Villa Maria ‘Bubbly’ Sauvignon Blanc 2015


Villa Maria ‘Bubbly’ Sauvignon Blanc debuting at The New Zealand Wine Fair in NYC, accompanied by George the Sheep.

Estate: One of my favorite New Zealand wineries, Villa Maria was founded in 1961 when George Fistonich leased 5 acres in Marlborough from his father. Today the family estate has more than 250 employees, exports wine to over 50 countries and is New Zealand’s most awarded winery. Practicing sustainable farming and possessing a long term view of both the environment and the wine business, Villa Maria believes that “sustainability is not an end point but a journey and therefore we are always finding ways to embed sustainable principles into the culture of the organization”.

Winemaking: “Fruit for this wine was sourced from a selection of vineyards throughout New Zealand spanning a range of different climates and soil types. Cool, slow fermentation in stainless steel tanks”, bottled soon after fermentation to capture its freshness. This is a brand new offering from the estate. Made in the style of an Italian frizzante [lightly sparkling].

Tasting Notes: Cheerful and sunny, with melon and citrus buoyed by small, fizzy bubbles. Good acidity compliments fresh juicy flavours; the clean, zippy finish keeps you reaching for more. Fantastic for summer sipping!

100% Sauvignon Blanc
New Zealand
13% Alcohol
$15 [average price]
Enjoy now


Media event hosted by New Zealand Winegrowers

Huber ‘Hugo’ Rosé Sparkling NV


Estate: 10th generation winegrower Markus Huber took over his family estate at the age of 23 and has become renowned for his focused, mineral driven wines. The 99 acre estate is located in the tiny Traisental region of northeastern Austria, an area famous for its Grüner Veltliner. The vineyards have the characteristic limestone soil of the area and are located on small terraces that are certified sustainable, with a large portion of organic methods also utilized. The ‘Hugo’ line of wines are “excellent values for everyday drinking”.

Winemaking: Fermented in stainless steel, then aged sur lie for 4 months [the finished wine sits on residual fruit and yeast particles].

Tasting Notes: Pale coral/copper in colour with aromas of strawberry, rain washed minerals and fresh bread. Fantastically consistent, fizzy bubbles buoy tart raspberry and strawberry flavors. Brioche, minerals and floral hints linger cheerfully on the dry finish. Great on its own or with light dishes, a fun deviation from Prosecco or Cava.

Blend of Zweigelt and Pinot Noir
Bottled by Markus Huber
12% Alcohol
Enjoy now

Bellavista Alma Cuvée Brut Franciacorta DOCG NV


Just under $30, this is much more interesting, and a better value then the array of Champagne to be found around the $35 mark.

Estate: Bellavista is a family estate consisting of 90 hectares of vineyards spread across 10 communes within the Franciacorta DOCG in Lombardy, northern Italy. The estate was founded when 2nd generation winemaker Vittorio Moretti bought the hill called ‘Bellavista’, because of its stunning view. The vineyards are known for their glacial, stony soils that provide an ideal environment for the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes that makeup Franciacorta.

Philosophy: Expressing “nature, purity and truth. Trust in man and in his potential. A sense of responsibility for the future so that we can guarantee continuity over different generations.”

Winemaking: The vineyards are farmed using sustainable methods and a minimal approach is taken in the winery processes. Grapes for Alma are sourced from “107 plots ranged over 10 different Franciacorta municipalities (‘horizontal blending’)”. Made in the “Traditional Method” the different parcels of grapes are all vinified separately. Additionally, the wine is blended with “reserve wines, which come from between six and nine earlier vintages (‘vertical blending’)”. At least 15% of the wine is fermented and matured in small white oak casts [no new oak is used]. Matured in the winery’s cellar for at least 4 years. The Alma Cuvée represents “our tradition, inspired by the pure essence of harmony” and is a “homage to the place where we have laid our roots, which we love and defend”.

Tasting Notes: Pale gold in colour with soft aromas of apple, pear and rain washed minerals. Citrus, apple and pear flavours are framed by consistent, fizzy bubbles and complimented by a fresh acidity. Golden honey glides atop bitter almond notes and minerals on the crisp finish.

80% Chardonnay, 19% Pinot Nero, 1% Pinot Bianco
Produced and Bottled by Azienda Agricola Bellavista
12.5% Alcohol

23 at Pillitteri Winery


Vines in late November at Pillitteri Winery

Committed to creating a legacy for the generations to follow him, 3rd generation wine grower Gary Pillitteri founded the Pillitteri Winery in 1993. Gary began working in the vineyards alongside his grandfather and father in his native Sicily, and carried his passion for viticulture to Canada. Initially he and his wife grew fruits and vegetables on the estate, but in 1998 Gary decided to experiment with making a small batch of Vidal Icewine. Upon winning a gold medal right out of the starting gate, Gary decided to plant vines and open a winery. Today there are just over 100 acres of vineyards, and Gary’s grandchildren [who grew up working in the vineyards] are managing the export side of the winery, establishing themselves as the 5th generation of the Pillitteri winemaking family. Alongside their renowned Icewine, [which is currently receiving many accolades in the UK] the estate also crafts traditional Niagara wines such as Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Additionally, Gary’s roots in winemaking in Sicily is evident in their Riserva Famiglia line, in which grapes from only the best vintage years are handpicked and crafted using the Appassimento method, creating big, bold reds.

During my recent trip to Niagara on the Lake the Pillitteri Winery was my first introduction to the splendid Niagara region. I enjoyed a tasting of nearly a dozen wines and purchased quite a few bottles to take home! [They do not charge for their tasting flights, they ask instead for a donation to be made to one of the many charitable organizations they support.] They offer vineyard and winery tours, which I had fully intended on doing, but I unfortunately ran out of time, so I will have to wait until my next trip to NOTL [Niagara on the Lake].

The number 23, and combinations of 2’s and 3’s has been significant to Gary Pillitteri throughout his entire life. He has crafted ‘Twenty Three’ wines to be versatile, easy drinking, and easy to pair with food.


Twenty Three Sparkles
Racy and light with intriguing aromas of citrus, banana and a hint of toast. Cheerful apple and lemon notes mingle with generous bubbles, traces of honey linger between each sip. Fun and fresh on its own or with light snacks.
12% Alcohol


Twenty Three Rose 2013
Deep, clear red-coral in colour with radiant aromas of strawberry and candied violet. Vibrant, strawberry and cherry flavours are held in check by a beaming acidity. A clean, fruity finish keeps you reaching for more. Sweet but not cloying, this is a fantastic sweet wine for those that say they don’t like sweet wines. [It only ranks a 2 out of 10 on the LCBO Sweetness Descriptor and Sugar Code Comparison Chart, denoting it is “medium-dry”. Or seco for Italian wines, sec in French and trocken on German labels.]
12.5% Alcohol


Twenty Three Cabernet Merlot 2013
Transparent garnet in colour with aromas of cherry, gingerbread spices and dry, dusty earth [dry tannins were beckoning from the aroma]. Sturdy, yet polished flavours of cherry, cranberry and leather wrap seamlessly around a core of food friendly acidity, finishing with dry tannins, spice and hints of plush fruit. As with the other Twenty Three wines, this is lovely to sip on its own or with a wide variety of dishes.
12.5% Alcohol

Prices listed are in Canadian Dollars

Chateau Tour Grise Saumer Brut Non Dose 2004


Estate: Chateau La Tour Grise is located in the tiny village of Le Puy Notre Dame in the Saumer region of the Loire Valley in western France. The estate dates back to the 15th century, whilst the surrounding areas have been under cultivation for 1000 years. At the helm are Philippe and Françoise Gourdon, who have become renowned for crafting expressive, terroir driven wines that “tell you where they come from and what kind of year they had”. Philippe Gourdon is passionate about biodynamic viticulture and “hands-off traditional vinification”. Mournfully those two beliefs tend to get French vine growers in trouble with appellation control authorities, and Philippe Gourdon is no exception. He chose not to submit his wines for Saumer appellation, and by doing so he lost his right to display not only Saumur Blanc on his labels, but also the name of his estate, La Tour Grise. For an interesting synopsis of the estate, check out The Wines of La Tour Grise.

Winemaking: The estate has been certified biodynamic since 1998. Traditional biodynamic methods are used such as mineral and vegetable teas and preparations for the vines; cows roam the vineyards for weed control and fertilizer purposes.

Tasting Notes: Deep gold in colour with aromas of lemon, honey, minerals and delightful hints of funk. Captivating flavours of lemon curd on toast join flowery chamomile and savoury garique herbs on a current of dense bubbles. Toast, chalk minerals and traces of smoky honey linger enticingely between each sip. A complex and engaging sparkler that is stunning on its own or with a wide variety of dishes, especially brunch type ones.

100% Chenin Blanc
[Bottling information not listed on the label]
12% Alcohol
Enjoy now thru 2017