In late January, I had the pleasure of tasting some iconic wines from the quality, award-winning Chilean producer Viña Errázuriz with Winemaker Francisco Baettig in attendance. I've tasted previous vintages of the Icon wines - La Cumbre, Don Maximiano Founder's Reserve, and Kai - recalling the time I was first introduced to these delicious wines back in September 2013, but these wines are so good that it's always a treat to taste them every year.
However, this tasting was really about introducing the Las Pizarras wines. Eduardo Chadwick Claro is the President of Viña Errázuriz and also a descendant of Don Maximiano Errázuriz, the winery's founder. He was named Decanter's Man of the Year in 2018 and is one of the most important people within the Chilean wine scene. He has worked tirelessly to promote the wines of Chile around the world, becoming a true ambassador for the country’s potential to produce premium wines. As Francisco explained, the Las Pizarras wines were borne out of Eduardo Chadwick's desire to create an Icon white wine - as there were none among the existing portfolio. This desire resulted in the creation of a very fine Las Pizarras Chardonnay (now in its 4th vintage) that expresses the estate's terroir. Tagging along with the Chardonnay is also an excellent Las Pizarras Pinot Noir, The Las Pizarras collection also includes a Syrah, which was unfortunately not available for tasting.
In addition to the Icon Wines, there were also wines from their Aconcagua Costa and Aconcagua Alto ranges. The tasting was held at Oretta Restaurant in downtown Toronto and featured a unique food pairing with each of the 10 wines that were available for tasting. I didn't try any of the food items (since my focus was on the wine), but was told by a few others in attendance that the food was quite delicious and paired really well with the wines.
Most of these wines are available at the LCBO, but you can also reach out to Dandurand or Galleon Wines to purchase the Las Pizarras Icon Wines, back vintages, or other wines from the Errázuriz portfolio.
Tasting Notes:ERRÁZURIZ LAS PIZARRAS CHARDONNAY 2017 - Aconcagua Coast, Chile (XD) - $69.95 From a 5 hectare plot on the Aconcagua Coast estate. The shy nose has a nutty profile with some passion fruit, ripe and slightly baked apple, citrus and vanilla nuances. It is medium-full bodied with lively, fresh acids that are well-balanced with nutty aroma replays. Very nice chalky texture on the palate with nutty aroma replays and touches of vanilla. Cool-climate style. Excellent finish length. Score: 92 pts
ERRÁZURIZ LAS PIZARRAS PINOT NOIR 2017 - Aconcagua Coast, Chile (XD) - $92.95 One of the stars of the tasting. From the cool-climate terroir of the Aconcagua Coast estate that has slate and schist soils. Clean, medium-high intensity aromatics offer elegant spice, red berry, currant, mineral, earth, and hints of tobacco. Nicely textured with fine, elegant tannins on the medium-bodied palate with hints of black tea and spice flavours, plus lovely aroma replays. Lively, balanced acidity lifts the palate. Long, persistent finish. Score: 92 pts
ERRÁZURIZ LA CUMBRE SYRAH 2016 - Aconcagua Valley, Chile (#579821) (XD) - $90 100% Syrah with lovely white pepper, herbs, dill, meaty, black and blueberry, and spice aromas of medium-high intensity. It is medium+ bodied on the palate with elegant, refined tannins that provide structure. There's nice dark-fruited aroma replays on the flavour profile, plus some earthy minerality. Juicy mid-palate with balanced acidity and a nice, long finish. Drinking well now. Score: 92 pts
ERRÁZURIZ KAI CARMENÈRE 2016 - Aconcagua Valley, Chile (#055863) (XD) - $150 93% Carmenère and 7% Syrah. This has an elegant, medium-high intensity nose of dark berry, tobacco, black pepper, graphite, and cedar oak spice. It is medium-full bodied on the palate with nice peppery replays and well-integrated oak flavours. Structured with supple tannins and balanced acidity add to the elegance. Excellent finish length. Score: 93 pts
ERRÁZURIZ DON MAXIMIANO FOUNDER'S RESERVE 2016 - Aconcagua Valley, Chile (#501247) (XD) - $90 This blend of 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Carmenère, 8% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot, and 3% Cabernet Franc has a fairly intense, and pleasing nose of currant, cassis, black and blue fruit and oak aromas. It is full-bodied and dense with very good fruit concentration on the palate with big tannins that are integrating nicely. A touch drying with succulent, mouth-watering acids and lovely aroma replays on the flavour profile. Excellent finish length. Should age gracefully for 10-15 years. Score: 94 pts
Tonight's wine review is a delicious white wine from the volcanic soils of Santorini, Greece - more on this coming soon.
It is produced by the Union of Santorini Cooperatives, SantoWines that was founded in 1947. Today, it consists of the largest organization of the island representing 1,200 cultivators with the goal of producing quality products (wine and other products) while also safeguarding the local traditional cultivations.
The grapes for this lovely white wine come from the villages of Pyrgos & Imerovigli, on the island of Santorini, at an altitude of up to 400 metres, and vine age ranging from 20 to 60 years old. It was vinified using the classic white wine method - destemmed, juice has skin contact for several hours, and finally fermented and raised completely in stainless steel tanks.
The 2017 vintage of this lovely white wine celebrates 50 years of Santo Wines. It is a General List product at the LCBO and is readily available across Ontario - click on the 6-digit product code below to find a location near you.
Tasting Note:SANTO SANTORINI ASSYRTIKO 2017 - PDO Santorini, Greece (#459032) (XD) - $23.30 Clean, medium-high aromatics offering lemon and lime citrus, herbs, and a fine saline minerality. The rich, medium-full bodied palate is dense, structured, and even a bit chewy, with nice aroma replays of lemon citrus, herbs, and yellow fruit backed by lovely saline mineral flavours. Nicely textured with bracing acidity. Fine mineral and lemon citrus notes linger on the long finish. Score: 89 pts
Wakefield Wines have been crafted by the Taylor's family for three generations. Australia's iconic wine regions provide great diversity. The Jaraman range of wines are created from parcels of fruit that showcases the regions distinctive characteristics and style.
In 2015, Coonawarra experienced an excellent start to the growing season with average winter rainfall ensuring good soil moisture. However, Spring was not typical as it was very dry and one of the region's warmest, with conditions remaining this way through December. In January, there were some refreshing rains, while the Summer growing season was a classic with warm days and cool nights, leading to a long and cool ripening that is ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon.
In the Clare Valley, there was slightly higher than average rainfall leading up to the 2015 vintage. However, there was very little rainfall afterwards, making it the driest August ever recorded. In addition to an extremely dry Spring, it was also warm and windy, leading to higher water loss. This resulted in smaller bunch numbers. Rains in January provided a welcomed relief for the vines, and helped increase yields and quality.
Tasting Note:WAKEFIELD JARAMAN CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2015 - Coonawarra/Clare Valley, South Australia (#142398) (XD) - $24.95 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra (76%) and Clare Valley (24%). Screw cap. The medium+ intensity nose is very minty with thyme and herbal aromas layered on top of ripe blackberry, red fruit, and oak spice notes. It is full-bodied and quite dense on the palate with firm tannins. Blackberry, mint, and oak spice flavours with high acids freshening the palate. Dry and chalky on the long finish with more blackberry, mint, and oak spice flavours. A big, enjoyable Aussie Cab that should be better in 2-3 years. Score: 89 pts
Tonight's lovely red wine had been sitting in my cellar for nearly 5 years and, according to my notes, was reaching full maturity. It was purchased from the March 29, 2014 LCBO VINTAGES Release.
Of course, the 2012 is long gone from stores, but the 2016 is available for purchase at $20.95.
Tasting Note:PÉREZ CRUZ LIMITED EDITION CARMÉNÈRE 2012 - Maipo Valley, Chile (#670539) (XD) - $19.95 Hand-picked blend of 93% Carménère, 4% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Petit Verdot from the piedmont stony soils of the Fundo Liguai de Huelquen vineyard. Maturing reddish-brown colour. Lovely, fragrant aromatics from the glass with herbally, olive tapenade, savoury earthy characters and subtle oak spice. It is full-bodied on the palate with suave, silky smooth, and finely-grained tannins. Nicely textured with well-balanced acids, A touch warm on the mid-palate. Mature flavours of tilled earth, dark berry, leather, oak spice with hints of dried berries and floral, all of which linger on the long, slightly chalky finish. Fine, mature wine that should drink well for another 1-2 years. Score: 90 pts
The upcoming LCBO VINTAGES Release on March 16, 2019 features the sunny wines from Southern France as the main theme, while the mini-theme looks at fine spirits made with either grape or grain. All of these wines, plus many others from this Release should be available on LCBO VINTAGES shelves across Ontario by this Saturday.
We'll begin with the main theme that looks at wines from Southern France, a sunny area that stretches along the Mediterranean from the Spanish border to Nice. Of the eleven wines featured, five delicious wines are included among my top wine picks. The "DSM" wine is a blend of 30% Syrah, 27% Carignan, 23% Grenache, 14% Carignan, and 6% Lledoner Pelut from fairly old vines and altitudes 600 to 1300 feet above sea level. The Bastide Miraflors is a blend of 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache, while the Tautavel consists of 70% Syrah, 20% Grenache, and 10% Carignan. The rosés from the South of France are also famous, as is the version from Gérard Bertrand that consists of Grenache, Cinsault, and Syrah, and is now a VINTAGES Essentials listing. Lastly, the bubbly is a dry sparkler made with Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, and Mauzac.
Red wines from the rest of the Release include a Merlot dominated blend from Bordeaux, while the Super Tuscan from Italy is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Alicante, Sangiovese, and Cabernet Franc. Single varietal wines include an excellent Xinomavro from Greece and a Shiraz from South Africa. From Australia, there's a lovely high-end Shiraz, as well as a nice Cabernet Sauvignon.
Among my white wine picks from this Release, the only blend is from Portugal and it consists of Antão Vaz, Arinto and Alvarinho. The rest are all single varietals, including lovely returnees to VINTAGES - a Chardonnay and Riesling from Ontario.
Enjoy my wine recommendations this from this Release! Cheers!
It is produced by Mare Magnum, a fairly new wine company that produces wine not only in various parts of Italy, but is also involved in winemaking in various other parts of the world. Takis Soldatos and Mario Calzolari are the leaders behind Mare Magnum, and they have worked in the wine industry for more than 20 years. Together, they strive to produces wines that are outstanding value-for-money in an attractive and innovative package.
Tasting Note:LA PRUA APPASSIMENTO 2016 - IGT Rosso Veneto, Italy (#530543) (D) - $15.95 100% Corvina grown on the cool climate volcanic slopes of Monte Lessinis. A large part of the grapes were dried for three weeks. Aged for 8 months in French oak barrels. The medium+ intensity nose is spicy and earthy, layered on top of bright cherry and chocolate aromas, and hints of smoke. It is medium-full bodied on the palate with supple tannins with just a touch of chalkiness, and fresh acids. Blackberry, cherry, and mocha chocolate flavours with some oak undertones. Some sweetness arrives on the mid-palate. Chocolate and dark berry notes close out on the finish, with good length. Score: 87 pts
Sparkling wine is a category gaining in popularity as more and more people drink various types of bubbly from around the globe. The biggest reason for this is that people aren't just uncorking a bottle of sparkling wine for special occasions, but also for everyday drinking. There is no celebratory occasion happening at my place tonight, other than opening this delightful Niagara bubbly.
This sparkler is the very first Traditional Method Sparkling Wine crafted by Rockway Vineyards and is indeed a very fine bubbly. David Stasiuk is the talented winemaker at Rockway. He used fruit (67% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir) that was hand-picked in early September during the 2015 vintage. The cuvée was fermented and aged in stainless steel tanks without malolactic fermentation. Secondary fermentation in bottle occurred using tirage in March 2016, and lasted 6-8 weeks. It was bottle aged for 32 months on lees before being disgorged. Dosage was with wild barrel fermented estate Chardonnay.
This delicious bubbly is available through their retails store in Niagara, as well as their online web store.
Tasting Note:ROCKWAY VINEYARDS BRUT CUVÉE - Méthode Traditionnelle, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada (XD) - $32 A blend of 67% Chardonnay and 33% Pinot Noir aged on the lees for 32 months. Fragrant lemon citrus, ripe green apple and brioche aromas emanate from the glass. It is medium-bodied with crisp, bright acids, fine bubbles and a slightly creamy texture. A touch honeyed on the palate with more lemon citrus, green apple and brioche notes. Nicely balanced with more green apple and lemon flavours on the long finish. Score: 90 pts
I have tasted and enjoyed previous vintages of this yummy red wine, and tonight's wine review is the lovely 2015 vintage that will be coming to LCBO VINTAGES on March 2.
It is produced by the historic Mazzei family in Tuscany, where they have been making wines since the 11th century and now 24 generations. Ser Lapo Mazzei, whom this wine is named in honour of, was the author of the first known documented use of the "Chianti" denomination on December 16, 1398. The main estate is Castello di Fonterutoli, which became part of the family's estate in 1435 when his granddaughter, Madonna Smeralda Mazzei, married Piero di Agnolo da Fonterutoli.
In Fonterutoli, the centuries-old ownership of Marchesi Mazzei has preserved the handful of houses, the church of San Miniato, and the villa erected at the end of the 1500's, maintaining the charm of the Middle Ages. The legend of the Chianti Black Rooster was also born in the hamlet of Fonterutoli.
Today, the modern Fonterutoli Winery in Chianti Classico, Tuscany, is one of three estates owned by Mazzei. The winery dominates the estate and farm slopes, and has a view of Siena in the distance. The gravity-flow winery was designed by a family member with the goal of achieving low environmental impact. The cellar is located 15 metres below ground and temperatures and humidity levels are regulated by five natural water streams flowing through naked rock walls - something I hope to see one day!
The first vintage of this wine was 1983. This blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot comes from vines located 250 to 330 metres above sea level on medium textured with loam and limestone soils, and age ranging from 10 to 30 years. It was aged for 12 months in small french oak barrels, 50% new.
Tasting Note:MAZZEI SER LAPO RISERVA CHIANTI CLASSICO 2015 - DOCG, Tuscany, Italy (#288530) (XD) - $23.95 The medium+ intensity nose has complex herbal, earthy, savoury, cherry, and strawberry aromas. It is medium bodied on the savoury palate with more earthy flavours surrounding the cherry/strawberry core. Tannins are grippy and drying while acids are juicy. Nicely balanced flavours come through long finish, with hints of dried cherry and red floral. Enjoy over the next 5+ years. Score: 90 pts
The actual label for this bottle is covered with removable label. When removed, it reveals an illustration by Paolo Fiumi that depicts the 1435 marriage of Madonna Smeralda Mazzei.
The upcoming LCBO VINTAGES Release on March 2, 2019 features wines from Napa Valley in its main theme, while the mini-theme looks at award-winning wines from Ontario. Both of these themes are on the small side. All of these wines, plus many others, will be on LCBO VINTAGES shelves across Ontario by this Saturday.
We'll begin with the main theme that focuses on wines from the 2015 vintage in Napa Valley. The year was marked by very dry growing conditions and low yields. However, it produced many quality wines, albeit in lower quantities. Of the ten wines featured in this theme, only one is included among my wine picks - a Chardonnay from Robert Mondavi.
Of six wines featured in the mini-theme on Award-Winning wines from Ontario, there are two beauties among my wine recommendations. The first is an excellent 50/50 Pinot Noir and Chardonnay sparkling wine from Niagara's 13th Street Winery. The second wine is a Marsanne, one of the few (perhaps only?) plantings of the grape in Ontario.
From my red wine picks, the Kékfrankos, as they call the grape varietal in Hungary, is also known as Blaufränkisch or Lemberger in other parts of the world. It is rare to see 100% Colorino, as we find in the Piazzano Colorino from Tuscany. Also from Italy, the Rubesco is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino, while the Chianti Classico is a blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot. Lastly, the lovely Amarone is a blend of 50% Corvina, 30% Corvinone, 15% Rondinella, and 5% Oseleta.
Among my white wine picks from the rest of the Release, the above $20 category features only Chardonnay - two from Burgundy, one from Ontario, and one from Russian River Valley. Under $20, there is a nicely dry Alsatian white that consists of 41% Sylvaner/Pinot Blanc, 19% Pinot Gris, 18% Gewurztraminer, 17% Riesling, and 5% Muscat, while Rioja white is a blend of 70% Viura, 10% Malvasía, 10% Tempranillo Blanco, and 10% Garnacha Blanca that spent 3 months in new French oak barrels. If you like some sweetness in your wine, there is a Gewurztraminer; for more sweetness look to the Niagara Riesling.
Enjoy my wine recommendations from this Release! Cheers!
CAMPOS DE ENANZO BASIANO TEMPRANILLO 2017 - DO Navarra, Spain (#644484) (XD) - $11.95
NEDERBURG MANOR HOUSE SHIRAZ 2015 - WO Western Cape, South Africa (#068775) (XD) - $16.95
Hot on the heels of a 100% Colorino that I enjoyed a few days ago, tonight's wine review is a more traditional blend that also contains Colorino. This red wine consists of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino and will arrive in LCBO VINTAGES on March 2nd.
Lungarotti was founded in central Italy the early 60’s by Giorgio Lungarotti, and the company soon became a driving force that opened up new opportunities not only for Torgiano (a commune in the Province of Perugia in Umbria), but also for whole region of Umbria - with wine as the centrepiece.
Rubesco is a Lungarotti trademark deriving from the Latin verb "rubescere", meaning "to blush", therefore a joyous significance. The image on the label depicts the harvest from Fontana Maggiore in Perugia, one of Italy's most beautiful Medieval fountains that was built in approximately 1277.
The grapes for this wine were harvested from clayey-sandy soils of medium depth, with good structure and a limestone subsoil. It has also spent one year ageing in oak casks, and one year in bottle prior to release.
Tasting Note:LUNGAROTTI RUBESCO SANGIOVESE/COLORINO 2015 - DOC Rosso di Torgiano, Umbria, Italy (#368548) (XD) - $19.95 Blend of 90% Sangiovese and 10% Colorino. Delicate, medium+ intensity nose of stony mineral followed by dark cherry, black plum, violet, and herbs that gain intensity with air. It is medium+ bodied with chewy, dusty and refined tannins. I like the mineral-driven flavour profile with dark berry-cherry, earth, herbs, and a hint of pepper spice notes. Acids are fresh and juicy. Excellent finish length with more mineral and earthy flavours. Enjoy over the next 3-5 years. Score: 89 pts