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

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES May 16 – Part Two

Fresh and Fruity Whites and the Best of the Rest
By Sara d’Amato, with notes from David Lawrason and John Szabo MS

Sara d’Amato

Sara d’Amato

Wines for spring cleaning, wines for sunshine or wines for being social on the porch again, this week’s VINTAGES release theme of “Fresh and Fruity Whites” is a sure sign that the warm weather is upon us. As John Szabo completes his tour of the world’s most spectacular volcanic peaks (somebody’s got to do it) I sit grounded in Toronto, for at least the time being, choosing from among our top picks of this most anticipated change of the season.

In addition to these ephemeral selections, we bring you what impressed us most from this release, wines with both staying power and those we think you shouldn’t overlook. Unlike the whites, the reds available have not yet caught up with trend of warmer weather and I both hope and expect to see lighter, fresher reds in the next release. We will certainly see more gamay, primitivo/zinfandel and sangiovese on the shelves that are ready-to-drink and do best with a slight chill.

Fresh and Fruity Whites

Stoneleigh 2014 Latitude Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand, ($21.95)

David Lawrason – The 2014 vintage was considered excellent in Marlborough with a bumper crop that ripened in “near perfect’ conditions – until the tail end of a cyclone came through late in the harvest. It’s hard to say which wines were picked soon enough of course. I have found many of the 2014 sauvignons a bit leaner, cooler and more compact – of which this an example. And that’s not a bad thing.
Sara d’Amato – A classic, elegant sauvignon blanc that rivals the best of Marlborough at a fraction of the price. Bring on the seafood kabobs!

Tiefenbrunner 2014 Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, Italy ($19.95)

Sara d’Amato – It wouldn’t be a “fresh and fruity” release without a solid pinot grigio. Tiefenbrunner is located in a picturesque spot fixed in the Italian Alps and is known for its meticulous winemaking and control from grape to bottle. Because of its reliable quality and its price point, it has frequently been a staple for me when creating wine lists.

Finca El Origin 2014 Reserva Torrontés, Cafayate Valley, Salta, Argentina ($15.95)

Sara d’Amato – Although there are many obstacles to the further development of this remote wine-growing region, the wines, short in supply, are as uniquely arresting as the landscape. This is the home of the exotic torrontés, light, fresh and fragrant. The best examples, such as this, show some restraint and mystique.
David Lawrason – If you have not yet put Argentine torrontés in your summer patio repertoire don’t hesitate with this classic example from the Cafayate Valley in northern Argentina. A citrus explosion! Bring on the ceviche.

Stoneleigh Latitude Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Tiefenbrunner Pinot Grigio 2014 Finca El Origin Reserva Torrontés 2014 Matetic Corralillo Sauvignon Blanc 2014 Creekside Backyard Block Sauvignon Blanc 2013

Matetic 2014 Corralillo Sauvignon Blanc, San Antonio Valley, Chile ($13.95)

John Szabo – Tough to beat this crunchy, green apple and green pepper-flavoured sauvignon for sheer value, another welcome release from biodynamic producer Matetic in the cool, coastal San Antonio Valley. This tops many wines asking $5 more.
David Lawrason – A great buy here in a brilliant, juicy sauvignon that bristles with intense grapefruit/lime, nettles and passion fruit. It’s from an excellent, biodynamic producer that is the sole owner of the isolated Rosario Valley right on the edge of the San Antonio and Casablanca Valley appellations. It is a cool coastal site that has infused great energy.

Creekside 2013 Backyard Block Sauvignon Blanc, VQA Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula Canada ($17.95)

John Szabo – Creekside has made sauvignon a specialty, but there appears to have been a slight style shift in 2013 – this is less effusively aromatic and tropical than previous vintages, and I must say I like the more subtle and crisp profile. A mix of citrus and green apple, and gentle green herbs makes this a lively and pleasant wine, a little more “grown up” in my view.

Best of the Rest

Simonsig 2012 Kaapse Vonkel Brut Cap Classique, WO Western Cape, South Africa ($19.95)

John Szabo – From the house that first made traditional method sparkling wine in South Africa, this pinot-chardonnay blend with a splash of pinot meunier offers considerable toasty richness in a broad and mouth-filling style, notably dry despite the richness.

Vinum 2012 Africa Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($15.95)

Sara d’Amato – Incorrectly slotted into the VINTAGES “fresh and fruity” feature, this rich and savory chenin blanc still deserves recognition. Body, texture, viscosity – all of these are impressively featured at such an unassuming price.
John Szabo – Fans of complex, wood aged whites will rejoice at the quality/price of this chenin. Made in a “natural” (nothing added or subtracted) and idiosyncratic style, it’s a wine of texture more than immediate fruitiness, balancing ripeness with both acids and salinity. There’s loads of character for $16 in any case.

Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel Brut Cap Classique 2012 Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc 2012 Hillebrand Showcase Series Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2011

Hillebrand 2011 Showcase Wild Ferment Chardonnay, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Canada ($36.20)

John Szabo – As far as premium chardonnay goes, I’d say that winemaker Craig MacDonald has nailed this beautifully, and kept the price fair. As with most great chardonnay, this is a wine of mainly textural interest, offering a rich and complete mouth full of just-ripe orchard fruit, balanced with high quality wood. I like the succulent acids that prop up this flavour-heavy ensemble, and the excellent length. A very serious, accomplished cuvée all in all. Unfortunately the fruit source is not revealed – it’s labeled only as “Niagara Peninsula Vineyards” – but I’d be curious to know from where this hails exactly. Best 2015-2020.

Tawse 2011 Growers Blend Pinot Noir, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario, Canada ($24.95)

Sara d’Amato  – A wine that has experienced impressive evolution – with a cohesive palate of wood, fruit and acids and much smoother tannins than its jerky beginning. A gem of a pinot that still has years to come.

Corvidae 2013 Lenore Syrah, Columbia Valley, Washington, USA ($19.95)

David Lawrason – Here’s a rarely seen (at the LCBO) great buy in Washington syrah – which in my mind is the premier red grape of eastern Washington and the southern Okanagan in BC. It’s a medium to full bodied, classic cool climate syrah with deep colour, considerable density and ripeness, yet just enough cool climate black pepper, licorice and smoked meat to please northern Rhone syrah fans.

Tawse Growers Blend Pinot Noir 2011 Corvidae Lenore Syrah 2013 Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Château Haut Peyraud 2010

Lapostolle 2012 Cuvée Alexandre Cabernet Sauvignon, Apalta Vineyard, Colchagua Valley, Chile ($24.95).

David Lawrason –  Yet another biodynamically-grown Chilean wine shines on this release – from a great estate occupying one of the great vineyard sites in the country. The depth, harmony and complexity here are remarkable for a $25 wine.

Château Haut Peyraud 2010, Blaye Côtes de Bordeaux, France ($16.95)

David Lawrason – I love the sense of poise and subtlety in this ‘petit’ 2010. What a wonderful vintage. This is a Bordeaux bargain, a lightweight, fairly supple merlot that is moving into prime.

Château De Gourgazaud 2013 Cuvée Mathilde Minervois, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($14.95)

Sara d’Amato – A spicy, peppery, musky and sweaty blend from southern France – unpretentious, raw and rustic. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Château De Gourgazaud Cuvée Mathilde Minervois 2013 Meandro Do Vale Meão 2012 Coppi Peucetico Primitivo 2008

Meandro 2012 Do Vale Meão, Douro, Portugal ($24.95)

David Lawrason – This is a very high energy red, bristling with wild berry and woodsy aromas, and all kinds of zesty acid and tannin. So you may want to age it, but I really feel that this vibrancy is key to its enjoyment. Chill just a bit and pair it with savoury seasoned red meats.
John Szabo – Even more impressive than the excellent 2011, this is another top value, complex, concentrated and structured Douro red blend from Vale Meão. Although considered the “second label”, this is better than most from the valley, especially at the price. Best 2015-2022.

Coppi Peucetico 2008 Primitivo, Gioia Del Colle, Puglia, Italy ($13.95)

Sara d’Amato – Vibrant and peppery, this mid-weight primitivo exhibits lovely, lingering floral and cherry notes. Savory, fun and summery – a wine that can take a slight chill for added refreshment.

That’s all folks! David Lawrason will highlight the best of the May 30th release and features next week along with an Ontario Wine Report with news on new wineries and trends in Prince Edward County.

From VINTAGES May 16, 2015

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Buyers’ Guide Part One: Australia First Families
All Reviews

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

Beringer Knights Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Australia's First Families of Wine

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , , , ,

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES May 16 – Part One

Australia First Families & Sara in the Pink Once Again
By David Lawrason and Sara d’Amato, with notes from John Szabo MS

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Last month the LCBO’s VINTAGES hosted Europe’s first families of wine (Premium Familiae Vini); this month it’s Australia’s First Families, a relatively new organization that formed in 2009. Families are a good idea – we all belong to one – although they can be trying at times. But I am not sure we need every wine region in the world to put together roving bands of families. There is just something a bit clubby about the idea. And can you imagine how it must feel if you are an upstanding family that is left out of the group?

The real question is whether families make better wine, and my short answer would be yes – because they tend to be driven by some sort of code of honour, pride and legacy, not just pleasing the shareholders. Their wines may or may not have a particular family personality but they are usually quite high quality, which shone through in many of the reviews of the May 16th batch that VINTAGES has put forward. Just about every wine got a kudo from John, Sara or I.

My only disappointment was not seeing a much broader, and higher range of wines in this release – we the large Ontario family of wine enthusiasts are tending to get their lower tier offerings. To get into the upper tier you have to attend the Australia’s First Families of Wine Event on May 26, where dozens of others will be available. See the list at but watch for those pesky little asterisks that indicate which wines are for tasting only (not purchase). Only in Ontario do we get to pay to taste wines that we can’t buy.

One last comment before trotting out our favourites. As I tasted through the reds I kept saying to myself – these are actually a pretty, fresh and bright bunch. More lifted on the nose, with cranberry, crushed berries and florals and less overripe jamminess and oaky. And less alcohol heat. For months now our WineAlign critics who have visited Australia have been reporting back that Oz is in transition to less heavy, fresher wines. And it struck me as I tasted along that they are now arriving on our shelves, and that this new mood is now showing up at lower price points.

The Whites

Tyrrell’s 2013 Brookdale Semillon, Hunter Valley, New South Wales ($24.95)

John Szabo – It is all too easy to overlook a wine such as this: bone dry, tart, lean and seemingly short on flavour. But give this 5+ years and it undergoes a full metamorphosis. If you enjoy flint and smoke, and smoldering, discreet fruit flavours, tuck away a few bottles of this arch-typical semillon in the unique Hunter Valley Style, part of Tyrell’s “Hunter Heroes” range. Best 2020-2030.
Sara d’Amato – A Hunter Valley semillon on the shelves of the LCBO is cause for celebration as it has been so long! Semillon reaches the peak of its expression in the warmer grounds of Hunter Valley. Tyrell’s semillons are legendary so stock up now! If your haul takes awhile to get though – that’s okay. Wait another 5 years on this semillon for optimum drink-ability.
David Lawrason – My colleagues have covered a lot of ground already. Let me just add that I loved the linearity and focus of this wine. It’s not Tyrrell’s top Hunter semillon, but it is bang on style-wise and affordable to those who might want to take it for a first-time spin.

Tyrrell's Brookdale Semillon 2013 Yalumba Viognier 2013 Henschke Tilly's Vineyard 2013

Yalumba 2013 Viognier, Eden Valley, South Australia ($24.95)

David Lawrason – I like viognier but often find them either overblown and cloying, or among cheaper versions, under-blown and kind of boring. This comes right up the middle, with quite precise, complex aromatics and a fine sense of weight and even-handedness.
John Szabo – Yalumba is a specialist in viognier, and has the oldest vines in Australia planted in 1980, so the high quality of this wine comes as no surprise. A little more than half is barrel fermented and treated to a little lees stirring, yielding a beautifully perfumed, arch-typical viognier, with marvellous silky-soft textured. If this had Condrieu on the label, no one would blink an eye at the price, indeed folks would be gushing all over it.
Sara d’Amato – The cooler, higher elevations of Eden Valley are a haven for vibrant whites. This sustainably produced viognier can be considered Yalumba’s signature grape varietal – they do it well and devote a great deal of the energy on this Rhone varietal. Terrific body, length, weight and presence.

Henschke 2013 Tilly’s Vineyard, Adelaide Hills/Eden Valley, South Australia ($26.95)

David Lawrason – This multi-grape blend is a bit of an odd duck – with a classic candle wax smokiness that I often find in Aussie whites – particularly in semillon (which is one of the grapes here). Some like this note, others not, so test drive a bottle if you are unfamiliar. It is the most “aussie” white of the bunch, substantial, complex yet fresh at the same time.

The Reds

Yalumba 2012 The Strapper GSM, Barossa, South Australia ($19.95)

John Szabo – Another fine buy in this release from Yalumba, the oldest family-owned winery in Australia (since 1849). The Strapper is a nicely measured GSM blend, incorporating all of the best elements of the grapes: the strawberry pie flavors of grenache, the black pepper and violets of syrah, and the earthy-meaty architecture of mourvèdre. It’s the wine that “the winemakers drink, when they’re not having a riesling or an ale”. Best 2015-2020.
David Lawrason – I was struck by a certain unexpected freshness and even tenderness here. The GSM’s of Australia can be big, rich and gooey, but this wine is more refined. That certain elegance I find in the best Chateauneuf-du-Pape crossed my mind as this crossed my palate. Absolutely delish and ready to drink.

Jim Barry 2013 The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon, Coonawarra, Australia, (26.95) (677476)

Sara d’Amato – Coonawara is a very special place for cabernet sauvignon in the world where the varietal expresses itself in a uniquely elegant way, rooted in the region’s iron rich, premium terra rossa soils. This distinctively polished example is rife with floral, mineral, herbal and peppery notes that are sure to woo.
David Lawrason – This is one of the reds that struck me as having a new sense of aromatic freshness and brightness, and a palate that is both spry and elegant at the same time. So well balanced that it is actually quite drinkable now, just a touch green on the finish. Fine Coonawarra cab.

Yalumba The Strapper Gsm 2012 Jim Barry The Cover Drive Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Tyrrell's Rufus Stone Shiraz 2012 De Bortoli Villages Pinot Noir 2012

Tyrrell’s 2012 Rufus Stone Shiraz, Heathcote, Victoria, Australia, ($22.95) (91488)

David Lawrason – Here’s another bright, wonderfully lifted shiraz but it also shows a deeper side thanks to its origins in Heathcote, an increasingly important shiraz region in hills north of Melbourne in Victoria. Love the aromatics here – floral lift all kinds of blackcurrant/cherry fruit, menthol, pepper and slightly mineral/ferrous/iron-like notes that strike me as solid Heathcote.
Sara d’Amato – It wouldn’t be a proper Australian release without some serious shiraz and I was very pleased to find this reasonably priced example from the famed shiraz producing region of Heathcote in Victoria. Notes of cassis, licorice and cool herbs are seamlessly integrated and make for silky and approachable sips.

De Bortoli 2012 Villages Pinot Noir, Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia ($23.95)

John Szabo – A keenly priced and representative wine from the Yarra, which highlights Steve Webber’s minimalist style. This is a fine buy for fans of old school, not to say Burgundian, pinot noir, lean and savoury, in a distinctively cool climate idiom. Best 2015-2020.

d’Arenberg 2010 The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($49.95)

David Lawrason – This is about the only red of the bunch that I would describe as more traditional. It is a rich, full-on, maturing Aussie red with a complex, very ripe nose. Heavier for sure, but when you get up into this quality level that can work well. It was not wines like this that gave Australia problems. It was packing too much alcohol, jammy fruit and oak into cheaper wines that didn’t have the bones to carry the load.

Tahbilk Estate 2010 Shiraz, Nagambie Lakes, Central Victoria, Australia ($22.95)
John Szabo
– A shiraz that hits a comfortable juste milieu between ripeness and restraint, fruit and wood, plushness and firmness. Tahbilk has been at it since 1860, so there has been ample time to perfect and draw the maximum from the moderate Nagambie Lakes region. Best 2015-2020.

D'arenberg The Coppermine Road Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 Tahbilk Shiraz 2010 Henschke Henry's Seven 2013 Howard Park Miamup Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Henschke 2013 Henry’s Seven, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($42.95)

David Lawrason – This is named for Henry Evans who planted the Keyneton area in 1853, and it’s very interesting that when visiting Henschke you get this amazing sense of historical depth, in a region that seems so remote that you can almost not imagine some farming there over 150 years ago. Anyway, this Rhone-inspired blend is yet another example of the wonderful freshness now appearing more routinely in Oz reds.

Howard Park 2012 Miamup Cabernet Sauvignon, Margaret River, Western Australia ($19.95)

David Lawrason – This gets the nod on value, a very fine, classic Margaret River cabernet for $20. This maritime region is known for making leaner, very aromatic cabs, and this one is spot-on with lifted blackcurrant fruit, fresh green eucalyptus, finely woven tobacco and earthy notes.

Real Men (and women) Drink Rosé
by Sara d’Amato

Sara d’Amato

Sara d’Amato

‘Tis the season for rosé and I admit, I can’t get enough. And although I may be a woman and one who doesn’t shy away from pink, that is certainly not the reason I love this style of wine in which red wine meets white in a refreshing package. Sure, I take big reds seriously but it is one of the last things I want to imbibe in a hot summer’s day unless I’m in an air-conditioned basement.

And, I’m not the only one. North American men are a growing segment in the market of rosé but most I know still need some encouragement. If my repeated Buyers’ Guide segments on rosé aren’t enough to make you give it a try, then maybe some of these reasons will make you take the plunge:

1. Oh So Dry – Rosés need not be sweet and in fact, most of the classic rosés, especially those of Southern France, are and always have been dry. The most refreshing ones, whether simple or complex, have no sweetness. On that note, there is no evidence to suggest that women like sweeter wine than men, we are just marketed to that way.

2. Brad Pitt– yes, iconic manly role model Brad and equally influential Angelina Jolie have become pushers of the pink stuff with the purchase of Chateau Miraval in Provence. Maybe some of their success will rub off on you? Their excellent rosé graced the shelves of the LCBO last summer and I hope it does again.

3. The Men’s Movement – “Real Men Drink Pink” – it’s a thing, really, I kid you not. There are t-shirts galore to be found online and an empowering yet humorous commercial by Be a part of the movement to change pre-conceived and bigoted notions!

4. Barbeque – There is very little that goes better with a smorgasbord of backyard bbq than a ballsy but refreshing glass of rosé. With the mild tannins and weight of a red plus the versatile freshness of a white, you can pair rosé with almost anything.

Without further ado, my top three pink picks from the May 16 release:

Delas Frères Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône Rosé 2014 Somontes Rosado 2014 Megalomaniac Pink Slip Pinot Noir Rosé 2014

Delas Frères 2014 Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône, France ($14.95)

Sara d’Amato – This Côtes du Rhône blend made up largely of the sun-loving grenache which gives it a pale but vibrant pink hue, lightness of flavour and great approachability. Delas has been taken over by the Champagne house of Louis Roederer, makers of the famed Cristal but remains a consistent producer with a large offering of often well-priced and impactful wines from the northern Rhône to the southern tip.

Somontes 2104 Rosado, Serra Da Estrela, Dão, Portugal ($12.95)

Sara d’Amato – By far, the best deal in the rosé category. Dão is known for its sensual wines with spice and elegance and this example captures that character so beautifully.

Megalomaniac 2014 Pink Slip Pinot Noir Rosé, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($17.95)

Sara d’Amato – One of the more potent styles of rosé with just a hint of sweetness and a fresh new label. Punchy with crunchy acids and loaded with summer berry fruit. Chill well and pair with mid-day sunshine.


And that is all for this edition. John (the Crater Man) Szabo returns to lead off next week’s ramblings with a slew of interesting picks from the Cool Summer Whites selection just ahead of the Victoria Day (May 2-4) long weekend.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES May 16, 2015

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

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

Beringer Knights Valley Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Australia's First Families of Wine

Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , , , , ,

Taste of Maclean’s Dining Series – Vancouver – April 7, 2015

Enjoy a unique fine dining experience and benchmark Australian wines at Vancouver‘s Chambar restaurant as curated by Maclean’s and hosted by outstanding sommeliers and culinary talent.


You’ll love the sumptuous four-course meal paired with premier Australian wines.  Joined by Sommelier Rhys Pender MW and Chambar’s chef, Nico Schuermans, guests are invited to learn the subtleties of the pairings from the experts.

WineAlign members enjoy an exclusive discount and can purchase tickets at the Maclean’s subscriber rate of just $99+HST (regular price $149).

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Rhys and Nico

Event Details:

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Location:  Chambar (568 Beatty St, Vancouver, BC)

Cocktail Reception: 6:30pm

Dinner: 7:00pm – 10pm

Tickets:  $99 plus HST

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

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Wines Being Served Include:

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Coldstream Hill Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2012
Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 

*A vegetarian option will be available.  To provide the highest quality food and wine experience, your chef and sommelier are carefully curating the menu in advance of the evening.  Unfortunately, this means that substitutions, food restrictions, and allergy considerations cannot be accommodated.*

About Chambar

Chef Nico Schuermans and his wife Karri have brought to life their dream of opening a restaurant where guests can experience fine dining in a warm and inviting atmosphere.  Their philosophy is based on a commitment to fresh, innovative, and incredible food this is presented without pretension.  The result is a restaurant with exquisite cuisine, exceptional service, and a room that glows.  They are strong advocates for environmental and social responsibility.  Chambar Restaurant became carbon neutral in 2011.


Purchase Your Tickets Here


Filed under: Events, Wine, , , , , , ,

Final Blend : Towing the Line / Align

by Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi Portrait Colour_Cropped

Anthony Gismondi

If you’ve ever wondered what the ‘align’ in WineAlign means, think come together or line-up. Although in the case of us critics it is more likely a case of get them on the same page of the website. The process reminds me a bit of the chaos of Italy where 60 million people pulling in opposite directions results in Ferrari, Prada, Gucci, Benetton, Armani, Piedmont Barolo, Tuscan Chianti and much more. At WineAlign we boast an equal strength although I’m sure the people responsible for shepherding our content onto these pages think otherwise as in it’s like herding cats.

In short, we have the freedom to do whatever we want most days with the caveat from management that we let you know once in a while what we are up to. Sounds easy, but I can vouch for all of us it rarely is. All of which leads to this month’s column that begins with some important news about how we display our notes on the Critics’ Profile pages – just in case you haven’t already noticed.

Our old version was coded to display our highest scoring (and often highest priced) wines first, regardless of when the note was posted. We now display our notes by date reviewed. It is far more timely and interesting in my estimation. You can still search the entire site using the Google custom search in the upper right hand corner of any page, but the new design to these pages, including links to their recent articles and Twitter feed, allows you to see the diversity and strength of our critics and exactly what they are tasting at the moment.

Ridge Lytton Springs 2012 Nicosia Fondo Filara Etna Rosso 2010Now we know that John Szabo is writing a book on volcanic wine and appears to be completely consumed by the thought of tuff, a porous volcanic rock also called ‘tufa’, although one should be careful not to confuse calcareous tuffa with the porous volcanic rock whose parallel etymological origins can sometimes be called ‘tufa’. I’m sure John will get to the bottom of the volcano and we will all hear about it, endlessly, between flights at the upcoming WineAlign 2015 National Wine Awards of Canada in Niagara Falls. Sorry John – those are sedimentary rocks you can see from the tasting room in Niagara. Nicosia Fondo Filara 2010 Etna Rosso.

Meanwhile Bill Zacharkiw has been running around California escaping the snow and cold and his beloved Maple Leafs searching for the next, less-is-more wine from the Golden State. Bill’s mission is to convert every sugar-loving, new-barrel toting winemaker into an organic, terroir bleeding, soul-searching wine grower that is completely in touch with his land. Look for many new California selections to get Bill’s stamp of approval in the coming months. I for one love the way Bill has embraced the New World with an Old World eye and when the stars align, well, look out. Expect to see more of Bill’s impromptu videos on penguins, beaches and elephant seals and surfers in the days to come. Ridge 2012 Lytton Springs.

La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard Malbec 2011

Zuccardi Series A Bonarda 2012David Lawrason has been practically living in South America for the last three months when he’s not busy with the Canadian chefs and the Canadian Olympic team where he devotes a great deal of time raising money for Gold Medal Plates, and at the same time, the reputation of Canadian wine. We recently spent a few days together in Argentina searching for the minerality and electricity that excites us. We found it in spades and will report back soon on all our discoveries. Zuccardi 2012 Series A Bonarda.

Earlier this month Sara d’Amato judged alongside Jancis Robinson and a large group of respected woman wine tasters at the Argentina Wine Awards. This travel goes unrecognized by most Canadians but it’s an important part of bringing a Canadian perspective to the international wine scene. We are in the game now and that helps everyone making wine in Canada. La Posta Pizzella Family Vineyard 2013 Malbec

The rise of our French-speaking Quebec team has brought an even wider perspective to WineAlign, or as we’re called in Quebec – Chacun son Vin. While it may seem like Two Solitudes sometimes as we discuss scoring systems, somehow on the tasting bench we seem to easily come together when we are talking wine. Nadia Fournier, Rémy Charest and Marc Chapleau have been invaluable additions to the WineAlign milieu. All have been instrumental in bringing a fresh perspective to the judging room at the National Wine Awards of Canada.

As you read this WineAlign Team West: Treve Ring, Rhys Pender and DJ Kearney will be working the 37th Vancouver International Wine Festival greeting a 55-strong Australian contingent hell-bent on getting Canadians to ‘Savour” the new Down Under. There won’t be any critter labels this time around and don’t expect to see any kangaroos in the room. There’s a new mantra Down Under and it has to do with regions, or to be even more specific: place.


Some of the exciting labels at VIWF from Australia TODAY

Australia TodayOne need only pick up a bottle of modern-day Australian wine to see where the country is heading. Australia’s new generation of winemakers are doing what they do best, adapt, and in doing so they are headed back to their vineyards. Where once they would not think twice about blending wines from hundreds of kilometres apart the new reality is all about uniqueness and to take what the land will give you.

It’s a philosophy that may not be so new to the French or the Italians who love their appellations but Down Under it’s a radical and much needed departure for many in the wine business. Today the emphasis is on regionality and smaller vineyards and as mentioned taking what the land will give you. The difference between a Barossa shiraz and a Coonawarra shiraz are day and night and they should be celebrated, not blended away into one big tank. We will all be looking for it. For me the joy of the show is tasting so many different wines in one room. I leave you with a short list of tasty bottles to look for at the festival, should you have a ticket, or to pick up at your local government wine shop.

Gérard Bertrand Saint Chinian Syrah Mourvèdre 2011 Teusner Avatar 2013  Zuccardi Tito 2011Yalumba The Menzies Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Southern France superstar Gérard Bertrand will be pouring his St Chinian 2011 Syrah Mourvèdre while the new kids on the Barossa block at Teusner will be pouring their Teusner Avatar 2013 Grenache Mataro Shiraz. Sébastien Zuccardi honours his grandfather Tito with the Zuccardi Tito Zuccardi 2011 Malbec – Cabernet Sauvignon – Ancellotta while winemaker Peter Gambetta has sent his amazing Yalumba The Menzies 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Coonawarra.

It’s been a great week so far, and best of all we are free to step out of alignment to cover it for you from our point of view.

~ Anthony Gismondi closes out each month with his Final Blend column – an expert insight into wine culture and trends, honed by more than 25 years experience as an influential and global critic. Click here to visit his WineAlign profile page.


Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , ,

Les Soirées Vins et Gastronomie de Maclean’s – Montréal – 24 mars

Vivez une expérience gastronomique unique et dégustez de grands vins australiens au restaurant Maison Boulud à Montréal, au cours d’une soirée organisée par Maclean’s où vous serez reçu par des sommeliers et des chefs hors pair.


Vous adorerez le somptueux repas de quatre services, chacun combiné à un grand vin australien. En compagnie de la sommelière Véronique Rivest et du chef de la Maison Boulud, Riccardo Bertolino, vous serez invité à découvrir les subtilités des accords auprès des experts.

Billet à prix courant – 149 $
Abonnés de Maclean’s et membres de Chacun Son Vin – 99 $

Achetez vos billets ici

Vero and Riccardo

Notez à votre agenda:

Date de la soirée : Mardi 24 mars 2015

Restaurant : Maison Boulud, Montréal (Ritz-Carlton Montréal, 1288 Rue Sherbrook Ouest, Montréal)

Cocktail : 18 h 30 à 19 h

Souper : 19 h à 22 h

149 $  + TPS/TVQ par personne
99 $  + TPS/TVQ pour les abonnés de Maclean’s et membres de Chacun Son Vin

Achetez vos billets ici

Les vins qui seront servis:

Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Coldstream Hill Yarra Valley Pinot Noir 2012
Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Wynns Coonawarra Estate Riesling 2012

*Note : Pour demander l’option végétarienne, veuillez communiquer avec la gestionnaire de l’événement à l’adresse Afin de vous offrir une expérience gastronomique de qualité supérieure, votre chef et votre sommelier élaborent le menu à l’avance avec grand soin. Aucune substitution ne sera donc possible.*

Mason Boulud – À Propos:

Chez Maison Boulud, nous vous proposons la cuisine d’un chef formé par la tradition française, mais aussi inspiré par des décennies passées à New York. Le menu de Daniel Boulud accompagne les saisons en côtoyant la richesse de fournisseurs Québécois. Vous trouverez des charcuteries Lyonnaises, des saveurs Méditerranéennes, même notre célèbre hamburger, ainsi que des plats crées uniquement pour Maison Boulud. Le résultat: une cuisine à la fois raffinée et contemporaine, mais aussi très personnelle et chaleureuse, préparée par notre Chef de Cuisine Riccardo Bertolino. Situé au Ritz-Carlton, le restaurant, bar et lounge et ses salons privés maintiennent leur propre identité, pleine de vitalité. Néanmoins, l’ambiance de la rue Sherbrooke reflète la renaissance du Ritz-Carlton et son importance au cœur de la vie Montréalaise. : La véranda adjacente à la salle à manger jouit d’une vue d’une vue splendide sur les célèbres jardins paysagés de l’Hôtel Ritz-Carlton. Le décor intérieur est constitué de riches matériaux naturels avec ses murs de verre coloré et ses fastueux tissus.

Maison Boulud

Achetez vos billets ici


Filed under: Events, Wine, , , , , , ,

Oceans, Altitudes and Attitudes

The Cool Climate World of Oz
By DJ Kearney


DJ in legendary (and chilly) Steingarten Vineyard earlier this month, absorbing the sunshine

Journey into the elegant cool-climate world of Australia. See how high altitude wine regions and ocean proximity, combined with evolving winemaking practices and attitudes, have influenced the wines being crafted in Oz. At the upcoming Vancouver International Wine Festival, the ‘Oceans, Altitudes and Attitudes’ trade seminar is the ideal way to get the skinny on trends in Austrlalia viticulture in 90 action-packed minutes. My WineAlign colleague, Australian-born Rhys Pender MW and I will moderate our way around the country, as we taste wines that embody our triple themes of ocean, elevation and new perspectives.

There is much on the move down under. History, evolution and revolution have shaped this sun-baked land’s wine industry in a profound way. Australian wines reach so far beyond their stereotyped soft-and-generous fruit style: nowadays there are raspy light reds, bladerunner whites and crisply sharp bubbles that will utterly shred your preconceptions about Australia being just a hot place to grow grapes. Truth is these wine styles have always quietly existed, but changes in the vinescape, vineyard sites and attitudinal shifts have made these cooler-grown wines much more of the norm.


Attitudes: The Winds of Change

The Vigneron: One of the most important attitude shifts that’s really taken hold across the country is the fusing of grapegrowing and wine making roles. Phil Reedman MW, a respected Adelaide-based industry consultant sees this as a key qualitative change, he told me when we were tasting in the Barossa last week. Nowadays, big and small wineries are adopting the French notion of the vigneron…. where the farming of grapes and the making of wine are indivisible. The rough translation of vigneron is ‘winegrower’ and this notion that importantly connects the vineyard and the winery has permeated philosophies of big and small producers. Abel Gibson, from the tiny, wonderful winery Ruggabellus is a grower/winemaker who fashions miniscule amounts of truly exciting wine in the variable terrain of Barossa. He has planted a vineyard high in the breezy hills and is babying vines through their infancy with the same singlemindedness that he lavishes on the barrels of wines that bubble away and then relax in old casks at his tiny home/winery. On a completely different scale, Sue Hodder, chief winemaker at Wynns Coonawarra Estate, also embodies this shift, and she is every bit as involved and intimate with her much more substantial vineyard land. It shows in each bottle and tier at Wynns, where every flavour and structural element is always absolutely in the right place, and wines have an effortless balance and poise.

When to pick: Attitudes about picking times constitute an important shift according to the great winemaker Phil Laffer, who has seen the country flourish during 30 vintages at Lindeman’s and 20 years steering Jacob’s Creek. He’s seen Australia shift from fortified to table wines and been an instrumental part of the astonishingly successful charge to export markets. Picking dates are now as much as 4 to 6 weeks earlier in some regions. Picking raisined grapes and making high alcohol wines in the past was simply cheaper; less grape spirit was needed to boost them to 20% alcohol or more, and flavours were not so important. Now, almost obsessive care is taken in picking for flavour, balance and freshness.

Brave New Grapes: Jeremy Oliver, author of Australia’s Wine Annual, points to changing views of the grape scape, and increasing interest in Mediterranean varieties, especially Italian reds like sangiovese, barbera and nebbiolo. He states that though there is still much to learn (and vineyards need to mature), a few regional associations are emerging, like sangiovese with McLaren Vale, the King Valley and Heathcote; nebbiolo with the Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale and Heathcote; barbera with the King Valley, the Lower Hunter Valley and Mudgee. Tempranillo is showing well in sites from Clare to McLaren Vale to Victoria, and best of all chardonnay seems to be finding a true comfort place of balance all over the country, where acids are less screeching, fruit is more chiselled and confidently forward, oak is far more judiciously used. Good thing too, give that there are over 25,000 hectares of it planted.


Pushing the Limits: Altitude

Orange is the Cool: In the last few decades, Australians have begun to scale the hills, planting at unheard of heights and teasing wonderful freshness and natural acidity from grapes. What’s the point of elevation? In a nutshell, lower temperatures mean slower, even ripening for forward fruit flavours, without a shred of raisiny over-ripeness, lighter tannins and precise acids. Sunlight is different as well, giving greater light intensity without heat units. Orange is a classic example. Located in the Tablelands of New South Wales, it’s a few hours’ drive from Sydney. A true cool-climate region defined by the high altitudes within the Shires of Orange City, and defined by an elevation boundary as well as a geographic footprint. To use the GI, vineyards must be above 600 metres above sea level (lower reaches use the Central Ranges appellation). While most plantings are young, dating only back to the 1980’s, there are over 1,500 hectares planted already, indicating the interest in this cool growing region. Vineyards climb from 600 metres to over 1,100. The temperature change is significant for a vine: at 650 metres the average January temperature is 21.5 º C, but at 950 metres it drops to 18.5 º C at the height of the growing season. Grape harvest is delayed by 1 week for every 100 metre rise in elevation.

Whites like sauvignon blanc and chardonnay are a natural fit in Orange, as are aromatics like riesling and pinot gris, but light and juicy shiraz wines (often styled with a drop of viognier) are captivating too. Pinot noir may have a future, but plantings are small still. It’s important that altitude is matched to grape variety – thicker-skinned cab and shiraz can struggle to ripen at 1000 metres, and do well a little lower, whereas you can dial in chardonnay at any height and create peachy to lemony fruited beauties. Philip Shaw, famed winemaker at Lindemans, Rosemount and Southcorp, became fascinated with Orange and planted vines in 1989, giving Cumulus winery its start. He believes that merlot is a perfect variety for Orange, but there are still just 200 hectares, compared to shiraz’s 400 hectares.

Prized Fruit for Sharpening Blends: Tumbarumba is another region to watch. Half way between Sydney and Melbourne, and just a 3 hour whiz from Canberra, the air and water are mountain-pure. With 1180 growing degree days and an average maximum temperature of 18.3 º C, it enjoyed a stellar reputation as a grapegrowing region (rather than a winemaking one) since the 1980’s when premium wine grapes were planted at altitudes of 300 metres to over 850. A quick troll through the Tumbarumba Vignerons Association shows that this cool-grown prized fruit goes into top wines from Penfolds, Treasury to McWilliams and Clonakilla. Next time you are enjoying Penfolds magnificent Yattarna chardonnay, you’ll taste a little bit of Tumbarumba’s cool environment.


Steingarten Vineyard

Sublime Steingarten: Also high and cool is Eden Valley’s Steingarten Vineyard, a remarkable hilltop site that just sits on the Eden/Barossa boundary. At about 450 metres of elevation it’s not the highest vineyard in Eden (Pewsey Vale is higher) but it is venerable and yields intense, nervy fruit riesling fruit that hums and crackles with electricity. Jacob’s Creek chief winemaker Bernard Hicken describes the unique and site-specific features of Steingarten (only 450 cases worth of fruit comes from this low-yielding vineyard) as far from the Barossa Valley norm. There is a 2-3 ºC degree temperature difference from valley floor to the vineyard, as well as a notable diurnal shift of 12-15 ºC. Vintage is felt sharply here, with picking times varying by 2-3 weeks year by year. Global warming has had an effect too, as picking dates have advanced 3-4 weeks over the last 20-30 years. The 30 degree slope looks truly Germanic, and its sharp incline attracts downdrafting cold winds, known as katabatic or gully winds, cooling Steingarten further in the late afternoon and early evening. Visiting in early February was a chilly experience, but you immediately understand the piercing acidity that helps this stately riesling age for decades. The vine’s spindly trunks belie their 53 years – they have been stressed by dense planting, wind abuse and meagre exposure to morning sun only. This vineyard is a poster-child for cool-climate if ever there was one.

Chill in Adelaide: Just to the south of Barossa, the Adelaide Hills are as hot as a tin shed roof these days. ‘Hot’ as in ultra-cool and fashionable, where wines of finesse and varietal intensity have been turning heads for years now. It’s a very large wine region, but with small, undulating and often steep hills, marked by cool nights and growing degree days as low as 1172. Mount Lofty’s summit is 710 meters, but much of the vineyards lie at well over 400 meters, and many of Australia’s elite vignerons work or source fruit from this distinctive area. The sub-region of Picadilly Valley is 1-2 ºC cooler still that Steingarten vineyard in the Eden Valley. Taste the Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013, and its riveting acidity and vivid lemony fruit offers a good insight into the potential of the Adelaide Hills.

Adelaide Hills

Adelaide Hills


Australia: the Ocean Effect

The Sunburned Country: For sun-deprived Canadian wine lovers fixated on our deeply romanticized images of Oz (Christmas at the beach, shrimp-on-the-barbie every day, it never, ever snows!) it can be hard to imagine how Australian wine might have anything whatsoever to do with the concept of ‘cool climate’, even though ‘cool’ is now the coolest thing an Aussie wine can be. So, maybe it is surprising to learn that of the more than 60 fine-wine regions of Australia, 24 are ‘true cool-climate’ and as cool, or cooler, than Bordeaux, famous for its moderate maritime climate. After all Australia is an island, and that one of the oceans surrounding it (the Great Southern) is a notorious source of nasty winds.

Three wine regions that are blessed with a maritime climate beneficial for winegrowing are Margaret River in Western Australia, the Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, and the island state of Tasmania (read Treve’s Travels Part I & Part II for details on these regions and their wines). In all of them climate is moderated by close proximity to large bodies of water, with cooling ocean winds creating a longer growing season that makes possible fresher, more elegant wines with an ideal balance between fruit and acid.

To put ‘cool’ in relative perspective, it is instructive to refer to the Heat Summation system, developed at UC Davis, whereby cumulative ‘degree days’ for a wine region are calculated (using a slightly tricky formula) totaling the number of degrees above 10°C (50°F) during the 7 month growing season. There are five classifications: Region 1 (<1390) is ‘very cool’; Region 2 is ‘cool’ (1391-1670), and so on. Using this system, growing degree days (GDD) ratings for Champagne and Burgundy are 1031 and 1164 respectively; Bordeaux 1392, and Napa 1499. In comparison, Northern Tasmania’s GDD rating is 1020, Margaret River is 1690, and Mornington ranges from 1080 – 1570. For comparison, Penticton in the Okanagan Valley is 1320.

Mighty Margaret River: If the GDD of 1690 for Margaret River looks on the high side here, it is important to note that the Margaret River region is literally surrounded by water. While temperatures inland can be stinking hot, Margaret River temperatures are modified by a legendary wind from the south called the ‘Freemantle Doctor’ that brings cool air from the ocean, creating the moderate growing conditions to produce the famously elegant wines of Australian icons Leeuwin, Cullen, and Vasse Felix. Without the ocean effect, the wines would be very different.

Dr. Thomas Cullity of Vasse Felix planted the first vines in Margaret River in 1967, in red gravel in redgum country, with clay about 18” below the surface; in 1972 he bottled Margaret River’s first cabernet sauvignon.

As any visitor to Melbourne soon learns, bracingly cool (ok, bloody cold) breezes can scream in from the Southern Ocean at any time; it is safe to say that there is a distinctly ocean-affected climate. The Mornington Peninsula south of the city has become renowned as a cool-climate wine region, with a global reputation for pinot noir – a grape once deemed ‘impossible to grow’ in Australia.

By virtue of being cool, Tazzie has become one of Australia’s hottest regions. Launceston at the north end of the island is not just cool: at 1020 GDD’s it is flat out super-cool. Here the ocean breezes from the Bass Strait are at least as important in winter as in summer – keeping the temperatures up and protecting the vines from frosts. This is sparkling country.

Some wines that show the affect of oceans, altitudes & attitudes :

Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Margaret River

Wynns Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Coonawarra

Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013, Adelaide Hills 

Rolling Shiraz 2012 Orange, New South Wales

Jansz Premium Cuvee NV Methode Tasmanoise, Tasmania

Stonier Pinot Noir 2013, Mornington Peninsula

Steingarten Riesling 2013, Eden Valley

Vasse Felix Cabernet Sauvignon 2011Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2013Rolling Shiraz 2012Jansz Premium CuvéeStonier Pinot Noir 20132015-02-19_15-38-03

~ All critics’ shared their top 20 Under $20 at the VIWF, and will chime in on their top 3 wines to taste at the festival in our joint BC Critics’ Report early next week. Finally, Anthony Gismondi’s Final Blend column will take a look at tasting notes, critics and where the WineAlign team is tasting, travelling and focusing.

Filed under: News, , , , , ,

A Four-Course Gourmet Dinner with William Hardy of Hardys Wines – Montreal

On Wednesday, March 4th, Chacun son vin is pleased to present a four-course gourmet dinner paired with wines from the iconic Australian producer, Hardys.


Join wine agents Mondia Alliance for an exclusive gourmet dinner at O’Thym Restaurant and meet Hardys‘ Brand Ambassador and 5th generation family member, William Hardy.

Nadia Fournier, partner and principal critic at Chacun son vin will be your host for the evening. Please note that the event will be in English.

Purchase Your Tickets Here

Event Details:

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

O'Tyme RestaurantLocation:  O’Thym (1112 Boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montreal)

Time: 6:30pm to 9:30pm

Tickets:  $75 + taxes and fees (includes 4-course meal and wines)

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

List of Wines to be Served:

Hardys Butcher’s Gold 2012
Hardys The Gamble 2013
William Hardys Sauvignon Blanc 2013
HRB Riesling 2014
Eileen Chardonnay 2013
William Hardy Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Eileen Shiraz 2010
Whiskers Blake

Purchase Your Tickets Here

William David Hardy, or Bill as he prefers to be known, is the 5th generation of Hardys involved in Hardys wines. As the current champion for the Hardys family of wines, Bill continues to build on the legacy started in 1853 by Thomas Hardy. The Hardys global wine business grew under the stewardship of a line of Hardys, arguably none more famous than Eileen Hardy, Bill’s grandmother.

Bill HardyBill commenced work with the family business as a Trainee Winemaker in 1972, and after an initial vintage at the company’s Tintara Cellars in McLaren Vale, he travelled to Bordeaux, France to undertake the Diplome National d’Oenologue at the Université de Bordeaux, graduating Majeur (dux) of his year. He continued in his winemaking career at several of the Hardys’ properties.

At the same time, Bill continued his commitment to the Australian wine industry on both a national and regional basis, serving as President of the Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology and Chairman of the McLaren Vale Winemakers’ Association.

In total, as a winemaker, Bill completed 12 vintages in South Australia, six in Western Australia and eight in France before handing over the winemaking reins to the next generation, and in 2012, Bill achieved an even greater milestone when he reached 40 years of continuous service to the company.

Most recently, Bill was paid the great compliment of having the William Hardy range of wines added to the Hardys’ portfolio this year..

Bill has maintained a family commitment to both the Australian wine industry and the environment. In recent years, he has been a member of the Australian Wine Industry Technical Advisory Committee, Australian Delegate to the Oenology Commission of the International Organization of Vine and Wine, and Chairman of Wetland Care Australia.

Purchase Your Tickets Here


Filed under: Events, Wine, , , , , ,

Une soirée de dégustation de vins et repas quatre services avec William Hardy de Hardys Wines Australia – Montréal

Chacun son vin a le plaisir de vous proposer, le mercredi 4 mars, un repas quatre services avec une dégustation de vins du célèbre producteur australien Hardys.

Bill Hardy, ambassadeur de Hardys Wines Australia en collaboration avec l’agence Mondia Alliance vous convie à une soirée de dégustation de vins de la maison Hardys accompagnée d’un souper.

Nadia Fournier, partenaire et critique principale pour Chacun son vin sera aussi des vôtres pour la soirée. Veuillez aussi noter que Bill fera sa présentation en anglais, mais que Nadia sera heureuse d’assurer la traduction, si nécessaire.

Achetez vos billets ici

Quand:  Le 4 mars de 18h30 à 21h30

TymeOù:  Au restaurant O’Thym, 1112 boulevard de Maisonneuve Est, Montréal

Coût:  75 $ par personne (incluant un repas 4 services en accord avec les vins)

Veuillez noter que les places sont limitées à 50; réservez rapidement.

Vins Hardys en dégustation:

Hardys Butcher’s Gold 2012
Hardys The Gamble 2013
William Hardys Sauvignon Blanc 2013
HRB Riesling 2014
Eileen Chardonnay 2013
William Hardy Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
Eileen Shiraz 2010
Whiskers Blake

Achetez vos billets ici

William David Hardy, ou Bill comme il préfère qu’on l’appelle, fait partie de la cinquième génération de la famille Hardy travaillant pour le compte des vins Hardys. En tant qu’expert actuel de la famille de vins Hardys, Bill continue de s’appuyer sur l’héritage établi en 1853 par Thomas Hardy. L’entreprise internationale de vins Hardys s’est développée grâce à la direction d’une lignée de la famille Hardy, dont le membre la plus connue est possiblement Eileen Hardy, la grand-mère de Bill.

Bill a commencé son travail au sein de l’entreprise familiale à titre de vinificateur stagiaire en 1972, puis, après un premier millésime aux Tintara Cellars de l’entreprise, à McLaren Vale, il s’est rendu à Bordeaux, en France, afin d’obtenir le Diplôme national d’œnologue de l’Université de Bordeaux, obtenant le titre de major de la promotion. Il a poursuivi sa carrière d’œnologue dans plusieurs propriétés de la maison Hardys.

Bill HardyAu même moment, Bill poursuivait son engagement à l’égard de l’industrie vinicole australienne tant sur la scène nationale que régionale, occupant les postes de président de la société australienne de viticulture et d’œnologie (Australian Society of Viticulture and Oenology) et de président de l’association des vinificateurs de McLaren Vale (McLaren Vale Winemakers’ Association).

Au total, à titre de vinificateur, Bill a produit 12 millésimes en Australie-Méridionale, 6 en Australie-Occidentale et 8 en France avant de remettre les rênes de la vinification à la génération suivante. En 2012, Bill a franchi une étape encore plus impressionnante lorsqu’il a atteint la marque de 40 ans de service continu pour l’entreprise.

Plus récemment, Bill a reçu un grand hommage, alors qu’on a donné son nom à la gamme de vins William Hardy, qui fait partie de la gamme Hardys, cette année.

Bill a maintenu un engagement familial tant à l’égard de l’industrie vinicole australienne que de l’environnement. Au cours des dernières années, il a siégé à titre de membre du Australian Wine Industry Technical Advisory Committee et il a occupé les fonctions de délégué australien de la Commission Œnologie de l’Organisation internationale de la vigne et du vin et de président de Wetland Care Australia.

Achetez vos billets ici




Filed under: Events, Wine, , , , , ,

Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES February 21st – Part One

A Great Australian Vintage
by David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The most interesting aspect of VINTAGES feature on Australian wines on the February 21 release is that it is focused around a single vintage – 2012. This is a very welcome development because rarely in the past has VINTAGES talked about vintages in regions outside of Europe.

There is a deeply held view – perhaps even a cultural bias – within the Euro-centric wine establishment (in which, until now, I would have lumped the LCBO) that vintages don’t matter in the New World. Europe has been steeped for so long in the annual vintage assessment of Bordeaux and Burgundy, and perhaps Barolo, Tuscany and Rioja, that denial of vintage variation anywhere else is an off-handed way of saying that those wines cannot be as good or pedigreed, because, well, vintages don’t vary. That’s nonsense. Vintage variation occurs everywhere – no two years are ever the same. And this could be even more true now as erratic climate change sponsored events settle in. So it is high time that New World producers and pundits made much more of this variation so that we can all get the most out of experiencing their wines. Good on VINTAGES for swinging the bat this time out.

The cover of the VINTAGES magazine calls Australia’s 2012 “The Best Vintage in 20 Years”, but doesn’t quote any specific local sources. The claim does however line up with my experience in Australia in Jan 2014, where producers were falling over themselves in excitement. Part of this may have been a bit of a rebound reaction due to the fact that 2011 had been the wettest, coolest vintage in their lifetimes, with many wines showing some greenness. (Interestingly 2011 also produced many under-ripe reds in Chile, Argentina and California as well). But yes, as the magazine spells out on page 4, 2012 did indeed bring ideal conditions to Australia, a good balance of moisture and sunshine with moderated temperatures and no searing heat waves (whew!). Long and slow and even ripening is always the best formula for ripe and balanced wines, and if yields are also lower those wines should have better concentration. This was the case when a late spring frost lowered the yield in some areas.

The irony is that some of the wines in this release fail to make the case for the excellence of 2012. Mainly because the average $20 price point of wine landed in Canada is not going to deliver balance and depth as easily. Some are marketing driven brands attempting to adhere to a style rather than show the variation of place or vintage, and they are very ripe, high in alcohol and tending to confection. The examples I have highlighted below are essentially single-site wines that do begin to show the evenness and balance of this vintage. Above all Australia’s reds need tension and structure – that is the on-going struggle for quality in one of the world’s hottest regions.

Just before getting to my picks (which include some good buys from California), a note that Australia will be all the buzz later this month as the theme country of the Vancouver International Wine Festival which runs the week of February 20. Our B.C. Editor and recently appointed National Managing Editor Treve Ring has already published a two part perspective on Australia Today, that includes some of her picks from the hundreds that will be poured at the Festival, as well as wines she encountered in Australia recently that she “Wishes They Were Here”. She has also just edited and published a Valentine Day compendium of romantic picks from WineAligners in three provinces in Canada – all the while being in Argentina.


Heartland Directors' Cut Shiraz 2012

Yangarra 2012 ShirazYangarra Shiraz 2012, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($32.95)
David Lawrason – Once again a biodynamically grown wine tops my charts, its bio-ness being unbeknownst to me when I tasted it. This shiraz was grown at fairly high, cooler altitude near the South Lofty Ranges, which combined with balance of the vintage and healthy viticulture has given it real class.  The focus and length are excellent. Supple and balanced enough to drink now; should hold three years at least.

Heartland 2012 Directors’ Cut Shiraz, Langhorne Creek, South Australia ($35.95)
David Lawrason – Heartland is a project by highly regarded winemaker Ben Glaetzer and his team (which includes John Glaetzer who was the man behind the success of Wolf Blass in its formative years). Director’s Cut is 100% Langhorne Creek fruit – the same region that supplied the backbone of Wolf Blass’ award winning wines. There is a fair bit of oak showing here, but in the end this big shiraz pivots on good acidity and firm tannin. Impressive!

Bleasdale 2012 Mulberry Tree Cabernet Sauvignon, Langhorne Creek, South Australia ($17.95).
David Lawrason –  Cabernet Sauvignon is the staple variety of this small cooler, maritime region on Lake Alexandria a stone’s throw from the Southern Ocean. Bleasdale was founded in the 19th C but a new viticultural regime introduced late last decade has resulted in wines with good tension and structure. Not huge depth here, but just fine for the price. And it’s unmistakably cab.

Dutschke 2012 80 Block St. Jakobi Vineyard Merlot, Lyndoch, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($23.95)
David Lawrason – Varietally labelled merlot is rare in Australia, but this comes from one of the oldest plantings in Barossa. It struck me as particularly well composed and balanced merlot; all rather understated but quite delicious. As good merlot should be.

Penny’s Hill 2012 Cracking Black Shiraz, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($22.95)
Sara d’Amato No, ‘cracking black’ does not, in fact, refer to shiraz’s distinctive notes of cracked black pepper but rather to the infertile, cracking, grey-black soil of the Bay of Biscay where this hand-picked shiraz is planted. This crackling soil severs the surplus root structure of the vines, lessening vigor and enhancing grape quality. As dynamic as the soil in which it is grown, this aromatic and compelling shiraz deserves attention.

Bleasdale Mulberry Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Dutschke 80 Block St. Jakobi Vineyard Merlot 2012 Penny's Hill Cracking Black Shiraz 2012 Schild Estate GMS Fowles Stone Dwellers Shiraz 2012

Schild Estate 2012 Grenache Mourvèdre Shiraz, Barossa Valley, South Australia ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – The grenache in this “GMS” is delightfully dominant giving the wine a crunchy saline texture, beautiful floral notes and plump red plum. Inspired by the blends of the Southern Rhone, this old-world-meets-new style is highly engaging. A Category Champion at WineAlign’s 2014 World Wine Awards of Canada.

Fowles 2012 Stone Dwellers Shiraz, Strathbogie Ranges, Victoria ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Cooler climate Australia is home to some dynamite shiraz that is exuberantly peppery and shows plenty of restraint, most notably in the alcohol department. If you normally stay far away from Aussie shiraz, give this one a try.

California Reds


Hartley-Ostini 2013 Hitching Post Hometown Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara County ($28.95)
David Lawrason – I have always been a fan of well-made California pinot for its sheer drinkability. The problem of course is that high alcohol, sweetness and oak too often overwhelm the fruit. This nifty example from the company that starred in the Academy Award nominated wine flick “Sideways” manages to stay in fruit first focus.  A delightful, heart on its sleeve pinot – kinda like the movie.

Melville Estate 2012 Pinot Noir, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County ($49.95)
David Lawrason – And from the same region is southern California comes yet another intriguing pinot that goes for elegance and structure. Melville is a small estate-fruit only operation specializing in pinot. They have gone to the trouble of planting 16 different clones in an effort to build up complexity, and it works so well. Wonderful aromatics and silky texture.

Hartley Ostini Hitching Post Hometown Pinot Noir 2013 Melville Estate Pinot Noir 2012 Kunde Family Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Volker Eisele Cabernet Sauvignon 2010


Kunde Family 2012 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Valley ($26.95)
David Lawrason – This does not have the depth and structure to hit 90 points, but it is an honest, fairly priced cabernet with typical blackcurrant fruit and just enough firmness to announce its cab-ness. Kunde is based on a large sustainably farmed property in the hills above the Valley of the Moon. I have been liking their recent offerings, and the value is peaking these days.

Volker Eisele 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($68.95)
David Lawrason – Collectors of California cabernet may want to make some room in the cellar for this powerful, complex well attenuated blend of cabernet and merlot (14%) grown in the Chiles Valley up in the eastern hills above Napa Valley. The Volker Eisele family has farmed the site organically for over 40 years. Aged 24 months in French oak, it has plenty of fruit support, cabernet complexity and excellent length.

And that’s it for this edition. Tune in next week as John Szabo leads off on the rest of this release with a look at Euro reds and a selection of whites.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES Feb 21st release:

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews

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

Wynns Coonawarra Estate Black Label Cabernet Sauvignon 2012





Filed under: News, Wine, , , , , , , ,

Treve’s Travels – Australia Today – Part II

Australia Today – Part IIFebruary 11, 2015

Text and photographs by Treve Ring

In Part I of this series, I highlighted a few regions in Western Australia and South Australia, recommending producers and wines I recommend seeking out and noting which was available at the upcoming Vancouver International Wine Festival.

Here I continue the tasting trek east, with a snapshot of what you can expect from each region, and some of the wines that I wish were here in Canada.

McWilliams Wines

New World? 6th generation Scott McWilliams
McWilliams Wines, Hunter Valley

But First, A Brief Rant

I get that consumers can be confused about the messaging of Australian wine. First impressions matter, and if your primary Aussie wine experience came via a bright kangaroo label for a handful of dollars plucked from a display larger than your car, you may be imprinted on cheap and cheerful (and sweet) Aussie wines. I encourage you to keep reading – read this report, my colleagues here and around the globe, and educated sources that matter. Taste some wines for yourself, talk up your trusted local wine store staff, and allow yourself to be open to the reality beyond the brand.

As for wine trade, I am beyond tired of hearing your sad excuses how all Australian wine is slutty, or sweet, or fruit bombed, or alcoholic. I get that you’re excited by the obscure rarities of innovative, envelope pushing producers. What about organic old ungrafted bush vine grenache, whole-cluster fermentation with wild yeast and 82 days on skins made by a surfing musician living in cool climate Adelaide Hills ? (Ochota Barrels – two wines are here for a limited time for VIWF).

We all take things for granted, including our own memories of place and taste. I gently encourage you (well, for trade I strongly encourage you) to pick up and taste again Australia TODAY.

To help you with this report

VIWF indicates wines and/or producers present at Vancouver International Wine Festival.
Wish You Were Here is part of WineAlign’s ongoing series signifying wines not yet available in Canada.
If no title noted, you can purchase this wine in Canada now.





Tasting with Mac Forbes winemaker Austin Black

Yarra Valley

The birthplace of Victoria’s wine industry is now recognized as one of Australia’s foremost cool climate regions. As such, sparkling wine features here as does perfumed and elegant pinot noir and fine, restrained chardonnay.

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2012

Wish They Were Here
Mac Forbes Woori Yallock Pinot Noir 2013

Goulburn Valley


Treve with 1860 planted shiraz at Tahbilk Winery, Nagambie Lakes

This historic region was first planted in the 1860’s. The warm climate and sandy soils are influenced by the Goulburn River and numerous smaller lakes and rivers crossing the inland valley floor. Ripe, rich, darker fruited, dark chocolate shiraz is renown throughout. Nagambie Lakes is a registered subregion, and home to the oldest and largest planting of Marsanne in the world.


Tahbilk Marsanne 2010

Mornington Peninsula

Gentle rolling hills and open pastures mark this tranquil region. Relatively small wineries take advantage of the complex soils, with many variations affected by the maritime cool climate. Elegant, alluring and delicate pinot noir and mineral and flinty marked chardonnay are flagship grapes.

Kooyong Single Vineyard Selection Ferrous Pinot Noir 2012

Wish They Were Here
Moorooduc Estate Robinson Pinot Noir 2012 *here for a limited time for VIWF



Idyllic Curly Flat, Macedon Ranges

Macedon Ranges

Australia’s coolest mainland wine region ranges from extremely cold in the windswept south-east to very cold in the north-west. Well suited to sparkling wine, though intense riesling, elegant chardonnay and lighter bodied pinot noir do well.

Wish They Were Here
Curly Flat Pinot Noir 2012 *here for a limited time for VIWF



Situated in central Victoria, Bendigo is afforded a healthy Mediterranean climate. Gentle rolling hills fold out from the granite ranges of central Victoria and vines were first planted here in the 1850’s. Deep, voluptuous shiraz and intense eucalypt cabernet sauvignon rule the reds, while intense, creamy chardonnay leads whites.

Wish They Were Here
Bress Harcourt Valley Riesling 2014



Strathbogie Ranges

Strathbogie Ranges

This distinct, high altitude region rises above the surrounding valleys, with vineyards reaching up to 700m. Rocky outcrops and decomposed, ancient granite soils cover wide, windswept vistas and provide the wines with intense aromatics, high acid and distinct savoury notes.

Fowles Wine Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Shiraz 2010



Rutherglen is synonymous with explosively rich and luscious dessert wines, layered with complexity and afforded great longevity. A classic continental climate of very hot summer days and cold nights yield grapes for fortified muscat, muscadelle and topaque, on par with the world’s best.

Wish They Were Here
Campbell’s Rutherglen Topaque NV




The Riverina grows 15% of the total Australian grape production ([yellow tail] winery Casella is headquartered here), and it is the largest wine producing region in New South Wales. This flat plane is also world-renowned for its sweet, botrytis-affected white wines.

De Bortoli Wines Noble One Botrytis Semillon 2009



line up of semillon, McGuigan Wines

Hunter Valley

Australia’s oldest wine region, with layers of vine history dating back to the 1820’s. Huddled around the Hunter Valley River, soils range from sandy alluvial flats to red clay loams. Semillon is benchmarked around the world by the examples found here, crisp and lively when young and complex, deep and honeyed with age.

Brokenwood Semillon 2014

Tyrrell’s Vat 1 Semillon 2005
McGuigan Wines Bin 9000 Semillon 2014
McWilliam’s Mount Pleasant Lovedale Semillon 2007



With its cool, marine-blown climate and long sunny autumns for ripening, Tasmania has pristine growing conditions for intense, fresh pinot noir and chardonnay – both ideal for premium sparkling wine.

Jansz Premium Cuvee NV



Check out Treve’s Travels feature on Australia TODAY Part I here. In addition, DJ Kearney is previewing her Oceans, Altitudes & Attitudes seminar that she is presenting alongside Rhys Pender, Treve will be talking all about the Global Focus, Shiraz/Syrah in a look at this grape in all its forms, as well and sharing what top sommeliers and wine professionals are excited about this year with a recap of the popular trade seminar, Excitement in a Glass. All critics’ shared their top 20 Under $20 at the VIWF, and will chime in on their top 3 wines to taste at the festival in our joint BC Critics’ Report coming out shortly. Finally, Anthony Gismondi’s Final Blend column will take an insightful look at the festival and where wine culture and private liquor retail is in BC today.

Filed under: News, , , , , ,


WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008