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A stellar Cabernet Franc from Pillitteri and Foreign Affair’s Conspiracy lead the charge at the Vintages release; plus Ravine, 13th Street Detour, Kacaba and Haywire


The “nearly” Valentine’s Day wine release at Vintages on Feb. 15 features some gems from Niagara including a Cabernet Franc that’s not to missed.

8734406898_e48a273a5fThe Pillitteri Exclamation Reserve Cabernet Franc 2010 ($38) is a robust and spicy red wine from the wonderful 2010 vintage that is perfectly ready to drink now. It was named the 2013 Ontario Red Wine of the Year at Tony Aspler’s Ontario Wine Awards.

I remember being blown away when judging this wine against the all the other Ontario red wines that year.

Wines In Niagara’s Mike Lowe attended the awards show in Niagara-on-the-Lake and was equally smitten when it was paired with Szechuan-crusted beef tenderloin. He had this to say about the pairing:

“With each course, flavours and textures ramp up culminating in a pairing that ends the dinner on a high note. Szechuan-crusted beef tenderloin, buna-shimeji mushrooms, and a dumpling filled with pulled beef short rib is paired with a voluptuous red wine that seems very familiar. It turns out to be Pillitteri Estates 2010 Exclamation Cabernet Franc Reserve, a wine I recently discovered when visiting the winery.”

Other wines being released Saturday.

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The Foreign Affair The Conspiracy 2012 ($20, 90 points) — This is the fourth vintage for this popular Ripasso-style Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend. To add complexity the wine was ‘passed over’ Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc skins from appassimento (dried) grapes. The nose displays blueberry, cassis, plum, black currant and kirsch aromas with subtle vanilla and spice notes. It has firm structure on the palate with sweet blueberry fruit, currants, licorice, tar and spice notes. It’s a juicy wine with pretty good acidity and tannins that will evolve further in the cellar.

Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2012 ($18, 88 points) — There’s a lot to like here in this friendly Riesling. Aromas of fresh cut apple, citrus, honeydew, honeysuckle and riverbed minerality. It’s vibrant and doesn’t feel like there’s 20 g/l of residual sugar, with peach fruit and citrus the main players on the palate.

0317941Jackson-Triggs Grand Reserve Shiraz 2011, Niagara ($25, 90 points) – Winemaker Marco Piccoli excels with this variety he likes to craft in a Rhone style. The nose shows barnyard, earth, roasted meats, blackberries, currants, pepper and spice. It’s dark and savoury in the mouth with plush tannins, dark fruits, loam and delicious spice.

Other wines being released but not reviewed:

Malivoire Gamay 2012 ($18)
Vieni Aglianico 2011 ($30)
Konzelmann Vidal Icewine 2010 ($25 for 200 ml)
Malivoire Chardonnay 2011 ($20)
Pillitteri Protagonist 2012 ($16)
Southbrook Vineyards Triomphe Chardonnay 2012 ($23)
Chateau des Charmes Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 ($35)

Some other wines tried and liked recently:


Ravine Vineyard Riesling 2012 ($28, 93 points) — This is always a distinct expression of Riesling because of a quirky low spot in the estate’s St. Davids Bench vineyard that promotes a small amount of botrytis (noble rot) that is always blended into this wine. This may be the best Riesling yet from Ravine. Consulting winemaker Peter Gamble says about 17% of the fruit was botrytis-affected allowing a gorgeous note of wild alfalfa honey on the nose to go with citrus zest, apricot and quince notes. It is a textured Riesling on the palate and the wild honey notes play an important role in combination with lime, melon, quince and a subtle ginger note. It is off-dry but still has vibrancy from excellent acidity and such a clean and lush feel through the finish. Wow wine.


Ravine Vineyard Lonna’s Block Cabernet Franc 2012 ($40, 92 points) — This is the first vintage for the Lonna’s Block, and, my, what a beauty. A nose of warm cherry pie, loam, sweet tobacco, violets, cassis and toasted mocha vanilla. The palate shows lovey red and dark fruits, savoury spices, stewed herbs, dusty cocoa, bright acidity and a supple feel through the long finish. Simply delicious.


Kacaba Vineyards Terrace Vineyard Syrah 2011 ($25, not yet released, 91 points) — A meaty and bold nose of game, earth, pepper, cassis, blackberry, plums, bay leaves and other savoury spices. The palate shows bold and juicy dark fruits, smoke, leather, pepper, lifting acidity and mellow tannins. Good old-fashioned cool-climate Syrah.

Kacaba Vineyards Proprietor’s Select Syrah 2011 ($30, not yet release, 90 points) — From the main block of Kacaba’s Syrah plantings, the oldest planting in Ontario for this Rhone varietal. The nose shows black cherry, garrigue, smoke, roasted meats, cracked peppercorns and cocoa. On the palate this Syrah reveals savoury red fruit, campfire smoke, soft tannins, spice and medium weight. Just a nice drop and nothing over the top.

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13th Street Detour White 2012 ($17, LCBO, 88 points) — You should start seeing this clever new label appearing in LCBO stores just about now. The line is based on the idea that if you try something a little different “you might find you like it a whole lot.” Both the red and white Detour wines are blends of two grapes. The white married Riesling with Chardonnay and has a nose of tropical fruits, citrus and peach notes. It’s round on the palate with juicy fruit, a splash of spice and decent acidity. A tasty white blend.

13th Street Detour Red 2012 ($17, LCBO, 87 points) — A blend of Gamay Noir and Pinot Noir that shows a spicy nose with ripe red berries, plums and black currants. It’s packed with flavour on the palate and pretty straight forward with red and dark fruits, a hint of spice and a clean, smooth delivery.

Now, if we had a wide-open border where we could buy any Canadian wine we wanted to, we could purchase this lovely sparkling wine from B.C. It’s the perfect Valentine’s Day bubbly.


Haywire Pink Bub 2012, Okanagan Valley ($25, 90 points) — This traditionally made pink sparkler is made with 51% Pinot Noir and 49% Chardonnay from grapes grown in a cool mountain vineyard site near Oliver. It is simply lovely with cherry, brioche, crisp apple and biscuit notes on the nose. The palate shows a lively, persistent mousse with vibrant red fruits made in a crisp, refreshing style.