Churchill Cellars puts on quite the spread during their annual portfolio tasting … not just wines, but cheeses, sandwiches and the best little shortbreads I’ve ever tasted (more on that later). Held in the Barbara Frum Atrium at the CBC building, this invitation only event (you sign up for their newsletter and the invite comes sometime in February) is held annually to let consumers try what Churchill is offering through the LCBO, Vintages, restaurants and on consignment. This year a few things struck me as great value, good wine and readily available.
Cheap and Cheerful to Darn Good:
The 2006 Banrock Station Cabernet Sauvignon ($12.00 - #603365) is a great red-fruit driven everyday drinker … parties, pizzas, you name it.
Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.90 - #392225) is another great drinker with black fruit, black cherry, cassis and a sweet cherry finish … this one is for more serious parties and patio get togethers. For your next occasion you could do much worse than bringing Robert with as your date.
Casa Silva Carmenere Reserva was recently released into the LCBO Vintages section ($14.95 - #24679) – raspberry and strawberry throughout the smell and taste – red fruit dominated with a sweet and spicy finish – quite smooth and ready to go; well priced too.
D’Arenberg (from Australia) has become quite the staple on Vintage shelves … the Footbolt Shiraz ($20.95 - #984021) has really good spicy fruit in the glass; if you like your Shiraz with a kick you’ll love the jolt you get from the bolt.
Climbing the price ladder, the just released Ravenswood 2004 Sonoma Old Vines Zinfandel ($28.95 - #673798) has great nutmeg, spice and hints of oregano on the nose with a milk chocolate smooth finish and lots of fruitiness to boot. I recommend holding onto it for 5 years and see what happens. Staying with Ravenswood, their 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($31.95 - #25213) is black fruit dominated, smooth and lush in the mouth with great sweet fruit through the mid-palate.
The 2003 Simi Merlot ($30.95 - #30759) has spicy black fruit and chocolate tones. Smooth as silk. While the pre-Christmas expected 2004 Chateau Reynella Basket Pressed Shiraz ($35.00 - #510628) was stellar, with a sweet cherry nose, some mouth-drying tannin along with spicy black fruit and eucalyptus.
My need to finish the day off with something sweet drew me to the Port table where the chocolate, cherry and plum driven Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port  ($16.95 - #613927) was being poured. This is a total steal for Port lovers.
I promised you a tip on the best shortbread and here it is … Get your hands on ones made by M & G Kitchens. They were sampling some of the most delicious shortbread I have ever wrapped my mouth around. They make them in two varieties, which in total encompass 8 flavours: Sweet and Savoury. In the Savoury category you can choose from Herbes Provence; Moroccan Spice; Smoked Paprika and Coconut Curry. My personal favourites were in the Sweet category, where you gets ones like Chai, Chocolate Hazelnut; Buttercrunch Pecan; and an utterly awesome Vanilla. All are cut into bite sized cutes and go well with a variety of wines. They may seem a little steep at $8 a box, but well worth it. To check out where to buy them go to their website http://www.mgkitchens.ca/.