sheep cheese, or all by itself as an apéritif.








Morning Fog  Chard Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay 2014
Livermore Valley, California
$18.95 #175430
Wente’s Morning Fog Chardonnay continues to shine and the 2015 vintage is, dare we say it, even better than last year, at least from the perspective of balance and oak integration. It’s not your ‘typical’ California Chardonnay: instead it really shows off the unique terroir of the Livermore Valley. There is a lemon-mineral underpinning to this wine that consistently keeps it focused and crisp. We don’t usually describe Chardonnay as ‘refreshing’ but this is headed in that direction. Try it with lobster, crab and most seafood. We’ve been experimenting with pairing it with spicy dishes and it does quite well. Think Cajun Gumbo or spicy Thai coconut curry.   








SV Brut Reserva New Bottle Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava DO
$14.25 #216960
The Judge’s Choice and Best Value Winner at InterVin last year, Best Value from the Wine Spectator and a number of 90 Point scores from around the world. Master of Wine, Rhys Pender has this to say “I've drunk my body weight of this wine many times over and it always stands out for great consistency and great value. It is crisp, dry, has some hints of autolysis, a little funk from the traditional grapes and good length. It will stand up to whatever food you throw at it and not break the bank along the way. A good idea to always keep a case on hand”. Well put Rhys.








Deakin Estate Shiraz New PackagingDeakin Estate Shiraz 2015
Victoria, Australia
560821 $9.95
The ‘Estate’ in the name is just that: one 217 hectare vineyard that is totally under the control of vineyard manager Craig Thornton, who works in lockstep with winemaker Frank Newman to produce some of the best value red wine on the planet. In his latest guide, Billy Munnelly says this:
“Deakin’s Shiraz delivers a refreshing, gulping character along with a dollop of Aussie richness. The perfect mid-size wine, at a perfect price. Equally good with food or at parties. Should be one of the best-selling wines in the world – maybe the jazzy new label will it get more attention”. This is our ‘house red’.








Caliterra SB new label 2015Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2015
Casablanca Valley, Chile
275909 $10.95
We love the new label and adore this wine to death. This is amazing Sauvignon Blanc that has more in common with the Loire Valley than with other southern hemisphere producing regions. It has fresh cut grass, gooseberry and grapefruit that is rounded out nicely with melon and a touch of tropical fruit. This zippy, savoury Sauvignon Blanc will please a crowd as well as the purist. Try with chicken Caesar Salad, pesto pizza or anything with goat’s cheese in or on it. 









Angove Organic Cabernet Sauvignon 2015Angove Organic Cabernet Sauvignon
South Australia
464743 $15.95
New to the Portfolio from Angove Family Winemakers is an Organic Cabernet Sauvignon crafted in the Riverland region of South Australia. The family farms over 200 hectares of vineyard across South Australia with 30% of it dedicated to organic practices. This wine show hallmark Cabernet Sauvignon characteristics with a bit of an Australian accent. It’s lusciously flavourful and fruity with a hint of savoury herbs and eucalyptus. Try it by itself and it will tell you what to eat with it.










Fancy Farm Girl WhiteFancy Farm Girl Frivolous White 2014
VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
394072 $14.95
We’ve adopted Sue-Ann Staff’s Fancy Farm Girl Frivolous White as our spicy food utility wine. It has everything you want in a Niagara Riesling-based wine and is worth always having on hand. Here is the Vintages Tasting Panel note on the wine, “There's nothing frivolous about this Fancy Farm Girl. Sue-Ann Staff is a fifth-generation grape-grower and one of Ontario's leading winemakers. This is bright and crisp and marvellously dry, with impressive grapefruit, white peach and green apple throughout”.









Pisse Dru 2014 New LabelPisse-Dru Beaujolais AC 2014
Burgundy, France
2881 $12.95
Welcome the convivial drinking and dancing Burgundians to the Ontario Pisse-Dru label! These three cheery characters have long adorned labels in other markets and now they are here. We predict a resurgence of the popularity of Beaujolais as the Gamay grape gains popularity among winemakers in Ontario and elsewhere. Pisse-Dru is fruity and bright, redolent of cherries, spice and minerals. The winemaking process called Carbonic Maceration helps to preserve and amplify the wine’s fruitiness while practically eliminating tannin. Crisp acidity helps to keep everything together and makes this Beaujolais a very versatile food wine. Try it with just about anything.









Chivite Rosado largeGran Feudo Rosado 2015
Navarra, Spain
165845 $11.95
Drink rosé in winter? Do yourself a favour the next time you make or order pizza, open a bottle of this dry Spanish Rosado and your taste buds will do a little happy dance. This wine earned a 90 Point score from the Repsol Guide and is one of the best value wines at the LCBO. It’s also one of the few pink wines that are available at the LCBO all year round. Give it a spin the next time you put together a cheese and charcuterie board.










Four Favourites from Vintages


Brolio Chianti ClassicoBarone Ricasoli Brolio Chianti Classico 2013
Tuscany, Italy
3962 $22.95
This choice is sort of a ‘no-brainer’. The people who ‘invented’ Chianti make a wine to celebrate the 300th Anniversary of its founding and bottle half of the run in old-school wine labels. Not to put too fine a point on it, but we imagine there was more than a little pressure to produce a wine fit for the occasion. Here is what the Globe and Mail’s wine scribe Beppi Crosariol wrote about it:

“Ricasoli, one of Tuscany’s big producers, travelled back in time, in a sense, for this 2013 vintage. The harvest three years ago marked the 300th anniversary of a decree that created the Chianti Classico appellation. As a tribute, half the winery’s flagship red was packaged with an old-school, white label recalling fine vintages produced at the estate in the past century. The other bottles carry the modern, tan label. (You can clearly identify the old one by the prominent vintage date stamped on the bottle neck.) Both were distributed in stores, so you can’t be certain which you’ll find. No matter. The liquid inside is solid, particularly for a Chianti at this price. Medium-full-bodied, it’s very dry and firm, with lively cherry joined by spices and a saline tang on the finish”.



 dArenberg Hermit Crabd’Arenberg The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne 2015
McLaren Vale, Australia
662775 $17.95
We love watching the expression on people’s faces the first time they try this wine. Initially, the reaction is usually a confused, “what is this?”, followed by “that’s weird” and then “this is really good, what IS this?”. This Rhône-esque white is fun to play with as it will match a wide range of different foods. It is most at home with Asian-spiced seafood dishes and that’s what winemaker Chester Osborne had in mind when he came up with the blend.


89 Points – Sara d’Amato,
“A consistently great value in the white Rhone style category, approachable and with wide appeal. Expressive and satisfying, dry and savory but at the same time bursting with sweet stone fruit and honey. A lovely salinity helps boost the moderate acidity. A pleasant floral finish is memorable”.




Dows Colheita 2002Dow’s Colheita Tawny Port 2002
Douro, Portugal
473058 $39.95
Trying a Colheita Tawny is one of the best ways to introduce yourself and your wine drinking friends to Port. It’s an elegant and powerful wine that will surprise you with its complexity. After opening a bottle, you’ll have a few weeks before you start to notice any change, provided you keep it in the fridge. Treat someone else (or yourself) to this amazing fortified wine.


93 Points – David Lawrason,
“Here's 14 year-old single vintage port with lovely creamy, classy aromas of dried figs, buckwheat honey, molasses and peanut skin. It's very smooth, creamy but rather hot and bitter on the finish. Almost walnut like in the end. Quite hot and powerful”.





Staff Gift PackSue-Ann Staff Vidal Icewine 2012 & Brix Chocolate Gift Pack
VQA, Niagara Peninsula
480137 $29.95    200ml

This decadent Vidal Icewine is filled with flavours of candied lemon peel, mandarin orange, mango, quince and luscious white peach paired with vibrant acidity, minerality and alluring sweetness. Enjoy chilled with desserts, such as Brix dark chocolate, the perfect chocolate for wine! This is a great gift for your hosts over the holiday season!










In addition to the d’Arenberg wines mentioned above, two of their Stump Jump wines are now available on-line and at the LCBO’s Australian Boutique store at 65 Wicksteed Avenue (Eglinton and Laird area), Toronto. Because the labels resemble an eye chart, these wines will make a great gift for an optometrist!

Stump Jump Lightly Wooded Chardonnayd’Arenberg The Stump Jump Lightly Wooded Chardonnay 2015
LCBO# 267012
In Store: $14.95 per bottle; Online: $179.40 per case of 12

The winemaker describes this as “fresh, crunchy Chardonnay, full of Granny Smith apples”.  The use of oak is really prudent and the mid palate has a lovely creaminess.  This would be brilliant with salmon or anything with a cream sauce.

Order here:








Stump-Jump-Shirazd’Arenberg The Stump Jump Shiraz 2012
LCBO# 267020
In Store: $15.00 per bottle; Online: $180.00 per case of 12

This is 100% Shiraz from the McLaren Vale region.  It’s generous, juicy and loaded with blackberry, plum and raspberry notes.  It’s medium-bodied, beautifully balanced and really punches over its weight.

Order here:








Here’s what else is currently available on-line and at the LCBO’s Chilean Boutique store at 5100 Erin Mills Parkway:


Casa Silva Sauvignon Gris 1912 VinesCasa Silva 1912 Vines Sauvignon Gris 2015, Colchagua Valley, Chile
LCBO# 236322                                
In Store: $19.25 per bottle; Online: $231.00 per case of 12
Produced with grapes from the Angostura Estate planted in 1912, this wine has a delicate nose with melon aromas and mineral notes. The palate is fresh with tropical flavours and notes of meyer lemon and apple ending in a crisp finish.

91pts, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate ‘14
91pts, Chile’s Descorchados Wine Guide ‘14
90pts, Stephen Tanzer's Int’l Wine Cellar ‘14

Order here.







Casa Silva Los Lingues Carmenere 2014Casa Silva Los Lingues Carmenere 2014,  Colchagua Valley, Chile
LCBO# 236314    
In Store: $19.30 per bottle; Online: $231.60 per case of 12
The nose is intense with notes of ripe black fruits with hints of wild forest fruits. On the palate there is good balance between fruit and oak with notes of boysenberries and hints of tobacco. It has a good structure with round tannins and an excellent finish.

91pts, James Suckling
91pts, Wine & Spirits Magazine '12
90pts, Stephen Tanzer's Int’l Wine Cellar ‘14
90pts, Chile’s Descorchados wine guide

Order here.






Secreto Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Casablanca, Chile
LCBO# 224526
In Store: $14.10 per bottle; Online: $169.20 per case of 12
A complex nose of grapefruit, pineapple and sea salt (one of the vineyards is 11 km from the sea) repeats on the palate producing a wine perfect for sipping, seafood and chévre.

90pts, Chile’s Descorchados wine guide

Order here.









Secreto Carmenere 2014, Colchagua Valley, Chile
LCBO# 224518
In Store: $14.15 per bottle; Online: $169.80 per case of 12
Carmenere has become a signature grape of Chile and really excels in the Colchagua Valley.  Almost half of this wine was aged for 9 months in French oak.  You’ll find notes of red fruits, blueberries and plums on the nose with fresh complex flavours on the palate which belie its price.  You may enjoy it now or cellar for the next 5 or 6 years. Although the dominant grape variety is stated on each label the “secret” is the addition of 15% of other grapes to enhance the flavour.

Order here.








secreto malbec

Secreto Malbec 2014, Colchagua Valley, Chile
LCBO# 224500
In Store: $14.15 per bottle; Online: $169.80 per case of 12
Although most people think of Argentina when they hear Malbec, more and more excellent Malbec wines are being produced in Chile. Two thirds of the wine spent 8 months in French oak, imparting a hint of vanilla which melds seamlessly with soft tannins.  Plums, sour cherries and violets are the dominant notes on this fresh, fruity wine.  Drink now or cellar for up to 6 years.

90pts, Chile’s Descorchados wine guide
89pts, Wine Spectator

Order here.










The following promotions are available now until December 31, 2016 at the LCBO:

Earn 8 Bonus Air Miles on Sprucewood Shores Riesling VQA (#326249)

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

Earn 10 Bonus Air Miles on Angove Organic Cabernet Sauvignon (#464743)

Earn 15 Bonus Air Miles on Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider (#94094)


Find the following wines chilling in the Wine Fridge in Select Stores:
Alsace Willm Riesling Réserve (#11452)


Have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  We look forward to introducing you to new imbibables in 2017!

- Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum




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