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John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for February 5th, 2011 – Top Smart Buys, Top Tuscans, Top Bubbles & Top Chardonnays

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

In this report: A whole lot of “tops”: the top ten smart buys from the LCBO-Vintages February 5th  2011 release; ten top Tuscan wines, top bubbles for your Valentine, and, a list of top chardonnays from Canada, selected to represent our nation before a crowd of don’t-have-a-New-York-minute sommeliers, trade and media in the Big Apple on March 8th.

Top Ten Smart Buys
There are a handful of smart buys hitting the shelves on February 5th. Rhône Valley drinkers are well looked after with a choice pick from both the north and the south: 2007 DOMAINE BELLE LES PIERRELLES CROZES-HERMITAGE $22.95 and 2009 MONTIRIUS GARRIGUES VACQUEYRAS $23.95 . There was more than a subtle murmur of excitement in the LCBO tasting lab as the writers came upon the Crozes-Hermitage, made from pure syrah. The appellation is not as highly regarded as the neighboring hill of Hermitage to the south, nor Côte-Rôtie across on the west banks of the Rhône River and further up-stream, nor even Cornas opposite. It’s more variable in style and quality, with some Crozes made using the technique of carbonic maceration to yield soft, simple, fruity reds for early enjoyment, while others are just simply lighter and less complex versions of more ‘serious’ northern Rhône syrahs. Yet there are a few producers with privileged sites whose exceptions prove the rules. Alain Graillot comes to mind, as does Jaboulet’s Domaine du Thalabert. Domaine Belle, on the other hand, is a new discovery for me, and it seems, is under the radar for many.

 Domaine Belle Les Pierrelles Crozes Hermitage 2007Domaine Belle is a modest-sized family-run estate located in the village of Larnage, just a few kilometers north of the Hermitage AOC. Former member of the very good co-op in Tain-Hermitage, Philippe struck out on his own in 1988 after he had completed his winemaking education in Montpellier. The LES PIERRELLES CROZES-HERMITAGE is made from vines in the vineyard of the same name. It has classic spicy, peppery, leathery, unmistakable northern Rhône-styling, with character and class well above the asking price, and the depth and complexity of many Côte-Rôties and Hermitages. It also has the potential to improve with age over the next 2-3 years. In the US this sells regularly for about $30/bottle, so at $22.95, I’d consider it top value.

Montirius Garrigues Vacqueyras 2009 For southerners, your top option comes from the 5-generation family estate of Montirius in the village of Vaqueyras, which has been farmed and run according to biodynamics principles since 1996, long before it became the trendy thing to do. Current vigneron Eric’s Saurel’s father Max had a premonition back in 1980 that chemical fertilizers would be shown to have negative long-term impact, so he stopped using them altogether. Then in 1987, when Eric took over the domaine, he abandoned herbicides in favour of traditional manual weed removal. But the turning point to biodynamics came after his eldest daughter Justine’s failing health was successfully treated using homeopathy. “This discovery brought important changes in our way of treating our illnesses, our eating habits and our way of thinking. This self-questioning caused us to change our methods of growing and our ways of working the land.” The full conversion to biodynamics, a sort of homeopathic approach to agriculture, was completed by 1999 when the first wines made using Ecocert-certified grapes were released onto the market.

In the meantime, and even more importantly perhaps, the wines of Montirius are excellent. The Garrigues is a cru (single vineyard) wine produced from a 24 hectare vineyard divided into 12 different parcels situated on a plateau around Vacqueyras village. The average vine age is 55 years old, and the blend is 70% grenache, and 30% syrah. Like it’s counterpart from the north, this has classic southern Rhône character, with plenty of roasted red and black fruit, scorched earth, wild herbs, espresso and dark chocolate. The palate is full, rich, round, solidly flavoured and structured, with great length and depth.

Other top smart buys this week include the delicious 2009 DOMAINE DE PEYANNE AC Saumur  $13.95 . This cabernet franc won’t appeal to everyone, but for me it was instant teleportation back to a small bistro in Paris specializing in cuisine from the Loire Valley, from where this wine originates. It’s wonderfully floral with loads of violets and pencil led and fresh dark berry fruit – the ultimately paté wine. And at under $14, I can almost afford to go back to Paris for real.

Domaine De Peyanne 2009

I know it’s still January, but I’d be remiss not to share the discovery of an outstanding rosé from Bordeaux in this release: 2009 DOMAINE DE CHEVALIER ROSÉ DE CHEVALIER AC Pessac-Léognan $18.95. A bone dry version with astonishing complexity and class for the price, I was comforted to know I wasn’t succumbing to vitamine D deficit when I learned that it’s made from the free run (saignée) juice of Domaine du Chevalier’s top estate red. That makes sense. Considering the excellent quality of the Domaine, coupled with the heralded quality of the 2009 vintage in Bordeaux, it isn’t surprising that this wine stands above the crowd.

Domaine De Chevalier Rosé De Chevalier 2009

Other smart buys come from Hawkes Bay, Marlborough, the Casablanca Valley and Howell Mountain in the Napa Valley – check it out here.

Seriously Cool Chardonnay

On Sunday January 16th a group of wine specialist gather for the second annual Seriously Cool Chardonnay selection tasting. You may recall last year the same group, brought together by Seriously Cool mastermind Bill Redelmeier of Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara, went through the a selection process to find the top wines to be sent to Canada House in London, England, on the eve of the London Wine & Spirits Fair to be shown to the top wine journalists in the UK. The event was a huge success by all accounts and became a defining moment for Canadian wines abroad. As legendary UK writer Steven Spurrier was overheard saying “there wasn’t a dog in the lot”. That’s high praise, English style.

Seriously Cool JudgesThis year, the Judges (David Lawrason, Tony Aspler, Linda Bramble, Konrad Ejbich, Steve Elphick, Michael Pinkus, Gord Stimmell, and yours truly), had a little more work to do. There were precisely 100 wines to taste from Nova Scotia to BC (last year was Ontario only, and just 62 wines were presented). And now the results are in.  31 wineries and 54 wines have qualified to go to New York City. The wines will be assembled on March 8, 50 stories above Times Square to offer the Press of New York a chance to see what Canadian wineries are capable of. Now that the wines have been revealed (the selection tasting was done blind, with only the vintage revealed), I’m pretty proud of the list and will be honoured to travel to NYC to present a short sit-down seminar on Canadian chardonnay to the city’s top palates. If you’d like to taste along a little more than vicariously, most of the wines are still available for purchase. Here’s the full list .

From the February 5th Vintages Release:

Top Ten Smart Buys
Top Ten from Tuscany
Bubbles for Your Valentine
All Reviews


John S. Szabo, MS
John Szabo, Master Sommelier

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , , , , ,

Seriously Cool Chardonnay – by John Szabo

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

On Sunday January 16th a group of wine specialist gather for the second annual Seriously Cool Chardonnay selection tasting. You may recall last year the same group, brought together by Seriously Cool mastermind Bill Redelmeier of Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara, went through the a selection process to find the top wines to be sent to Canada House in London, England, on the eve of the London Wine & Spirits Fair to be shown to the top wine journalists in the UK. The event was a huge success by all accounts and became a defining moment for Canadian wines abroad. As legendary UK writer Steven Spurrier was overheard saying “there wasn’t a dog in the lot”. That’s high praise, English style.

Seriously Cool Judges

Seriously Cool Judges

This year, the Judges (David Lawrason, Tony Aspler, Linda Bramble, Konrad Ejbich, Steve Elphick, Michael Pinkus, Gord Stimmell, and yours truly), had a little more work to do. There were precisely 100 wines to taste from Nova Scotia to BC (last year was Ontario only, and just 62 wines were presented). And now the results are in. 31 wineries and 54 wines have qualified to go to New York City. The wines will be assembled on March 8, 50 stories above Times Square to offer the Press of New York a chance to see what Canadian wineries are capable of. Now that the wines have been revealed (the selection tasting was done blind, with only the vintage revealed), I’m pretty proud of the list and will be honoured to travel to NYC to present a short sit-down seminar on Canadian chardonnay to the city’s top palates. If you’d like to taste along a little more than vicariously, most of the wines are still available for purchase. Here’s the full list:

Flight 1 – Sparkling
Huff Estates – Cuvee Peter F. Huff Blanc de Blancs 2006
Cave Spring Cellars – Blanc de Blancs Brut 2004

Flight 2 – Unoaked
Chateau des Charmes Musque – 2009
Casa Dea Estate Winery – 2009
Henry of Pelham – 2009
Pondview Estate Winery – 2009

Flight 3 – 2007
Chateau des Charmes – Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard
Lakeview Cellars – Reserve
Flatrock Cellars – Reserve
Cave Spring Cellars CSV
Coyote’s Run Estate Winery – Black Paw Vineyard
Closson Chase Vineyards – S. Kocsis Vineyard
Rosewood Estates – Reserve Renaceau Vineyard

Flight 4 – 2008
Norman Hardie – Unfiltered
Norman Hardie – Cuvee ‘L’ Unfiltered
Southbrook Whimsy!
Flatrock Cellars
Huff Estates – South Bay Vineyards
Closson Chase Vineyards – Closson Chase Vineyard
Malivoire Mottiar
Lailey Vineyards – Old Vines
Angels Gate Winery – Mountainview
Malivoire – Moira
Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery
Henry of Pelham – Family Estate Reserve
Hidden Bench Vineyards and Winery – Tete de Cuvee
Colaneri Estate Winery – ‘Paese’
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery
Le Clos Jordanne – Claystone Terrace
Le Clos Jordanne -Le Clos Jordanne Vineyard
Rosehall Run – Cuvee County
Tawse Vineyard – Robyn’s Block
Tawse Vineyard – Quarry Road
Hillebrand Winery Showcase – Oliveria Vineyard Wild Ferment
Quail’s Gate
Rosewood Estates – Reserve
The Grange of Prince Edward County – Victoria Block Barrel Fermented

Flight 5 – 2009
Southbrook Vineyards – Triomphe
Coyote’s Run Winery Estate – Red Paw Vineyard
Lailey Vineyards
Exultet Estates
Meyer Family Vineyards – Tribute Series – Kenny McLean
Hillebrand Winery – Trius
Ravine Vineyard – Reserve

Flight 6 – Library wines
Pillitteri Estate Winery – Exclamation Cellar Series 2006
Quail’s Gate Estate Winery – Stewart Reserve 2006
Pelee Island Winery – Barrique 2005
Burrowing Owl Estate Winery – 2005
Closson Chase Vineyards – Unfiltered 2005
Mission Hill – Select Lot Collection 2005
Southbrook – Poetica 2003
Tawse Winery – Beamsville Bench Reserve 2002
Lakeview Cellars – Reserve 2000

Flight 7 – Icewine
Pillitteri Estates Winery – 2007

Filed under: Events, Featured Articles, News, Wine, , ,

WineAlign Reaches 15,000 User Milestone

With record growth, WineAlign poised to become the largest community of wine lovers in Canada

TORONTO – January 24, 2011 – WineAlign ( announced today that it now has 15,000 registered users.

WineAlign was launched in December 2008 by Toronto entrepreneur Bryan McCaw, who has partnered with several top wine critics to create a resource for consumers to find the best wines at the LCBO.  “WineAlign answers the question: What wine do I buy? We combine reviews from multiple top-critics and community members to create an objective resource to help users find great wine. For example, we can tell you what the top-rated Cabernet under $20 is at your local LCBO right now,” explains McCaw.

Monthly Visitors

“It’s taken us two years of hard work to become an overnight success, and we’re well on our way to becoming the largest community of wine lovers in Canada,” adds McCaw. “We’re excited about the record growth we experienced over the past year and believe that for our partners, we represent one of the best ways to reach wine consumers in Ontario.”

Visitors Per Quarter

Between the third quarter and fourth quarter of 2010 the number of visitors to WineAlign increased by 111%.  Between December 15, 2010 and January 15, 2011, 70,000 wine lovers visited the WineAlign website.  In the last six months the average growth rate has been 8% per month.

According to McCaw, this is only the beginning. “We’ve only penetrated our target market by 1%.  Our strategy is to build a community of wine lovers around a core of multiple top critics.  We’re all about quality of information and objectivity.  Once a wine lover discovers what we are doing they generally really like the concept and tell a few wine loving friends.”

WineAlign’s critics include: David Lawrason (Toronto Life), Master Sommelier John Szabo, Steve Thurlow, Rod Phillips (Ottawa Citizen), Gord Stimmell (Toronto Star), Margaret Swaine (National Post), Sara d’Amato and Julian Hitner.

User Growth

User Growth

For more information contact:

Michelle Magee
Echo Communications
T: +1 416-471-2336


Filed under: News, ,

The Successful Collector – By Julian Hitner ~ California labels: not the whole truth

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Are you sure you want to hear this?

Let’s start off with an example: the Robert Mondavi 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, a very decent offering, carrying round, supple fruit and tannins, good length, and retaining just the right measure of oak integration. Now, when you examine the label, you probably think the wine contains 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, right? Wrong. In fact, the wine only consists of 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, the rest comprising 8% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, and 1% Malbec. Why the other grapes? Because Californian wine labels only have to contain 75% of the stated varietal. The reason for this, while admittedly dishonest, is simple: it gives winegrowers the option of adjusting/adding grapes to make their wines better, at the same time keeping the wine label simplistic and easy to understand on the part of the consumer. Misleading, though, isn’t it?

And that’s just the beginning. Notice how the label states the wine comes from the Napa Valley? As a matter of fact, according to official regulations, only 85% of the grapes in the wine have to actually come from the Napa Valley AVA (American Viticultural Area). In the case of the ’07 Mondavi Napa Cabernet, 2% of the grapes were actually sourced from Sonoma County. Hardly a serious labelling transgression, nonetheless it gives one pause to ponder over what other dishonest labelling practices are allowed.

Mondavi LabelTo thus continue, while the ’07 Mondavi logs in at a considerable 15.3% alcohol, would it surprise you to learn that Californian wines with over 14% alcohol are allowed to have a 1% plus/minus variation (1.5% for wines under 14%) on their labels? The reason? Your guess is as good as mine, though I would imagine it has something to do with the fact that some consumers might baulk at the idea of purchasing wine with over 15% alcohol on a regular basis. As a small mercy, however, at least the ’07 Mondavi is actually truthful in stating the exact alcoholic strength. More often than not, many wineries will take advantage of this rule and state a lower percentage.

Finally, we come to the stated vintage. On the label above, the wine clearly states that the wine comes from the exquisite 2007 vintage. But would it surprise you to know that only 95% of the wine has to come from the ’07 harvest? In other words, 5% of the grapes used to make the Robert Mondavi 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon could have come from another year. In this case once again, however, I am happy to say that the wine in question is, in fact, 100% 2007; though there are plenty of lesser wineries that take advantage of this clause to adjust their production for vintages that are overly bountiful or of lesser capacity.

Such are just a few of the (albeit more prominent) ‘not-the-whole’ truths that continue to permeate the Californian winegrowing industry. Indeed, such rules shall always remain controversial at best (especially when you have thoughtful commentators around); yet even the most demanding of wine lovers would probably agree that, as long a wine tastes great and is truly well made, the negative impact on the part of the consumer is minimal. Then again, I’d be the first to admit that I don’t appreciate being misled, and that is specifically what Californian vintners are (technically) permitted to practice – printing misleading labels.

Click here for a list to all of the wines I have featured below, including inventory at your local LCBO.

A few gems for collectors;

White Wines:

Domaine Bernard Defaix 2008 Chablis Premier Cru Côte de Lechet, Burgundy, France

Cédrick Bardin 2009, Pouilly-Fumé AOC, Loire, France

Emiliana Novas 2009 ‘Limited Selection’ Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Red Wines:

La Velona 2004, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva DOCG, Tuscany, Italy

Luciani 2004, Brunello di Montalcino DOCG, Tuscany, Italy

Perrin & Fils 2007 La Grille, Gigondas AOC, Rhône, France

Burgo Viejo 2000 Gran Reserva, Rioja DOCa, Spain

Ninquén 2008 ‘Antu’ Syrah, Mountain Vineyard (Colchagua Valley), Chile

Messias 2007 Grande Escolha, Douro DOC, Portugal

Filed under: News, , , , ,

Lawrason’s Take on Vintages January 22nd Release – More Great Wines Under $20

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

So here’s a question for you? And the right answer of course will be up to each individual. But why buy a good wine under $15 when you can buy a very, very good or even excellent wine somewhere under $20.  As a solvent wine lover surely a couple of bucks here or there is just not an issue.

I pondered this often as I tasted through the huge swath of mostly under $20 wines on Vintages, January 22 release. I have posted 115 new notes on WineAlign this week. (Another dozen or so were not tasted or require a second dip in the pool before being reviewed).  The majority of the wines are right where they should be under $20, in the “very good” score range of 86 to 88 points. But these are flanked on the low side by several average wines (often under $15 and under 85 points), and some true bargains that hit 89-91 while still staying shy of $20. (See below).

My second question is why Vintages, with its limited shelf space and the whole world clamouring for a spot on its shelves, would buy any but the greatest value wines under $15 wines, or any mediocre wines under $20?  Surely there are enough of these in LCBO stores.  I would much rather see Vintages start at $15 and go up from there, with a really keen eye to the quality being offered.  I am not saying Vintages is not watching the ball on this issue – I think we are being generally well served by knowledgeable and conscientious buyers.  But I do think Vintages parameters are askew; that it should get out of the volume, cheap wine business, and leave that to the LCBO (formerly referred to as the general list). They may justify that under $15 is where the sales volumes are, and it’s what the customer wants.  But that view forgets they are just one part of a larger monopoly system (and part of the same store building) in which every wine must find a precious niche while avoiding duplication.

Chile’s Turn

Escudo Rojo 2008The argument above really began to ferment as I was tasting through the Chilean reds featured on this release. Most of them are very tasty.  Chile is improving rapidly at all price points thanks to its terrific climate and increasingly skilled winemaking. Under $15 it’s hard to beat Chile, as it is under $20 or $25.  But the under $15 wines tend to become more commercial, monochromatic and facile – ripe berries, perhaps a dash of herbaceousness, then this cocoa flavour emanating from the barrels, or wood chips, or god knows what other trick of the trade. Anyone else want to join a new ABC movement (Anything But Cocoa)?  Chile is not alone in this by the way – call it “global cocoa-ing”.  But it was prevalent in the cheaper Chilean wines, while just a dollar, two or three up the price ladder it faded off, replaced by very good, genuine wines that show off the strident, pure fruit character and texture that Chile so handily achieves. I rated several in the 88-89 range, but isolate ESCUDO ROJO 2008 ($16.95) for being just a little more elegant than most.  It’s a lovely blend of Bordeaux varieties and syrah from the Rothschilds, with some of that French feel for subtlety and complexity setting it apart.

Ontario 2008 Riesling

 Creekside Estate Butler's Grant Riesling 2008There’s a nifty Niagara 2008 riesling trio on this release, a great little showcase for an excellent riesling vintage. (Having just tasted about thirty 2008 Ontario chardonnays for the upcoming Seriously Cool campaign to New York City, I think 2008 is a better riesling vintage than a chardonnay vintage- but that’s another story, for later).  What gives added gravitas for Niagara’s riesling claims is that this group doesn’t include any of the common riesling stars like Cave Spring, Vineland, Tawse, Hidden Bench or Thirty Bench. What’s more, I thought they were better than the German rieslings on this release. I was actually hard pressed to pick one highlight among the Creekside, Henry of Pelham and Jackson-Triggs – they are all very good to excellent wines. But I picked CREEKSIDE ESTATE BUTLER’S GRANT RIESLING ($15.95) to emphasize the importance of the growing number of maturing riesling sites like Butler’s Grant in the Beamsville, Twenty Mile and Short Hills Bench vineyards.

California: Growing What Belongs

Trentadue Old Patch Red 2006From riesling that so obviously belongs in Niagara, I want to switch your attention to a red that so obviously belongs in California. TRENTADUE 2006 OLD PATCH RED($15.95) from the Alexander Valley, Sonoma County is a blend of zinfandel, grenache, carignan, petite sirah and a 5% pinch of sangiovese. These are all hot climate/Mediterranean grape varieties. Further, all but sangiovese perhaps, have a very long history in California, dating back to the late 1800s when California wine went through its first heyday. At that time grape varieties were usually inter-planted in the field, and harvested the same way at the same time, to produce what I imagine to have been swarthy, rustic, powerful and very complex reds. Nowadays California wines are much more carefully sculpted and designed, and perhaps missing some soul as a result.  This great little number offers all kinds of flavour and complexity and ruggedness. It comes from vines planted by the pioneering Trentadue family in the 1950s and 60s, indeed the vineyards were so good that they drew the attention of Paul Draper of Ridge Vineyards who created a “field blend” called Geyserville that lives on to this day and sells for three times the price. He liked the Geyserville site so much he bought it from the Trentadue family in the 90s.

Southern France Keeps on Delivering

Château St. Cosme Les Deux Albions Côtes Du Rhône 2008Speaking of blends from hot, dry places, there are a handful of very good Rhone and Midi reds on this release, so again it was hard to isolate one. But in my mind CHÂTEAU DE SAINT COSME LES DEUX ALBIONS 2008 CÔTES DU RHÔNE ($19.95) cracks excellent territory. I was initially surprised because it bears the simple Cotes du Rhone appellation, and basic CDRs are usually pretty, simple and plummy reds at the $15 mark. But this obviously is stitch above, likely due to the fact that this Gigondas-based property – which has been under vine since the 15th Century and in the same family for 14 generations – is drawing grenache, syrah etc from some very good, older vine sites. Interestingly, the wine is co-fermented with 10% white clairette, a technique also used in some Cote Rotie’s where viognier is co-fermented with syrah to bind colour, smoothen texture and add a dab of perfume to the nose. This wine has some of that charm, as well as depth beyond its price.

Biodynamic in Australia

Gemtree Vineyards Tadpole Shiraz 2008Still with Rhone-inspired wines we move to Aussie shiraz. With so much rich, powerful shiraz being made, how on earth is a winemaker supposed to make a difference, and make something really noteworthy. Well, Gemtree winemaker Mike Brown has been considering tadpoles. GEMTREE VINEYARDS 2008 TADPOLE SHIRAZ ($17.95) is so-named out of Brown’s affection for frogs, or at least their importance as early warning indicators of environmental alarm. According to Brown there are several species of frog commonly found in McLaren Vale, including the Brown Tree Frog, Spotted Marsh Frog, Eastern Banjo Frog and Common Froglet. Who knew? And so he is wading into a wetlands preservation project with this web-footed friends front of mind. Not that that affects the wine directly (no swampy flavours). But it does explain why Brown went to biodynamic viticulture in 2008, and perhaps why his wine – with zero filtration, zero fining and minimal intervention – is so rich, pure, soft and ultimately delicious. Just can’t believe it is under $20.

A Scot Makes Spanish Garnacha

Nor can I believe that LA MULTA 2008 OLD VINE GARNACHA from Spain is only $13.95.  But once again it is the story of old vines growing where they belong, this time in very old sites in the arid, Ribota Valley of the Catalayud in central-northeast Spain. But this time it is a young Master of Wine Scotsman named Norrel Robertson (educated in New Zealand) who has ridden in to make something of this treasure trove. He has gone into business with the local Bodega San Gregorio to source grapes from local growers. All the fruit is hand-picked from the stumpy-looking old vines. The new company operated under the name of El Escoces Volante.  Anyway, this is superb effort which captures all the warm hearted generosity of grenache without letting alcohol run rampant. Great mid-winter sipping stock indeed.

 La Multa Old Vine Garnacha 2008

That’s it for now, tune in for the next instalment in front of the Feb 5th release, where Tuscany takes the spotlight.

See all my reviews for the January 22nd release here.


– David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , , ,

John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for January 22nd – Purple-stained teeth and compacted crustaceans: Madiran and Limarì, where else?

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

In this posting, check out my top smart buys, which include a highlight from each of Southwest France & Chile, the themes of the January 22nd release. As a treat for terroir fanatics, I’ve included a video from my recent trip to Chile where Javier Villarroel explains the uniqueness of the soils of the recently re-discovered Limarì Valley.

Smart Buys
This week’s smart buys include a pair of excellent German rieslings: 2008 MARKUS MOLITOR RIESLING SPÄTLESE $22.95 and 2006 KRUGER-RUMPF RIESLING SPÄTLESE $16.95. Both offer that incomparable combination of vague sweetness perfectly balanced by riveting acids and pronounced stony flavours, the way we love it.  But not to be upstaged, Niagara secures a spot in the top ten with a Riesling their own, the lovely 2008 CREEKSIDE ESTATE BUTLER’S GRANT RIESLING VQA $15.95. It’s lightly honeyed, sweet grass-flavoured white at a superb price.

Markus Molitor Riesling Spätlese 2008 Kruger Rumpf Riesling Spätlese 2006 Creekside Estate Butler's Grant Riesling 2008

Elsewhere, Portugal and Southern France earn two spots each in the smart buys, Spain offers a rare but vibrantly delicious Rioja made from 100% graciano (usually just a small component of the traditional blend), and Oregon comes through with a lovely, old world style pinot noir at just $21.95, a great value, as fans of Oregon pinot will attest. See the full list here.

Southwest France – Madiran
Southwest France is a land of, plains and plateaus, lazy rivers, hearty duck-based cuisine (confit, foie gras, cassoulet etc.), prunes and Armagnac, Henry the IV, muskateers and Gascon swashbucklers. The accent is so thick down here that it is barely intelligible even to fluent French speakers. Once I was in Paris watching the news. A French reporter was interviewing a French farmer from what the rest of France calls la France profonde, or “deep France”, that is the deep southwest, and the farmer’s words were subtitled in French. At first perplexed, I turned quickly thankful, as I would have otherwise understood less than half. I didn’t feel badly though as evidently even Parisians are unable to fully comprehend the accent of their own countrymen. I suppose it’s much like speaking to an old Newfoundlander from the interior or a Quebecer from some lost little village.

Château Peyros

Château Peyros

Southwest France is far off most modern tourist itineraries and as such has been able to preserve an air of timelessness. It’s like a sort of time capsule that one could step into today and travel back 10, 20, 50 or a hundred years ago without noticing much change, other than perhaps fewer cars and sneakers and more horses and knee-high leather boots. And despite efforts to modernize and adapt to current fashions, the wines, too, seem caught up in an eddy of the past and unable to surge forward into the 21st century. But that’s a good thing. There’s enough of the commonplace, standardized international wines available elsewhere. I’m more interested in these regional relics, the dark firm wines of Cahors, the sweet, quirky whites of Jurançon, the stolid reds of Madiran.

Lovers of fruity, creamy-textured wines will likely run screaming from the tough malbec-based wines of Cahors and straight on to Mendoza. Ditto the wines of Madiran, made predominantly from tannat, a variety whose very name derives from its abundance of tannins and marked acidity. One of the toughest barrel tastings I’ve ever done was during a reconnaissance trip to southwest France. My partner and I had stopped in to see a Madiran producer; it was a sunny, hot June day with the mercury hovering above 30ºC, and air as still as a lake at dawn. We stepped into a somewhat cooler cellar filled with barrels stained deep purple-red, an ominous sign already. The vintner drew some inky-black liquid into his permanently stained pipette and let fall a viscous stream of wine into our glasses. With trepidation, we proceeded to taste some of the thickest, darkest, most tannic young red wine I have ever sunk teeth into. It was like swishing a mouthful of moist sand and gravel, leaving your mouth drier than the Sahara. After just three wines I was shattered and my teeth were more purple than if I had been sucking on a grape-flavoured lollipop all day. It was great. We agreed to start importing the wines immediately, knowing that in time, a long time, these wines would be outstanding. Then we repaired to the air-conditioned car parked under a tree for the entire afternoon until the saliva returned to our mouths.
Château Peyros Madiran 2005
The wines of Madiran were once well-known to outsiders, as this lost corner of France lies along the ancient pilgrimage route that leads across the Pyrenées all the way to Santiago de Compostela in Galicia, Spain. But you need not walk a thousand kilometers to have a taste. Just jump in your car and head down to the LCBO on January 22nd and pick up a bottle, or a case, of the 2005 CHÂTEAU PEYROS MADIRAN 14.95. Château Peyros is part of Lesgourgues vineyards, a collection of six estates that cover terroirs from Bas Armagnac to Uruguay, and from Madiran to Bordeaux and the heart of the Graves. The name Peyros means “a stony place” in Gascon language, as the château’s terroir is loaded with rolled pebbles churned up by glaciers. Vines are cultivated through sustainable agriculture and enriched by organic manure from a herd of 300 ewes that walks around the vineyard from October until May. The 2005 on offer here should appeal to fans of mature Bordeaux at a fraction of the price. It’s nicely mature, savoury, complex and earthy, with terrific complexity for the money.

Chile’s Limarì Valley

Chile Wine MapThe other theme of the release is Chile, a country that by now needs little introduction for Canadian drinkers. My value highlight of the release, however, hails from a region that won’t be as familiar as the Maipo or Casablanca Valleys; I’m talking about the Limarì Valley.

The Limarí Valley lies 400kms north of Santiago. Though once the center of the Inca Empire, and considering that vines were first planted as early as 1548 (by a Franciscan monk named Limarì), in terms of quality, export-worthy wine, it has only recently hit the map. Many of Chile’s terroir hunters (Concha y Toro, Undurraga, De Martino, among others) have been persuaded to take a fresh look at the valley and explore its potential to make intense but elegant and mineral reds and whites.

Like other cooler coastal regions in Chile, fog from the Pacific Ocean, called the Camanchaca in Limarì, settles into the valley each morning, cooling and nourishing the vines, only to be burned off by mid-morning as the sun rises over the Andes and bathes the vines in pure sunlight all afternoon. The coastal mountains are lower here than further south, resulting in an even more marked marine influence. Strong wind is near-constant, and with less than 4 inches of rainfall per year, drip irrigation is essential here, as elsewhere in Chile.

Tabalí Reserva Carmenère 2008Yet it’s not so much the climate that differentiates the Limarì Valley, but rather its unique soils. This is one of the few regions in Chile where active calcium carbonate (limestone) is close enough to the surface that vine roots can reach down and extract a little magical chalky flavour. This gives the wines of Limarì a distinctive mineral signature, and for me, ratchets up the excitement. Watch Javier Villarroel describe the soils of the Limarì here in this short video, shot last January during my visit to Chile (sorry for the Blair Witch Project-like shakiness, it’s not meant to be a horror show).

Almost half of the nearly 1700 hectares of vineyards is planted to cabernet sauvignon, but for my money, chardonnay, syrah and carmenere are the most interesting. My pick from the release is the 2008 TABALÍ RESERVA CARMENÈRE $14.95. Tabalì was among the first modern wineries to plant vines in 1993, and this signature grape shows an extra degree of class and complexity in the price category, with a savoury-mineral element and elegant proportioning overall.

Top Smart Buys
All Reviews


John S. Szabo, MS
John Szabo, Master Sommelier

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Steve’s Top 50 Value Wines from the LCBO – January 2011

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

In January 2011 many new wines join the current Top 50 as a result of recently tasted wines, new editions to the LCBO’s selection and new vintages of existing listings. In this report we feature the wines commonly referred to as General List and Vintages Essentials. We do not cover the bi-weekly Vintages releases here. I constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep this report up to date.
New Drop Down MenuWe’ve added a new menu item to WineAlign to make easier to find my Top 50 Value Wines between reports. Click on Wines => Top 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list.

To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must have a high score, indicating high quality, while being inexpensive. We use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database.

Every wine is linked to WineAlign where you can read more, discover pricing discounts, check out inventory and compile lists for shopping at your favourite store. Never again should you be faced with a store full of wine with little idea of what to pick for best value.

New this month

Many wines left the list this month because the new vintage was not as good as the last and several joined since there was a noticeable improvement. For example the Trivento Tribu Syrah 2010 from Mendoza, Argentina is much improved with a lot of flavour for a wine at this price. It shows ripe fruit yet is balanced by soft tannin and juicy acidity. Another improved vintage is the 2008 Durbanville Hills Shiraz, South Africa. It is midweight and well structured with a nose of blackberry fruit with meaty, herbal and cocoa notes.

Trivento Tribu Syrah 2010 Durbanville Hills Shiraz 2008
Sherry is a much neglected category, which is a pity since it offers great value. Two sherry wines join the Top 50 in January.  Osborne Santa Maria Cream Sherry is a traditional Spanish sweet cream sherry that is very inexpensive for a wine of this quality. It makes a great aperitif when served on the rocks with a quarter squeezed orange or sipped neat slightly chilled with a slice of fruit cake. I was searching for a wine match for Chinese sweet and sour dishes over the holidays and was delighted to find that Emu Amontillado Medium Dry Sherry from Australia was just perfect. Again very inexpensive but quite delicious. It is not too sweet and has good acidity which matches the sweetness and acidity in the sauce well and refreshes the palate.

Osborne Santa Maria Cream Sherry Emu Amontillado Medium Dry Sherry

New Listings
Zenato Rosso 2008 from the Veneto in northern Italy has much more depth of flavour and complexity than you would expect for a wine at this price. It is well balanced, fruity and will benefit from being decanted an hour before consumption.

Zenato Rosso 2008
Passion Of Portugal Rose 2009 has been delisted which is a pity since it is a well made fully flavoured dry rose. As a consequence it is now on sale for $3.95 until stocks are exhausted. About 650 bottles are sitting on the LCBO shelves as I write. I strongly suggest grabbing a few of these since it will be just fine for Valentines Day.
Passion Of Portugal Rose 2009

Limited Time Offers (LTO)
Every month 100 or so products at LCBO go on sale for four weeks. As a consequence of the current LTO three wines joined the list.
Graffigna Centenario Pinot Grigio Reserve 2010 from San Juan, Argentina is a rich fragrant pinot grigio quite unlike many of its lean mineral Italian cousins with the same name. Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc 2009 from Santa Barbara County, California catches the lime herbal character of the variety with a fresh clean nose and palate. Cono Sur Merlot 2009 from Central Valley, Chile is a tasty generous well made merlot with the ripe fruit nicely balanced by some earthy herbal tones.
Graffigna Centenario Pinot Grigio Reserve 2010 Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc 2009 Cono Sur Merlot 2009
You have until January 30, 2011 to take advantage of these price offers.

Chile – Carmenere
Eleven of the wines in the Top 50 come from Chile. Among these there are three reds made from carmenere, a grape that originates in France where it used to be part of red Bordeaux blends but it rarely features there these days. It was planted in Chile along with the other main Bordeaux varieties, merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc often by accident since it is easy to mistake it for merlot. It seemed destined for mediocrity since it usually produced green harsh tannic wines.  However in recent years the Chileans have learnt how to better cultivate this grape and are making some ripe fruity elegant wines. Moreover they are indeed hopeful that it may become their signature grape like Argentina’s malbec.

Xplorador Carmenere 2010Carmen Carmenere Reserva 2008 and Montgras Carmenere Reserva 2009 are all very modern wines with fragrant aromas, juicy black fruit with soft tannin and with a degree of complexity and elegance usually only found in much more expensive wines. All are great value.

Xplorador Carmenere 2010 Carmen Carmenere Reserva 2008 Montgras Carmenere Reserva 2009

As result of  new wines joining the Top 50, 12 have slipped off since last month, maybe to reappear in the future due to a price reduction, or an improved vintage or maybe an LTO. Click here for a complete list of the Top 50 Value Wines at WineAlign. This list will show you all of the Top 50 Value Wines currently available at your local LCBO. 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

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The Unbearable Heaviness of Being – by John Szabo

A plea against over-alcoholic, over-extracted, over wooded, heavy bottle ‘icon’ wines.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

It started off so promisingly. There I was at the large tasting table with the winemaker. He was young, obviously enthusiastic, framed by a dramatic vineyard landscape, preparing to pour his wine. “We believe in absolute respect for terroir”, he begins, reverently. My tired, tannin-impaired tongue quivers and manages to dart out to moisten my upper lip. Anticipation builds. “Our philosophy is to highlight our local variety and the unique growing conditions we have here”, he continues, as though quoting by heart from the wine critic’s manifesto. Anticipation turns to excitement. His words were music to a wine lover’s ear, especially one on the hunt for the unique, the original. I readied myself for a great discovery, like finding a new star in the night sky, only of more concrete benefit to the world.

And then without warning the sweet music ended. “So we harvest this parcel later when the grapes are super ripe and ferment it in 100% new American oak, then after fermentation, transfer it to the finest French oak, also 100% new. It’s our icon wine.” By now the mirage of new stars had vanished, chased away like delicious early morning dreams dissolved by the piercing clock radio alarm. Here it comes again: the dreaded “icon” wine. By my definition, the icon is an over-oaked, over ripe, over-extracted caricature of a wine, like a side-show freak, invariably packaged in the most ludicrously heavy bottle. The wine is ultimately indistinguishable from all of the other self-proclaimed ‘icon’ wines made by the same recipe, hardly new, unique or original.

It’s hard to pinpoint precisely when it all went wrong. When was it determined that more and more is really more? Why is the same grape grown in the same terroir, harvested later when the berries are all but raisins, then treated to the new oak regime and the heavy package a better wine? What of drinkability? What of natural balance, of finesse, delicacy, elegance? The icon recipe results in the ultimate homogenization of wine. All one needs is enough sunshine to ripen grapes to 15%+ potential alcohol, a little tartaric acid in a bag to balance, the same new, heavily toasted barrels available to everyone else in the world who can afford them and an impressive price tag, and voilà: icon created.

Icon status is bestowed by the people who revere the object (or person or image), not by its creator.  So let the wine drinking consumer decide what’s an icon and what’s just overpriced clumsy wine. Fortunately there is a growing anti-icon faction operating within the confines of the score-driven, bigger-is-better wine world, truly looking to reflect their particular patch of land and the vector they’ve chosen or inherited (the grape) to articulate it. These winemakers are the truly courageous ones, unafraid of moderation, the genuine iconoclasts. So the next time you take a sip of that double-double icon, have the courage to proclaim that enough is really enough.

John Szabo




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The Successful Collector ~ Super Tuscans: the revolution continues ~ – By Julian Hitner

Premium wines labelled IGT Toscana:

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Perhaps we should begin with a little history. In 1963, the Italian government approved the creation of a wine regulatory and labelling system called the DOC (Denominazione di Origine Controllata), which was meant to assist with guaranteeing the authenticity and quality of different Italian wines, from Barolo and Brunello di Montalcino to Valpolicella and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. Within this system was an additional category: the DOCG (Denominazione di Origine Controllata Garantita), meant as an extra guarantee of quality for (supposedly) Italy’s most prestigious wines.

OrnellaiaHowever, it wasn’t long before problems began to arise, particularly in the province of Tuscany. Around this time, certain progressive winegrowers in the region – most notably the Antinori family – began to realize that the rules governing the crafting of, say, Chianti, were simply too restrictive. Traditionally, Chianti had been a blend of Sangiovese (predominant) and Canaiolo (plus some Colorino), along with a small proportion of white grapes. The problem was, by the 1960s, the traditional blend had become something of anomaly – put simply, it wasn’t that good, and more progressive winemakers wanted to make it better by doing away with certain practices, such as prolonged aging in old Slavonian barrels and leaving out the white grapes. These same winemakers also began to realize they could craft much finer wines with non-Italian grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, sometimes blended with Sangiovese (or vice versa), sometimes not, and aging them in French oak barrels. The end result was the creation of some of the most stupendous wines that had ever come out of Tuscany, from Sassicaia (1968) and Ornellaia (1971) to Tignanello (1970) and Solaia (1978).

SolaiaHowever, there was one serious consequence: because these wines did not properly adhere to DOC or DOCG regulations, they had to be labelled ‘Vino di Tavola’ (table wine), despite the fact that they fetched some of the highest prices in Italy! Thus, it wasn’t before long that such wines began to earn the nickname ‘Super Tuscans.’ Quite the predicament, wouldn’t you say?

Sassicaia Not surprisingly, many other winegrowers began to produce Super Tuscans of their own, not just in Tuscany, but also throughout many parts of Italy, all labelled Vino di Tavola. As a partial solution, in 1992 the Italian authorities granted the creation of a new category: IGT (Indicazione Geografica Tipica), under which many Super Tuscans continue to fall. Eventually, a new DOC was created for producers of Super Tuscans located in certain parts of Tuscany, most notably Bolgheri, where many of the province’s most prestigious estates continue to be found (see Ornellaia label).

Tignanello However, to help benefit producers of Chianti, regulations were further modified to allow for the production of better, more modern-style wines, including the use of a limited proportion of ‘international’ (French) grapes (up to 20%), less required aging in oak, and the complete omission of white grape varietals. Producers are now even allowed to use up to 100% Sangiovese. And so, like Super Tuscans, this has resulted in the creation of many magnificent wines, fresher and far better crafted than ever before. The good thing is that these same wines also taste decidedly different from their Super Tuscan counterparts, which are often aged in a far greater percentage of French oak and are generally much fuller, more powerful, and capable of long-term aging. The revolution continues …

A few gems for collectors:
Chateau St. Jean 2007 Belle Terre Vineyard Chardonnay Sonoma , California

Anne Boecklin 2007 Réserve Pinot Gris Alsace , France

Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt 2007 Riesling Kabinett Mosel, Germany

Red Wines:
Marchesi Antinori 2007 Tignanello Tuscany, Italy

Piccini 2004 Villa al Cortile, Brunello di Montalcino Riserva Tuscany, Italy

Dante Rivetti 2004 Bricco, Barbaresco Riserva Piedmont, Italy

Château Le Pey 2008 Médoc AOC, Bordeaux, France

Remo Farina 2007 Montecorna (Ripasso), Veneto, Italy

Château de Fontenelles 2008 Cuvée Notre Dame Midi, France

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Lawrason’s Take on the January 8th Vintages release – Bargain Hunting Under $20

Picks Under $20: Torrontes, Chasselas, Niagara Blends, Montery Pinot, Washington Syrah & Majella the Muscian

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

And so another year of tasting begins at Vintages “lab”.   I found myself excited this week as I went in to taste for Saturday’s release, and not just because it promised to be a value treasure hunt with most wines listed under $20.  Finding value at any price is our main job as critics, as colleague John Szabo pointed out in his blog last week.  But there something more, and very rewarding about this process and it’s not just that kid-in-a-candy store thrill either.  It has something to do with the massive array of styles, varieties, regions we encounter at every tasting, and how tasting them side by side fuels one’s confidence and professionalism.  To the degree that every taster is a product of their unique experience, wine tasting is always subjective. But endless tasting does make one a more objective taster, and objectivity is the core of professionalism, whether one is a wine journalist, educator, sommelier or an LCBO product consultant. People In these positions use their knowledge in the service of others and therefore should not recommending or rating wine that reflect their personal “likes and dislikes”. This discussion underpins the following highlights from and observations on Vintages January 8th release.

Dominio Del Plata Crios De Susana Balbo Torrontés 2009TERRIFIC TORRONTES
Can you really give an obscure, aromatic white varietal like torrontes a 90 point rating, especially when selling at only $11.95?  The answer is yes, I must. Until obscure wines garner global demand their price remains low, so local regional wines like torrontes are very often great value. The greatest challenge to the winemaker is to not cave into the established price by putting less good wine in the bottle. Winemaker Susanna Balbo, who I count as one of Argentina’s best, as pumped all kinds of quality into DOMINIO DEL PLATA CRIOS DE SUSANA BALBO 2009 TORRONTÉS $11.95, a wonderful flowery, delicate and refreshing muscat-like white from  the Calchaquies Valley of Argentina’s remote, more northern Cafayate Valley. Even if you tend not to like this summery style, especially in January, what’s to lose by trying except $11.95?  It could add a whole new genre to your wining and dining repertoire.

Jean Geiler Réserve Particulière Chasselas 2009

All the same discussions and rationales apply to buying a bottle or two of JEAN GEILER 2009 RÉSERVE PARTICULIÈRE CHASSELAS $12.95 from Alsace, France.  Chasselas is actually widely grown in Switzerland and vineyards next door to the north in the “upper” Rhine regions of Alsace in France and Baden in Germany. It has always been a background wine in the market place, and on the palate as well.  It lacks the distinctive, dynamic character of the sort found in riesling or gewurztraminer. But there is something comforting about chasselas’ rather soft, plump demeanour, especially when its peachy fruit and nutty character is coaxed to the surface by good winemaking.  It may sound clichéd to suggest this is ideal for an après ski cheese fondue, but there is a warmth and casualness to this wine that fits the scenario perfectly. Buy two or three bottles because one won’t last long in a group.

Thirteenth Street White Palette 2009NIAGARA’S BURGEONING BLENDS
Before Christmas I spent three freezing days visiting new wineries in Niagara, and revisiting others, all in preparation for the Wine Access Canadian Wine Annual 2011 that will be published in May.  WineAlign reviews based on this excursion will continually be added in the weeks ahead (see some new reviews already by searching Peninsula Ridge). One of the not so glorious trends in Niagara is the mad dash to inexpensive blends with lifestyle or concept labels. Flat Rock got the ball rolling with Twisted in 2006, then the Speck brothers of Henry of Pelham launched Sibling Rivalry.  The list of names like Open, Union, Fresh, It’s a Good Life, Girls Night Out, and Generation Seven is ever growing, as wineries line up to compete.  Which is all fine as wineries target a younger demographic with less expensive wine, but I ask two things. Are young people seriously influenced by such transparent and flimsy marketing?  And, and do they really like wines, which tend to be monochromatically boring?  I would have thought today’s young people are smarter and more sophisticated.  That said there are a couple of blends that rise above the pack, one being Malivoire’s 2009 Guilty Men White.  Another is being released on Saturday. THIRTEENTH STREET 2009 WHITE PALETTE $14.95 actually has some personality and depth, thanks likely to the winemaking of Jean Pierre Colas who came over from Peninsula Ridge in 2009.

A By Acacia Pinot Noir 2009
In the spirit of the never ending search for affordable pinot noir that captures the soul of the grape – if without the depth and complexity of a premier cru – don’t miss “A” BY ACACIA 2009 PINOT NOIR $17.95 from California’s Monterey County. It is not a grape widely associated with Monterey, but it should be, as this is one California’s coolest zones, especially on the bench lands toward the ocean-end of the Salinas Valley. The real secret here however is the producer. Acacia has been a pinot noir specialist (located to the north in Carneros) for almost thirty years, and with that kind of track record you can assume that have a pretty clear fix on what they are after.  When I visited in 1984 they were one of few producers who believed passionately in California pinot, at a time when French Burgundy had an emotional/intellectual stranglehold on the market.  Anyway, this is a delight, a great Friday night for  casual sipping or all manner of lighter, milder fish, poultry or red meat dishes.

Badger Mountain Vintner's Estate Organic Syrah 2008POWERFUL WASHINGTON SYRAH
I sense that syrah is somewhat at a crossroads in the marketplace as a new decade dawns. It has become, like chardonnay and cabernet, a global grape, with a huge dichomoty of styles between the Rhone Syrah and Australian Shiraz camps.  Both can make great quality wines!  But stylistic preference is rampant in the marketplace and here in Ontario I am sensing, at least among “influencers”, that the shift is “back to” leaner French/Rhone syrah. Yet there is no denying the hedonistic pleasure of tasting the best Australian shiraz.  Washington syrah, and by geographic extension the syrah’s of B.C.’s South Okanagan dessert, are perfect for those who want to find something in between, and the 209882 BADGER MOUNTAIN VINTNER’S 2008 ESTATE ORGANIC SYRAH $18.95 from Washington’s Columbia Valley is a great value example. It has all the colour, richness and power of Aussie shiraz, with some of the less confected licorice, capers and smoked meat flavours of French syrah.

Majella The Musician Cabernet/Shiraz 2008
One of Australia’s biggest problems in terms of public perception is the bigness and sameness of its reds. How often in wine conversation do you hear “Australian red” summoned up as a single entity, style and image?  And the problem persists despite industry attempts to regionalize the marketing and presentation of the wines (so maybe Australia is not really trying hard enough in this area?).  Through my tasting over the years I have become well aware of some regional differences, none more marked than Coonawarra, where a somewhat cooler climate and unique terra rosa soils, deliver more compact, complete and well balanced wines, without sacrificing Aussie weight or depth. MAJELLA THE MUSICIAN 2008 CABERNET/SHIRAZ $19.95 demonstrates the point at a remarkably good price. You can hear more about it on a somewhat promotional Grape Expectations video, but there is something about the message, and the straightforwardness of this cabernet-shiraz blend, that rings true.

Tune in again in two weeks for my take on the January 22nd release featuring the wines of Chile. Speaking of a kid in the candy store!

See all my reviews for the January 8th release here.


– David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008