Toi Toi 2012 Reserve Chardonnay Waimauka, West Auckland, New Zealand

About the Winery:
A family run business, Toi Toi Wines, (pronounced Toy Toy), is inspired by NZ’s natural beauty and awe inspiring flora and fauna. The Toi Toi is our largest and most graceful native grass. There are four Toi Toi sub species which have naturally adapted to New Zealand’s diverse sub-regional climates, like our grape varieties.

This natural adaptability and majesty has provided inspiration for our winemaking philosophy:

To create quality, distinctive New Zealand wines by sourcing premium varietals from the regions in which they are most renowned. Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, Pinot Noir from Central Otago and Late Harvest Riesling from Waipara.

My Tasting Notes:
I tasted the Toi Toi Reserve Chardonnay at a New Zealand Bubbly and Chardonnay media event.  The wines for the event were chosen by an astute panel of industry experts in New Zealand to help showcase the best of the best wines for each category.  There are two main islands that comprise New Zealand.  The Chardonnay was tasted with five other north island producers and five producers from the south island.  There are quite contrasting styles from each region making this a potpourri and flavourfest for lovers of Chardonnay.  The acidity levels for most of the wines from New Zealand run quite high.

This Chardonnay is similar to many of the north island Chardonnays by a distinct, wet stone, shale or slate minerality in the nose.  The Toi Toi was one of the best of class at this tasting.  You are also greeted with vibrant lemon/citrus zest and succulent Bosch pear aromas, wet stone (slate) and smoky oak in the aromas and on the palette. There was a nice, even weighting and a generously pleasing mouth-feel and a good, lengthy finish.  This Chardonnay stands on its own but even better paired with roasted chicken, rabbit and/or Cobb Salad.  I would have scored it higher if it was just a tad dryer.

Varietal composition: 100% Chardonnay
Region:   Waimauka, West Auckland
Fermentation:  Steel tanks, transferred to new and seasoned French oak barriques
Alcohol:   13.5%
Sugar:   4.0 g/l
Acidity:   8.8 g/l
pH:   3.32

My Impression: 90-Points (Drink now to 2025.  My score: 90-92/100)

Tasted May 14th, 2015

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Toi Toi Reserve Chardonnay 2012 Bottle Shot



This is the fifth and final review for wine from Alamos tasted at a luncheon with winemaker Felipe Stahlschmidt and brand ambassador Tatiana Nessier.  All of these wines are available in Canada but not all are available in every province.

From Alamos:

The Alamos Seleccion Malbec is the pinnacle of our portfolio.  Tucked under the massive shoulders of the Andes Mountains in west central Argentina, the province of Mendoza is renowned for housing some of the best winegrowing regions in the world.  The character of Medoza wines is forged in the high altitude desert vineyards irrigated by mineral-rich snowmelt from glaciers and snowfields.  Altitudes range from 1,000 feet to around 5,000 feet, where the foothills rise steeply toward the Andes’ peaks.  High altitude means cool temperatures and clear air, and clear air means more sunlight for building flavour in the grapes, helping make Mendoza the source of Argentina’s well-earned reputation for top quality, unique wines.

Winemaking Notes:

The grapes were handpicked, destemmed and crushed prior to a three- to four-day cold soak.  The grapes were fermented in upright and conical tanks for six to eight days at 85F/29.5C, and the remained in contact with the skins for up to 25 days to enhance the extraction of flavour and color.  The wine underwent malolactic fermentation and was aged in combination of medium and medium plus toasted French and American oak for nine to 12 months before the final blend was assembled.

My Tasting Notes:

The wine is approachable from the start.  A dark ruby red that opens with black and red berry aromas and with a touch of vanilla in the finish.  Supple, with balanced and well-structured flavors of currant, dried cherry and pepper. There’s an elegant mid-palate creaminess to this wine’s vintage and finishes off with a spiced finish.  Drink now to 2019.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Felipe and Tatiana.  Listening to Felipe talk about his love for wine and the expressions the wine produced from Mendoza was fascinating and an experience I will always remember, very engaging indeed.

My Impression: 89-Points

Tasted on May 12, 2015

Alamos Special Seleccion Bottle

Alamos 2013 Mendoza Malbec


This is the fourth wine being reviewed in a series of five tasted at a luncheon with Alamos winemaker Felipe Stahlschmidt and brand ambassador Tatiana Nessier.  All of these wines are available in Canada but not all are available in every province.

During our greetings and introductions, I poked fun at Felipe about a quote he makes on the Alamos website: “Malbec and Mendoza are a marriage made in heaven! Our beautiful high altitude climate produces Malbec that are rich, exuberant and full of character.”  Having spent time tasting Malbec with Felipe and Tatiana it is easy to catch their enthusiasm and love they show for their wine.  Yes indeed. High altitude produced Malbec wines from Mendoza are often a heavenly and heady combination.

From the winery:

A classically Argentine wine, our Alamos Malbec blends the deeply concentrated plum flavours of the country’s signature variety – Malbec – with small portions of Syrah and Bonarda to add dark cherry and blackberry flavours.  Well-integrated hints of brown spice and vanilla contribute layers of complexity.  A full structure, firm tannins and a long finish make this Malbec unforgettable.

Winemaking Notes:

The grapes four our Malbec were handpicked, destemmed and crushed.  Prior to fermentation, the must was cold soaked for 72-hours.  Fermentation occurred in upright and conical tanks for one week at 85F/29.5C.  Throughout fermentation, this wine underwent malolactic fermentation to create a round mouthfeel before eight months of aging in a combination of French and American oak.

My Tasting Notes:

The wine is a dark ruby red and opens with a generous if not lush aromas of plum and cheery.  It is followed with a swath of sweet black plum, currant and a touch of vanilla and spice on the palette.  There is an elegant quality to this wine that is perfectly balanced.  The Syrah (6%) and Bonarda (4%) components have brought on additional brightness and liveliness. This Malbec shows excellent quality for the price (QPR).

My Impression: 89-Points

Tasted on May 12, 2015

Alamos Malbec Bottle

Alamos 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon

I had the pleasure of sitting down with winemaker Felipe Stahlschmidt and brand ambassador Tatiana Nessier for a private wine tasting session. Alamos currently has five wines available in Canada and this wine review is the third in the series.

Most of the wines crafted by Alamos come from the vineyards located in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. These vineyards are not all at the same elevation but are situated between 3,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level. The combination of high altitude and arid dessert conditions help produce concentrated berries or “fruit” with fuller expressions in flavour. The soils comprised mainly of alluvial and silt make up important parts of the terroir add layers of depth and minerality to the wine.

The 2013 vintage began with a cooler growing season that led to wines with heightened bright acidity, lower sugar levels and intense aromatics. Cooler temperatures at harvest allowed the vineyards and winemakers hang their fruit a little longer than normal. With excellent acidity and tannin structure, wines from this vintage will offer consumers enjoy the wine now and for a few years longer than normal.

The Alamos 100% Cabernet Sauvignon is a prime example of this good fortune. The fruit was hand-harvested, destemmed and crushed. The must was chilled and cold-soaked for three days prior to fermentation to extract as much colour, tannins and flavour possible. The wine was fermenting in upright and conical tanks at 85F and some as long as eight-days. Half the wine was aged in French and American oak prior to bottling.

This is a dark ruby, full-bodied, flavourful red that exhibited a full finish. The wine opens with cherries and plum aromas and a hint of peppers in the background. I found stewed plum and dried cherries on the pallet. The balance between French and American oak shows well here adding vanilla and spice with chewy but not too grippy tannins on the finish.

This is an outstanding grilled meat wine… I suggest trying it with a lean Buffalo bacon blue cheese burger and onion rings. This wine is meant to be enjoyed now and best before 2019.

My Impression: 88-Points

Wine tasted on May 12th 2015

Alamos Cabernet Sauvignon Label Alamos Cabernet Sauvignon Bottleshot




2013 Alamos Chardonnay

This is the second wine reviewed in a series of five wines tasted at a luncheon with Alamos winemaker Felipe Stahlschmidt and brand ambassador Tatiana Nessier. All of these wines are available in Canada but some are not available in every province.

During the course of our tasting I asked Felipe what his favourite wine was. His response was Chardonnay. Making and producing a good Chardonnay is much harder to do than Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec or Syrah. That seems to be a common theme among several winemakers. The owner and winemaker for one of my favourite wineries in Washington State known for their big Syrah and Cabernet blends says his favourite wine to make and drink is Chardonnay, too.

The Alamos Chardonnay is grown at a high altitude and benefits from abundant sunlight, cooler temperatures and clean air. 2013 was a great vintage weather-wise with the absence of frost and high winds in the spring allowing the fruit to hang longer, fully mature and develop their ripe and lush flavour profile.

The grapes are harvested over a two week period of time and the blocks are all kept separate from one another until it’s time to blend. You may think this is a small enterprise but Alamos has well over 20-blocks to keep separate. All of the grapes are crushed, most put in steel tanks with some spending time in seasoned French oak barrels. The wine is tasted twice daily during the process ensuring quality. There is a panel of growers and winemakers that meet to blind taste the wine. If their wine does not score in one of the top two spots in an industry tasting panel comprised of growers and winemakers its back to the drawing board. I’d say that these are pretty lofty goals for Felipe and his team to achieve, but shows their commitment to producing great wine.

This 100% Chardonnay has mild oak notes, a hint of spice and butterscotch flavours. There are also fleshy fruit flavours of Fuji apples and Bosch pears. This is a balanced, medium to medium-full body wine. There is a really good balance of acidity and full flavours with just enough oak to round it out. This wine ticks all of the right boxes and all the ingredients needed to make this a popular summer sipper. I suggest serving it a tad warmer than you normally do to enjoy the full aromatics and flavours. You will also find the acidity is a bit higher as the wine warms up giving you a nice crisp finish.

My Impression: 88-Points

Alamos Chardonnay Label Alamos Chardonnay Bottleshot

May 2015


2012 Alamos Torrontes

I was very fortunate to meet Felipe Stahlschmidt, winemaker and Tatiana Nessier, brand Ambassador for Alamos while tasting their offerings currently available in Canada.

The Torrontes is produced in the Cafayate region of Salta. To get a better understanding of the geography, Salta is a few hundred miles northwest of Mendoza. And at 5,000 to 6,000 feet above sea level it is also one of the highest wine regions in the world. The high altitude growing conditions produce higher acidity and prominent floral aromas.

I was pleasantly surprised by this one. Most Torrontes I have tried in the past have been off-dry to semi-sweet, not my preference or style. I tended to avoid the varietal in the past because of this.

This 2012 Torrontes opens pleasantly with hints of orange and floral overtones I can’t put my finger on and delicious peach and citrus flavours. Good length and balance.

I would keep the bottled chilled and serve it as cool as you dare. You can enjoy this one on it’s own or with a variety of spicy Asian food and even beef! Argentina is famous for their beef so don’t be afraid to try this one at your next BBQ.


My Impression: 86Points


Tasted in May 2015Alamos Torrontes

Paired And Pairless Blog

My love for adult beverages started when I was a child. I watched my parents mix cocktails for their friends and family at their dinner parties, poker nights and for major sporting events. The creations they made looked and smelled great. I found out later in life they tasted great too! As my palette matured so did my taste in alcohol. I now enjoy sipping a good glass of wine on its own or paired with delicious food.

I have always loved food and eating. I grew up on mom’s home cooking, moved on to fast-food in college, then the cheapest processed food after college (when I moved out on my own) before deciding to try everything I could push myself to try from around the world.  I will write and share my wine and food experiences in this blog called Paired & Pairless. I will write reviews on wine that went well with certain food and make suggestions that I think they will pair well with. The wines that were great with and without food will also be featured in my Pairless category. These wines were fabulous on their own.

This blog will focus on US$15-50 (C$20-60, €17-55) but will not be limited to this price segment. I have found this segment under-served by bloggers and professional reviewers. These wines are also the ones most of us will purchased while dining out, not too cheap or expensive.  When we dine out, I find we all want to impress the sommelier on our knowledge or try not to show our lack of knowledge for that matter while dining out.

Do we trust the sommelier enough for he or she to pick the wine(s) we like?  What wines do we like?  What pairs well with this or that?  All good questions with more than one conclusive answer.  This is part of the fun of trying tried and true pairings as well as, trying ones we think will work.

The more one gets into wine, the more complicated it becomes… One analogy I like to use is wine is like golf.  The more one understands and becomes passionate about wine, the complex and complicated it becomes.  Also, the most expensive golf course aren’t always better than the public muni courses, same goes for wine.  Price is not indicative of the quality a $1,000 bottle of wine has the same chance of being corked and undrinkable as a $3 bottle.  The industry average is one in twelve (8.3%).  Some may say that more and more wine that is under US$10 has screw tops (stelvin closure/cap) so they are much less likely to have cork issues.  Some examples of why wine may be more expensive: volume produced is significantly less, demand allows the producer to charge nose-bleed prices, cost of production for boutique versus big corporations and estates or, government protectionism makes imports more expensive to protect their local industry.

I am often asked what is the most expensive bottle of wine I have purchased and also consumed.  I ask them the same question back before answering.  They think wine snob if your answer is too high.  Do we call car enthusiasts cars snobs if they drive a Ferrari?  What do you think of people that drive a 1976 Mustang II (POS) worth less than $300? Perception.  My goal is to remove preconceived notions and be open to trying wine from many different parts of the world regardless of price.