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Buy The Case: Hobbs and Co.

A Report on Consignment Wines in Ontario
Written by Michael Godel

Buy the CaseIn this regular feature WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single importing agent. Our critics independently, as always, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted to WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in this Buy the Case report. Importers pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to each critic, as it is with our reviews of in-store wines. 

For an explanation of the program, the process and our 10 Good Reasons to Buy the Case, please click here

Hobbs & Co.

I have been following the portfolio of Margaret Hobbs of Hobbs & Company for the past five years and have seen what was once a modest but carefully chosen registry of wineries grow in breadth without any compromise to quality. There are no duds in the Hobbs cache. Every producer is a star, has the potential or is well on the road to becoming one. Hobbs is a model of consistency in the importing agency world of Ontario.

The family owned and operated merchant has been delivering fine wines to the Ontario marketplace since 1993. Her Twitter page notes, “chief, cook and bottle washer at Hobbs & Co. My father’s daughter.” I asked Margaret what that means. “Perhaps that should read,” she told me, “I am striving to be my father’s daughter! My dad, Bill, was a highly principled gentleman, with an incredible sense of integrity and a strong work ethic.” Margaret Hobbs is clearly someone who believes in tradition, legacy and carrying the torch. She also believes in progress.

I asked Margaret if she could briefly comment on what the company’s goals were 10 years ago and how they have changed to what they are now. Her answer was this:

“A lot has changed in 10 years! In 2007, we were focused almost exclusively on selling Consignment wine, mainly to restaurants throughout the province. And selling wine was relatively easy – we were well established with a great portfolio and a loyal client base, the consignment program rules were more flexible at that time and the economy was booming. Then 2008 hit…Given that our revenue was driven by sales to restaurants that were severely impacted by the recession, we were heavily impacted as well. Ever since, my priority has been to build greater resilience into our business model. While we retain a great passion for promoting relatively small production Consignment wines that we have sourced from around the world, we also have a fantastic and growing portfolio of wines that are sold through LCBO retail (General List, VINTAGES Essentials and VINTAGES). And we have diversified our portfolio to include well-crafted beer, cider and spirits. We have found interesting synergies between these categories, with the common element being the wonderful stories behind each brand that we represent. Our tag line – A story with every glass – sums it up well.”

With respect to maintaining a portfolio’s level of consistency and excellence during the last five years (give or take) period of growth, here is what Margaret had to say:

“We have an awesome sales team that drives our revenue and our growth. They have varied backgrounds – most have come from the Food Service & Hospitality Industry and many have formal wine-beer-spirits education and training. They are instrumental in helping to maintain the consistency and excellence of our portfolio. Almost all decisions regarding the wines we carry on our list are made through blind tastings with this incredible group of professionals.”

Hobbs and Company’s diverse portfolio is truly a global affair, ranging to New World locales like Chile and Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and with an intense focus on South Africa, home to some of the best wine values anywhere. In the Old World Germany and Portugal are represented but it is Italy, Spain and especially France where the Hobbs representation really stands tall.

Though the Ontario importer enjoys a strong global presence, their work with wineries in both Ontario and British Columbia is exceptional. Quails’ Gate and Tantalus Vineyards are two important and essential figures in B.C. and have both received great accolades at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada. Here in Ontario Hobbs is partnered with Creekside Estates Winery, a Jordan outfit of great respect and an extremely diverse portfolio. Hobbs has also helped to develop and market Creekside’s participation in the Wine on Tap from stainless steel keg program. Creekside is one of the most successful producers in the field.

While we always enjoy our tasting sessions together, knowing that a Hobbs and Company set of wines was waiting in the WineAlign tasting room gave reason to really look forward to the day’s work. This portfolio offered up high anticipation for John Szabo, Steve Thurlow, David Lawrason and I. As usual with this Buy the Case feature – when discussing wines only available by the case – we offer some thoughts on how you might consider using the wines you purchase.

Sparkling & White

Beaumont des Crayères Grand Prestige Brut Champagne, France ($58.00)

Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Beaumont Des Crayères Grand Prestige ChampagneSteve Thurlow – This is a mature fairly intense complex Champagne for a good price (for Champagne). It is made from a fairly common blend of the three Champagne grapes, chardonnay 40%, pinot noir 40% and pinot meunier 20%. Expect harmonious aromas of dried pear and pineapple fruit with toasted nuts, brioche, and lemon. It is medium bodied and finely balanced with excellent length. Given the depth of flavour and its savoury nature plus the vibrant acidity, this is a wine to dine with. Try with rich seafood dishes or white meats with creamy sauces. Tasted August 2016. Good for Wine Pooling.
Michael Godel – This is Brut non millésimé Champagne of Old world spirit with new world personality. The complicated whole made up of interconnected parts is both dense and ethereal, ideological and post-ideological. I agree with Steve. Get some friends together, split the case four ways and open one every four years.

Tinpot Hut Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand ($23.00)

David Lawrason – This is lively sauvignon loaded with passion fruit on the nose, plus gentle greens like celery leaf and snow pea. It’s quite light bodied and a little softer than many Marlborough sauvignons, with a touch of sweetness. It should have wide appeal, and do well by-the-glass if competitively priced.
Michael Godel – From winemaker Fiona Turner off of her own Home Block vineyard this is sauvignon blanc of high acidity but with so much pungent and forthright fruit the balance is spot on. The kind of Kiwi white to make restaurant goers say “wow” and “yum” when poured to them by the glass.


Lucien Lardy Beaujolais Villages 2015, Beaujolais, France ($21.50)

Salcheto Rosso di Montepulciano 2014 Lucien Lardy Beaujolais Villages 2015David Lawrason – Here’s a very pleasant, well balanced gamay that has the character of a Beaujolais cru. It has a pretty, floral, blueberry character with shadings of earthy beetroot and pepper. It’s light to medium bodied, nicely balanced with fine acidity and checked alcohol. It could do well on a French focused wine list.
John Szabo – Lighter reds, and especially Beaujolais, are all the rage these days, and this bottling, from a vineyard planted in 1951 on pink-tinged granite in the northern part of the appellation near the cru of Fleurie, is crafted in a lovely, juicy, engaging, fruity, carbonic-style. There’s plenty of typical candyfloss and strawberry flavour, ripe and juicy. I’d call this a regional paradigm, immediately identifiable, hitting all of the right notes.

Salcheto Rosso di Montepulciano 2014, Tuscany, Italy ($25.00)

David Lawrason – This is a rare rosso from Montepulciano, made from the same clone of sangiovese as Vino Nobile, but aged for a shorter period. It’s a quite lively, sour-edged, a touch meaty and volatile red – a style that fans of traditional Italian wine will appreciate. Should work nicely by-the-glass on an eclectic Italian list.
John Szabo – Here’s an authentic, savoury-earthy-spicy-floral, sangiovese-based red from around the town of Montepulciano and a fine producer dedicated to sustainability at every level,. It’s very aromatically engaging, with brisk and saliva-inducing acids, light and dusty tannins, and very good length and overall complexity for the price category. A classic Tuscan red all in all, tailor-made for the table.
Michael Godel – Salcheto’s Rosso exists as a gateway vial to its rich, unctuous and more mature Vino Nobile and like the grand wine this Rosso will appeal to two sides of sangiovese lovers. There is enough volatility and tart earthiness to reach back old school and the kind of ripe fruit to seek some modern appeal. It’s almost buzzing with energy and the tongue is lashed with a peppery jolt. Solid Rosso for any day of the week house wine service.

Hartenberg 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa ($35.00)

David Lawrason – Here’s a big, meaty and complex cabernet with classic Stellenbsoch iodine minerality caked around the very ripe cassis fruit, graphite and vaguely minty notes. It’s dense yet vibrant with considerable acidity and firm tannin. It’s very Euro in one sense, but has the classic power of the Cape. IT should age nicely for a decade, so consider splitting a case with other collectors.
Michael Godel – Deliciously and devilishly dry cabernet sauvignon from deep red Hutton and Avalon soils in Stellenbosch. Built to live a long and healthy life so see this as a big red with maturation potential. The vintner claims 15-20 years from vintage. That’s not a stretch though the next five will be the best. I tasted many similar 1995-2005 reds from Stellenbosch in Cape Town last September. This Hartenberg will occupy an important section of your cellar.

Schubert 2014 Pinot Noir, Wairarapa, New Zealand ($37.00)

John Szabo – This is an elegant, spicy-savoury and structured pinot from a fine producer in New Zealand’s North Island – Wairarapa, perfumed and floral, dark and swarthy in the best way. Tannins are refined and sophisticated, acids perfectly in balance, and the length exceptional. Really fine stuff, and fine value in the rarefied realm of pinot noir. Drink or hold into the early ’20s.
David Lawrason – Schubert is one of the pioneering pinot noir estates of the Martinborough region. This is a delicious, warmer climate, youthful pinot with lovely ripe blueberry/cherry fruit, violets, plus some foresty and gently spicy complexity. It’s medium weight, almost silky smooth with very fine tannin. The sheer deliciousness gives it a place as an upper-end wine by the glass. I bet more than one glass gets ordered.
Steve Thurlow – This is a lovely pinot that is so typical of Martinborough in a good year. Expect aromas of cherry and plum fruit with floral, spicy and herbal complexity. It is midweight and so finely balanced with the velvety smooth fruit driven by vibrant acidity on to the long lingering finish. Excellent length. Elegant and classy. It is a little hot on the finish otherwise would have scored higher. Great buy. Best 2016 to 2021. Tasted August 2016. A good personal house wine.

Hartenberg Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Schubert Pinot Noir 2014 Roger Belland Maranges La Fussière 1er Cru 2014

Roger Belland Maranges La Fussière 1er Cru 2014, Burgundy, France ($44.00)

John Szabo – Fine value from the southernmost commune of the Côte d’Or, plump, sappy, ripe, nicely proportioned, with finely-tuned, elegant tannins and balanced acids. A really successful wine for the vintage, made with evident care and ambition. And to find red 1er cru Burgundy at this price is a treat; restaurants should take notice.
Michael Godel – Belland from Santenay makes pinot noir from 23 hectares of vineyards spread throughout several appellations and La Fussiere is considered the best vineyard in Maranges with the Belland plot located mid-slope. As a result here is a mid-weight Maranges with bright cherry scents foiled by sweet, musty earth. Tart acidity adds further brightness and the vintage leaves fewer bitters behind. This will age gracefully for up to seven plus years. Not all Burgundy cellar space needs got be occupied by the rich and famous. Some space should be allotted to lesser known but certainly not lesser quality Cru.

This report was sponsored by Hobbs & Co. WineAlign critics have independently recommended the above wines based on reviews that are posted on WineAlign as part of this sponsored tasting. Hobbs & Co. has provided the following agency profile.

Hobbs & Co.About Hobbs & Co

Hobbs & Co was born out of a passion for wine and a desire to share the stories of wines discovered and enjoyed by the Hobbs family in their travels. We have been fortunate to be able to grow our business gradually, with an emphasis on exceptional personal service and on quality wines of exceptional value. The fledgling company that began 23 years ago has flourished.


While we celebrate each new vintage from our roster of long-standing, noteworthy producers, our portfolio continues to evolve and expand to meet changing consumer tastes. And today, in addition to wine, that ‘story with every glass’ includes an exciting list of Hobbs-endorsed beer, cider and spirits.

We look forward to sharing with you the remarkable wines we love.

Join our Mailing List

If you would like to be notified when we have new wines arriving or when we are sampling wines from our portfolio, please subscribe to our monthly newsletter or follow us on Twitter @hobbsandco

To learn more about Hobbs & Co and our all of our remarkable beverages, please visit us at

If you have questions about any of our products or services, please contact Alisa by email or by phone 416.694.3689


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Sept 3, 2016

Chile Expands its Reach and the Best of the New World
by Sara d’Amato, with notes from David Lawrason and Michael Godel

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

Chile is a land of varied extremes and has not been shy to showcase those regional differences in their export wines. It is the idea of value, Chile’s hallmark for decades, which has blocked us from appreciating their complete cachet. Premium quality wines from Chile thus suffer due to an export reputation largely focused on the under $15 price range that has gradually increased to under $20. Thankfully, more and more of those premium finds are trickling into international markets although this week’s VINTAGES Release is extremely shy in this regard. The upswing is that smartly marketed diversity within Chile has helped keep their wine reputation innovative and with a high potential to surprise.

One of the most important strategies of Chile, intentional or not, was to focus on various grape varieties expressive of diverse regions as opposed to one star. They have thus avoided the Argentinian malbec albatross; a one-hit-wonder misconception that continues to plague Chile’s neighbour. Although carménère has reluctantly become Chile’s signature grape, it has not overshadowed the bounty of assorted sidekicks that fit easily into leading roles such as cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc. Even the underrated Pais, formerly used almost exclusively to produce bulk wine in Maule and Bio-Bio, has been given the chance to shine again. At no point in my visits to Chile did producers come close to a unanimous consensus on investing the majority of marketing on one key varietal. That decision has been instrumental in keeping Chile fresh and exciting.

Chile’s grape growing regions take up an immense portion of the latitudinal length of the globally accepted grape-growing viability zone. This “Goldilocks” band of latitude for wine production is situated between 30 and 50 degrees both in the northern and southern hemispheres. It is here that grape growing is possible as beyond these borders of extremes, climates are too harsh for the growth of vinifera. This fact, in itself, gives you an idea of how well situated Chile is for the growth of premium wine. Its regional span of quality wine production is among the greatest in the world.

However, what makes Chile extra special is its geographical diversity from east to west. Although a very narrow country, less than 180 km wide, the range of altitudes, penetrating valleys and coastal influences are responsible for a tremendous array of climates within the country. This is a wine grower’s paradise. Despite all of this wealth of land, Chile continues to push further into regions thought impossible to grow. Why? Because Chilean wine producers have an intrepid spirit and an enterprising nature that are crucial to perpetual evolution. As encounters with folk across the extremes of Chile’s geography shaped the revolutionary disposition of Che Guevera, so has the land inspired winegrowers to explore, express and reinvent.

Errazuriz Vineyards

Errazuriz Vineyards

An example of this limit pushing in Chile is the Elqui Valley, the country’s northernmost wine producing region. The Elqui Valley has quickly become Chile’s most talked about quality wine region and is certainly pushing the limits of viability on the extreme edge of the “Goldilocks zone”. High altitude, great diurnal shift, strong maritime influences and almost unparalleled sunlight intensity (similar only to that of the northern region of Salta across the Andes) makes this Chile’s hottest emerging quality wine region. Wineries such as Viña San Pedro have become solidly entrenched in this extreme region, a phenomenon only conceivable over the past decade. Due to the valley’s proximity to the Pacific, it thus benefits from cool, coastal breezes so that even cool climate grapes such as pinot noir and chardonnay can thrive here. Its clear skies and virtually no rainfall make this region perfectly suited to stellar observation and some of the most coveted telescopes are located here. Unfortunately, nothing from the Elqui seems to have made it to this week’s lineup but don’t stop looking as some will surely appear before the end of the year.

Even a desert as harsh as the Atacama is no limit for the adventurous Chilean wine industry. Beyond Elqui, which is already located at the edge of the grape viability growing zone, certain wineries are now pushing into the Atacama desert itself – one of the driest places on earth. The pioneering producer Viña Ventisquero has had success with their hand harvested Tara line, an extreme Atacama viticulture product. Despite the cost of production and challenges of high soil salinity and virtually no water, the project goes forth because the results are outstanding. Unfortunately, you’ll be hard pressed to get your hands on one of these costly, extreme and highly thirsted-for bottles.

Hand destemming at Casa Lapostolle

Hand destemming at Casa Lapostolle

You likely don’t realize that you, as a Canadian consumer, have a big impact on Chilean wine success. Canada is one of Chile’s top importers of wine and is the 5th largest wine importer in the world. Our purchasing decisions have a direct and measurable impact on Chile’s wine economy and future production strategies. It is time that we no longer shy away from spending a few dollars more on these dramatic and dynamic wines from a country whose track record is proven, a country inspiring the world’s best winemakers to produce a second annual harvest in the southern hemisphere.

There is a great deal to learn and more variety than ever before available. Chile is now the 5th largest exporter of wine and is virtually phylloxera free. This means that most of its vines are planted on their own rootstocks unlike the vast majority of classical wine regions – most definitely adding cachet. In this VINTAGES Release, Chile hits hard with classic grape varietals, solidly built and regionally expressive wines. Regardless of missing out on many hot, emerging regions, the selection is solid and evidence not only of the value which exists in Chile but of its quality and variety.

You’ll find below our top picks of this Chilean feature but also the best of the new world. John Szabo will be returning next week to take a closer look at the best from Burgundy and what inspired us from the old world.

Our Top Picks from the September 3rd VINTAGES release:

Buyers’ Guide to Chile

Errazuriz 2015 Aconcagua Costa Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, Aconcagua Valley ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A cool and breezy coastal climate gives this sauvignon blanc brightness and the kick comes from its volcanic soils. A striking mineral profile, impressive depth and torrid vibrancy made this the most interesting sauvignon blanc I have tasted, globally, in quite some time. Especially if sauvignon blanc doesn’t float your boat, give this one a go.
Michael Godel – Errazuriz is arguably Chile’s most successful multi-varietal, multi-faceted winery but their accomplishments with several tiers of sauvignon blanc is just amazing. The Estate and Max Reserva Series available at $13 and $16 respectively are terrific and this single vineyard wine elevates the game, as it should, with more tropical fruit and even more acidity. The crisp and strikingly pungent hyperbole of Chilean sauvignon blanc is loyal to the house style with the ratcheted notes of coastal vineyards and schist soils.

Maycas Del Limarí 2014 Sumaq Reserva Chardonnay, Limarí Valley ($14.95)
David Lawrason – Great value here and interesting to compare to quite similar white Burgundies on this release. It’s fits in well. It’s a quiet, confident, subtle and well integrated chardonnay that hails from limestone-influenced soils in Pacific cooled appellation of Limari in Chile’s northern winegrowing zone.

Errazuriz Aconcagua Costa Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2015Maycas Del Limarì Sumaq Chardonnay 2014 Junta Momentos Reserve Syrah De Martino Legado Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Junta Momentos 2014 Reserve Syrah/Carménère, Curicó Valley ($16.95)
David Lawrason – This is a creative and effective blend of syrah (65%), carmenere (35%) and cabernet sauvignon (10%), and I like the resulting energy and complexity. Syrah pepper, meatiness and roasted coffee notes dominate the nose, with carmenere currants and tension kicking in on the palate.  Very good value.

De Martino 2013 Legado Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo Valley ($18.95)
David Lawrason – De Martino is one of my favourite Chilean producers, finding complexity and cohesiveness and satisfying texture in an unforced way. It leans organic, or is at least grown sustainable and fermented on natural yeasts.  Complex, interesting cabernet, read to enjoy now.

Escudo Rojo 2013, Maipo Valley ($18.95)
Michael Godel – The amenability factor runs on high and wide in breadth from this very blackberry red out of Maipo. While there have been good vintages of this recognizable blend in the past, I can’t recall one with such balance and structure. You can serve this to anyone, anywhere, anytime. It will solicit nods of approval every time. I know because I’ve done so recently to a crowd. Nods all around.
Sara d’Amato – A blend of Maipo and Rapel Valley cabernet, syrah and carménère from the Baron Phillippe de Rothschild family of wines. A real stand-out in this release offering elegance, harmony and refinement. I would have guessed the cost to be significantly higher if tasted blind. More polished than powerful but offering excellent concentration of fruit and solid structural components.

Escudo Rojo 2013 Arboleda Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Andes Pirque Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Casa Silva Cool Coast Pinot Noir 2013

Arboleda 2013 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Las Vertientes Vineyard, Aconcagua Valley ($19.95)
Michael Godel – There is just so much to like about this Chilean cabernet sauvignon. It’s fresh and simultaneously savoury and it has that single-locale sense of place in its step. Wood is certainly in charge but freshness, dusty fruit, crisp bites and beneficial bitters keep everything humming along nicely. Big wine for the money.

Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Andes Pirque Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, Las Terrazas Block, Pirque Vineyard, Maipo Valley ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – Sitting within the premium growing region of Maipo, Pirque is a cooler climate oasis in Chile’s central valley. Its elevation and situation are thus that temperature differences between day and night are often upwards of a 30 degrees Celsius difference! This incarnation from Concha Y Toro’s Terrunyo is typically firmly structured and ageworthy with enticing, spicy aromatics and impressive depth of flavour. Worthy of the premium price.

Casa Silva Cool Coast Pinot Noir 2013, Colchagua Valley, Colchagua Valley ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – Many of Chile’s iconic wines come from the Colchagua Valley which offers both heat and sunshine along with cool coastal breezes as the name of this pinot noir suggests. Here is a complex pinot noir of terrific value.  Not too modern but also very clean and offering wide appeal. A great weeknight go-to red when something lighter and more fragrant is what you crave.

Oh, Canada and other New World

Cave Spring 2013 Estate Bottled Gewürztraminer, Cave Spring Vineyard, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($17.95)
Sara d’Amato – Love at first sip, the evolving style of gewürztraminer from Cave Spring has really hit its stride in this 2013 incarnation. Its slow maturity has unveiled new complexities and the length is outstanding. Be sure to pick up a bottle for now and three more for the cellar. One of many in a lineup of strong Canadian showings in this week’s Vintages release.

Burrowing Owl 2014 Chardonnay, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($34.95)
Michael Godel – The Owl’s chardonnay shows some yet seen elegance in 2014, cooler in temperament and slower on the swelter and the smoulder. I really like the balance struck and the length is better than many, including versions of itself. To me this 2014 Burrowing Owl is an exemplary poster child for cool-climate meets rich and creamy Okanagan chardonnay.

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Gewürztraminer 2013 Burrowing Owl Chardonnay 2014 Fielding Estate Cabernet Franc 2013 Inniskillin Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 Château Des Charmes St. David's Bench Vineyard Gamay Noir Droit 2014

Fielding Estate 2013 Cabernet Franc, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($21.95)
Michael Godel – Fielding’s consistent take on Cabernet Franc might be labeled as boring in proportion to its lack of ego but it is getting better with each passing vintage. Winemaker Richie Roberts’ end game is temperance, modesty and goodness. Fielding’s Cabernet Franc is not one of Ontario fiction in requiem of drama, egotism, vanity and venality. It’s the real deal.

Inniskillin 2013 Montague Vineyard Pinot Noir, Four Mile Creek, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – Still holding on strong due to finesse, concentration and structure, the 2013 Montague Pinot Noir received a noteworthy silver medal at the most recent National Wine Awards of Canada. A compelling, old world inspired pinot at the top end of Niagara’s premium pinot pyramid.

Château Des Charmes 2104 St. David’s Bench Vineyard Gamay Noir Droit, St. David’s Bench, Niagara-on-the-Lake ($17.95)
David Lawrason – The critics are getting excited about Ontario gamay. This was a gold medalists at the 2016 National Wine Awards and the Ontario Wine Awards. From a gamay clone developed at Chateau des Charmes, this is a quite substantial gamay, with impressive, creamy texture and intriguing red fruit and peppery complexity.

Auntsfield 2013 Single Vineyard Pinot Noir, Southern Valleys, Marlbrough, New Zealand, $31.95
David Lawrason – Something good is happening at Aunstsfield in Marlborugh. This is their second wine this year I have rated above 90 points. What a lovely, pure and generous pinot!  It is certainly in NZ’s somewhat riper style but not at all blowsy or overdone.  Sara d’Amato – Auntsfield has proven its consistency and has now become a coveted find at Vintages among new world pinot lovers. Modern in style with impressive structural components and exciting verve on the finish. Keep an eye out for this sophisticated find.

Auntsfield Single Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 L'Avenir Pinotage 2014 Rodney Strong Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Zuccardi Q Malbec 2013

L’avenir 2014 Pinotage, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($14.95)
David Lawrason – Here’s a pinotage that has not succumbed to commercial ‘mocha-fication’. Which leaves you able to actually make an informed decision as to whether you actually like or don’t like South Africa’s signature variety. It’s a mid-weight, sour-edged but quite smooth example  good energy and length at the price.

Rodney Strong 2013 Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Knights Valley, Sonoma County, California ($35.95)
Michael Godel – I have always considered Sonoma’s Knight’s Valley appellation to share equal or congruous footing with many parts of Napa Valley. Cabernet can ripen consistently and also develop complexity some other Sonoma valleys don’t always succeed at doing. This 2013 from a great vintage is rich and dark as per the Knight’s Valley give. Rodney Strong moves to accentuate and celebrate the darkest of the valley’s fruit qualities. Very complex Sonoma County cabernet with three times the value as compared to the three times more expensive Rockaway kin.

Zuccardi Q Malbec 2013, La Consulta and Vista Flores Vineyards, Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – A blend of two premium malbec growing sub-regions from one of Argentina’s most influential and innovative wine families. Zuccardi has invested significantly in pushing altitude boundaries in order to produce extreme and chillingly haunting reds. This thoughtfully crafted assemblage is both youthful and poised with a pulsating and full-flavoured palate.


Sara d’Amato

For Premium Members, use these quick links for immediate access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release.

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All September 3rd Reviews

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

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

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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British Columbia Critics’ Picks August 2016

Drink Ahead to Fall

How does the saying go: Minds that think alike, drink alike? Or is it the other way round – minds that drink alike, think alike? Either way, it seems the WineAlign West crew is already starting to think ahead, and drink ahead to fall. Richer reds are making their first appearance in many weeks, while the whites are all structured and savoury enough to take on some heartier foods. And the fizz selected? Serious stuff. Bring it, September. We’re ready, with a case of serious (and delicious) wines like these.

Cheers ~ TR

BC Critic Team

Our monthly BC Critics’ Picks is the place to find recent recommendations from our intrepid and curious BC critics – wines that cross geographical boundaries, toe traditional style lines and may push limits – without being tied to price or distribution. All are currently available for sale in BC – through BC Liquor Stores, private wine shops or direct from the wineries. Inventory is also available when linked to BCLDB stores.

Anthony Gismondi

Champagne Bollinger 2005 La Grande Année is only made in the best years, and while 2005 doesn’t fit that accolade, Bollinger tends to overcome most obstacles of weather. It was disgorged in 2014 after eight years on lees, so it is ready to go. There is more sugar ripeness and less acidity, which is why it’s drinking well now and will likely age faster than the norm. When you find yourself losing faith in wine, this champagne will recharge your batteries.

Bollinger La Grande Année Brut Champagne 2005 Two Hands Bella's Garden Shiraz 2013 Domini de la Cartoixa Formiga de Galena 2013

The Two Hands Garden Series is a six-shiraz-set bottled to expose the terroir of individually approved South Australia wine regions. Two Hands 2013 Bella’s Garden Shiraz makes up the largest production, and since the inception the use of new oak has fallen, setting this wine free. It’s not for the timid and it could use a few years in bottle, but many will enjoy the rambunctious new world fruit now, served with a well-seasoned leg of lamb. Bring on the fall.

When I last visited the folks who make Domini De La Cartoixa 2013 Formiga De Galena, a blend of garnacha, samsó and syrah, I was blown away by its intense stony, black fruit aromas and similar smoky, savoury, black cherry fruit flavours. Terrific value here in what is a serious, modern, organic red made in an old school way.

Rhys Pender, MW 

I started last month’s critics’ picks bemoaning the fact that summer had somehow seemed to disappear with chilly autumn like nights and cool days. August has seen summer come back full throttle with rarely a day in the Okanagan and Similkameen under 30 degrees over the last few weeks. The grapes are moving along quickly as a result and harvest has started for many wineries already.

When the apéro hour hits in this warm weather, a crisp white is calling and I’ve picked two wines that fit the bill well. The first is the Culmina 2015 Unicus Gruner Veltliner. There is very little gruner in BC but this shows its potential. Crisp, mineral, varietally correct and super refreshing, showing the power and freshness that BC whites can achieve. A little ceviche or a fresh green salad wouldn’t go astray.

Culmina Unicus 2015 Bk Wines One Ball Chardonnay 2013 Fontodi Chianti Classico 2012 Pol Roger Brut Réserve Champagne

We don’t always think of Chardonnay as crisp and refreshing but most modern Chardonnay is going down that path, particularly those from cooler parts of Australia. The BK Wines 2013 One Ball Single Vineyard Chardonnay from Kenton Valley in the Adelaide Hills is just that – restrained, refined, crisp and fresh with plenty of complexity from the lees aging and subtle use of oak. A bit of grilled white fish with some brown butter would be a perfect match.

When the night cools off but it is still perfect BBQ weather and warm enough to do some star gazing, a complex, rustic and savoury red is the perfect match. The Fontodi 2012 Chianti Classico Chianti Classico will not disappoint. There is plenty of savoury complexity to think about while on shooting star watch.

Any excuse is a good excuse to drink Champagne, and if you pick a good, dry, crisp one with a decent amount of autolysis it will taste good out of any vessel, from a surreptitious water bottle, a tumbler, a plastic cup or maybe even a proper wine glass or flute. If you are on the beach, the boat or the campsite just remember to bring a bubbly stopper to keep those bubbles fresh between pours. One that never disappoints and that I have probably tried out of all those vessels and more is the Pol Roger N/V Réserve Brut Champagne. One of the best in my mind, it has plenty of autolysis richness as well as providing great refreshment.

DJ Kearney 

Three mesmerizing wines that I want to drink again and again, all memorable because of texture, mineral force and the characters behind them. If one of wine’s gifts is to distract, relax and stimulate, then these three are richly endowed with vinous powers.

Acústic Cellers 2012 Blanc may need a scuttle around a few private wine stores, but it’s a fatty/stony/salty marvel for Mediterranean halibut or Iberian ham and well worth the hunt. Thanks to Monsant’s Albert Jané Ubeda for this heroic white.

Celler Acústic Blanc 2012 Les Pavillons Du Chateau D’arlay 2014 Pedro Parra Y Familia Pencopolitano 2014

I drank three bottles of Les Pavillons du Chateau d’Arlay 2014 Rosé in a row (well not drank drank, but you know, opened three to try with three dinner pairings) and applauded the triumph of texture and terroir. To me, the Jura is a powerfully eloquent terroir, and this innocent-looking rosé packs a whallop of fruit and mineral heft. It’s a blend of two Jurassien red grapes: pinot noir for curranty fruit and silky mouthfeel, and trousseau for a spicy weight.  Comte Alain de la Guiche is visiting Vancouver in October, and I hope that helps ensure that we have a constant flow of Arlay wines.

And then the Pencopolitano. I drank this wine with Pedro Perra, and I’m always prepared for his wines to be full of soul. After more than a decade of digging calicatas across the globe – from Burgundy and Barossa to the Okanagan and Vancouver Island’s Cowichan Valley – Chilean geologist Pedro Parra is well established as the world’s leading expert on the influence of rocks and soil on wine quality and character. He is still young, but he continues to rise inexorably through Decanter’s annual Power 50. Now he has started a project in his home region of southern Chile that focuses on terroirs, not just grape varieties.  Pencopolitano is a different kind of ‘field blend’, celebrating the heritage of dry-farmed bush vines from old vineyards scattered across the isolated and impoverished regions of Itata and Cauquenes. Five grapes, powerful terroir, venerable vines, old oak and concrete, and Pedro’s inimitable winemaking. Like I said in the beginning, mesmerizing.

Treve Ring

Lock & Worth Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2015 Terravista Vineyards Fandango 2015When I look back at the last month of tasting and think about the wines that stood out, excited and impressed me, a duo of local talents quickly come to mind, co-incidentally both from the Okanagan Valley. You may need to drive to the Naramata Bench to pick them up, but, it’s worth it.

The Terravista 2015 Fandango stands alone in all the ways, starting with its singular blend of Albariño and Verdejo from the granitic soils of their Naramata Bench estate. Concentrated, focused and vibrant, with perfumed lime oil, mandarin, gooseberry and yellow plum along a raft of fine ginger spicing. Dialed in.

While Lock & Worth is located on the Naramata Bench, near Terravista, the grapes for their 2015 Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon are from a graveled site near Oliver. Seventeen year-old-year old vines make up this 77/23 sauvignon blanc/semillon blend, resulting in medicinal herbs, meadow grass, lemon thistle, hay and vibrant citrus acidity streaming through the lees-lined palate. Tighter and more linear than the 2014 now, this has the structure to reward with a few years in your cellar (if you can wait that long). Amazing value.


WineAlign in BC

In addition to our monthly Critics’ Picks report, we also publish the popular shortlist 20 Under $20, as well as the Rhys Pender’s BC Wine Report, a look at all things in the BC Wine Industry. Treve Ring pens a wandering wine column in Treve’s Travels, capturing her thoughts and tastes from the road. Lastly, Anthony Gismondi closes out the month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential critic.

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

Beringer Founders' Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

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20 vins à moins de 20 $ pour août 2016

Les choix de notre équipe du Québec

Eh oui, déjà la fin du mois, août qui s’envole. Déçus de voir l’été s’étioler ? Contents de savoir que les enfants retournent à l’école ? Dans tous les cas de figure, et pour que tout continue à bien aller, nos quatre critiques ont sélectionné ensemble, pour vous, 20 bons vins à moins de 20 $.

Notre équipe du Québec : Bill, Marc, Nadia et Rémy

Les choix de Bill

L’été a été jusqu’ici impeccable, grand bien nous fasse. Encore quelques belles semaines devant nous, cela dit, et notamment, bientôt, un long week-end. Si vous choisissez alors de bien relaxer, mes deux premiers choix, légers et coulants, se laisseront boire tout seuls.

Du Québec et de la formidable maison Entre Pierre et Terre, je propose le cidre pétillant aromatisé aux canneberges. D’abord sceptique, j’ai vite été convaincu par le caractère plutôt sec, le fruité marqué et les bulles fines. Un régal ! Par ailleurs, peu de vins sont aussi accessibles et conviviaux que les rieslings de la Moselle allemande. Le Selbach Oster 2014 va dans ce sens — et à très bon prix, qui plus est.

Entre Pierre et Terre Flavoured rosé sparkling cider (cranberry) Selbach Riesling 2014 Luis Felipe Edwards Reserva Shiraz 2014Chartier Créateur d'Harmonies Le Blanc 2014 Umani Ronchi Medoro 2014

Si un barbecue se profile à l’horizon, pas de souci ! Avec la viande rouge ou les sauces barbecue, le Luis Felipe Edwards Shiraz 2014, plus syrah que shiraz dans son style, fera parfaitement l’affaire, à moins de 15 $. Si des fruits de mer ou du poisson sont au menu, alors essayez le Chartier Pays d’Oc Le Blanc 2014. Riche sans être lourd, il m’a, perso, aiguillé vers des pétoncles.

Enfin, comme les tomates sont on ne peut plus de saison, j’ai toujours sous la main un rouge pour l’occasion. Cette fois, j’ai retenu le Umani Ronchi Medoro 2014 : un très respectable sangiovese de la région des Marches, avec le fruit et l’acidité nécessaires pour composer avec les tomates.

Les choix de Marc

Septembre et l’automne qui se pointent le bout du nez ? Pfft ! On a vu pire, et du reste la pilule est d’autant plus facile à avaler qu’on a, sous la main, notre fameuse liste de bons vins à moins de 20 dollars… Voici les miens.

Deux blancs pour commencer. Un plus léger, le Marques de Caceres Rueda Verdejo 2015, vif et fruité, à prendre par exemple pour lui-même, à l’apéro. Puis un autre, plus riche, plus corsé, à la fois aromatique et nerveux : le très bon saint-chinian Cave de Roquebrun Les Fiefs d’Aupenac blanc 2015.

Marqués De Cáceres Verdejo 2015 Cave De Roquebrun Les Fiefs D'aupenac 2015 Jean Noël Bousquet La Garnotte Corbières 2015 Chartier Créateur d'Harmonies Fronsac 2012 Domaine de Lavoie Bulles d'Automne

En rouge, même concept. Un plus léger, mi-corsé en fait, pas compliqué et bien concentré : du Languedoc, le Jean-Noël Bousquet La Garnotte Corbières 2015. (Garnotte comme dans… garnotte, et peut-être qu’en anglais il faudrait dire slapshot.) Puis, solide, étonnant même compte tenu du millésime, plaisamment tannique, le Chartier Fronsac 2012 m’a donné envie d’embrasser notre François national, c’est dire ! Du bon bordeaux.

Enfin, pour revenir à septembre et l’été qui achève, un cidre, le Bulles d’Automne de Lavoie. De la fraîcheur, sucré sans trop d’excès, très pommé, un peu d’acidité volatile. Ressemble à un Asti avec plus de corps. Excellent rapport qualité-prix.

Les Choix de Rémy

La saison du rosé n’est pas finie – en fait, on devrait en boire à l’année, vu qu’on boit du blanc en hiver, aussi – mais avant que la chaleur estivale finisse de retomber, on mettra agréablement au programme des dîners sur la terrasse une bouteille de Buti Nages, un Costières de Nîmes bio généreux et bien fruité, mais tout de même sec. Un bon vin de repas à prix très sympathique.

Si le rosé peut être un vin d’hiver, le bordeaux peut-il être un vin d’été? Quand il a la souplesse et la fraîcheur du Château Camarsac 2012, pourquoi pas? Un rouge très digeste, simple et agréable.

Buti Nages Vin Rosé 2015 Château Camarsac Vieilles Vignes 2012 Adega De Pegoes 2015 Carvalhais Duque De Viseu Red 2014Vignoble de la Rivière du Chêne Cuvée William Blanc 2015

En toute saison, il y a beaucoup de bonnes choses à apprécier, au Portugal – particulièrement dans les gammes de prix plus modestes, où les vins dépassent le simple fruité-sucré de bien d’autres vins d’entrée de gamme. Sous la barre des 15$, j’ai bien aimé l’Adega De Pegoes, un blanc rond et tropical et charmeur, et le bien connu Duque de Viseu, dont le millésime 2014 m’a semblé particulièrement attrayant.

Un petit coup de blanc québécois, en finissant? La Cuvée William 2015 du Domaine de la Rivière du Chêne vaut qu’on s’y arrête. Un blanc en fraîcheur, simple et convivial, tout à fait recommandable.

Les Choix de Nadia

Trop chauds pour l’été, les vins de Sicile? Pas du tout. Même si l’image des gros nero d’avola puissants et boisés lui colle encore à la peau, la belle du sud est aussi la source d’excellents vins rouges et blancs empreints de fraîcheur et de légèreté.

Particulièrement gourmand et gouleyant cette année, le Donnafugata, Sedara 2014, Sicilia a des allures de vin de soif en 2014. On croque dans le fruit et on en redemande. (18,20 $)

Dans la même veine, mais encore plus abordable, La Segreta rosso 2014 de la maison Planeta est nerveux, gorgé de saveurs mûres, mais sans la moindre lourdeur.

Donnafugata Sedàra 2014 Planeta La Segreta 2014Firriato Nari Nero d'Avola Morgante Nero d' Avola 2013Planeta La Segreta Bianco 2015

Moins cher encore, le Firriato, Nari 2014, Sicilia n’est jamais sucré, mais toujours aussi affriolant, agréable à boire et délicieusement fruité. À moins de 15 $, pourquoi s’en passer?

Sur un mode un peu plus corsé, le Nero d’Avola 2013 de Morgante plaira à l’amateur de vin large d’épaules. Pas le plus fin, mais parfait pour accompagner les saucisses grillées sur le barbecue.

Enfin, ce très bon vin blanc typiquement méridional, La Segreta bianco 2015 de Planeta, reste fidèle à la «recette» gagnante (grecanico, chardonnay, fiano et viognier) qui a fait son succès populaire. À ce prix, rien à redire, sinon bravo!

Santé !

La liste complète : 20 bons vins à moins de 20$

Note de la rédaction: vous pouvez lire les commentaires de dégustation complets en cliquant sur les noms de vins, les photos de bouteilles ou les liens mis en surbrillance. Les abonnés payants à Chacun son vin ont accès à toutes les critiques dès leur mise en ligne. Les utilisateurs inscrits doivent attendre 60 jours après leur parution pour les lire. L’adhésion a ses privilèges ; parmi ceux-ci, un accès direct à de grands vins!

Beringer Founders' Estate

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20 under $20 for August 2016

Monthly picks from our Quebec Critic Team

Ah yes, the end of the month, and alas, the end of August. Feeling down because summer is closing out? Or thrilled that the kids are going back to school? Well, our four critics have each chosen their favourite five under $20 wines they have recently tasted for you to either drown your sorrows or celebrate, whichever the case. No cash? Still thirsty? No problem! Here’s the August version of the 20 under $20.

Chacun son Vin Critic Team : Bill, Marc, Nadia & Remy


Bill’s Picks

It was a fabulous summer weather wise, so let’s be thankful for that. We still have a few weeks left though, and with a long weekend ahead, time to close it out in style. If you are going to laze about on a hot afternoon and need something easy and light to drink, then I have two suggestions.

From Quebec’s fantastic cider house, Pierre et Terre, try their Sparkling Cider which is flavoured with cranberries. I was skeptical at first, but this is quite dry, abounds with fruit and has such finessed bubbles. A real treat. If bubbles aren’t your thing, few wines are as easy to pack back as a quality Mosel riesling. The 2014 Selbach Oster will do the trick and at a great price as well.

Entre Pierre et Terre Flavoured rosé sparkling cider (cranberry) Selbach Riesling 2014 Luis Felipe Edwards Reserva Shiraz 2014Chartier Créateur d'Harmonies Le Blanc 2014 Umani Ronchi Medoro 2014

If the afternoon festivities are building up to a BBQ, then I have you covered. If going the direction of red meat and/or BBQ sauces, then Luis-Felipe Edwards 2014 Shiraz – which is actually more syrah than shiraz in style – will do the job admirably for under $15. If you are going seafood or fish, try Francois Chartier’s 2014 Le Blanc. Rich without getting heavy, it had me thinking scallops.

And as there are lots of local field grown tomatoes available these days, I am always on the look out for a good red for tomato sauce. So go to the source and try Umani Ronchi 2014 Medoro. A bright, humble sangiovese from the Marches region, it has both the fruit and acidity one needs to pair with tomatoes.

Marc’s choices

September and Autumn are around the corner, so what? Things could be worse. What makes this much easier to swallow is that you have, on hand, our list of 20 under $20. Here are my five:

Two whites to start. For a lighter option, the Marques de Caceres 2015 Rueda Verdejo is both fruity and refreshing, easily drunk on its own or as an aperitif. On the richer side and with more power, while staying aromatic and twitchy, try the very good Cave de Roquebrun 2015 Les Fiefs d’Aupenac Saint Chinian.

Marqués De Cáceres Verdejo 2015 Cave De Roquebrun Les Fiefs D'aupenac 2015 Jean Noël Bousquet La Garnotte Corbières 2015 Chartier Créateur d'Harmonies Fronsac 2012 Domaine de Lavoie Bulles d'Automne

Turning to red, is a superb little table wine from the Languedoc. While on the lighter side the Jean-Noël Bousquet 2015 La Garnotte Corbières still shows good power and concentration. With a touch more torque, which is surprising considering the vintage, the Chartier 2012 Fronsac made me want to give our Francois a big hug. This is very good Bordeaux at a great price.

Finally, turning the page forward to coincide with our end of summer and September, try this Quebec cider – Bulles d’Automne de Lavoie. Very fresh, sweet but not excessively so, with lots of apple and a touch of volatility. Reminds me of the sparkling wines of Asti, with more body. It’s a great value as well.

Remy’s selections

Rosé season isn’t over. In fact, it should be a year-round part of any wine list, just like white wines. But for you seasonal drinkers, before the summer heat completely dissipates, get the Buti Nages on the program for your patio dinners. This organic Costières-de-Nîmes is generous and ripe – but also dry. Think of it for mealtime, more so than an aperitif.

If you can have rosé in winter, then why not drink Bordeaux in the summer? You certainly can do that without any hesitation when you get a fresh, supple wine like the 2012 Château Camarsac. Easy-drinking, and pleasantly simple.

Buti Nages Vin Rosé 2015 Château Camarsac Vieilles Vignes 2012 Adega De Pegoes 2015 Carvalhais Duque De Viseu Red 2014Vignoble de la Rivière du Chêne Cuvée William Blanc 2015

Portugal has wines for all seasons, and at great prices. It’s not just simple and fruity-sweet like many entry-level wines. At under 15$, I liked the Adega De Pegoes, a round, tropical-fruited, charming white. I also liked for you red wine drinkers the latest vintage of the well-known Duque de Viseu (2014).

I’m always happy to recommend a Québec wine, and the 2015 Cuvée William from the Domaine de la Rivière du Chêne, one of the more established producers, is worth checking out. Simple, fresh and friendly.

Nadia’s choices

Are Sicilian wines too hot for a hot summer? Not at all. Even if this beautiful southern island has the reputation of producing massive, oaky wines made with nero d’avola, it is equally a source for excellent red and whites whose character is more appropriately described as light and fresh.

Particularly tasty and lively this vintage, the Donnafugata 2014 Sedara is pure thirst quenching goodness. You feel as though you are biting into fresh fruit, and simply want more and more.

In a similar vein, but even more affordable, the Planeta La Segreta 2014 Rosso is twitchy, full of ripe fruit flavours, but without a hint of heaviness.

And even less expensive, the Firriato 2014 Nari is never sweet, but always has an allure. Deliciously fruity, and at under $15, how can you pass this up?

Donnafugata Sedàra 2014 Planeta La Segreta 2014Firriato Nari Nero d'Avola Morgante Nero d' Avola 2013Planeta La Segreta Bianco 2015

If you like your reds with a bit more torque, Morgante’s 2013 Nero d’Avola  will please all of you who love a wine with a certain brawn. It’s not the most finessed, but a perfect match for grilled sausages on the BBQ.

And to finish up, an excellent white that is very typical of the Mediterranean, Planeta La Segreta 2015 Bianco. Once again, its blend of grecanico, chardonnay, fiano and viognier is a winner and one that has attracted many faithful drinkers over the years. At this price, nothing more to say than bravo!

Cheers !

The complete list: 20 under $20

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

Beringer Founders' Estate

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Spain is Wine – September 19th – Toronto

Spain’s largest wine tasting event of the year is taking place at the AGO in Toronto on Monday, Sept 19th.

grapes_logo Man with marcasWines from Spain together with more than 55 wineries is excited to return to Toronto after five years to showcase over 275 wines in an exclusive wine tasting event at the prestigious Art Gallery of Ontario. Experience some of the best wines Spain has to offer from more than 25 Denominations of Origin found all over the country.

Enjoy a true #TasteofSpain by pairing the wines with small tapas and Cheese from Spain. (While there will be some finger foods, it is recommended that you plan to eat dinner either before or after the event.)

Event Details:

Date: Monday, September 19th

Time: 7:00pm – 9:30pm

Location: Art Gallery of Ontario

Price: Early Bird $65 (until Sept 1); General Admission $75

Come discover the diverse range of Spanish wines and experience first-hand why #SpainisWine.  A complete list of the participating bodegas.



To be in the loop, follow  #SpainisWine on  

Facebook: Foods and Wines From Spain Canada

  and Twitter: @SpainFoodWineCA

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Canadian Wine: One Grape at a Time

David’s Award Winning Grapes: Top Picks & Trends from The Nationals
by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The 2016 WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada held in Penticton in June shone the light on several trends in Canadian wine, which we will continue to revisit in this column in the months ahead. Today I would like to take you through some of them one grape at a time. To my mind, these are the most important in shaping what Canada is doing well and not so well – the grape varieties, the regions, and in some cases, the producers that shine.

Before launching in, you need to know the regional breakdown of the 232 wineries in this year’s competition. British Columbia led with 143 wineries entered, Ontario came second with 65, followed by Quebec 13, Nova Scotia 6, New Brunswick 4, and Prince Edward Island 1. This roughly mirrors winery distribution in the country. It may or may not surprise you to know that B.C. has roughly 100 more wineries than Ontario, but Ontario has 70% more vineyard area.

The Nationals (NWAC) do not include every winery in the country. We wish that all Canadian wineries entered but the reality is that only those who care enough, and are brave enough, and can afford the process take the plunge. Still, the NWACs count as the best yardstick and crystal ball available for where Canadian wine sits now, and where we are going.

So here, in alphabetical order are the most important 13 categories in my mind, with one or two personally recommended wine in each. You can click on the headings to see the complete list of medal winners in that category.

Cabernet Franc
No Platinum and only one gold medal suggests this grape is not a huge hit, despite its very important volumes in Ontario (the number one planted red) and B.C. (number 4). In both provinces, however, it is as often blended into Bordeaux-style reds vs bottled solo. The only gold went to Peller Estates from Niagara, which is no surprise to me; they have been making delicious, rich and vibrant, age-worthy high-end Bordeaux reds for several years now, which helped propel them to Winery of the Year honours in 2014. Among the silver medalists, B.C. dominated by the numbers, but the ratio matched the national distribution of wineries. Among the B.C. cab francs, equal parts hailed from wineries in Naramata/Summerland centre as from the hotter southern Okanagan. Those in Ontario tended to be sourced from the Niagara-on-the-Lake appellations where this grape is widely planted. Try: Peller Estates 2014 Private Reserve Cabernet Franc

Here’s what Canada does best right now. Five of 13 platinum medals went to chardonnay, the largest representation. Another 12 won gold, and 45 won silver. Four of the 5 platinums, and 8 of the 12 golds were from Ontario, with Niagara and Prince Edward County represented. Half the silvers went to Ontario as well. This, in my view has to do with Ontario’s limestone base and maturing vines more than climatic factors. But this is not to diminish in any way the fact that chardonnay is among B.C.’s best whites as well, especially from Okanagan Falls and points north. From my perspective inside the judging room, chardonnay was simply one of the most engaging categories. The complexity, acid structure and depth just made me want to dig in and explore. So many good wines! Try: Norman Hardie 2013 County Chardonnay

Peller Estates Private Reserve Cabernet Franc 2014 Norman Hardie County Chardonnay Unfiltered 2013 Vieni Gamay Noir 2015 Thornhaven Gewürztraminer 2015

This was not a large category, but the judges’ enthusiasm for Canadian gamay should not go unnoticed by consumers or winemakers. It’s success partially comes from the current fashion for lighter, more vibrant, pure, unoaked reds. As well, we’re recognizing that Canada’s cool-moderate climes can do the Beaujolais grape very well, despite the fact we lack the granitic soils of Beaujolais (although some B.C. sites may hit this note). Ontario dominated with 7 of 11 medals, with a huge kudos to Chateau des Charmes and their two golds. We want to see many more gamays entered next year. They are out there. The reluctance, I feel, is symptomatic of the “who cares about gamay” attitude among many winemakers. We care. #GoGamayGo. Try: Vieni 2015 Gamay Noir

Again, not a large category, but it’s a grape that judges measure from the corner of their eye, knowing what heights it can hit, especially in Alsace. And again this year, B.C. totally dominated, while one Ontario example medalled. I have formed an opinion that the Okanagan Valley may be one of closest geographic approximations of Alsace in the wine world, with its northerly latitude, rain shadow effect, and hot, dry growing season. I loved the intensity of the gold-medal-winning Arrowleaf Gewurztraminer from vineyards on the 50th parallel in Kelowna/Lake Country. Summerland’s Thornhaven appeared again in the silver ranks. In fact, 5 of the 8 medalists were from the central Okanagan regions of Naramata/Summerland. I am not surprised. Try: Thornhaven 2015 Gewürztraminer

Here’s an issue. No merlots scored platinum or gold. Yet merlot is the number one planted red grape in B.C. and number three in Ontario. So what is going on? Much of that is going into blends. But I also think there is an expectation not being met. Merlot should be full, fruited, smooth and seductive, whereas too many Canadian versions are green, gangly, hot and pushed. A Bordeaux template, yes, but on steroids and unbalanced. Where is the charm and joy? B.C. dominated the silver medals at 14, with Ontario showing a respectable 9. I like merlot, and I was looking for better. Try: CedarCreek 2013 Platinum Merlot Desert Ridge

Pinot Gris/Grigio
This hot consumer category acquitted itself well with 3 golds and a handful of silvers and bronzes. Canada imparts the natural acidity required to give soft pinot gris some lift. The category was dominated by B.C. as it should be, with pinot gris being the number one planted white in the province (another Alsace comparable). The 3 golds were not only all B.C. but all from wineries based in the northern Kelowna region. Most other B.C. medalists were from the Summerland/Penticton/Naramata zone in the central Okanagan. Ontario examples began to creep into the silver category, before registering several bronze medalists. Try: Deep Roots 2015 Pinot Gris

CedarCreek Platinum Merlot Desert Ridge 2013 Deep Roots Pinot Gris 2015 Tawse Winery Tintern Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 Spierhead Winery Pinot Noir G F V Saddle Block 2014 Montakarn Estate Angel Share 2013

Pinot Noir
I find it fascinating that in blind tasting, two pinots from the same winery should win the only two platinum pinot medals. Spierhead of East Kelowna has tapped into something the judges adored: energy, intensity, accuracy and purity. Digging down into the gold medal ranks it’s apparent that pinot noir, like chardonnay, is a pan-Canadian success story, with an almost equal number of medalists from Ontario and B.C. It comes as no surprise as both are products of Canada’s Burgundy-like latitude and conditions. Here Ontario’s Prince Edward County began to emerge with two solid golds, as did the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation of Niagara thanks to a great pair by Tawse (The 2016 Winery of the Year). In B.C. all the pinots were from Okanagan Falls, thanks to a great showing by Meyer Family Vineyards, as well as from points north in the valley, where the climate is cooler. Try: Tawse 2013 Tintern Road Vineyard Pinot Noir or Spierhead 2014 G F V Saddle Block Pinot Noir

Red Blends, Other Single Varietals, Malbec
Red Blends was a huge category dominated by the Bordeaux-style blends involving cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc. Syrah is increasingly creeping into blends as well, providing a softer lining. These are still rather rugged and tannic wines in Canada, the toughest and one of the largest categories to judge. There are also an increasing number of Rhone blends, led by Road 13 Vineyard’s platinum-winning 2014 Syrah Mourvedre. B.C. took the lion’s share of medals in this category with the 2 platinums, 9 of 11 golds and dozens of silvers. It’s obvious, as many already know, that B.C.’s climate, specifically in the southern Okanagan and the Similkameen Valley, is more conducive to creating the ripeness and body this category requires. Ontario’s medals were largely from the hotter 2012 vintage. In the Other Single Varieties category, there was no dominant themes grape-wise. However, two B.C. wineries, Moon Cursor and Stag’s Hollow, are worth watching for their medal winning experiments with grapes like tempranillo, grenache and petit verdot. And by the way, there were enough B.C. malbecs entered this year to create a bona fide category. There were no golds, but 6 strong silvers. Try: Montakarn Estate 2013 Angel Share

Gray Monk Riesling 2013 Hidden Bench Roman's Block Riesling 2013 Lake Breeze Semillon 2014 Chateau des Charmes Sauvignon Blanc 2015

With one platinum for the delicious Gray Monk Riesling from B.C., 15 golds and dozens of silver medals, riesling again showed it is a very important variety in Canada when it comes to quality and expression of terroir. Ontario took more riesling medals than B.C., with most hailing from maturing vines on the Beamsville Bench, Twenty Mile Bench and Vinemount Ridge of the Niagara Escarpment. The winning B.C. rieslings were largely from the northerly Kelowna/Lake Country district and some from central Okanagan sites. Nova Scotia weighed in with a silver. I was very pleased with the overall quality and styling of rieslings in this year’s competition, with fewer coming across as thin and watery. It’s a grape that needs to be treated with respect, and not as a commodity. Try: Gray Monk 2013 Riesling or  Hidden Bench 2013 Roman’s Block Riesling

Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon
The Sauvignon Blanc category was not large but it produced 3 gold medals, while Lake Breeze 2014 Semillon took a high scoring Platinum. I was intrigued to see that the medals were almost equally distributed between B.C. and Ontario. More specifically, most of Ontario’s medals were from vineyards in the lower altitude (non-escarpment) sub-appellations of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Lincoln Lakeshore and Creek Shores. The B.C. medals tended to come out central Okanagan sites, especially the Naramata Bench. Try: Chateau des Charmes 2015 Sauvignon Blanc

Like chardonnay and pinot noir, sparkling is a great all-Canadian success story. There were no platinum medals for bubbly, but the 11 golds and 19 silvers hailed from sites literally coast to coast. This was the strongest category for Nova Scotia with 4 medals, while out west, Vancouver Island also took a pair. And virtually every pocket of Ontario and the rest of B.C. figured as well; Prince Edward County, Vinemount Ridge and Beamsville Bench in Ontario, and particularly the northern reaches of the Okanagan in B.C. have the right grape varieties, climate and soils to make seriously good traditional-method sparklers, but we also have the diversity of other grape varieties to make fine, less-expensive, medal winning charmat method wines as well. Try: Unsworth Charme de L’ile or Blomidon 2013 Crémant

Unsworth Charme De L'ile Blomidon Crémant 2013 Le Vieux Pin Syrah Cuvée Violette 2014 Lake Breeze Winemaker Series The Spice Jar 2015 Stag's Hollow Viognier Hearle Vineyard 2014

If one can use the judge’s excitement in the tasting room as a measure, syrah was a major hit in these awards. I can personally say that I was very, very impressed by the structure I encountered, not just the weight and richness, but by the acidity and minerality that reminded me more of the Rhone Valley than Australia. There were 3 platinum medals awarded, 6 golds and 32 silvers. B.C. took the vast majority of the syrah medals, with representation spreading from a strong showing from Naramata in the north, south through Okanagan Falls and into the Oliver/Osoyoos syrah heartland. Also of note was a strong showing from the Similkameen Valley. Ontario did place high with Creekside’s three silvers, showing it is clearly Niagara’s syrah sweetheart. Lake Erie North Shore also grabbed a silver medal. Try: Le Vieux Pin 2014 Syrah Cuvée Violette

White Blends, Other Single Varietals, Viognier
The sheer number of white blends and various single white varieties in Canada makes this an important category to watch.  Given our acid-pushing, alcohol-suppressing cooler latitudes we should indeed be doing them well. The only damper is that many wineries are looking to this category to make cheap, fast-buck whites with marketing driven, and often silly, names. There were 5 golds and 28 silvers awarded. Among notable single varieties there were 3 silvers for B.C. pinot blanc, and 3 for white Rhone varieties. That brings us to viognier, which had the strongest outing I can remember at our national awards, with 2 golds and 9 silver, and B.C. taking all but one of those medals . Naramata-based wineries like Terravista and Bench 1775 were particularly strong on viognier and other Rhone whites. Try: Lake Breeze 2015 Winemaker Series The Spice Jar or Stag’s Hollow 2014 Viognier Hearle Vineyard

I urge you to spend some time browsing through the medal lists, and clicking on wines of interest. All the Platinum, Gold and most Silver medals are reviewed by various judges, based on their own blind tasting notes. It’s a fascinating glimpse into what Canada is doing well, and why. I also urge you to go online and begin ordering some of these wines, even across provincial boundaries.  As Canadians, we like to support Canada, but the best possible support is to buy the wines because they are very good.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

NWAC16 Results Summary Page

Canada’s Top Wineries

Top 25 Wineries in Canada

Wine Country Ontario

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(Re-)Discovering Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene

Text and photos by John Szabo MS
with additional notes by Treve Ring

John Szabo MS

John Szabo MS

Prosecco may very well be the most successful wine story in all of Italy, and surely one of the most successful sparkling wine stories in the world. What’s the secret? For one, at its most basic, prosecco is inexpensive, easy to understand, and even easier to drink. It’s light-bodied (c. 11%-11.5% alcohol on average), engagingly fragrant (fresh pear and green apple are signature aromatics), more gently effervescent than traditional method sparkling wines, and just sweet enough to appeal widely, without tripping over into genuine sweetness.

The name is easy to say, and at once brings a grape, place and wine style to mind without unnecessary complications. And at under $20 / bottle in general, and with many cuvees under $15, it fills an important niche in both the on and off-trade: everybody needs an affordable bubbly to pour by the glass, or to sip with friends or serve at parties when champagne is not in the budget. It would be unthinkable to spend a day in Venice without stopping in for a glass of prosecco as you wander along the canals.

So it’s no wonder that sales have increased year on year for as long as I can remember, nearly tripling in just the last half-decade. In 2010, about 130m bottles were sold, by 2015, sales had jumped to c. 306m bottles and the retail value was 515 million Euros. 44 percent of that was for the export market, led by Germany, Switzerland, UK, USA, Austria and Canada.

The Region: Starts with the Soils

The surface simplicity of the prosecco world belies a much more complex and intriguing reality. For many, basic Prosecco DOC, produced in industrial quantities from the flat lands north of Venice, will remain the daily bread and butter. But for those ready to take the next step into the more artisanal world of prosecco, one that’s rapidly expanding thanks to a growing cadre of ambitious producers bankrolled by the region’s sales juggernaut, there’s plenty to explore.

Giuseppe - Welcome to Prosecco

Giuseppe – Welcome to Prosecco

You’ll want to start in the historic heart of the production zone, a hilly area nestled between the towns of Conegliano in the east and Valdobbiadene in the west, a little more than an hour due north of Venice. The the two towns are approximately 40km away from each other, the terroir is markedly different. Conegliano in the east is a mix of clay-rich glacial, alluvial and morainic soils, yielding richer, fruity and structured wines. In the west, in Valdobbiadene, the soils are ancient seabeds veined with moraine and sandstone, resulting in finessed, finer, floral-scented wines. The landscape gets progressively more hilly and steep heading east to west in the zone, and by the time you’ve reached Valdobbiadene, slopes can be downright precipitous. Vineyard work hours also rise precipitously, from some 120 hours/hectare/year in the plains to over 800 hours in the steepest parcels.

This is where the finest wines have always originated, and in fact where prosecco the sparkling wine was born, thanks to Antonio Carpenè Malvolti over a century ago. Malvolti also founded Italy’s first school of oenology in the town of Conegliano in 1876, which contributed in no small measure to the rise in wine quality in the region, and throughout the peninsula.

Antonio Carpenè Malvolti, Oenology school, Conegliano

Antonio Carpenè Malvolti, Oenology school, Conegliano

The Prosecco Pyramid : Climbing Higher in Quality

There are five quality levels of Prosecco. Prosecco DOC and Prosecco DOC Treviso (556 and 95 municipalities, respectively) make up the largest group, at the base of the pyramid. Atop of that rests the Colli Asolani DOCG Prosecco Superiore, a thin layer with 17 municipalities from the hilly area of northern central Veneto. From there, you move into the heartland of production, which in other parts of Italy would have been called the “Classico” zone, but in prosecco’s case could not be because of the possible confusion with metodo classico, or traditional method sparkling wines, which prosecco is mostly not. Officially recognized in 2009 as the Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore DOCG, this covers about 6800 hectares across 15 municipalities. Here, free-draining hillsides and cooler temperatures result in higher natural acids and greater aromatic development, compared to grapes grown on the plains. But there’s more to it than that; vine age is also older on average, and there’s much greater genetic diversity – more variations on glera, the principal grape (re-baptized in 2009 from prosecco) – from centuries of massale selection, and about 10% of vineyards are planted to other local authorized grapes, like verdiso, bianchetta, perera and glera lunga, which each add their unique twist to blends. Plantings on the plains are generally much more recent and composed of a small handful of glera clones, so the same degree of complexity and balance is nearly impossible to achieve.

Entering Valdobbiadene-3763

Entering Valdobbiadene

Digging a little deeper, and climbing higher in the quality pyramid, are an additional 43 single vineyards or crus. These single vineyard Rive (the Venetian dialect for “steep slopes”), have been identified within the Conegliano Valdobbiadene DOCG Prosecco Superiore zone, and often found on the choicest part of the best hillsides. Rive proseccos, by law, are made from lower yields and hand harvested grapes, and must be vintage dated. Some are shared between producers, others are monopoles.

At the top of the pyramid, one large, south-facing hillside area, historically recognized as producing the very top proseccos, has its own appellation: Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze DOCG. Prosecco from the 107 ha Cartizze hill is the most expensive in the appellation, often three or four times more than a producer’s regular cuvée. Producers can label their wines Superiore di Cartizze, without the word “prosecco”, to futher emphasize the special site. In addition, Cartizze must only be vinified within the Valdobbiadene municipality.

Sunset over Cartizze Hill-3783

Sunset over Cartizze Hill

The most vexing thing about Cartizze, however, is that the cru has been historically made in a ‘dry’ version, which is of course to say quite sweet, with up to 32 grams of residual sugar, a tradition that most producers still seem content to follow. In the past, Cartizze was surely the one zone where grapes would ripen sufficiently and consistently enough to produce a rich, off-dry style wine, a distinctive trait. But today, with sugar ubiquitous, anyone can make sweet prosecco. And adding sugar has the effect of homogenizing, if not fully eliminating, any nuance that comes from place. Admittedly I have found few Cartizzes I’d been willing to pay for – if you want sweet, you may as well by a straight Prosecco DOC ‘Dry’ for a fraction of the price. The sweeter the wine, the less regionally distinctive it tends to be.

The Future : Dryer, Site-Specific Wines

Compared to the gloried Cartizze, Rive proseccos, on the other hand, come much more frequently in brut versions (maximum 12 grams of sugar). For me, this category represents the future for Prosecco, especially if the goal is to trade consumers up to more distinctive wines at higher prices. That’s not to say that cru proseccos are uniformly better, however. There’s much to be said about the advantage of blending from multiple vineyards to create a better-balanced, complete wine. But the Rive category at least moves prosecco out of the simple commodity market and into a space where meaningful discussion about regional variations in terroir can take place.

One heartening trend overall is the move towards more truly dry styles. Over the last 20 years the Brut category has grown dramatically, representing about 40% of total production; dry versions now represent less than 10%, while the in-between Extra-dry category (with 12-17 grams of sugar) accounts for about half of all production.

Vineyards, Valddobbiadene-3759

Vineyards, Valdobbiadene

Col Fondo prosecco is another ancient style that is regaining popularity. “Col Fondo is the oldest version of prosecco”, Maurizio Favrel of Malibràn tells me. “It’s the type that existed before the charmat method became popular, born surely from a mistake”. Favrel claims to be the first producer to revive the style commercially, which was essentially an ancestral method sparkling wine made by bottling still-fermenting must. “It was the wine we had at home. It would be a pity to lose this tradition”, Favrel continues.

Today the process is not left to chance. Favrel makes his from a dry, still base wine, bottled with sugar and yeast as for traditional method sparkling, but the wine is not disgorged or filtered so remains cloudy, like bottled-fermented ale. Malibràn’s is bone dry and with under three bars or pressure, less than classic prosecco, and only about half the effervescence of traditional method bubbly. About half a dozen producers are making Col Fondo style prosecco today, though the category is sure to grow.

So, if you’ve relegated prosecco exclusively to the fun and frivolous category until now, it’s time to explore what the historic region has to offer. Quality, availability, and stylistic diversity have never been better. Start your exploration by tracking down some of the bottles below.

Strada del Prosecco-3747

Strada del Prosecco

Buyers’ Guide to Prosecco

These wines may not currently be available in your province, but if you have a chance to taste them, we recommend you do.

2013 Ruggeri Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut Vecchie Viti

Ruggeri’s superb Vecchie Viti (“Old Vines”) is harvested from individual old vines (mixed in with younger plantings), selected from 12 growers in 12 different parcels, some 2500 individual vines in all. This may sound like excessive labour, but the results are clearly worth it – this wine ranks in the very top echelon in the region year after year. The 2013 offers terrific aromatics, really just starting to emerge, while the palate is dry but rich, full, substantial. I love the mouth filling density and the range of white-fleshed fruit flavours, ginger spice, fresh green herbs. Excellent length. Lovely wine all in all. 5000 bottles made annually. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 94

Villa Sandi Cartizze Brut Vigna la Rivetta Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Brut

Although aromatic intensity is relatively modest, Villa Sandi’s Cartizze, a rare brut from this celebrated hillside (most are made in a dry style, which is to say, sweeter), is all about texture and mouthfeel. It’s a clearly ripe and generous wine, barely off-dry, at the upper end of brut, very vinous and complex, and with very good length. I’d put this clearly in a superior quality category, less for titillating aromatics, but rather for its genuine complexity and depth. I’d love to see more Cartizze wines take this drier, more site-driven approach. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 93

2009 Bisol Relio Metodo Classico Extra Brut VSQ

This is a fairly rare traditional method glera, aged three years on lees, yet shockingly fresh, with little obvious autolysis. The palate is delicate, silky, seamless, very surprising – this is amazingly complete and lively. The florality of glera has been only partially sacrificed, while white-fleshed fruit still dominates. Very good length. I love the salty-sapidity – the most mineral glera I’ve come across. 12% alcohol, 4 grams dosage. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 93

2013 La Farra Brut millesimato Rive di Farra di Soligo Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore

Crafted in a gently oxidative-floral, style, this is a big, more concentrated, powerful version of prosecco overall, firm and well balanced, very dry, with terrific intensity and length. A top example. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 92

Vineyards, morning, Conegliano-3742

Vineyards, morning, Conegliano

2014 Adami Vigneto Giardino Rive di Colbertaldo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

From the Rive di Colbertaldo, a south east facing, hilly site 220-300m in altitude comes this generous, dry (20 g/l RS) fizz. The sweetness is deftly handled by a racy backbone of acidity, bringing a nimble briskness to the palate. Generous cushion of asian pear, light yellow apple, macedonia (fruit salad) finishes entirely asciutto – grippy, drying and fresh. A beauty. Treve Ring – 92

2014 Ruggeri Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut Giustino B. Extra Dry

The Giustino B. bottling is assembled in March following the vintage, a selection of the top vineyard lots, including some old vine lots. The 2014 is still tightly wound on the nose, but the palate is rich, off-dry as advertised, peachy and pear-flavoured, with very good length, an excellent wine all in all, which, along with Ruggeri’s Vecchie Viti, can be counted among the region’s best. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 92

2014 Valdo Brut Cuvèe del Fondatore millesimato Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore

This fairly deeply coloured prosecco offers intriguing riesling-like florality, with peach-apricot, pear, and pineapple aromatics, while the palate is vinous and fleshy, with higher intensity and density than the mean, with more generous alcohol. This is clearly a more concentrated and serious example, though oxidation is starting to creep in, so enjoy now or over the near-term. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 91

Col Vetoraz Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry

Here’s a textbook example of Cartizze made in the traditional ‘dry’ style (which means of course that it’s off-dry), though with better balance than the mean, built more on acids than sweetness alone. It shows as a lovely, particularly elegant wine, with beguiling aromatics, all fresh white-fleshed fruit and white blossom florality. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 91

Panaroma from Cartizze Hill-3789

Panaroma from Cartizze Hill

2013 Malibràn Cinque Grammi Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut

Malibràn’s Cinque Grammi (“Five Grams”, referring to the low sugar, virtually dry style), is crafted in a powerful, ripe, full bodied style within the prosecco category, focused less on aromatics, and more on fruit ripeness and concentration, and palate richness and extraction. It comes across as a slightly more rustic wine than the mean from Valdobbiadene, but highly characterful, a strong personality, and one that certainly appreciate. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 91

Adami Col Credas Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Rive Farra di Soligo

Serious Prosecco. Think single vineyard, steep sloped, ‘cru’ Prosecco, sustainably farmed old vines from 300-350 metres rooted in poor, dry clay soils. The Adami family have been farming these soils for three generations, more than 90 years of experience in the terroir of Valdobbiadene {say it with me: val-dough-bee-add-den-nay}. The dedication shows in dry, characterful wines like this one. Brut (only 4 g/l residual sugar, with tight green apple, light almond, faint white acacia, bitter citrus pith and stone. The nimble palate rips along with driving acidity, leaving just a bit of textured mineral stoniness in its fresh wake. Tasted December 2015 – Treve Ring – 91

2014 Bisol Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore di Cartizze Dry

Bisol’s bottling of Cartizze is on the drier side of ‘Dry’  (23 grams of sugar), lighter on the aromatics, but well-endowed with flavour intensity on the palate. Acids are quite high, balancing the sugar, and brought further into equilibrium by the relatively rich and full body. Good to very good length. A fine prosecco all in all, though at a considerable premium price. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 90

Sorelle Bronca Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut

A flagrantly aromatic, very floral, almost muscat-like expression of prosecco here from the Bronca sisters, full of orange peel and orange blossom aromatics, alongside more classic fresh, white fleshed fruit, pear and apple. The palate offers a vaguely sweet impression thanks mostly to ripe, concentrated fruit, in a widely appealing style. All in all this is lovely and fullish prosecco with genuine character and style, and very good length. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 90

2014 Malibràn Sottoriva Col Fondo Per Tradizione Vino Frizzante Colli Trevigiani IGT

Col Fondo is the prosecco designation for what’s essentially an ancestral method sparkling wine, bottled before the primary fermentation has finished. Spent yeast cells remain in the bottle, and the pressure is slightly lower than standard charmat method prosecco. Malibràn produces their version from pure glera grown in their vineyards all within the DOCG zone, though because it’s bottle under crown cap, it looses appellation status. The 2014 is very lightly cloudy, crisp, dry, appley, bone dry in fact, very pure and pleasant to drink. Although the complexity is ultimately modest, I love the purity on offer – this is delicious stuff. It’s a wine for the table, served alongside something like boudin blanc or fatty sausage.  Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 90

2014 Masottina Extra Dry Rive di Ogliano millesimato Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore

The touch of sugar here in Masottina’s Extra-Dry single vineyard prosecco really lifts the aromatics; this is highly fragrant, reminiscent of off-dry riesling, one of the most fragrant in its class. Although it’s not terribly complex overall, it appeals above the average with its gentle and easy drinking manner. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 89

Vineyards, Conegliano-3743

Vineyards, Conegliano

Sommariva Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut

Sommariva could be called a” grower prosecco”, with sufficient estate vineyards around the town of Conegliano to supply all of their grape needs. This a classic Brut Superiore, bottled one month ago, composed of mostly 2014 vintage, with a touch of 2015 blended in to refresh. Grapes from a mix of old and young vines are given a short maceration before fermentation with selected yeast, and the wine is bottled with 10 grams residual sugar. The result is a rather dry, fleshy, flavourful, classically pear flavoured bubbly. Concentration and density are above the mean, as is the length. Textbook prosecco. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 89

2014 Astoria Brut Casa Vittorino Rive di Refrontolo millesimato Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore

Astoria’s single vineyard bottling is done in a lightly oxidative and floral style, with gentle spring blossoms and pear/apple fruit mixing with more exotic tangerine-mandarin notes. The palate fullish and balanced-fresh, indeed nicely crisp and essentially dry. Gently effervescent drives the finish, of very good length. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 89

Tenuta degli Ultimi Brut Biancariva Rive di Collalto Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore

Ultimi’s Biancariva offers relatively subtle aromatics on a dry, attractively svelte and tight frame. I like the tighter and more upright style, firm and coiled, with lots of tension but also elegance. Authentic. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 89

Vettori Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Superiore Brut

A classically light, oxidative-floral-lemon peel scented prosecco, like a refreshing gin & tonic, while the palate is dry, pleasantly lean and tight, balanced, crisp and lively. Solid substance and length. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 89

Costadilá Prosecco Col Fundo

This will change your perception of Prosecco. “Col fundo” signifies ancestral method, and is a style that a number of independent, adventuresome producers are exploring in Prosecco. Costadilá has made this wine naturally – no added sulphites or sugar, and with one fermentation in bottle (as it was in past times). Dry, crisp and exacting, with ample oxidative notes, apple cider, delicate stone, dried grasses, white peach blossom and delicate shortbread notes. Very light frizzante bubbles (3.5 bars of pressure) to gently lift the 11 percent alcohol. The bottle is not disgorged and has fine sediment in the bottom of the bottle. The winemaker recommends decanting, but I prefer to gently tilt the bottle back and forth to mix the sedimentary lees throughout. The result is a cloudy pour, but one with texture and interest. Tasted February 2016 – Treve Ring – 88

Desiderio Bisol-3768

Desiderio Bisol

Bisol Desiderio Jeio Brut Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

The Bisol family has been farming the famed hill of Cartizze since the 16th century. This, their lower entry tier of wines, is named for Desiderio Bisol, the current winemaker. Glera makes up the majority of this cuvée, accompanied by verdiso, pinot bianco and chardonnay. Crisp and bright, with the 9 g/l RS gobbled up by crunchy acidity. An appealingly dry riff of peach fuzz lingers on the finish. Treve Ring – 88

2014 Canella Prosecco Superiore di Conegliano Valdobiadene

Crisp apple, light stone and apple open this fresh prosecco, and carry on to the bright palate along with tight lemon blossoms, peach and pear. Subtle hint of bitter melon before a kiss of sweetness on the finish. Lovely for brunch or with prosciutto wrapped melon. Treve Ring – 88

Nino Franco Rustico Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

Nino Franco was founded in 1919 and is one of the oldest wineries in Valdobbiadene, and the winery is now overseen by the forth Franco generation. Fresh and juicy, with golden apple, white peach, tight pear and subtle hay. Lime pith acidity cuts the residual sugar handily, leaving the finish crisp and dry. Treve Ring – 88

Ruggeri Santa Stefano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Dry DOCG
Fresh peach, pear and pink grapefruit blossoms fill the mouth of this ‘Dry’ prosecco from the high-altitude sub-zone of Santo Stefano. The bracing acidity handles it very well, leaving an impression of mandarin orange. From one of the steeper and higher sub-zones in Valdobbiadene, most of the Santo Stefano fruit goes to the Ruggeri. The residual sugar in this prosecco ranges from 17 to 32g/l making it more of a patio sipper preferably with panettone or even fruit but you could pair it up with some spicy Asian rolls. Tasted February 2016 – Treve Ring – 88

2013 Ruggeri Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Giustino B

Ringed with crisp, pithy pink grapefruit acidity and tight minerality, this extra dry prosecco is sourced from the hilltop ridges bordering the Dolomites. Refined and bright, with green apple and orchard pear, this carries the 16 g/l RS very well, leaving only pithy citrus in its wake. Pair with salads or sashimi. Tasted February 2016 – Treve Ring – 88

Giusti Asolo Prosecco Superiore Extra Dry

Sourced from vineyards in the hills of Asolo, this pretty prosecco is extra dry, though it’s not overtly noticeable though the pithy pink grapefruit acids. Peach fuzz, red apple, pear blossom and gentle acacia fill the palate, one cushioned by the sugars and streamed by the high acidity, especially when kept nice and chilled. Melon and prosciutto, here you are. Tasted February 2016 – Treve Ring – 88

2014 Foss Marai Prosecco Superiore Guia Millesimato Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG

The steep hilled vineyard was first planted in the early 1900s by winemaker Carlo Biasiotto’s grandfather. A garden of white flowers and fine, green apple in this finessed Brut. Brisk pithy pink grapefruit acidity snaps on the finish. A delicate, feminine style. Tasted February 2016 – Treve Ring – 88 


Bisol – Valdobbiadene

Bisol Jeio Prosecco Colmei Prosecco di Valdobbiadene Superiore Extra Dry

Jeio is the nickname for Desiderio, the founder of Bisol and the grandfather of the current generation, also Desiderio, to run the family company. This cuvée was first made in 1999. This bottling is all from the 2014 vintage (though labelled as NV), from grapes grown across the DOCG in both Conegliano and Valdobbiadene. Stylistically it’s on the more fragrant and floral side of the spectrum, offering light spice, ginger and fresh herbs, while the palate is noticeably off-dry (with 16 grams of residual sugar), which broadens the appeal, but in a more commercial sense. Perfectly serviceable and fairly priced in any case, even if I’d love to see a brut version of it. Tasted December 2015 – John Szabo – 87

Valdo Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore Marco Oro

This consistent extra dry Prosecco comes from the heartland of the region, Valdobbiadene DOCG. Candied grapefruit acidity gobbles up the sugar fairly well in this extra dry style (from 12-17 g/l RS), leaving an impression of sugared pear, candy apple, juicy peach, white flowers and candy necklace. Treve Ring – 87

Sorelle Bronca Prosecco Valdobbiadene Superiore Particella

The 68 on the label refers to the official land registry plot number for the exact part of the hill in Colbertaldo where these grapes are grown, 250-320m high. Glera is splashed with Bianchetta and Perera, here creating a near-dry fizz with light white flowers, lemon peel, tight pear and yellow apple. Some powdered stone texture and bitter pear skin closes out the light palate. Treve Ring – 87

Bottega Gold Prosecco

Even though the distinctively blinged out Bottega Gold doesn’t carry DOCG on the label, it is entirely DOCG quality fruit. A quirk in the appellation laws dictate that the bottle has to be made of clear glass in a limited range of shades. Blingy, to be sure, but it’s what inside that counts. Very concentrated nose, with yellow apple, ripe pear and light toast throughout the creamy, gently frothy palate, and a perfumed floral note that floats the finish. Presents on the upper sweetness level for Brut. Unlike most charmat-produced Prosecco, Bottega Gold Bottega Gold is obtained from Glera grapes, but unlike other standard Proseccos, it is produced to order via just one fermentation in the winery’s specialized pressurized cuve close tanks for forty days. Treve Ring – 87

Terra Serena DOC Prosecco Treviso Frizzante

Ripe pear, pink florals and a fine pink grapefruit pith carry this simple, light (10.5 percent) Prosecco. Hints of almond tuck in on the bright palate, finishing with a brisk peach fuzz bitterness. Chill, use in cocktails or enjoy solo at breakfast/brunch. Tasted August 2016 – Treve Ring – 86

Follador Extra Dry Prosecco

Very perfumed florals, apple blossoms and pear throughout this sweeter prosecco (18 g/l RS). Tight citrus and crunchy pear acidity, finishes bright but with a twist of bitter fruit. Simple, chilled, for breakfast or tea time. Tasted June 2016 – Treve Ring – 86


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Top Values at the LCBO (August 2016)

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

Steve Thurlow

Steve Thurlow

Since I last wrote to you, I have tasted close to 200 new wines, mostly new vintages of existing listings, but also about 50 brand new wines to the LCBO General List. So this makes for another exciting month for my Top 50 Best Values.

Among the seventeen wines in today’s report there are:

• Three wines that are brand new listings. Congrats to the smart buyers at the LCBO
• Two new vintages that scored 90 points
• Four wines for less than $10
• Two 89 point wines with big discounts (LTOs) this month, and
• Three 89 point wines with loads of bonus Air Miles (BAMs)

The current promotional period runs until September 11th, so don’t hesitate. Thanks to WineAlign’s inventory tracking, I can assure you that there were stocks available, when we published, of every wine that I highlight.

Editors Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2015, Central Valley, Chile ($9.10 was $11.10) – This is an excellent unpretentious pinot with a harmonious nose and a pure well structured palate which is mid-weight with the fruit well balanced by acidity and mild tannin. It is fresh, pure, fruity and very drinkable.

Luccarelli Primitivo 2015, Puglia, Italy ($9.45 was $10.95) – At $1.50 off this is a great buy for a well balanced red made from primitivo (aka zinfandel).  It is midweight with ripe fruit well balanced by acidity and soft tannin. The finish is lively with fruit persisting well; maybe a little tart for some so try with a tomato based meat sauces.

K W V Roodeberg 2013, Western Cape, South Africa ($10.60 was $12.60) – This is medium bodied Cape classic has been in our stores for years and at $2 off it offers good value for a well balanced and fairly complex red. Try with juicy lamb cutlets.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir 2015Luccarelli Primitivo 2015 K W V Roodeberg 2013 Spier Signature Merlot 2014

Spier Signature Merlot 2014 Western Cape, South Africa ($10.95 was $12.95) New to the LCBO – This seems to be an unoaked merlot. In fact it spent some time in old barrels which has made it very smooth on the palate with lively lemony red berry fruit and fine grippy tannin. It is midweight dry and well structured with very good length. Try a little chilled with bbq meats.

Thelema Mountain Red 2012, Western Cape, South Africa ($11.15 was $13.15) – This delightful blend of shiraz and 5 other grapes comes from high mountain vineyards above Stellenbosch.  It is very smooth and quite dense with a degree of elegance. Try with pizza or burgers.

Les Jamelles Merlot 2014, Vin De Pays d’Oc, France ($11.95 was $13.95) – This is a lovely juicy fruity merlot with ripe but not overripe fruit well balanced by vibrant acidity and soft supportive tannins. Enjoy on its own lightly chilled or with mildly spicy gourmet sausages.

Las Mulas Reserva Merlot 2015 Central Valley, Chile ($11.95 was $12.95) New to the LCBO – This fresh bright fullbodied merlot is an excellent addition to the LCBO list.  The palate shows ripe berry fruit with lively acidity and nice grippy tannin. Very good length. Try with BBQ meats.

Thelema Mountain Red 2012 Les Jamelles Merlot 2014 Las Mulas Reserva Merlot 2015 Trapiche Reserve Merlot 2015

Trapiche Reserve Merlot 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($11.95) New to the LCBO – This is an elegant well priced merlot with a beautiful creamy rich smooth palate with lots of flavour and very good to excellent length.  It is midweight and nicely structured with a firm finish.  Try with a steak.

Trapiche Pure Malbec 2015, Mendoza, Argentina ($13.95 was $15.95) – A pure malbec made without oak maturation, so there are no sweet mocha, dark chocolate and vanilla aromas and flavours overwhelming the fruit. Quite complex with good focus and lovely vibrant acidity. Try with a juicy duck breast.

The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2015, Western Cape, South Africa ($13.95) – The 2015 is just as good as the 2014. This is deeply coloured red blend that is medium to full bodied with firm tannin which gives a nice edge to the finish. Very good to excellent length. Try with grilled red meats.

Trapiche Pure Malbec 2015 The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2015 Castillo de Monseran Reserva Garnacha 2011 Jacob's Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz 2014

Castillo De Monseran Reserva Garnacha 2011, Cariñena, Aragon, Spain ($14.10) – An old-world styled mature red with herbal tones to the fruit. Very classy and superb value. Very good length. Try with a steak.

Jacob’s Creek Reserve Barossa Shiraz 2014, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($16.95) – For under $17 this is great value for a shiraz with structure and elegance. It is full bodied with the ripe fruit nicely supported by well integrated oak, juicy acidity and firm tannin. Try with a steak.


Mezzomondo Pinot Grigio Chardonnay 2014 Sicily, Italy ($8.95 was $9.95) – Great value for an easy drinking pure clean white with loads of flavour and a soft nutty fruity nose. Its crisp yet quite rich with good to very good length. Great by the glass as aperitif or with seafood starters.

Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2015, Western Cape, South Africa ($9.50 was $11.00) – A fresh and very flavourful dry white. It is rich with the ample fruit well balanced by racy acidity. Try with creamy pasta sauces, grilled chicken or sautéed seafood.

Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2015, Coastal Region, South Africa ($13.10 was $15.10) – Just enough oak for added complexity and structure makes this a very classy, rich, smooth chardonnay with a lot of appeal to nose and palate. Try with rich poultry dishes or creamy veal.

Mezzomondo Pinot Grigio Chardonnay 2014 Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2015 Boschendal 1685 Chardonnay 2015Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc 2015Alvear Medium Dry

Saint Clair Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Marlborough, New Zealand ($17.15 ) – This juicy fruity sauvignon has a complex very appealing nose with the fruit on the palate nicely balanced with fresh lemony acidity. It is creamy and rich with very good length.

Alvear Medium Dry, Montilla Morilles, Spain ($12.75 + 4 BAMs) – This wine is a beautiful golden brown with orange highlights. It is just off-dry with the sweetness very well counter-balanced by the acidity. Try with seared foie gras or sip it with mixed dried fruit and nuts. It is especially good with blue cheese when the sweetness nicely balances the bitterness from the blue parts.

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

Steve's Top Value WinesToday’s report pulls best buys from Steve’s Top 50 which is a standing WineAlign list based on quality/price ratio of the 1600 or so wines in LCBO Wines and the VINTAGES Essentials Collection. 

There are three ways that a wine gets into this monthly report of wines that are always in the stores either on the LCBO “General List” or the VINTAGES Essential Collection. (You can access these lists under the Wine tab on WineAlign.)

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

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

• Steve’s Top 50: Wines that have moved onto my Top 50 Best Values this month. This is on an-on going WineAlign selection that mathematically calculates value by comparing the price and rating of all the wines on the LCBO General List. The Top 50 changes all the time, so remember to check before shopping.

I will be back next month with more news on value arrivals to Essentials and the LCBO.


Steve Thurlow

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

Editors Note: You can find our complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critic reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 60 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great value wines!


Luis Felipe Edwards Reserva Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon

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If I could buy only one – Aug 20th, 2016 VINTAGES Release

As part of our VINTAGES recap for August 20th, we asked our critics:

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

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

John Szabo – Great value whites are always in demand, at the tail end of summer, and always. And Soave is fertile hunting ground, where quality has risen astonishingly since the turn of the millennium, with prices yet to follow suit. La Cappuccina 2014 Soave is a fine example of the value to be found, a gentle but fresh and nectarine-flavoured wine with appreciable character and evident depth and concentration, not to mention an extra dimension of stony-minerality on the long finish.

La Cappuccina Soave 2014

David Lawrason – I have known Norman Hardie’s pinots from the beginning, watched his evolution in the County over the years, and tasted every vintage multiple times. So call me a homer if you want, but there is an aromatic thrill in this pinot that I don’t get anywhere else. And I will never tire of it.  As in my review – gorgeous, impeccable pinot nose with vibrant cherry/strawberry, light spice, lazy woodsy smokiness and wet stone.  You can judge its weight or lack thereof as you will, but great wine captivates on the nose. And this is great value in the pinot firmament, even at its new $45 price.

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2014

Michael Godel – The label on this four endemic varietal red blend from the Douro tells us it’s “unoaked.” This seemingly insignificant bit of marketing is simply brilliant. Such knowledge is power and usually reserved for whites, especially chardonnay. Why not tell us your red wine spent no time in barrel? This is nothing short of awesome for the consumer. And so we have pure fruit and a simple, unadulterated experience. Quinta Nova de Nossa 2011 Senhora do Carmo is a terrific summer red (especially with grilled chicken on the BBQ) when procured with a chill that will serve and protect your palate and your will. At five years of age it has held up beautifully, a testament to hands off and trustworthy winemaking.

Quinta Nova de Nossa Senhora do Carmo Colheita Tinto 2011

Articles covering the VINTAGES August 20th release:

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES

For Premium Members, use these quick links for immediate access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release including John Szabo’s First-In-Line.

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All August 20th Reviews

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Editors Note: You can access critic reviews and scores by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names, bottle images or links. Premium subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews and scores immediately. Non-paid members wait 60 days to see new reviews. Premium membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008