Thursday, December 23, 2010

No "Wine-ing" it's Christmas ...and Turkey Cooking Tips

The title of today's blog was meant two fold: (i) There will be no wine blog this week, because if you haven't been to the LCBO yet, there will only be Wine Tetras left on the near naked shelves, as all of my readers would have read the blog from two weeks ago and scooped up all the good wines and (ii) Christmas is a joyous time of year, meant to celebrate the best of the past year, so pour a glass of lovely wine and celebrate with all the people you care about ...and if your year had some bad notes, the wine will help you forget them!

1. If you want the moistest and tastiest bird ...brine your turkey. You can do this two ways: (i) fill a cooler with liquid brine and submerge the turkey for 24 hours. Before cooking rinse the turkey thoroughly and dry completely. Rub the turkey with olive oil and then add your favourite herbs (thyme, sage, etc.). Roast breast side down for two hours, then flip the bird and complete the roasting. Here is a good link for this method or
(ii) Use a dry brine. Coat the turkey with olive oil and then using 1 cup of Kosher salt, rub and coat the bird completely. Refrigerate for 24 hours before cooking. This is probably the easiest method and if this interests you, here's a link with all of the instructions on how to dry-brine your turkey

stuff your turkey. In the olden days (40+ years ago) turkeys were tough old birds, mostly free range. The cooking time was much longer and the stuffing helped to make the meat tastier and more tender. Today's turkey has evolved genetically and they are bred to be more tender, less muscled and cook 20 to 25% faster. If you stuff your bird two things may happen: (i) the bird may be undercooked and you give your guests food poisoning or (ii) in order to cook the stuffing the breast meat gets over cooked and dries out. So make your stuffing separately and add some pan juices at the end for flavouring.

WINE PAIRING - You can serve either white or red with your bird. I recommend a dry Riesling as the white (Angels Gate Riesling Sussreserve 2008, Niagara Peninsula; Ontario, Canada; LCBO #620104; Rating - 88; $13.95) and a Pinot Noir as the red (Inniskillin Varietal Series Pinot Noir 2009, Niagara Peninsula; Ontario, Canada; LCBO #261099; Rating - 88; $14.95 ). if you can't find these, there are also, many other wonderful Ontario wines in both of these categories, that will pair well and are reasonably priced.

In closing I just wanted to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year.

All the best in 2011 ...Greg

Friday, December 10, 2010

Santa’s Bringing some Great Wines to the LCBO This Week

Vintages Release for December 11, 2010

This is by far the best release of the year, as there are over 43 wines with a rating of 90 or higher. Of course some of these are quite expensive, but there are some great value picks here as well. The LCBO has released another 58 wines that are rated at 88 or 89 and this is where I have found some real gems this week. I have picked 25 wines that I think are worth looking at and you can see all of them by clicking on this link:

However, to make the decision making process easier I have listed 5 “Must Buys” and another 8 worth looking at. Enjoy and get out today or early on Saturday, as the stores will be pillaged by mid-afternoon on the 11th.

Champagne is a big hit at this time of year and the Charles Duret Brut Crémant De Bourgogne, Ac, Burgundy, France (LCBO #185694) is great value at $17.95 or the Segura Viudas Brut Reserva Cava from Spain (LCBO #158493) is a steal at $14.55. Both are rated an “88” but buy them now, as the shelves will be empty by December 31st.

Five Must Buys

Baron De Ley Gran Reserva 2001, Doca Rioja
Spain; LCBO #642496; Rating – 92; $29.95

This is an amazing 9 year old wine that is drinkable now, but will cellar for another 10 years. It is balanced, well structured and has excellent finish.

Disznókö Late Harvest Furmint 2008, Tokaji
Hungary; LCBO #185074; Rating – 90; $21.95

Tokaji is an excellent desert wine from Hungary. This is a late-harvest style that is drinkable now to 2020. Very elegant, well balanced and great length. Pair this with crème brulée.

Creekside Estate Laura Red 2007, VQA Niagara Peninsula
Ontario, Canada; LCBO #117960; Rating – 89; $19.95

A wonderful Bordeaux style blend from Niagara that won double gold at the 2010 All Canadian Wine Championships. The vintner suggests pairing this with pulled pork or a hearty soup or stew.

Dr. Hermann Riesling Kabinett 2008, Erdener Treppchen
Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany; LCBO #189647; Rating – 90; $16.95.

A truly wonderful wine at a great price. This must be on your Christmas table if you are serving turkey!

Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Sonoma, Napa, And Mendocino Counties (375ml)
California, USA; LCBO #706077; Rating – 89; $12.95

This is a half bottle, but a reasonable price for a night when you’re all alone with a great steak. Hide the bottle when you’re finished at the bottom of the recycling box and no one will be the wiser!

More Great Buys

Red Wines

Coriole Redstone Shiraz 2007, Mclaren Vale, South Australia
Australia; LCBO #59915; Rating – 90; $17.95

It's lush, rich and dense - very finely tuned with McLaren Vale finesse. Excellent length. David Lawrason from Wine Align says …Grab a case!

Bodegas Franco Espanolas Rioja Bordón Reserva 2004, Doca Rioja
Spain; LCBO #194753; Rating – 90; $18.95

A Gold Medal winner in Decanter Magazine World Wine Awards for 2010. Aged to perfection but cold hold for another 5 to10 years. Would pair nicely with a Beef Tenderloin Roast.

Rocca Delle Macìe Chianti Riserva 2006, Docg
Tuscany, Italy; LCBO #111641; Rating – 89; Price - $15.00

Wonderful wine at a great price. Buy a case and save for those Italian dinner nights.

Château La Chèze 2005, Ac
Bordeaux, France; LCBO #191007; Rating – 89; Rating - $18.95

From a great vintage in 2005 this wine is drinkable now. Complex with excellent finish. Pair it with a salt crusted prime rib roast.

Château De Gourgazaud Réserve 2006, Ac Minervois
Languedoc Roussillon (Midi), France; LCBO #986083; Rating – 88; $17.95

Complex, full bodied at a great price. Pair it with a roast leg of lamb.

White Wines

Jackson Triggs Proprietors' Grand Reserve Chardonnay 2008, VQA Niagara Peninsula
Ontario, Canada; LCBO #593996; Rating – 89; $20.95

A wonderful example of the great chardonnays being produced here at home. Medium bodied and very good length. Serve this with a nice winter risotto or grilled salmon.

Eikendal Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay 2008, Wo Stellenbosch
South Africa; LCBO #984773; Rating – 88; $18.95

Another nice medium bodied wine with excellent length. Buy a bottle and compare it to the Jackson Triggs.

Wither Hills Wairau Valley Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough, South Island
New Zealand; LCBO #919514; Rating – 88; $17.95

Fresh, crisp, clean and zesty, in an archetypal Marlborough sauvignon style. Good value and excellent length. Drink in the next two years while the fruit is still fresh.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Look for the Port - Vintages Nov. 27th Release

As we get closer to Christmas, LCBO/Vintages releases the best of the best. This release features several wines in the $150+ category that are out of reach for most of us, but it's still nice to dream ...or better yet, if you are a hard person to buy presents for, this would be a good addition to the Santa list. Many people ask, are these high priced wines really that good? The answer is yes and no. In most cases they truly are amazing, but because these elite wines are produced in limited quantities, the laws of supply and demand drive up the price. In addition, they will also require proper cellaring for 5 or 10 years before they truly hit their stride. So yes they are amazing, but not always good value. For us "common folk" I have selected a dozen or so wines for under $20 that offer very good value. Finally, if I had to choose only 3 or 4 bottles to buy this week I would definitely get the Port first, then the Ghost Pines Cabernet blend; the Maculan Pinot Grigio and the Chablis.

Red Wines for the Cellar

Del Jalón Altos Las Pizarras 2005, Do Catalunya
194746; Rating – 91; $18.95

A wonderful “value” wine that needs a year or two to be its best.

Quinta Do Côa Tinto 2007, Doc Douro
182295; Rating – 90; $19.95

Another great value that would benefit from two years of cellaring. The wait will be worth it.

Shottesbrooke Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Mclaren Vale, South Australia
198275; Rating – 89; $19.95

Full bodied and good value, but should sit for 2 or 3 years.

Red Wine – under $20

Domaine La Bouscade Old Vine Carignan 2007, Ac
Languedoc Roussillon (Midi), France
78758; Rating -89; $16.95

A great value from the south of France that will put many Bordeaux wines to shame.

Perry Creek El Dorado Syrah 2007
California, USA

Lush and smooth with excellent length. Drinkable now to 2015. Vintages suggests that this would go well with zesty ribs.

Trivento Golden Reserve Syrah 2007, Mendoza
178129; Rating – 89; $19.95

Big and floral with very good length.

Ghost Pines Winemaker's Blend Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa County/Sonoma County
California, USA
135376; Rating – 88; $19.95

This is a must buy! Here is how Vintages describes it “Their technique of blending the best grapes from select sites across Sonoma and Napa has resulted in simply delicious wines that deliver exceptional value. Ghost Pines offers you the enchanting character of Sonoma with the power and precision of Napa, all wrapped up in the one package. With a steak, or with a meaty pasta, this spirited Cabernet is sure to scare up delighted reactions from your guests.”

Domaine Galévan Paroles De Femme Côtes Du Rhône 2007, Ac
Rhone, France
125930; Rating -87; $15.00

Great value from Cotes du Rhone. Mid-weight and a nice everyday quaffing wine.

White Wines

Maculan Pinot Grigio 2009, Doc Breganze
Veneto, Italy
734921; Rating – 88; $13.95

Pinot Grigio is a wonderful summer wine and at this price buy a case and save it for the patio next year or spoil yourself at a house party during the holidays.

Domaine Hervé Azo Chablis 2008, Ac
Burgundy, France
185736; Rating – 88; $18.95

Chablis is Burgundy’s unoaked chardonnay. This particular wine is dry and medium bodied with medium-long finish. Should be nice with Roast Chicken.

Delheim Sur Lie Chardonnay 2009, Wo Simonsberg Stellenbosch
South Africa
956219; Rating – 90; $18.95

A new world style chardonnay with excellent length. Good value!

Santa Rita Medalla Real Chardonnay 2008, Limarí Valley, Gran Reserva
303628; Rating – 89; $17.95

Another good value New World chardonnay. Buy a bottle of this and the Delheim and compare the two.


Quinta Do Noval Tawny Port, Doc Douro
141119; Rating – 90; $16.95

Dig out the dark chocolate and try this wonderful Tawny right away. I’m asking Santa for a bottle of this!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My lucky 13 Picks (plus 1) for the Nov. 13 Vintages Release

Today's release features some big Tuscan wines at typically big $$$, however I did find one for a reasonable price that you should try. I would also try the De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2007 at $29.95 it is a steal. Finally, if you were only to buy one wine this week get the Louis Jadot Beaune 1er Cru 1999, Ac Actually hop in your car right now and get it before it is gone. This is a $50+ bottle of wine normally, so at $26.95 it is a steal. Enjoy and happy shopping.

Must Try’s

De Bortoli Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2007
917252; Rating 95plus; $29.95

If you have never tried desert wine, this is a great one to start with. This will go well with most decadent deserts or try it with seared fois gras with caramelized apples.

Louis Jadot Beaune 1er Cru 1999, Ac
Burgundy, France
641308; Rating 90; $26.95

Hard to believe, but an 11 year old wine for less than half of what it would normally sell for. Stop reading now, get in your car and grab as much as you can before it is gone.

Château De Beaucastel Châteauneuf Du Pape 2008, Ac
Rhone, France
968750; Rating 93; $46.95

Another great selection, this time from France’s Rhone region. Try one bottle for a nice occasion, or if you’re getting a nice Christmas bonus buy a case.

Red Wines

Hecht & Bannier Saint Chinian 2007, Ac
Languedoc Roussillon (Midi), France
184184; Rating 91; $22.95

A complex southern France wine with depth and density. Extremely good value that’s drinkable now or will cellar for another 6 to 8 years

Quinta De Ventozelo Touriga Nacional 2007, Doc Douro
657452; Rating 90; $18.95

John Szabo from Wine Align gives this three stars for value. Full bodied with a very long finish.

Ruffino Modus 2006, Igt Toscana
Tuscany, Italy
912956; Rating 90; $28.95

There are some big Tuscan wines in this release and none are better value than this. A nice blend of Sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Excellent length and drinkable now.

Raimat Abadia Crianza 2007, Do Costers Del Segre
935460; Rating 89; $14.95

The Vintages writers describe this as rich and quaffable. I need not say more. At this price, pick up more than one, or even a case to drink over the next year.

Rignana Chianti Classico 2007, Docg
Tuscany, Italy
187971; Rating 89; $18.95

I’ve been looking for a good Chianti Classico that’s reasonably priced and this certainly fits the bill. Full of flavour, a little edgy with excellent length. Open a bottle and get out your favourite Italian cook book. Drink 2011 to 2014

Château Signac Combe D'enfer Cuvée Côtes Du Rhône Villages Chusclan 2007, Ac
Rhone, France
184226; Rating 89; $18.95

A nice medium bodies Rhone wine. Very good length, but tannins are a little green so let it sit for a year or two. Best 2012 to 2014.

White Wines

Tabali Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2008, Limarí Valley
663005; Rating 90; $18.95

Done in a Burgundy style due to limestone content in the soil that is rare in Chile. Very good length with wide appeal for group situations.

Château Des Charmes Chardonnay Musqué 2008, VQA Niagara On The Lake
Ontario, Canada
640516; Rating 90; $16.95

Chardonnay Musqué is a cousin of chardonnay. This is a nice vibrant wine with great finish.I’m sure you will like this one.

Jackson Triggs Proprietors' Grand Reserve White Meritage 2008, VQA Niagara Peninsula
Ontario, Canada
109371; Rating 89; $18.95

A very nice Canadian wine made in the Bordeaux style.

Veramonte Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2009, Casablanca Valley
602649; Rating 87; $13.95

A nice quaffing wine. Keep it on hand for the white wine drinkers at holiday parties.

Desert Wine

Reif Estate Vidal Icewine 2007, VQA Niagara River, With Gift Tube
Ontario, Canada
582247; Rating 89; $7.95

It’s pretty rate to find good ice wine at this price. Pick some up for the holidays!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Vintages Release for October 30th 2010

No Tricks …just Treats!

Traditionally, some of the best Vintages releases are in late October to early December as wine lovers start stocking up for the holidays. This week's release is one of the best this year with many wonderful wines to choose from. It may be Halloween this weekend, but these are all treats and no tricks.

When I went through the release notes on Thursday evening, there were so many good choices that I actually selected a total of 21 wines. Some are high priced, but amazing wines. Try one of these treats and save for a special night, or they also make a perfect gift …to someone special …or even your favourite wine blogger!

I’ve also selected several wines that will be even better after a few years in your cellar and as always some great value wines for under $20. If you want to see all 21 picks click this link or scroll down below to see my baker’s dozen for the October 30th release.

Cellar Reds

Forman Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Napa Valley
California, USA
143925; Rating – 95; $94.95

It’s not often that you see a wine rated this high, so while the price is high it will be an amazing wine that is drinkable now or can be cellared for up to 20 years.

Bodegas Alejandro Fernandez Tinto Pesquera Reserva 2006, Do Ribera Del Duero
323345; Rating – 92; $41.95

This is a great wine that needs time in the cellar. Drink 2014 to 2016. Excellent to outstanding length.

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2006, VQA Okanagan Valley
British Columbia, Canada
626325; Rating – 90; $45.00

This is a wonderful Bordeaux style wine from the BC interior. Excellent length, full bodied and rich. This wine will do nicely in your cellar for 4 to 8 years.

Cellar Whites

Gerald Favre Vieilles Vignes Pouilly Fuissé 2009, Ac
Burgundy, France
187658; Rating – 91; $27.95

A fine white wine in the burgundy tradition. This is great bang for the buck for a medium-full bodied white. Match with poached salmon or a soft burgundy cheese.

Value Reds

Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, Colchagua Valley
169847; Rating 90; $16.95

A great value for a “Gran Reserva” wine. The wine makers save these wines for their family gathering. Nice with grilled steaks, leg of lamb or game meats. Drink now to 2015.

Nieto Senetiner Don Nicanor Blend 2007, Luján De Cuyo, Mendoza
640938; Rating – 90; $17.95

A lovely new world blend of cabernet, malbec and merlot that still shows young tannins. Cellar for a year or two or try now with a rare steak.

Herencia Remondo La Montesa 2007, Doca Rioja
674572; Rating – 90; $18.95

A very nice Spanish red from one of the country’s new modern winemakers. Smooth, with very good length that will fare well from now to 2014.

La Madonnina Les Valats Cotes Du Rhone Villages Rasteau 2007
Rhone, France
185876; Rating – 89; $18.95

A good value full bodied Rhone at this price. Drink now or age for up to 10 years.

Felicité Pinot Noir 2009, Wo Eilandia, Walker Bay
South Africa
173005; Rating – 88; $14.95

The best value buy of this release. A medium bodied pinot with very good finish. Try with grilled salmon topped with fresh dill.

White Wines

Dr. Pauly Bergweiler Riesling Kabinett 2008, Qmp, Wehlener Sonnenuhr
Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany
189175; Rating -89; $16.95

Excellent length, with a light body. Serve with pork roasted with peaches and dried apricots.

Jean Geiler Gewurztraminer 2009, Ac Alsace
Alsace, France
106864; Rating – 89; $16.95

A gold medal winner from Alsace. Off dry and fruity I would match this wine with spicy Asian fare.

Babich Black Label Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough, South Island
New Zealand
9142; Rating – 89; $17.95

A nice value full bodied Sauvignon Blanc. Try matching with Thai food or save it for a warm summer night on the patio.

Domaine Du Chardonnay Chablis 2008, Ac
Burgundy, France
183574; Rating – 88; $18.95

A traditional unoaked Chablis that is tangy and crisp. A great sipper that will go nice with grilled trout or sole almandine. Good value at this price.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Vintages Bordeaux and More Release - Oct. 16, 2010

Today’s Vintages release features both red and white Bordeaux wines. The best Bordeaux Reds, while truly amazing, are clearly out of the price range of most people and typically require several years of cellaring before they come of age. With the help of I’ve picked a dirty dozen today; a few red and white from Bordeaux that are afforadable and drinkable, but don’t be mistaken, there are no hidden Chateau Margaux here. I have also classified picks into over $20 and under $20. Enjoy and let me know what you think.

Bordeaux Reds

The need for a classification of the best Bordeaux wines arose for the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris. The result was the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, a list of the top ranked wines, named the Grand Crus Classés (Great Classified Growths). With several thousand different Chateaux producing their own wines in Bordeaux, to be classified was to carry a mark of high prestige.

Within the Grand Cru Classé list wines were further ranked and placed in one of five divisions. The best of the best wines were assigned the highest rank of Premier Cru; only four wines, Château Latour, Château Lafite Rothschild, Château Margaux and Château Haut-Brion were deemed worthy. Of all the 61 great classified wines, all but one came from the Médoc region. The exception was the premier cru Château Haut-Brion, produced in Graves.

The 1855 list remained unchanged for over a hundred years until finally Mouton Rothschild was promoted to Premier Cru status in 1973, after decades of relentless lobbying by its powerful owner, Baron Philippe de Rothschild. Of lesser importance, in 1988 the premier cru Château Haut-Brion was changed in appellation from Graves to Pessac-Leognan to represent apparent changes in soil structure caused by the urbanization of areas surrounding Bordeaux.

Value Reds

Château Grand Maison Cuvée Spéciale 2006, Ac Côtes De Bourg
Bordeaux, France
#194217; $16.95 Rating – 86

Quinta Da Falorca Colheita Seleccionada 2005, Doc Dão
#131854; $12.95 Rating – 86

Ravoire & Fils Le Prieure Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2007, Ac
Rhone, France
#175687; $14.95 Rating – 88

Château Fongaban 2006, Ac Côtes De Castillon
Bordeaux, France
#192401; $16.95 Rating – 89

Cat Amongst The Pigeons Nine Lives Shiraz 2007, Barossa Valley, South Australia
#93138; $17.95 Rating – 91

Premium Reds

Domaine Bouchard Père & Fils Beaune Du Château 2007, Ac, 1er Cru
Burgundy, France
#901199; $39.95 Rating – 91

Château Reverdi 2006, Ac Listrac Médoc
Bordeaux, France
#194209; $25.95 Rating – 90

Tokara Director's Reserve Red 2006, Wo Stellenbosch
South Africa
#183962; $26.95 Rating – 90

White Wines

La Crema Chardonnay 2008, Sonoma Coast
California, USA
#728352 $16.95 Rating – 89

Millton Riverpoint Vineyard Chardonnay 2008, Gisborne, North Island, Bio Dynamically Grown Grapes
New Zealand
#92486; $17.95 Rating – 90

Domaine Moillard Bourgogne Hautes Côtes De Nuits 2009, Ac
Burgundy, France
#642033; $ 17.95 Rating – 89

Louis Bouillot Perle Rare Brut Crémant De Bourgogne 2006, Ac
Burgundy, France
#178137; $19.95 Rating – 89

This looks like it will be a wonderful Sparkling wine (champagne style)

Friday, October 1, 2010

October 2nd Vintages/LCBO Wine Release

Autumn is a favourite time of year for me, for a number of reasons; the beautiful fall colours, amazing harvest foods, fall markets, late season golf, the start of hockey and football season, basball's World Series and most importantly for wine lovers ...the fall harvest and releases from previous years. From now to the Christmas season we will see some wonderful wines and this week is a good indicator. I've highlighted two wonderful cabs at $24.95 as well as 4 reds for under $20. There are also 3 nice whites and a delightful desert wine from Hungary.

Evans & Tate The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, Margaret River
Australia #60186; $25.95 Rating – 90
This is an excellent wine for the price, that is drinkable now. I tried it with dinner tonight and it was excellent. Decant for 30 minutes; great with grilled steak or lamb.

Stella Bella Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2007, Margaret River,
Australia #47639 $24.95 Rating 91
Great wine at this price. Medium to fill bodied. Drinkable now but could age for another 15 years or more.

Concha Y Toro Marques De casa Concha Merlot 2007, Peumo, Rapel Valley
Chile #939827; $19.95 Rating – 91
David Lawrason describes it as cabernet like in flavour but merlot like on the palate. Above average complexity and concentration for the price. Excellent length. Drinkable now through 2019.

Xanadu Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Margaret River
Australia #59956; $19.95 Rating 90
Great value, but needs some time to mellow out, best from 2012 to 2018

D’angelo Aglianico Del Vulture 2006, Doc; Basilicata
Italy # 971689; $18.95 Rating – 89
This is a deep rich full bodied wine with good to very good length. Drink now, but will be better in 2 to 3 years

Banfi Centine 2007, lgt Toscan, Tuscany 375ml (half bottle)
Italy #980649 $8.95 Rating – 88
A wonderful Tuscan red for a Tuesday night meal of pasta in red sauce or a beef roast.

Peter Lehmann Riesling 2008, Eden Valley
Australia #186361; $14.95 Rating – 89
This is a full flavoured Aussie Riesling with a dry finish and very good length. Drink now to 2016

Francis Coppola Diamond Collection Gold Label Chardonnay 2008, Monterey County
USA #708305; $19.95 Rating – 89
A wonderful California Chardonnay at this price. Try with grilled salmon or roast chicken. Very good length.

Roux Pere & Fils Macon Villages Blanc 2009, Ac
Burgundy, France #183350; $13.95 Rating – 87
Nice length and finish. A great value that will go perfect with roast pork.

Puklus Cellar Szamorodni Tokaji 2002; Late Harvest
Hungary #179374; $ 18.95 Rating - 89
A wonderful sweet desert wine, with great value. If you like late harvest Riesling or ice wine give this a try.

Fall Cooking Classes at The Chef Upstairs

Oct. 5th & Nov. 23rd; Price - $75 plus HST; 6:30 - 9:00 pm
Book Now: 416-544-9221

Chef Greg Heller will introduce you to some delightful fall dishes and recipes:

Classic Roast Chicken - this is a very simple recipe that goes from counter to table in about 60 minutes. Why buy a sodium induced grocery store product?

Turkey roasting tricks and hints; You will never make a tasteless dry turkey again.

Polish Beet Borsch Soup from my mother's cook book. This is one of my favourite soups that is so good on a cool fall day.

Brussel sprouts that make you come back for seconds and thirds. I have two great recipes that will be a great addition to your Thanksgiving dinner.

Oct. 12th & Nov. 3rd; Price - $75 plus HST; 6:30 - 9:00 pm
Book Now: 416-544-9221

In this cooking class you will learn to make that perfect pie crust that you’ve always dreamed about. We will teach you how to make both a butter crust and a traditional shortening crust and we will make three different pies with these crusts.

Butter Crust …Apple Streusel Pie

Shortening Crust …Sugar and Spice Pumpkin Pie with brandied ginger cream; Sweet potato pie

Oct. 19th; Nov. 10th; Nov. 30th; Price - $75 plus HST; 6:30 - 9:00 pm;
Book Now:

Calling on over 25 years of experience Chef Greg will teach you the tips and tricks you need to make 3 tasty, healthy and quick dinners. Why buy take-out or prepared foods when you can make better meals yourself?

Meal 1: Fresh greens with a simple vinaigrette; Acorn squash with rosemary and brown sugar and grilled chicken breasts with a mustard pan sauce.

Meal 2: Quick and healthy Caesar salad; angel hair pasta with fresh tomatoes and grilled chicken or sweet Italian sausage. Garlic toast.

Meal 3: Pear, spinach and arugula salad with mango poppy seed dressing; warm citrus couscous; grilled salmon with citrus and dill

Oct. 25th & Nov. 16th; Price $75 plus HST; 6:30 - 9:00 pm
Book Now: 416-544-9221

Now you can woo your friends and family with amazing appetizers that they will love and then beg you for the recipes.

Prosciutto wrapped shrimp stuffed with herbed goat cheese and a maple rum glaze. I made this 4 times this summer and it was a home run each time.

Torched and sautéed shrimp. You live in an apartment and don't have a bbq or it's winter and your bbq is buried under snow. With this recipe your guests will swear that you've got a hidden bbq. A crowd favourite at The Chef Upstairs.

Simple Grilled Quail. You will learn how to debone these beautiful little birds, season and sautee them. Your guests will fight over the last one left on the plate!

Spiced Olive and Feta Spread on a Fresh Baguette. This is a simple dish, but easy to prepare ahead of time and delicious to boot! A great baguette is very improtant and we will talk about bread as well.

Goat Cheese in Grape Leaves. Another simple and tasty treat that will get your evening party off on the right foot.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My "No Trash" Book List

Updated - December 10, 2010

Two years ago I decided that I would no longer read paperback trash, but would take the time to explore the best books of the day. A very good friend has been a member of a book club for over 25 years and she was very generous in sharing their "top 100". I enjoy searching through the book reviews in the Globe and NY Times and also went out and obtained my first library card since the 70's. Below I have listed the books that I have read and those that I will read in the near future. They are all wonderful in their own right and many were winners or the runner up of the Governor General's award, the Canadian Giller Prize, the Pulitzer Prize and the Man Booker Prize. Enjoy your reading and send me your thoughts on any of these books that you have read.

History of Love
Kraus, Nicole
A truly great love story. My #1 favourite

In the Skin of a Lion
Ondaatje, Michael
Cdn. Author. Exceptional description of Toronto’s working class in the early 1900’s

The English Patient
Ondaatje, Michael
Cdn Author. An amazing story teller

Elizabeth and After
Cohen, Matt
Cohen’s best novel that took 10 years to write.

Three Day Road
Boyden, Joseph
Cdn. author’s first novel. Amazing story of two young natives from Moose Factory who enlist in the army for WWI

A Complicated Kindness
Toews, Miriam
Cdn. Author, Governor General Award and Giller Prize Short list. A wonderful story of human emotions and the enslavement of a Mennonite community in Manitoba.

Typing: A Life in 26 Keys
Cohen, Matt
Cohen’s autobiography written before his death in 2001. Reads like a great novel.

The Book of Negroes
Hill, Lawrence
Cdn author. Winner of CBC’s Canada Reads and Giller Short List. An excellent story written around historical facts.

Through Black Spruce
Boyden, Joseph
Cdn. author’s second novel won the 2008 Giller prize. Characters are 2 generations after Three Day Road. Very insightful, descriptive.

DeNiro’s Game
Hage, Rawi
First novel for Lebanese Cdn author. 2006 short list for Giller prize and GG award. He writes of the dark side of worn torn Lebanon and the life of a young teen aged boy. Gripping.

The Road
McCarthy, Cormac
2007 Pulitzer prize winning novel. Dark and all encompassing. McCarthy at his best.

Lives of the Saints
Ricci, Nino
Cdn. author’s first novel and winner of GG award. Exceptional insight and description of a poor Italian village, post WW1

The Gathering
Enright, Anne
2007 Man Booker Prize winner. The narrator (Veronica) says out loud what many of us only think, but would never say.

Hage, Rawi
Second novel for Lebanese Cdn author. 2008 short list for Giller prize and GG award. The dark side of a middle eastern immigrant struggling in Montreal.

The Origin of Species
Ricci, Nino
Cdn Author. GG award winner. A lost man and his travels, emotions and lost loves.

Saramago, Jose
Translated from Spanish. Science fiction, different but well written. Made into a major motion picture

A Thousand Splendid Suns
Hosseini, Khaled
A follow-up to his first novel “The kite Runner”. An enthralling story of the tumultuous lives of two Afghan women.

The White Tiger
Adiga, Aravind
His debut novel and winner of the 2008 Man Booker prize. Shows the contrast between India's rise as a modern global economy and the working class people who live in crushing rural poverty.

The Kite Runner
Hosseini, Khaled
A best selling first novel and movie that opens eyes to life in Afghanistan through the Russian invasion and emergence of the Taliban..

Jeffrey Eugenides
The 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner. A wonderful story of a young woman who discovers as a teen that she is a hermaphrodite. The story begins with her Greek grandparents and their journey from Asia Minor to Detroit Michigan.

Bel Canto
Patchet, Ann
A 2001 prize winning novel Based on the Lima Crisis, this book is about a group of terrorists who hold high executives and people of high political standing hostage. It explores how the terrorists and hostages cope with living in a house together for several months. Many of the characters form unbreakable bonds of friendship, while some fall in love.

The Year of the Flood
Margaret Atwood
2009 Giller Shortlisted by a leading Cdn author. Atwood at her imaginary best, but not my cup of tea!

Mistress of Nothing
Pullinger, Kate
Cdn author and 2009 Governor General award winner. The romantic story of a maid in 19th century Britain and her travels to Egypt with her employer.

Olive Kitteridge
Elizabeth Strout
2009 Pulitzer prize winner.
A very interesting compilation of stories centered around the central character, Olive Kitteridge.

The Inheritance of Loss
Kiran Desai
2006 Man Booker prize winner.
Set in the shadows of the Himalayas, a young girl is orphaned and is sent to live with her aging Grandfather. We see the comparisons of rich and poor in northern India that leads to rebellion. It was an enjoyable read and at the same time an inspiration for literary students. The author highlights so many issues in a brief manner; such as how the beauty of nature gives an immensely powerful feeling with intensity.

Late Nights on Air
Elizabeth Hay
Cdn Author. Winner 2007 Giller Award.
Great Canadian literature that paints a realistic picture of life in the Canadian territories, the foibles of CBC Radio and the dangers of a trans-arctic gas pipeline.

Marilynne Robinson
2004 Pulitzer prize Winner. Started but have not finished.

Books I want to Read

McEwen, Ian
McEwen won the Booker for a previous novel, Amsterdam

The Shipping News
Proulx, Annie
Pulitzer prize winner

All the Pretty Horses
McCarthy, Cormac
Winner of a national Book Award for Fiction

Life of Pi
Martel, Yann
Cdn author and winner of 2002 Man Booker Prize

Moore, Christopher
Recommended by a friend

The Alchemist
Coelho, Paulo
Translated from Portuguese. 65 million copies sold. A modern classic

A Gate at the Stairs
Lorrie Moore
2009. Stunning review in the NY Times. A must read.

Land of Marvels
Barry Unsworth
2009. Well reviewed.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Diaz, Junot
2008 Pulitzer prize Winner

The Sentimentalists
Skibsrud, Johanna

2010 Giller Prize Winner

Harding, Paul
2010 Pulitzer prize Winner

The Finkler Question
Jacobson, Howard
2010 Man Booker Prize Winner

Friday, September 17, 2010

LCBO Vintages Release for September 18, 2010

This Release has some great Italian and Portuguese selections. I've also highlighted an LBV Port for $18.95 if you are a Port lover this is a must try ...especially for the price at $18.95.

For each release, I am trying to highlight a few wines that apply to those of you that have a temperature controlled wine cellar. While, there are many great wines that we can buy and drink right away, you will only get to experience those truly amazing wines if you have patience and proper storage facilities to let them age to perfection. I have personally built two wine cellars in previous homes and in both cases they would hold 1,000 bottles, stored the wine at a perfect cellar temp of 56F to 58F and were built for under $2,500. For those of you that don't have the space or are on a tighter budget, there are many stand alone refrigeration units available for between $500 and $2,000. In particular I really like the 200 bottle unit that Rosehill Wine Cellars retails for under $995.

Montepeloso Eneo 2006, lgt ToscanaTuscany, Italy#114660 Rating - 93 $44.95 This is a classic wine that needs to age for at least 6 years. Best after 2016.

Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Carmenere 2007, Rapel ValleyChile#169862; Rating - 90; $19.95 Excellent length and awesome value. Set aside for 2 years. At its best from 2012 to 2020

San Fabiano Calcinaia Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, lgt Toscana
Tuscany, Italy
#181420; Rating - 91 $22.95
Full bodied, with a long beautiful finish. Best after 2011 to 2016

La Lecciaia Brunello Di Montalcino 2004, Docg; 375ml
Tuscany, Italy
#180083 Rating - 91; $24.95
Please note this is a half bottle. Save it for a night when your better half is out! Drink now through 2012

Fattoria Di Basciano Il Corto 2007, lgt Rosso dei Colli Della Toscana Centrale
Tuscany, Italy
#134775; Rating - 91; $27.95
A sangiovese-cabernet blend. Full bodied, intense and flavourful in a Super-Tuscan style. Drink now or hold for five years.

Mitolo Jester Shiraz 2007, McLaren Vale
South Australia. 375ml (1/2 bottle)
#180430 Rating - 90; $11.95
Full bodied with a great finish. Drink now, but good for 4 to 6 years.

Bon Cap Organic winery The Ruins Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Wo Robertson
South Africa
#18739; Rating 90; $14.95
An excellent choice for a fall dinner of pot roast or braised meats. David Lawrason says to try it with Liver and Onions (yum)

Paringa Shiraz 2008, Riverland, South AustraliaAustralia
#180422; Rating -89; $14.95
David Lawrason describes it as follows: "It's full dense, sweet, rich and quite opulent ...a great buy at $15 ...excellent length."

Benmarco Malbec 2008
#657601; Rating - 90; $17.95
Medium bodied with a long finish. Drink for up to 5 years.

Vineland Estates St. Urban Riesling 2008, VQA Niagara Escarpment
Ontario Canada
#38117; Rating - 90; $19.95
A beautiful wine that is off-dry, light, vibrant and with great finish. Try it with some Asian fare.

Ferreira LBV (Late Bottled Vintage Port) 2000, Doc Douro, Bottled 2004Portugal#675751; Rating - 90; $18.95LBV's are typically ready 4 to 6 years after bottling. This port is ready now but you could wait another year. Get some nice blue cheese and enjoy this weekend!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Selections from LCBO/Vintages Release – August 7, 2010

Dear Wine lover …there are some extremely nice wines available on this release. I have highlighted three top rated wines that are cellar worthy, 3 value reds under $20 and 4 value whites under $20. As always, I would love to receive any comments, suggestions, etc. Enjoy this great summer weather ....Greg

My selections for this Saturday’s release (Aug. 7th) are available three ways.
1. If you are the email list you can view on your BlackBerry or iPhone by scrolling down. If you are not on the email list, you can be added by sending me a note to:
2. Here on my Blog at or
3. View via my postings on where you can see the inventory available at your favourite LCBO. Click here

Amazing High Rating and/or Cellar Worthy Wines
Farina La Pezze Amarone 2006, DOC Veneto Italy
$31.95; #171587 Rating – 92
A great value in Amarone. Pair with classic autumn fare, grilled meats and rich stews. Drink now but will age well for another 3 to 5 years.

Shafer One Point Five Cabernet Sauvignon 2006, Stags Leap, Napa Valley California
$84.95 #45476 Rating – 92
An amazing full, rich cab with flavours that fills the palate and stay there forever. Expensive but worth it for a very special occasion. Best cellared for another year to beyond 2017

Tandem Auction Block Pinot Noir, 2007 Sonoma coast California USA
$29.95 #58776 Rating – 91
A new world style Pinot. At $29.95 many would not say this is a value wine, but it is, compared to other wines of the same style that typically sell for more than twice the price. Drink now and enjoy

Value Red Wines
Shingleback Shiraz 2007, McLaren Vale, South Australia
$23.95 #57844 Rating – 90
David Lawrason describes this wine as “quite elegant …medium full bodied, firm and dry with very good length. Drink now or cellar for up to 5 years.”

Concho Y Toro Trio; Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Cabernet Franc 2008; Maipo Valley Chile
$14.95 #433912 Rating – 89
A nice medium bodied value wine that is drinkable now. Throw some red meat on the BBQ and enjoy.

Bodegas Patrocinio Limited Edition Senorio De Unuela Reserva 2001, Doca Rioja, Spain
$16.95 #172536 Rating – 89
An excellent opportunity to purchase a fully mature light to mid-weight traditional Rioja with very good to excellent finish. Enjoy with rosemary lamb.

Value White Wines
Chateau St. jean Chardonnay 2008, Sonoma County California USA
$19.95 #421644 Rating – 90
A classic Sonoma style chardonnay with judicious oak. Very good finish and value. Try with classic roasted chicken or grilled salmon.

Loan Semillon 2006, Barossa Valley, South Australia
$16.95 #108092 Rating – 89
A fuller flavoured style of Semillon that is medium bodies. Pairs well with grilled chicken or a variety of fish dishes.

Pala Crabilis I Fiori Vermentino Di Sardegna, Doc Sardinia Italy
$13.95 #52058 Rating – 88
Try something different, with little risk. A refreshing crisp white that’s a terrific value. Try with roast pork.

Wild Rock The Infamous Goose Sauvignon Blanc 2008, Marlborough, South island New Zealand
$15.95 #164012 Rating - 86
A fresh, crisp and dry white wine that is a great everyday sipper. Chill well, then pour a glass and sit on the dock watching the sun set.

Friday, July 23, 2010

8 Great Wines at the LCBO for July 24th

Hi Everyone …as we move into the heart of summer the LCBO has some great wines that they are releasing tonight/tomorrow. I’ve picked 3 reds; 4 whites and 1 desert wine that are drinkable now and they are all priced under $20. To see my picks from Wine Align click on the link below. If you are looking at this on your blackberry or smart phone scroll down to see the picks. Try them and enjoy your weekend …Greg

Thorn Clarke Shotfire Quartage 2007, Barossa South Australia; $19.95 #24091 Rating – 90
A nice 4 wine blend (cab, merlot, petit verdot and Malbec)

Domaine Les Yeuses Les Epices Syrah 2007, Vins De Pays D’oc; Languedoc Roussillon (Midi), France; $12.95 #177584) Rating – 89
You can’t go wrong with the price. Wine Align says try it with ribs or chili.

Château De Pena 2006, Ac Côtes Du Roussillon Villages; Languedoc Roussillon (Midi), France; $13.95 #178392 Rating – 88
A full bodied Red and again, you can’t go wrong at this price. Can cellar for 5 or 6 years.

Chateau Saint Roch Vieilles Vignes Grenache Blanc/Marsanne 2009, Languedoc Roussillon (Midi), France; $13.95; #175232; Rating – 88
A nice medium bodied summer pleaser. Wine Align says try with grilled calamari

Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay 2007, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario; $16.95 #681247 Rating – 88
A great Burgundy style white from Niagara’s bench region. If you haven’t tried wines from this area, here is one to start with. Roast chicken or grilled salmon match up well.

Goats Do Roam White 2009, Western Cape South Africa; $12.95 #943167 Rating – 87
A medium bodied white blend. If it’s anything like their red blend this is one to buy a case of. Serve to your thirsty friends.

Highfield Estate Paua Sauvignon Blanc 2009, Marlborough New Zealand; $14.95 #164020 Rating – 88
A very good wine with some complexity and a great value.

Gonzalez Byass Oloroso Dulce Solera 1847; Spain; $15.95 #972109; Rating – 93
Try this with some chocolate after dinner, you won’t be disappointed.

Greg Heller
The Chef Upstairs
516 Mount Pleasant Road, 2nd Floor
Toronto ON
M 416-347-1545

Friday at Kid's Camp

Chef Amy has a great day planned for her class today ...etitled: Friday Challenge

Mexican Breakfast beans

Jr Iron Chef competition - secret ingredient pizza dough

Grocery shopping - purchase ingredients for a sweet or savoury pizza as well as for a side based on what was learned throughout the week.

Blind tasting - kids guess each other's ingredient

Afternoon picnic with homemade lemonade and snacks

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Summer Kid's Camp at The Chef Upstairs

Who would believe that you could have so much fun at a cooking camp? Well the kids at our summer cooking camp are having a blast. Yesterday Chef Amy Symington had them designing a 4 course menu for a dinner party. The ideas they came up with were amazing!
Every day Chef Amy takes the kids grocery shopping for the day's ingredients. Yesterday they were at Sobey's on Mount Pleasant and the Store Manager took time to talk with the children and threw in a free bag of cherries ...what a treat!

Today’s theme is Delicious Dairy and Alternative Day. Here is the schedule for the day:

Breakfast: Eggs a la Chef (Eggs Benedict with portobello mushrooms and asparagus) with watermelon juice

Amy will talk about the top four allergens and their substitutes, as well as how to read product labels

Grocery shopping!

Lunch: Gourmet grill cheese with an easy lime aioli and a no milk milkshake

Snack: Apple and Brie tarts

Afternoon activities: Food charades and chef hat decorating

If you think that your child would be interested in one of our programs at The Chef Upstairs give us a call at 416-544-9221 or visit us at

Friday, May 14, 2010

LCBO/Vintages Release for May 15, 2010

I read through the wine reviews at and made some selections that I thought my readers might like to try. This weekend's release offers up some nice value wines for under $20 that will go great with BBQ fare on the long weekend. If you only wanted to pick one red and one white from this release the Rodney Strong Chardonnay is rated at 91 by Wine Align and sells for $19.95 For Reds, try the Spanish Mas Igneus Barranc Dels Closos 2006, it is also priced at $19.95 with a 91 rating. Give them a try and let me know what you think. Have a great weekend ...Greg

Kendall Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay 2008, California
California, USA
What’s not to like for a wine at this price. Try it with grilled chicken or pork tenderloin.
703710 $11.95 (89)

Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2007, Sonoma County
California, USA
A great price for such a sophisticated wine and it is drinkable now.
275552 $19.95 (91)

Château D'aqueria Rosé Tavel 2009, Ac
Rhone, France
Try this with grilled vegetables drizzled with balsamic vinegar.
319368 $18.95 (89)

Finca Flichman Expresiones Reserve Shiraz/Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Mendoza, Oak Aged
A nice full bodied red at a great price. Try it with your favourite grilled red meat
17111 $15.95 (89)

Château Hauchat 2006, Ac Fronsac
Bordeaux, France
From a lesser known Chateau, but how often do you see a Bordeaux for this price. Drink now or can cellar for 2 or 3 years.
123489 $14.95 (88)

Cono Sur Visión Pinot Noir 2008, Colchagua Valley
Pinot at this price is rare. Looks like a great find from our friends in Chile. Pair with traditional richly flavoured Burgundian fare.
689992 $15.95 (88)

Mas Igneus Barranc Dels Closos 2006, Vinyes De Coster, Doca Priorat
Great full bodied wine to try for the price. Best to wait a year, but if cellared for 2 or 3 more years it will be even better.
166660 $19.95 (91)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Six Wines to Try - Vintages Release – May 1, 2010

Greg's Unique Picks

This week I have picked 6 unique wines that have differed from my past selections. The Craggy Range compares with wines at 3 or 4 times the price and is a steal at $29.95. I have picked another Red Blend from the same area and it is great value at $16.95. Try a bottle and compare to the Craggy Range.
My next selection is a Rosé and I’m asking you to step out of your comfort zone and try it. Save it for a nice warm evening, chill it and enjoy it on your deck.
I also picked a nice Spanish Rioja from 2001. It’s been nicely aged and is drinkable now, but could sit for another 2 to 4 years. Save it to serve with a nice leg of lamb on the bbq.
My white pick is a German Kabinett Riesling. Many people say they don’t like this style of wine because it is to sweet, but if you pair it with the right food I swear you will be drinking it like water. Try it with Chinese, Thai or Asian fusion foods.
My final pick is a little pricey, but if you love great Port this will be one for the ages. I have a dozen bottles that I bought in the 80’s and 90’s and I’m just starting to share them with my “best” friends now.
I hope you enjoy these picks and please let me know what you bought and what you liked or disliked!

Enjoy your weekend,

Greg Heller
Twitter: @TheChefUpstairs
Facebook: ChefUpstairs

Craggy Range Gimblett Gravels Vineyard Te Kahu 2007,
Hawkes Bay, North Island, Single Vineyard
New Zealand
Vintages #163584; Wine Align Rating - 91; $29.95
This is an amazing Bordeaux style blend that I tasted last month. Great bang for the buck and drinkable now, but if you’re smart, get a case and cellar for a few years.

Wild Rock Gravel Pit Red 2007,
Hawkes Bay, North Island, Gimblett Gravels
New Zealand
Vintages #163600; Wine Align Rating – 88; $16.95
This is a value cousin to the Craggy Range Te Kahue above. Try a bottle of this and compare.
Wine Align says “ it is a boldly fruity red with deep colour. An excellent quaffer!

Château Cahuzac Tradition Rosé 2009,
Ac Fronton
Southwest, France
Vintages #117317; Wine Align Rating - 89; $13.95
This is not the Baby Duck Rose that your Grandmother would drink. If you have never had a great Rose, here is one to start with. The price is right and you will never look back.

Burgo Viejo Reserva 2001,
Doca Rioja Spain
Vintages #168823; Wine Align Rating - 89; $19.95
A great Spanish Red at a good price. Drink now or age for another 2 to 4+ years. Medium body, great with roast leg of lamb or roast beef.

Geil Riesling Kabinett 2008,
Qmp, Bechtheimer Rosengarten
Riesling, Germany
Vintages #994764; Wine align Rating – 89; $15.95
If you have never tried the great German Kabinett Rieslings here is one to try. Many people find these wines sweet …they are not, but they are very fruity. Try this with some great Asian cuisine and I’m convinced you will become a fan.

Warre's Vintage Port 2007
Douro Portugal
Vintages #140251; Wine Align Rating 94; $79.00
Vintage ports are only released in years which are truly remarkable and it looks like 2007 is one of those years. You could drink this now, but best to leave it a few more years. They will easily cellar for 20+ years. Go out on a limb and buy now for a special occasion.
Wine Align says: “I love the nose on this, with blackberry, black licorice, and dark chocolate. Full bodied, medium sweet and very, very dense. What seductive mouth feel, with polished, round tannins that caress the palate. This may be better than the fantastic 1994. Score: 95-98. (James Suckling,, Web Only, 2009)”

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Great buys still available at the LCBO

Vintages – Recent Releases (March 20th; April 3rd)

Here are some great Reds that are still available in the Vintages section of the LCBO. In most cases these are wines that you can drink now, but if you do have a proper cellar I have also listed how long you may keep them. With each selection I have given a brief description of the wine, when it is drinkable, the rating, price and LCBO code number. Also, if you would like to read more about the wine (critic notes, food pairing, etc.), it is quite simple, just follow these steps:

1. Go to

2. Set up a free account by clicking “sign up” in the top right corner

3. Enter your email address, enter a username; enter a simple password that you will remember and your postal code (to identify the LCBO nearest you.

4. Click the “Create my Account” button at the bottom and you are done.

5. To search one of the wines below, look for the “search” window in the top right corner. For the Gallo Barelli Creek; type in the LCBO code (555615) and click "Go"

6. You will now see a brief overview of the wine. Click on the wine name and you can review all the details and comments on the wine.

7. If you would like to see all of the the bi-weekly reviews from Wine Align, you can subscribe for just $40/year. It’s certainly worth the price. Enjoy!

My Red Wine Picks
Gallo Barelli Creek; Cab. Sauvignon 2006, Alexander Valley, Sonoma County
Drink now to 2020 or longer; Rating (91) Price $34.95; LCBO #555615

Bodegas Lan Reserva 2004, Doca Rioja; Spain
Drink now to 2012; Rating (90); $19.95; #42929

Château Rouquette Sur Mer Cuvée Amarante 2007, Ac Côteaux Du Languedoc La Clape (Midi) France
A nice syrah, drink now or cellar for a few years; Best Buy from Mar 20/10 release; Rating (91); $17.95 #156273

Guyot Le Millepertuis Crozes Hermitage 2007, Ac; Rhone, France
Medium bodied, drink now. Rating (88); $22.95; #73890

Viña Zaco Tempranillo 2006, Doca Rioja; Spain
Drink now through 2012; Rating (89); $14.95; #146209

Domaine De La Croisette Côtes Du Rhône 2007, Ac; Rhone, France
Drink now; medium bodied young syrah; Rating (88)$13.95; #155465;

Los 800 2005, Doca Priorat; Spain
Let it sit for 1 year, best 2011 to 2020; Rating (90); $19.95; #75150

Seifried Estate Pinot Noir 2008, Nelson, South Island; New Zealand
Light bodied, sip or serve with mild fish, or herbed chicken or pork; Good value Pinot; Rating (88); $19.95; #707778

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cooking Classes in Sicily

The Chef Upstairs has teamed up with Contessa Vacations for an amazing 1 week vacation at an all inclusive 5 Star Villa in Sicily. Thanks to the strong Canadian dollar there are four different weeks in May and June that are available for Only €999 (about $1350 CDN). These trips are limited to 8 guests and it will be an experience that you will never forget, especially the Daily afternoon cooking classes.

Contessa Vacation guests stay at the beautiful and elegant Grotta Di Ferro. With spacious air-conditioned rooms, Satellite television and in room fridges, swimming pool and terraces, La Grotta is the perfect vacation spot to relax and get to know fellow guests.
Can you picture yourself in this beautiful villa, discovering the cuisine and culture of Sicily?

For more information or to book your trip, please click on this link

…Act quick and don’t forget to mention that you heard about this from “The Chef Upstairs”

Greg Heller
The Chef Upstairs
516 Mount Pleasant Road, 2nd Floor
Toronto ON
M 416-347-1545

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Here are Natalie MacLean's top picks for today’s Vintages release in the LCBO (March 20, 2010) Lots of tasty reds and white for spring (yes, it is coming!) and Easter in this release.

From Natalie,

If you’re using either my new iPhone app or mobile section of my site for other smartphones to shop for wine this weekend, you can start with a dish you want to cook in the Pairings section . Let’s say it’s roast chicken, then when you get to the results page of generic wine types , click on the one you want, say Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, and you’ll get the most recently reviewed wines from today that match the dish and are in stores now.

Top Picks for March 20

Best Value White Wine

2008 Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Riesling, Q.B.A., Mosel, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany: VC: Another fabulous Mosel Riesling with aromas of apple blossom, honey, citrus, peach and slate. A medium-dry, medium-bodied white with balancing mouth-watering acidity and a complex, lengthy finish. A trusty companion for a vast array of foods. Consider also moderately spiced Thai or Chinese dishes as interesting counterpoints. My note: Off-dry with a succulent ripe fruit sweetness that will go divinely with dishes that have an element of sweet or heat. Light-bodied. Pair with: oven-roasted turkey, apricot-braised pork, stuffed peppers, cabbage rolls, honey-garlic chicken spiced Thai dishes, Chinese dishes. 596601 9.50% MD 750 mL $13.95 Score: 88/100.

Favourite White Wine (

2007 Le Clos Jordanne Chardonnay Claystone Terrace, V.Q.A., Niagara Peninsula, Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario, Canada: VC: A very expressive Chardonnay from the exceptional 2007 vintage. The aromas of toast, tropical fruit, floral, peach, and nettles all play off each other to perfection. It’s dry, full bodied, with terrific balance and structure. A real charmer with a long finish. Consider cellaring this age-worthy beauty 3-5+ years, or, if you wish to enjoy it now, decant it (yes, decant a white wine to bring the fruit forward). My note: Is it possible to have a love affair with a wine? This would be mine. I don’t even drink Chardonnays much but this one drops me to my knees. Hazelnut, green apple, white perfect peach. Full-bodied with a long finish. Amen. Pair with: roast pork. 56929 14.00% XD 750 mL $40.00 Score: 94/100.

Best Value Red Wine Tied

2008 d'Arenberg Shiraz The Stump Jump, Mclaren Vale, South Australia, Australia: Big attack wine with lots of mouth-watering acidity that needs food. Black plums and berries. 158238 14.50% D 750 mL $14.95 Score: 87/100.

Best Value Red Wine Tied

2008 Feudi Di San Marzano Primitivo, I.G.T., Puglia, Italy: VC: One of Italian wine’s creative forces is Valentino Sciotti. With state-of-the-art equipment, quality grapes, and a talented consulting winemaker, he manages to produce modern wines with outstanding varietal character, such as this fruit forward, beautifully balanced, food-friendly Primitivo. My note: Juicy, lip-smacking delicious! Bursting with purple plums and fleshy berries. Supple and full-bodied. Is there any better wine for barbecue or pepperoni pizza? I think not. Pair with: duck or pork in a plum sauce, barbecue, pepperoni pizza. 120915 13.50% XD 750 mL $12.95 Score: 88/100.

Favourite Red Wine

2006 Tenuta Di Castelgiocondo Lamaione Sangiovese Marchesi De' Frescobaldi, I.G.T., Tuscany, Italy: Magnificent, heart-stopping wine: the kind that if you bring it to dinner, you gain 20 social standing points as everyone murmurs, “Who brought this wine?” while you bask in silent glorious modesty. Black fruit, smoke, forest-hidden violets, and the element of elusive happiness. 978411 15.00% XD 750 mL $63.95 Score: 96/100.

Best Value Rosé

2009 Mas Des Bressades Rosé Cuvée Tradition, A.C., Costières De Nîmes, Rhône, France: VC: An attractive, bright pink-red colour. Pretty aromas of wild strawberry, ripe redcurrant, rose petals, and a sweet menthol note. Dry and medium bodied, this rosé offers a compelling mix of tangy acidity and sweet fruit character on the palate. A delightful sipper, so put a few bottles away for the coming warmer days. My note: Draws you right into the glass, head first. Fleshy strawberries and raspberries. Resistance is futile. Pair with: spring salads. 950576 13.50% XD 750 mL $13.95 Score: 89/100.

Best Value Sparkling Wine

2008 Batasiolo Bosc D'la Rei Moscato D'asti, D.O.C.G., Piedmont, Italy: Pure summer afternoon essence! Lovely orange and apricot peel with a light frizzante that sends a shiver through your palate. 28175 5.50% M 750 mL $16.95 Score: 89/100.

Favourite Sparkling Wine

R. Pouillon & Fils Champagne Cuvée De Réserve Brut, A.C., Champagne, France: Robust and deep bubbly with strong toasty notes and ripe tree fruit. Terrific mousse. Persistent finish. 160937 12.00% D 750 mL $48.95 Score: 90/100.

Best Value Dessert Wine

Quinta Do Infantado Ruby Port, Portugal: A very pleasant after-dinner drink with ripe red fruit and tangy acidity. 979898 19.50% MD 750 mL $15.95 Score: 87/100.

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