Tag Archives: Southbrook Vineyards

Essentials Recommendations

10 May

A couple posts ago, I used a video of The Blind Boys of Alabama with Susan Tedeschi singing People Get Ready. I got a few responses saying that they had never heard Susan before. So, I’ve added another of her tracks above – a great John Prine song – great flute solo. Susan’s an accomplished blues guitarist and singer. Her main squeeze is Derek Trucks. How much great music must come from that house? Listen to it as you scroll.

On to the wine. Last week, I was asked by a golf buddy what would be a good red wine to take to a friend’s house for dinner. After I asked the requisite question about what the food was going to be (“Who knows?”), I kind of stalled. Oh, I finally gave a couple suggestions but I felt inadequate. Aren’t I supposed to know these kind of things off the top of my head? I think the issue for me was availability. What wines would be in stock and, ergo, a good recommendation?

The mothership has a cadre (over 100) of higher quality wines and spirits that are usually available in larger stores and they’re called the Essentials Collection. They range from Cristal Brut Champagne ($297) and Tignanello ($103) to Cathedral Cellar Cab Sav ($16) and Anselmi San Vicenzo ($17). It’s a broad spectrum but you should be able to find something that fits the occasion and your budget.

Budget Reds

Monte Antico #69377 $15.95 This is a food wine and it’s Italian. Meaning serve it with pizza, pasta with a tomato sauce, etc. Maybe even a mushroom dish. It has that bite that I love.

LAN Crianza #166538 $15.95 A $16 Rioja Crianza that carries the day. Perfect everyday medium-bodied red. I’m having ribs tonight and might pair them with this unless I get paralyzed down in the basement (so many choices) and end up bringing up something else. If you can find the Viña Real Crianza @ $18.95 – grab a couple bottles as it is very nice as well.

kaikenKaiken Malbec #58339 $14.95 This is a good value Malbec for those that love that grape. I know there are cheaper ones out there but step away from the Fuzion and make a very little step up price-wise to this much better version.

Mid-Range Reds

Muga Reserva #177345 $23.95 If there is even a hint that your guests or you, for that matter, like Iberian wine, this is the the ‘go to’ choice from Essentials. Consistent and typical Rioja cedary goodness. Food or just plain sipping.

Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon #193573 $22.95 If it’s VQA you’re looking for, this is a great example of Niagara Bordeaux red. A hint of green pepper but not distracting from the dark fruit. Good steak wine. It’s tasty.

tenutacastigligoniMarchesi de’ Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni #145920 $21.95 I have recommended this wine so many times that I can type the name without checking the spelling. Pure Tuscan goodness. Spicy and fabulous with a simple lamb dish.

Honourable Mention

Wynn’s Coonawarra Black Label Cab Sav, Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir, Espãrao Reserva, E. Guigal Côtes du Rhone, Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon

Budget Whites

Anselmi San Vicenzo #948158 $16.95 If you like the vibe of whites from north-eastern Italy (Soave), grab this one. A perfect paring would be sun and friends.

Willm Reserve Riesling #11452 $15.95 An extra dry Riesling from Alsace. Stony, citrus. Great food wine.

Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés #1834 $13.95 I couldn’t forget Susana. This is her entry-level Torrontés. I think it’s the perfect grape for sipping.

Mid-Range Whites

cloudy bayCloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc #304469 $32.95 The SB that started the whole Kiwi love-in. Powerful, clean, gooseberry. Perfect with grilled seafood. It can handle spicier, heavier fare – maybe even blackened grilled fish.

Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay #545004 $21.95  BC wines are available in short supply here. So grab a bottle of this judiciously oaked Chard. Perfect with chicken, salmon or for just you and your imaginary friend (never drink alone).

Henri Bourgeois Les Baronnes Sancerre #542548 $25.95 This would be a nice counterpoint to the Cloudy Bay above. Both SB’s but totally different styles. This one is restrained, minerally, and better with cleaner foods – like scallops or salads. Friends that winter in Florida start their evening imbibing with a white, frequently a Sancerre. Good sipping.

Honourable mention

Mer Soleil Chardonnay, Tawse Quarry Road Riesling, Malivoire Chardonnay, Astrolabe Province Sauvignon Blanc


Malivoire Lady Bug #559088 $15.95 Have recommended this almost every year. I’m typed out on it.

So, if you need a wine that’s not from the General Listing aisles – something with a little cache, wander to the Vintages section, search these out and please let me know what you think. After all, I am all alone and appreciate contact with the outside world. Well I’m alone except for my imaginary friend, that is. Clink, clink.



Visiting Niagara Region Day 1 and 1/2 and Day 2 – #SundaySips

24 Apr


Last week, I gave an introduction to and a good first day in Niagara Region on a wine crawl. You can read that here. The first day was one of GPS fun, a superb lunch, a run-in with a flat rock, and some great wines. I realized almost “Oh shit” simultaneously with the clicking of the “PUBLISH” button that I hadn’t gotten you settled in and fed. And, that is very important after a long day on the road.


Image courtesy of Lonely Planet

So backing up into Day 1, you’ve arrived at your NOTL destination, unpacked, popped a cork in your room and you want to go for a walk. Yes, you do. Walking the streets of NOTL is the best. Walk Queen Street and shop the shops, grab a patio chair and a………….glass of wine, of course. Or better yet, head down to the river and Front Street. There’s a gazebo in a park (picture above) that was built as part of a movie set – some slasher flick or political thriller. Check out the homes and picture Laura Secord warning the British and turning out some truffles. It’s a very historical feeling with Fort Niagara across the river and Fort George down the Parkway. Peaceful.

You are hungry, you say? Well, it’s hard to go wrong. Advice? Ask the people that you’re staying with (if at a B&B) or at the hotel. But, I will try to steer you in a few directions:

treadwellcuisineTreadwell – 114 Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON Tel: 905-934-9797 www.treadwellcuisine.com This is the number one ranked restaurant on TripAdvisor and deservedly so. Inventive farm-to-table cuisine (e.g. Confit Leg of “Schuyler Farms” Lamb with Ramp Whipped Potatoes, “Cumbrae Farms” Bacon, Peas, Kozlik’s Mustard Jus”. Locally sourced, with expert service. Wine list is locally focused when it’s by the glass and they have the cream of the Niagara crop in bottle. They also have a representative selection of better California, French, Italian wines as well. Bonus? They have opened up a cozy wine bar. Hint: Reserve well in advance.

Escabéche at The Prince of Wales – 6 Picton Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON Tel: 1-888-669-5566 www.vintage-hotels.com Typical fine dining menu well done in a superb setting. Wine list recognized by Wine Spectator. If you want to feel special, this should give you a headstart.

oban2Oban Inn – 160 Front Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON Tel: 1-866-359-6226 www.obaninn.ca This is a fabulous setting down by the Niagara River overlooking the NOTL Golf Club. Great gardens. Traditional fine dining. Exceptional service. Wine list is focused on Niagara as well but that’s why you came, isn’t it? Mildly humorous NOTL Golf Club story? One wife and years ago, we are staying in NOTL and my friend and I were dropped at the club by our wives – we would play 18, they would shop. So, rather than risk getting our shoes stolen from the locker room, we wore our spikes and left shoes in the car. As our wives drove away, we strolled into the pro shop, our metal spikes clicking, clicking away. We were told that the course was closed for a club event. Um, what to do. We walked around the town for a bit carrying our clubs and clicking on the sidewalk. A couple of real losers looking for a game. Embarrassing. Then we remembered that the night before, my friend had bumped into a colleague from another movie at the theatre.and he had provided his address. We banged on his door, clubs in hand. We were welcomed in, borrowed swimming trunks and spent the 4 hours by the pool, sipping drinks. Sometimes these things work out.

Winery Associated Bistros There are some restaurants associated with wineries (Peller Estates, OLIV at Strewn Winery, Ravine Estates, among others) but I haven’t been to them in years aside from grabbing a glass and a plate of finger food while I sip their stuff.

Pub Fare is all you can muster?

oldeangelinnThe Olde Angel Inn – 224 Regent Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON Tel: 905-468-3411 www.angel-inn.com This is one of if not the oldest inn in Ontario. You can’t miss the charm of the very low ceilings. It’s styled after an English pub and they carry it off pretty well. Lots of taps, fish and chips, bangers and mash. Live music. Maybe after stumbling around Beamsville and having a feast for lunch at On The Twenty, you just want some comfort food.

The Irish Harp Pub – 245 King Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON Tel: 905-468-4443 www.theirishharppub.com This is nice. The usual continental suspects on tap. Loads of Irish whiskeys and pub food. Not grand but it can provide that quick, familiar dinner you might need.

I forgot to tell you about the Shaw Festival. You can read about it at www.shawfest.com Suffice to say, that it’s a cultural icon on the Ontario map. Plays are taken from those written during George Bernard Shaw’s lifetime as well as by him. There is always something great on. Don’t miss it if you like live theatre. We are blessed in this part of Ontario with the Shaw and The Stratford Shakespearean Festival. Both top drawer.

Back to the tour.

Day 2

You awake to grab a quick breakfast and head out to visit more wineries. I’ve listed these in no particular order. But you can map them out by using the resources at www.wineriesofniagaraonthelake.com/visit-wine-country/maps-directions/ Once again, there are too many wineries to mention here and, unfortunately I’ve left off a bunch of good ones. If you see some in your planning that you’d like an opinion on, send me a note via duffswines@gmail.com and I can weigh in.

southbrookSouthbrook Vineyards – 581 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON Tel: 1-888-581-1581 www.southbrook.com You probably passed by this winery on your way to NOTL yesterday and thought, “That’s an interesting building.” Well, it’s a whole lot more than that. Southbrook are leaders in sustainable and ethical winemaking. Those who know me know that I worked for a while in the renewable energy and ‘green’ technologies field. So, how Southbrook managed to be so successful in this regard matters to me. They are certified by Demeter (biodynamic), Pro-Cert Organic, Sustainable Winemaking Ontario and their hospitality pavilion is Gold Level of LEED – the first of its kind in Canada. Pretty impressive. But, you came for the wine, didn’t you? Southbrook has the usual stable of wines – Chardonnay, Cab blends, rosé, Rieslings. Where I like to wander with them is into their ‘Whimsy’ line. These are wines that are made in limited supply in each vintage at the whim of the winemaker. They usually are experiments or deviations from the norm and worth the gamble. Oh, and one more thing – their staff are top notch. Ask them about the green stuff. Bonus Recommendation: They have a Framboise which is unique and good with sparkling wine as a Kir wannabe.

Inniskillin Wines – 1499 Line #3 at Niagara Parkway, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON Tel: 1-888-466-4754 ext. 5400 www.inniskillin.com This is where Niagara wine began in earnest. Most people have seen, heard of, or even drank Inniskillin wines. In particular, their ice wine is sold abroad. Being owned and distributed by Constellation Brands, they have a solid reach in the US. Of course you should sample the icewine. They have 4 different kinds, including a sparkling. My fave, however, is the Cab Franc icewine – fresh picked strawberries. Their Reserve, Discovery, and Single Vineyard efforts are particularly tasty. Try the ’13 Montague Vineyard Pinot – savoury.

Niagara College Teaching Winery – 135 Taylor Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON Tel: 905-641-2252 ext. 4071 Niagara College offers courses in winemaking and many of the other arts and sciences that surround the industry. This winery is the classroom in many respects and it’s kind of cool to sample the assignments and liquid essays that have been completed by the classes and their profs. In particular, I’ve loved the ’10 Dean’s List Pinot Noir #445759 $18.95 that is available at the LCBO in very limited supply.

Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery – 1366 York Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON Tel: 905-262-8463 www.ravinevineyard.com This vineyard sits on the St. David’s Bench a sub-appellation of NOTL which gains some BTU’s on the other subs. That means riper fruit – less greens to the Bordeaux varieties. This is a family owned and operated enterprise. Organic. Restaurant on site so you could make this your halfway point.

stratusStratus Vineyards – 2059 Niagara Stone Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON Tel: 905-468-1806 www.stratuswines.com As with Southbrook, you probably saw this amazing building on the way to NOTL. It is also a fascinating hospitality centre and barrel room. Top drawer – which is the vibe they we’re looking for. My favourites from here are: ’14 Charles Baker Ivan Vineyard Riesling  and the ’08 Stratus Red both available on-line or at the cellar door. Many may have seen their Wildass label in your local. Good value straight up Ontario wine.

Colaneri Estate Winery – 348 Concession 6 Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake ON Tel: 905-682-2100 www.colaneriwines.com I wrote about Colaneri a couple years ago and you can read that here. Beautiful setting, impressive appasimento technique wines.

In this series, I’ve left off some of my other stalwarts like Pondview, Sue Ann Staff, Foreign Affair, Coyote’s Run. But, I am heading back that way in May and will regale you with tales of oenological conquest in later posts.

Now, back to your Sunday.




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