G. Marquis – The Silver Line

G. Marquis is a new brand from Ontario’s Magnotta winery.  The brand consists of two tiers – the Red Line and the Silver Line.  Although I haven’t had the opportunity to try any, the website describes the Red Line as 100% VQA wines that are soft, fruit-forward, unoaked, and easy-drinking.  The Silver Line is the top tier and is made with hand-harvested grapes from the Stone Road Vineyard located in the Niagara-on-the-Lake appellation.  I recently sampled a few wines from the Silver Line – 2008 Chardonnay, 2011 Pinot Noir, and 2009 Vidal Icewine – and I was impressed.  These are well-made, tasty wines at very reasonable prices.

G. Marquis Silver Line Chardonnay 2008G. Marquis Silver Line Chardonnay 2008 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake:  Aged for 6 months in French-American hybrid oak casks with a subsequent 16 months in stainless steel.  12.3% abv.  Good complexity on the nose for this price range.  Aromas include creamy vanilla, golden apples, tangerine, crisp lemon, some mineral notes, and a touch of butter.  It’s well-balanced with medium weight, cleansing acidity, and flavours of vanilla yogurt, butter, and yellow tree fruit.  The oak influence is light and well-integrated.  Medium length. There are still a few bottles available in LCBO’s Vintages. Good value at $16.95.


G. Marquis Silver Line Pinot Noir 2011G. Marquis Silver Line Pinot Noir 2011 VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake: 6 months barrel aging in new French and Hungarian oak.  13% abv.  A vibrant medium ruby colour, this wine shows aromas of cherry, red currant, raspberry, dried bay leaf, and a hint of smoky oak.  On the palate, it’s elegant and fresh, with medium body, bright acidity, and fine tannins.  The oak influence is there, but it is integrated and doesn’t overpower the Pinot Noir’s natural character.  This 2011 vintage will be released as a Vintages Essentials at the LCBO sometime in late summer or early autumn, but right now there are still some bottles of the 2010 vintage available at Vintages.  Again, good value. I’ve had much more expensive Ontario Pinot Noirs that I have not liked as much as this.  $19.95

G. Marquis Silver Line Vidal Icewine 2009G. Marquis Silver Line Vidal Icewine 2009 VQA Niagara Peninsula:  Aged for 6 to 8 months in stainless steel prior to bottling.  9.9% abv. This wine is a beautiful golden colour with intense aromas of sweet apricot, dried mango and pineapple, and sultana raisins.  It’s luxurious and rich on the palate showing honeyed apricot, citrus, and tropical fruit notes.  The high sugar level (204 g/L) is balanced by the almost searing acidity, resulting in a quite refreshing finish.  Serve very chilled.  Some bottles are still available at LCBO Vintages for $27.95/200 ml.

(All three wines were received as samples.)

From the Cellar – Vilafonte Series C 2004

Vilafonte Series C 2004I certainly enjoyed some very nice wines over the holidays, but the one that was the definite hit in my family was Vilafonté Series C 2004 from the Paarl-Simonsberg region of South Africa.  I purchased this wine in December 2009 on sale at the LCBO for about $35, a significant discount from its original price of $64.

The Vilafonte Story

Vilafonté is a joint venture between American and South African wine specialists committed to crafting quality wines specifically for the US market.  It aims to produce the first luxury wine brand from South Africa.  Acclaimed US winemaker Zelma Long is head winemaker; Michael Ratcliffe, a leader in the South African wine industry, is the General Manager; Phillip Freese is head grape-grower; and Bartholomew Broadbent is responsible for distribution to the US market.Vilafonte Vineyards


There are 42 hectares of vineyards, all planted to Bordeaux varieties.  Planting is high density (about 5,208 vines/ha) and there is low production of grapes per vine.  Grapes are picked at around 24 Brix or higher.  Vilafonté Series C 2004 is a blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Franc, and 4% Malbec.  The wine was aged for 19 months in 100% French oak barrels, 71% of which were new.

Tasting Note

Vilafonté Series C 2004 is a deep garnet colour.  The extra years of aging has helped this wine develop and mature with complex and intense aromas of dark earth, leather, cassis, chocolate, and brown spice notes.  On the palate, this wine is powerful and full-bodied with ample supple tannins.  The whopping 15.1% alcohol is surprisingly balanced and not overly hot.  Dark fruit, earth and spice flavours gradually melt away on the long finish.  A big, brooding wine to be sure, but certainly delicious and drinking beautifully right now.

I’ve been searching for more recent vintages of this wine for some time now.  It seems that only the Vilafonte Series M (containing more Merlot) is available in Ontario right now.  Contact Hobbs & Co for availability and private orders.

Wednesday’s WoW – Coudoulet de Beaucastel Cotes-du-Rhone 2009

Coudoulet de Beaucastel Wine LabelToday’s WoW, Coudoulet de Beaucastel Côtes-du-Rhône 2009 from the Southern Rhone in France, is a great wine to have on hand this holiday season.  While it may cost a bit more ($29.95 at the LCBO), it’s worth every penny, and your wine-loving friends will definitely be pleased with your choice.

Coudoulet de Beaucastel

Coudoulet de Beaucastel Côtes-du-Rhône is made by Chateau de Beaucastel, one of the leading properties of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and is often referred to as a baby Beaucastel.  The thirty hectares of vines that grow the Coudoulet de Beaucastel grapes are located directly to the east of Chateau de Beaucastel, and just outside the Chateauneuf-du-Pape AOC boundary, hence the labelling as Côtes-du-Rhône.  These vineyards have the same rounded stones, or ‘galets’, covering them as the vineyards of  Beaucastel’s top Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine, which retain the heat of the Mediterranean sun and then slowly release this heat during the night.  The ‘galet’ stones also give the vineyards a head start in the springtime.


As with Chateau de Beaucastel’s Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine, Coudoulet is dominated by Mourvedre and Grenache, at approximately 30% each.  The high percentage of Mourvedre contributes a firm tannic backbone and helps prevent oxidation, increasing the wine’s ability to age.  The Grenache provides a rounded texture and rich fruit flavours.  Syrah and Cinsault each make up about 20% of the blend and bring added complexity and structure to the wine.

All the grapes are hand-harvested and sorted to ensure only perfectly ripe and healthy grapes were used in the wine.  Each variety is fermented separately and blending takes place after malolactic fermentation.  After blending, the wine is aged for 6 to 8 months in large oak barrels.

Tasting Notes

Coudoulet de Beaucastel Cotes-du-Rhone 2009 is a beautiful dark ruby colour showing quite intense and complex aromas of dark raspberries, red plums, ripe blackberries, baking spice, ground white pepper, and a pretty, dried lavender floral note.  It’s plush and ripe with soft, silky tannins and flavours of dried herbs, potpourri, spicy dark fruit, and a meaty, earthy character.  The alcohol is warming, but balanced.  It’s very approachable and delicious right now, but will cellar well for at least 5 to 7 years, probably more.  It calls out for a roasted rack of lamb with rosemary and garlic.

A Tasting of Veuve Clicquot Champagne with Dominique Demarville

Pouring Veuve ClicquotThe Champagne house Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin has had a long and fascinating history.  Founded in 1772 by Philippe Clicquot, it began primarily as a banking and textile company that only dabbled in the Champagne trade.  When Philippe’s son, Francois, became head of the company, focus switched more to Champagne. In 1805 Francois Clicquot passed away, leaving his young widow, Nicole-Barbe Clicquot Ponsardin, to take the reins.  Not only did Veuve (Widow) Nicole-Barbe run the company with great skill, she turned the house into one of the most famous and prestigious grande marques ever.  Nicole-Barbe also transformed the way Champagne was made when she created the first riddling table, enabling the production of crystal clear wines.  Veuve Clicquot also produced the very first vintage Champagne in 1810.

I’ve been intrigued with the story of Veuve ever since reading Tilar J. Mazzeo’s book, The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman Who Ruled It, and I have enjoyed Veuve Champagne for some time, so I was thrilled when I got the opportunity to have a one-on-one tasting with Veuve’s current winemaker, Dominique Demarville.

Dominique Demarville, Cellar Master

Dominique Demarville became the 10th Cellar Master of Veuve Clicquot on June 1st 2009 after being Deputy Cellar Master since 2006.  Dominique Demarville, Veuve Clicquot Cellar MasterHe began his career in wine 26 years ago when he harvested grapes in Champagne as a summer job.  He realized his passion for wine that summer, leading him to earn a technical degree in oenology and viticulture at Lycée Viticole de la Champagne, and a degree in oenology at the University of Burgundy. He worked in several French wine regions before finally settling in Champagne, where he worked at several different Champagne houses before taking a position at Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin. He’s a very charming and personable man, with sharp blue eyes and incredible passion for his work.  Once I got over my initial feeling of  giddiness after meeting M. Demarville, I was able to concentrate as he lead me through a tasting of 5 remarkable Veuve Clicquot Champagnes.

The Wines

Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Champagne

Veuve Clicquot Brut Non VintageVeuve Clicquot Brut Non Vintage

Typical of Veuve Clicquot wines, Pinot Noir is dominant.  The blend is 50 to 55% Pinot Noir, 28 to 35% Chardonnay, and 15 to 20% Pinot Meunier.  Between 25 and 40% of the wine is made up of reserve wines, which help to maintain consistency of the house style.  The winemakers have 17 years of reserve wines to draw on when creating the blend, the oldest being from 1988.  The over 400 different reserve wines are not yet blended and are stored by cru and by grape variety.  These still wines remain on their lees to help prevent oxidation, and M. Demarville stated that it is the reserve wines that contribute the distinctive brioche flavour to the final blend.

Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label has a golden yellow colour with aromas of ripe apples, peaches, quince, and white blossoms.  The mousse is  creamy and persistent, and the palate shows flavours of brioche, vanilla, crisp citrus, yellow fruit, and a toasty finish.  Pair with lobster risotto or mushroom quiche. (LCBO $66.25)

Veuve Clicquot Rose Non VintageVeuve Clicquot Rosé Non Vintage

The blend is very similar to the Brut Yellow Label with 50 to 55% Pinot Noir, 28 to 33% Chardonnay, and 15 to 20% Pinot Meunier, and again 20 to 35% is reserve wines.  The difference is the addition of about 12% still red wine, which is a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, giving a pretty pink colour and berry flavours.

The Rosé Non Vintage is a light pink colour with aromas of wild red berry, cherry pie, toast, and brioche.  Powerful, yet elegant, this wine is creamy and concentrated, ending with a long delicious finish.  Pair this wine with with shellfish, caviar, or smoked salmon.

Veuve Clicquot Vintage Reserve Brut 2002Veuve Clicquot Vintage Brut 2002

Made only in exceptional years, M. Demarville says the vintage wines “must show the gift of nature.”  The Vintage 2002 is comprised of 60% Pinot Noir, 33% Chardonnay, and 7% Pinot Meunier.  The grapes come from 17 vineyards, all of which are classified as either Grands Crus or Premier Crus.  This wine was disgorged in 2009 after having spent 6 years on the lees.

A sparkling pale yellow colour, intensely aromatic and concentrated, this wine exhibits citrus and mandarine aromas, with a very floral character.  A lively and generous mousse with brioche, creamy vanilla, minerals, spice, and crisp citrus flavours, and a long toasty finish.  A stunning wine.  Pair with stewed rabbit or a mild vegetable curry. (LCBO Vintages, $88.95)

Veuve Clicquot Vintage Rose 2004Veuve Clicquot Vintage Rosé 2004

The Vintage Rosé 2004 is a blend of 62% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, and 8% Pinot Meunier.  There is also an addition of 15% still red Pinot Noir from Bouzy vineyards.  The blend is made up of approximately 20 Grands and Premier Crus vineyards.  It was aged 5 years on the lees and was disgorged in 2010.  The 2004 vintage is lighter and leaner than 2002, but has excellent aging potential.  M. Demarville suggests it could age at least 20 years.

A coppery pink colour  with pronounced ripe red fruit, floral, and pastry aromas.  There is a zesty acidity and a very long length.  Juicy and delicious.  Pair with roasted turkey or beef carpaccio. (LCBO Vintages, $94.95)

Veuve Clicquot Demi-SecVeuve Clicquot Demi-Sec Non Vintage

This is a more “traditional” Champagne as it is sweeter in style (it wasn’t until relatively recently that the trend has moved towards drier versions).  Pinot Noir is again dominant at 40 to 45% of the blend, lending structure and power to the wine.  A higher percentage of Pinot Meunier than other Veuve Champagnes (30 to 35%) gives exotic fruit and floral notes.  Chardonnay makes up 20 to 25%, contributing freshness and delicacy. About 20 to 30% reserve wine is added and the final wine has 45 g/l of sugar.

This wine has rich notes of honey, brioche, toast, and sweet yellow stone fruit, with a round and luxurious texture.  The crisp burst of acidity nicely balances the higher sugar levels in this wine.  Great to pair with desserts at the end of your holiday meal.  Try it with Panna Cotta, dried fruit with a custard sauce, or chocolate covered strawberries. (LCBO, $69.55)

One-on-One with Dominique Demarville

Wednesday’s WoW! – Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva 2006

An exceptional value at only $21.95 in Vintages at the LCBO, today’s Wine of the Week is Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva 2006.

Rocca delle Macie

Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva 2006Rocca delle Macie was founded in 1973 when Italian film producer, Italo Zingarelli, decided to finally pursue his lifelong dream of making wine in the beautiful Chianti Classico region of Tuscany.  He purchased the 14th century Le Macie estate which included 85 hectares of land, only 2 hectares of which were planted to vines.  The ancient buildings underwent a large-scale restoration process, including the modernization of the existing cellars and the addition of new, state-of-the-art cellars.  In just a few short decades, Rocca delle Macie has managed to gain a reputation as one of Chianti Classico’s most highly regarded estates.   It’s a family business, with Italo’s children taking over their late father’s vision – to produce high quality wines that are an expression of the land from which they come.  The family now owns 6 estates, totalling over 600 hectares of land, more than 200 ha are planted with vines and 80 ha are planted with olive trees.

Chianti Classico Riserva

Chianti Classico is the heart of the Chianti region and this is where most of the best Chiantis are made.  The Chianti Classico zone is roughly the same area that was delimited by the Medici Grand Duke Cosimo III in 1716.  The Chianti area was expanded in 1932 and 7 subzones were established. In 1966, Chianti became a DOC and in 1984, the entire Chianti region was awarded DOCG status (some argue that only Chianti Classico should have been given DOCG status).

Chianti Classico Riserva is typically a more robust wine than regular Chianti Classico due to grape selection, higher minimum alcohol levels (12.5%), and longer aging requirements.  Riserva wines are aged a minimum of 2 years in barrel before being bottled, while regular Chianti Classico may be released as early as October 1 following the harvest.

2006 Vintage

The Chianti Classico Consorzio hailed 2006 as an ‘extraordinary vintage’.  Weather conditions were said to be near perfect for Sangiovese and the grapes reached optimum ripeness and displayed ideal sugar levels.  The 2006 vintage is said to be the second greatest vintage in 15 years, after 2004.

Tasting Notes

Rocca delle Macie Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 is 90% Sangiovese, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and was aged 24 months in French oak barrels.  Mature and complex aromas of leather, dried herbs, dried black cherry, anise, cedar, and loads of ground baking spice.  The palate is harmonious and balanced with a smooth, silky texture and concentrated flavours of dark fruit, herbs and spice.  A pleasant, lingering finish.  Ready to drink now.  Serve with baked cannelloni with tomato sauce, beef tenderloin, or wild boar stew (for the adventurous!).

Vina De Martino Wine Tasting

De Martino Organic VineyardChilean wine producer Viña De Martino’s vision to ‘Reinvent Chile’ includes showing the world that Chile has the potential to make world-class wines that are true reflections of their origin.  A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a tasting of De Martino wines organized by the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers.  Guy Hooper, De Martino’s Export Director for North America and Asia, presented the wines.

Viña De Martino

De Martino was founded in the Maipo Valley in 1934 by Pietro De Martino Pascualone who arrived in Chile from Italy in search of a place to make wine.  The estate now has 300 hectares of certified organic vineyards.  The 3rd and 4th generations of the De Martino family are now in charge of the winery.  Their focus is on premium and super premium wines.

Organic, Sustainable, and Carbon Neutral Wines

In 1998, the conversion to organic viticulture began, with the first 100% certified organic vintage in 2001.  Mr Hooper explained De Martino’s belief that “healthy soils produce healthy grapes which produce great wines”.  They are now the second largest producer of organic wines in Chile.  In 2007, the winery began to implement a number of sustainable practices aimed at reducing their carbon emissions.  Their Water Treatment Plant has made them the first winery in the world to generate carbon bonds.  In 2009, they became the first carbon-neutral winery in Latin America and released Nuevo Mundo, Latin America’s first carbon-neutral wine.

In addition to their own vineyards, De Martino has long-term contracts with about 40 other grape-growers.  Even in these vineyards, De Martino overseas all that goes on to ensureSunshine in a De Martino vineyard they are purchasing the best possible grapes.

Too Much Sunshine is Not Always a Good Thing!

Even though Chile is what is sometimes referred to as a ‘winemaker’s paradise’, the vineyards are not without problems.  Mr Hooper admitted that too much sunshine is not always a good thing – the grapes can get sunburned. In order to combat sunburn, De Martino and other producers, have begun planting vineyards in an east-west direction instead of the more typical north-south direction.  This, along with canopy management practices, can reduce the amount of sunburn on the grapes.  The abundant sunshine can also cause the sugars in the grapes to rise to very high levels, producing wines that are very high in alcohol.  De Martino is currently experimenting with ways to naturally reduce the amount of alcohol in the wine, such as harvesting the grapes earlier and various canopy management practices.

Tasting Notes

De Martino Legado ChardonnayLegado Chardonnay 2010 Limari Valley:  50% fermented in French oak with 12% undergoing malolactic fermentation.  Aromas of tropical fruit, peach, guava, pineapple, vanilla, and white blossoms.  Fresh acidity cleanses the palate with flavours of yellow fruit, vanilla, cream, and smoke.  Good length.  Great value at around $15.  Private order through Halpern (halpernwine.com)

De Martino Legado CarmenereLegado Carmenere 2010 Maipo Valley:  Aged 12 months in 100% French oak.  This is a very young Carmenere showing blackberry, strawberry, coffee grounds, dusty earth, dried leaves, spice, and some green aromas typical of many Carmeneres.  Crushed blackberry and pencil shavings dominate the palate with soft tannins.  The 2008 vintage is to be released in Vintages at the LCBO on November 22 for approximately $15-$17.

De Martino Alto de Piedras CarmenereAlto de Piedras Carmenere 2009 Maipo Valley:  This single vineyard wine was aged 14 months in 100% French oak.  An opaque ruby colour with aromas of ripe plums, blueberry, blackberry, dark raspberry, cloves, and coconut, with a pretty floral note.  This wine is happily lacking the green vegetal aromas and flavours that can be typical of Carmenere.  Firm, fuzzy tannins with ripe dark berries and a hint of pencil shavings on the long finish.  A very good wine, but a bit pricier at $35-$45.

De Martino Legado SyrahLegado Syrah Reserva 2010 Choapa Valley:  12 months in French oak.  Very complex aromas of violets, black cherry, plum, raspberry, fruitcake, dusty earth, and cracked black pepper.  Lots of spicy fruit on the palate, with black pepper, and fine tannins.  Good length.  An excellent value at only $16 to $18.  Private order through Halpern.

De Martino Las CrucesLas Cruces 2008 Cachopoal Valley:  The grapes are from a dry-farmed vineyard planted in 1957.  A field blend of 60% Malbec, 30% Carmenere, 10% other grapes (Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, and others).  Aromas of chocolate and mocha, spicy dark fruit, plum, and dark cherry.  Juicy on the palate with a firm structure and dusty tannins.  A long lingering finish.  Very Good. $35 to $40.

De Martino La Aguada La Aguada 2008 Maule Valley:  The grapes are from a small dry farmed vineyard in the Coastal Mountain Range of the Maule Valley planted in 1955.  A field blend of about 90% Carignan with the remainder being Malbec and Cinsault.  Aged 14 months in French oak.  An enticing wine with complex aromas of spicy dark chocolate, ripe black cherry, dark raspberry, and violets.  Big and bold on the palate with an abundance of very firm tannins, flavours of spice, earth and dark fruit, and a long length.  A couple of years in the bottle will help this wine mellow out a bit more.

Wednesday’s WoW! – Carlos Serres Rioja Gran Reserva 2001

Ten Years Young

Carlos Serres Rioja Gran Reserva 2001It’s very unusual to see older vintages at the LCBO so when I saw this 10 year old Carlos Serres Rioja Gran Reserva at Vintages for only $27.95 I just had to buy it.  I wasn’t disappointed. Its captivating, complex, and mature aromas had me hooked from the start.  (Interestingly, there is another 2001 Rioja Gran Reserva right now as well, Rioja Bordon Gran Reserva 2001.  I have not yet tried it.)

Bodegas Carlos Serres

The story of Carlos Serres is an interesting one.  He was born in France in 1862 and went on to become one of France’s best wine consultants.  At the end of the 19th century, the vineyards of France were being devastated by phylloxera, so Carlos set out to find an area outside of France that would be able to produce wines of great quality.  He soon discovered that the area around the city of Haro, Spain had similar geography and climate to that of the best areas in Bordeaux.  In 1896 Bodegas Carlos Serres was founded in Haro, with a focus on a new style of Spanish wine with a Bordeaux influence.  Determined to bring the elegant wines of Rioja to the rest of the world, Carlos Serres was the first Bodegas in Rioja to be registered as an ‘export merchant’.  Carlos was the founder of the ‘Rioja Wine Exporter’s Syndicate’, the forerunner of today’s ‘Consejo Regulador’, making him one of the pioneers of the Rioja wines we know today.

Rioja 2001

The 2001 vintage is one of the best vintages ever in Rioja.  The DOCa Rioja Control Board Plenary awarded the 2001 vintage “Excellent”, the highest rating possible.  This decision was made after the spectacular results of the DOCa approval process that all wines must undergo in order to label themselves as DOCa Rioja.  Up to 2001, only 9 vintages in the last century had been awarded an “Excellent” rating, the most recent being 1995, 1994, and 1982.  Since 2001 there have been 3 more: 2004, 2005, and most recently 2010.

Carlos Serres Gran Reserva Winemaking

Carlos Serres Gran Reserva is a blend of 85% Tempranillo, 10% Graciano, and 5% Mazuelo (aka Carignan).  All the grapes are hand-picked from vines that are an average of 30 years old.  The wine was aged for 36 months in a combination of French and American oak barrels, with a further 36 months in bottle before being released (the minimum ageing requirement for Gran Reservas is 5 years, including 2 years in barrel).

Tasting Notes

Carlos Serres Rioja Gran Reserva 2001 is a medium garnet colour with mature, earthy aromas of leather, earth, mushroom, vanilla, red plum, dried fig, and sweet spice.  Medium-bodied, with an alluring silky texture, fine, well-integrated tannins, and a long, lingering finish.  Ready to drink now.  Enjoy with cinnamon-spiced venison, roasted pork with mushroom risotto, or aged cheeses.

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