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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES Aug 16th – Part Two

Malbec and Mighty Fine Whites
by David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and John Szabo MS

David New 2014

David Lawrason

Argentine malbec is a secondary feature in the August 16th release (south of France was featured in Part One). There are six wines that range from $15.95 (the price many are used to paying) up to $74.95 (which will undoubtedly cause some to question the new world order). And in between there are malbecs at $22.95 and $45.95. The more expensive wines do indeed show elevated quality. In fact the Colomé Reserva ($74.95) may be the best red of the release, at least on par with two just-under-$100 Bordeaux that are In Store Discoveries. But it will likely gather moss on the shelf. Which outlines the huge difficulty New World nations face in establishing the cred that Europeans (and now Napa) takes for granted. Wine reputations take time; and it takes courage to keep putting them out there. I am delighted that VINTAGES has purchased this wine, and so should Argentina be delighted.

But what of Argentine malbec in general – as reflected by half of the lower priced entries? Malbec was a wine that swept to power in the late 2000s as a tasty and affordable red just as the market for pricey wine was going into a recessionary tailspin. But now that the dust is settling we are taking a harder look. It is, if nothing else, big – at a time when sensibilities are lightening up. And you can’t just make malbec lighter with the flip of a switch. You can try to make balanced, complex and more refined malbecs, but this is difficult if you have to sell them under $20. Sweetening and oaking become key tools to impart drinkability, and then they all tend to taste the same. The homogeny of cheap Argentine malbec has become its biggest obstacle. So my mission now is to seek out, and be prepared to pay more for more expensive malbecs from producers focused on making higher quality, smaller batch, regional examples.

Meanwhile, there are several other wines worth a look on this release, including a bevy of nifty Italian and other Euro whites that superbly catch the sultry mood of August. We actually have triple alignment on the enchanting Basa Rueda from Spain. There are also excellent aged German rieslings, and Ontario chips in with a great Norman Hardie chardonnay. Plus there is an assortment of other reds put forward Sara d’Amato, John Szabo and I. Happy hunting!

Argentine Malbec

Colomé 2010 Reserva Malbec, Calchaquí Valley, Salta, Argentina  ($74.95)
David Lawrason – This very serious red hails from a historic winery in the province of Salta, far to the north of Mendoza. It registers excellent to outstanding depth, complexity and overall quality, but what I find intriguing is the different, more compact and linear demeanour that it demonstrates compared to Mendoza malbec peers.
Sara d’Amato – Colomé is one of Argentina’s oldest wineries and is home to the world’s highest elevation vineyards (we’re talking 3000 meters above sea level) – no wonder they can produce a wine of such balance, brightness and depth. This highly recommended example, although pricey, is both cellar worthy and undeniably memorable.

Decero 2011 Remolinos Vineyard Malbec, Agrelo, Mendoza, Argentina ($22.95)
David Lawrason – This is a refined, even keeled malbec from a single vineyard in the sub-region of Agrelo which lies in the heart of Mendoza south of the city. The Remolinos site is at 1050 metres, at the highest point of the region, where ripening is slowed thanks to cooling winds that sweep down from the Andes at night.

Colomé Reserva Malbec 2011 Decero Remolinos Vineyard Malbec 2011 Viña Cobos Bramare Malbec 2011 Graffigna Grand Reserve Malbec 2010

Viña Cobos 2011 Bramare Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina, ($45.95)
Sara d’Amato – Here is a wine that will bring out the fiery tango dancer in you. This is a riveting malbec with the depth and complexity to rival the best in this category. Unctuous and texturally intriguing with the elusive “sweet spot” of balance masterfully achieved. Vina Cobos is a shared partnership between renowned American oenologist Paul Hobbs and Argentine winemaking partners Andrea Marchiori and Luis Barraud.

Graffigna 2011 Grand Reserve Malbec, San Juan, Argentina, ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – In the best value category of this feature, this San Juan gem is refreshingly dry, a little tart and pleasantly fruity. A malbec you needn’t fear will overwhelm your main course but also one that is sure to please a crowd.


Norman Hardie Niagara ChardonnayBasa Blanco 2013Basa Blanco 2013, Rueda Spain ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This is a lovely, lively verdejo from great Spanish winemaker Telmo Rodriguez. Rueda whites are based on a terrific white grape called verdejo, that often is blended with a bit of sauvignon blanc. That was the formula for Basa as well, but in 2013 the sauvignon was replaced by 8% viura, a high acid native Spanish variety that has perhaps given this wine its amazing freshness.
John Szabo – Another fine edition, perhaps one of the best yet, of the Basa Rueda signed by Telmo Rodriguez. This smells like quality sauvignon blanc, or more accurately fumé blanc, with its gentle sweet herbal aromas and fruit shifting into the tropical – melon, guava, passion fruit spectrum.
Sara d’Amato – A sophisticated blend of verdejo and viura by iconic producer Telmo Rodriguez who is well-known for his work promoting indigenous varietals and delving into lesser known regions. This wine benefits from his keen and gentle touch and delivers a generous dose of zest, mineral and pure, refreshing fruit to the palate. A fabulous summer treat!

Norman Hardie 2012 Niagara Unfiltered Chardonnay, Niagara Peninsula ($35.00)
John Szabo – It’s more often Hardie’s County wines that excite me, but this 2012 Niagara chardonnay is a beauty – a wine of serious substance and minerality, and terrific depth. I love how he can stuff so much flavour into a wine with under 13% alcohol – a lesson that should be absorbed by more winemakers everywhere. Best 2014-2020
David Lawrason – This took a gold medal at the 2014 National Wine Awards of Canada. Both it and its County counterpart are stunningly good in 2012, wowing both local and international critics at i4c. Having followed Norm Hardie from day-one I am not surprised by his success, but in 2012 his chardonnays have leapt to a new level.

Dr. Hermann 2005 Erdener Treppchen Riesling Auslese, Mosel, Germany ($23.95)
John Szabo – What a great price for this superb, mature auslese, by no means at the end of life, with abundant minerality, succulent fruit and gentle spearmint notes (a flavour I often get in aged German riesling) – hard to beat this.
David Lawrason – This mature, sweet, honeyed riesling offers character far beyond its price. It is almost a must-buy for anyone who needs a bit of education on riesling’s ability to age. (no image available)

Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling 2012 Alana Tokaj Tokaji Harslevelu 2005 Beyra Vinhos De Altitude 2012 Beringer Private Reserve Chardonnay 2012

Vineland Estates 2012 Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – This continues to prove a top-caliber riesling, not only for Niagara, but is also a world-class example. This picture of elegance and power stems from an esteemed vineyard site from the Vineland estate itself planted in 1979. Vibrant, nervy and energetic – here is a firecracker of a riesling.

Alana-Tokaj 2005 Tokaji Dry Harslevelu Tokaj, Hungary ($24.95)
John Szabo – And here’s another beautifully mature wine that still has lots of life left, from an artisanal producer in Tokaj. Although the label says dry, it’s more like a gentle late-harvest style with the merest sensation of sweetness, and complexity is off the charts. Look for the saliva-inducing saltiness of volcanic terroir underlying the weighty ensemble – for $25 this is a real tour de flavour. Best 2014-2018.

Beyra Vinhos De Altitude 2012, Beiras Interior, Portugal ($13.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a brilliantly lively and perfumed blend of local varieties siría and fonte cal, like Chablis meets Sancerre. Vineyards at 700m on the schist soils of inland Portugal (just south of the Douro) are cool enough to yield this perfectly ripe wine at just 12% alc, focused on delicate citrus and sweet green herbs, with a killer streak of wet stone minerality.

Valdespino Inocente Single Vineyard Fino Dry SherryMiopasso Fiano 2012Beringer 2012 Private Reserve ChardonnayNapa Valley, California ($44.95)
David Lawrason – In a field of generally boring, over-oaked Calfornia chardonnays, this classic stood out for its poise and complexity – combining all the elements and expressing them with both authority and restraint. I am often hard on California wines for its pricing – this one is worth the money, perhaps even good value.

Miopasso 2012 Fiano Terre Siciliane, Sicily, Italy ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – The Miopasso range of wines focuses on indigenous varietals from southern Italy. This 100% fiano is flinty, smoky and mineral with a burst of citrus and delicate floral aromas. It is totally refreshing and immensely pleasurable.

Valdespino Inocente Single Vineyard Fino Dry Sherry, Spain ($22.95)
John Szabo – So salty and savoury, this is like an aperitif and an appetizer wrapped into one. Fantastic nuttiness, green olive brine, fresh bread and waxy citrus fruit flavours, in short, tremendous complexity, is apparently not for everyone (considering slumping sherry sales). But why would you spend the same $23 or more on a me-too generic cabernet from anywhere? Bring on the tapas.

Other Reds

Carvalhais 2011 Duque De Viseu Red, Dão, Portugal ($13.95)
Sara d’Amato – Portugal once again proves to be the land of great value. At under $14, this lightly perfumed and characteristically spicy wine from Dao is full-bodied and chalk full of perfectly ripened fruit. This lovely specimen will serve you well from aperitif to main course.
David Lawrason –
About halfway through tasting this dark, delicious, fruit-packed red I paused to check its price and just fell off my chair in surprise.  Enough said. You must try it.

Ninin De Antonino Izquierdo 2009Ribera del Duero Spain ($23.95)
John Szabo – Coming into its own now, I like the florality reminiscent of reds from further north in Spain like Bierzo, and the fine, pleasant bitterness. Best 2014-2019.

López De Haro 2008 CrianzaRioja Spain ($15.95)
John Szabo – It’s hard to ask for more for a $16 wine, especially if you’re a fan of old school Rioja. The resemblance to great traditionalist Lopez de Heredia Bodega doesn’t stop at the name and label design. This is an authentic regional wine. Best 2014-2020.

Carvalhais Duque De Viseu Red Ninin De Antonino Izquierdo 2009 López De Haro Crianza 2008 Apollonio Copertino Rosso 2007 Abad Dom Bueno Mencía 2008 Domaine De L'olivette Excellence Chusclan Côtes Du Rhône Villages 2012

Apollonio 2007 Copertino Rosso, Puglia, Italy ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This mature, rustic Italian country red will work better with a winter stew (the website actually recommends horse meat as a potential food much), but grab some now. It’s a blend of negroamaro 70% and montepulciano 30% that is absolutely stuffed with mouth-filling flavour and it has surprising harmony.

Abad Dom Bueno 2008 Mencía, Bierzo, Spain ($16.10)
David Lawrason – Here is yet another mencia-based red that performs well above its price with the power, structure and depth found in $40 reds from more famous regions of Spain and indeed the rest of Europe. The more I taste Bierzo the more I am convinced the mencia grape belongs in the gallery of the worlds best red wine grapes – up there with cabernet,syrah and company.

Domaine De l’Olivette 2012 Excellence Chusclan Côtes Du Rhône Villages, Rhône, France ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Chusclan is a tiny village appellation of only 250 hectares located on the banks of the Cèze river, a minor tributary of the Rhône and close to the town of Orange. This is a hot a sunny appellation, heavy in grenache, commonly known for its juicy, easy drinking reds and Tavel-style roses. This example from l’Olivette was a delight to discover with delicious botanical notes and distinctive garrigue.


That’s a wrap for this edition. Watch next week for our first Preview of the August 30 release, and don’t forget to check out Steve Thurlow’s round-up of the best new LCBO General List arrivals. Our national WineAlign team is convening in Toronto to judge the World Wine Awards of Canada. Busy times indeed.

Until next time!

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES August 16th release:

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews
August 16th Part One – Southern France

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 30 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!



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Gourmet Dinner & Tutored Tasting Featuring Wines from Graffigna

On August 21st, WineAlign is pleased to present a gourmet dinner & tutored tasting featuring wines from one of Argentina’s oldest wineries – Graffigna.

Graffigna HistoryGraffigna

Join us for an exclusive dinner at Jump restaurant with sommelier and global brand ambassador from Argentina, Federico Lleonart. Federico will guide you through a range of Graffigna wines and speak about the unique terroir of San Juan, Argentina as well as the history of the company that started with one man, Santiago Graffigna, in 1870. You will also have the opportunity to experience the exclusive Malbec glass – created in partnership with Riedel and Graffigna, and take home a box of 2 official Malbec Riedel glasses (valued at $50).

Federico will be joined by WineAlign’s Steve Thurlow.


Event Details:

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Location:  Jump (18 Wellington St W – Commerce Court East)

Reception: 6:30pm

Dinner: 7:00pm – 9:30pm

Tickets:  $80.00 plus HST and fees

*Please note tickets are limited to 50, so book early to avoid disappointment.

Purchase Your Tickets Here


Sparkling cocktails and hors d’oeuvres

Lime Cured Manitoulin Island Rainbow Trout
Avocado mousse, lemon jelly vinaigrette, lotus root crisps

Wine pairing: Graffigna Centenario Pinot Grigio

Grandview Farms Grass-fed Angus

Seared Flat Iron, stewed black beans and salt pork, chimmichurri rotolo of oxtail and tongue, braised mushroom forrestiere, escarole

Wine pairing: Graffigna Grand Reserve Malbec 2011

Cheese Course

Wine pairing: Santiago Graffigna (40% Malbec, 30% Cab Sauv, 30% Syrah) 2008

Hazelnut chocolate mousse
Bitter chocolate crunch, fresh raspberry coulis, baby mint

Wine pairing: Graffigna Late Harvest Malbec

*There are no substitutions*

About Jump

In the heart of Toronto’s Financial district, Jump combines classic style with sleek modern eclecticism. The sky high glass atrium, signature New York style bar and courtyard patio provide the perfect backdrop for world-inspired cuisine. Jump is renowned for its locally sourced meat and seafood, and seasonal vegetables, while continually creating fresh and innovative dishes.


Our winemaker events have been consistently and quickly selling out.  If you are interested in attending then we advise you to purchase your tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.


Purchase Your Tickets Here


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Buyers Guide to VINTAGES May 10 – Part One

South America, Germany and Rosé
By John Szabo with notes from Sara d’Amato and David Lawrason

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

This week’s Buyers Guide to VINTAGES (note our new name) features wines from South America, Germany and the annual spring fling with rosé. I’m pleased to report that there are plenty of good values, and good wines in the release, and the stars align on a handful. David Lawrason and Sara D’Amato also add their personal recommendations. Read on to see the top picks.

South America

The South American feature is a well-chosen selection that for the most part thankfully avoids the raft of over-made wines that have plagued offers from Chile and especially Argentina in the past. There’s a focus instead on balance and drinkability, and the best selections deliver genuine character and class. It’s also pleasing to see far fewer ludicrously heavy bottles – the kind that weigh a kilo empty – that were once all the rage on the continent.

The Stars Align

Valle Secreto First Edition Carmenère 2011Achaval Ferrer Malbec 20122012 Achaval Ferrer Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($24.95). John Szabo – Since 1999 Achaval Ferrer has been making some of Argentina’s best wines under the guidance of Italian oenologist Roberto Cipresso. If I had to choose one word to describe the estate’s wines it would be purity, though I’d also want to add in elegance and refinement. I find this, their entry-level bottling from three vineyards in Mendoza ranging from 13 to 86 years old, to be one of the most attractive buys in Argentina. One can’t help but be drawn in by the freshness of fruit, the delicate, suave and supple palate and the exceptional concentration and length. Best 2014-2020. Sara d’Amato –  A fresh and elegant malbec that smacks of sophistication for a price that is easy to swallow. A combination of old vines and high elevations makes this a wine to covet for your cellar. Compared to its single vineyard siblings, this entry-level is an undeniable value.

2011 Valle Secreto First Edition Carmenère, Cachapoal Valley, Chile ($18.95). John Szabo –  Carmenère is often a love-it-or-hate-it variety, a late ripener that can be quite burly and green even in Chile’s warm climate. Though this example has its share of wintergreen and fresh bay leaf, it’s nicely balanced and backed by plenty of and black and blue fruit – a solid and satisfying drop. Best 2014-2019. Sara d’Amato – This is a modern carmenère that has fallen into careful hands. It’s beautifully ripened and offers a slowly unveiling palate of rich black fruit, salinity and hint of dried herbs. The unique terroir of the upper Cachapoal has afforded this wine a really delicate balance between alcohol, tannins and fruit that play so effortlessly together on the palate.

John Szabo Recommends

2010 Altos Las Hormigas Terroir Malbec, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.95). Another pair of Italians, Alberto Antonini and Attilio Pagli, are responsible for the exceptional wines of Altos Las Hormigas, a winery founded in Luján de Cuyo in 1995. The Malbec Terroir hails from the higher, and cooler, Uco Valley, highlighting the appealing floral side of the grape. Best 2014-2018.

2011 Ojo De Agua Cuvée Spéciale, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.95). Dieter Meier is an enterprising Swiss artist and musician, the man behind the electronic music group Yello, as well as a professional poker player and formerly a member of the Swiss national golf team, as I learned from his Wikipedia page. In his spare time, he also runs a restaurant in Zurich, and raises cattle and grows organic grapes and produces wine in Mendoza – now that’s a well-rounded CV. His lovely Cuvée Speciale made from half malbec with cabernet sauvignon and franc, is fine, fresh and honest stuff, best 2014-2018.

2010 Maycas Del Limarí Reserva Especial Chardonnay, Limarí Valley, Chile ($19.95). I’m pleased to see this re-released and back on the shelves of the LCBO, drinking beautifully at the moment. The limestone-rich Limarí Valley in Northern Chile is the finest region in the country for chardonnay in my view, suffusing wines with a distinctively salty minerality, while the cool coastal breezes from the Pacific just a few kilometers away keep grapes fresh and focused.

2009 Tabalí Reserva Especial Limarí Valley, Chile ($22.95). But the Limarí is not just about fine chardonnay, as this blend of 3/4 syrah, with merlot and cabernet from Tabalí clearly shows. I’ve been regularly impressed with the full range from this estate, which I visited several years ago, now celebrating 21 years in business. This is also a re-release from last year, when it was also recommended. The extra year of age has conferred softer tannins and better wood integration, making it even more appealing. Best now-2019.

Altos Las Hormigas Malbec Terroir 2010  Ojo De Agua Cuvée Spéciale 2011  Maycas Del Limarí Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2010  Tabalí Reserva Especial 2009  Maipe Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

More from Sara d’Amato

Maipe Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Mendoza, Argentina ($18.95). At over 3,000 feet above sea level where this delectable cabernet is grown, you can bet that the winds can be felt. The name Maipe means of the “Lord of the Wind” which is still called upon frequently to tame the summer heat. This entry-level cabernet delivers impressive depth and intensity all the while remaining open, honest and expressive.

Lawrason’s Take

Montes Purple Angel 2011Hermanos De Domingo Molina Hermanos Torrontés 2012Hermanos De Domingo Molia 2012 Torrontés Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina ($12.75). Torrontes must be the most obvious wine on the planet, with a peacock’s tail of perfumed aromatics. Some will hate it, others won’t. But whatever your stance, this is a textbook example. And at only $12.75 you can afford to find out where you stand.

Montes 2011 Purple Angel, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($59.95). For several years this has stood as an icon for Chile’s aspirations to make “great, global wine”. And as much as you might balk at spending $60 on Chilean red, I urge you to divert $60 from the purchase of any mainstream Bordeaux or California reds. And take the time to decant and delve into the fine nuances offered within its rich framework.


Riesling is still king in Germany, made in a style that I’ve yet to find reproduced anywhere else in the world, while pricing remains utterly attractive. Consider that barely a century ago, the top vineyards fetched higher prices than Bordeaux’s classified growths. Personally, I’m delighted with the situation – I’ll happily buy a hundred bottles of great riesling for the cost of one first growth. But the country offers more than just riesling, as David and Sara reveal.

The Stars Align

2011 C.H. Berres Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese, Mosel, Germany ($18.25). John Szabo –  Rich, heady and ripe, as is frequently the case for rieslings from this astonishingly steep, perfectly oriented vineyard and its red volcanic soils, this is a real beauty. Have a look at the picture I took of the Würzgarten and marvel at the fact that anyone even bothers to grow grapes on this precipitous slope, and imagine the effort required to produce this wine. Then consider the price – I can say honestly say that $18 wouldn’t begin to cover my danger pay, though the vineyard workers surely have impressive calves. There’s enough dry extract, noble bitterness and lively acids to dry out the finish, making this off-dry wine seem virtually dry. Best 2014- 2023. Sara d’Amato – This prime Mosel house claims an impressive legacy: since 1510, twenty-one generations have worked the estate. Fermented with natural yeasts and afforded all the luxuries that riesling could ever want (and devoid of almost any interference), the result is a wonderfully expressive and highly intriguing wine – a steal!

C.H. Berres Ürziger Würzgarten Riesling Spätlese 2011  Max Ferd. Richter Riesling Kabinett 2007Heinrich Vollmer Altum Spätburgunder Dry 2008  Königschaffhausener Vulkanfelsen Trocken Pinot Gris 2012  Werner Anselmann Edesheimer Rosengarten Siegerrebe Spätlese 2012

John Szabo Also Recommends

2007 Max Ferd. Richter Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Kabinett, Mosel, Germany ($19.95). The Sonnenuhr (Sundial) is one of the Mosel’s great vineyards, combining perfect exposure with well-drained, pure slate soils that consistently yield startling fresh and balanced Riesling. This 2007 was first released in August 2009, and amazingly five years on since my first tasting, the fruit has advanced, but not much, and there’s still a delicious sapidity and freshness to the orchard fruit, not to mention a large dose of classic Mosel slatey minerality. Ahh, the magic of Mosel Riesling, truly timeless wines.

More from Sara d’Amato

Looking down to the Mosel River from the Würzgarten

Looking down to the Mosel River from the Würzgarten

2008 Heinrich Vollmer Altum Spätburgunder Dry, Qualitätswein, Pfalz, Germany ($19.95). You say spätburgunder and I say pinot noir – it’s all the same and yet completely different when planted in the almost Mediterranean climate of the Pfalz. Here vines ripen more quickly, benefitting from sunnier days and a drier climate than much of winegrowing Germany. This pinot will surprise you with its complexity and brooding smokiness.

Lawrason’s Take

2012 Königschaffhausen Vulkanfelsen Trocken Pinot Gris, Baden, Germany ($14.95). One of the great revelations from a trip to Baden in southern Germany last summer was the quality, style and depth of their pinot gris and pinot blanc. Not surprising really given these varieties also thrive over the Rhine River border in Alsace; but I think the best examples from Baden – like this great value – bring a certain slender elegance and polish often missing in Alsace.

2012 Anselmann Edesheimer Roséngarten Siegerrebe Spätlese, Pfalz, Germany ($16.95). Not unlike the Argentine torrontes in this release, this has incredible aromatics – very heady stuff.  Indeed that is siegerrebe’s claim to fame. And as with torrontes some may find it over the top, but I guarantee there will be occasions as our weather warms and you are enjoying a citrus or tropical fruit based salad where a chilled bottle of this modestly priced wine will be just perfect.

John on Rosé

Rosé wines are hot in Canada. Consumption has grown by 38 per cent in the last five years, and a recent Vinexpo study forecasts another 45% increase in sales by 2016. Most of these impressive gains are driven by cheap sweet blush to be sure, but I was happy to taste through the range of releases for May 10th, a solid collection of mostly dry, serious, food-friendly wines. Nearly half of the features are recommended by one or more of the WineAlign cru. Southern France remains the region where I do most of my shopping – I love those pale, delicate, dry, aromatic versions – though there are some fine contenders from elsewhere, too.

2013 Château La Tour De l’Évêque Rosé, Provence, France ($18.95). I could cut and paste just about any previous review for this wine without misleading – this is consistently solid, arch-classic Provencal rosé, and 2013 continues in the same lineage, if perhaps a little riper than average with its generous 13.5% alcohol.

2013 Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé, Languedoc, France ($19.95). Bertrand’s entire collection of wines, a considerable portfolio, is invariably worth a look. Part of your money goes no doubt to cover the cost of the attractive bottle with the bottom molded like a rosé flower, but the wine inside is also of premium quality, in the pale, dry, savoury and fruity southern French style. I’m inclined to pay the premium, and think of the designs you can make in the sand on the beach this summer.

2013 Château Val Joanis Tradition Syrah Rosé, Luberon, France ($15.95). This vineyard in the Luberon sits on round pudding stones like much of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, though the higher elevation yields lighter and more finely detailed flavours. This is pale, dry and fruity-savoury in the classic southern French style, gentle and delicate.

2013 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, Coastal Region, South Africa ($12.95). Be thankful that the Swedes, who guzzle countless thousand cases of Mulderbosch’s rosé, saved us a few. This is nicely priced, simple but well-balanced cabernet rosé, with the merest hint of sweetness but lots of juicy acids to keep it firm and focused.

2013 Château La Tour De l'Évêque Rosé  Gérard Bertrand Côte Des Roses Rosé 2013 Château Val Joanis Tradition Syrah Rosé 2013 Mulderbosch Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé 2013  Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Rosé 2013

Lawrason and d’Amato Align

2013 Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Rosé, Costières de Nîmes, Rhône Valley, France ($15.95). David Lawrason – This nicely captures the basic appeal of southern French rosé – and despite the great pink leaps being made the world over the Rhône still owns this style, with classic fruit so deftly accented by fennel, pepper and that general sense of shrubby “garrigue”. Very well-balanced and priced. Sarah d’Amato – Consistently a bargain, this dry, classic, southern Rhône rosé brimming with spice and pepper is sure to bring the sunshine to you. Costières de Nîmes is located where the Rhône and Languedoc meet (and has changed sides of the border once already), and although the wines tend to be similar to those of the Southern Rhône (with that pleasurable garrigue and blasted by sunshine and heat), they do exhibit greater freshness due to the region’s proximity to the sea. No summer street festival of the South could do without.

Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto Rosé 20132013 Famille Perrin Tavel RoséAlso Recommended by Sara d’Amato

2013 Famille Perrin Tavel Rosé, Rhône, France, ($19.95). With Tavel on the shelves summer can’t be far behind (despite the fact that most of us are still waiting for spring). This small appellation surrounding the picturesque cliffside village of Tavel produces exclusively pink wines (and don’t dare call them rosé!), always dry, aromatic and savory. The Famille Perrin’s is super snappy and taught in an exciting and nervy way with Provençal herbs, lavender and perfectly ripened strawberries.

Lawrason’s Take

2013 Zenato Bardolino Chiaretto Rosé, Veneto, Italy ($14.95). This is utterly charming, and if that’s not what you want from rosé perhaps you are being too demanding. Based on the corvina grape, Bardolino is known for its light, fragrant charming reds and this ‘chiaretto’ is simply a lighter shade of pale. Very fresh, balanced and chock full of fruit and freshness.

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Malbec World Day by David Lawrason

Promoting the malbec grape of Argentina

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Every grape, it seems, has its day. Malbec World Day on April 17 is a recent phenomenon to promote the malbec grape of Argentina. This late ripening variety is actually from southwest France (Cahors) but the hot, even climate on the high steppes of Mendoza has given it a perfect home, and malbec is now a household name in North America and South.

Indeed it has achieved a formidable presence in the Canadian market; fulfilling predictions that it would be “the next big thing” – like Australian shiraz. But as shiraz has gone through a downturn in mass market affection, might malbec be experiencing the same thing? Or, put another way, has malbec already had its day?

I was in my local store in Toronto on the weekend checking out how much malbec is available. There is a ton. When you go to WineAlign and search Malbec-Argentina-All Prices you will find a whopping 64 brands in current inventory at the LCBO. Similarly there are 65 showing in British Columbia. But a look at the small print on the price tags showed that many of the brands in the LCBO’s Vintages stores are showing release dates of weeks or months ago, especially if they are more expensive.

And I noted something else – many of the labels were unfamiliar, even to one who follows such things more closely than the average punter. It’s as if, at one point, Vintages just threw out a net and imported any malbec that wanted to be exported – whether good or not. So without my WineAlign iPhone app allowing me to check out my own reviews I wouldn’t know what to buy either.

I do enjoy malbec when I want a big, swarthy red. Barbecue season is such a time, and it’s no co-incidence that most Argentines drink malbec with their ubiquitous slabs of grilled and heavily smoked beef. And I like it a lot when it shows off its lovely floral, blackberry fruit unencumbered by too much oak, alcohol, meatiness or stemminess.

But I do find lower priced malbec rather homogenous, and many are heavy, coarse and unbalanced. This is partially because many are released too soon. Australia seemed able to get away with releasing very young shiraz that was more or less in balance – the syrah grape is inherently softer – but young, inexpensive malbec is not quite as affable or quaffable.

On the other hand, more expensive malbecs, although showing better complexity and depth of flavour, often don’t seem all that different in flavour profile or balance. And high alcohol can continue to be a problem.

So how to spot the good ones? I am looking at two things.

First, I am finding more elegance and floral lift in malbecs from higher altitude Uco Valley at (900 to 1200 metres). The recently developed region is a sea of vines up against the Andes, with one flashy new winery after another that makes it feel like Napa, at least in terms of its energy. In particular I am looking at the labels for mentions of some of the best sub-regions like La Consulta, Altamira, Vista Flores and Tunuyan and especially the highest region called Gualtallary near Tupungato. These ‘appelations’ are no yet official but they are beginning to appear on labels.

Second, I am looking for certain producers that I have come to know and respect. With so many producers (Argentina has over 2000 wineries) this is a slow process; but having visited there late in 2011 and paying attention since then, my go to list is developing. And I share it with you for Malbec World Day, with links to some of my favourite wines still on the shelf.

Altocedro Reserva Malbec 2009Altamira De Los Andes Reserve Malbec 2009Altamira De Los Andes Reserve Malbec 2009

This is made entirely from grapes grown in La Consulta and Vista Flores, two sub-regions of higher altitude in the Uco Valley. And it catches the floral charm I have come to expect of these regions. Lavish blackberry, violet fruit is nicely couched in moderated oak, vanillin and black licorice. It’s thick. elegant, sweetish and young with some alcohol kick, but essentially well composed, and excellent quality. Tasted February 2013.

Altocedro Reserva Malbec 2009

From the southern and higher reaches of the Uco Valley in La Consulta, this dark malbec has a lovely nose of mulberry, violets, chocolate and a hint of meatiness. It’s full bodied, smooth and very rich, with fine-grained tannin and considerable alcohol heat. Quite luscious with smoked meat finish. Excellent length. Best now to 2016. Tasted July 2012.

Versado Malbec 2010Cicchitti Edición Limitada Malbec 2008Angulo Innocenti Malbec 2010Versado Malbec 2010

Versado is small, new Canadian-owned winery in Argentina, with Niagara’s Ann Sperling and Peter Gamble at the winemaking helm. They have wrought some complexity here that’s often missing in malbecs at this price – combining woodsy, leathery notes amid the ripe berry-dried fig fruit. It’s medium-full bodied, fairly dense and refined, with some drying tannin. The length is very good. Tasted March 2013.

Cicchitti Edición Limitada Malbec 2008

This is very deep ruby-purple-black. The nose is generous, sweet and very ripe with mulberry, vanilla, coffee/chocolate and pepper. It’s full bodied, sweet, creamy and thick, with a tarry, smoky finish. Excellent length. It has great curb appeal, but Euro fans will find it too sweet. Tasted November 2012.

Angulo Innocenti Malbec 2010

La Consulta is a higher altitude sub-region at the upper end of the Uco Valley, expressing a somewhat more floral aroma and more delicate feel in this example. It is still very deep black-purple colour. It has a lovely floral fragrance with blackberry and gentle wood spice. It’s quite thick but not heavy with some woodsy tannin and pepper on the finish. Very good to excellent length. Fine now or over the next three years while the fruit is in bloom. Tasted March 2013.

Benmarco Malbec 2009Bodega Séptima Séptimo Día Malbec 2011Bodega Séptima Séptimo Día Malbec 2011

Septimo is owned by Spain’s famed cava producer Codorníu. It’s 135 hectares of vineyards are located in the Agrelo and Uco Valley.Young winemaker Paula Borgo has the reins at a state of the art winery. The result here is a rather vivacious, intense and almost racy malbec, whereas many are heavy and plodding. But that is not to say it is light because there is good weight and density and excellent length. The flavours are intense with very ripe currant-cherry fruit, very generous tarry, smoky oak and some of malbec’s florality. The length is excellent, the finish warm and a touch youthfully gritty. Lots here for $16; but I would give it a year for tannin to soften and oak to integrate. Tasted April 2013

Benmarco Malbec 2009

This has a very good stuffing, colour and fruit density – easily worth the money. It’s only lacking a bit of tension to put it over 90 – slightly low acidity with a touch of over-ripeness. Otherwise, enjoy the generous plummy, violet and chocolate aromas and flavours. It’s medium-full bodied, supple and rich with fine tannin. Very good to excellent length. Best 2012 to 2015. Tasted November 2011.

For more information on Malbec World Day you can visit the official Website, follow the activities on #MalbecWorldDay on Twitter, or see if there are still tickets to the VINTAGES event tomorrow night in Toronto.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

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Win FREE tickets to Malbec World Day

Win FREE tickets to this popular Argentina Wine Tasting Event

Wines of Argentina is giving away 5 pairs of tickets to this walk around tasting event – a $130.00 value! Read on for more information on how you can win.

On Tuesday April 16, discover wines made from Argentina’s popular signature grape Malbec, as well as wines from Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Bonarda, Chardonnay and Torrontes. This popular VINTAGES event is being held in Toronto at Roy Thomson Hall, 20 Simcoe Street.Enjoy fabulous wines, a tango demonstration, Argentina-inspired finger foods and music at this preview of 46 wines that will be available in stores in the coming months.

For more information and to purchase tickets go to or call 416-365-5767 or toll-free at 1-800-266-4764.

Malbec World DayFor a chance to win a pair of tickets, click the link below and answer the following question:

Did you know that Argentina has desert-like conditions in most of its wine growing regions, with many vineyards planted at cooler high altitudes. Which mountain range has the most influence on Argentine vines? 

Enter the Contest here

5 winners will be randomly selected from correct answers submitted by noon on Monday, April 8. Each of the 5 winners will receive a pair of tickets to the event. A $130.00 Value.


Malbec World Day

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Lawrason’s Take on Vintages April 14th Release: Argentina Spotlight

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Tuesday, April 17th has been dubbed Malbec World Day by a marketing whiz within an organization called Wines of Argentina. It is a promotional exercise to focus the world’s attention on malbec specifically and Argentina’s wines in general, with events being held in over 40 countries. What’s most impressive is that 2012 is only the second year for Malbec World Day – and there has been a huge “buy-in” to the concept. Our very own Vintages stores are featuring several Argentine releases on April 14th. On April 12th there are trade and consumer events in Ottawa, and next week – on the 17th  – there will be trade and consumer events in Toronto. I look forward to leading the panel discussion and tasting for the Toronto trade, having visited Argentina with Rod Philips late last year. The two of us will also be collaborating on a regional tour in a WineAlign feature next week.

Mapema Malbec 2009Malbec still occupies more vineyard space, and head space, than any other variety in the country. I faced a malbec inundation, especially in Mendoza when I was there. But I was intrigued to begin to discover different takes on malbec based on differences in appellation and vineyard altitude, and I did find more expensive editions reaching for more finesse. But in the broader context malbec remains a big, cuddly, creamy red that delivers that essential mood just as easily in cheap wines as it does in expensive versions. Indeed, expensive malbecs often seem to not deliver that much extra for the additional money being asked. But at the other end of the scale, very inexpensive malbecs can become boring. So my general advice would be to target malbecs in the $17 to $25 range, like Mapema Malbec 2009 at $21.95, a proto-typical example that is balanced, fairly complex and rich.

Chakana Yaguareté Collection BonardaLa Puerta Alta BonardaI was more energized by some of the other varieties that play in malbec’s shadow, especially the dark skinned bonarda. This grape originated in sub-alpine Savoie region of France where it is known as corbeau, and it is found widely in sub-alpine regions of northern Italy (Piedmont and Lombardy). Fans of obscure California wines will know it as charbono. It has long been grown at high yields in Argentina to make fruity, simple jug wines, but it is now being made at lower yields, at higher altitudes, and/or barrel aged to bring it into premium quality levels. I love the florality and juicy exuberance of bonarda as best expressed by the simple Chakana Yaguareté Collection 2010 at only $12.95. The La Puerta Alta 2009 from the Famatina Valley in La Rioja, is a bit more rich and complex, and still great value at $14.95.

The release also has some decent Argentine cabernets and blends, but I was disappointed to find that there was a tasting sample mix-up with the Decero 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. A different vintage and bottling was presented in the lab, so I will taste it after release. Decero is a very good producer indeed.

Aussie Semillon Ain’t Getting Respect

St. Hallett SemillonTyrrell's Brookdale SemillonSemillon is the grape that some people love to hate, and many others simply choose to ignore. For as long as I have been writing about wine, semillon from Australia (in particular) has been on my radar as one of the great, unsung values among white wines. But the unique, often petrol/fusel scent inherent in most semillons takes some getting used to, along with the lime and minerality. Semillon seems to flat line in the fruit department. But the best also have great structure, proportion and depth, sometimes riding on remarkably low alcohol. And as they age they morph into exciting, quite rich and honeyed wines. If you are nimble you can own one of the last eight bottles remaining of Mt. Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2003 ($59), that is still available through Vintages ShopOnLine – an iconic, kick-in-the-senses masterpiece! Or you can purchase Tyrrell’s Brookdale Semillon 2011 from the Hunter Valley on Saturday. It is textbook Semillon and very much worth an experiment at $19.95; so grab at least three bottles, one to try now, two for the cellar. St. Hallett Semillon 2006 gets you part way down the maturity track at $19.95, but this Barossa example does not have the same energy. To ease you gently into Aussie semillon try the Devils Lair Fifth Leg Semillon Sauvignon Blanc 2010 that resides on the LCBO general list, and is currently $14.95 with $1 off until April 29. And finally if your interest is piqued, I also point you to Stratus White 2008 from Niagara-on-the-Lake, a multi-grape barrel aged blend that has promoted semillon into a more dominant role this vintage.

Stratus White

A McLaren Vale Clinic

Brokenwood ShirazSometimes themes just present themselves. I was merrily tasting through the line-up of Australian reds when I came upon Brokenwood Shiraz 2009($29.95). ‘Rather light and quite charming for shiraz’ I thought to myself, after wading through a couple of other typically dense, creamy and rich Aussie reds. I paid closer attention to the origin and read McLaren Vale/Beechworth, South Australia/Victoria on the label – a statement of intent to move to slightly cooler regions. Beechwood is a higher altitude, almost mountainous area of central Victoria, while McLaren Vale is a much more well known, maritime area near Adelaide in South Australia.

Shottesbrooke Cabernet SauvignonPirramimma KatungaAs it happened the next two wines were also from McLaren Vale, and I noted a similar lightness of step. Shottesbrooke Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 ($21.95) is a quite elegant yet firm cabernet; while Pirramimma Katunga GTS 2007($24.95) is solid yet refined red with impressive layered complexity and length. GTS in this instance does not refer some ‘60s roadster, but to the very creative and effective blend of grenache, tannat and shiraz. To be clear, these are not lean, tart, mineral-driven cool climate wines; they are still smooth, ripe and Australian to their core. But by being just a little less texturally ponderous they open themselves up to more prolonged drinking pleasure with a wider palette of culinary options.

Best Power Reds

For those on the prowl for powerful, dense and cellar worthy reds allow me to point you to three New World offerings that have easily surpassed 90 points. But before delivering the good news, how about even better news? You could buy 2.5 bottles of all three of them (8 bottles total), or buy one bottle of Solaia 2008 at $249. For those who may not know, Solaia is an excellent, modern Tuscan cabernet by Antinori, one of the first great modern cabernets of Italy, for which it gained almost legendary notoriety, with price following suit. The 2008 vintage is excellent indeed if not quite as sensuous as I expected.

Spier Creative Block 3Grant Burge The Holy TrinityWith the first of the three power reds we stay in Australia, and the terrific Grant Burge The Holy Trinity Grenache/Shiraz/Mourvèdre 2008 from Barossa, which I think is an excellent buy at $33.95. You are owning a bit of history here because Holy Trinity, which is patterned on Châteauneuf-du-Pape in France’s southern Rhône Valley, was one of the early GSMs (first vintage 1997). But most of all I love the sense of evenness and depth once the richness washes off – this is very nicely focused wine. The 2008 Spier Creative Block 3 from South Africa is very impressive and a huge value at $19.95. It too is a Rhône blend, but this time with shiraz, mourvèdre and a splash of viognier. And finally, I strongly urge Napa cab collectors to peer over the hills into Sonoma’s Alexander Valley – another cabernet hot spot. Alexander Valley VineyardsCyrus 2007 at $59, is a best blocks blend of 66% cabernet sauvignon, 23% cabernet franc, 6% merlot and 5% petit verdot. It’s named after Cyrus Alexander, a 19th century homesteader on the current AVV property, who lent his surname to the entire region. So you are buying a bit of history here as well, (and I scored it the same as Solaia).


Bargain Whites

Guy Saget Marie De Beauregard VouvrayLa Cappuccina SoaveVineland Estates Chardonnay MusquéAs has become almost a habit each release, we finish with a miscellany of great white wine values. I am a big white wine fan and as I have probably said before, more attentive and more technological winemaking is making it much more common to achieve great purity of fruit expression, which is the essence of white wine. That purity is readily apparent right here at home with Niagara and County whites too, and I am very impressed by Vineland Estates Chardonnay Musqué 2010 from the Niagara Escarpment, a great buy at $17.95. Musqué should be aromatic and floral but this fine effort releases new levels of aromatic complexity. Italy’s native white grapes are great benefactors of the quality revolution, when basic wines like La Cappuccina Soave 2011 can turn out such pristine, charming flavours at only $13.95. And over in France don’t miss what is textbook Loire Valley chenin blanc in Guy Saget Marie de Beauregard Vouvray 2009 at only $17.95.

Prince Edward County Showcase

You can take the boy out of the County, but you can’t take the County out of the boy. On Tuesday, 13 Prince Edward County wineries poured their wares at the Berkeley Church in Toronto, and I managed to taste most of the wines offered. I had not done this kind of comprehensive tasting since moving to Toronto from Belleville 18 months ago, and I was immediately transported back to that distinctive County essence. There continues to be winemaking issues in the County, largely traced to sour-edged volatile acidity, but the energy, flavour depth and distinctive minerality remain hugely exciting.

If you have not been to the County yet – and a surprising number of wine-interested Torontonians have not – then there are two prime opportunities coming up. The first is the annual Terroir Festival on Saturday, May 26 at the Crystal Palace in Picton. The second is one weekend later at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival June 1st to 3rd – same location. I will be helping to co-ordinate the wines for this event, with over a dozen County wineries on board. Between now and then I am hoping to post several new reviews of County wines right here on WineAlign. As most are not in the LCBO, search by winery name in the Search field.

And that’s a wrap, for now. To see all my reviews from April 14 please click here.


David Lawrason,
VP of Wine at WineAlign

Filed under: Wine, , , , ,

The Successful Collector – By Julian Hitner ~ Uco Valley – the future of Mendoza ~ Saturday, March 3rd, 2012

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

A glimpse of the excitement:

A gigantic swath of land about 80 kilometres south of the city of Mendoza, many have written at length on the potential of the Uco Valley. Is it the future of winegrowing in Argentina, the nation’s ‘new Napa,’ as some have so grandiosely proclaimed it?

As food for thought, consider the following. The Uco Valley, or the Valle de Uco, now covers over 20,000 hectares of vines, much of it at altitudes between 1,000-1,700 metres. The highest of these are located in the sub-region of Tupungato, and many of the finest Argentinean winegrowers, as well as overseas investors, have begun planting ferociously here. Other subregions, or departments, of the Uco Valley include Gualtayary, Tunuyán, Vista Flores, La Consulta, and San Carlos.

Valle de Uco

The attraction of the Uco Valley, like many other up-and-coming winegrowing regions in Argentina, is largely due to the overall elevation of the area, a critical factor in the cultivation of vines throughout much of the country; as most places, semi-desert in composition, would be otherwise too arid and hot for the production of fine wines in this part of the world. In this extremely dry climate, growers are also attracted to conditions that offer the greatest temperature variations between night and day. For winemakers, the resulting wines are great in colour depth and flavour, both appealing traits to many modern enthusiasts, especially in North America, as well as collectors.

As mentioned before, the Uco Valley is a very large area, around 100 kilometres long and 50 kilometres wide, most of which is surrounded by hills and mountains—think of the majestic Andes Mountains to the west.

Uco Vineyard

Of irrigation, as most vineyards are not dry-farmed (though this may change over time), most water is sourced from the Tunuyán and (smaller) Las Tunas Rivers, as well as from local wells and reservoirs. Indeed, irrigation throughout the valley is essential, as most parts only receive less than 300 millimetres of annual rainfall. Not surprisingly for an area so vast, soil compositions are remarkably varied, though Decanter contributor Anthony Rose reports that most are “geologically young at 30,000 years old,” and that “the main constituents are alluvial sandy loam containing sand, clay, gravel and rounded pebbles; and colluvial, rocky soils” (The New World’s Most Exciting New Terroirs, 5 June 2009, Thus, even at the beginning of 2012, winegrowers remain continually in the process of determining how best to exploit such a varying, promising terroir.

As for the wineries themselves, much has already been accomplished, with top establishments investing extraordinary sums of money to build the best facilities possible. Top names? Here’s a short list: Andeluna Cellars, Cheval des Andes, Clos de los Siete, O. Fournier, Monteviejo and Salentein. No doubt there will be others over the next several years. The future holds much potential.

Click here for a few gems from the 3 March 2012 Vintages Release along with several others

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Lawrason’s Take on Vintages December 10th Release: Escaping to Argentina, BC’s Big ‘O’ Reds, 92 Point Reds, Blinded by a PEC Pinot Noir & Bargain Whites

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

I experienced a secret pleasure while spending twelve days in Argentina recently. It was not the perfect mid-summer temperatures, nor the surprisingly good food (beef and otherwise), nor those rich creamy malbecs. No, it was missing twelve days of pre-Christmas hype and circumstance here at home. There was virtually no Christmas razz-a-mattaz in the streets of Buenos Aires, Mendoza and Patagonia. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas. I am from a very large family for which Christmas was a fairy tale of fun, food and frolic. And it still is when our clan, that now numbers almost forty siblings and their off-spring, get together. But nowadays I find the banal consumerism of Christmas just too much, and it starts way too soon. I saw my first Christmas TV commercial while I was doling out Halloween candy!  Christmas should start right about now, December 10. Those who need more time to shop and prepare are perhaps doing and buying too much.

Escaping to Argentina

So if you want to escape Christmas, even for a little while longer, join me in a glimpse of Argentina. It’s a nation almost completely populated by Europeans, mostly from Spain and Italy, who at one point or other saw this vast land of plains and mountains as an idyllic escape themselves, not from Christmas but from poverty and persecution. There were several waves of European immigration in the 19th and 20th Centuries, with the latest being at the beginning of the 21st Century, as Argentina came out of a disastrous period of financial crisis. The latest wave is most evident in the burgeoning wine industry which has been hauled into the modern world and pushed onto the global stage by financiers and oenologists from Europe and elsewhere, who saw cheap land and endless potential for improving wine quality and value in this vast, warm and arid land. Wineries in new regions like Patagonia, Salta and the Uco Valley in Mendoza are monuments of modern, lavish architecture (Napa has nothing on these guys), and in stark contrast to the shoddy villages and crumbling roads encountered en route. But it is exactly the wealth, allure and global attraction of the wine industry that one day could be the engine to pull the rest of the country along, or so the government and banks hope having provided container loads of easy credit.

Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza, Argentina

Argentine is the planet’s fifth largest wine producing country with endless amounts of arid, semi-desert land available for vineyard growth, as long as water from the Andes or deep wells can be economically applied. (Water is the only thing that is expensive). There are about 1,200 wineries in Argentina and most of them are very large. The size of the vineyard holdings of some of the largest would almost consume most of Niagara or the Okanagan. The smallest winery I encountered was at about 20,000 cases almost twice the output of the largest in Prince Edward County. This economy of scale, plus cheap labour, combines with large yields per hectare, and growing conditions easily controlled by irrigation to make the wine dead cheap.

But value of course is a two-sided coin, and cheap wine alone would not sustain Argentina in the world for long. The oceans of $10 malbec do provide bang for buck, but I was bored by them before I arrived, and still was as I tasted them in their own backyard. They are fruity and rich but often simple, short and coarse. The real strength of Argentina now, and the point of the massive upgrade in technology and winemaking talent, is to make wine that still does not cost very much – $15 to $30 – and that completely over-delivers on quality. The wines in this category were the revelation of my journey. One after another – whether malbecs, cabernets, merlots, syrahs, petit verdots, tannats or blends thereof – I found myself swooning over their texture, complexity and depth – routinely posting scores of 88 to 92 points, or more.  To the point that the so-called “icon wines” over $30 and as much as $100, simply didn’t supply that much more gratification or much better quality.

Cicchitti Edicion Limitada Malbec 2008In Saturday’s release there are two great examples of terrific mid-priced Argentine reds. I did not visit the Mendoza winery (bodega) that made CICCHITTI 2008 EDICION LIMITADA MALBEC ($23.95) but this lush red from organically tended vineyards scattered at various elevations from 800 to 1200 metres is a great example of the current state of the art, and Argentine wine history. It is an Italian family winery founded in 1928 and very recently expanded and upgraded to catch the export wave.

Benmarco Expresivo 2008BENMARCO 2008 EXPRESIVO, also from Mendoza, is pricier at $36.95 but it was one of few that I would personally have no qualms buying above $30. It is a very cool, rich yet refined blend of five Bordeaux grape varieties, a common practice in Argentina where the majors like cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cab franc – as well as more difficult petit verdot and tannat – can each be planted at altitudes most suitable to their growing season, then blended after. Altitude blending is Argentine’s secret weapon. Benmarco is not a winery by the way, but a brand produced at an excellent winery called Dominio del Plata, based in the important sub-region of Agrelo.

The winemaker at Dominio del Plata is Susanna Balbo, who I consider to be one of the great talents of Mendoza. I was not able to taste her SUSANA BALBO 2010 SIGNATURE CABERNET SAUVIGNON ($22.95) by press time, but I will add my note shortly after the release on Saturday. Likewise with CLOS DE LOS SIETE 2008 ($21.95) which I will re-taste after a disappointing experience last spring. Everyone seemed to like it but me. This is one of the most famous “foreign invasion” brands of Argentina, created by Bordeaux oenologist Michel Rolland who began consulting in the region in the early nineties, along with California’s Paul Hobbs. This pair, along with local hero Nicolas Catena, are largely responsible for where Argentina sits today.  And Argentina is sitting pretty!

B.C.’s  Big ‘O’ Icon Reds

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2007During a seminar on wine in Canada that we guests did for the Argentine wine industry in Mendoza, I mentioned that British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, especially south of Oliver, was very much like Argentina, only at a latitude 15 degrees cooler (the Okanagan lies from 49 to 50 North, while Mendoza is at 30-32 South). Eyes opened and jaws dropped when I told them that B.C.s little desert was producing syrah, malbec, merlot and cabernets. I would have loved to be able to pour them the two B.C. icon wines being released Dec 10th -OSOYOOS LAROSE 2007 LE GRAND VIN at $45.00, or MISSION HILL 2007 OCULUS at $70.00. They would have experienced fine merlot-based blends crafted with attention to complexity, finesse and depth, if still a bit leaner than in hotter regions like Mendoza..

Mission Hill Oculus 2007Which is the better Big O? Osoyoos-Larose or Oculus? Well I have not tasted the 2007s side by side but I have scored Oculus one point higher. At $25 more however that puts the “best buy” question on the sidelines. More importantly, I think that in both cases the 2007 vintage is among the strongest yet produced by both companies, with Mission Hill having a head start with its first bottling in 1997, and Osoyoos-Larose in 2001. The Okanagan Valley is indeed vintage sensitive, much more so than Mendoza. The 2007 vintage started poorly but finished hot, creating a lighter year with some catch-up ripeness. Both wines seem to have a bit more refinement, and in general among B.C’s often burly and unbalanced big reds, this is a very positive trait. I think the real reason is that the winemaking is simply getting better (which implies a better understanding of and adaptation to the vintage conditions).

By the way Osoyoos-Larose in the 750ml size is a Vintages Essential with the 2007 vintage now taking over from the burlier 2006. The magnum bottle(1500ml) of Osoyoos-Larose 2007 is being released Saturday at $99.95.

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory

Ep 2.3 - Keint-He Pinot Noir 2007

Ep 2.3 - Keint-He Pinot Noir 2007

No, I am not refering to the Leafs. I am talking about my performance in the latest episode of So, You Think You Know Wine, the video of WineAlign’s blind tasting tournament that pits we critics and guest sommeliers against one, taunting, humiliating gold foil wrapped bottle of wine set in front of us in a darkened studio. In this episode the wine was Keint-He 2007 Pinot Noir from Prince Edward County. As soon as I nosed it Prince Edward County leapt to mind, as it should given that I have devoted much time and energy to this fascinating region in the past decade. As a rule I believe in the blind tasting principle that “the nose knows”. But I failed to do the proper analytical diligence when the palate texture took me in another direction. It was wonderfully elegant and almost creamy – very New World in feel – so I took the easy route to New Zealand instead of properly asking myself what conditions in PEC might induce this. Elements like maturity (it looked mature), a warm vintage (2007 was such a vintage), and excellent, low yield, natural winemaking (which is the stock in trade of Keint-He winemaker Geoff Heinricks). So I blew it under pressure, plain and simple.

Closson Chase Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009

You can get to know PEC pinot noir with a very good example being released December 10th. CLOSSON CHASE 2009 CLOSSON CHASE VINEYARD  PINOT NOIR ($39.95) is one two pinots made by winemaker Deborah Paskus in 2009. This one is from the most mature vineyards (still only 10 years) on the original property. I have tasted it at least four times this fall, and I really like its taut, tart cran-raspberry County authenticity, but I would still age it a year or two to soften the edges. At the moment I am preferring its younger but more expensive sibling, the first vintage of CLOSSON CHASE 2009 CHURCHSIDE PINOT NOIR($49.95), from hilltop wines planted beside the little white church atop the northern slope across from the big purple barn. It has a bit less depth perhaps but I do prefer the more obvious barrel complexity and suppleness of texture. And it too should age well, at least for three to five years. It is available only at the winery.

A Pair of 92 Point Reds 

Kanonkop Pinotage 2008Bodegas Alion 2007KANONKOP 2008 PINOTAGE ($39.95) from South Africa’s Simonsberg-Stellenbosch district is a great example of pinotage, the grape hybridized in South Africa in the 1920s by crossing pinot noir and cinsault (a Rhone variety). Due to uneven ripening, a distinctive, often unpleasant flavour in some older examples, and a confusing array of styles pinotage is en route to extinction. But Kanonkop winemaker BeyersTruter made it is mission to embrace and elevate pinotage. I urge you to try what is one of the most intriguing wines on the release, if even only to try it once and say you did before it goes the way of the dodo.

BODEGAS ALION 2007 ALION TINTO from the Ribera del Duero region of Castilla y Leon in Spain, is pricier at $78.95, but again a terrific wine. This is a modern bodega founded in 1992 by the Alvarez family (owner of Vega Sicilia, Spain’s region’s most famous wine). It makes only one wine, from one grape – tempranillo locally known as tinto fino. It is aged in new French oak. I was blown away by the aromatics here!

And two Whites Steals Under $17

Château Des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2008Poderi Del Paradiso Vernaccia Di San Gimignano 2010CHÂTEAU DES CHARMES 2008 OLD VINES RIESLING Niagara-on-the-Lake ($16.95) has been wowing critics and competition judges all year, including WineAlign colleagues John Szabo and Sara d’Amato as we judged it the Best Wine at the Toronto Gold Medal Plates culinary competition in November. Prior to that it won White Wine of the Year at the Ontario Wine Awards and a gold medal at the Canadian Wine Awards. When a wine is this decorated and only $16.95, you just have to try it.

PODERI DEL PARADISO 2010 VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMIGNANO$14.95 was an unexpected charmer. I had largely lost interest in the whites from Tuscany’s most famous, touristic town because they had modernised to capture brightness, losing some individuality in the process. From a historic property at the foot of the hill, this is remains very well made but it is a stylistic return to the richer, honeyed and floral vernaccia’s of yore. This has been achieved by fermenting 20% in small oak barrels then ageing six months, as well as through long lees contact for the other 80% in tank.

And so it goes for the last Vintages release of 2011. We return with Vintages previews prior to the January 7th release, but keep watching for special holiday features and updates and Picks of the Day on The National Posts’ The Appetizer.

And a fun, frolicking Holiday season to all!

Check out reviews on over 120 wines from the December 10th release here.

Cheers and enjoy, David

- David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

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John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for October 15th 2011 – Tuscany, Where Modern Meets Traditional; Argentina: the good, the bad and the heavy, and Top Ten Smart Buys

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Tuscany & Argentina – 
Poliziano Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2007Tuscany and Argentina are featured in the October 15th VINTAGES release, familiar territory for most wine lovers. The former is a fully developed region with parallel streams of both ultra-traditional and post-modern, while the latter is a newcomer to the scene, still navigating the intricacies of selling wine internationally. Both are popular sources for wine. Of the Tuscans in this release, my most serious enjoyment was caused by the 2007 POLIZIANO VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO DOCG $25.95, also my top smart buy. It’s a model that I’d love to see more Tuscan producers follow: pure class in a classic and recognizably Tuscan style.  Like the region, the traditional and the modern co-exist in harmony at Poliziano. The winery is partly powered by clean, renewable solar energy and is equipped with all the modern winemaking aids. Yet the style remains resolutely classic: a mid-weight, sangiovese-dominated wine, with balance, integrity and complexity, relying more on finesse and refinement rather than heft, raw power or wood. The finish lingers on beautifully. Other recommended Tuscan wines include 2007 TENUTA DI NOZZOLE LA FORRA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA DOCG $29.95 and 2008 VOLPAIA CHIANTI CLASSICO DOCG $21.95 . See the full list of recommended Tuscan wines here.
Tenuta Di Nozzole La Forra Chianti Classico Riserva 2007 Volpaia Chianti Classico 2008

Bye-bye Big Bottles
Navarro Correas Structura Ultra 2006Argentina delivers a couple of top wines, but first a rare deviation to the not recommended: basta with the heavy bottles, por favor. Argentina is one of the guiltiest countries when it comes to the outmoded crime of stupidly heavy bottles – it’s like 1997 calling all over again. I’d say that most switched-on wine drinkers are no longer fooled by the facile attempt to add value by adding ounces to bottle weight. The gravitas comes from within, where the money should be spent.

Riglos Gran Corte 2007Needless to say, there’s also the consideration of the serious environmental impact of producing, shipping and recycling heavier bottles. In this area the LCBO is a world leader – as of January 1st Ontario will not stock any wines in bottles weighing more than 420g (the most criminal come close to 1kilo, empty). Though this restriction is officially for wines at or below $15 retail, “favourable consideration will be given to product offers that are lower in weight”, says senior LCBO VP of Sales and Marketing Bob Downey. Thus any suppliers offering lighter weight bottles at premium price points will have an advantage over competitors. We can only hope that suppliers won’t just artificially raise the price of their wines above $15 so they can keep their barbarian bottles. Should you find yourself at Vintages and you haven’t gotten in your work out for the day, do a few curls with either 2006 NAVARRO CORREAS STRUCTURA ULTRA IP Mendoza, Limited Release $34.95 or 2007 RIGLOS GRAN CORTE Mendoza $37.95, though you may be stiff in the morning.
Catena Alta Malbec 2008
On the brighter, lighter side, there are a couple of brilliant Argentine wines in the release, headlined by 2008 CATENA ALTA MALBEC Estate Lots, Mendoza $49.95. Catena has been a leader and a pioneer for over one hundred years in Mendoza, and the experience, and confidence, shows. This ’08 has obvious class and complexity with beguiling violet-floral notes, ripe but fresh black fruit, and well-integrate wood spice, while the palate shows uncommon freshness and liveliness and tremendous length. Also excellent and worth the premium price is the 2009 CATENA ALTA CHARDONNAY Estate Lots, Mendoza $39.95.

Closer to the affordable value end of the scale, try the 2006 DURIGUTTI RESERVE MALBEC Mendoza, Unfiltered $26.95 or the 2008 LUIGI BOSCA RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON Maipü, Mendoza $17.95, both well-balanced, representative examples. See all recommended Argentine wines here with reviews.
Catena Alta Chardonnay 2009  Durigutti Reserve Malbec 2006  Luigi Bosca Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
Le Clos Jordanne Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009Top Ten Smart Buys

As for the top ten smart buys, well worth pointing out is the superb 2009 LE CLOS JORDANNE LE CLOS JORDANNE VINEYARD PINOT NOIR VQA Niagara Peninsula, Twenty Mile Bench $45.00. By general consensus, 2009 is the best vintage yet for LCJ, and for Ontario pinot noir in general (see my article). I predict that this will be a turning point for the Ontario industry. The full range from Le Clos is impressive so watch for this and other upcoming releases. You’ll also find an impressive bubbly from New Zealand for $21.95, a textbook Alsatian gewürztraminer, and a sturdy French country red for $16.95 that will be perfect with your autumnal game dishes, roasts and braises. See them all here.

Fom the October 15th Vintages release:
Top Ten Smart Buys
Recommended Tuscany at A Glance
Recommended Argentina at A Glance
All Reviews


John S. Szabo, MS
John Szabo, Master Sommelier

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Lawrason’s Take on Vintages June 25th Release – Argentina Steps It Up, A Tale of Two Tempranillos, Brilliant Provence Rose, Bio-Grgich Cabernet, Wynn-Fall Shiraz, Trimbach Riesling, Deborah Paskus and the Little Fat Wino

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The fizzle seems to be going out of Fusion. Sales are still very healthy but it is no longer the buzz on the street.  The same can be said of inexpensive Argentine malbec in general.  Leading to the question: what next Argentina?  Well Vintages seems to have answered the question on this release with a dozen well chosen wines that include torrontes, tempranillo, cabernet sauvignon and blends thereof.  There are still four malbecs, but two at least are a step up from the everyday. And overall the wines presented are more interesting and higher quality than I expected.

Familia Zuccardi Organica Torrontés 2010Torrontes is a very aromatic, muscat-like white variety that thrives in Argentina. When tasting at the International Value Wine Awards in Calgary earlier this month I was pleased to encounter a flight of eight Argentine torrontes, a group that showed very well indeed. I noted two stylistic camps within the group – the racy, lifted, summer sippers and the more solid, drier weight examples that will work with food. The pair on this release illustrate the styles perfectly, and I particularly like the ultra fresh, almost dazzling FAMILIA ZUCCARDI 2010 ORGANICA TORRONTÉS at only $13.95.  A poolside winner that dances with citrus and floral flavours.  As evening sets in switch to the more reserved but powerful Alta Vista 2010 Torrontes, also $13.95, to match a meal of salads, cheese and charcuterie.

Benmarco Cabernet Sauvignon 2009At the same awards tasting there was some discussion after a very good blind flight of cabernet sauvignons, that Argentina was also a rising star for this most venerable of red grapes (that is doing extremely well indeed over the Andes in Chile). There is no reason that Argentina should not be making great cabernets. The growing season is long, warm and dry, and by pinpointing the right altitude, they can perfectly ripen cabernet sauvignon, or any grape for that matter. It’s said that every 100 metres difference in elevation is equivalent to 150 kilometres difference in latitude.  Anyway,BENMARCO 2009 CABERNET SAUVIGNON from Mendoza, is ample demonstration, with some good winemaking being brought to bear as well.  Winemaker Pedro Marchevsky is one of the most educated, experienced viticulturists in Argentina, managing vineyards for almost 30 years. For $16.95 he has delivered a minor masterpiece. Love the fruit ripeness here without sacrificing cabernet’s more herbal nature.

Terrazas De Los Andes Reserva Malbec 2008One of the malbecs is also a notch above the norm, offering great value under $20. I was particularly impressed with the structure of TERRAZAS DE LOS ANDES 2008 RESERVA MALBEC at only $17.95. While many go for exaggerated fruitiness and juiciness (often with hot alcohol in tow) this is both generous and dense yet restrained. It is from the hands of another highly experienced winemaker who knows a thing or two about malbec, as he manages over 250 hectares of it. Hervie Birnie-Scott trained at Montpellier in France, and worked in Napa and Australia before landing in Argentina in 1991 with Bodegas Chandon.  He went to co-author Cheval des Andes, a joint venture wine between Bordeaux’s Ch Cheval Blanc and Terrazes, which has become the country’s most prized and expensive collector’s red – a blend of malbec and cabernet with a splash of merlot.  This Reserva, at about one-quarter the price, is very fine and much better value.

A Tale of Two Tempranillos

There are two Argentine tempranillos on the release, an indication that Argentina is progressing with the grape that thrives in Spain’s similarly hot, arid climate.  I have always had trouble pinning tempranillo’s character, as it has chameleon-like ability to adapt its character to its surroundings. I can pick out a syrah or cabernet from anywhere due to certain distinguishing characteristics; but not so with tempranillo.  Nor does it help when oak is heaped on top, as often happens in Spain, and in both the Argentine examples offered here.  But I did find it intriguing to compare FAMILIA ZUCCARDI 2008 Q TEMPRANILLO with a Spanish tempranillo blend BARON DE LEY 2005 RIOJA RESERVA.  The similarity is in the heavy American oak influence in both wines – Zuccardi is obviously riffing on traditional Rioja styling.  The more interesting difference was in the structure, with the Argentine wine showing a very smooth, rich open-knit New World style, while the Rioja is more lean and elegant although still quite dense.  Both are very good, typical examples at the same price of $19.95.

Familia Zuccardi Q Tempranillo 2008 Baron De Ley Reserva 2005

Fine Provence Rosé

La Bastide Blanche Bandol Rosé 2010A short stay in Provence last month re-awakened me to the charms of Provencal Rosé in particular, and indeed it is quite different from others – even in the nearby Rhone Valley and Tavel. The colour is pale and less vibrantly pink, more of a glowing salmon shade. The fruit is not as obviously berryish and sweet; it’s a bit more exotic and tart like persimmon or perhaps ground cherry. Notes of herb, spices and a scent that reminds me of fresh onion skin are more dominant. And the wines are bone dry, taut and lively. There are two very good examples on this release. Chateau La Tour de Eveque 2010 is from Cotes de Provence, a large appellation whose production is 80% pink, made from typical southern French varieties like carignan, cinsault and syrah. LA BASTIDE BLANCHE 2009 BANDOL ROSÉ is a notch above, from a particular seaside, limestone-soiled appellation that demands at least 50% mourvedre. This is a very tidy, precise and dry rose that you must try with cold canapés at your next deck soiree.

Bio-Grgich Cabernet 

Grgich Hills Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2007The wines of Grgich Hills have been showing up steadily at Vintages of late, and I am very happy about that.  It is one of many great, almost legendary Napa pioneers, but to me it has always stood out for being a bit more conscientious about its wine than most, less concerned with gloss and willing to march to its own drummer, especially back in the day when Mike Grgich went all-white in the heart of Napa cab country. He did come around to cab, obviously, as GRGICH HILLS ESTATE 2007 CABERNET SAUVIGNON is featured here, at a healthy $69.95. It is a very well composed, subtle yet concentrated wine – not too oaky, not too rich and vitally honest. I think the reason lies in the bio-dynamically grown fruit. Few mainstream Napa wineries have gone so completely organic (Frog’sLeap on this release is another), and the task was even more daunting on converting 150 hectares, which was completed and Demeter certified in 2006. According to Monty Waldin’s Biodynamic Wine Guide, the impetus for conversion came in 2002 when vineyard manager Ivo Jeramaz attended a biodynamics symposium by famous French bio-promoter Nicolas Joly.  But would Grgich have converted without already having a conscience instilled by its founder? I’d bet not.  Biodynamics is as much an attitude as it is a process.

Wynn-Fall Shiraz Value

I tasted dozens of shiraz on my trip to Australia earlier this year, but none struck me as better value, in a serious, age worthy style, than WYNNS 2008 COONAWARRA ESTATE SHIRAZ. It offers up sinewy structure, density and depth well beyond its $19.95 price tag. Why? I expect it has to do with a very good vintage overlying the complex Coonawarra soils, plus the stringent work of a viticultural team led by veteran Allen Jenkins, a viticulturalist, teacher and writer with over 20 years in South Australia, and the last ten in Coonawarra specifically. He knows the region and its terra rosa soils like the back of his hand, and is heavily involved in the development of sub-appellations like Victoria and Albert Lane (or colloquially V&A Lane). I spent a fascinating two hours with him in the vineyard, and learned a great deal that had somehow escaped me over the past 25 years.
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Shiraz 2008

Pierre Trimbach Visits Niagara

 Cuvée Frédéric Émile Riesling 2005In early June I also spent considerable time with Pierre Trimbach, the 11th generation family winemaker at perhaps the most famous riesling house in Alsace.  He was guest lecturer at Brock University’s Riesling Experience 2011, and I also met him for lunch prior to his first visit to Niagara. The Brock audience was largely comprised of winemakers so things got a bit technical over his lengthy two hour presentation. But he never let himself be drawn too deeply into explaining why he did what he did, in terms of things like yeast selection, maceration times etc.  He just seemed to know and accept what he had learned through 385 years of riesling winemaking experience. I particularly loved his response to a question about what was need to ensure riesling’s longevity, as we tasted his exquisite  CUVÉE FRÉDÉRIC ÉMILE 2005 RIESLING, then moved back to the even better 2001. “The first thing is balance” he said. “ The second thing is balance,  and the third thing is balance. The rest is just blah, blah, blah…”  I will attempt to cover more of the Brock Riesling Experience in the near future, which also brought together rieslings from the Great Lakes basin (Niagara, Ohio, New York and Michigan) but for now, the focus is on Trimbach as the wines are only available through a special offer at VINTAGES while small supplies last. I recommend the impeccably balanced 2005 Cuvee Frederic Emile ($59), and the ripe, rich yet still dry 2009 Riesling Reserve ($25.95). This wine is part of the Vintages Classics Collection. Click here for details on this offer.

Closson Chase Winemaker Deborah Paskus Awarded

Closson Chase K.J. Watson Vineyard Chardonnay 2008At the recent gala announcing the winners of the 16th annual Ontario Wine Awards (results at Ontario winemakerDeborah Paskus was given the inaugural “Larry Patterson Innovation in the Vineyard Award”.  More on Larry Patterson in a moment, but I wanted to add my two cents on how fitting it is that Deborah received this award, and to advise that you can taste her work on Saturday’s release via the incredibly rich, poised and complex CLOSSON CHASE 2008 K.J. WATSON VINEYARD CHARDONNAY grown in the Niagara River sub-appellation. Yes, it is a Niagara wine made at the Prince Edward County winery, but Paskus has had her feet planted in both regions for a very long time, and sees all of Ontario has her field of endeavour. She actually made her name back in the 90s with a low-Deborah Paskusyield, long wood aged Temkin-Paskus Niagara chardonnay made jointly with wine writer Steven Temkin, then worked at Niagara wineries like Thirty Bench, then Tawse. By the end of the 90s she was foraging for vineyard sites in Prince Edward County, well ahead of the pack, and she has continued to create some of the most controversial, unabashedly rich chardonnays in the country from both locales. On receiving the award she acknowledged Larry Paterson, and something about herself that her fans have long known.   “Knowing the truth is not enough, speaking the truth is required. The world squeezes hard for us to fall in line. Where nice is considered a character attribute, Larry Paterson spoke his truth and he had a quality I most admire: he was authentic.”  In the spirit of truth telling, I wish some of the guests had had the courtesy to zip it during the presentation of this award.

“Radical Red” Honours the late “Little Fat Wino”

The Little Fat Wino!As Deborah Paskus received her award she was given a bottle of Radical Red, a tribute bottling by Stoney Ridge winemaker Jim Warren honouring his long time friend Lawrence Peighton Paterson. For as long as I can remember Larry was much better known and embodied as the Little Fat Wino.  He passed away late in 2010 after a long career as a professional thorn in the paw of the Ontario wine establishment, including the LCBO.  He was the only LCBO staffer ever fired for breaking “the company” rules about the listing process. He was such a fierce promoter of Ontario wine that while working in the Lakefield LCBO (near Peterborough) he would drive to Niagara on weekends to bring in non-listed wines for display in the store.  Once relieved of his duties he became even more aggressive, writing in publications and on his own website, about anything he deemed stupid, arbitrary and artificial (including wine additives).

In later years he became a promoter of Ontario wine outside conventional regional and varietal boundaries, doing much to convince winemakers in fringe areas to consider new, hybrid grape varieties. One such grape called Landot (see his treatise here) became a calling card, and it is from this variety, blended with merlot, that Jim Warren has created his small lot of Radical Red. When I received the bottle from Jim Warren after the event, I thought I should keep it as a momento to Larry, but I decided to just go ahead and open it. That’s what Larry would have done, and having received the bottle as a journalist it was indeed my job to write about it.  Radical Red is not a remarkable wine. It is very good, with a richness that escapes many Ontario reds, but there is a fair bit of oak and a volatile and leathery edge to it as well, so that the fruit character is not particularly distinctive. What’s remarkable is that the wine exists, from vines grown with the greatest of patience by one of the most impatient men I have ever known.  Or at least a man impatient with anything that got in the way of his passion for the development of a unique and vibrant wine industry.

That’s a wrap. See the rest of my reviews on this release (I was not able to taste all of it) here.

And please take a moment to check out our new video series, “So, You Think You Know Wine?“.

Cheers and enjoy, David

- David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008