Find the right wine at the right price, right now.

The Successful Collector – By Julian Hitner ~ Margaret River: cooler climate and very premium ~ Saturday, April 30th, 2011

Time to learn about one of the best winegrowing areas in Oz:

Julian Hitner

Think wines from all Australian winegrowing regions essentially taste the same? If the answer is yes, you haven’t been keeping up with the latest trends from the other side of the world. These days, Australian winegrowers have taken to cooler climate regions like never before, with none other than Margaret River leading the way in terms of premium production. Located 322 kilometres (200 miles) south of Perth, the first vines in Margaret River came on stream only in the 1970s. Yet today, there are over one hundred producers – cultivating around two hundred vineyards – and some sixty grape growers, with a couple of new wineries, mostly boutique, appearing every year.

Indeed, the overall quality of wines being produced in this paradisiacal part of Australia is nothing short of astounding. Consider this: while overall production in Margaret River accounts for only 3% of the total production in all of the country (possessing only 5,000 ha of vineyards), its wines represent a staggering 20% of bottlings considered to be of premium quality. In some respects, this ought not to come as a surprise, particularly when you take into account all the highly reputed operations to be found in the area, from Moss Wood, Cullen, and Vasse Felix, each located just north of Cowaramup; to the wineries of Cape Mentelle, Devil’s Lair, and Leeuwin Estate, each located just south of the actual town of Margaret River.

Just as important, Margaret River can easily be considered one of the most stunningly serene, and downright beautiful, winegrowing regions in the world, surrounded by ancient forests of eucalyptus that seem to encircle virtually every vineyard in sight, its climate tempered by its proximity to the Indian Ocean in the west. Of soil compositions, most of the area is dominated by gravel-based loam deposits formed directly from underlying granite. As a result of these features, the region is remarkably well suited for the production of more elegantly styled wines, most importantly Cabernet Sauvignon (and Bordeaux blends), as well as, to a far lesser extent, more varietally fresh, less alcoholic Shiraz. Regarding whites, Margaret River now proudly boasts a superlative array of excellent Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blends.

A shame, then, that aside from being one of the most gorgeous winegrowing regions on planet, Margaret River is also one of the most isolated. Still, this hasn’t stopped around half a million people from visiting the region very year, taking advantage of everything this piece of paradise has to offer. For some, the world-class surfing occupies of most their visit(s), while others are drawn to the fishing – the salmon to be caught just east of Augusta at the southernmost point can be a real diversion. For restaurant-goers, the best wineries each offer a splendid establishment at which to dine, most notably the ones already mentioned. As for the actual wine to have with your order, enough said.

Click here for a few gems for collectors from the April 30th, 2011 Vintages release .

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , ,

Lawrason’s Take on Vintages April 30th – Ontario’s Moment, VSOs & Classics from BC, Germany, Nimes and Napa

Lawrason’s Take on Vintages April 30th release:  Ontario’s Moment, Somewhereness, Shopping the VSOs, Southern Italy Bargains,  Essential Osoyoos-Larose,  a German Princess, a stunner from Nimes and a Napa Classic.

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

This edition ventures beyond Vintages April 30 release to bring you word on wine elsewhere in the Ontario universe. And to give you a heads up on new WineAlign initiatives in the weeks ahead.  WineAlign is on a roll in terms of new users and subscribers, with April shattering all previous monthly records. We are closing in 20,000 users, which is far beyond any readership I have encountered in the 25 years of involvement in wine specific publications. Our response will be to add more content through new regularly scheduled newsletters on Ontario wine, and on more expensive wine being sold through Vintages Shop On Line and the Classics Catalogue.  So today you get a sneak peek. There will also be occasional special themed newsletters beginning with my look at Australia next week, so I postpone my comments on the Australia First Families release until May 2nd.

Ontario’s Moment
As John Szabo discussed in his blog last week, there are some mighty fine Ontario wines head-lining Vintages April 30 release – a who’s who.  Among whites I most highly recommend MALIVOIRE 2009 MOTTIAR CHARDONNAY as a quintessential, mineral-driven Beamsville Bench chardonnay, and a very good value at $29.95,  if you normally dabble in Burgundy or California chardonnay at this price level.   Shiraz Mottiar is the winemaker at Malivoire, and this hails from his own sparsely soiled, gravel strewn site near the top of the Escarpment.  On the red side I refer you to STRATUS 2007 RED from Niagara-on-the-Lake ($44.20).  I have come to know this wine well over at least half a dozen encounters, and I love the way the blend marries various varieties to present a prototypical Niagara red.  Given its price and all the hype surrounding the hot 2007 vintage you may be expecting something approaching a Napa cabernet, but this is pure Ontario – leaner, nuanced and long on the finish.

Malivoire Mottiar Chardonnay 2009 Stratus Red 2007

Somewhereness & Other Ontario Wine Events
The next two months offer several opportunities to dial into Ontario’s best wines. Ten top producers congregate May 10 at Somewhereness, a Vintages-sponsored public event celebrating the notion of wines being from a specific terroir, or place, or a “somewhere”.  The locale at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto is somewhere off the usual wine event map, and transit-challenged, but it promises to deliver the very best that Ontario makes.  The choice of a wine writer from somewhere else as guest speaker is likewise a bit odd.  Ian d’Agata is from Rome but hopefully he imports interesting new perspectives and brings papal blessing to Ontario wines.  To purchase the $99 tickets – which is somewhere close to $100 – and a list of wines being poured go to
On May 28, Prince Edward County throws its annual spring fling called Terroir (same somewhere theme).  It invites you to “get dirty in the County” at the Picton Fairgrounds, and indeed it is adviseable to wear boots if it rains. Terroir promises more wineries than ever.  There are well over 30 now in PEC so this is a natural evolution. Tickets are $30 at the door, or $25 in advance at
On June 10 the Ontario Wine Awards Presentation Ceremony and Gala will take place at Queens Landing in Niagara –on-the-Lake. Tickets for this splashy, dress-up  event are $125 until May 20. Please contact Sandy Kurbis, Forefront Communications, 416-398-6630.
On June 9-10 Brock University hosts the Riesling Experience 2011, featuring renowned Alsatian winemaker Pierre Trimbach, and a “Great Lakes Panel” including speakers from New York, Michigan, Ohio and Ontario. June 10 the speakers join registrants on a tour through Niagara Bench vineyards with lunch at Cave Spring.  To register go
And finally July 22-24 Niagara hosts the first annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (abbreviated to I4C).  To crib from the website at, “over 46 international cool climate chardonnay producers and 15 top Canadian chefs arrive for a weekend of wine and food heaven”.  Full weekend passes at $595 are now on sale through the website.

Shopping the VSOs (Vintages Shop-on-Line Selections)
Vintages Shop Online

Before moving to the June 30 Vintages release, a quick note that WineAlign has begun to review new releases among Vintages Shop-on-Line selections on a regular basis. These are small lot, very expensive wines marketed through Vintages website because they are actually too limited in availability to handle physically  through the retail store system.  Which is a problem inherent in the LCBO system being too big!  Anyway, there are some great wines, and they are available, and they deserve attention. Many are of course over-priced given their quality, but others are also some of the planet’s best wines. On that note I draw your attention to a stupendous white from the south of France. Chateau de Beaucastel 2006 Viellies Vignes Blanc is not cheap at $159, but it is fascinating as a rare 100% roussanne, and mind-blowingly complex, opulent, structured and delicious – perhaps the best white wine I have tasted this year.  For something more affordable and equally intriguing and unusual among reds try the Clarendon Hills 2006 Bakers Gully Syrah from one of the iconic boutique old-vine producers of Australia.

Chateau De Beaucastel Vieilles Vignes Roussanne (Blanc) 2008 Clarendon Hills Bakers Gully Syrah 2006

Southern Italy Bargains
Leone De Castris Riserva Salice Salentino 2006Climbing back down from the stratosphere, the southern Italy regions of Sicily, Calabria, Puglia and Abruzzi collectively remain one of the world’s great hotspots for bargain priced, rich, swarthy reds.  They still carry the legacy ( or baggage) of being second class citizens in Italy’s wine landscape vis a vis those northern regions of Tuscany, Veneto and Piedmont.  So while viticulture and winemaking is improving it’s difficult for them to move the price bar upward.  Which is our gain as consumers.  Still, I approach the wines with some caution as there is still a tendency for some to be overripe, hot and unbalanced.  This is indeed a very hot area to be growing grapes!  But Vintages has done a pretty good job selecting some interesting examples for this mini-feature and one of my favourites is from a producer and an appellation  I have come to rely upon more than others. LEONE DE CASTRIS RISERVA 2006 SALICE SALENTINO is from a large family company founded in 1668. It’s easy to gloss over dates like this in European winemaking, but I find it remarkable that the founders, originally from Spain, would be so taken with the Salice Salentino region to get serious about wine and other agricultural pursuits here so long ago.

Essential Osoyoos-Larose of B.C.
 Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2006Canada’s largest production premium red – now at 9,000 cases annually – is again included on this release. I say again, because B.C.’s Osoyoos-Larose has become a fixture at Vintages, heading for Essentials status. And it is Vintages best selling Canadian red. Winemaker Pascal Madevon has been in Toronto and Ottawa to visit Vintages stores, meet consumers and sign bottles. He also dropped by my New World CAPS course at George Brown College to treat us to a component tasting of the five grape varieties that comprise the Bordeaux-inspired, merlot-based blend.  The word inspired understates the situation.  Osoyoos-Larose is Bordeaux super-imposed on the southern Okanagan desert. It is made from the five Bordeaux varieties, led by merlot. It is the only Canadian red solely based on the Bordeaux idea of a single “grand vin” from a single vineyard.  It makes a second label called Petales d’Osoyoos, but there are no varietal reds, and no whites at all. And winemaker Pascal Madevon was imported from the Medoc in Bordeaux in 2001 by co-owners Groupe Taillan of Bordeaux and Vincor Canada. I asked Madevon if, ten years later, he felt the project had lived up to its idealistic beginnings. He was quick to answer that the wine quality has far surpassed his early expectations, and he has become a proud advocate of the Okanagan’s unique situation, and Canadian wine. He loves B.C. syrah by the way, but says “I am a Bordeaux man”, so don’t expect O-L syrah anytime soon.  Both he and his wife have become Canadian citizens and when he returns to Bordeaux for August holidays each year he takes great pride in showcasing what he has created in the sage lands above Osoyoos Lake.  OSOYOOS LAROSE 2006 LE GRAND VIN is a buxom, complex, maturing and tannic example, soon to give way on the shelves to the more elegant, approachable 2007.  I have also tasted the impressively rich 2008, and very promising component barrel samples of the 2010.

A German Princess
Domdechant Werner'sches Riesling Kabinett 2008When spring breaks out – if painfully late this year – I always enjoy the delicacy and florality of the finest German rieslings. Sure, Niagara is doing great work with steely, grippy Bench styles, but very few Ontario rieslings match the lacy, feminine charm of some the best of Germany. I think the main difference is alcohol, with most Ontario versions at 12-13%, while the average German riesling is closer to 10%.  And nowhere do I find that charm more consistently than in the rieslings from the village of Hochheim, just outside of Frankfurt at the eastern end of the Rheingau region.  Hochheim wines were once so famous that “Hock” became the generic term in Britain for German wine. Nowadays Hochheim wines are virtually carried on the shoulders of one producer that appears on this release. DOMDECHANT WERNER’SCHES 2008 HOCHHEIMER HÖLLE RIESLING KABINETT is simply delicious, an off-dry, utterly beguiling wine to take to the garden after your planting and hoeing this May.

Stunning Red from Nimes
There are several good buys from the south of France this release (and in most other releases as well). If you are a fan of affordable, feisty, flavourful reds don’t miss MAS DES BRESSADES 2008 CUVÉE EXCELLENCE  Costières de Nîmes ($18.95). This is 100% syrah from rock strewn soils in an appellation that is technically in the Rhone Valley on the border of the Languedoc. The estate goes back generations but there is a decidedly modern  flare here at the hands of 6th generation winemaker Cyril Marès, who has worked stints at Chalone in California and with both Bruno Prats at Cos d’Estournel and Paul Pontallier at Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux. I was actually very excited when tasting this wine, the best red under $20 on this release, but with some evident meaty/brettanomyces character it is also a controversial wine.

Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Excellence 2008

A Napa Classic

Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon 2007Generational winemaking is not a common storyline in California, where wineries are much more likely to be handed off through corporate mergers rather than be handed down from family member to family member. I was first attracted to LOUIS M. MARTINI 2007 CABERNET SAUVIGNON  from the Napa Valley by the generosity and quality in the glass. It’s a rich, dense somewhat rather old-fashioned, non-glossy style – an authentic cabernet indeed.  When I began to research the current status of this legendary Napa winery I discovered that nowadays its is a blend of corporate and family legacy.  The winemaker is still grandson Michael Martini having taken over way back in 1977. To quote the website, “In 1981, he traveled throughout France with legendary California winemaker Andre Tchelistcheff to explore artisan winemaking techniques in Bordeaux and Burgundy. Much of what Mike learned in France has been applied in Cellar 254, the micro-winery that lies steps from his office in St. Helena. Here, Mike and his team of winemakers make small lots of hand-crafted Cabernet Sauvignon.”  What’s most interesting is that in 2002 – in an era where the famed brand seemed to become invisible in the marketplace – Martini was purchased by the Gallo family, who kept Michael Martini at the helm and rebuilt its market.  The Gallo and Martini families have been long time friends it seems, underscoring a common theme in California. Much of its wine industry was built by Italian families.  Others include Sebastiani and of course Robert Mondavi, both also having wines on this release.

That’s it for now. Watch your inbox on May 2nd for a special report on the re-making of Australia.

Cheers and enjoy, David

– David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

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

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , ,

The Flip Side of Australia – Sara d’Amato

Sara dAmato

Sara dAmato

It is hard to resist that Aussie charm especially when it comes to the abundance of affordable, easy-drinking, upfront and über-approachable styles of wines produced in that vast country. For the same reasons, many see these wines as a ‘guilty pleasure’ not worthy of sophisticated company. But just in time to prove all those naysayers wrong comes a slew of diverse, high quality, and value-minded wines in the General List category (meaning you can find them at almost any LCBO). For a good while now, there have been few new wines released in the LCBO’s Aussie category as many of the big labels that have historically done so well have dominated the shelves. However, in a joint effort by both Wine Australia and the LCBO, an abundance of new wines has hit the market in order to showcase the range of wines Australia produces and to generate a renewed interest in this category.

What is so exciting about this recent release is that these wines are extremely varied in their styles and grape varietals and showcase wines that most would not traditionally associate with Australia such as Riesling, Moscato, Pinot Gris, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir.  More and more, these grapes and styles are making waves and are now here to be appreciated. Below are my top picks of the Aussie wine rush.

Cooralook Pinot Gris 2008, Australia, $14.95

Pinot Gris, the same varietal as the affable Pinot Grigio, is produced in a French, Alsatian-inspired style which is lush, full-bodied and full of notes of peach and honeysuckle. The wine comes from the cooler Victoria region where this delicious style is becoming all the rage.

Lenswood Hills Pinot Noir 2010, Adelaide Hills, Australia, $16.95

Some of the best and most elegant examples of Pinot Noir in Australia come from the cooler climate of the Adelaide Hills region. Both lovers of New World and more traditional styles will delight in this well-balanced Pinot with plenty of finesse.

McWilliams’ Hanwood Estate Moscato N/V, South East, Australia, $13.95

Gentle bubbles, sweet fruity flavours, low alcohol and playful nature provide plenty of appeal in this Italian-style Moscato which is sure to be a hit this summer. Great as a starter a palate cleanser between courses or paired with light summery desserts.

Hardy’s The Chronicles Butchers Gold Shiraz Sangiovese 2008, Australia, $14.95

Best known as the grape of Tuscany, Sangiovese and other Italian varietals are fast gaining acclaim throughout Australia. The varietal is fresh with complex flavours and a lighter appeal which is a welcome contrast to Shiraz which can be big, bold and fleshy and lacking some vibrancy.

Kangarilla Road Shiraz 2008, McLaren Vale, Australia, $17.95

Shiraz is the flagship grape of Australia and known elsewhere as Syrah. It would not be a proper Aussie release without this characteristic grape whose generous style, richness and approachability is unmatched elsewhere in the world.

Click here for a complete list of these wines available at your local LCBO.

Filed under: Wine, , ,

John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for April 30th, 2011: Canada outshines the world, but character and value intersect in Australia and southern Italy

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

In this piece: Top Ten Smart Buys for April 30th; A Top Local Half-Dozen, An Australian Half-Dozen and a Quartet of smart southern Italians.
The April 30th Vintages release is full of quality, character and value. The main themes, Australia and Southern Italy, offer up some excellent regional specialties that will definitely appeal to fans, but will also serve as excellent introductions (or re-introductions) for the uninitiated or jaded. But amidst my enthusiasm, I’m moved to start off by pointing out a half-dozen of the most compelling wines in the release, all from right here in Canada, and all 90 points or above.

Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir 2009NORMAN HARDIE’S 2009 COUNTY PINOT NOIR VQA Prince Edward County, Unfiltered $35.20, is anything but a wine with mass-market appeal, and in my view it’s his best yet from the cool climate of PEC. It’s lean, light, mercifully low in alcohol, vibrant and fresh, a model of refinement and elegance. It’s the type of wine that sommeliers (and anyone who spends much of their time tasting and comparing wines) love to love, being such a welcome departure from the mainstream ripe, jammy, alcoholic style intended to bowl you over with an abundance of fruit. This is of course not surprising, considering that Hardie was himself a sommelier before crossing over to the other side. I know there will be many who will try this wine and be disappointed by it’s ‘thinness’, but that’s ok. In another context it would be un-PC to say, but thin is beautiful in my world. Besides, Hardie doesn’t make much of it, and it’s already expensive enough.

 Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2006If big and bold is more beautiful in your world, head straight to the south Okanagan’s 2006 OSOYOOS LAROSE LE GRAND VIN $45.00. Frenchman Pascal Madevon’s latest release is a classic Bordeaux blend from the southern, warmer part of the valley, yet it’s neither typical Bordeaux, nor west coast in style, but rather somewhere between the two. It faithfully reflects the savoury, herbal quality of many of BC’s wines (think wild sage and sundried tomato), but maintains a more old world, firm texture rather than west coast creaminess. The wine needs another 2-3 years minimum in the cellar to pull everything together, but if you can’t wait, decant and serve with something intense and gamey like caribou or venison or really well-aged striploin.

In a similar vein but a little more restrained is the 2007 STRATUS RED VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Niagara Peninsula $44.20. This is a rare example of an Ontario 2007 red blend that isn’t overripe or over-extracted (astringent and tannic), but in which ripe fruit plays off of savoury-cedary-wild herb notes, and firm dusty tannins grip your palate through to the long finish – a well-assembled blend all in all.
Stratus Red 2007
Devotees of chardonnay, the grape that has been put forth by the Canadian wine industry as its most consistent performer and greatest export hope, have two excellent though stylistically opposite examples to choose from in this release. Those who prefer less oak, and more acidity and mineral flavours will enjoy the 2009 MALIVOIRE MOTTIAR CHARDONNAY VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula $29.95, while those favoring a riper, more new world style should pick up the 2007 FLAT ROCK CELLARS RESERVE CHARDONNAY VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula $35.20 .
Malivoire Mottiar Chardonnay 2009  Flat Rock Cellars Reserve Chardonnay 2007
A round-up of fine local wines wouldn’t be complete without a top Riesling, and this week’s pick is the 2008 CHARLES BAKER PICONE VINEYARD RIESLING VQA Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula $35.20 . This has a fine range of wet stone, lime and lemon flavours, crafted in a delicate style by Charles Baker. Baker purchases the fruit from a vineyard that’s meticulously-farmed by hyper-attentive and detail oriented chef Marc Picone, and draws upon the excellent facilities at Stratus to see the project through.
 Charles Baker Picone Vineyard Riesling 2008


Topping both the Aussie half-dozen list of recommended wines and the top ten smart buys list this week are two distinct examples of Australia’s flagship grape shiraz. TAHBILK’S 2006 SHIRAZ from the relatively cool zone of Nagambie Lakes in Central Victoria ($19.95) is a stand out both for elegance and complexity at the price. YALUMBA’S 2008 PATCHWORK SHIRAZ, on the other hand, is a more typical, full-on Barossa Valley experience ($21.95) with its full-body, densely concentrated fruit and black pepper flavours – superb depth and intensity for the money to be sure.
Tahbilk Shiraz 2006  Yalumba Patchwork Shiraz 2008
Southern Italy
It’s no longer a secret that southern Italy has become a top world source for characterful wines at more than fair prices, and Vintages has selected a fine range for this release.  Out of the nine wines presented, covering all the major regions of the mezzogiorno, there was asmart quartet of reds that stood above the crowd for me: all under $17 and all 88 points or better. Puglia is represented by the 50th Vintage of Leone de Castris’ RISERVA SALICE SALENTINO DOC 2006 ($16.95), one of the first bottlers of wines in the region. I’ve visited this estate – it’s like slipping back a century or so, with its large compound surrounded by half-crumbling buildings, leaky roofs, and a hodge-podge of architecture making it resemble more an ancient lego model assembled from different sets. The place smells like a medieval library, and the dust is thick. The wines, too, were as rustic as the setting, that is, until this recent bottling. The 2006 surprised by its freshness and cleanliness, with a nose full of dark berry fruit and spice, and its, fleshy, concentrated palate.

Campania earns a spot with its most noble local grape, the 2008 TERREDORA AGLIANICO IGT Campania $14.95. As the story goes, the well-known Campanian family Mastroberardino had a reportedly acrimonious split. Part of the family kept the rights to the name, while the other kept the vineyards and launched Terredora. Whatever the soap-operatic details, this is an approachable, modern (slightly woody) version of the often impenetrable aglianico grape.

Another modern rendition, from the region with the longest fine wine history in Sicily, Mount Etna, is the 2008 FIRRIATO ETNA ROSSO DOC $16.95. Once the area of greatest production on the island, the still-active volcano’s steep slopes and poor soil made it less favoured in the industrial era. Today there’s a veritable crush to get back in and exploit the region’s immense quality potential and wealth of gnarly old vines. This example has the sheen of new wood, but the volcanic minerality can scarcely be suppressed and the fruit is faithful to the bright red berry characteristics of the nerello mascalese and nerello cappuccio varieties in the blend.

Finally, if you’re looking for an intriguing red to pour when you fire up the BBQ this season, pick up the smoky, spicy, syrah-like 2008 MORGANTE NERO D’AVOLA IGT Sicilia $14.95, a smart value to round out this quartet.
 Leone De Castris Riserva Salice Salentino 2006  Terredora Aglianico 2008  Firriato Etna Rosso 2008  Morgante Nero D'avola 2008

From the April 30th Vintages release:

Top Ten Smart Buys
A Top Local Half-Dozen
An Australian Half-Dozen
A Quartet of Smart Southern Italians
All Reviews


John S. Szabo, MS
John Szabo, Master Sommelier

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

An Evening with Château Margaux – New Pricing!

In Celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the TSO Fine Wine Festival
You are invited to  An Evening with Château Margaux
Featuring a Master Class tasting conducted by Corinne Mentzelopoulos
An exclusive evening of fine wine tasting followed by a gourmet dinner

Corinne Mentzelopoulos

Four Seasons Hotel Yorkville
21 Avenue Road, Toronto
Tudor Stuart Orange Room and Truffles
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Tasting – 6:00 p.m.
Dinner – 7:30 p.m.

For more information, contact: Linda McGeown at the Toronto Symphony Volunteer Committee 416.593.7769 ext.359 or

Chateau Margaux

Chateau Margaux

Filed under: News

The Successful Collector – By Julian Hitner ~ Hawke’s Bay: perfecting wine in paradise ~ Saturday, April 16th, 2011

New Zealand’s top spot for Bordeaux blends (plus a few others):

Julian Hitner

Julian Hitner

Who would have thought that such an isolated, sparsely populated nation – where sheep outnumber humans by a factor of thirteen – could produce so many world-class wines? But that’s New Zealand for you, a country where premium winegrowing has taken such a foothold that it would now be virtually impossible to dislodge it. And what better place to examine premium winegrowing than the paradisiacal Hawke’s Bay winegrowing region, a stunning locale where some of New Zealand’s most sought-after (non-Pinot Noirs) wines are created.

Hawkes Bay

As with many southern hemispheric winegrowing nations, while vines have been propagated in New Zealand – in this case, Hawke’s Bay; with almost 5,000 hectares in 172 different vineyards under vine – for well over one hundred years, it was not until around fifteen years ago that the potential for legitimately serious quality began to be realized. Located around the southern part of the bay of the same name, around the eastern middle portion of the North Island at a latitude of 39.4° South, growers have only recently begun to appreciate the possibilities that can be had in this (relatively) low rainfall, sun-filled, and high temperature region.

Hawkes BayIn the past, Cabernet Sauvignon had been considered the varietal of choice; the trouble was, that it only made fine wine in especially hot vintages – the rest of the time, the wines they produced were hardly of appreciable quality. Thankfully, this has all changed, as growers have taken to delegating Cabernet Sauvignon to only a minor part of the blend, replacing it with Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Malbec – all earlier ripeners. More importantly, growers have also discovered that the best grapes come from the poorest soils in the region, particularly from an 800-ha area commonly referred to as the ‘Gimblett Gravels,’ now the source of some of New Zealand’s most premium offerings. On the whole, these wines can be incredibly alluring, boasting remarkable elegance in terms of structure, purity, and intensity. Common aromatics I often tend to pick up in young Bordelais-inspired wines from this part of Hawke’s Bay often include dark plumy ‘purple’ currants, fresh mocha, violets, graphite, and spice.

Hawkes BayAlso to be admired is the work these same growers have done with their (albeit still minimal) plantings of Syrah, a grape that is sure to turn more than a few heads over the next several years as more of it is produced. In the meantime, I have often noticed that the more ‘entry range’ offerings, while generally ‘varietally sound,’ tend to lack the excitement of the more premium bottlings. But just like the Bordeaux blends of the region, not to mention some seriously good Chardonnay that can also be had, it is only a matter of time before Hawke’s Bay becomes known for yet another type of premium wine that will (at least probably) turn out to rank among the nation’s best offerings for collectors and casual wine lovers, alike.

Click here for a few gems for collectors from the April 16th, 2011 Vintages release .

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , ,

Lawrason’s Take on Vintages April 16th – NZ Pinots, Awatere Sauv Blanc & Other Goodies.

New World Pinot Parade, NZ’s Awatere Sauvignon, Refined Old Champagne, Not so Petite Sirah, Ace Aglianico & Deluxe PX

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

April 16 brings another very large, diverse release of wines from across the globe. There are features on New Zealand and Easter Wine, although as always with these holiday theme releases  I really am at a loss to discuss what makes a wine an Easter wine. So please excuse me while I ignore the idea.  And more on New Zealand in a moment but let me just say that of the 120 wines I have reviewed most are very good 86 to 89 pointers selling at about $16 to $24.  They are pitched right into Vintages’ wheelhouse nowadays, and as always our job as critics is to find those wines that are homeruns.  It seems that not many meet that challenge in this release but I have highlighted some of the right stuff below.

New World Pinot Parade

 Carrick Pinot Noir 2007New Zealand is the feature theme on this outing, with a strong battery of three Otago pinot noirs leading the way.  But the pinot parade is not limited to NZ – there are some strong Australian, Californian and Niagara pinots as well.  New World pinot has actually been a very strong trend over recent months at Vintages, a sure sign that Burgundy’s  grape has gone global.  Burgundy pinot fans may still gripe that New World pinot is too obvious, too cherry bomb and too gussied up by French oak. And some do come across that way.  But they are also quite delicious and more technically sound than many Burgundies, and this kind of reliability is rather important when one begins to mete out $30, $40 or $50 for a bottle.  The hit and miss heartbreak nature of Burgundy has become so in-grained as part of its mystique, that it has become almost a positive. I am not so sure most consumers these days are buying into that polemic.
Josef Chromy Pinot Noir 2009

But back to New Zealand, which is clearly positioning itself as the Burgundy of the New World, at least in the sense that pinot is its flagship red. Clear style distinctions are emerging among Marlborough (straightforward and juicy), Martinborough (coy and complex) and Otago (bold and beautiful). I am really taken by the sheer presence, brightness and depth of these Otago pinots. They present themselves with deceptive ease whereas the best are also well structured, deep and complex. If you can afford a fast $100 to buy one of each of the three on this release I highly recommend it.  If you can only afford one, I slightly preferred the savoury complexity and great structure of CARRICK 2007 PINOT NOIR ($34.95).  But I also direct your attention to yet another pinot from Tasmania, the Australian state that lies across the sea at roughly the same latitude as Otago. JOSEF CHROMY 2009 PINOT NOIR ($27.95) is wonderfully spry and invigorating – with its cran-raspberry fruit very much a testament to the cooler climate and familiar to Ontario pinot fans.

Awatere Shines Among New Zealand Sauvignons

Eradus Sauvignon Blanc 2009The batch of a half-dozen NZ sauvignons on the April 16 release are by and large average to disappointing, with one notable exception below. The general malaise seems to be that the wines lack vitality, vigour and balance – perhaps because they are arriving at Vintages at mid-teen price points.  You are better off to seek Vintages Essentials like Kim Crawford 2010 and Oyster Bay 2010, both very similar and very good.  But before you take that familiar route, stop off at ERADUS 2009 SAUVIGNON BLANC ($17.95). This is a bright, elegant, compact and more mineral driven style from a small family winery (Eradus is the family surname) located in the Awatere Valley.  This smaller Marlborough sub-appellation lies southeast of the main Wairu Valley. It has lower rainfall, somewhat cooler temperature and poor, stony soils, especially nearer the Awatere River. The region is known to make leaner, greener sauvignons akin to Sancerre in France’s Loire Valley. Which is very much the profile here, with just a hint of orange  that the Loire seldom attains.
And don’t forget the New Zealand Wine Fair is looming on Thursday, May 12. It’s always a great event, flush with bright, interesting wines. It is being held at the Design Exchange in downtown Toronto, with a trade portion at 2:30 and a consumer event from 7:00 to 9:00pm.

Refined Old Champagne

Speaking of small family wineries turning out very classy wines, take a look at LACOURTE-GODBILLON 2002 BRUT CHAMPAGNE, a steal at $54.95 in the realm of vintage-dated Champagnes – heck any Champagne.  It’s fresh, tender and refined and still very much alive at almost ten years of age. It really is the miracle of Champagne that such light wine made in such a marginal climate can be infused with such fine balance and flavour depth that it can withstand such long ageing. Winemaker Geraldine Lacourte is the fourth generation to make wine at her family domain, and she has obviously acquired the skill and got the touch. This is delicious.
 Lacourte Godbillon Brut Champagne 2002

Not so Petite Sirah

Napa Ridge Petite Sirah 2007 Petite Sirah is a singular grape variety, similar enough to syrah to have created confusion when grown in Califorina in the early days.  It is actually the durif grape, which is a kind fly-by cousin to syrah.  Apparently durif originated as a cross of syrah pollen germinating a peloursin plant, and it was discovered growing in a vineyard near Montpelier in the south of France by a botanist named Francois Durif.  Petite Sirah has syrah’s deep black colour, often meaty ambiance and dense texture.  In fact there is nothing petit about it, at least in terms of palate presence.   My complaint against petite sirah has always been its rather blocky texture and an aromatic promise of riches that never seems to translate on the finish.  NAPA RIDGE 2007 PETITE SIRAH breaks that pattern with impressive depth indeed, and all kinds meaty, smoky character that will have syrah fans all excited. It won nine silver or gold medals in competitions in 2010.  Have at look at only $20.

 Villa Matilde Rocca Dei Leoni Aglianico 2007Ace Aglianico

Italy’s aglianico grape has always been on the radar of wine buffs, especially those with a historical bent. It is an ancient variety said to originate in Greece, but it has had residency for over 2,000 years in the south of Italy, notably in Campania (near Naples). It was apparently responsible for a red wine called Falernum in Roman times, and surely planted at Pompei.  It likely achieved prominence for its sturdiness (acidity and tannin) at a time when niceties like bottles, stainless steel tanks and oak barrels did not exist to preserve fruit freshness. Clay amphorae were the closest they could come to refrigeration. Anyway, aglianico’s age-worthiness and vibrancy has been the backbone of obscure of an expensive wine called Taurasi, long held to be the most noble red wine of southern Italy. But Taurasi was hardly generous and approachable.  On the other hand, VILLA MATILDE 2007  ROCCA DEI LEONI AGLIANICO from Campania at only $19.95 manages to deliver all that missing charm. It is the product of a historic and scenic vineyard that sits on volcanic soils at 400 metres above sea level.

Deluxe PX

 Gonzalez Byass Elegante Palomino/Pedro Ximénez Sweet CreamAt the end of March I was at the Vancouver Playhouse Wine Festival (another huge success this year) where Spain was the featured country. I attended four different seminars on Spanish wine, each featuring up to ten winemakers at the podium.  I actually missed the sherry seminar itself but I did catch up with a sensational Alvear PX Cream Montilla from a solera begun in 1927. I tasted it at the end of one seminar, then again after dinner at a ‘happening’ new restaurant called L’Abbatoir in Gastown. I was impressed that such a youth oriented place would have PX Cream (PX is the pedro ximenez grape) on the list in the first place, let alone the same 1927.  Anyway, I had forgotten how gorgeous this molten molasses and raisin brew could be – it was stunning. And so it was with refreshed enthusiasm that I tasted GONZALEZ-BYASS ELEGANTE PALOMINO/PEDRO XIMÉNEZ SWEET CREAM at Vintages the following week. You can read my tasting notes, or pick up a half bottle for yourself at the unbelievably low price of $15. It is for those moments when the sweet tooth rages, but just a little late night sip will do.

Enjoy these highlights, and the rest of my reviews on over 100 other wines on this release here.

Cheers and enjoy, David
– David Lawrason, VP of Wine at WineAlign

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

John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for April 16th 2011: New Zealand & Southern Italy

New Zealand’s flagship grape: A One-Hit Wonder or Opening Act? The Danger of Cookie Cutter Wines; Top Ten Smart Buys; New Zealand’s star values; Two from southern Italy

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

Among the top ten this week, there’s an exceptional sauvignon blanc (not from New Zealand): 2009 GRGICH HILLS FUMÉ BLANC Napa Valley, Made from Biodynamic Grapes $29.95, as well as a super value southern Italian white made from a blend of indigenous grapes, fiano, falanghina and Greco, the 2009 TRIADE BIANCO IGT Campania  $12.95. Those who enjoy drinking $30 California Cabernet but would rather spend half that should pick up the 2008 GROVE STREET CABERNET SAUVIGNON Sonoma County $15.00. See the rest of the top ten here. And now, on to New Zealand.
Grgich Hills Fumé Blanc 2009  Triade Bianco 2009 Grove Street Cabernet Sauvignon 2008
The Vintages release for April 16th is headlined by New Zealand, a kindred spirit nation for Canadians (we both live next to a big, domineering neighbour). Canadians are quite fond of New Zealand wines: we’re the country’s 4th largest export market for wine and growing, up an incredible 41% over last year, attributed in part to a very successful Vancouver Playhouse Festival 2010 when New Zealand was co-host country alongside Argentina. (Bulk wine exports were also a factor in this increase, so beware all of those non-VQA sauvignons that smell suspiciously New Zealand-like.)

Despite our enthusiasm, the New Zealand wine industry is going through unprecedented difficult times. “Ultra-competitive markets, over-stocked inventories, exchange rate fluctuations, excise increases and rising costs conspire to drain profitability from the sector”, according to the 2010 annual report from New Zealand. That’s the business side of things, but from a quality perspective the news is better – I think this is one of the strongest releases ever from the island nation in Ontario. The range of grapes on offer is limited, but more importantly, the wine is generally very good. But it’s not universally good. Several mediocre wines are clearly hanging on the coattails of the truly good ones, banking on New Zealand’s solid reputation to inflate their prices.

Though you’ll be in the minority, grab a glass of the delightfully sip-able 2009 ANT MOORE PINOT NOIR Central Otago, South Island $24.95, full of juicy red berry fruit, and read on to sort out the boring from the best in this release.

 Ant Moore Pinot Noir 2009

Total Domination

New Zealand broke into international export markets in the 1990s with one particular wine type. But is their on-going focus a positive or negative? No other significant wine-producing nation is more heavily dominated by a single grape variety than New Zealand. Not even Argentina’s Malbec or Chile’s Cabernet Sauvignon come close. If you’ve ever had a Kiwi wine, then you’ve already guessed it; the statistics are remarkable. Sauvignon blanc dominates so thoroughly that you could be forgiven for not knowing that New Zealand produces wine from a dozen and a half other grapes, albeit in confidential quantities.

New Zealand Wine Map

New Zealand Wine Map

There are four times more hectares planted to Sauvignon than the next most planted grape, pinot noir. But if you consider yields, pinot drops to third place, while the generous producing sauvignon blanc squirts out almost 7x more wine than the second most voluminous variety, chardonnay.

And that’s just the internal story. When it comes to exports, sauvignon dominates even more: 8 out of every 10 glasses of New Zealand wine poured abroad are unmistakably pungent and grassy. And the second most exported grape? Pinot noir, but by the same scale would represent less than half a glass for every 10 glasses. And if anything, this domination looks more entrenched than ever, given that the 2010 sauvignon harvest was nearly stable relative to 2009, while chardonnay and pinot noir both dropped by double digits.

So what?  Does the offer begin and end with Sauvignon? All the marketers will tell you that focus is good, and they’re probably right. If you view New Zealand more like a region, say, like Burgundy or Champagne where only a couple of grapes dominate large areas, the focus makes perfect sense (New Zealand has approximately the same area under vine, 33,000ha, as Champagne). But then again, if you look at those same regions you can already predict future trouble. There are plenty of examples of poor quality champagne and burgundy that bank on their region’s storied reputation to sell their products. And in the end they have ultimately damaged the reputations of those regions.

The Danger of Cookie Cutter Wines

It seems the market is awash with bottles of New Zealand sauvignon from the same region, made in the same style and offered at similar prices (a quick search for “New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc” on the LCBO database currently shows no fewer than 73 wines, virtually all between $15 and $22). Some are exciting, but many are boring, cookie-cutter like. With such a range available, it’s becoming a burden for the consumer to sort out the bottles that built and continue to build New Zealand’s reputation for quality, from the ones that are simply capitalizing on that reputation and looking for easy money.

It’s easy to see why New Zealand growers and producers love and rely on sauvignon blanc. It yields generously, is dead easy to make, requires no expensive wood or long cellaring. It’s just harvest-crush-ferment-filter-bottle-ship-collect. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s not as though the wine industry is so devilishly profitable – like banks or insurance companies –  that we should protest against the products that can potentially earn winemakers an honest living. But there is the danger that consumers will become jaded by standard stuff that sells at the same price as the good stuff. For an example of truly exciting sauvignon from this release, try the 2008 SERESIN SAUVIGNON BLANC Marlborough, South Island $21.95. This is a wine of genuine character and distinctive personality, well beyond the second-rate facsimilies at similar prices. Also worth knowing is the 2009 JULES TAYLOR SAUVIGNON BLANC Marlborough, South Island $18.95.

Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 2008  Jules Taylor Sauvignon Blanc 2009

I’m happy to have been introduced to New Zealand wines through Sauvignon, but aside from a handful of exceptional wines, I’m ready to move on. And there is more to discover to be sure, like New Zealand’s second most important grape, pinot noir. The April 16th release is a nice snapshot of the quality now emerging after years of predicting future greatness. Two strong vintages back-to-back, 2008 and 2009, have certainly helped. In addition to the Ant Moore recommended above, two other top pinots in the release are: 2008 AMISFIELD PINOT NOIR Central Otago, South Island $44.95, and 2007 CARRICK PINOT NOIR Central Otago, South Island $34.95. In the relatively pricey world of pinot, these are well positioned, but for sheer value and pleasure, try the 2009 LONE KAURI RESERVE PINOT NOIR Marlborough, South Island $16.95. I overheard one of my colleagues during the tasting exclaim “if Canada could make pinot noir of this quality at this price we’d all go crazy for it”.

 Amisfield Pinot Noir 2008 Carrick Pinot Noir 2007 Lone Kauri Reserve Pinot Noir 2009

It’s clear that New Zealanders are forward thinking – just look at their commitment to the environment: the industry has collectively agreed to aim for 100% of the country’s vineyards to be farmed sustainably by 2012 (93% of land already is). They’ve made sustainability part of the national brand; aside from helping to sell wine, it’s also the right thing to do. And chardonnay, riesling, pinot gris, syrah, merlot… New Zealand has lots more to offer, and the future is positive. I can only hope that growers continue to focus on sauvignon blanc made in the areas best suited to the most distinctive wines, and not get complacent. The country’s reputation is at stake. And beyond sauvignon, continue to introduce wines and regions with quality that will truly dazzle the world and justify the world’s highest average export prices.

Click here to register for the New Zealand Wine Fair, which will be held on May 12th at the Design Exchange in Toronto, and discover for yourself.

From the April 16th Vintages release:
Top Ten Smart Buys
New Zealand Star Values
Two to Try from Southern Italy

All Reviews


John S. Szabo, MS
John Szabo, Master Sommelier

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

Top 50 Value Wines from the LCBO – April 2011 by Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

As usual several new wines join the Top 50 this month as a result of recently tasted wines, new editions to the LCBO’s selection and new vintages of existing listings. Here I feature the wines commonly referred to as General List and Vintages Essentials.  I constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep this report up to date. New Drop Down MenuYou can easily find my Top 50 Value Wines from the WineAlign main menu. 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

Additions to my Top 50
Efrat Israeli Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2009Tucked away at the back of LCBO stores is a section devoted to Kosher wines. These wines come from all over the world and are made from grapes, like all wines, except there are special rabbinical controls over the process and additives in order for a wine to be certified Kosher. Normally this is a section of the store that I taste reluctantly, since many are sweet and unbalanced and some are boiled (mevushal). However while doing research for a Passover article I found several that were quite good and one of these makes it on to the Top 50. Efrat Israeli Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot 2009 from Israel is an elegant well-balanced Bordeaux blend with delicate aromas and is finely balanced with very good length. Would be great with a steak or rack of lamb.
Pierre Sparr Gewurztraminer 2009People often tell me that they mostly drink red wines. They find whites too wimpy or tart or herbaceous. I often suggest that they might try gewürztraminer, which is usually bold and fully flavoured. Pierre Sparr 2009 Gewürztraminer from Alsace is a consistent favourite of mine and the 2009 is an especially good vintage that has recently arrived at the LCBO. The palate is rich with the fruit well balanced by firm acidity. Very good to excellent length. Try with mildly spicy Asian cuisine.
Pelee Island Cabernet Franc 2009Everyone knows that Ontario is producing fine wines these days, but these come not only from the Niagara region.  We need to pay more attention to wineries established near Lake Erie on Pelee Island and Lake Erie North Shore (LENS). This region has a longer, warmer growing season and can more reliably ripen the red cabernet varieties, cabernet franc and cabernet sauvignon. Cabernet franc is the best suited to the climate and Pelee Island winery made a delightful VQA wine in 2009. Pelee Island 2009 Cabernet Franc is a midweight lively red with a vibrancy that gives it an Italian feel. Try with meaty pasta sauces or juicy sausages.

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 and one, already on the list, is even better value for a limited period.
Crasto Vinho Tinto 2008 is a wine from Portugal made from the same grapes as used in Port. It is very stylish and smooth, with aromas of blackberry, blueberry and chocolate, with mineral tones. Mid-weight, focused and juicy on the palate, with fine tannin. Very good to excellent length.
Crasto Vinho Tinto (V) 2008
Lovers of cabernet sauvignon will appreciate the quality of KWV Cathedral Cellar 2007 from the Paarl region in South Africa . It is elegant with aromas of cassis, black cherry, with floral, smoky oak and savoury notes with hints of pencil shavings. It’s dry, medium-bodied and the palate is rich with fruit yet supported by firm tannin. Well balanced with good focus and excellent structure. It is even better value than usual with a $1 discount.
Kwv Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon (V) 2007
The Casablanca Valley in Chile is renowned for Chardonnay. Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2009 is good example, gently oaked, midweight, creamy with good length and well balanced. Quite sophisticated for the money. Aromas of melon, honeysuckle, baked apple with mineral complexity. The super smooth palate keeps the focus on to the long finish. Even better value with a $2 discount.
Santa Carolina Chardonnay Reserva 2009
Vila Regia 2007 from the Douro valley in Portugal is an elegant structured red with a lot going on for the money. Try with a steak. It would make the Top 50 at its regular price of $8.95, so it is super value at $7.95.
Vila Regia 2007
You have until April 24, 2011 to take advantage of these price offers.
I have been visiting Sicily regularly since 2001 often taking groups of wine lovers with me. I was there last September and was struck by the remarkable improvement in quality of wines being made. There are three examples in the Top 50.
Cavallina Grillo Pinot Grigio 2009 is a very good inexpensive white with as much flavour and structure as wines from this grape at twice its price. Great with sautéed seafood or creamy pasta sauces.
Nero d’Avola is a native Sicilian grape, from the town of Avola near Syracuse, producing wines similar to shiraz/syrah. Cusumano Nero D’Avola 2009 exhibits a lot of of complexity for a wine under $10. It is well-balanced and fruity and goes well with bbq meats or hard mature cheeses.
Nero d’Avola is often blended with cabernet sauvignon to give a little more structure. Montalto Nero D’avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is a juicy vibrant red ideal with pizza and meaty pasta sauces.
Cavallina Grillo Pinot Grigio 2009 Cusumano Nero D'avola 2009 Montalto Nero D'avola Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Please 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

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , , ,

Spring Fever – Aphrodisiac Wines for “Mating Season” – Sara d’Amato

Sara d'Amato

Sara d'Amato

As the snow is nearly gone, it comes time again to welcome back the crocuses, fresh air and our own fervor and vitality. Luckily, just in time for spring, a slew of seductive wines have just been released that will satisfy your renewed appetite. If the ‘fever’ has not yet set in, these sensual selections are bound to get your blood flowing.

A fresh, perky selection from, Austria, this terrific-value white is refreshing, vibrant and will help reset your senses.  Salomon Undhof Salomon Groovey Grüner Veltliner 2010, Kremstal, Austria,  $12.95

Salomon Gruner

Big, mouth-filling flavours are lush and gratifying in this Malbec from Argentina’s hottest and most successful growing region of Mendoza.  Susana Balbo Signature Malbec 2008, Mendoza, Argentina,  $19.95

Susana Balbo

Relinquish yourself to the soft, romantic, feminine and generous nature of Burgundy’s region of Volnay renown for its wines of elegance, silken mouth-feel and delicately, yielding aromatics.  Domaine Roux Père & Fils Vieilles Vignes Volnay 2009, Ac, Burgundy, France,  $29.95

Domaine Roux

Guaranteed to make you flush – this provocative Merlot-based blend from South Africa has plenty of allure, posh appeal and tension at an irresistible price point.  The Oak Valley Blend 2005, Wo Elgin, South Africa, $16.95

Oak Valley

When looking to impress, this exotic, heady and tantalizing blend from Lebanon’s cult producer Château Musar will surely fire up your senses.  Chateau Musar 2002, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon,  $51.95

Chateau Musar

Click here for a shopping list of these hedonistic treats available at your local LCBO.

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , ,


WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008