The Imbiber's Report

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


March 3, 2017


Dinosaur vs Dragon We begin this report with our friendly annual Public Service Reminder – the sap is running! The weird and wacky weather has seriously confused the Sugar Maples and their sap began to run a little early this year. Please get out and support Ontario’s Maple Syrup Producers. Buying local may mean a short trip to a Farmer’s Market or an actual excursion to a Sugar Shack, but it is well worth the effort. Remember to look for 100% pure Ontario Maple Syrup! Follow this link for suggestions on where to purchase the real thing and where to find festivals across the province:  

We have two white wines in the March 4th Vintages release. The first is new to Churchill Cellars and hails from the Campania region of southern Italy. Rocca del Dragone Falanghina is a beautiful aromatic white that is named after a medieval legend about a dragon. Our other white wine comes from Nelson, New Zealand, where a ‘living fossil’ called the Tuatara and nicknamed ‘Spinyback’ lives on a nearby island. Money raised through the sale of Spinyback wines go directly to conservation initiatives aimed at protecting the endangered creature, the world’s only remaining living link to the Dinosaur.

In the past, we have encouraged Imbiber’s Report readers to keep ‘emergency-provisions’ stocked in the refrigerator - Segura Viudas Brut Reserva, a Riesling based wine like Sprucewood Shores or Fancy Farm Girl White and some Gran Feudo Rosado. Today, we would also like to recommend that you add Dunavar Pinot Grigio to your quiver.  It just garnered a 90 Point score from Carolyn Evans-Hammond in The Toronto Star and it only costs $9.55. Keep in on hand as your ‘Tuesday Night Wine’ and to cook with. We add a splash to our olive oil based salad dressings to lighten things up a bit. Of course you’ll have a couple of tins of Dos Locos Lime Tequila Margarita (which is on sale this month) and Crazy Uncle Hard Root Beer in the fridge as well. Start with the Dos Locos before moving on to the Root Beer. You’ll probably want to fix yourself some tortilla chips and salsa before we begin…



Rocca del dragone falanghinaRocca del Dragone Falanghina IGP 2015
Campania, Italy
477802 $15.95
350 (12 pack) cases available

Vintages Panel Notes: “Falanghina is enjoying a bit of a renaissance in Campania, where the finest examples of this floral white grape are to be found. This one from 2015 has the typical floral tones with nice melon and mineral notes as well. Crisp and refreshing, it's easy to enjoy and is a great value”.

Winemaker’s Notes: “Made with 100% Falanghina. The wine has a lovely pale yellow colour with a bouquet reminiscent of flowers, hints of melon and almonds. On the palate it is very elegant, with good acidity and a pleasant touch of minerality. It is perfect on its own or an excellent accompaniment to soft cheeses, seafood and shellfish dishes”.

For this wine, Falanghina (Fahl-ahn Gheen-ah) grapes were handpicked during cool early mornings in September 2015 and then gently de-stemmed and delicately pressed to maintain freshness. 85% of the must was fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel vats and aged on lees for 2 months. To build additional complexity, 15% of the wine was fermented in new French oak barriques for 60 days. The resulting wine is refreshing with notes of toasty nuts and flowers on the nose and palate. The oak is barely discernible and just adds a hint of spice to the background.

We poured this wine for our Notes segment on JazzFM.91 this week while we recorded our March spots at the station. It was our first time trying this wine and it immediately won us over. It’s an intriguing wine and reminded us of other grapes like Sauvignon Blanc, Verdelho, Viognier and Riesling. We love this wine and can highly recommend that you purchase a few bottles. Try it with the Spaghetti alle Vongole recipe below.  

Legend has it that high above the small village of Mondragone, on the top of Monte Petrino, is a small castle-like structure called Rocca del Dragone. Named by the Normans during the middle ages, it is reputed to be the home of a dragon which lives there to protect itself from the local people who have tried to find and kill it in the past. Locals say that on the windiest of evenings, you can hear the dragon screeching around Monte Petrino.


Spinyback Sauv BlancSpinyback Sauvignon Blanc 2015
Nelson, New Zealand
694737 $19.95
448 (12 pack) cases available

93 Points – Sam Kim,
“This is full of fabulous Sauvignon flavours. Lifted aromas of passionfruit, mango, grapefruit and lime zest lead to a powerfully expressed palate that is lush and mouthwatering. The wine shows excellent fruit purity and vibrancy, finishing superbly long and tasty. A real crowd-pleaser. At its best: now to 2018”.

Fruit for Spinyback Sauvignon Blanc is harvested from three family-owned estates located on the stony Waimea Plains. All of the picking and processing is done at low temperatures to ensure that the fresh fruit character of the Sauvignon Blanc is maintained. Small lots from each vineyard are fermented separately for monitoring and the best tanks are mixed together to make the final blend.

We also tasted Spinyback Sauvignon Blanc at JazzFM91 this week with Brad Barker. This is full-throttle Kiwi Savvy with tons of tropical fruit, citrus and a touch of herbs. This wine lines up its weight, intensity and texture in the ‘big’ column and really exemplifies Waimea’s terroir. Rich flavours of mango and passionfruit are perfectly balanced by a pink grapefruit-like acidity with a mineral underpinning that keeps this wine bright and refreshing. Try it with grilled chicken or fish with a freshly cut mango, onion, red pepper and cilantro ‘salsa’.

Every purchase of Spinyback provides direct funding to further education and conservation of New Zealand’s Tuatara – the world’s only remaining living link to the dinosaur. Technically, the Tuatara is not actually a lizard, but rather a “Sphenodontida”. The only other examples are fossils which is why the Tuatara is often referred to as a “living fossil”.

Waimea Estates is assisting the Department of Conservation and Ngati Koata (“Narti Ko Arta”, Nelson’s local Maori Tribe) in their efforts to protect this vulnerable and unique species on Stephen’s Island, an island off the coast of Nelson that is a dedicated Tuatara sanctuary. Spinyback sales have helped to secure funding for the “Zone 5 Protective Fencing Projects” at Brook Waimarama Sanctuary.





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.

Bistro Wine…

Les Dauphins CdR Reserve Red largeLes Dauphins
Côtes du Rhône Réserve AC 2015
Rhône Valley, France
385385 $12.95

This Grenache-based red blend delivers ripe dark fruit and spice on the nose. It’s medium-bodied and marvellously balanced with blackcurrant fruit, soft tannins and bright acidity on the palate. Les Dauphins has good length with a dry and fruity finish.

Les Dauphins is the definition of a ‘Bistro Wine’: it’s delicious, unpretentious and would be the perfect accompaniment to a wide variety of food. Try it with tomato-based pasta dishes, pizza, stews and braises, grilled chicken, grilled veal, hamburgers, fajitas… You get the idea, it’s pretty versatile. Have a few bottles of Les Dauphins on hand just in case you have some unexpected guests drop by. Chill this Côtes du Rhône down a few degrees in the fridge before serving.








Dunavar PG med90 Points, Carolyn Evans-Hammond, The Toronto Star
Dunavar Pinot Grigio 2015
Felsö Magyarorszag, Hungary PDO
335422 $9.55

"With subtle flavours and aromas of fresh lemon and Granny Smith apple, this racy Pinot Grigio shows all the clean, lean character for which the variety is known. If you like Pinot Grigio, you’d be hard pressed to find a better value bottle for less than $10. Poised, harmonious and glossy, it’s an easy win".





Deakin Estate Shiraz New Packaging smallHighly Recommended! – Billy Munnelly, Billy’s Best Bottles
Deakin Estate Shiraz 2015
Victoria, Australia
560821 $9.95

“One of the LCBO’s best ‘everyday’ reds… Many low-priced Shiraz taste ‘doctored and perfumed’ but the Deakin delivers delicious natural fruitiness, and freshness. So enjoyable, so gulpable. There’s no better party red for the price, so buy some!”





Katnook Founders Block Cab Sauv91 Points, Beppi Crosariol, The Globe and Mail
Katnook Founder’s Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2014
Coonawarra, Australia
660332 $19.95

"An impressively structured under-$20 offering from Australia’s cabernet capital of Coonawarra. Classic varietal characters come through with great clarity: cassis, mint and black olive, to name three. There’s also an intriguing essence of leafy underbrush here, with the ripe fruit getting lift from fresh acidity. Drink it over the next eight years, preferably with steak".









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 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:

This past week’s podcast featured three whites and a red with a spring theme. We decided that the order of the first three wines offered good insight into ‘small, medium and large’ whites and with a $5 difference between each, really illustrated the bump in quality for the money. We started off with Dunavar Pinot Grigio, which we agreed was very pleasant and refreshing. Next, much to our delight, we tried the new Rocca del Dragone Falanghina and were smitten by its exotic character and charm. We then moved on to taste a powerhouse Sauvignon Blanc from Nelson, New Zealand, that really knocked our socks off. To wind things up, we tasted the Tempranillo-based Gran Feudo Reserva 2010. With seven years of age under its belt, this maturing red was soft, fruity and full of flavour.

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 Marche 25, 2017 at the LCBO:

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

Earn 6 Bonus Air Miles on Deakin Estate Sauvignon Blanc (#447060)

Earn 6 Bonus Air Miles on Alsace Willm Gewurztraminer Reserve (#269852)

Earn 8 Bonus Air Miles on Les Dauphins Côtes du Rhône White (#450205)

Earn 8 Bonus Air Miles on Vodka Mudshake Orange Cream (#448175)

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

Save $0.50 LTO on Dos Locos Lime Tequila Margarita (#370668)

Save $2.00 LTO on Angove Organic Cabernet Sauvignon (#464743)

Save $2.00 LTO on Gran Feudo Reserva (#479014)

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


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

Save $2.00 LTO on Angove Organic Cabernet Sauvignon (#464743)







Spaghetti alle Vongole is a classic Italian pasta dish that finds regional adaptations across Italy and around the world, wherever fresh clams are available. It is a specialty of the Campania region and reaches its apogee in the restaurants along the Amalfi coast, where it is served with local white wine made from Grego, Fiano or Falanghina. When you order this dish in a restaurant, it is usually served with the clam shells to show that they are using fresh clams (not canned). Here, most of the clams are removed from their shells after the initial steaming and cooked with the pasta for extra flavour. This straightforward version is simple to prepare and moderately easy to master.

We’ve included Dunavar Pinot Grigio as the cooking wine in this recipe because it’s relatively neutral (it’s probably the best wine in our portfolio to use for cooking) and has a very pleasant flavour profile. Please don’t cook with white wine that has been open for more than a couple of days. Oxidized flavours will concentrate in the dish and add unpleasant flavours. Open a fresh bottle, measure out what you need for the recipe and then pour yourself a glass. If you want to kick this dish up a notch, use ½ cup of Rocca del Dragone Falanghina.

This recipe has been adapted from one of our favourite ‘foodie’ websites called Serious Eats


Spaghetti alle Vongole in Bianco


Spaghetti alle Vongole in BiancoIngredients:
Kosher salt
3 pounds (1.25kg) fresh small clams, such as littlenecks, Manilas, or cockles (about 3 dozen littlenecks or 4 dozen Manilas or cockles)
3 Tbsp. (45ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed
3 medium cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
Pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup (120ml) Dunavar Pinot Grigio or other dry white wine
1 pound (450g) dried spaghetti
1 Tbsp. (15g) unsalted butter (optional)
2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley


Fill a large bowl with cold water and stir in enough salt to make it salty like the sea. Add clams and let stand 30 minutes. Lift clams from water and discard purging water. If there is sand in the bottom of the bowl, rinse it out and repeat this process until clams no longer release sand into the water (usually 2 to 3 purging cycles). Discard any clams that are gaping open and refuse to close when prodded.

In a large skillet, combine oil with garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium heat until garlic is very lightly golden, about 5 minutes. (Adjust heat as necessary to keep it gently sizzling.)

Add white wine and clams, cover, and increase heat to high. Cook, checking every 30 seconds or so and transferring clams as they open to a large heatproof bowl, until all clams have opened, about 5 minutes. Remove skillet from heat.

Allow clams to cool slightly then pull meat from shells. Save a few shell-on clams per serving for garnish. If clam meat is large (littleneck clams), you can roughly chop it.

In a pot or large skillet of lightly salted water, cook pasta until just shy of al dente (about 1 minute less than cooking time on package). Transfer pasta to skillet with white-wine sauce, add a few tablespoons of pasta cooking water, and cook over high heat, stirring and tossing rapidly, until sauce has reduced and is beginning to form a creamy, emulsified coating on the noodles. Add butter and both clam meat and shell-on clams. Cook, stirring, until butter is melted and clams are heated through, about 1 minute. Add more pasta water, 1 tablespoon at a time, if sauce over-reduces and becomes dry or greasy. Season with salt if necessary. Remove from heat.

Stir in parsley and a drizzle of fresh olive oil. Transfer to bowls and serve right away with any of the white wines featured this month!


Mark Donaldson, Editor and Factotum






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