Rabl Grüner Veltliner always a winner every time I have it. This Austrian varietal a best-kept-secret among white wines!

Rabl Grüner Veltliner Spiegel from Kamptal.

Fresh, crisp, and luscious. Great mouth-feel.

Astounding bouquet. I highly recommend any good Austrian Grüner Veltliner. And this is one of the best in the affordable to mid-price range.

Rabl’s vineyard management mission is that only the best grapes make high quality wines. They use meticulous foliage treatment to ensure this.

Tasting Notes:

Luscious and crisply fresh bouquet with notes of citrus, tree fruit and mineral, unfolding into a balanced and elegant finish.

The Grüner Veltliner grape is grown almost entirely in Austria. It’s a discovery! These truly fun Austrian white wines come in a Riesling style bottle and are a real treat. Rabl is one of the best examples. Note, you need to spend in the mid to premium price range to get a good bottle of Grüner. Don’t go for a cheap one.

More fun stuff:

Have you checked out our Wine 101 section?
Off to a Niagara winery in a new Mercedes

Off to Wine Country in a Mercedes sport coupe

I contributed this article to the summer issue of Mercedes-Benz Club Canada‘s magazine. This is a reprint.

I’m dreaming! Dreaming of hopping into a gleaming white sport Coupe, with a few ponies under the hood, tooling through south of France wine country. In my fantasy, I’m negotiating winding roads through the dazzling countryside along the Rhône River.

This route passes through meticulously manicured vineyards, edged by the  mountains, and clustered with quaint historic villages. But with this experience currently not an option, I look a bit closer to home to design a similar adventure. After all, the weekend lies just ahead.

Mercedes AMG Coupe

A buddy of mine is about to take delivery of his brand new AMG CLS 53. The color? Gleaming white. Sweet. Dreams come true! We decide to leave early Saturday morning for a day in Niagara Wine country. We take back roads to get there.

Beyond the Burlington Skyway, we head East on a combination of Highway 81 and Ridge Road. The scenes are so beautiful this could be France! The sexy growl of the muscle under the hood of the Coupe add to the exhilaration of our journey. We stop at Peninsula Ridge winery in Beamsville for a cheese plate on the patio and wine. Great view of Toronto across the Lake. 

Another leisurely 30 minute drive and we are at our main destination, Pondview winery, Niagara-on-the-Lake. We settle in near the tasting bar and ask the sommelier, “What have you got in a white varietal that originates in the Rhône? We’re looking for a south of France experience in a wine,” we tell her. A couple of glasses of Viognier arrive soon. 

Tasting Notes: Pondview Viognier 2017

Pondview Viognier

The grape variety originates in the Rhône, south of France. This Ontario version is light daffodil-yellow/gold in the glass, with aromas of tree fruit and lychee when you swirl. Flavours of candied pear, honeysuckle, violets, and minerality follow. This is a lush, full bodied white wine. The viscosity is amazingly thick! Yet there’s also a softness to this wine. The character of this Viognier is winning our hearts. It’s a perfect summer sipper, pairs well with food, and paired extremely well with the AMG sport Coupe that got us there and back in style!

Food pairing: French stick hot out of the oven (sliced), Ripe French brie, rustic Provence style farmer paté, Carr’s table water crackers, Kalamata olives, Caesar salad.

Music pairing: “Hotel California” cover by the Mona Lisa Twins and several Beatles covers, also by the Mona Lisa Twins.

By Paul Singer
The Wine Baron

Mercedes-Benz Club Canada
Pondview Estate Winery

Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc and Merlot

Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot

stags_cabThe most famous trio of Bordeaux red wine varietals. Originally from the iconic wine region of Bordeaux, the three have arguably become the most famous red wines around the world. As a blend, either from the original region or elsewhere, these 3 exude robust, bold aromas and tasting notes, often with a pleasant earthy quality.

In Bordeaux, the varietals are generally blended together to create the perfect combination in a bold red wine. Two other varietals are also officially available for blending in Bordeaux: Petit Verdot and Malbec.

In most other countries, the first 3 are often bottled as a single varietal. Sometimes you’ll find a new world blend of two or three of these. For example a Cabernet Merlot, or a Meritage. And of course Argentina has made Malbec it’s own, having specialized in it as a single varietal for many years.

As single varietals, you’ll find the following characteristics …

Cabernet Sauvignon – the grape and the wine


Cabernet Sauvignon

(classic tasting notes of black currants, cassis, cherry, cedar and spice)

This is the principal red varietal in Bordeaux where it is usually blended with Merlot and sometimes Cabernet Franc.  It’s frequently bottled as a single varietal in the New World and is thus called simply “Cabernet Sauvignon.”  Often called the king of wine varietals, it is rich in tannins, full-bodied and provides the strength and complexity necessary to make a wine that’s good for aging in a cellar.

Tip: Remember, cabernet sauvignon is both the name of the grape variety when unfermented and also the varietal when it is made into wine.

It originates in Bordeaux & is now produced in many New World wine regions…

Cabernet Franc – the grape and the wine


Cabernet Franc

(Classic notes: herbal, tobacco; green pepper only when grapes were not sufficiently ripe when harvested)

Closely related to the familiar Cabernet Sauvignon, this grape is being vinified in the New World to make some very interesting wines. Ontario is making the best Cab Franc at this time. Try a Lake Erie North Shore version, for example, from Viewpointe Estate Winery.

It is traditionally used in Bordeaux as a blending partner in wines, particularly to modulate or soften the wine’s character.

Merlot – the grape and the wine



(classic tasting notes of plums, blueberries & cherries)

Merlot is a very popular wine of its own, though traditionally, it has been used for blending with other grapes to shape the character of a wine, particularly in Bordeaux. This is a wine that’s friendly to everyone’s palate, even a newcomer to the red wine scene. It can offer up some rich berry, honey, or mint, yet is not as tannic as a Cabernet Sauvignon.

by The Wine Baron

Sauvignon Blanc – the white wine

Sauvignon Blanc


(classic tasting notes of cut grass, lemon, herbs and a hint of gooseberry)

Sauvignon Blanc is a popular alternative to Chardonnay. It makes a crisp, light wine. It originated in Bordeaux and the Loire Valley.

Tasting Notes: Herbal flavors, olive and a soft, smoky flavor. It can range from sweet to dry, but is typically quite light. American Sauvignon Blanc is often quite prominently “grassy” whereas the Canadian and New Zealand versions are often more balanced and pleasant. This is a principle variety in Sauternes, the elegant dessert wine from the area of the same name in Bordeaux. Frequent blending partners are Semillon and a bit of Muscadelle.

by The Wine Baron


Canvas Brewing of Huntsville off to a great start with refreshingly delicious Kölsch

I just met up with Steven and Jeff of Canvas Brewing. Their significantly large brewery is being built now beside Boston Pizza in downtown Huntsville. The boys already have their first product up and running. Until the tanks are installed, the beer is lovingly brewed nearby by Jeff, who truly knows how to make a great craft beer.

Their Kölsch is an easy drinking lager style ale that is pleasant on the palate. Yet for a craft beer enthusiast, it packs some interesting complexity and delicate notes that place it in the category of award winning ales.

Canvas Brewing’s Kölsch is not yet available in LCBO or TBS, but you can find it in about 20 licensed on premise establishments north of Barrie, such as Moose Delaney’s Sports Bar in downtown Huntsville. And great things are to come… Be sure to visit Canvas’s upcoming brewpub summer of 2019. They’ll be open by then and will be a marvellous destination. As for retail availability? Check out selected TBS stores by spring of 2019. Worth planning for!!

The good life at Windermere House on Lake Rosseau, #Muskoka – Craft beer of course

Want to feel peaceful, away from it all, and in the lap of luxury? This spot does the trick. Lake Rosseau is one of the gems of cottage country north of Toronto. Windermere House does it right.

I’m dining here at the resort and enjoying a lager from @muskokabrewery . Refreshing and pure.

Ahhhhh, the good life. To be clear, I’m not trying to rub it in, rather, I want you to know about this great venue and region. Over a craft beer, of course.

Gigondas means historic, beautiful wine!

I simply adore Gigondas, Rhône, France. The place. The wines.

Beautiful Gigondas village, in the Southern Rhône, is a setting of stone edifices, narrow lanes and ...I have pleasant memories of visiting a while back. Beautiful Gigondas village, in the Southern Rhône, is a cute and historic village with stone edifices, narrow lanes and steep hills. The wines are charming and iconic. Area wine regions include Gigondas, Vacqueyras, & Beaumes de Venise. A few recent additions to the Vintages section at LCBO has reminded me again to bring home these wines more often. They satisfy!

The further south you go in the Rhône, the more robust and serious the wines become.  Southern Rhône wines are big, fruit driven, and food friendly. This charming old village is presided over by 11th-century Ste. Catherine’s church, sitting up high, with its clock tower, belfry and old sundial. The complex of buildings and grounds are still in operation. The narrow cobblestone streets below are lined with stone houses and shops.

Beautiful Gigondas village, in the Southern Rhône, is a setting of stone edifices, narrow lanes and ...While in the village, be sure to dine at Carré Gourmand restaurant. I ordered a medley of appetizers and enjoyed them with La Syrah de Pénélope Gigondas. Dark ruby and exuding an earthy, leathery, dark berry bouquet with flavours of blackberries, vanilla bean & dark chocolate, & firm tannins. Yet the finish is soft satisfying. A wonderful example of the wines of Cotê du Rhone.

More about Gigondas, the village: http://www.beyond.fr/villages/gigondas.html

Spectacular photos of Gigondas: http://www.gigondas-vin.com/terroir/les_dentelles_de_montmirail.php


by The Wine Baron


Astronomy is an awe-inspiring subject, highly recommended with a sparkling wine!

Enjoying the beauty of the heavens

Spiral Galaxy Pair NGC 4302 and NGC 4298

This is about the biggest stretch for a wine writer, but bear with me. It’s a leisure activity just like wine (sort of). But do let me bring wine into the picture. Enjoy a glass of sparkling wine as you peer into the heavens with binoculars, telescope or via high res photos on the web. Allow me to share a few good places to start.


Depending on your mood, try a Prosecco, Cava, or Champagne. Pour a glass, and settle in to the topic at hand.

Viewing Technique:

orion20x50binocsUnless you’re already an amateur astronomer with a telescope (lucky you), consider buying a pair of Orion 20X80 astronomy binoculars. You’ll need a tripod to steady them. Here’s a handy guide on how to enjoy sky-gazing from Sky & Telescope. Be sure to download the excellent PDF there.

Online Resources:

Another great way to star gaze is simply from your computer or smartphone. Consider them a portal to the best telescopes. Here are links to my favourite image galleries.

Screen Shot 2018-01-02 at 10.01.10 PM
The Messier Catalog of space objects (click link above)


by The Wine Baron

Smithavens Brewing Company crafting attention getting beers

Smithavens Brewing of Peterborough is doing a great job getting their award-winning ales and lagers into The Beer Store, grocery stores and LCBO. I’m happy they’re getting easy to find because these are such great beers. You can’t beat small batch naturally brewed Ontario craft beer. These beers taste fresh and natural. Generally craft beers have just 4 ingredients. And they have personality. Smithavens’ beers are exceptionally so.




Smithavens understands the craft difference and they do their best to brew the finest beers possible. Every batch.

Whether it’s an Amber Lager, Dunkelweizen, 7% Blonde, Schwarzbier, Crabby Abby Ale, Hefeweizen, Belgian Pale Ale (Nottabottle), or Kellerbier Pale Lager, these brews rock with quality, flavour and drinkability. The latter two (bold italics) are easy to find in a growing number of LCBO stores.

Nottabottle Belgian pale ale has standout quality with easy-to-enjoy fruity flavours and is not too bitter. I adore this beer! Kellerbier comes in a bottle and with its bottle conditioning, comes across as fresh as if you drew it from a keg.


Check with your local store to see if they carry Smithavens. If not, ask them to order it in for you. That’s what good service is all about.

The brewery is located in Peterborough. Sample at the tasting bar, sit and have a beer in the bar, take a tour. A nice place to visit!

Call the brewery for a growing list
of grocery stores
that carry their beers

Smithavens at LCBO: FoodAndDrink.ca Product Search

Smithavens on the web
Smithavens on Twitter










Fraticelli’s Richmond Hill, authentic Italian grill. Great experience in food, service and wines!

PHOTOS: 1. Wine Cellar, 2, 3. Dining area, 4. Kitchen, 5. Exterior, 6. Patio, 7. Piano lounge, 8. Grilled Calamari, 9 – 11. Our pizzas and pasta.

Updated September 25, 2017

Fraticelli’s is housed in an attractive building in Richmond Hill, near Buttonville airport. You can dine inside or enjoy the inviting patio in season. This visit we eye the little lounge by the grand piano. It’s tucked in the expansive bar area, replete with all the comforts and flat HD TVs. We look at the dinner menu for future reference. Very nice. But this is mid day, so we order from the lunch menu. Not an item here that each of us won’t want to try in future visits…

From the grilled calamari to the pizzas, to the authentic pasta, they are all delicious, fresh and authentic. Home-cooked meets cutting-edge. The service is also excellent. Our server loves it here and it clearly shows.

We enjoy several local Ontario wines (OK, it is now late afternoon). Excellent. There’s rumour that they are considering expanding their selection of local wines and beers. Some exclusive. Sounds great.


This is a class act. We feel good being here. It’s kind of fancy and comfortable at the same time. It truly reflects Italian fare and flair.  The prices are reasonable. We’re not easy to please, but Fratacelli’s does it with ease.

Check out the Burlington location as well, http://fraticellis.ca/contact.html

Fraticelli’s is part of Tortoise Restaurant Group, whose well-known establishments include Turtle Jack’s and The Coop.

by The Wine Baron

 Fraticelli’s Italian Grill & Lounge

10 Vogell Road,

Richmond Hill, ON

L4B 3K4


Twitter: @fraticellis

Map:  http://goo.gl/maps/VN5XF


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