Pillitteri Estates Winery ‘Exclamation Cellar Series Winemaker’s Select’ Merlot Niagara on the Lake VQA 2012

Estate: Committed to creating a legacy for the generations to follow him, 3rd generation winemaker 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.

Winemaking: “Hand selected by winemaker Aleksandar Kolundzic, from a select number of barrels as his personal favourite.” Barrel aged in French oak for 24 months. The inspiration for the label of the ‘Exclamation Winemaker’s Select’ wines derives from the 23 stainless steel chairs commissioned by Gary & Lena Pillitteri that now hang on the walls in the barrel cellar at Pillitteri Estates. [The number 23, and combinations of 2’s and 3’s has been significant to Gary Pillitteri throughout his entire life, the estate also has a line of ‘Twenty-Three’ wines.]

Tasting Notes: Garnet in colour with aromas of black cherry, black pepper, sea salt and caramel. Black and red cherry driven, with grilled herbs, a streak of sea salt minerality and silky tannins. Black pepper, smoky caramel and chocolate keep you reaching for more on the lengthy, velvety finish.

Merlot [I could not verify varietal percentage.]
Niagara on the Lake VQA
14% Alcohol
$68 [Canadian Dollars]
Enjoy now thru 2019

A Fun, Dashing Trio of Washington State Reds from Rock Star Winemaker Charles Smith

Winery: Renowned, self-taught pioneer winemaker Charles Smith is the founder and winemaker behind Charles Smith Family wines. His “kick ass attitude and bold packaging has earned him the moniker ‘rock star’ of Washington State Syrah”. With his many diverse brands [K Vintners, Wines of Substance, Sixto, Charles & Charles, Secco and Vino] he is able to offer a wide variety of wines varying in cost from budget friendly to highly rated, single vineyard Syrahs in the $100 range. Within all of his labels, Smith strives to craft sustainably farmed wines that “are full of flavor, balanced, and true to place of origin”.

Created in 2006, the Charles Smith Wines label was themed as “The Modernist Project”. Focusing on how people tend to drink wine today, which is immediately, the goal is to create approachable wines “to be enjoyed now, but with true typicity of both the varietal and the vineyard”. A fantastic concept; a Syrah that tastes like a Syrah from Washington State!

Modern with a sassy edge, Charles Smith labels are renowned for their clean black and white artwork created by Charles Smith and artist Rikke Korffsure. Super eye catching and easily recognizable, the style has become synonymous with K Vintners and Charles Smith.

Philosophy: “It’s just wine, drink it.”

Charles Smith Wines ‘The Velvet Devil’ Merlot Washington State 2014

“Truth in a name: Velvet.”

Winemaking: Grapes are sourced from the following sustainably farmed vineyards: Sundance, Art Den Hoed, Goose Ridge, Weyns, Hawk, Oasis and Purple Sage. Whole berry fermentation with partial native yeasts. Aged for 10 months on the lees in 30% new French oak barrels.

Tasting Notes: Bright garnet in colour with aromas of cherry, warm summer woods and crushed black peppercorn. A spicy edge to the ripe, plush fruit [think blackberry, cherry, wild strawberry]. Appropriately named, velvety tannins fuse with summer woods and spice on the lengthy, plush finish. Fantastic on its own, versatile at the table.

94% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Sauvignon, 2% Malbec, 1% Cabernet Franc
13.6% Alcohol
$12 [average price]

Charles Smith Wines ‘Boom Boom!’ Syrah Washington State 2014

“I can tell you this. It is the best Boom Boom! thus far.”

Winemaking: Grapes are sourced from the following sustainably farmed vineyards: Art Den Hoed, Pheasant, Weyns, Arete and Gamache. 30% whole cluster fermentation together with the Viognier. Aged on the lees in old oak barrels.

Tasting Notes: Red-violet in colour with aromas of wild berry jam, vanilla and crushed pink peppercorn. Exuding fruit & spice, with cherry, black cherry, blueberry, plum, vanilla and a trace of roasted herbs wrapped around a pepper spice backbone. Silky tannins compliment dark chocolate dusted fruit on the woodsy finish. An elegant edge to the well balanced fruit and spice, each glass will disappear rather swiftly.

97% Syrah, 3% Viognier
13.5% Alcohol
$17 [average price]

Charles Smith Wines ‘Chateau Smith’ Cabernet Sauvignon Washington State 2014

“If you like Cabernet dark and rich, this is your sexy beast.”

Winemaking: Grapes are sourced from the following sustainably farmed vineyards: Art Den Hood, Hawk, Roza Hills, Wahluke Slope, Don Talcott and Clifton Bluff. Whole berry fermentation with native yeasts. Aged on the lees for 10 months in 40% new French oak barrels.

Tasting Notes: Red-violet in colour with inviting aromas of roasted jalapenos, cherry, fresh herbs, vanilla and toasted oak. Plump cherry, blackberry and red currant fruits are balanced by a bright acidity. Velvety tannins underscore earth, tobacco and pink peppercorn. The rich fruit follows thru to the plush, lengthy finish, joining vanilla and subtle toasted oak. Well structured, with a robust character, an engaging companion to a wide variety of dishes.

96% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Merlot
13.5% Alcohol
$19 [average price]


Samples submitted for review purpose.

Old York Cellars Sweet Riesling & Merlot


Estate: Old York Cellars is located in the Ringoes section of Hunterdon County and contains some of the oldest vineyards in New Jersey. Owner David Wolin currently has 12 acres of vineyards, cultivating a diverse selection including Barbera, Chenin Blanc, Pinot Gris, Syrah and Riesling. In addition to award winning wines and a lovely tasting room, they also hold special events such as art exhibits, yoga classes and Master Chef Dinners. Check out their website Old York Cellars for current special offers and to purchase the tasty wines below.

Old York Cellars Sweet Riesling 2013
Gold in colour with radiant aromas of honeysuckle, lime and fresh herbaceous elements. Sweet red apple and honeysuckle flavours are balanced by hints of pleasantly bitter citrus zest. A versatile, sweeter Riesling that is great on its own or fantastic with a wide variety of dishes, from fruit, chocolate to cheddar cheese.
100% Riesling

Old York Cellars Merlot NV
An interesting example of the innovative spirit of the winemaker, this is a blend of the 2013 and 2014 vintages. 2013 was a huge, bold vintage, whilst 2014 saw young, light grapes. Winemaker Scott Gares excersised his artistic flair by blending the two together to create an well balanced wine.

Garnet in color with floral aromas highlighted by strawberry preserves and earth notes. Fruity and plush with cherry and strawberry flavours joined by hints of baking chocolate in the medium body, culminating in a big smoky earth finish. This pairs wonderfully with hearty dishes.
100% Merlot
13.3% Alcohol


samples submitted for review purpose

Mountain Merlot 2011

Soft and velvety, this is a straightforward, glugable value that pairs with a wide variety of dishes.

Winery: Renowned, self-taught pioneer winemaker Charles Smith is the founder and winemaker behind The Magnificent Wine Company. He established the winery in 2004 with the goal of “bringing outstanding wines into people’s homes at an affordable, everyday price. Mountain Merlot is one of the latest additions to the range and joins well known wines as ‘House Red’ and ‘Steak House’.

Winemaking: Grapes are sourced from vineyards located throughout Columbia Valley “which provides the freedom to tailor grape selection exactly to our winemaking needs”.

Tasting Notes: Dark garnet in colour with compelling aromas of cherry, vanilla, licorice and dusty earth. Black cherry, blueberry and herbaceous nuances culminated with chocolate and hints of vanilla in the velvety finish.

82% Merlot, 10% Syrah, 8% Cabernet Sauvignon
Colombia Valley
Produced and Bottled by Original House Wine
13.5% Alcohol
Enjoy now

Falesco Merlot 2012


The Falesco estate was founded in 1979 by winemaker brothers Renzo and Riccardo Cotarella with the goal of recovering ancient vineyards located in the volcanic hills between Lazio and Umbria in central Italy. Today the family run estate is looking forward towards its 4th generation to continue the family’s philosophy of “a deep sense of belonging to the territory of origin and a scientific approach” along with a passion for rediscovering Italy’s indigenous varietals and creating quality wines.

Dark ruby-red in colour with aromas of red fruits, wildflowers and fennel. Light on its feet with soft raspberry and plum flavours merging into smooth tannins and earthy chocolate notes lingering deftly between each sip. Delightfully easy drinking, this is a versatile, crowd-pleasing Merlot.

100% Merlot
Bottled by AZ Vinicola Falesco
13.5% Alcohol
Enjoy now thru 2016

Rated 88 points by the Wine Advocate
Rated 88 points by Wine Enthusiast