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Reif Wines Ripe for the Picking

Thursday, February 25, 2010 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

On a recent trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake, the epicenter of Ontario’s Niagara wine region, I tried a couple of standouts from the nearby Reif Estate Winery (pronounced "rife"). Owner Klaus Reif moved to Canada from Germany in 1987 and bought the Reif estate from his uncle. Seeing the area’s great potential, he began crafting high-quality wines at a time when the region was barely a blip in the wine atlas. That year, the winery produced Niagara's first-ever late harvest wine, icewine’s younger and less-sweet cousin.

The winery continues to innovate and improve. I tasted the Reif Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve VQA 2006 (about $25 Cdn) and was impressed by its depth and structure. Strong aromas of cocoa powder and tobacco leaves wafted up from the glass and flavors of dried cranberry, blackberry and raisins dominated the palette. The oak was prevalent, but not overpowering. There was a good kick of acidity and tannin that would mellow nicely over the next few years in the cellar.

Quaffability Rating: 91

The winery scores another winner with the Reif Estate Icewine Reisling 2008 ($25 Cdn for 200 ml bottle). An absolutely delectable icewine, brimming with honey, stone fruit and vanilla flavors. And much more affordable than many other icewines.

Quaffability Rating: 93

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Pinot Noir Scam Turns Wine World Sideways

Friday, February 19, 2010 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

I’m sure you know the wine: Red Bicyclette Pinot Noir, made by American wine giant Gallo, with a cutesy label depicting, of course, a red bicycle. The orginal label had a French guy sporting a beret and carrying a panier full of baguettes on his red as a dog runs behind holding one of the baguettes in its mouth. Well, it turns out some of that Pinot Noir was probably not, in fact, Pinot Noir. In a French court, 12 people were found guilty of selling falsely labeled wine to Gallo, which was then used to make Red Bicylette.

The defendants received suspended sentences of one month to six months and minimal fines – very light punishment for a fraud that earned each of them up to $750,000. The interesting thing about the story is that there were no complaints from either Gallo or the many, many drinkers of the mass-market Red Bicyclette. The blended wine sold as Pinot Noir was obviously a pretty good fake. In addition, the wine doesn’t claim to be 100% Pinot Noir, although to be considered a Pinot, EU regulations state that it does have to be at least 85%.

This article in the London Telegraph finds some irony in the whole situation since Red Bicyclette was released at the time of the movie Sideways, which had sparked a massive demand for Pinot Noir in the American market. The problem was that there apparently was just not enough cheap Pinot Noir available in the south of the France, where the Bicyclette’s other varietal wines originated.

All in all, quite an impressive feat of blending, I’d say. The scam involved some 13.5 million liters, or 3.6 million gallons, of fraudulent wine, also sold to wine giant Constellation Brands. The “Sideways” effect goes on. Maybe it’s time we cut down on our Pinot Noir and started drinking more f-ing Merlot?


What Is It About Malbec?

Thursday, February 18, 2010 by Michal The Joggler Kapral

Wine Review: Luigi Bosca Malbec 2006 (about $21 US, $25 Cdn)

Argentina has recently surged ahead of Germany, Spain and Chile to become the fourth-biggest exporter of wine to the U.S., trailing only Italy, Australia and France – and all thanks to its bold and beautiful signature grape varietal: Malbec. In France, Malbec is a Bordeaux blending grape and planted mainly in Cahors. It's inky dark and produces intense wines with strong tannins. Argentina has taken the grape as its own and planted it with gusto. It was first brought to South America in the mid-1800s, but only gained worldwide fame in the late 20th century.

What’s driving the popularity of Argentine Malbec? Simple: they’re high on assertive flavor and generally low on price.

Today’s featured wine, the Luigi Bosca Malbec 2006 (about $21 US, $25 Cdn) is a little on the high side of the average price point for Argentine Malbecs, as many good ones come in at $12-15, so I was expecting something really delicious. Did it deliver? Sort of. I took an immediate liking to the perfumy bouquet of fresh-ground spices and oak. Flavors of concentrated blackberry, coffee and herbs played off each other to create a pleasing overall richness. It left me slightly underwhelmed at this price, but it’s nevertheless a delicious expression of the region.

Quaffabilty Rating: 90



Michal Kapral has been enjoying wine at home since way before he was of legal age. The editor-in-chief of Canadian Running magazine runs marathons to burn off all the calories he consumes on wine and cheese. Kapral spent some time living in Italy as a teenager, solidifying his appreciation for all things wine-related. In his days as a journalism student, he was likely one of the youngest – and poorest – subscribers to Wine Spectator magazine. In 1999, Kapral turned down a job at a winery to work at Captivate, where he spent 11 years as a news editor.


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The Quaffer

Highlighting the best new wines from around the world, in the price range of $10-40, Michal "The Quaffer" Kapral reminds viewers some of the finer things in life are most definitely within their reach. This feature focuses on North American wines and includes reviews, food pairings and news from the world of wine.