The Imbiber's Report

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


February 18, 2017


Family SkiingWhen planning your Family Day winter activities this weekend, remember that according to British adventurer Ranulph (Ran) Fiennes OBE, who, in 2009 at the age 65 climbed to the summit of Mount Everest, “there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing”.
Most regions across the province have plenty of natural snow cover and are ready for you to explore. All of Ontario’s ski hills report excellent conditions (all resorts also rent skis, boots and binding and some rent snowshoes). If you don’t have the gear to go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, MEC stores in Toronto, Barrie, Burlington Ottawa and London will rent you what you need.

If skating is more your speed, most outdoor rinks will be open all weekend. For an amazing day of trail skating (yes, it’s a thing) check out the This year it was named as one of the Top 50 Canadian Winter Experiences, and just recently named one of 19 Stunning Natural Ice Skating Rinks Around the World by Travel+Leisure.

There’s no excuse not to get outside and play this weekend. The weather in many parts of Ontario is supposed to be unusually warm. After you play outside for a day, you’ll be a bit knackered and ready for some good food and a glass of wine. We sometimes pack a ‘picnic’ with a variety of things to nosh on, so there isn’t too much fuss about dinner. Of course there are those who live and die for fondue at this time of year, and after you’ve burned a thousand extra calories cavorting around in the snow, you deserve it. Our other favourite après food is chili, which you can dress up with fixings like sour cream, cheddar cheese or nacho chips if you would like (see recipe below).

Vintages Catalogue No. 606 highlights ‘Diverse wonders from Down Under’ with a collection of regional wines from across Australia. Katnook’s Cabernet Sauvignon is featured in the Coonawarra section as a solid expression of the regional style. Also featured in this Vintages release is one of our favourite everyday drinking wines from the Symington family, the Altano red blend from the Douro Valley. We also have Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay as our special Grocery Selection Feature, and there are some new promotions at the LCBO and a few outstanding reviews that you should read.

dArry turns 90Before we continue, we want to share some happy news with you. The legendary d'Arry Osborn turned 90 years old on December 27, 2016. To celebrate the momentous occasion, d'Arenberg staff threw a surprise brunch. d’Arry was presented with a customised book filled with special messages and memories from people he has worked with during his 70+ years in the wine industry including our own Mr. Churchill.  d’Arry also received an 18 litre bottle of d’Arry’s Original Shiraz Grenache, which he says is still his favourite d'Arenberg wine. He did promise that he wouldn’t drink it all at once!

You can see and download a PDF version of the 90th birthday book containing some great stories here:

We are going to begin the long weekend with refreshing glass of Sue-Ann Staff’s Fancy Farm Girl Frivolous White.  Won’t you join us?


VINTAGES RELEASE, February 18, 2017

Altano Red 2014Altano 2014
Douro Valley DOC, Portugal
579862 $12.95
560 (12 pack) cases available

Vintages Notes: “The 2014 Symington Altano is a blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Tinta Barroca. This is styled to be a modern, bright and youthful wine offering up delectable red fruits, and should be enjoyed over the next 1-2 years. It will be a fine companion to grilled beef dishes”.

4 Stars, Value Wine
"This blend of premium Port grapes—Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca and Tinta Barocca—from the pioneering Symington family in the Douro region—offers a lifted nose of spiced red fruit with vanilla and floral notes. A river of juicy red and dark cherry mingling with spice and cocoa wash over the palate. This dry, medium-bodied, lively red offers exceptional value and a delicious compliment to grilled Chorizo sausages or simply enjoy as a weeknight sipper".

Our good friend Geoffrey Johnson from en Ville Event design and catering has given Symington’s Altano a brilliant review in his newsletter. His advice is sound – buy a case or two for the summer BBQ season.

Exceptional Value Wine  en Ville Event Design and Catering, Geoffrey Johnson
"I have had many previous vintages, an outstanding fruit forward, young athletic example of Portuguese wine. This will cellar well for 2-4 years. Buy a case or two for this summer's BBQ and smoke outs. Here's the best. It's only $12.95. This little gem goes so well with smoked meats. Watch our video. This little gem goes so well with smoked meats".

We love this medium-bodied red blend from the Douro Valley. It’s bright and lively and full of flavour! Altano hits that perfect balance between rustic and modern and has just the right amount of flavour intensity and concentration to match a wide variety of food. The acidity keeps everything focused and gives the wine an overall refreshing character. This is one of those red wines that you might try with a tomato-based fish stew or seafood with Moroccan rice. It will also play well with dishes that have a little heat to them like beef fajitas or ‘Ski Resort Chili’ (recipe below).

Altano is made entirely from grapes grown in vineyards owned by the Symington family, which are located along the length of the Douro Valley in Northern Portugal. Grapes for the 2014 vintage were picked at peak ripeness and produced some exceptional wines. Following stainless steel fermentation, a portion of this wine was aged in large 300 and 400 litre American and French oak barrels to add complexity.

Altano is one of the best-value wines on the market and consistently garners ‘Best-buy’ accolades from local and international press. Altano is drinking very nicely now. That said, this is one of those surprising wines that will age nicely for another 2-3 years. We recently opened a bottle of the 2011 vintage and it was fantastic.



Katnook Founders Block Cab SauvKatnook Founder’s Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Coonawarra, Australia
660332 $19.95 392 (12 pack) cases available

We previewed this wine at the Vintages ‘The New Australia’ tasting on February 1, 2017 where it was an overwhelming success. It’s now available at Vintages.

Recommended – Chris Shanahan,
“Katnook's wine connection dates from Coonawarra's first vintage, when industry founder, John Riddoch, processed his 1896 vintage in Katnook's woolshed. Though now part of Spain's Freixenet Group, Katnook wines continue to be made by Wayne Stehbens who had his first vintage there in 1979. Coonawarra's second largest producer shows its class and versatility with this pure and solid expression of the regional Cabernet style. It combines cassis and black-olive-like varietal fruit flavours on a medium-bodied palate, but through with the variety’s assertive, firm tannins. It's a roast lamb or steak wine for sure and very satisfying”.

Senior Winemaker, Wayne Stehbens’ Notes: “This wine has a lovely bouquet of blackcurrant, plum and hints of mint and chocolate. It is medium-bodied, expressing rich berry fruit, plum, dusty mulberry with subtle mint and oak flavours. It pairs well with slow cooked lamb shoulder, barbequed beef ribs and roasted vegetables.

The Founder’s Block range is styled for everyday enjoyment, inviting a modern generation of wine consumers to explore the pleasures of Coonawarra wine. The wines are grounded in the past but genuinely focused on the present. They are honest, fruit driven, harmonious and shine with pure Coonawarra character.

Slow cooked lamb shoulder, sticky, barbequed beef ribs or roasted vegetable lasagne.
Attractive nose of blackcurrant, plum and hints of mint and chocolate. Subtle vanillin and sweet spice from the oak”.

This wine should be on everyone’s ‘To-Do’ list. It’s a fantastic introduction to one of the wine world’s best known strips of land. Coonawarra’s unique terra rossa soil covers a patch of ground approximately 2 km by 15 km in the Limestone Coast Region of South Australia. The Cabernet Sauvignon grown here is characteristically full of plum and blackcurrant with a distinctive minty eucalyptus note on the nose and palate. Katnook Founder’s Block Cabernet Sauvignon is a tremendous value.




This new section of The Imbiber’s Report will feature wines that are available at grocery stores with a tasting note and food matching suggestions.

Chardonnay Love…

Morning Fog  Chard Wente Vineyards
Morning Fog Chardonnay 2015
Livermore Valley, San Francisco Bay, California
175430 $18.95

This masterfully crafted Chardonnay is consistently excellent and it delivers exceptional quality for the money.

Here is what Fifth Generation Winemaker Karl D. Wente says about his wine, “Morning Fog Chardonnay is a great expression of Livermore Valley Chardonnay, with diverse alluvial fans of soil consistently creating Chardonnay with beautiful and lingering minerality, which coupled with the natural acidity from the long and cool growing season, creates a beautifully balanced wine.”

Morning Fog Chardonnay is a fantastic match with a wide array of foodstuffs, including most types of cheese, paté and charcuterie. Wente’s vibrant lemon-infused acidity makes it the perfect partner for all sorts of fish and seafood, especially shrimp and crab. It will work nicely with sweet and savoury salads which incorporate fruit and greens too (think baby kale salad with avocado and roasted oranges). Over this past holiday season we made a remarkable discovery - Morning Fog Chardonnay and Tourtière is a perfect match.  Give it a try and see for yourself! You can also enjoy a glass of Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay all by itself.







Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2016 was recently featured in the prestigious Descorchados Guide to Chilean Wine with ‘Super Price White’ designation.

Caliterra SB new label 2015Descorchados Guide 2017
The Best Wines of Chile
91 Points - Super Price White
Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2016
“Great aromatic freshness and flavour intensity of mango and passion fruit”.
275909 $11.00









Here’s what is currently available on-line and at the LCBO’s Australian Boutique store at 65 Wicksteed Avenue (Eglinton and Laird area), Toronto.

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:









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
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








Casa Silva Los Lingues Carmenere 2014Casa Silva Los Lingues Carmenere 2014,  Colchagua Valley, Chile
LCBO# 236314    
In Store: $19.30 per bottle
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







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.








Here’s what is currently available only at the LCBO’s Asian Boutique store at 3075 Highway 7 in Markham (not available on-line):
Xi Jiang Jing PinXi Jiang Jing Pin, Guizhou Province, China
LCBO# 270321 500ml
In Store: $43.25 per bottle

Xi Jiang Jin Ping’s rich, creamy fragrance gives way to a nutty, herbaceous flavour with notes of fermented beans on the finish. It is a smooth and mellow spirit.









Xijiu Five Star LCBO332238Xi Jiu Five Star, Guizhou Province, China
LCBO# 332238 500ml
In Store: $64.15 per bottle

This is a smooth baijiu with subtle aniseed notes on the nose. On the palate there are soft flavours of banana and toasted rice with hints of soy sauce on the finish.







Xi Jiu 1988Xi Jiu 1988, Guizhou Province, China
LCBO# 270313 500ml
In Store: $124.55 per bottle

Xi Jiu 1988 has a strong millet character with notes of strawberries, bock beer, dark chocolate, cocoa, caramel and walnuts. It is typically acidulous and lactic with soy sauce flavours in the background. It is complex, balanced and has a very long finish.

















Our JazzFM.91 appearance with Brad Barker is now posted as a podcast on their website. You’ll find it here:

The podcast featured two wines from the February 4 Vintages Release, Casa Silva Reserva Cuvée Carmenere 2014 and d'Arenberg The Galvo Garage Cabernet Blend 2012 as well as the two wines coming out in this weekend’s release: the Altano Red 2014 and Katnook Founder’s Block Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2014.

Tune in to Jazz.FM91 anytime to hear some great music and, if you’re lucky, Chris and Mark’s wine recommendations.






The following promotions are available now until February 25, 2017 at the LCBO:

Earn 4 Bonus Air Miles on Dunavar Pinot Grigio (#335422)

Earn 5 Bonus Air Miles on Château de Gourgazaud Minervois AOC (#22384)

Earn 6 Bonus Air Miles on Caliterra Sauvignon Blanc (#275909)

Earn 8 Bonus Air Miles on Sprucewood Shores Lady In Red VQA (#266486)

Earn 12 Bonus Air Miles on Domaine Pinnacle Ice Cider (#94094)

Save $1.50 on Vodka Mudshake Chocolate (#5280)

Save $2.00 on Les Dauphins Côtes Du Rhône Reserve Red (#385385)

Save $2.00 on Wente Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon (#301507)

Save $3.00 on Seven Deadly Zins Zinfandel (#59311)

Receive 3 FREE Brix Chocolates with the purchase of Fresita Sparkling Wine (#383901) where applied. While supplies last.

Receive a FREE Hot Pink Feather Boa with the purchase of Fancy Farm Girl Frivolous White VQA (#394072) where applied. While supplies last.


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


The following wines are on sale until February 25, 2017 at grocery stores:

Save $2.00 on Les Dauphins Côtes Du Rhône Reserve Red (#385385)

Save $2.00 on Wente Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon (#301507)






Ski Resort Chili

Many of the smaller ski resorts and clubs across Ontario pride themselves on the quality of their ‘home-made’ chili. Before poutine, you could find ‘chili-fries’ at most ski resort cafeterias, and it’s still popular in some corners, like the north cafeteria at Mt Saint-Louis/Moonstone.

This simple, easy to prepare chili recipe is flavourful but not spicy. If you want it spicy, add the optional amount cayenne pepper or more. This can be prepared a couple of days before serving and GENTLY heated through.

1⁄4 cup canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 rib celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
2 lb. ground beef
1⁄4 cup chili powder
2 tbsp. tomato paste
2 tbsp. paprika
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 (28-oz.) cans whole, peeled tomatoes, crushed by hand
2 (15-oz.) cans kidney beans, drained
2 tbsp. maple syrup
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a 6-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion carrot and celery, and cook until soft, about 6 minutes. Add beef, and cook, stirring, until browned, about 25 minutes. Add chili powder, tomato paste, paprika, salt, cumin, oregano and garlic, and cook, stirring, until browned, about 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes, and bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring often, for 1 hour. Add beans and maple syrup, and cook, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Season chili with salt and pepper.

To accompany our chili, we put out tortilla chips, sour cream, grated cheddar cheese, chopped spring (green) onion and lime wedges. Have a few different bottles of hot sauce on hand for those who love the heat.

Happy Family Day!

Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum





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