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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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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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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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South Africa: Best Value Wines in the World

…and Worth the Drive to Pickering
by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Earlier this year I spent virtually the entire month of March in South Africa, on dual assignments. The same happened in 2014. So after spending almost 60 days in this fascinating land, I am getting nicely familiar, more so than with almost any wine producing country beyond Canada, and perhaps New Zealand.

I have even fantasized about taking advantage of the weakness of the South African rand to spend several weeks there each winter – running a sort of WineAlign field office as it were. Some Canadians are doing just that. Once you have ponied up the airfare you can live very well for very little – in a wine paradise.

The Cape winelands are alive with innovation, diversity, regionalism/terroir – and huge value. I often tell anyone who is interested that South African wines are the best value wines in the world at this point in history. Which should be joyous news to all who care.

But the issue of price – SA’s low price – is also creating difficulties for South African wine in Canada, and elsewhere. We all like a bargain, but when the overall price of a country’s wines is too low, low-grade expectations follow. And this creates an inability to have more expensive and even higher quality wines taken seriously.

Very few South African wines on the LCBOs General List are priced over $13.95, and several are under $10. And the thirty-odd South African wines that come through VINTAGES each year seldom break $19.95. The LCBO buyers will tell you it’s because no one will buy more expensive South African wines. (But they aren’t offered either). So dog dizzily chases tail.

While in South Africa I suggested the entire wine industry should unilaterally increase prices by 10% or even more. Just to equalize with the price/quality ratio with the rest of the world. Eyebrows arched! They could take that 10% windfall and put it into programs that help the winery and vineyard workers better cope. Their wages are dismal – by Canadian standards – which is a major reason that the wines are cheap in the first place.

In this article I don’t want to rehash the climate, geography, sociology and history of South African wines. Several WineAlign critics have travelled there recently and done a great job of this – as well as writing about the youth movement in the wineries and the “Swartland Revolution”. So I link you to the thorough pieces by Treve Ring: Cape Wine Discoveries and Michael Godel’s: South Africa’s Capelands. I also published a too-long treatise on pinotage – South Africa’s heritage variety – last year.

Worth the Drive to Pickering

I do want to make you aware that a new LCBO South African destination store is opening at 1899 Brock Road in Pickering east of Toronto on September 16. It will feature all the LCBO general list wines, any VINTAGES wines in the system, plus wines only otherwise available directly from importers. More importantly, these will also be available at the new website and available for home delivery. So you don’t have to drive to Pickering, although for instant gratification it might well be worth it.

This newest “Products of the World” store is a foot in the door for higher priced Southern African wines.  And I just hope Ontario’s importers seize the opportunity. Indeed, they should be stampeding to do so.  The value that can be found in all price ranges from $10 to $50 is terrific. And believe me when I say that I tasted dozens upon dozens of 90-point plus wines in South Africa in March, wines that deserve to be on your table and in your cellar.

Barrels in Klein Constantia wine Cellar; Credit : Klein Constantia

Barrels in Klein Constantia wine Cellar

Here are many of the fine producers I encountered this year, most that you are not encountering- but we might hope to see some day: Leeuwenkuil, De Trafford/Sijnn, Constantia Glen, Klein Constantia, David and Nadia, Fram, Stranveld, Black Oyster Catcher, Crystallum, Thorne and Daughters, Chris Alheit, Creation, Newton Johnson, Reyneke, Tamboerskloof, Keinrood, Keermont, Glenelly, Drift Farm, Journey’s End, Raats, Paul Cluver, Radford Dale, Cederberg and Boekenhoutskloof.

Even some of the larger wineries that are represented here from time to time – KWV, Fairview, Glen Carlou, Mulderbosch, Bellingham, Ken Forrester, Jardin (Jordan) and Hamilton Russell – have much larger, more diverse and high qualities portfolio to which we are not exposed.

Should wines from this bunch ever show up in the LCBO South Africa destination store, or at, I will let you know.  Meanwhile, here is my hit list of a dozen great value South African wines available right now. Some are being promoted and discounted in Ontario until September 11. Yes, they are cheap, but the best are also great value. So why not capitalize?


Bellingham 2014 The Bernard Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region ($23.95)
Coming to the Pickering LCBO store, “The Bernard” is locally famous as being one of the finest chenin blancs of South Africa. Picked from old vines, fermented with natural yeast and barrel aged, it is indeed big (14%), but it carries itself well with confidence, even some elan. Expect lifted aromas of poached pear/peach fruit, lemon blossom, oak spice, cedar and honey.

The Wolftrap 2014 White, Western Cape ($13.95)
Blending Mediterranean varieties like viognier, grenache blanc and South Africa’s chenin blanc, this an exotic white with a generous nose of tropical green melon, pineapple fruit, a floral note (lily) and vaguely herbal complexity. It’s medium weight, fairly soft and warm but maintains a nice sense of freshness.  Marked down to $11.95 until Sept 11

Bellingham The Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2015The Wolftrap White 2014Boschendal The Pavillion Chenin Blanc 2015 Nederburg Sauvignon Blanc The Winemaster's Reserve 2015 Bellingham Homestead Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Boschendal 2015 The Pavillion Chenin Blanc ($11.00)
Yours for $9.50 until Sept 11th, this certainly offers piles of flavour for the money. There is trace sweetness start to finish despite its dry designation. Look for generous aromas and flavours of banana, elderflower, lemon and gentle nutmeg-like spice. It’s quite full bodied, soft yet has just enough acidity and alcohol to balance.

Nederburg 2015 Winemakers Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, Coastal Region ($12.95)
This is mid-weight, fresh and lively sauvignon with pleasant cool climate aromas of fresh dill, snow pea, diced green pepper and a touch of guava. It does have refreshing acidity but alcohol heat rises on the finish.

Bellingham 2015 Homestead Sauvignon Blanc, Tygerberg ($16.95)
Sauvignon Blanc is a strong suit in coastal regions. Coming to the Pickering store, this grassy, peppery sauvignon hails from small appellation near Cape Town. The nose is loaded with fresh dill, some green melon/guava and mustard flower. It’s medium weight, fleshy yet enlivened with just enough acidity.


Porcupine Ridge 2015 Syrah, Swartland ($14.95)
In the 2015 vintage this great value VINTAGES EssentialS becomes a Swartland DO wine, sourced from the warmer inland region that produces such great old vine syrah. This is terrific for $15 – a dark, smoky, very peppery, smoked meat syrah with background violets and dark spiced cherry jam fruit. Fine depth and class for the money.

Spier 2014 Signature Merlot, Western Cape ($12.95)
From an historic Stellenbosch winery just arriving in Ontario, this is very good value, especially while discounted to $10.95 until September 11. It’s a quite fine, complex merlot that crosses Euro and New World lines and delivers some elegance. There is certainly ripe fruit with baked plum, chocolate, leather and herbs on the nose.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah 2015 Spier Signature Merlot 2014Man Family Wines Bosstok Pinotage 2014

MAN Family 2013 Bosstock Pinotage, Coastal Region ($13.95)
This is a modern Stellenbosch winery making nicely pure, gentle and juicy wines. This very well priced pinotage catches the essential strawberry, earthy and slightly meaty character of South Africa’s heritage grape. Not highly structured but it offers good intensity and amiable drinkability. At Vintages while it lasts.

Kloof Street 2014 Red, Western Cape ($19.95)
From leading new wave winery called Mullineux, this syrah-led Rhonish blend is not showy but it is nicely balanced with well integrated but not very intense plum, earth, pepper aromas and flavours, with some licorice and vague Cape tar. I like the palate tension. At Vintages until stocks deplete.

The Wolftrap 2015 Syrah Mouvedre Viognier, Western Cape ($13.95)
One of the great values in modern South African winemaking, Wolftrap is a bargain brand from the Boekenhoutskloof winery that has specialized in and elevated Rhone wines in South Africa. This rings with great syrah authenticity for under $15 – steeped in smoky oak, cured meat, olive brine, dark cherry and almost soya sauce like notes.

Kloof Street Red 2014The Wolftrap Syrah Mourvedre Viognier 2015 Boschendal The Pavillion Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 K W V Roodeberg 2014

Boschendal 2014 The Pavillon Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon, Western Cape ($12.05)
From one of the largest and best estates of the Cape, this is very good value in a shiraz cabernet blend that nicely positions both varieties. Not hugely aromatic but the shiraz pepper and subtle meatiness works nicely with cabernet’s currants, plus a well placed touch of oak spice.

KWV 2014 Roodeberg, Western Cape ($12.95)
The first vintage of Roodeberg – one of South Africa’s most well known reds – was made in 1969. Today it is a cabernet based (43%) blend of seven varieties, that spends 12 months in French and American oak. It is a fairly complex, quite meaty, spicy, peppery red. It is full bodied, a bit hard and hot with some cab greenness on the finish. But there is bang for the buck, especially at $10.60 until Sept 11.

Good luck and keep searching.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

Sign in to WineAlign and use this link to find Wines of South Africa in stock at your favourite store: Discover South African Wine

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!

Discover South African Wine

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – August 20, 2016

Hot August Whites from Germany and Beyond
by David Lawrason, with notes from Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

If there was ever a time and place to drink German riesling, with its crisp acidity, lithe body and blooming aromatics, it would be during steamy August evenings in Ontario. So a German wine feature in the August 20th release makes all kinds of sense.

However, it’s obvious from the petty selection of only five German wines that the LCBO figures we are not really into German wines (and perhaps more into Niagara, which is perhaps a good assumption). However, this German release should have been so much bigger and better. Only one is a must-buy. Another is pretty good for the money. The others are commercially driven and forgettable with frankly dumb, populist labels as the only reason they might be purchased.

Germany has tried for decades to colour its wine populist (Blue Nuns, Green Labels and Black Towers) but it is hopeless. No lowest-common-denominator wine from Germany can really capture what is so narrowly superb about great German wine.

So it’s time Germany stopped trying so hard to be mass market. It must pick its moments and bring Audi-like precision and confidence to its delivery. And the LCBO needs to recognize such wines when they are offered. This would be a good moment in history to strive for this. The devalued pricing of German wine currently favours those that can bring great value, like the very fine Schloss Schoenborn Qba Riesling recommended below.

To be balanced, there are some good German wines on the shelf from previous VINTAGES releases, if you want to use WineAlign’s Find Wine function. And the selection of German wines should improve a lot when the LCBO opens a “German destination store” in Waterloo this October. It will include all German wines on the General List and VINTAGES plus consignment offerings that will also show up at for home delivery.

Elsewhere on this release, I choose a variety of recommended wines focused on other aromatic, summery whites, plus some fine reds. John and Sara are deep into summer vacations, so Michael and I stand in.

Schloss Schönborn 2011 Riesling Qualitätswein, Rheingau, Germany ($16.95)
David Lawrason – Hailing from a venerable estate in the Rheingau this is great value –  a lovely, brisk, lively riesling with classic aromas of apricot, stone and a touch of honey and minty freshness. It’s light to medium bodied, with fine, mouth-watering acidity – but not at all austere. Stock up.
Michael Godel – Schloss Schönborn’s basic, entry-level, come and get it Qualitätswein is seemingly riesling from out of a designate void and no strings attached. It’s actually highly specified riesling but without label verbiage and from a most excellent vintage. There is a balanced, posit tug between acidity and sweetness, over the line and back again. The cumulative flavours recall long lasting pastilles, of gin, tonic and agave.

Thörle 2015 Feinherb Riesling, Rheinhessen, Germany ($18.95)
David Lawrason – Feinherb is a new term replacing the halbtrocken or “half dry” designation. The Germans love to tinker with their labels (and who can keep up?). This is a nicely generous, fairly soft but lively Rheinhessen riesling with lifted aromas of grapefruit, green apple and white flowers. It’s medium weight, with notable sweetness and a strong sour edge through the finish.

Schloss Schönborn Riesling 2011 Thörle Feinherb Riesling 2015 Tawse Sketches Of Niagara Riesling 2014

Tawse Sketches Of Niagara 2014 Riesling, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($18.20)
David Lawrason – This gold medalist at the 2016 National Wine Awards is wonderfully fresh, brisk and generous, with floral, honey, peachy aromas. It’s off-dry but brings scintillating acidity to the game. Towers above many German rieslings at this price.

Contini Pariglia 2014 Vermentino di Sardegna, Italy ($18.95)
Michael Godel – You might imagine riesling from calcareous soils or semillon off of dry, arid plains, but this vermentino is striking on its own accord and illuminates as a developing experiment. The next big thing perhaps for geeks and mineral freaks in search of a profound, axiomatic, aromatic experience?

La Cappuccina 2014 Soave, Veneto, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – This is an organically produced Soave. It’s a classic – not hugely expressive but classy with a subtle, detailed aromas of yellow plum, licorice and wildflowers. It’s mid-weight with only medium acidity but the balance is very good. Will grace an elegant patio seafood, poultry or pork meal that’s not all about grills and sauces.

Contini Pariglia Vermentino di Sardegna 2014 La Cappuccina Soave 2014 Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2014André Goichot Les Guignottes Montagny 2014

Cave Spring 2014 Chardonnay Musque, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($16.95)
David Lawrason – From a particular chardonnay clone with muscat florality, this is a unique wine that Cave Spring has mastered. It is solid and interesting year after year, involving some aromatic razzle dazzle with solid pear fruit, waxy, pepper and lime. It’s medium weight, firm and dry with some mid-palate generosity.

André Goichot 2014 Les Guignottes Montagny, Burgundy, France ($26.95)
Michael Godel – As in the case of Chablis, 2014 is a stellar vintage from the ever-increasingly excellent Côte Chalonnaise subregion from which chardonnay fervently shines. André Goichot’s fruit is rich, ripe and beautifully pressed, expressed and plays with the determination of the mineral obsessed. Simply wow Montagny.

Lighthall Progression Sparkling 2014

Guy Charlemagne Blanc De Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Brut ChampagneGuy Charlemagne Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Réserve Brut Champagne, Champagne, France ($61.95)
David Lawrason – This will slice and dice beautifully during a classy reception or light dinner on a tepid, hot August night. It is a nicely firm, balanced and elegant Champagne with very generous, complex toasty, dried fruit, hazelnut and vaguely earthy aromas. It’s all here. Really like the firm, stony mouth-watering feel.

Lighthall 2014 Progression Sparkling Wine, VQA Ontario ($20.00)
Michael Godel – Progression is 100 per cent sparkling vidal by Glenn Symons, a.k.a. “Ward 5 Brut,” made in the Charmat method, that is, by secondary fermentation in the bottle. Vidal has never played a tune like this before. Charmat or otherwise, grapes grown on Lighthall’s beautifully stark, wind-swept and electrifying property destined for sparkling wine does so with profound meaning. It’s simply meant to be.

Norman Hardie 2014 County Unfiltered Pinot Noir, VQA Prince Edward County ($45.20)
Michael Godel – A second taste four months later confirms the impossibility from Hardie in 2014, a vintage that just begs for Norm’s magic handling, from exemplary, slow-developed, quixotically sweet Pinot Noir fruit off of a vintage’s hyperbole of low-yielding vines. Humility only exceeded by impossibility.

Quinta Nova de Nossa 2011 Senhora do Carmo Colheita Tinto, Douro, Portugal ($19.95)
Michael Godel – The label tells us it’s “unoaked.” Brilliant. Such knowledge is power and usually an exclusive bit 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. This Tinto is a terrific summer red when served with a chill that will serve and protect your palate and your will.

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2014 Quinta Nova De Nossa Senhora Do Carmo Colheita Tinto 2011 Castello Collemassari Rigoleto Montecucco Rosso 2013 Celler De Capçanes Mas Donís Barrica Old Vines 2014

Castello Collemassari 2013 Rigoleto, Montecucco Rosso, Tuscany, Italy ($17.95)
David Lawrason – From a little known zone south of Montalcino in Tuscany, comes a lighter bodied, nicely energetic and juicy red that is organically grown. Expect quite generous, complex, redcurrant and cherries, herbs, leather and meaty notes and a touch of oak. Very generous, if not highly structured or age worthy, but it is balanced and delivers nicely for the price.

Celler de Capçanes 2014 Mas Donís Barrica Old Vines, Montsant, Spain ($17.95)
David Lawrason – A delicious if slightly rustic blend of old vine grenache and syrah from the region that encircles Priorat southwest of Barcelona. It has a lifted gamey, smoky/flinty nose with sour red fruit and oak vanillin. It’s medium-full bodied, open knit, sour edged and a touch volatile, but it works overall. Imagined savoury, grilled lamb kebobs as I tasted this.

Tune in next week when John returns from unknown vacation whereabouts to present his preview of this release. Sara is still drinking Tavel on riverbanks in the south of France.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine


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!

For Premium Members, use these quick links for easy access to all the top picks in our New Releases:

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All August 20th Reviews 

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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If I could buy only one – Aug 6th, 2016 VINTAGES Release

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

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

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

John Szabo – This is for all of you who believe that a wine’s first duty is to be red. For many reasons, some of which I don’t understand, white wine has developed a reputation of being lighter, simpler and more easy-drinking than red wine, a more “serious” expression of fermented grapes. Here’s a wine that belies that nonsense. Fiano has been prized since at least the first century (it was widely planted in Pompeii, for example), and this example from Romano Clelia, one of the finest vignerons in the region, is extraordinary. It’s from the small village of Lapio in Avellino where the grape is believed to originate and where the best and most ageworthy wines from volcanic ash-sprinkled soils are produced. It’s very ripe and smoky, dense and concentrated, lightly salty. I’d buy a few bottles to watch it evolve over the next decade; I suspect this will be at it’s finest sometime around 2020, with lots of pleasure on either side. In any case, it has every bit the depth and complexity of any fine, serious red wine. I’d even serve this with steak.

Colli Di Lapio Fiano Di Avellino 2014

David Lawrason – They say that wine is like music, with one sip able to transport you to a time and place. This very good cabernet franc did just that. It beamed me right back into the vineyards of Bourgueil in 1984, on a cloudy September day, when the ripe grapes were heavy on the wine. There was a heady earthy scent in the air. It was the first time I had set foot in a French vineyard. I tasted the ripe grapes. And this wine tastes exactly as I remember. It has a very lifted, woodsy/leafy nose with juicy blackcurrant, red peppers and evergreen notes. Very countryside fresh. It’s quite tart-edged and dry but that same juicy generosity floods onto the palate. The Vignoble des Robinières l’Alouette Bourgueil is charming and authentic, and under $20 I may buy more than one, just for memory’s sake.

Vignoble Des Robinières L'alouette Bourgueil 2014

Michael Godel – Whilst we find ourselves suspended in the throes of a scorching Ontario summer there can never be such a thing as too many thirst quenching white wines. Greece is the word and in terms of go to Greek whites moschofilero may play second violi to assyrtiko but Mantinia is a special place for the aromatic Peloponnese variety. This ripping example from Troupis should not be missed. At this price ($17) the value quotient is simply crazy good, bordering on ridiculous. Assyrtiko by the sea? Sure. Moschofilero by the lake or the pool? Bring it on.

Troupis Mantinia Moschofilero 2015


From VINTAGES August 6th, 2016

Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview
Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES

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!

For Premium Members, use these quick links for easy access to all the top picks in our New Releases:

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All August 6th Reviews


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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – August 6, 2016

While We Summer Snooze Ontario’s Wine World is A-Changing
by David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo and Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

It’s August. The wine industry in the Northern Hemisphere goes into summer slumber, awaiting the harvest in September. (Maybe even before Labour Day in Niagara if this heat keeps up). But this is the most active, change-filled summer I can remember, especially right here in Ontario. And it’s all being generated by the LCBO, or at least within the LCBO as it pushes forward to expand selection and shopping convenience – en route to the arrival of wine in the first 70 supermarkets by the end of October.

I will get to our dozen picks from the August 6 release in just a moment, but first an update for those of you who might have missed current events while jumping off of docks or paddling in Algonquin Park.

For starters, the LCBO has soft launched a game-changing on-line ordering and direct delivery e-commerce site at You can now go on line and punch up an order ($50 minimum) to be delivered via Canada Post to your address ($12 fee), or to the LCBO store of your choosing (no fee). Delivery times vary depending on what you order and where you direct it to be shipped (within Ontario only).

There are 5,000 brands listed now, including most on-shelf general list and VINTAGES items, plus several hundred not in stores that can unfortunately only be purchased by the case (with much longer delivery times). Into 2017 the LCBO is promising, projecting and/or presuming 16,000 brands, which is more like the selection in any major private market in the world.

This will include an open selection of BC, Quebec and Ontario wines, thanks to an agreement signed by Ontario, BC and Quebec in Yellowknife in July, to allow shipping of each others wines between the provinces. Details are scarce, and those BC wines are not yet listed on the site.

I also draw your attention to the fact that the LCBO continues its vastly under-promoted program of creating ‘destination stores’ for wines of various countries. These locations carry all General List and VINTAGES listings from the ‘destination’ country, plus selections from the Consignment Warehouse, from which importing agents supply restaurants. These extra wines now also appear on

Last weekend the Australian store opened in the Leaside neighbourhood of Toronto (Laird and Eglinton East). To recap other openings: Greece on the Danforth, Spain at Bloor and Royal York, Portugal at Keele and St. Clair, New Zealand on Avenue Rd north of Lawrence, Argentina in Aurora and Chile on Erin Mills Parkway in Mississauga. And South Africa comes to Pickering in September.

This is a great idea – fostered by the LCBOs George Soleas before he became CEO – that moves us ever closer to a private model, where specialization is key. The lack of promotional enthusiasm from the LCBO and countries involved so far is mind-boggling. It’s like no one knows what to do with it, somehow paralyzed by lack of precedent.

Anyway, here are some picks from John, Michael and I from the August 6th release. John also picked some of his favourites in a preview last week.


Colli di Lapio 2014 Fiano di Avellino, Campania, Italy ($30.95)
John Szabo – Here’s an exceptional example of Fiano from the small village in Avellino – Lapio – where the grape is believed to originate, and in any case the origin of some of the appellation’s best and most age worthy wines, from volcanic ash-sprinkled soils. I’d rate Romano Clelia as one of the finest vignerons in the region, and this is clearly made with care and ambition, very ripe and smoky, dense and concentrated, with a fine amalgam of orchard and tropical fruit, lightly salty. Length and depth are exceptional. Drink, or better yet hold another 2-3 years to experience the full development of minerality.
Michael Godel – Pitch near-perfect seafood companion from Campania, briny, stony, rock crag-crunchy and oyster shell myopic. Fiano that gets to the crux of its own austerity is a beautiful thing as witnessed in the pure open vitality of this Colli di Lapio.

Thorn Clarke 2015 Eden Trail Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia ($16.95)
Michael Godel – Represents arid riesling from Eden for all the right reasons and succeeds without compromise. Tremendous entry-level value offering a similar level of quality as do the single-vineyard and special selection courtesan kind from the Eden Valley.

Colli di Lapio Fiano di Avellino 2014 Thorn Clarke Eden Trail Riesling 2015 Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2015 Domaine Lafage Cadireta Blanc 2014

Wither Hills 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Consistently one of my favourite NZSB styles – this slender, crisp but intensely flavoured sauvignon does a nice job of balancing passion fruit ripeness with flecks of fresh dill, asparagus tip and green pepper. It has a leaner, more compact feel than many. Great summer quencher.

Domaine Lafage 2014 Cadireta Blanc, Côtes Catalanes, France ($16.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a tidy little value from this perennial good value operation in southern France. Predominantly chardonnay, it’s is a lovely, floral, sweet lemon-citrus scented white blend, remarkably fresh and refined, with no wood influence.

La Cadierenne Cuvée Grande Tradition Bandol Rosé 2015 Château Gassier Le Pas Du Moine Rosé 2015Rosé

Château Gassier 2015 Le Pas Du Moine Rosé, Côtes de Provence Sainte-Victoire, France ($21.95)
David Lawrason – One of the finest roses of the summer in my books.  It is a very pale silver-pink, dry Provencal style with a subtle, lovely nose of saffron, pink grapefruit, crab-apple jam and faded roses. It has more weight and viscosity than the colour suggests. Classy stuff.

La Cadierenne 2015 Cuvée Grande Tradition Bandol Rosé, Provence, France ($20.95)
Michael Godel – Boozy (listed at 14 per cent) and beautifully balanced Bandol with terrific mouthfeel and elongation. Built on a slow developed variegation of flavour in a pink tonic that is perfect for your summer health.


Moraine 2014 Cliffhanger Red, Okanagan Valley. B.C. ($24.95)
David Lawrason – This silver medalist from the National Wine Awards of Canada is a malbec/merlot blend from a single vineyard on the Naramata Bench. I have tasted several Moraine wines this summer and like their energy. It has quite lifted floral, almost geranium like nose thanks to the malbec with lilac/violet, some oak spice, chocolate and herbs. Quite delicious and not heavy.

Mullineux Wines 2014 Kloof Street Red, South Africa ($19.95)
Michael Godel – A six varietal blend  led by shiraz, with bits of grenache, mourvedre, tinto barocca and cinsault. Chris and Andrea Mullineux are here represented at modern South Africa, Swartland Revolution, ground level with pure, unadulterated red wine joy. Everyone must spend $20 over and over to enjoy what this will offer.

Moraine Estate Winery Cliffhanger Red 2014 Kloof Street Red 2014 Vignoble Des Robinières l'Alouette Bourgueil 2014 Monte Del Frá Lena Di Mezzo Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore 2013

Vignoble Des Robinières 2012 l’Alouette Bourgueil, Loire Valley ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This mid-weight cabernet franc has a very lifted, woodsy/leafy nose with juicy blackcurrant, red peppers and evergreen notes. Very countryside fresh and authentic. It’s quite tart-edged and dry but juicy generosity floods the palate.

Monte Del Frá 2013 Lena di Mezzo Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore, Veneto, Italy ($20.95)
John Szabo
– Monte del Frà makes an exemplary version of ripasso, not exaggeratedly raisined, but rather focused on the vibrant fruit that Valpolicella does as well as any in Italy. This is bright, spicy, balanced and still very fresh, and silky smooth – a really pleasant, succulent wine.

Damilano 2011 Le Cinque Vigne, Barolo, Piedmont, Italy ($46.95)
David Lawrason – This a compelling, engaging Barolo combining elegance, charm (not often said of Barolo) and structure. It’s mid-weight, even and quite fine, with excellent length. It should live a decade with ease, and you don’t have to wait all that long to enjoy it. Start in 2018.

Damilano Lecinquevigne Barolo 2011 Ardal Reserva 2006 Torres Perpetual 2013

Bodegas Balbas 2006 Ardal Reserva,  Ribera del Duero, Spain ($21.95)
David Lawrason – This mature blend of tempranillo and cabernet sauvignon shows a quite fragrant rich nose of black cherry nicely fitted with damp wood, coconut, vanillin, licorice and herbs. There is life and energy here, especially for its age and price. Ready to roll.

Torres 2013 Cos Perpetual, Priorat, Spain ($49.95)
John Szabo
– I think the (regular) Torres Salmos Priorat is exceptional, but this recent flagship bottling, made “in homage to the old ‘vinos de guarda’, wines capable of defeating time” is in another league. A blend of old vines cariñena and garnacha from both terraced vineyards on slate soils and more coastal-influenced sites, it’s exceptionally dense, rich and ripe in the regional idiom. Yet it retains a sense of balance and even elegance, if such a thing can be said of such a powerful wine, and 15%+ alcohol is worn surprisingly well, buoyed by genuine acids and firm, honest and grippy tannins. Hold for another 2-4 years at least for a more mature expression, or leave in the cellar until the late-twenties, as was the intention.

And on that uplifting note we leave you for another week. I will be authoring the first report on the August 23 release next Friday. Enjoy the dead of summer.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES August 6th, 2016

Szabo’s 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!

For Premium Members, use these quick links for easy access to all the top picks in our New Releases:

New Release and VINTAGES Preview

Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix
All August 6th Reviews 

Beringer Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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Buy The Case: Vintage Trade’s Global Reach

A Report on Consignment Wines in Ontario
Written by David Lawrason

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

Vintage Trade

I have known David Thompson of Vintage Trade from his beginnings in the wine industry in Ontario many years ago. He is a man smitten by the grape to be sure, but also meticulous and keen to succeed in the difficult task of running a small, quality focused importing agency in Ontario.

“Some people say I have the best job in the world.” David says, “In some ways that may be true, but keeping wines available and working through the LCBO provides great challenges. The ‘best’ part of my job is finding interesting, and often, unique wines that deliver more than you expect. I am actively travelling to seek out new gems”.

David is joined by three accomplished wine professionals, Alex Hamilton in Toronto, John Kent in Waterloo, and Aaron Shaw in Ottawa, the latter a former winner of Tony Aspler’s “Ontario’s Best Professional Blind Taster” award.

Vintage Trade has a thoroughly global view of the wine world – with representation in this offering from Italy, Australia, Austria, New Zealand and France. So I was very curious to have this opportunity to sit down with John Szabo, Steve Thurlow and Michael Godel at WineAlign, to taste some of the portfolio Vintage Trade is offering to Ontario licensees and consumers.

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.

To order any of the following wines please visit Vintage Trade, contact or call 1 (866) 390-8745.


Rabl 2015 Grüner Veltliner Spiegel, Kamptal, Austria ($17.95)

David Lawrason – This fine young gruner veltliner has some delicacy yet excellent tension, with classic grüner white pepper, lemon blossom and waxy notes, with some pear fruit. Certainly a fine summer wine (this summer or next). Moderately priced to pour by the glass, from a highly reputed Austrian producer. Move customers and friends up and over from pinot grigio.
John Szabo – 2015 is turning out to be a very appealing vintage in central Europe, and Austria has turned out some lovely, ripe and immediately friendly gruner, such as this one from Rudi Rabl, a perennial favourite in the Vintage Trade portfolio. It offers plenty of fleshy, ripe but fresh orchard fruit, Asian pear, spiced apple and nectarine, with crunchy acids and length very good. This would make a terrific house pour this summer.
Michael Godel – Rabl’s Spiegel is so young and fresh it pops and spins in grüner veltliner mineral centrifuge, easily and clearly speaking in the classic nature of the variety. It’s time to go grüner on the patio, dock or any space in the afternoon sun. House Wine.
Steve Thurlow – Spiegel grüner is dry and quite rich with zesty lemony acidity and, as usual, it’s good value for money.

Feudo Disisa 2015 Grillo, Sicilia ($19.95)
Steve Thurlow – Grillo is in my opinion the finest of Sicily’s many indigenous white grapes and this is an excellent unoaked example. Expect fine aromas of pear, melon and pineapple fruit with floral and ginger spice notes. The palate is very smooth with the fruit well balanced by firm vibrant acidity. Long lingering fruity dry finish. Excellent length. Try with baked salmon or roast veal.
David Lawrason – This fine grillo has aromas mindful of fresh fig, even banana peel, with hints of exotic elderflower and anise. It’s medium weight, dry, yet fleshy with pleasant grapefruit bitterness and stoniness on the finish. Very nicely balanced with excellent focus and length. Worth exploring by the case and sharing a few with friends. although you might decide to keep it all for yourself.

Rabl Gruner Veltliner Speigel 2015 Feudo Disisa Grillo 2015 Giusti Prosecco Rosalia Middle Earth Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Giusti Prosecco Rosalia, Veneto, Italy ($14.95)

Michael Godel – Really lively Prosecco to sip alone, by mimosa or in a fraises. Can’t think of any reason not to pour it whenever bubbles are required. Restaurant pour by the glass.
David Lawrason – A decent Prosecco at the price in a category where qualitative differences are measured by a hair’s breadth. Chill and dispense liberally at large functions.

Middle Earth 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, Nelson, New Zealand ($18.95)
David Lawrason – This is a crisp, compact Nelson sauvignon blanc – not as intense and brash as many from neighbouring Marlborough, and leaning green with aromas of green pepper/asparagus, green apple and a slightly earthy note. It’s bright, lively and fresh with a touch of rounding sweetness. Another by the glass summer selection. Nelson, by the way, may not be technically Middle Earth in the Tolkien-esque sense, but it is the middle geographic point of New Zealand.


Rust en Vrede 2012 Estate, Stellenbosch, South Africa ($59.95)

David Lawrason – My highest scoring wine (93) from the Vintage Trade collection is from a classic Stellenbosch estate. It’s medium-full, slender and with riveting acidity and structure, plus excellent to outstanding length. A bargain for those who normally spend way more on classic Bordeaux style reds.
John Szabo – Cape classic Rust en Vrede crafts fine traditional wines, and this 2012 estate cabernet-shiraz blend, with a splash of merlot, is a classy beauty. The nose is chalk-full of ripe but fresh dark fruit and spice, integrated, high-quality barrel notes, and the first signs of mature, bottling ageing, savoury aromatics. This expands impressively on the back end, and complexity is already solid, and will only get better. Try after 2018 for a fully evolved and complex expression; well worth the premium price.
Steve Thurlow – This is a beautiful red blend from one of the Cape’s top estates. It is classically styled and like many South African wines sits between old and new world. The palate is smooth and rich and very even with a beautiful structure to the fruit. It is very harmonious and very elegant with excellent length.
Michael Godel – A big, hearty and beefy mess of an iron-rich cabernet sauvignon and syrah dominated red blend, massive and balanced. It can be done, especially when Stellenbosch is rendered in such a clean way. Will drink in perpetuity. I’d be happy to open this and reminisce in 2027. Cellaring Wine.

Rust En Vrede Estate 2012Giusti Antonio 2014Chateau De La Charriere Santenay 1er Cru Les Gravieres 2014

Giusti 2014 Antonio, Veneto, Italy ($39.95)

John Szabo – The most impressive wine in the Giusti portfolio, this is a polished, stylish, modern Venetian red blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc and little-known local variety recantina. It’s more elegance than power, with fine-grained tannins and lovely crisp acids. This is fine wine, not yet at peak; in 2-4 years this will be very seductive I’m sure.
David Lawrason – Here’s an unusual, delicious and well structured red for the esoteric Italian wine list or collector’s cellar. Quite lovely, with lifted floral plummy, berry aromas – quite floral actually. It’s medium weight, fresh and lively but also shows some elegance and restraint.
Steve Thurlow – This is a delicious full-bodied red still very youthful with the oak not yet well integrated on nose and palate. The palate is well balanced with firm acidity and mature tannin. Very good to excellent length.

Chateau de la Charriere 2013 Santenay 1er Cru “Les Gravieres”, Burgundy, France ($51.95)

Michael Godel – Les Gravieres has always been for me a Santenay climat that gives generously, of sweet red fruit and the balancing underlay of earth. It also does so with organza texture and litheness. Charriere’s 2014 matches that ideal. This is fine and exemplary Gravieres with five healthy years ahead. Gifting Wines of Six Packs – please.
David Lawrason – We so seldom see Santenay – the more moderately priced yet serious pinot from the southern end of the Cote de Beaune. Collectors might want to grab a case, and split – or not. This mid-weight pinot nicely combines the elegance of fine Beaune red with the somewhat chunkier character expected of Santenay. The length is excellent. Approachable now, should hold through 2022.

Bibi Graetz NV Casamatta Rosso, Tuscany, Italy ($17.95)

John Szabo – An intriguing, ‘solera’ style red blend where younger wine is blended with older wine to develop complexity and smooth out vintage variation. This is not your average sub-$20 new Tuscan release to be sure, but rather one for fans of mature, savoury pleasantly rustic reds. Tannins are light and dusty, and this would best be served at the table with some salty protein, salami and the like. An idiosyncratic wine perhaps, but elegant and highly appealing, not to mention fine value.

Bibi Graetz Casamatta Rosso Zorzal Terroir Único Malbec 2014 Hamelin Bay Shiraz Merlot Cabernet Rampant Red 2012

Zorzal Terroir Unico Malbec, Gualtallary, Uco Valley, Argentina ($17.95)

David Lawrason – Grown in one the highest sites in Mendoza this young malbec has a lovely, lifted, almost floral nose with mulberry jam, some fresh sage/thyme and vaguely earthy notes. It is medium-full bodied, with great energy, acidity and life. A little extra lift here in a category than can be too heavy-handed. By the glass in a steakhouse or BBQ restaurant.

Hamelin Bay 2012 Rampant Red, Margaret River, Australia  ($22.95)

David Lawrason – This is an easy going blend of shiraz, merlot and cabernet from a WA property dating back to 1992. A bit pricey but it’s has generous, slightly candied Aussie blackcurrant, menthol/eucalyptus, black pepper and oak spice. It’s mid-weight, loosely structured and tannins are quite soft. By the glass and BBQ red, lightly chilled.


Editors Note: You can find complete critic reviews by clicking on any of the highlighted wine names or bottle images above. 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!

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

About Vintage Trade

Vintage Trade

Vintage Trade is a small yet passionate team of wine professionals who meet the highest service standards. We represent well researched boutique wines that offer value, winemaking excellence, and exceptional vineyard quality and management.

Vintage Trade has been working with the liquor board, private consumers and the hospitality industry for 15 years, taking pride in offering exclusive wines from exceptionally dedicated vintners and actively traveling to seek new “gems”.

Join our Mailing List

Stay up on the latest sales and info about great new wines. We value your time and attention and promise not to waste it. And you can unsubscribe with a single-click at any time.

Free Delivery! 

While we are required to charge a .20¢ per bottle deposit fee, all shipping taxes are included in our prices. That’s right – great wines delivered straight to your door at no extra charge!

If you have questions about the ordering process, please contact Cheryl Edgecombe, or call 1 (866) 390-8745.

If you have questions about any of the wines, please contact David Thompson at or call him at 289 242-1496.


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Announcing WineAlign National Wine Awards Winery of the Year

Four-Peat Sake! Tawse Winery of Niagara Does it Again
By David Lawrason

Winery owner Moray Tawse and winemaker Paul Pender have harvested Winery of the Year honours at Canada’s largest wine competition again this year, the fourth time since 2010. Tawse Winery is on a roll, with five gold medals in this year’s showdown, plus eight silver and eight bronze medals.

Tawse Winery

The National Wine Awards Winery of the Year identifies consistency of quality across a portfolio of wines, and the numbers tell the story.

Five gold medals, scoring 90 points or better over multiple rounds of judging, were squarely focused on pinot noir and riesling from Tawse’s organically farmed Niagara Escarpment vineyards in the Vinemount Ridge and Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellations of Niagara. The top scoring Tintern Road 2013 Pinot Noir is new to their ever-expanding universe, but good luck trying to find a bottle as it also shone at the Ontario Wine Awards earlier this year. The most widely available gold medalist is Tawse 2014 Sketches Riesling, currently at LCBO VINTAGES stores.

“The announcement of the winners of Canada’s most complete and in-depth wine competition is always greatly anticipated by everyone in our winery” said Moray Tawse. “It is the final summation of all the efforts we put into farming our vineyards, the exacting work in the cellars and the expression of the uniqueness of our terroirs”.


Moray Tawse – Proprietor

The 16th annual WineAlign National Wine Awards were held this year at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre in the heart of the Okanagan Valley in late June. Over 1,500 wines were tasted blind (producer, origin, price hidden) by 21 wine critics and educators from seven provinces, plus guest judges Dr. Jamie Goode of the U.K. and Elaine Chukan Brown from California. There were 16 platinum medals awarded (outstanding), 103 golds (excellent) and many, many more silver and bronze medals all identifying ‘very good’ wines.

The runner-up for Best Winery, and winner of the award for Best Performance by a Small Winery (less than 10,000 case annual production) was Lake Breeze Winery, located on the Naramata Bench of British Columbia’s  Okanagan Valley. Co-Chief judge Anthony Gismondi profiles Lake Breeze here.

Each year the results are tallied to seek out the wineries consistently making the best wines. The top five scoring wines from each winery are assigned a ‘performance score’ weighted by medal ‘worth’.  As well as determining the top winery by this method, WineAlign has published a list of the top 25 wineries of the 230 entered in the competition. This is hallowed territory and rankings in the top ten went 50-50 to British Columbia and Ontario wineries.


Paul Pender – Director of Viticulture and Winemaking

Tawse Director of Viticulture and Winemaking Paul Pender, who was in the first graduating class of Niagara College’s Winery and Viticulture, has been at Tawse since 2005. “It is such an honour to receive this most prestigious award” he said. “Our continued success is a testament to our dedicated vineyard and winemaking team. I feel so fortunate to work with such a talented and dynamic group of people.”

Tawse Winery was launched in 2002, with the vision of creating top quality Niagara wines, farmed organically and biodynamically. Owner Moray Tawse had been a long-time fan of wines from Burgundy, and from the outset consulted with viticulturists and winemakers from France and Canada who shared the same passion. Mr. Tawse now owns vineyards in Burgundy as well, and recently opened Redstone Winery and restaurant in Niagara.

The original Tawse wines were made primarily from old chardonnay and riesling vineyards he purchased on Cherry Avenue, which forms the boundary of the Twenty Mile Bench and Beamsville Bench appellations. Through acquisition of adjacent escarpment sites, then others farther afield on the Niagara escarpment, the Tawse portfolio has expanded rapidly in the intervening years. No one in Ontario is bottling as many site-specific wines as Tawse, giving voice to the diversity of the landscape across many styles of wine.

Tawse Winery Tintern Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013Tawse Winery Carly's Block Riesling 2014Tawse Winery Cherry Avenue Pinot Noir 2013Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2014Tawse Winery Riesling Quarry Road Vineyard 2014

And no else in Ontario, apparently, has been able to bring such a consistently high level of quality to as many labels. Tawse is an encyclopedia on Niagara wine, terroir and its evolution, and bravely forging the path for the future.

Congratulations to Tawse Winery and all the winning wines in this year’s Nationals.

Announcing the Best Performing Small Winery of the Year

Canada’s Top Wineries

Top 25 Wineries in Canada

Top 10 BC Wineries

Top 10 Ontario Wineries

Top 10 Best Performing Small Wineries

Results Summary Page



We would like to acknowledge the following sponsors: Post Hotel and Spa Lake Louise for the glassware used throughout the judging, and Container World for shipping and logistics. A special thank you to Jason Dziver for the above images, as well as for each and every Awards bottle image appearing our site. You can see more of his work at Jason Dziver Photography.

Post Hotel & SpaContainer World


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Announcing the Results of the 2016 National Wine Awards

Platinum & Gold Medals Shine the Light on Canada’s Strengths

Anthony & David

Anthony Gismondi & David Lawrason, Head Judges

There was a dazzling array of top quality Canadian wines at this year’s 16th WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada with over 1,500 entries from 230 wineries in six provinces. There were 16 coveted Platinum medals spread over 14 wineries, and seven different wine categories.

East Kelowna’s Spierhead Winery took two Platinums for a pair of outstanding pinot noirs, while Road 13 Winery from Oliver took two Platinums for syrah-based wines. Chardonnay was the most awarded Platinum category with five shiny medals (four from Ontario), while syrah and syrah-based came a close second with four (all from British Columbia). Platinum medals also went to a riesling, a riesling icewine, a semillon, a red blend and a crème de cassis wine. Platinum medals represent the top 1% of wines entered, achieving an average score of 91 points or better.

Close behind among the 103 Gold Medals (reaching an average score of 90 points or higher) the range of wines widened to include most categories, but it is clear that chardonnay, pinot noir, syrah, riesling and sparkling wines are emerging as Canada’s most consistently awarded wine styles.

The excitement generated among the judges in the tasting room by these types of wine ran high this year. We were all noticing a real bump in quality. The wines were all served blind (producer, origin, and price were not revealed) but identified and organized into flights by grape variety or style. The top medalists were tasted in multiple rounds by several different judges.

The full results by medal, and by category, are published on WineAlign, Canada’s largest wine review and editorial website.

Results from the 2016 National Wine Awards of Canada

The location for the Nationals alternates between east and west each year. This year the judging was held in June at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre in the heart of the Okanagan Valley. It attracted over 1,500 entries from 230 wineries in six provinces. British Columbia had the highest representation 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 generally reflects the distribution of wineries in Canada.

There were 66 new wineries entered this year, 36 from BC, where the growth of new wineries is most rapid, and 16 from Ontario.

The highly anticipated awards for Winery of the Year, Best Performing Small Winery of the Year, and the list of the nation’s Top 25 Wineries will be announced July 28.

The wines were judged over five days by 21 judges from seven provinces. The judges are all well-established wine writers and educators with broad international wine experience. There were also two international guest judges – Dr. Jamie Goode from the United Kingdom, and Elaine Chukan Brown from California.

Results from the 2016 National Wine Awards of Canada

The Awards were designed and managed by Chief Judge Anthony Gismondi of Vancouver, and operated by staff of WineAlign with the assistance of dozens of volunteers who poured approximately 8,000 glasses of wine, all to exact temperature.

The announcement of the NWAC results comes at a historic time for Canadian wine, with British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec signing an agreement on July 23 to allow their citizens to directly import any wines from the other provinces. BC has been allowing this since 2012. Ontario has – just today – introduced this capability as part of an e-commerce website being launched by the LCBO. Quebec will soon announce how it plans to handle direct sales of Canadian wine, and other provinces are being invited to join the movement.

In any event, it means that more Canadians will have better and more rapid access to the medal-winning wines of the National Wine Awards of Canada.

Winery of the Year

Best Performing Small Winery of the Year

Canada’s Top Wineries

Top 25 Wineries in Canada

Top 10 BC Wineries

Top 10 Ontario Wineries

Top 10 Best Performing Small Wineries

Results Summary Page


We would like to acknowledge the following sponsors: Post Hotel and Spa Lake Louise for the glassware used throughout the judging, and Container World for shipping and logistics. A special thank you to Jason Dziver for the above images, as well as for each and every Awards bottle image appearing our site. You can see more of his work at Jason Dziver Photography.

Post Hotel & SpaContainer World


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WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008