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Archive (2005)

Cognac Unconquered ~ From $1.30 to $74.88 an ounce ~ Sipping Your Way into the New Year - December 31, 2005
Last Spring I recommended St-Remy XO Napoleon Brandy (557108) as a best buy at only $27 and not to be confused with the inferior St-Remy VSOP Napoleon at $21.75. A friend loved this XO Napoleon (sic) so much that he challenged me to a comparative blind tasting of it vs. Cognac, the king of brandies. While the St-Remy XO performed well, the recommended Cognacs below remained unconquered in a class of their own.

LCBO Gifts ~ Buy Carefully ~ Juicy cherry & tangy cranberry flavours for your Turkey - December 24, 2005
As the night before Christmas rapidly approaches, it is the final call for Christmas shoppers. Many might be tempted to pick up some last minute gift items at the LCBO. Unfortunately, a number of this year's wine gift packs verge on being "pretty awful" - meaning looking pretty, but tasting awful.

The Best of the Season ~ Seasonal Gifting: From Books to the Best Buy Champagne & '1876' Scotch - December 17, 2005
With only a week to go, many shoppers are looking at last minute gifts. For some it’s a tough decision, to buy a book or splurge on a bottle of Champagne. One thing is for sure; a book will last much longer than a sparkler. The trick, of course, is getting the right book, which isn’t always easy.

Great Holiday Wines in Today's Vintages release ~ From the Bargains to the Jewels - December 10, 2005
So here it is the last Vintages release until the New Year. In today’s selection of 128 items, along with 10 Instore discoveries, I am looking for things that can be shared and will hopefully bring a smile to a guest’s lips. While there are number of bargains, you will definitely have to shell out for the gems.

From the Perfect Pear Martini ~ to a Vintage Port to Remember - December 3, 2005
It is a cold, a nasty night - the prelude of winter. I am heading out to yet another reception, this time a season 5 wrap party for the Surreal Gourmet Bob Blumer on the third-floor “sky yard” (aka roof) of the trendy Drake Hotel. It’s almost nine and yet Toronto’s ever-diligent parking tag folks are out in force handing out $30 fines for those who forgot to keep their meter’s alive.

Nov. 26 - Wines to Buy & Wines to Avoid - November 26, 2005
Today’s Vintages release is pretty hefty weighing in at 131 selections. This jumps to 159 if one includes the additional 28 In-Store-Discoveries (ISD), which hit the shelves yesterday. Perhaps I am a bit too fussy, but I found a significant number of new releases that might be avoided. To check this out, I returned to the LCBO lab last Tuesday and spent three hours retasting over 120 bottles for a second time.

Beaujolais Nouveau Celebrates 54 Years - November 19, 2005
This week, the third Thursday in November, Beaujolais Nouveau season arrived. Considering that this its 54th birthday and some 60 million bottles are sold worldwide, the LCBO was noticeably shy in the hoopla factor. Only one Toronto store (Summerhill) bothered doing a complimentary Nouveau tasting launch with the public.

Vintages Release Best Buys ~ From California to Bordeaux - November 12, 2005
It’s almost tinsel time and yet another Vintages release is upon us. Today’s 120-item Vintages Catalogue leads off with an 8-page section entitled “Great Things Big and Small”. They are, of course, referring to some two-dozen highlighted half-bottles and magnums. Unfortunately, with few exceptions, none of these wines are sampled meaning who knows if they are worth buying. Ditto for many of the many of the icewines appearing in the next 10-page section.

"Eyes Wide Shut" ~ Taste, texture and scent in motion - November 5, 2005
I recently received an invitation to be a guest on the Food Network’s Surreal Gourmet. The chance of experiencing host/chef Bob Blumer and his great cuisine was not to be missed. After all, how many folks are able to squeeze into his mobile toaster kitchen to talk shop and taste wine.

Tricks & Treats in Today's Vintages Release ~ Some Awesome Aussi Highlights - October 29, 2005
It is almost Halloween and today’s Vintages release of 105 items has loads of treats and even a few tricks. For Canadian producers, the scariest thing about this release is the spotlight on Australia, which consists of 37 wines taking up almost half of the Catalogue. Over the past decade Australian imports have exploded. From out of nowhere, it is now the third largest supplier after France and Italy.

Perfect Fall Libations ~ Obscure varieties from Welschriesling to Semillon - October 22, 2005
Besides Scotch, the current Vintages release features a number of perfect Fall libations. Let’s begin with Sherry, which used to be drunk in copious amounts in distinguished universities around the world. While Tio Pepe is the pre-prandial drink of choice, a half bottle of Emlio Lustau Solera Reserva ‘Rare’ Amon Tillado ‘Escuadrilla’ (660324) at $15.95 with its warming 18.5% alcohol will definitely take the chill away.

Hop Scotch ~ The biggest whisky release on record - October 15, 2005
It is almost too much of a good thing. Today’s Vintages release highlights Scotch whisky with 22 selections, including four Vintages Essentials. Meanwhile last Wednesday; the LCBO launched its Whisky Rocks Unplugged promotion featuring an additional 31 whiskies from around the world, including two Japanese “Single Malts” at over $100 a bottle.

A Toast to the Turkey ~ Many whites, some reds and even a sparkling rosé - October 8, 2005
It is Thanksgiving, the time of year that brings fear and loathing to every turkey’s heart. While Nebbiolo rarely goes well with turkey, last Saturday’s Vintages release has a treasure trove of items that do. Codorniu Brut Pinot Noir Rosé Cava (665372) at $16.95 is a great turkey toaster.

Barolo the King of Italian Reds - October 1, 2005
It is considered the king of Italian reds and is eulogized by fans around the world. Few realize, however, the compared to Bordeaux, Barolo is a relatively newcomer to the stage of world wine greats. Barolo comes from designated vineyards in the relatively small hilly Langhe region of Piedmont located in the northwest corner of Italy.

A Flood of Upcoming Tastings ~ but not a Vintages Classics in Sight - September 24, 2005
It was heartening to see the crowd at the recent Vintages 2002 Burgundy tasting. While most of the selection focused on reds that appeared in the September 3rd release, there was one true standout: Prince de Merode 2002 Corton Les Bressandes Grand Cru (620450) at $85.00, which is part of the Vintages Fall Classics release.

A Great Ontario Harvest ~ From just-released wines to a terrific new guide - September 17, 2005
This year may well go down as being one of the best vintages on record. Sadly some growers, especially in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region, suffered a devastating winterkill that, in some instances, totally destroyed the vines. Nevertheless, overall quality looks great. And with Niagara Grape & Wine Festival in full swing, what could be more appropriate than today’s Vintages release featuring 30 Ontario wines.

Film Fest Fizz ~ Finding that Oscar-Winning Drink - September 10, 2005
So there I am at yet another film festival launch. The air is crackling with excitement. There is something fizzy in my glass flute that is being generously referred to as “Champagne”. It is the kind of stuff that would bring a collective grimace to the faces of thousands of vignerons who toil endlessly in this tiny region in northeastern France.

Delicious Long Weekend Drinking ~ All but one under $20! - September 3, 2005
With 83 new Vintages releases hitting the shelves today, there are plenty of incredibly great buys to make your long weekend a smashing success. Kicking off is one of my favourite summer refreshers - the fresh melon-driven Weingut Studert-Prüm 2003 Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett (970129) at $18.95. Coming from the gloriously hot 2003 vintage, this actually tastes more like a higher-priced Spatlese, than Kabinett.

A new way of coding drinkability ~ And getting the best out of that bottle - August 27, 2005
It is extremely hard to compress all the key concepts related to the subject of drinkability into a single 800-word National Post column. The challenge of coming up with a way of saying when one might start enjoying a wine, when it will be at its peak and how long it will last has always intrigued me. The older I get and more wines I taste, the more cynical I become of those all-too-common, throw-away statements (i.e. “best from 2008 through 2018”) appearing on back labels and/or in authoritative reviews.

The "New" Vintages Catalogue - August 20, 2005
Vintages began twenty-six years ago. The catalogue was easy to use and advertorial free. In a desire to make Vintages profits grow, in May 2002 twice-monthly releases were introduced. These were combined in a single glossy monthly catalogue. Today 39-months later, the Vintages catalogue returns to the single release format, which now happens every two weeks rather than once a month.

Bargains Galore ~ Spirited Summer Matchmakers ~ From Boulard Calvados to Grand Marnier - August 13, 2005
I am sitting in Vieux Montreal’s recently opened Le Club Chasse et Pêche, which is arguably the best new restaurant in Canada (for information on this gem click here). Their capable sommelier Philippe Boisvert is reviewing what will go with their appetizer of fresh snow crab from Sept-Iles, nasturtium flower vinaigrette in a curry emulsion.

Dealing with Disappointments ~ This Bicyclette has a flat tire! - August 6, 2005
I got a note last week from a reader asking why I don’t I do more to warn people about newly released disappointments. It seems that this unhappy camper had picked up a bottle of Shiraz from the south of France from the July 23rd and didn’t like it. Because the wine in question was the first French effort from one of the world’s largest wineries, the reader went on to suggest that perhaps I was afraid to pan it.

LCBO Alternatives? ~ Regulations handcuff importers to LCBO warehouse - July 30, 2005
This week’s column as written with the impending LCBO strike in mind - a survivor’s guide for thirsty imbibers. Fortunately, by press time, a settlement was reached but the alternative solutions are still worth keeping in mind.

A French Sparkler & Greek Whites in Today's Vintages Hit Parade ~ In-Store Discoveries Reviews Disappear - July 23, 2005
I don’t think that anyone is overly concerned that this is the smallest Vintages release of the year with only 57 items. I suppose that if the LCBO selected better products, they could easily do away with 80% of the release, although I am always surprised that some of the vilest wines manage to eventually sell through.

French Rosé Rocks ~ Too bad you can't find them at the LCBO - July 16, 2005
I get that sinking feeling I when I look at the top five rosé statistics. Out of the thousands of rosés produced around the globe, Ontario sales are concentrated in just a handful of items. Leading the pack is the ever-popular Gallo White Zinfandel (285767) at $8.45 with Ontario sales of about 36,000 cases (of 12 bottles).

Today's Vintages Release ~ Small in size but big in buys! - July 9, 2005
Usually summer Vintages releases are a big yawn loaded with boring stuff. Well I am delighted to report that this isn’t the case with today’s release of 74 items - small in size, but big in buys!

The Wines of Canada by John Schreiner ~ Interesting but a little thin - July 2, 2005
As the Canada Day weekend holiday is upon us, it seems an appropriate time to bone up on Canadian wine. I was excited to hear that Mitchell Beazley had sequestered John Schreiner, the dean of British Columbia winery authorities, to add a book on Canada to their lengthy stable of authoritative books. I have praised some of Schreiner’s earlier wine books focusing on BC and had great expectations.

Boning Up for Canada Day! ~ ABC - Anything But Chardonnay A Best Buy ~ Trilogy of Grass-Free Sauvignon Blanc - June 25, 2005
It is ABC time (anything but Chardonnay) in today’s first of summer Vintages release. Increasingly, this means Sauvignon Blanc. Meanwhile, it seems that many wine writers classify this wine into two types: pricey stuff for connoisseurs and cheap stuff for the unwashed.

Austria's Wines on a roll - June 18, 2005
Neusiedlersee, Austria – I am sitting on the deck of a boat ploughing through the waters of Neusiedlersee (Lake Neusiedl), which is some 60 km southeast of Vienna. It is one of the world’s shallowest inland lakes - 27 km long and 7 km wide - so shallow that it has actually dried out on rare occasions.

Where there's Chardonnay there's Hope ~ 2,879 cases at Vintages! ~ Plus 79 New Items in Today's Vintages Release - June 11, 2005
There’s nothing like a bargain. I was a bit suspicious to discover that Vintages had bought 2,879 cases of Hope Estate 2003 Estate Grown Chardonnay (651331) at $13.95 from Australia’s Hunter Valley region of New South Wales. That is, at least, until I tasted the wine. Wow! This winner has a very spicy, zesty, lemon peel nose with cedary, Anjou pear notes. Dry and well structured on the palate, the lemony, ripe pear purée flavours shine. Best with white meats and poultry, at one time it was offered as a Consignment wine to restaurants and sold in the $19 range! Apparently the supplier cut the price to the bone to get this massive order.

Kim Crawford 2004 Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ~ Kick starts the screwcap revolution - June 11, 2005 Bottle of the Week
While it is true that New Zealand put kiwi fruit on the map, few realize that today Italy is now the world’s largest producer. Certainly the Kiwis have struck back by displacing France becoming the world champion producers of Sauvignon Blanc. They also helped kick start the screwcap revolution, once again leaving European producers far behind!

Bodega Norton 2004 Chardonnay ~ A too-good-to-be-true Argentina gem from the General List ~ LCBO Price Book now a thing of the past! - June 4, 2005
Every week I taste some 30+ items from the LCBO General List. Unfortunately, many are not worth writing about. Recently, a discerning wine lover obviously inspired by the movie “Sideways” complained about a general list Pinot Noir, which didn’t have a hint of the grape’s natural flavour. He asked me why I don’t rate these wines.

Codorniu Brut Clasico ~ Puts some sparkling Classics to shame - June 4, 2005 Bottle of the Week
Absolutely nothing beats great Champagne. It seems that the presence of more money than taste has permitted the production of what some call, Shampagne - exquisite labels with unexceptional flavours. In a recent blind tasting I was surprised that a bargain-priced bubbly from Spain Codorniu Brut Clasico (cspc 637041) outperformed some well-known French labels!

A Trip in a Glass ~ Fine wines to transport you to far-away destinations - May 28, 2005
One of the great joys of tasting wine is imagining a visit to the region where the wine was made. Judging by today’s Vintages release of four Ports and a Madeira, I am packing my make-believe bags and heading to Portugal.

Zoom-Zoom-Zoomers! ~ Campari: Seeing Red ~ Setting the World Ablaze - May 28, 2005 Bottle of the Week
There is something magic about the tangy, bittersweet edge of the bright red Campari Apertivo (CSPC 277954). This “bitter” was created by Italian Gaspar Campari who in 1842 at the age of 14 became an apprentice licoriste (drink maker) at Turin’s Bass Bar. It is here where he started developing his special aperitif using some 60 natural ingredients: quinine (a bitter extract made from cinchona bark), herbs, spices and fruit peels.

Toasting Queen Victoria ~ With Discounted Reds! ~ Grab these bargains while they last! - May 21, 2005
Welcome to the first big weekend of the summer. I sincerely hope that you are enjoying good weather, and if not, at least fine wines. The good news for wine fans is that from yesterday, May 20 until October 10, Vintages wines will be available at 47 LCBO stores located in cottage country and tourist areas. The list of outlets is posted on my website, but not the actual Vintages products, which are decided by individual store managers.

Putting a little spice into your Victoria Day Long Weekend - May 21, 2005 Bottle of the Week
Want to put a little spice into your Victoria Day celebrations? Check out Canada’s award winning Sumac Ridge Private Reserve 2003 Gewurztraminer (142893), which hails from the Okanagan Valley. It is deliciously spicy with honeyed, ripe melon and lychee flavours.

Sprouting Up Like Tulips ~ Excellent 2003 Whites at Vintages - May 14, 2005
There are some definite detours in today’s Vintages part two May release of 69 items, which are mostly from the “old world.” Want to kick start your dinner plans? Try a cold, frosty glass of Manzanilla Sherry. This isn’t a sweet, wimpy effort but the bone dry, refreshing Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Fino Sherry (905505) at $12.95.

2004 Terra Boa Blanco ~ A Bargain Priced Springtime White from Portugal - May 14, 2005 Bottle of the Week
Four decades ago, Portuguese rosés ruled the world – cheap, cheerful and easy to drink. While rosé is no longer in the top ten, terrific undiscovered bargains still await wine lovers. Alianca 2004 Terra Boa Branco (637041), a unoaked blend of indigenous white grapes, Bical, Maria Gomes and Arinto from the Beiras region, is a real winner.

Prince Edward County's Field of Dreams ~ Long Dog Winery - No Long Shot! - May 7, 2005
Exactly 30 years ago, I wrote the very first feature on Donald Ziraldo and his path-breaking Inniskillin wines from Niagara-on-the-Lake. To see the 1975 Toronto Life article complete with my photo of a youthful Donald himself click here. As for Ontario’s newest vinous horizons in Prince Edward County, I have been reserving judgment.

For Mother's Day! ~ Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame Champagne - May 7, 2005
Of all the ultra-premium “Grande Marque” Champagnes currently available, nothing matches the finesse, flavour and subtle richness of Veuve Clicquot 1995 La Grande Dame Champagne (CSPC 354779). It was the 27-year-old Madame Clicquot, born Nicole-Barbe Ponsardin (1777-1866), who put this house on the map after her husband died in 1805 after just 7 years of marriage.

An increasingly confusing Vintages catalogue ~ Hard to find what you are looking for & plan purchases - April 30, 2005
Despite being April 30th, today sees the first part (the “A release”) of May Vintages release with 199 items. Unfortunately, anyone referring to the glossy 60-page Vintages catalogue is going to experience difficulty trying to figure out what & when things actually hit the shelves.

Rosemount Shiraz on a Roll! - April 30, 2005 Bottle of the Week
In the words of one fan, “it took the Aussis to show the French how to make Syrah!” I can’t say that I totally agree with these sentiments, but then one can’t ignore the success of what’s in the bottle. Rosemount Estate 2003 Diamond Label Shiraz (CSPC 302349) is definite winner with its bright, ripe plum and cherry-raspberry flavours.

The Wine Glass ~ The Key to getting the most out of your wines - April 23, 2005
I recently delivered two seminars at the Edward Johnson Music Foundation fundraising in Guelph. Before beginning I asked, “What is the most important thing about enjoying wine?” Everyone appeared to know that it’s important to buy something good – obviously, one they will like. Some suggest that decanting is critical to wine enjoyment, at least for reds.

Making the Rum Transition - April 23, 2005 Bottle of the Week
It’s that time of year again; time to put away your winter drinks and start pulling out your summer drinks. My favourite for cold weather (actually for any weather) is the wonderful Jamaican sipper Appleton 21 Year Old Rum.

All we are saying is give pink a chance - April 16, 2005
With Spring in the air, the proliferation of apple and cherry blossoms always makes me think pink. Two under $10 “kick ass” rosé best buys in today’s release represent rather divergent styles. Both come from South America and are made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.

Talus 2002 Zinfandel ~ A Zinfully Good Anti-Luddite! - April 16, 2005 Bottle of the Week
Recently acquired by Canandaigua, a US conglomerate, this ultra modern Lodi-based winery makes better wines than ever under the watchful eye of winemaker Todd Ziemann. The tangy, juicy Talus 2002 Zinfandel is loaded with lifted, bright black cherry flavours.

Don't be screwed by a bad cork ~ Screwcaps are the answer - April 9, 2005
Vancouver • We are wrapping up the Vancouver Playhouse seminar entitled “The Taming of the Screw.” The final pro-screwcap speaker, a happy Aussi winemaker, pauses looks at the audience and says that he always prefers screwing as opposed to yanking. There’s no argument from the enthusiastic fans.

2003 Mouton Cadet Blanc ~ Canada's best selling white Bordeaux - April 9, 2005 Bottle of the Week
Times have been tough for Bordeaux. And yet this special white designed by Chateau Mouton Rothschild for discerning palates keeps soldering on. First launched in 1972, it is Canada’s #1 white Bordeaux. One taste of the appealing 2003 vintage tells you why. A blend of Semillon (50%), Sauvignon Blanc (40%) and Muscadelle (10%), it has dry, crisp, gently fruity, ripe lemon-melon flavours - perfect with seafood.

From Fizz to Pop ~ Putting some zip into Spring - April 2, 2005
After the winter from hell, I desperately need of some therapy. Having tasted the 90 items in today’s release, my therapeutic, zippy, Spring pick-me-up costs only $14.95. It doesn’t take any effort to enjoy and is perfect by itself. Introducing Ca’Bianca 2003 Moscato d’Asti (651935), which hails from northern Italy’s Piedmont region.

Underberg the Ultimate Digestif! ~ Only a full bottle will do! - April 2, 2005 Bottle of the Week
Here is a bottle you don’t have to share! Better yet, although it is packed with 44% alcohol, downing an entire bottle will not leave you tipsy. How is this possible? Well it is a very small bottle holding just 20 ml or 2/3 of an ounce. This bittersweet, pungent, natural herb essence was developed in Germany by Hubert Underberg in 1846. Five generations later finds this healthful antioxidant in 43 countries.

Canada's #1 Wine Festival 27th ~ Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival - March 26, 2005
I am wrapping up five days of seemingly endless tastings at the 27th annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, which ended last Sunday. Festival activist Betty Verkuil asks me: “How come you don’t cover our event back east?” I reply that I’m actually helping them out as all the events completely sell out! “Do you really want Torontonians filling up the spots reserved for enthusiastic Vancouverites?” I ask. 

Smooth & Satisfying ~ A Luxury French Brandy at a Great Price! - March 26, 2005 Bottle of the Week
It’s a bartender’s best-kept secret. Standing there amid the finest bottles of Cognac and Armagnac is St-Remy XO Napoleon Brandy. This refined French Brandy costs a fraction of the price of the premium brands and yet delivers perfectly on the palate. Golden amber in colour, the nose has spice, honey and warmed plums with a touch of toffee. It is smooth, very faintly sweet and amazingly satisfying - perfect by itself, on the rocks or with mixed drinks.

German Classics for Easter - March 19, 2005
With Easter just a week away, I always buy at least one Spring-pick-me-up white from Germany. There is something about the honeyed, floral flavours that simply hits the spot. From today’s Vintages release of 96 items, that best buy white would have to be Balbach 2003 Riesling Kabinett Nierstein Pettenthal (499822) at $14.95.

A liqueur that Grows on Trees! - March 19, 2005  Bottle of the Week
You won't be able to find Amarula Cream at this weekend's annual Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival, since this is a wine-only event! While South Africa is the theme country, this sumptuous liqueur is based on the distillate of wine made from elephant tree fruit called marula. The resulting spirit is aged for two years in small oak casks and then infused with fresh sweet cream.

Ontario's Vinous Peaks ~ Great quality directly from the wineries! - March 12, 2005!
Last weekend’s Ontario Cuvée weekend was a splendid affair filled with many vinous peaks and the occasional valley. Having recently provided readers with the lowdown on the event itself, including detailed notes for 49 finalists on our website, I ventured forth to uncover other unrecognized wines.

A Special Treat for St. Patrick's Day - March 12, 2005 Bottle of the Week
It was in 432 when Saint Patrick led a group of monks to Ireland where they brought Christianity and, even better, the art of distillation. To be sure, Ireland is the true home of whiskey with the “e”. Unfortunately, it was the Irish again who on Christmas Day in 1661 introduced the first tax on whiskey!

Today at Vintages ~ Chardonnays starting at $8.95! - March 5, 2005
Today’s Vintages release sees 96 items hit the shelves, plus another 30 Vintages March In Store Discoveries, which no longer appear in the monthly Vintages Catalogue (to see the list – click here). Beginning with Chardonnay, there are a number to choose from.

Cynar - A One-of-a-Kind Aperitif - March 5, 2005 Bottle of the Week
I remember dining in a small Italian trattoria many decades ago and being offered a small cold glass of a remarkably delicious, bittersweet, herbal starter. It was a revelation. With Easter just one month away, I find myself dreaming of those tender, flavourful, Italian Spring artichokes that I first experienced in the same establishment.

Cuvée Throws a Curve Ball at Ontario's Best - February 26, 2005
At a media launch just over a week ago, the Wine Council of Ontario presented 49 wines for tasting. These were the highest scorers of some 200 entries at the annual Cuvée wine competition as judged by 35 Ontario winemakers. As a professional taster, I feel a like an umpire trying to call a Cuvée curve ball that doesn’t quite make the strike zone. That also goes to the event media coverage, which suggests that the 49 wines listed are the best in Ontario and that the LCBO isn’t supportive of the Ontario’s wine industry. Of course, neither contention is true.

A Vintages Jackpot for Shiraz Fans ~ But Slim Pinot Noir Pickings - February 19, 2005
A whopping 102 new items are hitting the Vintages shelves today for February’s second release. Having had the opportunity tasting most of these wines at least twice, I was moved by the serious progress made by BC wineries. Starting off with the whites, Inniskillin Okanagan Vineyards 2002 Dark Horse Estate Vineyard Chardonnay (590372) at $17.95 shines. Look for a gently spicy, honeyed nose with red apple, melon and dried pear fruit. It is pleasingly crisp on the palate with spicy, ripe pear flavours and a bright hint of toast on the finish.

It's Canadian fortified and exudes sweet raspberries: Southbrook Framboise - Summer in a Bottle - February 19, 2005 Bottle of the Week
Tired of winter? Yearning for a taste of summer? Time to set the taste buds ablaze with the sweet deliciousness of ripe raspberries as encapsulated in one of Canada’s finest dessert fruit wines. While the award-winning Southbrook Framboise (CSPC 341024) was the first Canadian wine to grace the shelves of Harrods of London, it is still a bit hard to track down here at home.

The Apple of my Heart ~ Calvados to the Rescue - February 12, 2005
I remember when very young, I had a crush on one of my teachers. Unfortunately, giving her an apple just didn’t cut it. Were I older and wiser, I would have gifted her one of my favourite elixirs - the very essence of apple itself – Calvados. This unique brandy is made exclusively from apples - a lot of apples - 12 kilos per single bottle. I am sure that this would have captured her heart!

It's French, it's spirited and a little bit sexy: Mon dieu, it's Green Chartreuse - February 12, 2005 Bottle of the Week
It’s one of those imponderables, whether the inspiration for the creation of Chartreuse lies with the Maker above or Devil below. For my taste, of all French spirits, it is the day-glo light greenish coloured elixir called Green Chartreuse that gets my heart pounding - the perfect after-dinner sipper for Valentine’s Day that will leave your breath kissing sweet.

Uncovering the Best Classics Red - February 5, 2005
“It’s simply unfair!” That’s the comment from an irate Classics customer who couldn’t get into the recent Classics preview tasting because it was sold out. He is rightfully upset because only attendees willing to shell out $95 are able to get special access to the Classics and place their orders prior to everyone else. Unfortunately, there was only one pretasting here in Toronto so if you happened to live in Ottawa or Windsor, you were simply out of luck. Even more ominous, last Fall Vintages started featuring a number of wines exclusively available to attendees. All in all, customers shouldn’t feel that they there are being blackmailed by the LCBO to get access to wines.

Ooh la la! ~ Fine French Values that Won't Break the Bank - January 29, 2005
Next Saturday’s “ooh la la” Tour de France Vintages release features 80 French wines and spirits – more than ever before! It is the first time that a single release has been devoted to only one country. It is so big that some LCBO stores will not be able to accommodate all the items due to limited shelf space.

Frisky Whisky for Robbie Burns Revellers - January 22, 2005
When I was very young, I was taken to a Rabbie Burns supper. It’s still all a bit foggy, or perhaps just smoky given the multitude of ardent puffers in attendance. I do remember, however, the blast of the bagpipes, the seemingly endless unintelligible speeches and something scary looking called the Haggis. Watching the steaming bloated object run through with a sword dampened my appetite. It looked awful, had a weird consistency and flavours that my youthful taste buds told me to avoid. At that very moment, I invented a new game and spent the next several minutes trying to “hide the haggis” – anywhere from the vicinity of my mouth.

Pinotage Perfection ~ Exploring South Africa's Sole Indigenous Grape - January 15, 2005
I am opening my last beloved bottle of one of my favourite reds. Miraculously it is being released in Vintages next Saturday. If had only a single wine to drink from the entire January release, this would be it. Of course, there is a bit of deja vu here since Diemersfontein 2003 Pinotage (995241) was originally an unsold leftover from the Young Winemakers event held in Toronto in November 2002. I went nuts when I first tasted it (at a mere $19.95) with its enormous, chocolate-coffee bean nose and rich, smoky, complex flavours dripping with freshly baked ripe black cherries.

Gems from Chile ~ Be selective in today's Vintages Release - January 8, 2005
Vintages launches the year with a January focus on Chile featuring eleven wines (plus two “In Store Discoveries”), which apparently “astounded” LCBO buyers. While I am happy to see greater emphasis on the more reasonably priced wines of Chile, I an compelled to caution the thirsty throngs to be selective.

Copyright Food & Beverage Testing Institute of Canada 2005
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