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If I could buy only one – July 23rd, 2016 VINTAGES Release

As part of our VINTAGES recap, we asked our critics this question:

If you could buy only one wine from this release – which one would it be and why?

Here’s what they had to say. You can find their complete reviews, scores and store inventory by clicking the highlighted wine name or bottle image below.

David Lawrason – My highest scoring wine of the release is the gorgeous Flowers 2014 Chardonnay combining depth and finesse. It shows classic and complex aromas of pear, almond, gentle toast, vanilla, lemon custard and spice. My score may raise eyebrows and expectations, but that rating is based above all on its impeccable detailing and balance – not some onrush of power. I have always been a chardonnay fan but will not spend on cheaper versions that don’t rise to this grape’s potential. This is expensive but I would buy it, so it’s a good thing I am only allowed to buy one wine.

Flowers Chardonnay 2014


Sara d’Amato – A rosé that feels effortlessly beautiful – Hecht & Bannier Bandol Rosé 2015 – a French stereotype. I was swept away by this beauty before I had left for the heart of Provence. I find it genuine with a natural feel, subtle yet unrestrained. There is colour here, but not too much, and a fluidity on the palate that will bring calm to your summer nights.

Hecht & Bannier Bandol Rosé 2015


And, you might need to buy two bottles of this wine!

John Szabo – It’s perhaps a little more expensive than the typical house pour (I guess it depends on the house), but there are several reasons to stock up on the William Fèvre 2014 Champs Royaux Chablis. For one, 2014 is an absolute cracker of a vintage in Chablis, for many producers the best in recent memory, and Fèvre has found another gear for the generally excellent entry level bottling. It has an extra measure of depth and especially stony-mineral character, and I love the sharp acids and the perfectly chiseled citrus/apple fruit, as well as the very fine length. If you love classic Chablis, this is it. And secondly, considering that the region has lost over two-thirds of the 2016 harvest to dramatically bad weather (so far; the seasons is only half over), prices will inevitably rise, so stock up while you can. This will also handily age until the early twenties, so there’s no rush to drink, although it is delicious now to be sure.

Michael Godel – Having just returned from a week in Chablis and now spending four days in Niagara at #i4c16, the Burgundian outpost and chardonnay are front and centre and in my thoughts. It’s been a catastrophic spring there; hail, snow, rain, hail, frost and mildew. Fèvre’s winemaker Didier Seguier makes many great wines and his entry-level Champs Royaux is the perfect lead into the estate’s oeuvre and the crux of Chablis. It is a generalized but oh too important expression from kimmeridgian soil, hedged and qualified from all over the area’s hills, valleys and les clos. It is textbook Chablis, a guarantee of quality, especially out of the cracker 2014 vintage. Lets give Chablis some love.

William Fèvre Champs Royaux Chablis 2014

From VINTAGES July 23rd, 2016

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES
John Szabo’s Smart Buys
Michael’s Mix
Lawrason’s Take
All July 23rd Reviews

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 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Canada Thinks Pink, Drinks Pink

by Treve Ring

Treve Ring at The Nationals

Treve Ring judging at the 2016 Nationals

No matter what shade, it’s pretty obvious that more folks are thinking pink.

And with fresh results from the 2016 National Wine Awards of Canada held in Penticton, BC last month, Canadian winemakers are stepping up with terrific offerings. The full medal results of the Awards will be revealed Tuesday, July 26 – with Winery and Small Winery of the Year being announced July 28. But we thought we would tease you with ten of the top rosés (in alphabetical order) from this year’s competition. So get out there and a grab a few.

Worldwide, rosé sales are skyrocketing as drinkers embrace these fresh, food-friendly and approachable wines. The International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) and the Provence Wine Council (CIVP) released a detailed study on rosé sales and production worldwide in 2015, showing rosé represents 9.6% of global table wine production.

While the world rosé wine consumption has increased 20% from 2002-2014, Canada was up 120% in consumption during that same period. When we keener Canucks like something, we really like it. The same study shows that Canadian pink drinkers were pretty evenly split between men and women.


Why all the rosé coloured glasses? More about refreshing than refinement, the accessibility and friendliness of rosé, especially dry rosé, has made it an easy choice. Rosés really are the best of both wine worlds, especially when it comes to pairing. Wine industry faves, the versatility of these wines is a huge part of their appeal. You have the freshness, acidity and best food-friendliness of white wines, with the structure, berry fruit, tannins and best food-friendliness of red wines. The majority of rosé wines are priced affordably, even for premium and large format bottles, comparatively speaking. Have you ever rocked up to a party with a magnum of rosé? Trust me – you’ll be the most popular person there.

It’s no surprise that France is the world leader in the production of rosé, with approximately 141 million bottles of AOP Rosé annually. Provence represents 35% of the French production of rosé and 5.6% of the world production of rosé wines. Provence is also the only region in the world that specializes in rosé, with almost 90% of total wine production. Even still, there are pink wines from every corner of the globe at your local liquor store, from Spain and Italy to Chile and Argentina, and California to South Africa – and beyond.

Thankfully Canadian winemakers have paid attention. After a simple, sweet and confected start, producers are embracing dry, finessed and grown up rosés. We tasted 90 still rosés at the Nationals this year; the majority were dry or veering in that direction, with off-dry examples deftly balanced out with a vein of acidity. The wines below, almost all from BC, made it to the final round of deliberation and tasting. While colours ranged from near clear to deep pink, and residual sugar varied from bone dry to double digits, they all carried a steady bead of refreshing acidity and a thirst for food-pairing. And really, isn’t that what wine is for? Think pink, drink pink.

Bench 1775 2015 Glow, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Bench 1775 Winery Glow 2015

CedarCreek 2015 Estate Pinot Noir Rosé, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

CedarCreek Rosé Pinot Noir 2015

Haywire 2015 Secrest Mountain Vineyard Gamay Noir Rosé, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Haywire Secrest Mountain Vineyard Gamay Noir Rosé 2015

Henry of Pelham 2015 Rosé, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada

Henry Of Pelham Rose 2015

Niche 2015 Pinot Noir Blanc, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Niche Wine Company Pinot Noir Blanc 2015

Quails’ Gate 2015 Rosé, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Quails' Gate Rosé 2015

Red Rooster Winery 2015 Reserve Rosé, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Red Rooster Winery Reserve Rosé 2015

Salt Spring Vineyards 2014 Rosé, Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada

Salt Spring Vineyards Rosé 2014

Seven Directions Wine 2015 Pinot Noir Rosé Canyonview Vineyard, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Seven Directions Wine Pinot Noir Rosé Canyonview Vineyard 2015

Sperling 2014 Vin Gris of Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Sperling Vin Gris Of Pinot Noir 2014


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 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


Zalto NL

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – July 23, 2016

Chile’s Cool New Limari Valley is Making Waves
by David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo and Michael Godel

David Lawrason

There are two wines from Chile’s Limari Valley hitting the shelves this week at Vintages, and both come highly recommended as great values by our WineAlign team, (see below). Co-incidentally, WineAlign hosted a winemaker dinner this week featuring Tabali, yet another winery from Limari.  Three wineries in one week from the same small, relatively unknown region may not constitute a tsunami, but there is obviously a wave of interest in this more northerly region.

As emcee of the WineAlign dinner, which was co-hosted by Hobbs & Co at The Shore Club in downtown Toronto, I spent much of the evening with Tabali CEO and Chief Winemaker Felipe Muller, whose excitement over Limari was palpable. He called it “Chile’s most unique region” and said it is attracting attention from winemakers all over Chile.  Indeed, one of the wines in Saturday’s release is Santa Rita 2014 Syrah, from a giant winery based in Maipo to the south.  And Concha Y Toro, Chile’s largest winery, was quick to open a winery called Maycas de Limari as well, in the early 2000s.  Tamaya (below) is yet another strong presence in Limari.

Chilean Wine Map

Click for larger image

There are two main attractions that create Limari’s terroir. One is the abundance of limestone in the soils, a rare occurrence in Chile. Throughout the valley the limestone is rather scattered amid clay, sand and gravels, but in one area especially there is a very high concentration. This is in Tabali’s Talinay vineyard, which lies only 12 kms from the ocean.  The Tabali Talinay Pinot Noir 2013 released back in June (and still available in limited quantities) is particularly fine and firm, quite different from most Chilean pinots that tend to be a bit jammy.

The proximity of the Pacific with its cold Humboldt current running off-shore is the second piece of puzzle. The way the valley opens gently and broadly to the sea allows the “Camanchaca” fog to blanket the area each morning, and directs cooling breezes inland during the afternoon.  So despite lying at a “warm” latitude 400 kms north of Santiago Limari is one of the coolest, and latest harvested regions of Chile.

The resulting wines have a certain lightness, elegance and freshness, which was on display throughout The Shore Club‘s menu. And in fact, their structure proved to be ideal at the table. They kept palates alive and stood their ground with the bold flavours by chef Angel Sevilla .  The Tabali 2015 Especial Sauvignon Blanc was solid with a very piquant gazpacho.  The subtle, complex Tabali Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2013, released on July 9 was a terrific foil to a ceviche, with bright acidity standing up the citrus and its sweeter fruit bringing calm at the same time.

(Those attending the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (I4C) in Niagara this weekend will get to try this chardonnay).

The main course featured two terrific Tabali reds. The delicious, almost sold out 2012 Reserva Especial Syrah was perfect with grilled Canadian prime ribeye steak, while a brand new, first vintage 2013 Reserva Especial Cabernet Franc, proved the hit of the night with the roast chicken.  The Cabernet Franc is a small production wine that will likely never see release at the LCBO but can be private ordered through Hobbs & Co.

As an added treat we were served the debut bottling of a terrific 2013 Syrah from the Talinay Vineyard. It had great bones and density yet a wonderful sense of restraint and purity.  Alas we may not see this for awhile as only 100 cases were made in this first vintage.

And now onward to wines you can get, as John, Michael and I present our picks from the July 23 release. In case you missed it, John’s preview last week included his faves among the Spanish and sauvignon blanc features.  Sara is off for the next six weeks on her annual family excursion to the south of France – doubtless drinking Tavel on a riverbank somewhere.

Buyers’ Guide to July 23rd release:

White Wines

Pala I Fiori Vermentino Di Sardegna 2015William Fèvre 2014 Champs Royaux, Chablis, Burgundy ($24.95)
Michael Godel – The Champs Royaux is Chablis drawn from a selection of Fèvre’s better grower contracts. It takes all the hills, valleys, les clos and slope/aspect dimensions into account. It is textbook Chablis, a guarantee of quality, especially out of the cracker 2014 vintage
John Szabo –2014 is a terrific vintage for the generally excellent entry level Chablis from Fèvre, with an extra measure of depth and especially stony-mineral character. I love the sharp acids and the perfectly chiseled citrus/apple fruit, as well as the very fine length. And considering that Chablis has lost over two-thirds of the 2016 harvest to dramatically bad weather (so far), and prices are sure to rise, I’ll be stocking up on the excellent ‘14s.
David Lawrason – I like it too! Better than I remember from previous outings.

Pala 2015 I Fiori Vermentino Di Sardegna, Sardinia, Italy ($14.95)
John Szabo –
A lovely wine that would make for a great house pour this summer. It’s dry, crisp and unoaked, pleasantly fruity and saline, smoky and lightly herbal, with exceptional length and complexity in the price category.
David Lawrason – Great value here! Vermentino is an important white grape of the Mediterranean, creating refreshing higher acid wines. This is a mid-weight, refreshing example with lifted aromas of lemongrass and star anise. It has a bit more weight and richness than I expected but remains elegant and refreshing.

Anselmi Capitel Croce 2014Redstone Limestone Vineyard South Riesling 2012Redstone 2012 Riesling Limestone Vineyard South, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara ($19.20)
David Lawrason – Moray Tawse bought the large Limestone Ridge vineyard not long ago, and has been turning out taut, mineral rieslings. The north or lower part of the site goes into his Tawse line-up, the south or higher section is directed to his Redstone Winery label. This is a lovely, clean, medium sweet version with classic peach, lemon, honey and petrol aromas and flavours.

Anselmi 2014 Capitel Croce, IGT Veneto, Italy ($26.95)
John Szabo – This is serious wine, pure garganega from the heart of Soave Classico (though Anselmi voluntarily labels as IGT Veneto). It’s full, rich and concentrated, but perfectly balanced, with strikingly intense minerality and excellent length. I love the ride of sweet herbs, orchard fruit, and exotic tropical fruit, which loops back again to apple and citrus on the acidulated finish. Fermentation/ageing in barrel goes mostly unnoticed, save for the texture enhancement. So very classy, and ageworthy, too.

Sutherland 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Elgin, South Africa ($14.95)
Michael Godel – From Thomas Webb’s Elgin outpost, the Sutherland is a pungent, insistently perfumed cooler clime sauvignon blanc with more texture than its Thelema ’14 cousin. Shows classic Elgin cool savour running linear like a beam through the joist of structure.

Flowers 2014 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California ($68.95)
David Lawrason – My highest scoring wine of the release is a gorgeous chardonnay combining power and finesse. It shows classic and complex aromas of pear, almond, gentle toast, vanilla/lemon custard and spice. Pricy but impeccable.

Roger & Didier Raimbault, Sancerre 2014, Loire Valley ($26.95)
Michael Godel – Sancerre laid out with clear instruction in precisely what sauvignon blanc needs for it to impress from the Loire. Essential sauvignon blanc with poise, precision and mandatory feel. This is tres fort fricative stuff.

Sutherland Sauvignon Blanc 2014Flowers Chardonnay 2014Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre 2014

Red Wines

Santa Rita Medalla Real Syrah 2012, Limarí Valley, Chile ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This is a wonderful value in rich New World syrah. The nose is ripe and rich with black cherry/plum, licorice, smoked meat, cedar bough, white pepper and generous oak. It’s full bodied, fairly dense, soft and streamlined, with soft tannin.
Michael Godel – From the northerly clime of the Limari this is seductively floral syrah with an edge of peppery spice. Cue the value jingle.

Tamaya 2014 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Limarí Valley, Chile ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This sports a lovely nose of blackcurrant jam, cedar bough, vanillin and some earthiness. It’s medium-full bodied, fairly dense, balanced and complete. Very good cab value.

Creation 2014 Pinot Noir, Walker Bay, Walker Bay, South Africa ($26.95)
John Szabo –
Swiss winemaker Jean-Claude and South African partner Carolyn found a terrific spot for Pinot noir in the southern hemisphere, in the upper reaches of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in the southern Cape. The cooler climate and house style favour balance and finesse over power, as displayed in this silky and suave, refined example, showing the hand of even-keeled, confident winemaking. I like the saliva-inducing, saline finish and impressive length and depth. Best 2016-2022.

D’Arenberg 2013 D’arry’s Original Shiraz/Grenache, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This has long been one the great values from McLaren Vale, a blend with considerable complexity, richness yet decent balance at the same time. It pours quite deep black purple. The nose is nicely lifted with florals, ripe black cherry, mocha, pepper and a touch of menthol. Some graphite on the finish as well. Very good to excellent length. Tasted July 2016

Santa Rita Medalla Real Syrah 2012Tamaya Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Creation Pinot Noir 2014D'arenberg D'arry's Original Shiraz:Grenache 2013

Kir-Yianni 2012 Kitma Yianakohori Hills, Imathia, Macedonia, Greece ($19.95)
John Szabo – New to Greek wines? Here’s a fine intro, a pleasantly ripe and generously proportioned blend of half xinomavro with merlot and syrah, with the firm tannic structure of the former lending framework to merlot’s plummy fruit and syrah’s spice. Length and depth are really quite exceptional at the price, as is the over all complexity. Best 2016-2022.

Menguante 2012 Selección Garnacha, Cariñena ($16.95)
Michael Godel – Jose Pablo Casao make full use of oak for this smooth Cariñena operator. It is one of the region’s most accomplished examples of garnacha. His colleague and peer (winemaker) Jorge Navascues Haba told me, “if you come to to experience garnacha, this wine will allow you to discover the wonders of American oak.”

Corte Giara 2013 Ripasso Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Lovely venetian red from Allegrini that accomplishes Ripasso intimacy by doing so at a mimetic remove. Lingers like a perfect pastille.

Querciabella 2013 Chianti Classico, Docg Tuscany ($38.95)
Michael Godel – Remarkable sangiovese steeped in tradition and history meets varietal significance, but it’s a new oration., A brilliant “normale” without the new slang of Gran Selezione but in many respects it may as well be.
David Lawrason – This is a very fine, nervy and intense Chianti, if a bit pricy.

Kir Yianni Kitma Yianakohori Hills 2012Menguante Selección Garnacha 2012Corte Giara Ripasso Valpolicella 2013Querciabella Chianti Classico 2013

And that’s it for this week. As the heat of summer settles in like a wet blanket, we urge you take it easy, drink crisp wine and lots of water. We will be back next week with Australian and other picks from the August 6 release, and stay tuned next week as well as we announce the winners from the National Wine Awards of Canada.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES July 23rd, 2016

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Michael’s Mix
Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview
All July 23rd Reviews

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 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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Bill’s Best Bets – July 2016

The BBQ Wines
by Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

Bill Zacharkiw

I just love those classic summery activities. Gardening, golf, beach time and of course, having friends over and cranking up the BBQ. The question is what to drink? From brochettes to burgers, T-bones to filet mignon, there is a lot to choose from out there. If you are just grilling a simple steak, pretty well any red with some torque can do the job. But if I want to get picky, there are a number of variables that will make certain wine choices better than others.

There are three things to consider when choosing your wine: the cut of beef, the type of marinade or sauce, and how the meat will be cooked. Understanding how these three variables will play off your wine will lead you to wines with different tannin structures and flavours.

The reason that barbecues are such a fantastic way to cook is because of what it imparts to your meat. First is the smoke. If you are a charcoal user, then bravo! Most newer propane barbecues do not use lava rocks or other heat sources that will impart an aroma to the smoke, as opposed to charcoal grills that can bring maple, mesquite or other aromas, but smoke is smoke and whether it has a particular aroma or not, it will add a unique flavour to what you are cooking. And where do you find smokiness in your wines? Well, wines that were aged in oak barrels.

The other thing that grilling does is to caramelize the surface of your meat. The intense heat will oxidize and turn the proteins in the fat of the meat into complex sugars, forming a sweet crust on it’s surface.

Then there are the marinades and the accompaniments. Finding complimentary flavours will take a good pairing and make it great.  For example, mushrooms pair well with dark berry flavours, a sauce with thyme goes well with a wine that has different herbal notes. If you have something hot like chile or black pepper, then it’s compliment is sweetness. So a spicy marinade will marry nicely with a new world wine that has lots of sweet fruit.

With respect to the fat, everything depends on which cut of beef you are using and the amount of time that it is cooked. The more fat you have, the more tannin you will need in your wine. But the longer you cook it, the more it goes from rare to well done, the drier it will get, the more the fat will drip out of the meat, and the less you want these stronger tannins.

So let’s get down to recommending a few wines. Let’s start with burgers. Hamburger tends to be cooked well done. This means that they tend to be drier, with less fat and thus less flavourful. Most of the flavour will come from sweet and fruity condiments like ketchup and relish, or those which are vinegar based like mustards and pickles. In effect you are matching with the condiments.

I love Chilean carmenere with burgers and there is no need to spend a lot. Try the 2014 Luis Felipe Edwards Reserve or the 2014 Carmen Reserve for quality under $15 options. If you want to spend a little more, then my last burger adventure was accompanied by the 2011 Rioja, Reserva, from Beronia.

Luis Felipe Edwards Reserva Carmenère 2014Carmen Reserva Carmenère 2014Beronia Reserva 2011

The fattier cuts

Whether its a T-Bone or Rib steak, these cuts should properly be cooked ‘medium’ at most, as not to dry them out. This is a great opportunity to bring out more tannic reds that will cut through some of that richness that the fat brings. After that, look at the sauce or what you used to flavour your meats. If you rub your meat with spice, look for wines that have a peppery spice on the finish.

Syrah is a great option here. From the Rhone, try the 2013 Pierelles from Domaine Belle, if you want a more refined option. If you want a European wine with new world accessibility, the 2014 Chateau Paul Mas Clos des Mures from the Coteaux du Languedoc will do the trick. Lots of fruit and the 15% grenache adds some extra smoothness. And if you spent your money on the meat and want a good under $12 wine, try the 2015 grenache/syrah from Coto de Hayas.

Domaine Belle Les Pierrelles Crozes Hermitage 2013Château Paul Mas Clos Des Mûres 2014Coto De Hayas Grenache Syrah 2015

Cabernet fans will can drink their favourite wine as well, but I love cab with lamb. I drank the 2012 Petales D’Osoyoos with lamb chops recently and this Bordeaux blend from British Columbia simply rocked it. If you want a real treat, then the 2014 Tenuta Argentiera Poggio al Ginepri is one of the  better Italian cabs I have tasted in a long time. And if you want to spend $34, then their 2012 Villa Donoratico is one of my rare four-star wines.

Osoyoos Larose Petales D' Osoyoos 2012Tenuta Argentiera Poggio Ai Ginepri 2014Tenuta Argentiera Villa Donoratico 2012

Finally, I am a huge fan of BBQ sauce and make my own-bourbon and ketchup based version which bathes my baby back ribs and chicken pieces. I like to smoke them for hours first and then sizzle them with sauce. Here is where I allow my zinfandel fetish to come forth.

Try the 2011 Sledgehammer which melds perfectly with the sauce, from the spice to the vanilla influence from the Bourbon. With more power, the 2014 Lodi from Ravenswood is a great option. If you want a more European option, I was recently in Puglia in southern Italy and their two main grapes, primitivo and negroamaro also rock the BBQ sauce. Try the 2013 Torcicoda or the 2013 Sangue Blu for a great taste of Puglia.

Sledgehammer Zinfandel 2011Ravenswood Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel 2014Tormaresca Torcicoda Primitivo 2013Torre Quarto Sangue Blu 2013

Happy grilling folks!


“There’s enjoyment to be had of a glass of wine without making it a fetish.” – Frank Prial

You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Paid subscribers to Chacun son vin see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!



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Top Values at the LCBO (July 2016)

Your Guide to the Best Values, Limited Time Offers & Bonus Air Miles selections at the LCBO
by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

It is mid-summer and so it’s a quiet time at LCBO for activities like delists and promotions but new wines have still been arriving and I have been busy tasting them as well as sampling some new vintages of existing listings.

As a consequence I am pleased to tell you that it is another exciting month for my Top 50 Best Values with six wines joining the list since I last wrote to you.

I also write about another wine that is brand new to the LCBO. It is great when a wine is added to the system and, without any discounts,  jumps straight onto the list. Congrats again to the smart buyers at the LCBO.

These are the usual reasons for wines joining the Top 50 Best Values list. There are also another five wines on the list that all have lots of Bonus AirMiles (BAMs) for the next 4 weeks, making them a little more attractive.

Steve’s Top Values are best buys among the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the Vintages Essentials Collection which I select from wines on Steve’s Top 50, a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio. You can read below in detail how the Top 50 works, but it does fluctuate as new wines arrive and as discounts show up through Limited Time Offers (LTOs).

The discount period runs until August 14th.  So don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

Editors Note: You can find our 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 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


Tini Sangiovese 2014, Romagna, Italy ($7.75) – This is a drinkable soft clean Italian red for pizza, pasta and risotto. It is dry and fruity with enough tannin and acidity for balance and very decent length considering the price. The finish is a little lean and a bit tart, but for the money, not bad.

Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2013, Wrattonbully, South Australia ($10.95 was $11.95) Delisted – This is a full-bodied powerful fruity red with smoke and spice from oak and some herbal tones and a dash of raspberry jam. The palate is juicy and fully flavoured with a long fruity finish. Very good length. Drink cautiously before running with bulls. Over 800 bottles remain.

Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($12.05) – A very juicy full bodied red with an appealing nose and lots of fruit that is balanced by soft tannin and soft acidity. Good focus and very good length. Try with lamb kebabs.

Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2014, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($12.95 + 8 BAMs) – This is a pure fresh elegant wine with complexity and structure that usually costs a lot more. It has a youthful nose and very even palate which is finely balanced with excellent length. Enjoy with fine cuisine.

Tini Sangiovese 2014Running With Bulls Tempranillo 2013Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Santa Carolina Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2014

KWV Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Western Cape South Africa ($13.45 was $15.95) – This cabernet shows classic Cape minerality which lightens the palate and nose giving the impression of freshness. It is full bodied with excellent length. Try with a steak.

Argento Reserva Malbec 2014, Mendoza, Argentina ($13.95) – This is a big powerfully flavoured malbec with a freshness and elegance to nose and palate. It is very smooth, well balanced with a fruity dry finish. Try with a juicy duck breast.

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014, Western Cape, South Africa ($14.10 + 8 BAMs) – This is deeply coloured red blend that is medium to full bodied with firm tannin which gives a nice edge to the finish. Very good to excellent length. Best 2015 to 2019. Try with grilled red meats.

Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage 2011, Douro Superior, Portugal ($18.10) – A rich powerful port with fresh sweet black berry fruit aromas with vanilla and floral notes. It is full bodied very rich with the 20% alcohol finely balanced by soft acidity. Try with hard mature cheese and dark chocolate.

Kwv Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Argento Reserva Malbec 2014The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2014Taylor Fladgate Late Bottled Vintage 2011


Cavallina Grillo Pinot Grigio 2015, Sicily, Italy ($8.20) Grillo is one of my favourite Sicilian native grapes which, when blended here with pinot grigio, delivers a deeply flavoured well balanced white at a great price. It is fairly simple but well balanced with very good length. Don’t overchill and try with sautéed seafood.

Domaine Jean Bousquet White Blend 2015, Argentina ($12.00) – This is a very rich smooth white blend that is probably mostly chardonnay maybe with a splash of viognier. It is midweight and deeply flavoured with very good length. Try with roast white meats like pork or veal or rich mature cheddar cheese.

Goats do Roam White 2015, Coastal Region, South Africa ($12.00) – The aromatic Goats white is a blend of three Rhone whites grapes and  is quite classy smooth and flavourful considering its price.  Enjoy as an aperitif with pastry nibbles or try with roast poultry.

Domaine Chatelain Les Vignes De Saint Laurent L’Abbaye Pouilly Fumé 2015, Loire Valley, France ($20.30) – This is a very classy dry white that is crisp and elegant with a mineral core to nose and palate which is so typical of Pouilly-Fumé. It is 100% sauvignon blanc. Minerally rich and very elegant. Try with sauteed seafood.

Cavallina Grillo Pinot Grigio 2015Domaine Jean Bousquet White Blend 2015Goats Do Roam White 2015Domaine Chatelain Les Vignes De Saint Laurent L'abbaye Pouilly Fumé 2015

How does a wine get selected for the Top Value Report:

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection.

– On Sale (LTO’s or Limited Time Offers): Every four weeks the LCBO discounts around 200 wines I have looked through the current batch and have highlighted some of my favourites that offer better value at present…. so stock up now.

– Bonus Air Miles (BAM’s): If you collect Air Miles then you will be getting Bonus Air Miles on another 150 or so wines…a few of these have a special appeal for a while.

– Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top 50 Best Values this month. This is on an-on going WineAlign selection that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General List. You can access the report any time and read more about it now.

The Rest of Steve’s Top 50

Steve's Top Value WinesIn addition to the wines mentioned above, there are another 38 wines on the Top 50 list this month. So if you did not find all you need in this report, dip into the Top 50 LCBO and VINTAGES Essentials wines. There will surely be something inexpensive that suits your taste.

To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must be inexpensive while also having a high score, indicating high quality. I use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database. I review the list every month to include newly listed and recently tasted vintages of current listings as well as monitoring the value of those put on sale for a limited time.

Before value wine shopping remember to consult the Top 50 (Click on Wine => Top 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list), since it is always changing. If you find that there is a new wine on the shelf or a new vintage that we have not reviewed, let us know. Moreover if you disagree with our reviews, tell us please. And if you think our reviews are accurate, send us some feedback since it’s good to hear that you agree with us.

The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping. I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.


Steve Thurlow

Top 50 Value Wines
Wines on Limited Time Offer
Wines with Bonus Air Miles

Editors Note: You can find our 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 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


Wine Country Ontario

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An Exclusive Champagne Dinner Featuring the Iconic G.H. Mumm Brand – Toronto

On Thursday, August 4th, WineAlign is pleased to present an exclusive champagne dinner with world-renowned Cellar Master, Didier Mariotti, from the iconic G.H. Mumm brand.

Join us for dinner at The Chase with G.H. Mumm’s Cellar Master, Didier Mariotti.  Didier joins us for the evening from Epernay, France to guide us through a range of champagnes from this iconic House.  As the latest in a line of passionate Cellar Masters responsible for crafting the House style, Mariotti is both the guardian and the beneficiary of G.H Mumm’s long heritage.  Didier will be joined by WineAlign’s David Lawrason.

Mumm 3 pics

Event Details:

Date: Thursday, August 4th, 2016

Location: The Chase (10 Temperance St., Toronto)

Reception: 6:30pm (on front terrace)

Dinner: 7:00pm (private dining room)

Tickets: $104 per person (plus tax and fees)

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

G.H. Mumm Champagne Dinner - Purchase Tickets

Menu and Wine List

Pearl Platter
East and west coast oysters, shrimp, crab, and tuna
G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut

With albacore tuna, cured egg yolks, white anchovy, olives, and baby romaine
G.H. Mumm Rosé

Main Course
Roasted with wild mushrooms creamed spinach, linzer potatoes, and brown butter tartar sauce
G.H. Mumm Millesime 2006

Angel food cake, lime curd, coconut cream, toasted marshmallow icing
Coffee & Tea

*There are no substitutions*

G.H. Mumm Champagne Dinner - Purchase Tickets

About Didier Mariotti:

G.H. Mumm’s Cellar Master, Didier Mariotti, is the guardian and beneficiary of nearly two centuries of expertise – shaping the distinctive House style. He adds his own winemaking contribution and continues to perfect the balance of tradition and innovation that brings out the exceptional character of the unique terroir rated at 98% on échelle des crus.

This is Didier’s first trip to Toronto, celebrating the VINTAGES release of the highly acclaimed G.H. Mumm Millesime 2006 vintage champagne.

Didier photo

About The Chase

The Chase offers small plates with big flavours; entrées that are satisfying and adventurous, but healthy, and experiences that exude sociability and interaction with our staff.

The Chase is our passion for casual elegance. Our rooftop restaurant highlights what we love most about upscale dining, and presents it in a modest and thoughtful way. Our ongoing chase for the finest ingredients from around the world, coupled with simple and uncomplicated flavours, is the foundation for our culinary philosophy.

The Chase logo

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.

G.H. Mumm Champagne Dinner - Purchase Tickets


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Canadian Wine: Winds of Change

Direct Shipping, Grocery Sales and Health Issues Hit the Floor at the CVA Annual Meeting
by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Winds of change and currents of conflict were swirling at the recent annual general meeting of the Canadian Vintners Association in Kelowna. I will get right to the details, but first I want to share the most exciting news for Canadian wine consumers.

On July 26, WineAlign will announce the results of the National Wine Awards of Canada, and on July 28th the winner of the coveted Winery of the Year and Small Winery of the Year Awards. I joined 21 other judges in Penticton in June to taste over 1500 wines over five days, and I can tell you there was a great deal of excitement in the judges’ room – I believe there were some leaping out of seats. Canadian wine quality has never been better, nor evolution so rapid. This is reflected by increases in the medal counts, and the emergence of new stars.

Days after the judging I was invited to attend the annual general meeting of the Canadian Vintners Association (CVA) in Kelowna, and sat transfixed as experts stood up to address the issues facing Canadian wine across the country. Direct inter-provincial shipping, selling wine in grocery stores and educating Canadians about alcohol-related health issues and safe drinking guidelines were all discussed in detail.

Some will not be aware of the Canadian Vintners Association, even though it is celebrating its 49th year of existence. With a 3.5 person office in Ottawa, but a membership of about 60 mostly large and mid-size wineries representing 90% of the wine produced in Canada, it is the industry’s mechanism for dealing with national regulatory issues, standards and policies. It is also involved in market study and analysis, developing wine exports, and most recently establishing marketing materials through a database at that includes info on all 675 wineries in Canada.

The CVA’s political connectedness was on display at the Kelowna AGM. No fewer than five federal MPs from BC and Ontario were in attendance with a sixth sending his regrets. Through lobbying efforts by the CVA these MPs have formed an all-party parliamentary Canadian wine caucus, giving Canadian wine the loudest voice in the House that it has ever had. That voice is exactly what is needed for Canadian wine to move ahead.

Direct to Consumer Interprovincial Shipping

Vance Badaway

Vance Badaway, MP Niagara Centre

The politicians and CVA members were most vocal about getting Canadian wine moving freely and directly across all provincial boundaries in Canada. Alas, there was no breakthrough to announce in terms of more provinces dropping their opposition, but I was surprised by how loud, frequent and public the CVA and its members, as well as the politicians, have become – insisting that action be taken sooner rather than later. There was a mood in the room.

By way of background, two of the MPs – Dan Albas, Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, and Ron Canaan, Kelowna Lake Country, were instrumental back in 2012 in creating a private members bill to overturn Bill C311 that made it illegal to carry or ship wine for personal use across provincial borders. Their bill received an historic, unanimous vote in the House of Commons, but it was left to individual provinces to agree, or not. To date only Manitoba, British Columbia and Nova Scotia have allowed their citizens to freely import Canadian wine from other provinces.

Newly elected Liberal MP Vance Badaway of Niagara Centre gently approved of the movement when he addressed the CVA membership. “I am committed to supporting the wine industry and helping with efficiencies and market development. And we are going to park party politics and work to get things done,” he said. Whether rhetoric or not, it demonstrates sympathy. And wine is now firmly entwined in broader discussions about eradicating interprovincial trade irritants. This is all a step forward.

Loblaws Outlines Plans for Selling Wine in Grocery Stores

Greg Ramier, Senior Vice President, Loblaws

Greg Ramier, Senior Vice President, Loblaws

With grocery store wine sales rolling out this year in B.C. and Ontario, the most highly anticipated presenter was Greg Raimer, Senior Vice-President of Wholesale, Gas, Liquor and Tobacco for the Loblaws group of companies. The retailing of wine by Loblaws is underway in Alberta, and in a pilot project in New Brunswick. So Mr. Raimer has their corporate strategy well thought out, and he opened his presentation with a bold prediction:

“Within 20 years wine will be sold in grocery stores right across Canada” he said. Amen, I said under my breath, but can we make that sooner?

Most of his presentation outlined how wine will fit at Loblaws stores, differentiating the grocery shopping environment from state and privately run stores where food is not involved. And for those who think that supermarkets will become a trash heap for cheap, giant brands, you may want to think again.

“Our strategy is to elevate the shopping experience” Mt. Raimer explained, “by offering, diversity, uniqueness and education.” He went on to say they are looking to provide occasion-based in-store retailing, solution-based retailing, as well local, organic and healthy products, all of which dovetail with modern trends in grocery retailing.

Then came his second telling comment. “The average grocery store bill is about $40. We have found that when there is a bottle of wine in the cart, the average bill is closer to $80. Shoppers who buy wine for dinner almost always spend more on food”.

He said that Loblaws was not looking to make wine a huge profit centre in itself, but it was an up-selling tool. “We want to offer wine from $10 to $100 per bottle” he said. It’s worth noting that the Ontario government has currently set $10.95 as a floor price in supermarkets.

It is a good thing that Loblaws is not looking to make bushels of money selling wine in Ontario, because government regulations will be capping grocery store wine margins at 4%.

At the moment we don’t know how many of the first 70 licenses awarded in 2016 in Ontario will go to Loblaws, or whether other grocers will have the same perspective on wine sales. But Raimer did say he thought we would see wine in grocery store starting to roll out at the end of October, to catch the holiday spending season. So we will know before long.

After the meeting I asked him how Loblaws will be purchasing wine, given that the LCBO is the wholesaler. He said that grocery stores that sell imports (about half of the initial 70 licences) must buy wines pre-selected by the LCBO that are stocked in the LCBO warehouse. This does not include stocks from the Consignment Warehouse, from which agents sell direct to licensees.

Grocery stores selling Ontario wine (all of them) will be able to buy from the LCBO or directly from the wineries, at LCBO dictated prices that ensures government gets its cut. This will at least give many Ontario wines a much needed boost in their retail distribution.

Health & Social Responsibility

Rita Notarandrea, CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA)

Rita Notarandrea, CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA)

As impressed as I was with all the speakers, it was Rita Notarandrea, CEO of the Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse, who made perhaps the most thought-provoking presentation, which in the end urged Canadian vintners to take a leading role in educating the public about the harms of alcohol over-use and abuse.

They ignore her at their peril.

The Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse is an organization mandated by an Act of Parliament in 1988. Its role is to track alcohol and drug usage, abuse and addiction, and to find ways to educate the public on the harms of unsafe usage.

“We are not out to promote abstinence or abolition of alcohol” she assured the winemakers, several times. Although she did say there are those in the health field who would like to do that, and that there is “a groundswell among health professionals who want more regulation”.

She also said that much of her current work surrounds the impending legalization of marijuana in Canada, but she focused on alcohol this day.

“Canada has a deep seated drinking culture” she said. She reported that 76.5% over the age of 25 consumed alcohol in last year, 82% aged 19 to 24, and 60% under age. She said that 36% of Canadians qualify as “risky drinkers”, consuming more than the recommended amounts of “ two drinks a day, 10 per week for women, and three drinks a day, 15 per week for men, with an extra drink allowed on special occasions”.

She said “alcohol abuse costs Canada $14.6 billion dollar per year”, and estimates that alcohol-related deaths would be reduced by approximately 4,600 per year if the guidelines were followed.

So she asked the Canadian wine industry for help in educating the public – in two specific ways.

Most controversially she asked them to help come up with a way to include more detailed safe drinking guidelines and social responsibility messaging on wine labels. There was opposition by some vintners to the idea of giving up more “label real estate”, but some thought there might be “an elegant way” to do it.

I was most impressed by her “elegant” idea of developing labels specific to the size of the bottle and the type of alcohol (by volume) therein. My head spins trying to figure out labels that try to do this universally, as on Australian wines, that utilize one label for all types of alcohol in all sizes of packaging.

Ms. Notarandrea’s second request was to enlist winery help in disseminating The Centre’s “Low Risk Drinking Guidelines” now available in printed format and online.

And I don’t see any reason why wineries and wine writers shouldn’t be directing readers to these guidelines too. Somehow the “please drink responsibly message” seems just a bit shallow in the face of the magnitude of this issue.

Wine Drinkers Are More Moderate Consumers of Alcohol

John Mohler, Vice President, Ipsos Canada

John Mohler, Vice President, Ipsos Canada

There were two other presentations but I am going to end of with partial results of an alcohol consumption survey conducted by John Mohler, Vice President of Ipsos Canada, a national polling firm.

It is the result of a project now in its second year that has 1,000 Canadians from coast to coast keeping a daily diary of their alcohol consumption – how much, what kinds of alcohol, how often they mix, where, when and with whom they drink.

In a typical day the respondents drank two glasses of wine, or 2.3 glasses of beer, or 2.1 glasses of spirits, comfortably within the “Low Risk Drinking Guidelines”.

Among those who drink wine 84% stop after two glasses. For those who drink more than that 63% stay with wine. Among beer and spirit drinkers 75% stop after two drinks, not a wide margin of difference.

Among wine drinkers, 61% drink wine with dinner and another 18% while grazing (the latter percentage higher among millennials). It is a stat that leapt off the screen, a much larger percentage than beer and spirits.

Where, dear reader and imbiber, do you fit in?

See you next month, with analysis and recommendations from the National Wine Awards. Meanwhile here are links to ten Canadian wines I poured at the Fine Vintage Canadian Wine Scholar course in Kelowna on the heels of the CVA meeting.  More courses are coming up across Canada coming up this fall:  Toronto  Sept 10/11 , Edmonton Oct 15/16, Calgary Oct 22/23, Kelowna Oct 29/30 and Vancouver Nov 5/6. More details are available here.

Whites and Sparkling

Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs Brut Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Steel Post Vineyard 2014 Rosehall Run Chardonnay Jcr Rosehall Vineyard 2014 Meyer Family Mclean Creek Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 Le Vieux Pin Ava 2014

Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs Brut, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario

Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Steel Post Vineyard 2014, Beamsville Bench, Ontario

Rosehall Run Chardonnay JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2014, Prince Edward County, Ontario

Meyer Family Mclean Creek Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, Okanagan Valley, B.C.

Le Vieux Pin Ava 2014, Okanagan Valley, B.C.


Le Chateau De La Grange Le Chant Des Vignes 2012 Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2014 Rosewood Origin Merlot 2012 Orofino Wild Ferment Syrah 2015 Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2012

Le Chateau de La Grange Le Chant Des Vignes 2012, Quebec

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2014, Prince Edward County, Ontario

Rosewood Origin Merlot 2012, Beamsville Bench, Ontario

Orofino Wild Ferment Syrah 2015, Similkameen Valley, B.C.

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2012, Okanagan Valley, B.C.



Wine Country Ontario

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Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – July 23, 2016

Spanish Cante Jondo, and the non-linear price-quality relationship of sauvignon blanc
by John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

In flamenco music there’s a style known as cante jondo (aspirate that ‘j’), which means literally “deep song”. It’s said to be the purest form of flamenco, unchanged over centuries (watch this short clip). On a parallel plane, this week’s report takes us deep into Spanish wine, exploring the country’s wealth of ancient vines, handed down to us by generations of growers, and less well-travelled regions, seemingly untouched for centuries. This is Spanish wine in its purest form. I’ve highlighted my top picks from the Spanish-themed VINTAGES July 23rd release, as well as some excellent wines from a new Spanish specialist in Ontario, Cosecha Imports. These are some of the most exciting Spanish wines to reach our market in the last decade, available by private order, but well worth the effort.

I also have a look at the curious price-quality relationship of sauvignon blanc. It’s a wine that appears to be priced based entirely on origin rather than quality, which means that some inside information is needed to find the best values in this minefield. I pick a quartet of smart buys to illustrate the point. Read on for the details.

Buyer’s Guide: Spanish Cante Jondo

Alejandro Fernandez, the founder of the Grupo Pesquera, is the man largely credited with putting Ribera del Duero on the map, starting in 1972. Tinto Pesquera is still one of the appellation’s top wines. Fernandez added three other bodegas over the years – Condado de Haza (Ribera del Duero), El Vínculo (La Mancha), and Dehesa la Granja (Castilla y Léon) – and it was wine from this last estate that caught my attention in this release, the 2008 Dehesa La Granja, Vino de la Tierra de Castilla y León ($22.95). The vineyards around Zamora deep in old Castille are not particularly well known for top quality wine, but this is exceptional tempranillo, unabashedly spicy and wood-inflected, exotic and complex, full of cedar and sandalwood scents in the traditional Spanish style. It’s the best Dehesa I can remember tasting, and superb value at that. Beware the heavy sediment; you’ll want to stand this up for a day and decant. Best 2016-2028.

The roots of the Merayo family run deep in the region of Bierzo (northwest Spain), and they have always owned vineyards, and occasionally made wine. But in 2010, a definitive step was taken to establish a commercial winery. On July 23rd you’ll see the 2014 Merayo Las Tres Filas Mencia, DO Bierzo, Spain ($19.95) reach LCBO shelves, a bright, ripe, red and black cherry flavoured red drawing on the wealth of 80+ year-old mencía vines in the family holdings. I like the rustic, deeply honest country styling; tannins are a little rough and tumble, but in time – 2-3 years – this should soften up nicely. Acids provide necessary energy and tension, and the length is excellent. Best 2018-2024.

Alejandro Fernández Dehesa La Granja 2008Merayo Las Tres Filas Mencia 2014 Almansa Laya 2014

Almansa is hardly a region that flows off the tongue in general wine conversations, even amongst professionals. But this backwater in the country’s deep southeast corner (province of Albacete, Castilla-La Mancha) has plenty to offer, including high elevations to temper heat, ranging from 700m up to 1000m above sea level, and just enough water-conserving limestone in the soils to keep vines alive. The ambitious Gil family, who also bring us excellent values from Jumilla D.O. under Bodegas Juan Gil, are behind Bodegas Atalaya, and the 2014 Laya, DOP Almansa, Spain ($15.95) is another terrific bargain for fans of bold, ripe, oak-influenced wines. A blend of garnacha tintorera and monastrell gives rise to this modern style, full-bodied red, generously endowed with spicy, vanilla-tinged oak flavour, smoky, like well-peated Scotch, and wild resinous herb notes to round out complexity. Best 2016-2022.

Cosecha Imports – Some Producers to Track Down

In May I sat down with Philip George of Cosecha Imports, a new player in the field focusing exclusively on Spanish wines. The company has managed to scoop a handful of “New Spain’s” most exciting producers, exploiting little-known, ancient regions and old vines, and applying post-modern techniques – earlier harvests, old wood, whole bunch indigenous fermentations and a host of other hip practices – that yield, when done correctly, beautifully perfumed and balanced wines, and above all, infinitely drinkable. This is vino jondo.

Rafael PalaciosRafael Palacios is among the portfolio headliners. A scion of the famous Rioja winemaking family, he struck out on his own in 2004, settling on the northern region of Valdeorras in Galicia to make his mark. He works exclusively with the native white godello, making some of Spain’s most exciting white wines today. Bolo (c. $20) is the excellent, stainless steel fermented entry level version; vine age, complexity and ageability are ratcheted up in Louro, which includes a splash of native treixadura and is fermented in old 3000l cask, in my view the best value in the lineup, while the top in the portfolio, As Sortes ($70), made from vines approaching a century old and fermented in demi-muid, is a wine of astonishing depth. These are all worth seeking out.

Commando GCommando G is another cultish producer turning heads around the world. It’s the project of Daniel Landi and Fernando Garcia, who selected the remote Sierra de Gredos area about an hour’s drive outside of Madrid as their regional canvas, already painted with garnacha reaching up to 80 years old. Farming is organic/biodynamic in these small parcels, necessarily without machinery, which rise up over 1200m above sea level. If you think garnacha is heavy and alcoholic, you must try these wines, suffused with elegance, freshness and finesse. The prices of the ultra-limited cuvees rise steeply, but I loved the entry point 2014 Bruja de Rozas (c. $30), a vino de pueblo (village blend) of wonderfully silky and spicy garnacha, fresh and mid-weight, very Burgundian in feel.

Other excellent producers to look for in the Cosecha portfolio include Joan D’Anguera in Montsant D.O. and Pardas in the Penedès. It’s so great to see the Spanish wine offering expanding in the province.

On the Curious Relationship between Sauvignon Blanc and Price

The price of sauvignon blanc in LCBO VINTAGES is curiously predictable. It seems to be based on origins, rather than any notion of quality, however slippery that is to define. Chilean and South African sauvignon is invariably in the mid-teens. So too is basic Touraine or Bordeaux, while Aussie sauv seems able to fetch a dollar or two more. New Zealand hovers around $18, occasionally just over $20, alongside Friulian sauvignon, while Sancerre and Pouilly Fumé will set you back somewhere in the mid-twenties. Napa is in a neighbourhood of its own, in which $40 seems to be the standard point of entry.

Are these prices tied to how delicious the wines are? Hardly. It would be an eye-opening exercise to buy a range of sauvignons from $12 to $40 and taste them together, blind, with origins concealed. The results will surprise you. You’ll find that the cost appears much more directly linked to the wine’s home address than any other aspect of enjoyment. You might then buy 3 or 4 wines from the same region at the same price and repeat the exercise, observing how quality diverges at identical cost.

Now, wine pricing is a complex calculation to be sure. It’s based in part on hard production costs, including real estate and labour, currency exchange, and no small measure of regional and winery brand recognition, with a dash of speculation thrown in. Most regions are constrained to offer their wines in a more or less fixed range of prices, as the cost structure, and market tolerance, is similar for all (minus the individual brand recognition and speculation factor). But for sauvignon blanc, the price range is amazingly consistent, and narrow, from region to region, more so than for any other variety. It’s as though the producers get together to set a standard price for all. Even pinot grigio comes in greater price variation, based to some degree on quality. Why is that? Is it because sauvignon blanc is more a commodity than it is wine? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

In any case, as a buyer, it’s frustrating knowing that a wine fetches a price based on birthright, not merit. But then again, as a smart buyer, I know that when looking for a typical sauvignon blanc experience, I needn’t overpay, either, just for the smart neighbourhood (unless I’m drinking the label). I can get a similar experience in an underprivileged neighbourhood for far less. It’s something to be aware of.

Below is a quartet of sauvignons that can be considered the nicest houses on their respective blocks. You only need choose what neighbourhood you want to live in.

Buyers’ Guide: Sauvignon Blanc

Roger & Didier Raimbault 2014 Sancerre AC, Loire Valley, France ($26.95) A Sancerre archetype: more stony than fruity, more citrus than tropical, more herbal than vegetal. The length, too, is excellent. Textbook. Best 2016-2024.

Domaine de la Commanderie 2014 Quincy AC, Loire Valley, France ($19.95) The so-called Sancerre satellite appellations (i.e. Reuilly, Quincy, Menetou Salon) are usually about 20 percent cheaper than Sancerre, but can offer a similar, lean and brisk profile in the classic Loire style. This is a fine example, a nicely tart, lemony and lightly stony sauvignon, brimming with green herbs and citrus. It’s perfectly satisfying; a classic oyster wine.

Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre 2014 Domaine De La Commanderie Quincy 2014 Boya Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Sutherland Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Boya 2015 Sauvignon Blanc Leyda Valley, Chile ($15.95) Chile just may offer the best value sauvignon on the planet, especially if you prefer the pungent and smoky, vegetal/green pepper/pyrazine-driven style. Cool coastal regions like the Leyda do it best, and the Garcés Silva family (of Amayna) do it as well as anyone. Boya is the fine ‘entry range’, and this youthful 2015 offers great acids and a nicely acidulated, citrus fruit finish. There’s a lot of energy and life in this bottle for the price.

Sutherland 2014 Sauvignon Blanc WO Elgin, South Africa ($14.95) South Africa also vies for a spot at the top of the southern hemisphere sauvignon heap of value, again drawing from cooler areas, like southerly Elgin, to produce pungent gently smoky and green pepper-inflected wines. Sutherland is well-established Thelema Mountain Vineyards’ newish project in Elgin, and this 2014 is a compelling, if slightly unusual sauvignon. Fruit shifts into the orchard spectrum, like nectarine and green peach, while the palate is quite broad and deeply flavoured, with earthy-medicinal character alongside the ripe-tart fruit and smoky-leesy character. It’s a wine of strong personality. 

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


John Szabo MS

From VINTAGES July 9th, 2016

Szabo’s Smart Buys
All July 9th Reviews

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 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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BC Report – The Results Are In

BC Report – July 2016
by Rhys Pender, MW

Rhys Pender MW

Rhys Pender MW

The results are in. In a very quick turnaround, the British Columbia Wine Authority (BCWA) has already published the results of the recent “BC Wine Industry Plebiscite Regarding Certain Proposed Amendments to the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation.” The results came out in a letter on July 8, even though the deadline to complete the application was only June 30. The results are exciting. There is a strong general consensus amongst industry with all but one of the 11 proposed changes supported by what the BC Wine Authority calls a double majority. The BC wine industry, it turns out, may not be as resistant to change and evolution as many feared.

The changes are not drastic nor are they measures to correct a sinking ship, but rather small changes to the regulations to allow BC wineries to keep doing what they must to continue to build a quality reputation. BC wine sales are growing nicely, quality is improving all the time and even though only a small amount of wine makes it out of the country, people are starting to take notice. Laura Kittmer, Media Relations Manager with the BC Wine Institute reports “we are getting more and more requests from national and international media either for visits or for information on BC wine.” The word is starting to get out and the reputation is starting to build. I strongly believe that BC’s wine future is about small quantities of top quality wine that can stand up against anything in the world. To do that there needs to be a regulatory framework to back up and support these efforts. Task Group Chair Ezra Cipes sums up the results nicely. “The industry has spoken and set a course based on sense of place and premium values. We’ll look back on this as an important step for BC wine,” says Cipes.

Before I get to commenting on the specific results, I just wanted to touch on how much passion and belief was behind the Task Group efforts. I was part of the group and I watched many of our hardest working influential winery people volunteer many dozens of hours throughout 2015 and 2016 to make sure these recommendations were, first of all, really good for the industry and, second, really met the needs of the vast majority of BC wineries. Getting 252 wineries (the final number of licensed operating grape wineries at the time of the vote) to come to some kind of consensus has been likened to the impossible task of herding cats. Mike Klassen is largely to thank for his organization in bringing it together along with Task Group chair Ezra Cipes of Summerhill. But we still need the Minister to enact these changes into law before anything can change.

So let’s look at the results. Of the 252 wineries licensed, only 174 were currently members of the BC Wine Authority, with the remaining 78 non-members. The hard work from the Task Group and a program of reminders from the BCWA saw ballots received from 180 wineries, or 71% of the total. There were 136 ballots from BCWA members and 44 ballots from non-members. These votes are estimated to represent about 90% of all BC wine production. Under the Bylaws and Operating agreement with the Province, the BCWA needs what it calls a double majority in that 65% of the members who make at least 50% of the wine must vote for any amendment to be proposed. This was met in 10 out of the 11 recommendations. You can read the full results here. The results have been broken down by member and non-member votes and it is clear to see that those non-members who are receiving many of the benefits without contributing were resistant to having further controls placed on them.

Perhaps the most important recommended change was Recommendation #1, which simply would put every winery operating within the same set of rules. I am not one for extra bureaucracy, but for many wineries to be able to opt out of following the rules yet still take all the benefits others have paid for is a potential recipe for disaster. If any winery in the Province can choose to not follow the rules of the Wines of Marked Quality Regulation and use whatever terms they like on their labels with no one having the ability to police it then it is just begging for someone to use and abuse this loophole. This could potentially do huge damage to the budding reputation of the industry. So to me, a level playing field for all is a no-brainer.

Number 2(a) also makes sense. The name “Wine of Distinction” was always a curious term for a wine that goes through no kind of controls or analysis. “British Columbia Wine” makes more sense as a catchall name for wines that could be experimental styles or small batches that don’t want to go through the extra measure to achieve BC Vintners Quality Alliance (BC VQA).

The only recommendation that didn’t pass was #2(b) which recommended that both BC VQA and Wine of Distinction/British Columbia Wine could use the approved Geographical Indications on their labels. This is an interesting result in that it is not really a failure on the recommendation but more the industry taking a stronger position on the BC VQA category. By rejecting this recommendation, it is the industry saying that you must support the full process of BC VQA or you can only use the term “British Columbia Wine” and nothing else. Not surprisingly, 81% of non-member wineries voted for this measure by wanting to keep the ability to use Geographical Indications without going through BC VQA. The unfortunate part of this result is that wineries making small batches of some wines that they may not want to put through the full, and somewhat costly and arduous, BC VQA process (for something like 25 or 50 cases of wine) will not be able to indicate the region or sub-region it is from on the label.

Recommendation #4 seeks to give control to the BCWA to prohibit the use of unregulated terms once a series of sub-regions have been created with a deadline for this to happen of January 1, 2019. These regions will likely build reputations over time for different grape varieties or wine styles and will become valuable names that need protecting. Recommendation #5 ensures all wines must register as one or the other of the categories BC VQA or British Columbia Wine. Again, just common sense.

Recommendation #6 was put in place to make sure that the overall recognition of the larger region remains important and this would be done with conjunctive labelling. This would mean, for example, any sub-region created in the Okanagan would first have to list Okanagan then the sub-region on the label. This is important to me because we are still building the reputation of our existing regions and we want to make this easy for consumers to understand. I find in some parts of the world a sub-region is listed when many consumers won’t have a clue where that sub-region is, making it essentially meaningless. Napa Valley has done a good job putting Napa first then the sub-regions second and I believe this is a good model for BC to follow.

Recommendation #7 is a logical development with all the new vineyards and wineries popping up in the emerging wine regions of BC. Until they get their own Geographical Indication, these wineries can only use the generic region of “British Columbia” which gives little ability to help celebrate the characteristics of the place. #7 recommends using the different watersheds, the same criteria used for Okanagan and Similkameen, to create new regions to encompass these emerging regions. #8(a) opens the doors to look at the proposed new sub-Geographical Indications that the Task Group recommended, an important next step to follow on from these results and one that is well underway with a logical base of recommended sub-GIs already having been created. Mike Klassen comments, “It is an opportunity for B.C.’s emerging regions to benefit from what has been happening already elsewhere. Which is to make wines that express a sense of place and that wine lovers can identify with.”

Recommendation #10 would go some way to alleviating the issues with #2(b) not passing. This would create a flat membership fee for small wineries. With the current system you are charged for each wine and logically, small wineries making lots of small volume wines find it not worth paying for the cost of BC VQA for so many wines. This is why many haven’t joined the BCWA in the past. If there isn’t an extra cost for small wineries to put through lots of small batch wines then they will be more likely to go through the full BC VQA process and then be able to use the Geographical Indications on their labels.

Recommendation #11 is also just common sense. It allows grape growers to be included in any votes to create new sub-Geographical Indications, not just wineries as was the rule previously. Recommendation #12(a) opens up the process to create the new sub-GIs by removing a difficult to achieve paragraph in the current regulations that controls what must be proven to create a new sub-GI. This needs to be re-written as part of the process to make sense for logical, meaningful sub-GIs to be created.

As you can see, many of the recommendations are just logical common sense developments for an industry to continue to grow and are just adaptations to the realities of the business environment of the day. A few others, such as the creation of sub-GIs, are important to allow wineries to go to the next step, build a reputation linking grape to place, and furthering BCs reputation as a premium quality wine producer in the wide world of wine. This was no mean feat to achieve and it will be exciting to get these changes enacted into law and allow the industry to continue on its positive path. As Mike Klassen nicely puts it, “perhaps what pleases me the most is that, as large as it has become, the whole BC wine industry came together to weigh in on these changes, and then strongly supported them.” This is about as clear a direction as any industry will give for change. Well done BC.

Rhys Pender MW


WineAlign in BC

In addition to Rhys Pender’s BC Report, we publish the popular 20 Under $20 shopping guide and the Critics’ Picks report which highlights a dozen of our favourites from the last month (at any price point). Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road and, lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential critic.

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If I could buy only one – July 9th, 2016 Release

As part of our VINTAGES recap, we asked our critics this question:

If you could buy only one wine from this release – which one would it be and why?

Here’s what they had to say. You can find their complete reviews, scores and store inventory by clicking the highlighted wine name or bottle image below.


John Szabo – At this time of year I find myself searching the cellar for light summer reds, the kind you can chill and sip alongside just about everything, both refreshing and satisfying. These wines disappear more quickly than any others, and I’m always short. So this release I’ll be buying a few bottles of the Hubert Brochard 2014 Les Carisannes Pinot Noir, a wine that fits the bill perfectly. From a small, 5-hectares family estate just outside the Sancerre appellation yet still on prized-flinty-limestone soils, it’s an absolutely delicious, highly drinkable Loire pinot, with lovely, light, high-toned aromatics, all fresh-tart red berries, strawberry-raspberry, and some attractive leafy flavours. Don’t forget to serve lightly chilled.

Hubert Brochard Les Carisannes Pinot Noir 2014


Michael Godel – In a word, Riesling. Charles Baker is one of the torch bearing varietal leaders in Ontario and it is his Ivan Vineyard 2015 that you can approach with regularity beginning this summer. From rich limestone and sandstone beneath clay, the 1.1 acre (also known as) Misek vineyard sits on a southerly ledge up from Highway 8 and an easterly hill down from Cherry Avenue. In 2015 Ivan delivers the labour of ripe, concentrated fruit, by lower yield, alcohol and spine. I can think of 100 reasons to drink this repeatedly now and over the next three years while the more structured Ivans (and Picone Vineyard) ’13 and ’14’s continue to mature. Three good reasons would be breakfast, lunch and dinner, from scones, through croques and into fresh, piquant and herbed shrimp rolls.

Charles Baker Riesling Ivan Vineyard 2015


Sara d’Amato – If you’re unfamiliar with müller-thurgau, start with one of the best from a historic property that specializes in this varietal grown on precipitous, high-elevation slopes. In the Abbazia di Novella 2014 Müller-Thurgau the grape achieves a unique expression in this terroir whereas elsewhere in the world it can be quite bland. The fruit in this example is lush and aromatic and the palate is crunchy with sea salt and lemon giving the palate pep and refreshment. This may just be the perfect summer sipper and at under $20 I’m stocking up!

Abbazia di Novacella Müller Thurgau 2014


From VINTAGES July 9th, 2016

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Michael’s Mix
Szabo’s I4C Preview
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES
All July 9th Reviews

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 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008