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March 6th Vintages Preview – ¡Viva Chile! – by John Szabo

John Szabo, MS

A short while ago in this space I wrote about my most recent experience in Chile. It was January, and I was in a sunny and 30ºC+ Santiago in the height of summer enjoying the opportunity to judge at the country’s 7th annual wine awards. When the competition wrapped up, a group of tired but happy judges spent several more days diligently uncovering yet more of Chile’s secrets.  Like a group of astronomers scanning the night sky to spot the next supernova, we used our allotted time to scour a few wine regions for more values and heart-stoppers. Some regions I was visiting for the first time, while others I was revisiting to track the changes and developments in this-fast paced industry. Suffice to say that Chile is a dynamic country. The world of wine is spinning and changing ever-faster it’s true, but there is a real sense of momentum and purpose in this South American industry. And it’s hard to keep up with all of the developments. Chile is one of the fortunate few countries to have recorded an increase in export sales volume in 2009, in what was otherwise a mostly disastrous year for sales. So the Chileans must be doing something right.

The hazy morning after the wrap-up gala we leave Santiago and make the hour or so drive to the Casablanca Valley. This is certainly one of the most internationally recognized regions in Chile, having made a solid reputation for itself in the nearly thirty years since Pablo Morandé pioneered plantings of cool climate-loving varieties in the valley. Casablanca is windy and 4-5º cooler than Santiago on average, with the climate moderated by cool breezes and the fog that rolls in from the Pacific as reliably as a Swiss train. The morning we arrive at Veramonte winery is sunny and warm, but not hot. Gently moving air rustles the leaves of the vines and cools the skin. Yet not all zones of the valley are equally cool. The areas further in land from the coast, nestled at the foot of the hills that separate Casablanca from Santiago, are measurably warmer than the vineyards out by the sea. We drive to the east, away from the coast, through Veramonte’s extensive vineyards to a spot tucked at the end of the valley. We can go no further. It’s noticeably warmer here. But it’s still considered a good growing site off the frost-prone valley floor and on well-drained, low vigor hillsides.

Distinguished chardonnay and pinot noir among others are produced in the Casablanca Valley, but it is the sauvignon blanc that gets me excited. The feeling was strengthened throughout a well-organized and informative tasting of sauvignon blanc from several Casablanca estates held afterwards in Veramonte’s tasting room. If it’s even cooler climate style wine you’re after, than pass through Casablanca and head to the Leyda Valley, with some vineyards situated just a few kilometers from the cold Pacific coast. This is one of the most suitable regions in Chile to produce riveting, zesty whites and lean, firm elegant reds. Seek these out if you haven’t tried any yet. There are 3 Casablanca wines in this Vintages release, all white, including an innovative and very satisfying (and organically-grown) blend of chardonnay, viognier and marsanne from Novas.

After lunch and some engaging conversation about the relative merits of satellite imagery, the Humboldt Current and drip irrigation, we leave Casablanca by small plane (we load our own wine as there are no flight attendants on hand) and fly north to the Elquí and Limarí Valleys. Right on the edge of the Atacama Desert, these two areas have been growing grapes for many decades though almost exclusively to make Chile’s national spirit, pisco. Only in the last decade have they been identified as high quality potential wine regions. Like Leyda and Casablanca, the secret to quality winegrowing is the moderating effect of the Pacific and in some cases, the elevation of the vineyards. The Limarí Valley is gaining a lot of attention for the marked minerally profile of its wines, both red and white. This is an area of high Limestone content and high salinity in the soil. Irrigation serves two purposes here: one, to keep the vines alive and photosynthesizing and to reduce the water stress induced by inadequate rainfall, and two, to reduce the salinity of the soils.

Our tastings of the wines of Limarí show that this is a special place to make wine to be sure. It’s even windier here than in Casablanca, and the tablecloth, covering the makeshift vineyard table that supports our welcoming glasses of refreshing rose, very nearly alights on the wind. I look towards the coast and the low-rise hills separating us from the ocean, which seem to reach up and grab the drifting clouds out of the air and hold them fast to their crests. Hours later we emerge from the winery and there they are, immovable, constant, like clumps of cotton sitting on the hills. Our arrival by plane to Limarí had been delayed by the Camanchaca, the thick soupy fog that moves in from the sea, here as elsewhere in coastal Chile. It’s a fog that delivers moisture to the vines, cools the air temperature, disperses sunlight rays and delays air traffic with reliable consistency.
The release features 3 wines from Tabalí winery in Limarí, one of the leading producers in the region. Out of these, the hands-down outstanding value is the 06 Tabalí Merlot Reserva, a wine of super depth and intensity for under $15. Be sure to explore the diverse regions of this thin sliver of South America through the glass and get a sense of why Chile has earned itself a place on world markets and a reputation of making great value wines.

Outside of the feature, March 6th is a particularly rich day for bargain Hunters. For the first time in quite a few releases, all of the top ten smart buys are under $20. Some of my personal favorites include the savoury Rapsani from Tsantali in Greece, a wine lover’s wine crying out for some simply grilled lamb chops or kebabs, the wonderfully elegant, traditional style Dão Portuguese red from Quinta da Fata, and the classy Vignalta Rosso Riserva from the Veneto in Italy. If you’re looking for whites, it’s hard to beat the cool and crisp 08 Sileni Cellar Selection chardonnay from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, a very tidy and restrained wine for $14.95. Or for a memorable taste of wet rocks slathered with wildflower honey and peach purée, try the 07 Bürgerspital Silvaner from Germany’s Franken region in the unmistakable bocksbeutel, the flagon-shaped bottle rumored to have been modeled after a goat’s scrotum.

Top Ten Smart Buys:

1.    2005 VIGNALTA ROSSO RISERVA DOC Colli Euganei $19.95 91pts ***
2.    2007 QUINTA DA FATA DO Dão $16.95 90pts ***
3.    2007 ALKOOMI CABERNET SAUVIGNON Frankland River, Western Australia $19.95 90pts ***
4.    2007 BÜRGERSPITAL WÜRZBURGER SILVANER KABINETT TROCKEN QmP, Germany $19.95 90pts ***
5.    2008 ANDRÉ BLANCK ET SES FILS CLOS SCHWENDI PINOT GRIS AC Alsace, $19.95 90pts ***
6.    2007 FERNGROVE SHIRAZ Frankland River, Western Australia $19.95 90pts ***
7.    2006 TORREVENTO TORRE DEL FALCO IGT Puglia $15.95 89pts ***
8.    2008 SILENI CELLAR SELECTION CHARDONNAY Hawkes Bay, North Island $15.95 89pts ***
9.    2006 TSANTALIS RAPSANI Rapsani, Greece $12.95 88pts ***
10.  2005 ENCOSTAS DE ESTREMOZ QUINTA DA ESPERANÇA Vinho Regional Alentejano $14.95 88pts **1/2

Featured Chilean Wines at a Glance:

1.    2006 TABALÍ RESERVA MERLOT Limarí Valley $14.95 89pts ***
2.    2007 EMILIANA NOVAS WINEMAKER’S SELECTION CHARDONNAY/VIOGNIER/MARSANNE Casablanca Valley, $18.95 89pts **1/2
3.    2008 ERRÁZURIZ SINGLE VINEYARD DON MAXIMIANO ESTATE CARMENÈREAconcagua Valley $18.95 89pts **1/2
4.    2008 TABALÍ RESERVA ESPECIAL PINOT NOIR Limarí Valley $19.95 89pts **1/2
5.    2007 MONTES ALPHA PINOT NOIR Leyda Valley $19.95 88pts **
6.    2008 CASA LAPOSTOLLE CHARDONNAY Casablanca Valley $14.95 87pts **
7.    2008 ERRÁZURIZ SINGLE VINEYARD SAUVIGNON BLANC Casablanca Valley $14.95 87pts **1/2
8.    2008 CASA LAPOSTOLLE MERLOT Rapel Valley $16.95 87pts **
9.    2008 CASA LAPOSTOLLE CABERNET SAUVIGNON Rapel Valley $16.95 87pts **
10.    2007 MONTES ALPHA CARMENÈRE Colchagua Valley $19.95 86pts *1/2
11.    2007 TABALÍ RESERVA CARMENÈRE Limarí Valley $14.95 85pts *1/2
12.    2008 MONTES LIMITED SELECTION CABERNET SAUVIGNON/CARMENÈREColchagua Valley, Apalta Vineyard $14.95 85pts *1/2

To see all of my reviews click here.

Cheers,


John Szabo, MS

Filed under: Wine, , , , ,

New Zealand Treasure Hunt – by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

New Zealand is comfortably installed as a trustworthy source of vibrant, fresh and intense wines, lead by sauvignon blanc and pinot noir.  But does it have home run, truly memorable, even legendary wines?  Well yes, but they are known to a very few, and the way things work in Ontario, they remain squirreled away in the inner workings of Vintages as In Store Discoveries or Vintages On-Line Exclusives. Yes they are available, and the quantity will never be large, and keeners can ferret them out.  But why does it take a chance tasting in Kingston to expose them to the local media?  I found four fantastic wines offered by Lifford Agencies from top drawer wineries like Craggy Range, Felton Road and Ata Rangi – and I was surprised to learn that they are currently available at Vintages, if in limited quantities at less than a dozen stores. And they have been available for weeks, indeed months.  Which is where WineAlign can help enormously.  The link below will automatically locate the stash closest to you (or click on the inventory icon to find the wine).  Here are the four wines in the NZ Treasure Hunt, all soaring well past the 90 point level.  Check them out at here: NZ Treasure Hunt .

New Zealand Treasure Hunt

Finding wines in the NZ Treasure Hunt

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Cuvée Awards 2010 – by John Szabo

Cuvée Awards 2010

The winners of the 2010 Cuvée awards were announced on February 19, 2010 at the Fallsview Casino during the annual Cuvée Gala. The wine industry was out in full force and the gala organizers did an exceptional job in drawing in cooking talent from across the province – easily the best culinary experience at these awards, at least in my limited history.

What makes the Cuvée awards a little different from most competitions is that they are judged entirely by winemakers. Each participating winery is asked to enter their three best wines. According to the press release, “This year, 45 winemakers tasted over 200 wines from 56 wineries to determine the winners. In addition, during the judging process, judges are asked to indicate if wines merit a Cuvée Gold designation, demonstrating international standards for excellence in quality.”

Not surprisingly, many of the usual achievers figure among the winners. Here is the full list:

Cuvée Award Winners 2010

Red Wine / WINNER

sponsored by Scott Laboratories

Inniskillin Wines

Reserve Series Cabernet Franc 2007 GOLD

Limited Edition Red Wine / WINNER

sponsored by Sun Media Niagara Publishing Group

Niagara College Teaching Winery

Dean’s List Pinot Noir Canadian Oak Project 2007 GOLD

White Wine / WINNER

sponsored by Scott Laboratories

Flat Rock Cellars

Reserve Chardonnay 2007 GOLD

Limited Edition White Wine / WINNER

sponsored by Vines – Sun Media Niagara Publishing Group

Creekside Estate Winery

Reserve Viognier 2008 GOLD

LCBO Red Wine / WINNER

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery

Proprietors’ Reserve Meritage 2007 GOLD

LCBO White Wine / WINNER

Creekside Estate Winery

Pinot Grigio 2008 GOLD

Sweet Wine / WINNERS

sponsored by Bruni Glass Packaging Canada

Konzelmann Estate Winery

Vidal Icewine 2007 1ST PLACE GOLD

Strewn Winery

Vidal Icewine 2006 2ND PLACE GOLD

Reif Estate Winery

Vidal Icewine 2007 3RD PLACE GOLD

Limited Edition Sweet Wine / WINNER

Mountain Road Wine Company

Vidal Icewine 2004 GOLD

Sparkling Wine / WINNERS

Hillebrand Winery

Trius Brut Rose NV TIED FOR 1ST PLACE GOLD

Maleta Estate Winery

VIEW Old Vines Dry Sparking Riesling 2007 TIED FOR 1ST PLACE GOLD

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery

Cuvee Catherine Rose Brut NV 2ND PLACE GOLD

Cave Spring Cellars

Dolomite Brut 2006 3RD PLACE GOLD

Chardonnay / WINNERS

Flat Rock Cellars

Reserve Chardonnay 2007 1ST PLACE GOLD

DeSousa Wine Cellars

Chardonnay Reserve 2007 2ND PLACE GOLD

Riesling / WINNERS

Thirty Bench Wine Makers

Small Lot Riesling “Steel Post Vineyard” 2008 1ST PLACE GOLD

Rosewood Estates Winery

Natalie’s Riesling Süssreserve 2008 2ND PLACE GOLD

Gewürztraminer / WINNER

Rosewood Estates Winery

Gewürztraminer 2008 GOLD

Sauvignon Blanc / WINNER

Creekside Estate Winery

Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2007 GOLD

White Assemblage / WINNER

Legends Estates Winery

Diva (Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc) 2008 GOLD

Viognier / WINNER

Creekside Estate Winery

Reserve Viognier 2008 GOLD

Cabernet Sauvignon / WINNERS

Kacaba Vineyards

Kacaba Vineyards Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 1ST PLACE GOLD

Hillebrand Winery

Showcase Cabernet Sauvignon Clark Farm 2007 2ND PLACE GOLD

Cabernet Franc / WINNERS

Inniskillin Wines

Reserve Series Cabernet Franc 2007 1ST PLACE GOLD

Tawse Winery

Van Bers Cabernet Franc 2007 2ND PLACE GOLD

Meritage / WINNERS

Thirty Bench Wine Makers

Small Lot Benchmark Red 2007 1ST PLACE GOLD

Vineland Estates Winery

Elevation Cabernet 2007 2ND PLACE GOLD

Southbrook Vineyards

Poetica Cabernet Merlot 2007 TIED FOR 3RD PLACE GOLD

Wayne Gretzky Estates

Estate Series Cabernet Merlot 2007 TIED FOR 3RD PLACE GOLD

Pinot Noir / WINNERS

Tawse Winery

17th St Pinot Noir 2007 1ST PLACE GOLD

Cave Spring Cellars

Pinot Noir Estate 2007 2ND PLACE GOLD

Gamay Noir / WINNER

13th Street Winery

Sandstone Vineyard Old Vines Gamay Noir 2007 GOLD

Merlot / WINNER

Peller Estates Winery

Signature Series Merlot 2007 GOLD

Red Assemblage / WINNER

Wayne Gretzky Estates

Estate Series Shiraz Cabernet 2007 GOLD

Syrah/Shiraz / WINNERS

Fielding Estate Winery

Syrah 2007 TIED FOR 1ST PLACE GOLD

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery

Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Syrah 2007 TIED FOR 1ST PLACE GOLD

Toney Aspler Cuvée

Award of Excellence / WINNER

sponsored by Tony Aspler

Jon Ogryzlo, Dean, Food and Wine Sciences at Niagara College

Jon Ogryzlo – for spearheading the creation of the Niagara College

Wine Visitor & Education Centre.

Cuvée Award of

Excellence in Viticulture / WINNER

sponsored by the Grape Growers of Ontario

Albrecht Seeger, Seeger Farms

Cuvée Gold Awards

Sweet Wine

Château des Charmes Wines

Cabernet Franc Icewine Estate Bottled 2007 GOLD

Dan Aykroyd Wines

Signature Vidal Icewine 2006 GOLD

White Wine

Mountain Road Wine Company

Reserve Chardonnay 2006 GOLD

Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery

Reserve Chardonnay 2007 GOLD

Strewn Winery

Chardonnay Barrel Fermented Amalgam 2007 GOLD

Red Wine

Kacaba Vineyards

Kacaba Vineyards Proprietor’s Reserve Syrah 2007 GOLD

Filed under: Events, News, Wine, , ,

February 20th Vintages Release – A Southern Rhône Moment – by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

“I have always loved reds from the southern Rhône region of France for their openness and generosity. By comparison Bordeaux and Burgundy and even those of the northern Rhône are trés serieux – occasionally brilliant, intellectually stimulating and awe-inspiring – but rarely comforting.  I recently had the opportunity to directly compare good quality reds from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the southern Rhône with a single beef bourginon dish at Toqué in Montreal – a rich, complex plate that went straight to the heart, and the waistline. The Domaine de Nicolettes 2007 Côtes du Rhône-Villages Rasteau (Vintages Feb 6th) was unquestionably the best match of the three – smooth, deeply fruited and rolling with the texture of the plate.

This organically produced wine is based 80% on grenache, the lower acid, sweetly fruity grape that differentiates the reds of the southern Rhône from the more angular 100% syrahs from the northern Rhône.  Syrah is widely grown and blended  in the south as well, and its use is increasing to capture the dark, peppery, spicy profile made so popular by shiraz.  However, grenache defines the southern Rhône in my books – usually embroidered with other grapes – but rising to its full potential in old vine Châteauneuf-du-Pâpe.  Here, and in neighbouring villages like Gigondas, Vacqueyras you can encounter the suppleness and richness, finished with minerality and “garrigue” (a local term to describe the herbal aromatic ambiance of southern France)  that gives the wines not only a sense of place, but sense of structure.

If you are already a southern Rhone convert, or you want to buy a few to compare, Vintages Feb 20th is the moment.  As I was unable to taste the entire release this time I focus my picks on six southern Rhônes that best demonstrate the character and quality range. Buy one of each ($133.75 total), gather some friends, open them all together and put on your very own Rhône clinic – with beef bourginon simmering in the background. They are listed in suggested tasting order.”

-  David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

Click here to see ranked lists and reviews of over 100 wines in this release.

DOMAINE DE DIEUMERCY 2007 CÔTES DU RHÔNE
DOMAINE DE DIEUMERCY 2007 CÔTES DU RHÔNE
$12.95  86pts

LES VIGNERONS DU CASTELAS 2007 VIEILLES VIGNES SIGNARGUES CÔTES DU RHÔNE
LES VIGNERONS DU CASTELAS 2007 VIEILLES VIGNES SIGNARGUES CÔTES DU RHÔNE $17.95  89pts

DOMAINE DU PELOUX 2007 VACQUEYRAS
DOMAINE DU PELOUX 2007 VACQUEYRAS
$19.95  87pts

MAS DES BRESSADES 2008 CUVÉE TRADITION COSTIÈRES DE NÎMES
MAS DES BRESSADES 2008 CUVÉE TRADITION COSTIÈRES DE NÎMES
$14.95  87pts

DOMAINE DU GRAPILLON D'OR 2007 1806 GIGONDAS
DOMAINE DU GRAPILLON D’OR 2007 1806 GIGONDAS
$31.95  90pts

DOMAINE DU GRAND TINEL 2007 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE
DOMAINE DU GRAND TINEL 2007 CHÂTEAUNEUF-DU-PAPE
$35.95  92pts

Filed under: Wine, , , , ,

Feb 20th Vintages Preview (First-In-Line eReport) – by John Szabo

John Szabo

John Szabo

The Southern Rhône Valley & Kosher Wines

The main feature this week is the Southern Rhône Valley, that region of France that conjures up images of old stone farmhouses and stands of Mediterranean pines and slow-moving locals in berets. The near-constant blowing of the Mistral picks up the scent of wild Mediterranean herbs like lavender, thyme, bay and rosemary, and perfumes the air like an inner sanctuary of a five-star spa. The landscape is bathed in a pure and intense sunlight that no matter the time of day, seems to casts off a glow of pastel shades of ocher, soft blue and moss green. Hillocks roll gently down to the sea and vines grow amongst scattered round stones that were once carried by the meanderings of the mighty Rhône River. The Popes of Avignon made their summer home here and drank the local wine, and the Papal seal, two keys to the gates of St. Peter’s crossed, still adorns the bottles from the Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

The southern Rhône has long been considered a source of great value country wines from France, and this is still largely true despite the more elevated prices of a handful of more famous appellations. The general style is for soft, open knit, generously proportioned wines with ripe and even baked red fruit flavours derived from Grenache, usually the dominant grape variety.

Yet I noted an alarming trend in this release towards overripe and overly alcoholic monsters, with a number of wines tipping the scales at 15%+. It’s always been hot in the Rhône Valley and ripeness has rarely been an issue, so I don’t think the style trend can be dismissed as a side effect of global warming. Much more likely is that a new belief has been instilled in producers that there’s more perceived value in harvesting later and making wines of gargantuan proportions. And the belief is not misguided, it seems, judging by the big scores from influential critics around the world included in the Vintages release magazine for some of these wines. That’s not to say that they’re all disproportioned. My top-rated wines showed plenty of ripeness to be sure, but balanced by acidity and tannins, not just alcohol and wood. Read the tasting notes to get the full picture of each wine’s style.

The top buys includes a couple of well-priced examples from the southern Rhône, and there’s also good representation from Spain and Italy as well as a stunning Riesling from Germany and an inexpensive but very tasty merlot from Mendoza.

Kosher wine is other theme of this release. Huge strides have been made in recent years in this category, and there are thankfully many good examples made around the world to choose from. It’s not all Manischewitz, of course. I likely don’t need to point out that neither is all kosher wine from Israel nor all Israeli wine kosher. The other important distinction is between straight kosher and mevushal kosher; the former follows strict rabbinical production procedures that exceed the scope of this intro, while the latter takes it a step further and involves pasteurization. With modern techniques of super-rapid, flash heating, not all mevushal wines come across as totally baked. Just read David Lawrason’s review of the Backsberg Chardonnay from South Africa for proof of this. I’ve listed two 90 point wines below that represent simply excellent wine, and they also happen to be kosher.

Top Ten Smart Buys:

1. 2007 DOMDECHANT WERNER’SCHES RIESLING KABINETT Hochheimer Hölle 91pts $19.95 ***
2. 2006 DOMAINE SAINT-PIERRE VACQUEYRAS AC 91pts $25.95 **1/2
3. 2007 CELLER PIÑOL SENORA DEL PORTAL ROBLE DO Terra Alta 90pts $20.95
4. 2008 TERRES SECRETES CROIX DE MONCEAU ST-VÉRAN AC 90pts $21.95
5. 2007 BANFI CENTINE IGT Toscana 89pts $16.95 ***
6. 2008 AGNUSDEI ALBARIÑO DO Rías Baixas 89pts $17.95 ***
7. 2008 MASSERIA ALTEMURA FIANO IGT Fiano Salento 88pts $13.95 ***
8. 2007 TERRES D’AVIGNON LES CARDINALICES GRANDE RÉSERVE CÔTES DU RHÔNE AC 88pts $14.95 ***
9. 2007 LA PIEVE CHIANTI DOCG 88pts $15.95 ***
10. 2007 CRISTOBAL 1492 OAK RESERVE MERLOT Mendoza 87pts $12.95 ***

Top Kosher Wines:

1. 2009 BACKSBERG CHARDONNAY WO Paarl, Mevushal 90pts $16.95
2. 2007 GALIL MOUNTAIN SHIRAZ/CABERNET SAUVIGNON Upper Galilee 90pts $27.95

To see all of my reviews click here.

Cheers,


John Szabo, MS

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Sneak Peek of our 2D barcode technology

Here’s an illustration of what we will be unveiling at the upcoming Toronto Wine & Cheese Show .  Stay tuned for more details on the show and our seminars in the coming weeks.

Illustrations for Wine & Cheese Show

Filed under: Events, News,

BC Wines for Olympics Watching – by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

On Friday I joined friends for an Opening Ceremonies dinner and a long evening in front of the tube, my emotions pin-balling between awe, elation and sadness -  like the other estimated 20 million Canadians doing the same thing. I brought B.C. wine to this celebration, as did other guests – quite spontaneously. It wasn’t co-ordinated; it just felt right.  With a terrific fruit-based curry dinner I poured Mission Hill 2007 Pinot Blanc and it was excellent. After dinner in front of the TV with various cheeses and snacks, reds were the order of the evening, and I was most impressed by the approachability of the Inniskillin Okanagan 2007 MalbecMission Hill 2006 SLC Syrah didn’t slide as easily as sipper, so earmark that one for a rich beef or lamb dinner.  Other suggestions?  Sumac Ridge 2007 Tribute is a sparkler made to commemorate the Games, and would be a fine way to celebrate gold medals.  And the Ganton and Prospect 2006 Pinot Noir is an ideal, well priced light red accompanied to more casual tube food – wings, pizza, you name it.  Go to www.winealign.com/wino/DavidLawrason/bc-olympic-wines to find these wines at your local LCBO.

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WineAlign partners with the Toronto Wine & Cheese Show

We’re pleased to announce that our WineAlign critics have created a series of fun, unique and highly informative wine events and seminars for the upcoming Toronto Wine & Cheese Show. Stay tuned for more details about some innovative technology we’ll be unveiling at the show which runs March 19th to 21st at the International Centre.

Toronto Wine And Cheese Show Ad

Filed under: Events, News

New Feature! – Create and Share Personalized Wine Lists

Our motto is that wine tastes better when shared with friends.  Well today we are making sharing easier than ever.

You are now able to create lists of wines to share with others. If you have friends who never know what to buy for your ‘discerning’ tastes, make your Favourites list public and send them the link.  If you want to build and share a list of your favourite Pinots at the LCBO you can do that too.

New Wine List Menu

There is a new Add To… button menu and a new link to My Lists which contains all of your lists:  Cellar, Favourites, Shopping and all of your new custom and shareable lists.

We’ve updated the list screen with a new drop-down to make it easier to navigate between your lists.


If you wish, you can click on “Share this list” to make a list public. Simply copy the link (web address) from the screen and send it to friends.



What’s cool is that people who click on your link will be presented with the availability of those wines at their local LCBO(s).  They don’t even have to be a registered user of WineAlign (although we hope they will be some day)

Filed under: News,

Feb 6th Vintages Release – Hearts and Mind – by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

On Feb 6 Vintages asks us to buy into two marketing themes – Valentine wines, and wines that have scored 90 points or better by international critics. The Valentine selection is predictably and sappily presented with wines like St. Amour, pinks and fizzes, and/or wines with vaguely romantic inferences on the labels.  (I thought government had no business in the bedrooms of the nation). Anyway, it is an uninspired lot quality-wise except for a lovely little Bardolino Chiaretto mentioned in Dave’s Faves.

The “North of 90” (points) selection is much more worthy of our consideration when we focus on that age-old  anchor  -  good value.  For the third year in a row Vintages has plucked high scoring 90+, lowish priced wines from the websites and blogs of international critics. How convenient and safe, rather than have their own very experienced buyers make the call.  Well, actually, Vintages buyers do screen the selections too, just to make sure that Robert Parker and Wine Spectator don’t blow their calls. But Vintages uniformed legions never get any respect, other than a note in the catalogue that reads “Vintages Panel”.

Seriously, with everything else in the world of wine going local I think it’s high time that Vintages went local too. There are some very talented, knowledgeable tasters on their staff. The LCBO has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer money on employee education programs.  I also happen to think Vintages buyers have been performing very well of late.  How must they feel to continually have their expertise usurped in favour of  Robert Parker?  There are also some very talented local wine critics who are much more tuned into Canadian taste than Robert Parker.  We have many of them reviewing right here at WineAlign. We would also love to have the opinions of Vintages best palates on WineAlign too.  Wouldn’t it be great to get to know the palate of your local store consultant by reading his or her reviews here.

Ah well, let’s just get on with it. It was very hard to isolate Dave’s Faves this time – so many good wines!  But as usual I have tried to focus first on great value, really interesting stuff, and then point you into some interesting corners of the world.  Cheers.

-  David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

Click here to see ranked lists and reviews of over 100 wines in this release.

Filed under: Wine, , , ,

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008