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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – July 23, 2016

Chile’s Cool New Limari Valley is Making Waves
by David Lawrason, with notes from John Szabo and Michael Godel

David Lawrason

There are two wines from Chile’s Limari Valley hitting the shelves this week at Vintages, and both come highly recommended as great values by our WineAlign team, (see below). Co-incidentally, WineAlign hosted a winemaker dinner this week featuring Tabali, yet another winery from Limari.  Three wineries in one week from the same small, relatively unknown region may not constitute a tsunami, but there is obviously a wave of interest in this more northerly region.

As emcee of the WineAlign dinner, which was co-hosted by Hobbs & Co at The Shore Club in downtown Toronto, I spent much of the evening with Tabali CEO and Chief Winemaker Felipe Muller, whose excitement over Limari was palpable. He called it “Chile’s most unique region” and said it is attracting attention from winemakers all over Chile.  Indeed, one of the wines in Saturday’s release is Santa Rita 2014 Syrah, from a giant winery based in Maipo to the south.  And Concha Y Toro, Chile’s largest winery, was quick to open a winery called Maycas de Limari as well, in the early 2000s.  Tamaya (below) is yet another strong presence in Limari.

Chilean Wine Map

Click for larger image

There are two main attractions that create Limari’s terroir. One is the abundance of limestone in the soils, a rare occurrence in Chile. Throughout the valley the limestone is rather scattered amid clay, sand and gravels, but in one area especially there is a very high concentration. This is in Tabali’s Talinay vineyard, which lies only 12 kms from the ocean.  The Tabali Talinay Pinot Noir 2013 released back in June (and still available in limited quantities) is particularly fine and firm, quite different from most Chilean pinots that tend to be a bit jammy.

The proximity of the Pacific with its cold Humboldt current running off-shore is the second piece of puzzle. The way the valley opens gently and broadly to the sea allows the “Camanchaca” fog to blanket the area each morning, and directs cooling breezes inland during the afternoon.  So despite lying at a “warm” latitude 400 kms north of Santiago Limari is one of the coolest, and latest harvested regions of Chile.

The resulting wines have a certain lightness, elegance and freshness, which was on display throughout The Shore Club‘s menu. And in fact, their structure proved to be ideal at the table. They kept palates alive and stood their ground with the bold flavours by chef Angel Sevilla .  The Tabali 2015 Especial Sauvignon Blanc was solid with a very piquant gazpacho.  The subtle, complex Tabali Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2013, released on July 9 was a terrific foil to a ceviche, with bright acidity standing up the citrus and its sweeter fruit bringing calm at the same time.

(Those attending the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (I4C) in Niagara this weekend will get to try this chardonnay).

The main course featured two terrific Tabali reds. The delicious, almost sold out 2012 Reserva Especial Syrah was perfect with grilled Canadian prime ribeye steak, while a brand new, first vintage 2013 Reserva Especial Cabernet Franc, proved the hit of the night with the roast chicken.  The Cabernet Franc is a small production wine that will likely never see release at the LCBO but can be private ordered through Hobbs & Co.

As an added treat we were served the debut bottling of a terrific 2013 Syrah from the Talinay Vineyard. It had great bones and density yet a wonderful sense of restraint and purity.  Alas we may not see this for awhile as only 100 cases were made in this first vintage.

And now onward to wines you can get, as John, Michael and I present our picks from the July 23 release. In case you missed it, John’s preview last week included his faves among the Spanish and sauvignon blanc features.  Sara is off for the next six weeks on her annual family excursion to the south of France – doubtless drinking Tavel on a riverbank somewhere.

Buyers’ Guide to July 23rd release:

White Wines

Pala I Fiori Vermentino Di Sardegna 2015William Fèvre 2014 Champs Royaux, Chablis, Burgundy ($24.95)
Michael Godel – The Champs Royaux is Chablis drawn from a selection of Fèvre’s better grower contracts. It takes all the hills, valleys, les clos and slope/aspect dimensions into account. It is textbook Chablis, a guarantee of quality, especially out of the cracker 2014 vintage
John Szabo –2014 is a terrific vintage for the generally excellent entry level Chablis from Fèvre, with an extra measure of depth and especially stony-mineral character. I love the sharp acids and the perfectly chiseled citrus/apple fruit, as well as the very fine length. And considering that Chablis has lost over two-thirds of the 2016 harvest to dramatically bad weather (so far), and prices are sure to rise, I’ll be stocking up on the excellent ‘14s.
David Lawrason – I like it too! Better than I remember from previous outings.

Pala 2015 I Fiori Vermentino Di Sardegna, Sardinia, Italy ($14.95)
John Szabo –
A lovely wine that would make for a great house pour this summer. It’s dry, crisp and unoaked, pleasantly fruity and saline, smoky and lightly herbal, with exceptional length and complexity in the price category.
David Lawrason – Great value here! Vermentino is an important white grape of the Mediterranean, creating refreshing higher acid wines. This is a mid-weight, refreshing example with lifted aromas of lemongrass and star anise. It has a bit more weight and richness than I expected but remains elegant and refreshing.

Anselmi Capitel Croce 2014Redstone Limestone Vineyard South Riesling 2012Redstone 2012 Riesling Limestone Vineyard South, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara ($19.20)
David Lawrason – Moray Tawse bought the large Limestone Ridge vineyard not long ago, and has been turning out taut, mineral rieslings. The north or lower part of the site goes into his Tawse line-up, the south or higher section is directed to his Redstone Winery label. This is a lovely, clean, medium sweet version with classic peach, lemon, honey and petrol aromas and flavours.

Anselmi 2014 Capitel Croce, IGT Veneto, Italy ($26.95)
John Szabo – This is serious wine, pure garganega from the heart of Soave Classico (though Anselmi voluntarily labels as IGT Veneto). It’s full, rich and concentrated, but perfectly balanced, with strikingly intense minerality and excellent length. I love the ride of sweet herbs, orchard fruit, and exotic tropical fruit, which loops back again to apple and citrus on the acidulated finish. Fermentation/ageing in barrel goes mostly unnoticed, save for the texture enhancement. So very classy, and ageworthy, too.

Sutherland 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, Elgin, South Africa ($14.95)
Michael Godel – From Thomas Webb’s Elgin outpost, the Sutherland is a pungent, insistently perfumed cooler clime sauvignon blanc with more texture than its Thelema ’14 cousin. Shows classic Elgin cool savour running linear like a beam through the joist of structure.

Flowers 2014 Chardonnay, Sonoma Coast, California ($68.95)
David Lawrason – My highest scoring wine of the release is a gorgeous chardonnay combining power and finesse. It shows classic and complex aromas of pear, almond, gentle toast, vanilla/lemon custard and spice. Pricy but impeccable.

Roger & Didier Raimbault, Sancerre 2014, Loire Valley ($26.95)
Michael Godel – Sancerre laid out with clear instruction in precisely what sauvignon blanc needs for it to impress from the Loire. Essential sauvignon blanc with poise, precision and mandatory feel. This is tres fort fricative stuff.

Sutherland Sauvignon Blanc 2014Flowers Chardonnay 2014Roger & Didier Raimbault Sancerre 2014

Red Wines

Santa Rita Medalla Real Syrah 2012, Limarí Valley, Chile ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This is a wonderful value in rich New World syrah. The nose is ripe and rich with black cherry/plum, licorice, smoked meat, cedar bough, white pepper and generous oak. It’s full bodied, fairly dense, soft and streamlined, with soft tannin.
Michael Godel – From the northerly clime of the Limari this is seductively floral syrah with an edge of peppery spice. Cue the value jingle.

Tamaya 2014 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon, Limarí Valley, Chile ($17.95)
David Lawrason – This sports a lovely nose of blackcurrant jam, cedar bough, vanillin and some earthiness. It’s medium-full bodied, fairly dense, balanced and complete. Very good cab value.

Creation 2014 Pinot Noir, Walker Bay, Walker Bay, South Africa ($26.95)
John Szabo –
Swiss winemaker Jean-Claude and South African partner Carolyn found a terrific spot for Pinot noir in the southern hemisphere, in the upper reaches of the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley in the southern Cape. The cooler climate and house style favour balance and finesse over power, as displayed in this silky and suave, refined example, showing the hand of even-keeled, confident winemaking. I like the saliva-inducing, saline finish and impressive length and depth. Best 2016-2022.

D’Arenberg 2013 D’arry’s Original Shiraz/Grenache, McLaren Vale, South Australia ($19.95)
David Lawrason – This has long been one the great values from McLaren Vale, a blend with considerable complexity, richness yet decent balance at the same time. It pours quite deep black purple. The nose is nicely lifted with florals, ripe black cherry, mocha, pepper and a touch of menthol. Some graphite on the finish as well. Very good to excellent length. Tasted July 2016

Santa Rita Medalla Real Syrah 2012Tamaya Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014Creation Pinot Noir 2014D'arenberg D'arry's Original Shiraz:Grenache 2013

Kir-Yianni 2012 Kitma Yianakohori Hills, Imathia, Macedonia, Greece ($19.95)
John Szabo – New to Greek wines? Here’s a fine intro, a pleasantly ripe and generously proportioned blend of half xinomavro with merlot and syrah, with the firm tannic structure of the former lending framework to merlot’s plummy fruit and syrah’s spice. Length and depth are really quite exceptional at the price, as is the over all complexity. Best 2016-2022.

Menguante 2012 Selección Garnacha, Cariñena ($16.95)
Michael Godel – Jose Pablo Casao make full use of oak for this smooth Cariñena operator. It is one of the region’s most accomplished examples of garnacha. His colleague and peer (winemaker) Jorge Navascues Haba told me, “if you come to to experience garnacha, this wine will allow you to discover the wonders of American oak.”

Corte Giara 2013 Ripasso Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Lovely venetian red from Allegrini that accomplishes Ripasso intimacy by doing so at a mimetic remove. Lingers like a perfect pastille.

Querciabella 2013 Chianti Classico, Docg Tuscany ($38.95)
Michael Godel – Remarkable sangiovese steeped in tradition and history meets varietal significance, but it’s a new oration., A brilliant “normale” without the new slang of Gran Selezione but in many respects it may as well be.
David Lawrason – This is a very fine, nervy and intense Chianti, if a bit pricy.

Kir Yianni Kitma Yianakohori Hills 2012Menguante Selección Garnacha 2012Corte Giara Ripasso Valpolicella 2013Querciabella Chianti Classico 2013

And that’s it for this week. As the heat of summer settles in like a wet blanket, we urge you take it easy, drink crisp wine and lots of water. We will be back next week with Australian and other picks from the August 6 release, and stay tuned next week as well as we announce the winners from the National Wine Awards of Canada.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES July 23rd, 2016

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Michael’s Mix
Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview
All July 23rd 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 Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

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An Exclusive Champagne Dinner Featuring the Iconic G.H. Mumm Brand – Toronto

On Thursday, August 4th, WineAlign is pleased to present an exclusive champagne dinner with world-renowned Cellar Master, Didier Mariotti, from the iconic G.H. Mumm brand.

Join us for dinner at The Chase with G.H. Mumm’s Cellar Master, Didier Mariotti.  Didier joins us for the evening from Epernay, France to guide us through a range of champagnes from this iconic House.  As the latest in a line of passionate Cellar Masters responsible for crafting the House style, Mariotti is both the guardian and the beneficiary of G.H Mumm’s long heritage.  Didier will be joined by WineAlign’s David Lawrason.

Mumm 3 pics

Event Details:

Date: Thursday, August 4th, 2016

Location: The Chase (10 Temperance St., Toronto)

Reception: 6:30pm (on front terrace)

Dinner: 7:00pm (private dining room)

Tickets: $104 per person (plus tax and fees)

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

G.H. Mumm Champagne Dinner - Purchase Tickets

Menu and Wine List

Pearl Platter
East and west coast oysters, shrimp, crab, and tuna
G.H. Mumm Cordon Rouge Brut

With albacore tuna, cured egg yolks, white anchovy, olives, and baby romaine
G.H. Mumm Rosé

Main Course
Roasted with wild mushrooms creamed spinach, linzer potatoes, and brown butter tartar sauce
G.H. Mumm Millesime 2006

Angel food cake, lime curd, coconut cream, toasted marshmallow icing
Coffee & Tea

*There are no substitutions*

G.H. Mumm Champagne Dinner - Purchase Tickets

About Didier Mariotti:

G.H. Mumm’s Cellar Master, Didier Mariotti, is the guardian and beneficiary of nearly two centuries of expertise – shaping the distinctive House style. He adds his own winemaking contribution and continues to perfect the balance of tradition and innovation that brings out the exceptional character of the unique terroir rated at 98% on échelle des crus.

This is Didier’s first trip to Toronto, celebrating the VINTAGES release of the highly acclaimed G.H. Mumm Millesime 2006 vintage champagne.

Didier photo

About The Chase

The Chase offers small plates with big flavours; entrées that are satisfying and adventurous, but healthy, and experiences that exude sociability and interaction with our staff.

The Chase is our passion for casual elegance. Our rooftop restaurant highlights what we love most about upscale dining, and presents it in a modest and thoughtful way. Our ongoing chase for the finest ingredients from around the world, coupled with simple and uncomplicated flavours, is the foundation for our culinary philosophy.

The Chase logo

Our winemaker events have been consistently and quickly selling out.  If you are interested in attending then we advise you to purchase your tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

G.H. Mumm Champagne Dinner - Purchase Tickets


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Canadian Wine: Winds of Change

Direct Shipping, Grocery Sales and Health Issues Hit the Floor at the CVA Annual Meeting
by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

Winds of change and currents of conflict were swirling at the recent annual general meeting of the Canadian Vintners Association in Kelowna. I will get right to the details, but first I want to share the most exciting news for Canadian wine consumers.

On July 26, WineAlign will announce the results of the National Wine Awards of Canada, and on July 28th the winner of the coveted Winery of the Year and Small Winery of the Year Awards. I joined 21 other judges in Penticton in June to taste over 1500 wines over five days, and I can tell you there was a great deal of excitement in the judges’ room – I believe there were some leaping out of seats. Canadian wine quality has never been better, nor evolution so rapid. This is reflected by increases in the medal counts, and the emergence of new stars.

Days after the judging I was invited to attend the annual general meeting of the Canadian Vintners Association (CVA) in Kelowna, and sat transfixed as experts stood up to address the issues facing Canadian wine across the country. Direct inter-provincial shipping, selling wine in grocery stores and educating Canadians about alcohol-related health issues and safe drinking guidelines were all discussed in detail.

Some will not be aware of the Canadian Vintners Association, even though it is celebrating its 49th year of existence. With a 3.5 person office in Ottawa, but a membership of about 60 mostly large and mid-size wineries representing 90% of the wine produced in Canada, it is the industry’s mechanism for dealing with national regulatory issues, standards and policies. It is also involved in market study and analysis, developing wine exports, and most recently establishing marketing materials through a database at that includes info on all 675 wineries in Canada.

The CVA’s political connectedness was on display at the Kelowna AGM. No fewer than five federal MPs from BC and Ontario were in attendance with a sixth sending his regrets. Through lobbying efforts by the CVA these MPs have formed an all-party parliamentary Canadian wine caucus, giving Canadian wine the loudest voice in the House that it has ever had. That voice is exactly what is needed for Canadian wine to move ahead.

Direct to Consumer Interprovincial Shipping

Vance Badaway

Vance Badaway, MP Niagara Centre

The politicians and CVA members were most vocal about getting Canadian wine moving freely and directly across all provincial boundaries in Canada. Alas, there was no breakthrough to announce in terms of more provinces dropping their opposition, but I was surprised by how loud, frequent and public the CVA and its members, as well as the politicians, have become – insisting that action be taken sooner rather than later. There was a mood in the room.

By way of background, two of the MPs – Dan Albas, Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola, and Ron Canaan, Kelowna Lake Country, were instrumental back in 2012 in creating a private members bill to overturn Bill C311 that made it illegal to carry or ship wine for personal use across provincial borders. Their bill received an historic, unanimous vote in the House of Commons, but it was left to individual provinces to agree, or not. To date only Manitoba, British Columbia and Nova Scotia have allowed their citizens to freely import Canadian wine from other provinces.

Newly elected Liberal MP Vance Badaway of Niagara Centre gently approved of the movement when he addressed the CVA membership. “I am committed to supporting the wine industry and helping with efficiencies and market development. And we are going to park party politics and work to get things done,” he said. Whether rhetoric or not, it demonstrates sympathy. And wine is now firmly entwined in broader discussions about eradicating interprovincial trade irritants. This is all a step forward.

Loblaws Outlines Plans for Selling Wine in Grocery Stores

Greg Ramier, Senior Vice President, Loblaws

Greg Ramier, Senior Vice President, Loblaws

With grocery store wine sales rolling out this year in B.C. and Ontario, the most highly anticipated presenter was Greg Raimer, Senior Vice-President of Wholesale, Gas, Liquor and Tobacco for the Loblaws group of companies. The retailing of wine by Loblaws is underway in Alberta, and in a pilot project in New Brunswick. So Mr. Raimer has their corporate strategy well thought out, and he opened his presentation with a bold prediction:

“Within 20 years wine will be sold in grocery stores right across Canada” he said. Amen, I said under my breath, but can we make that sooner?

Most of his presentation outlined how wine will fit at Loblaws stores, differentiating the grocery shopping environment from state and privately run stores where food is not involved. And for those who think that supermarkets will become a trash heap for cheap, giant brands, you may want to think again.

“Our strategy is to elevate the shopping experience” Mt. Raimer explained, “by offering, diversity, uniqueness and education.” He went on to say they are looking to provide occasion-based in-store retailing, solution-based retailing, as well local, organic and healthy products, all of which dovetail with modern trends in grocery retailing.

Then came his second telling comment. “The average grocery store bill is about $40. We have found that when there is a bottle of wine in the cart, the average bill is closer to $80. Shoppers who buy wine for dinner almost always spend more on food”.

He said that Loblaws was not looking to make wine a huge profit centre in itself, but it was an up-selling tool. “We want to offer wine from $10 to $100 per bottle” he said. It’s worth noting that the Ontario government has currently set $10.95 as a floor price in supermarkets.

It is a good thing that Loblaws is not looking to make bushels of money selling wine in Ontario, because government regulations will be capping grocery store wine margins at 4%.

At the moment we don’t know how many of the first 70 licenses awarded in 2016 in Ontario will go to Loblaws, or whether other grocers will have the same perspective on wine sales. But Raimer did say he thought we would see wine in grocery store starting to roll out at the end of October, to catch the holiday spending season. So we will know before long.

After the meeting I asked him how Loblaws will be purchasing wine, given that the LCBO is the wholesaler. He said that grocery stores that sell imports (about half of the initial 70 licences) must buy wines pre-selected by the LCBO that are stocked in the LCBO warehouse. This does not include stocks from the Consignment Warehouse, from which agents sell direct to licensees.

Grocery stores selling Ontario wine (all of them) will be able to buy from the LCBO or directly from the wineries, at LCBO dictated prices that ensures government gets its cut. This will at least give many Ontario wines a much needed boost in their retail distribution.

Health & Social Responsibility

Rita Notarandrea, CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA)

Rita Notarandrea, CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA)

As impressed as I was with all the speakers, it was Rita Notarandrea, CEO of the Canadian Centre of Substance Abuse, who made perhaps the most thought-provoking presentation, which in the end urged Canadian vintners to take a leading role in educating the public about the harms of alcohol over-use and abuse.

They ignore her at their peril.

The Canadian Centre for Substance Abuse is an organization mandated by an Act of Parliament in 1988. Its role is to track alcohol and drug usage, abuse and addiction, and to find ways to educate the public on the harms of unsafe usage.

“We are not out to promote abstinence or abolition of alcohol” she assured the winemakers, several times. Although she did say there are those in the health field who would like to do that, and that there is “a groundswell among health professionals who want more regulation”.

She also said that much of her current work surrounds the impending legalization of marijuana in Canada, but she focused on alcohol this day.

“Canada has a deep seated drinking culture” she said. She reported that 76.5% over the age of 25 consumed alcohol in last year, 82% aged 19 to 24, and 60% under age. She said that 36% of Canadians qualify as “risky drinkers”, consuming more than the recommended amounts of “ two drinks a day, 10 per week for women, and three drinks a day, 15 per week for men, with an extra drink allowed on special occasions”.

She said “alcohol abuse costs Canada $14.6 billion dollar per year”, and estimates that alcohol-related deaths would be reduced by approximately 4,600 per year if the guidelines were followed.

So she asked the Canadian wine industry for help in educating the public – in two specific ways.

Most controversially she asked them to help come up with a way to include more detailed safe drinking guidelines and social responsibility messaging on wine labels. There was opposition by some vintners to the idea of giving up more “label real estate”, but some thought there might be “an elegant way” to do it.

I was most impressed by her “elegant” idea of developing labels specific to the size of the bottle and the type of alcohol (by volume) therein. My head spins trying to figure out labels that try to do this universally, as on Australian wines, that utilize one label for all types of alcohol in all sizes of packaging.

Ms. Notarandrea’s second request was to enlist winery help in disseminating The Centre’s “Low Risk Drinking Guidelines” now available in printed format and online.

And I don’t see any reason why wineries and wine writers shouldn’t be directing readers to these guidelines too. Somehow the “please drink responsibly message” seems just a bit shallow in the face of the magnitude of this issue.

Wine Drinkers Are More Moderate Consumers of Alcohol

John Mohler, Vice President, Ipsos Canada

John Mohler, Vice President, Ipsos Canada

There were two other presentations but I am going to end of with partial results of an alcohol consumption survey conducted by John Mohler, Vice President of Ipsos Canada, a national polling firm.

It is the result of a project now in its second year that has 1,000 Canadians from coast to coast keeping a daily diary of their alcohol consumption – how much, what kinds of alcohol, how often they mix, where, when and with whom they drink.

In a typical day the respondents drank two glasses of wine, or 2.3 glasses of beer, or 2.1 glasses of spirits, comfortably within the “Low Risk Drinking Guidelines”.

Among those who drink wine 84% stop after two glasses. For those who drink more than that 63% stay with wine. Among beer and spirit drinkers 75% stop after two drinks, not a wide margin of difference.

Among wine drinkers, 61% drink wine with dinner and another 18% while grazing (the latter percentage higher among millennials). It is a stat that leapt off the screen, a much larger percentage than beer and spirits.

Where, dear reader and imbiber, do you fit in?

See you next month, with analysis and recommendations from the National Wine Awards. Meanwhile here are links to ten Canadian wines I poured at the Fine Vintage Canadian Wine Scholar course in Kelowna on the heels of the CVA meeting.  More courses are coming up across Canada coming up this fall:  Toronto  Sept 10/11 , Edmonton Oct 15/16, Calgary Oct 22/23, Kelowna Oct 29/30 and Vancouver Nov 5/6. More details are available here.

Whites and Sparkling

Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs Brut Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Steel Post Vineyard 2014 Rosehall Run Chardonnay Jcr Rosehall Vineyard 2014 Meyer Family Mclean Creek Vineyard Chardonnay 2014 Le Vieux Pin Ava 2014

Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs Brut, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario

Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling Steel Post Vineyard 2014, Beamsville Bench, Ontario

Rosehall Run Chardonnay JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2014, Prince Edward County, Ontario

Meyer Family Mclean Creek Vineyard Chardonnay 2014, Okanagan Valley, B.C.

Le Vieux Pin Ava 2014, Okanagan Valley, B.C.


Le Chateau De La Grange Le Chant Des Vignes 2012 Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2014 Rosewood Origin Merlot 2012 Orofino Wild Ferment Syrah 2015 Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2012

Le Chateau de La Grange Le Chant Des Vignes 2012, Quebec

Norman Hardie County Unfiltered Pinot Noir 2014, Prince Edward County, Ontario

Rosewood Origin Merlot 2012, Beamsville Bench, Ontario

Orofino Wild Ferment Syrah 2015, Similkameen Valley, B.C.

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2012, Okanagan Valley, B.C.



Wine Country Ontario

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An Exclusive Four-Course Dinner Featuring the Wines of Tabalí

On Tuesday, July 19th, join us for an exclusive four-course dinner and tutored tasting featuring the wines of Tabalí. Chief winemaker Felipe Müller will be joined by WineAlign’s David Lawrason to guide you through this Limarí experience.

Tabalí was one of the first wineries to settle in the Limarí Valley in Chile. They are passionate about producing the highest quality wines by carefully balancing all elements, growing healthy vines, a careful selection of grapes and ultimately the best winemaking techniques. Their young and enthusiastic team are dedicated to producing wines that wine lovers around the world can taste and enjoy.

Tabali Winemakers Dinner - Purchase Tickets


Event Details:

Date: Tuesday, July 19th, 2016

Location:  The Shore Club (155 Wellington St W, Toronto, ON)

Reception: 6:30pm

Dinner: 7:00pm

Tickets: $124 per person (plus tax and fees)

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

Menu and Wine List

Reception Wines
2014 Tabalí Reserve Especial Sauvignon Blanc & 2013 Tabalí ‘Talinay’ Pinot Noir

First Course
Summer Gazpacho
2014 Tabalí Sauvignon Blanc

Second Course
Seafood Ceviche
Featuring Shellfish and Local White Fish
2013 Tabalí Reserva Especial Chardonnay

Third Course
Family Style Dinner
Grilled Canadian Prime Ribeye Steaks and Roasted Chicken
Served with Fingerling Potatoes and Seasonal Vegetables
2013 Tabalí Reserva Especial Cabernet Franc & 2012 Tabalí Reserva Especial Syrah

Fourth Course
Dessert Platters
Mini Brownies, Fruit Tarts & Key Lime Pie
Coffee Service

Tabali Winemakers Dinner - Purchase Tickets

About the Winemaker:

Felipe Müller was born and raised in Santiago, Chile’s capital. Today, at the age of 41, he is considered one of the country´s most influential and important winemakers.

In 2006 he joined Tabalí as Chief Winemaker. According to Felipe Müller “Tabalí, though relatively young, has enormous potential, as shown by its outstanding Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Syrah wines”. The winery’s goal is to make the finest wines of the Limari Valley and ultimately become a reference at a national level, by exploring new terroir, new plantations and new selections of clones. Felipe Müller was named ‘Best Winemaker of the Year’ in the sixteenth version of “Guía de Vinos de Chile 2010”, Chile’s oldest and most prestigious wine industry publication. This distinction was an important recognition for the enthusiasm, passion, and dedication he puts in crafting wines. “Wine is my passion and an important part of my life. I feel capable of leveraging the knowledge I’ve built throughout these many years”, says Felipe.

Felipe Müller

Felipe Müller – Managing Director & Chief Winemaker At Viña Tabalí

In the year 2011, Felipe was appointed as Manager Director, keeping his position as Chief Winemaker. From then Felipe was not only responsible for the quality of the wines but also for the global strategy of the company.

In January 2014 Felipe Müller was chosen ‘Best Young Winemaker’ (next to Aurelio Montes who was chosen Best Senior Winemaker) by El Mercurio, Chile’s leading newspaper.

Felipe will be joined by WineAlign’s David Lawrason.

Tabali Winemakers Dinner - Purchase Tickets

Tabali Winemakers Dinner


About The Shore Club

The Shore Club is right in the heart of downtown Toronto. A vibrant restaurant and cocktail bar offering up lively ambiance. The Shore Club is memorable for its atmosphere, professional service and outstanding cuisine.

Located in the new RBC Centre, the restaurant is situated in Toronto’s bustling Entertainment District and is just steps away from prominent cultural venues such as Roy Thomson Hall, David Pecaut Square and TIFF Bell Lightbox, making it an ideal pre-performance dinner destination.

With its luxurious, contemporary décor, The Shore Club elevates dining to a true feast for the senses. The interior, curated by renowned designer Elaine Thorsell, pays homage to art deco ocean liners, boasting soaring ceilings, a palette of cool blue and green hues and stunning original artwork.

The Shore Club

Our winemaker events have been consistently and quickly selling out.  If you are interested in attending then we advise you to purchase your tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Tabali Winemakers Dinner - Purchase Tickets


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Canadian Wine: Building Presence at the Chef’s Table

The Canadian Wine Report – June 2016
by David Lawrason

David Lawrason - Bonne Belle Photography, Gold Medal Plates 2016

David Lawrason

The wines of Canada are ideal dinner companions – polite and interesting. Thanks to our generally cool climate they have essential natural acidity to cut and refresh the palate. They have lower to moderate alcohol levels that do not dominate food, and certainly the better quality wines have the fruit expression, depth and complexity to work with any flavours and textures a chef can create from our oceans, lakes, rivers, fields, orchards, tundras and forests. Our wines are so Canadian.

However, we don’t see them in every restaurant in the country because many of our chefs and sommeliers do not have the confidence to serve them, which of course reflects on their perceived ability to sell them. So we are still essentially a nation of imported wine drinkers.

With small production from only 30,000 acres coast to coast (Napa Valley alone has 43,000) and a population of 35 million, Canada is not yet producing enough wine to serve its own populace. Overlay the fact that certain (not all) liquor boards still to this day actively work to block our wines moving freely across the country. The challenges are enormous, but we are working on it.

For the past seven years I have been deeply involved in putting Canadian wines, chefs and consumers on at the same table through Gold Medal Plates. This is a national chef competition with regional events in ten cities that culminates with the Canadian Culinary Championships held every February in Kelowna, B.C. Each of the competitions is attended by 500 to 700 people depending on the city and venue size. The proceeds go to Canada’s Olympic athletes and the Own the Podium program, for which Gold Medal Plates has raised over $11 million in ten years.  It is all about promoting excellence in Canadian food, sport, entertainment and wine.

The chefs “must” use VQA or wine 100% grown and made in Canada. No imports or “Cellared in Canada” (the BC terminology) or “International Canadian Blends” (Ontario terminology) are permitted. Furthermore, they must work with wineries to come up with donated wine that actually works well with the dishes they are creating. The success of their pairing accounts for 10% of the culinary judges’ scoring, and in close competitions, that can be a deal breaker.

Since 2008, over 700 Canadian wine pairings have been created by Canadian chefs. As such, Gold Medal Plates Chief Culinary Judge James Chatto has had a detailed look at the evolution of Canadian wines in this competition.

“In GMP’s early years (pre-2010) we heard chefs and their sommeliers grumbling about having to use Canadian wine”, says Mr. Chatto. “They weren’t used to it at all. For them, I suspect, it has been a useful journey of discovery. Certainly, the grumbling has stopped. I would also maintain that the quality of wines the chefs are choosing has risen dramatically, partly because wineries increasingly understand that this is a great showcase for their products.”

Cameron - Wine PairingLepine - Wine Pairing

I am not a culinary judge because I lack the training, but every year I travel to each of the ten cities and taste most of the chefs’ pairings. I am on the floor with the paying guests listening to their reactions, with most being very positive indeed. Not every match is great, and sometimes the chefs will use “a big name” wine to impress, without paying much heed to the match, which to me expresses some lack of confidence in their wine pairing abilities. Overall, the Canadian wines do show the acidity that keeps the palate nicely refreshed through a long evening and often lend a sense of elegance.

James Chatto agrees. “We see a lot of competition dishes that are very refined, intricate and subtle, very few that are hearty or heavy. There are so many Canadian wines that pair beautifully with this kind of detailed cuisine – delicate but sharp bubblies, crisp, aromatic whites, nimble reds. Their acidity and minerality are assets that a smart chef can exploit.

“Last year, for example, Martín Ruiz Salvador (Fleur de Sel, Lunenberg) made a sensational match of a Nova Scotian Chardonnay with his whelk-and-rabbit creation. Then again, if a chef decides to do something richer with moose or caribou or foie gras we have enough big reds from warm years and late harvest gems to choose from.”

The Mystery Wine Competition

Tawse Gamay Noir 2014One element of the Canadian Culinary Championship has become a great barometer of a chef’s interaction with Canadian wine. The Mystery Wine Competition is the first of three contests, wherein I select one wine from somewhere in Canada around which each chef must create a matching dish. They do not know that identity of the wine until after the competition, which means they must focus in on the wine’s structure and flavours for guidance – not some textbook or pre-conceived classic match. Likewise all 400 guests are drinking the same wine blind, which focuses them in the same way.

This year I chose Tawse 2014 Gamay Noir from Niagara, an oh-so typical cool climate Canadian red that forced the chefs to keep things subtle, but allowed them, possibly, a range of base options from fish to poultry, vegetarian or red meat. Only two went the fish route and one did poultry, and one did both, with the remainder trying red meat only, less successfully in my view.

“We still see the odd chef who shows up with pre-determined ideas about what he or she wants to cook, and then has to twist those plans around to fit the wine,” says James Chatto.  “But the smart ones start with an open mind. This year, the Tawse Gamay conjured up similar responses in a number of competitors – lots of beets, lots of earthy and smoky components, a surprising amount of goat’s cheese!”

The winning chef for this leg of the competition, and the overall championship, was Marc Lepine from L’Atelier in Ottawa. He created a very fine, intricate dish that he tongue-in-cheek called “Surf and Turf” with ling cod and oxtail bridged by a number of ingredients like fried potato, beets, broth and fennel.  “Yes, there was a lot going on in this dish” explained Mr. Chatto,” but the internal harmonies were finely judged and the wine match was subtle but most effective”.

Salvador - Wine PairingAndrews - Wine Pairing

The full results of the Canadian Culinary Championships, including James Chatto’s blow-by-blow descriptions of all the competing dishes and wine matches can be found on the Gold Medal Plates website.

Meanwhile here are links to the top wines in each city event, as judged by yours truly with teams of local wine writers, retailers and sommeliers. Each wine was assembled at the Canadian Culinary Championships and judged all over again to determine the Best Wine of Gold Medal Plates 2015. We lead off with the top three:

Gold Medal Plates Wine of the Year

Le Vieux Pin 2014 Ava
Osoyoos-Black Sage, Okanagan Valley
Presented in Saskatoon

Gold Medal Plates First Runner-up

Bachelder Wismer Vineyard 2012 Chardonnay
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula
Presented in Ottawa

Second Runner-Up
Foxtrot Estate 2012 Henricsson Vineyard Pinot Noir
Naramata Bench, Okanagan Valley
Presented in Victoria

Le Vieux Pin Ava 2014 Bachelder Wismer Vineyard Chardonnay 2012 Foxtrot Henricsson Vineyard Pinot Noir 2012

Other Top Wines

L’Acadie Blanc Prestige Brut Zero Dosage
Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia
Presented in Halifax

Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut
Okanagan Falls, Okanagan Valley
Presented in Winnipeg

Road 13 Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2011
Golden Mile, Okanagan Valley
Presented in Calgary

L'Acadie Brut Prestige Zero Dosage 2010 Blue Mountain Gold Label Brut Road 13 Sparkling Chenin Blanc 2011

Norman Hardie 2012 Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir
Niagara Peninsula
Presented in Regina

Bartier Bros. 2011 Cerqueira Vineyard Syrah
Black Sage Bench, Okanagan Valley
Presented in Edmonton

Mcwatters Collection 2012 Meritage
Black Sage Bench, Okanagan Valley
Presented in St. John’s

Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2010
Osoyoos, Okanagan Valley
Presented in Toronto

Norman Hardie Unfiltered Niagara Pinot Noir 2012 Bartier Bros. Syrah Cerqueira Vineyard 2011 McWatters Collection Meritage 2012 Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2010

Editors Note: You can find David’s 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. You can also explore the wineries of Canada on WineAlign here: Canada’s Winery Regions

Photo credits:

David top right: Bonne Belle Photography, Gold Medal Plates 2016

Food images: Deon Nel Photography, Gold Medal Plates 2016

Win a Weekend in Wine Country

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – Jun 11, 2016

Zinfandel, Straight Up Please
by David Lawrason with notes from Michael Godel and Sara d’Amato

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

California’s “heritage” grape has fallen on ignoble times. Zinfandel, which is featured in the June 11th release, certainly has its proponents; indeed there is an entire fan club in California called ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers), and I am sure there are zin purists on the executive. But zinfandel has become a clown prince, with copywriters and marketers squeezing out every possible pun and alliteration around its name, and winemakers throwing every possible confection into America’s vinous milkshake. The problem is that zin’s natural ripeness, warmth and richness is just so easy to exploit and caricaturize. It has become the Donald Trump of American wines – the coiffed buffoon.

Zinfandel – also known as primitivo in southern Italy – was brought to America during the gold rush era of the 19th Century by Italian emigres. They have left a strong legacy in California winemaking – Gallo, Mondavi, Sebastiani and Trinchero of Sutter Home. (Sutter’s Creek was where gold was first discovered in the Sierrra Nevada in 1849). Many zin vineyards were planted around the state, concentrated in the foothills of Amador County, Paso Robles and Sonoma County. Some of those sites are still producing wonderful wines with uniquely perfumed, pure black fruit and fruit aromas. And many are safely in the hands of earnest wineries like Ridge, Seghesio and Paul Dolan, three of the producers represented on VINTAGES release. Plus Larry Turley, the high priest of California zin.

The Turley Zins

I attended a tasting of Turley zins in Toronto in early May, hosted by importer Rob Groh of The Vine, who was showing the tightly allocated range to downtown somms at Momofuku. The wines were presented by Larry Turley’s daughter Christina, who could single-handedly reverse the fortunes of the grape California like to call its own. She has already made the Forbes magazine’s list of Top 30 Under 30, and with good reason. She is erudite, intelligent and comes across in a very engaging way. She knows every inch of detail about the soils and climates of the single vineyard zins she presented.

Christina Turley

Christina Turley – Turley Wine Cellars


And it was here in the glasses that zinfandel’s pedigree and potential really showed – with its wonderful brambly fruit. I urge you to link to the reviews presented below for the full descriptions. You may be shocked to see some of them at $70 or $80 per bottle, but these are great wines, offering far more quality and value than most California cabs at the same price. Turley zins are available from The Vine Agency through Consignment, but they sell out quickly, so ask about their mailing list.

Turley Zinfandel Juvenile 2014

Turley Zinfandel Kirschenmann Vineyard 2014

Turley Mead Ranch Zinfandel 2014

Turley Rattlesnake Ridge Zinfandel 2014

You may not be able to buy the Turley zins this weekend, but you do have a shot at those we recommend below from the June 11 release. Seghesio leads the pack, from yet another Italian family that has staked its reputation on the heritage grape. Ridge too built its early fortunes largely on isolating old vine zin sites across the state. And Paul Dolan – a pioneer of organic winemaking in Caliornia – has long favoured zinfandel as well, sourcing this wine from sites in Mendocino County.

And then there are several other wines worthy of your attention on this release.

Buyers’ Guide to June 11th: Zinfandels

Seghesio 2014 Zinfandel, Sonoma County, California ($29.95)
David Lawrason – This is a handsome zin, not a word I have ever used before, but it fits. So often zins are outgoing and brash, but this has solid, tucked-in elegance while still being broad shouldered. The fruit is nicely ripened – classic blackberry, plum – with well etched floral notes, and supporting oak vanillin.
Michael Godel – Here is a prime example of taking big bones and aligning them for structure. Maximum ripeness, optimum acidity and fine-grained tannins all on the same page.

Paul Dolan 2013 Zinfandel, Mendocino County, California ($29.95)
David Lawrason – This is an organically grown zinfandel from Paul Dolan, one of the pioneers of “green” winemaking in California back in his Fetzer days. This sports a lovely floral (peony) nose with classic zin brambleberry fruit, a hint of evergreen, fine oak spice and cedar.
Sara d’Amato – In a release feature of bold, high alcohol wines, this zinfandel from Paul Dolan stands out.  Sleek with moderate alcohol, great varietal typicity and authentic fruit flavours. It is hard not appreciate the purity of this unadulterated zinfandel.

Seghesio Zinfandel 2014Paul Dolan Zinfandel 2013 Ridge Lytton Springs 2013

Ridge 2013 Lytton Springs, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County ($57.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very elegant, concentrated and refined zin with impressive length and depth. But cooked fruit aromas in two bottles drop my rating.
Michael Godel – From the vineyard planted in 1902, with petite sirah as the number two support to Zinfandel (as opposed to Geyserville). Tremendous balance in a characterful field blend red.
Sara d’Amato – Using sustainable farming and pre-industrial techniques, Ridge relies on expressive vineyard sites to produce impressively concentrated wines with distinct aromatic profiles. This zinfandel, bolstered by petit sirah, is produced from vines planted in 1902 and exudes the befitting sensuality and impact of such a historic vineyard.

Buyers’ Guide to June 11th: Worthy Whites & Reds

Fielding 2014 Estate Riesling, Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Fielding continues to burn brightly. This is a squeaky clean riesling with a hint of sweetness, then bracing lemon-lime acidity. Crisp, tart-edged and mouth-watering. The 2015 Unoaked Chardonnay is great value too.

Flat Rock 2015 Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling, Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula ($24.95)
Michael Godel – Nadja’s vineyard contiguously brings great riesling terroir from off of the Twenty Mile Bench. In 2015 this is a great Nadja to be sure but of a deferential sort of character.

Fielding Estate Riesling 2014 Flat Rock Nadja's Vineyard Riesling 2015 Whitehaven Pinot Gris 2014 St. Paul's Pinot Grigio 2014

Whitehaven 2014 Pinot Gris, Marlborough, New Zealand ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Pinot Gris is ascending in NZ! This has a lovely, ripe, rich but not overbearing nose of peach, grapefruit, fennel and mint. Very good fruit depth and concentration. Very impressive and great value.

St. Paul’s 2014 Pinot Grigio, Alto Adige, Italy ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – Exuberantly floral with body from fine lees ageing, this surprisingly complex pinot grigio is worth some serious attention. Compelling and widely appealing, enjoy as an aperitif or with grilled shrimp.

Quails’ Gate 2014 Pinot Noir, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada ($27.95)
Sara d’Amato – One of the best incarnations of Quails’ Gate pinot noir to date. Supremely elegant showing purity of fruit and careful winemaking guidance. Not to be missed.

Tabalí 2013 Talinay Pinot Noir, Coastal Limestone Vineyard, Limarí Valley ($27.95)
Michael Godel – Limestone and maritime influences converge in this highly perfumed pinot noir. At $28 it is a terrific, unexpected find.

Quails' Gate Pinot Noir 2014 Tabalí Talinay Pinot Noir 2013 Creekside Estate Laura's Red 2012 Brigaldara Valpolicella 2014

Creekside Estate 2012 Laura’s Red Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)
David Lawrason – The excellent 2012 vintage was kind to Laura’s Red, one of the better value “Bordeaux” blends in the market. It is youthfully purple-ruby in colour and has very good flavour depth, ripeness, intensity and structure. Best 2018 to 2023.

Brigaldara 2014 Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy ($15.95)
Sara d’Amato – With finesse and complexity that you rarely find in a Valpolicella level wine, this stunner from Brigaldara will have you captivated. This is a steal at under $16 so don’t miss out before this flies off the shelves.

Château Grand Moulin 2012 Vieilles Vignes, Corbières, France ($15.95)
David Lawrason – This is a quite intense, somewhat taut and brittle, quite savoury red with good acid backbone. A great buy that should hold in the cellar for five years, but you may just want to drink it now to capture its exuberance.

Byron & Harold 2013 Rose & Thorns Shiraz, Great Southern, Western Australia  ($19.95)
Michael Godel – Just as every rose has its thorn, Western Australia has its knight is shining armour in Great Southern. A cool, long drink of shiraz with relative cool climate acidity. Special value here.

Château Grand Moulin Vieilles Vignes 2012 Byron & Harold Rose & Thorns Shiraz 2013 Domaine La Fourmone Le Poète Vacqueyras 2013 Olivier & Lafont Gigondas 2013

Domaine La Fourmone 2013 Le Poète, Vacqueyras, Rhône Valley, France ($29.95)
Michael Godel – Le Poète indeed. Poetic and stunning, fluid, natural and effortless. This is exactly what restrained Rhône and vacuous Vacqueyras need to be.

Olivier & Lafont 2013 Gigondas, Rhone, France ($29.95)
Sara d’Amato – The fruit in this wine is so opulent and spicy that it may distract from the absence of oak. This concrete aged Gigondas offers splendid garrigue and southern charm. The Olivier & Lafont range focuses on producing wines of sensual pleasure and this example certainly delivers.

And that’s it for this edition. John and team will back the end of next week to preview the south of France feature on the June 25th release. There will also be a Canada Day feature for the following week, perhaps with some insights from the National Wine Awards of Canada that we all will be judging in Penticton, B.C. from June 22 to 26th. Stay tuned, and drink good wine.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES June 11, 2016

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Mix
Sara’s Spotlight on June 11th Sparkling
All June 11 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!

Stags' Leap Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon

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Winery Profile: Westcott Vineyards

A quest to make fine sparkling, pinot noir and chardonnay up on Vinemount Ridge
Text and photos by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The first thing that struck me upon arriving at the Westcott Vineyards in Niagara, was that the vineyards are on a south facing slope. In that instant, this improbable project made sense.

Up on the Vinemount Ridge appellation south of Jordan and atop the Niagara Escarpment, vines miss the moderating effects of Lake Ontario, but south-facing slopes with longer and stronger sun exposure enables the ripening of earlier varieties like pinot noir and chardonnay.

Creating an estate winery focused on these Burgundy varieties has been the goal of Carolyn and Grant Westcott since they began searching for land in Niagara in 2005. Carolyn grew up in nearby Font Hill.

“We looked originally on the Bench, recalls Grant, “but there was just nothing available”. The plot that caught their eye was a stone’s throw from vineyards belonging to the Staff family, and over a rise from a large vineyard planted for Le Clos Jordanne.

They were further encouraged by local authorities like former Brock University viticulturist Kevin Ker, PhD., also known as “Dr. Dirt”.  And by local winemaker Thomas Bachelder who then introduced them to French viticulturist Alain Sutre, well-known consultant to several projects in Niagara and British Columbia.

Arthur Harder, Carolyn and Grant Westcott

Arthur Harder, Carolyn and Grant Westcott

In 2007 they began planting the 27-acre site, but it would be 2012 before any wine was made. Their location in the protected Niagara Escarpment region meant approvals for building a winery were delayed. “Our friends kept asking, ‘where’s the wine’? Grant laughs.

But the real challenges were still to come, in the cold winters of 2014 and 2015. “They were simply unreasonable winters” he said.

The Westcotts knew that their Vinemount Ridge site risked winter damage and they had prepared by placing wind turbines on the brow of their slope. However, they discovered in 2014 that the circulation from the fans did not reach a lower parcel bordering 17 Mile Creek near the winery, and that section was lost.

The following winter they “hilled up”, piling earth around the trunk and lower cane to insulate the vines in that section from the cold. They also realized they shouldn’t let fruit hang too late into the autumn, which weakens the vines for the upcoming winter. Still they lost 40% of their pinot noir in 2015.

Other aspects of the site, however, are ideal. It is essentially clay-loam soils with some areas having more limestone. The yields are low, which is ideal for quality chardonnay and pinot noir. As well, it is a windy site which reduces humidity and fungus pressure that can be severe in Niagara.

Arthur Harder, Winemaker

Arthur Harder, Winemaker

“We are not organic and will use synthetic sprays if we absolutely must,” says Carolyn, “but we are farming as naturally as we can”.

With production beginning to ramp up in 2012, and a new winery finally rising on the property, the Westcott’s went in search of a winemaker and found veteran Arthur Harder.  “I am really enjoying the focus on sparkling wine, chardonnay and pinot noir” Harder said, “and the fact that my winemaking here is more barrel focused”.

Indeed the barrel work is quite evident in the first commercially released 2013 chardonnays and pinot noirs where oak and oxidative notes crowd the fruit. The structure and depth are excellent, which is very promising for future vintages. And I was very impressed tasting 2015s from the barrel, although, again, quantities from this cold stricken vintage will be relatively small.

Carolyn Westcott and Emma

Carolyn Westcott and Emma

The wines are labelled and priced in two tiers. The less expensive, less wooded wines carry intriguing names like Violete, Lillius, Delphine and Temperance. Each refers to a strong-willed, independent minded woman from high society of the early 20th Century.

Violette, for example, is a sparkling wine named after Violette Selfridge, a pilot who flew a Gyspy Moth airplane around the world in 1928. Delphine is named for Delphine Dodge (of the motor company) a debutante who raced boats in the 1920s. Temperance is a wink at Carolyn’s great grandmother who was involved with the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement that led to Prohibition of alcohol in the early part of the 20th Century.

The Wines

The Westcott portfolio is centred on sparkling, chardonnay and pinot noir, all from estate vines. Here are our recommended wines. You can click on any of the wine names or bottle images to read full reviews from the WineAlign team:

Westcott 2015 Violette ($24.95) – This is a less aged, dry, mid-weight sparkler with crisp acidity and lifted pear, lemon fruit and firm, almost mineral finish.

Westcott 2013 Brilliant ($29.95) – Aged 14 months on lees this is a quite refined and elegant bubbly with more evolved earthy, dried fruit flavours.

Westcott 2013 Lillias (Unoaked) Chardonnay ($20.00) – A well balanced, dry, maturing and nicely structured chardonnay. The 2015 is available shortly.

Westcott Vineyards Violette Sparkling BrutWestcott Vineyards Brilliant Methode Traditionnelle 2013 Westcott Lillias Unoaked Chardonnay 2013 Westcott Vineyards Lenko Old Vine Chardonnay 2014

Westcott 2014 Chardonnay Old Vine Lenko Vineyard ($32.95) – A firm, intense mineral driven chardonnay from the oldest chardonnay vines in Ontario. Outstanding length.

Westcott 2013 Estate Chardonnay ($26) – A maturing, quite full bodied, well textured chardonnay with lemon, pear, herbs and nutty oak.

Westcott 2013 Delphine Rosé ($15) – This pale orange rose is dry, firm and lively with vague sour cherry and earthy notes.

Westcott Vineyards Estate Chardonnay 2013Westcott Delphine Rosé 2013Westcott Estate Pinot Noir 2013Westcott Reserve Pinot Noir 2013

Westcott 2013 Estate Pinot Noir ($30) – A mid-weight, firm pinot with cran-cherry, earthy and some green notes and sour edges. (The 2012 Estate Pinot is also available)

Wescott 2013 Reserve Pinot Noir ($46) – A barrel selection with medium weight, intense prominent cherry, spice flavours. Firm, very good to excellent length.

As a regular feature WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single winery. Our critics independently, as always, taste, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted to WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in the winery profile. Wineries 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 WineAlign. See below for more details provided by the winery.


Westcott VineyardsMore about Westcott Vineyards

Great wine, quality wine, is really a story of passionate people. Why? It’s simple. Great wine is crazy hard hand involved work that no machine can approach. It’s year round dedication to hand tending grapes and vines. Every vine and every bunch of grapes is checked, pruned, thinned, managed with every individual rotten grape pulled and every rough weather day teared and sweated. This is what quality in wine means to us, while passionate is really another word for nutty. We’re Grant and Carolyn Westcott and we’re passionate about making extraordinary wine.

Visit our website at or follow us on Facebook and Twitter

If you would like to join our mailing list to receive periodic updates from our winery, please drop us a line at :

T: 1.905.562.7517

Open Daily from 11am – 6pm


Westcott Vineyards

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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – May 28, 2016

Commemorating the 40th Year Anniversary of the Arrival of New World Wine
By David Lawrason with notes from John Szabo MS & Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

On May 24, 1976 eight California wines hand-picked by British wine merchant Steve Spurrier faced off with top Bordeaux and Burgundy in a blind tasting by French experts. It was dubbed the Judgment of Paris. And to the shock of not only the judges, but the entire wine drinking world, they did extremely well. Chateau Montelena 1973 Chardonnay beat a Meursault Premier Cru for first place; Stag’s Leap Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon topped Chateau Mouton-Rothschild 1970. A thorough reading of the results, with California nicely intermingled with the French wines, proved the top victories were no fluke.

It was of course an enormous coup for California, but really for a whole generation of pioneers and cowboys who were just beginning during the early seventies to create the foundations of the New World wine wave in places like Oregon, Australia, New Zealand and right here in Canada. Just look at where New World wine is today – 40 years later – by viewing VINTAGES catalogue and considering that here in Ontario – one of the most international markets in the world – New World wines are being consumed by a majority of consumers.

My interest in wine had germinated in 1975 when, on vacation in California, I visited my first winery, in Monterey County. I remember reading the Time magazine piece on the Judgment of Paris soon after, and being so excited that California had done so well. In the late 1970s I visited California wine country at least three more times, then in 1984 spent three months tasting and researching California wine, visiting most wineries in existence at the time (about 200) including those on the Judgment of Paris roster. I then spent two months in France that same year, cementing an understanding of where New World wine had come from, and how different it was at the time.

But times have changed. There will likely always be debate about New World wine versus Old World wine, but nowadays it is debate about style. Climates and regions create wine character and style, while good vine-growers and winemakers who have the vision, understanding of their regions and experience create quality. And viticulture, winemaking and quality have improved so much since the Judgment of Paris that the two worlds are not so much colliding, as slipping into each others arms. This makes modern attempts to repeat such tastings as the Judgment of Paris almost meaningless – at least in terms of officiating quality and declaring one country or region better than another. They become mere popularity contests.

Unquestionably the Judgment of Paris did launch California on the global scene. It is now as globally important as Bordeaux or Burgundy, that for so many years it has striven to emulate. Wines from both regions are highly respected, highly priced and sought after. And many other regions around the world have achieved this as well. Wine is in a much better place now than it was before 1976, thanks partially to that one judgment in Paris.

Earlier this month I was fortunate enough to be invited by the California Wine Institute to attend VINTAGES Judgment of Paris dinner at George restaurant in Toronto. I tasted 32 wines that night, from the eight Napa wineries that had competed in Paris. Eight of those wines are being released on May 28, which I re-tasted in the LCBO lab. The remainder are now included in a VINTAGES on-line offer at : Judgment of Paris. This edition of VINTAGES preview features WineAlign team picks from the on-shelf eight, plus my highlights from the rest of the pack. Because the latter were not tasted in proper review conditions they are not rated or fully reviewed.



Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES May 28th Selections

Ridge Monte Bello 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Santa Cruz Mountains ($191.95)
David Lawrason – At VINTAGES Judgment of Paris event, then again in the tasting lab, this towered above, and outlasted the pack in terms of length of finish. It has stupendous cabernet aromatics; so lifted and pure with cassis, mint, background meat, conifer. Great structure and depth. Deep into the cellar for now.
John Szabo – The 2013 iconic Montebello from Ridge stands in its own league in this Judgment of Paris revival, an arch-classic, monumental wine of staggering structure and proportion. A lovely savoury-mineral note sits out on the leading edge, while the palate shows epic (a word I don’t use lightly) concentration allied to balance in this vintage of pitifully low yields, driven by a second straight year of drought stress. Length is simply outstanding. This is really nowhere near prime drinking – I’d speculate another 5-7 years minimum to relax, soften and shift into the mature flavour spectrum that is the joy of drinking properly aged Montebello. Best 2023-2033.
Michael Godel – From a serious drought vintage, dry, warm and demanding, the 2013 Montebello’s Draper perfume is as heady as ever, to such effect that after one whiff this is where daydreaming takes over consciousness. Montebello is a classic, lithe and restrained blend of sheer, utter exceptionality in balance.

Ridge Vineyards Monte Bello 2013 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay 2014 Grgich Hills Estate Chardonnay 2013

Chateau Montelena 2014 Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($75.95)
David Lawrason – This is one of the most impressive chardonnays in recent memory, combining a sense of opulence in terms of flavours, plus power, intensity and restrained finesse. And compared to the prices of its peers on this release, as well as top white Burgundies to which is still compares today, it is actually a good buy.
John Szabo – The 1973 Château Montelena, made by a young Mike Grgich, took top spot in the 1976 tasting, and remains one of the classiest whites in northern California. The fruit source has changed (most aren’t aware that 40% of the fruit for the ’73 came from the Bacigalupi estate in Sonoma County, which recently began bottling its own wine), but I love the perfectly pitched nature of this 2014, anchored on tight, bright acids but still delivering an impressive dose of citrus-orchard fruit and beguiling floral notes. But it’s really the length and genuine depth of flavour that seals the deal here, plumbing the depths of this wine requires minutes, not seconds, to reach the bottom. A terrific wine all in all, drinking surprisingly well now, but surely better in another 2-3 years. Best 2018-2026.

Grgich Hills Estate 2013 Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($67.95)
John Szabo – Having just turned 93, Mike Grgich is involved a little less in the day-to-day operations of the business he co-founded in 1976, though his figure looms large. Nephew Ivo Jeramaz has shepherded the estate into organics/biodynamics, and crafts one of the tightest chardonnays in the Napa Valley from vineyards in cool American Canyon and Carneros in southern Napa, made, unusually, without malolactic and designed to age. This 2013 seems a little less flinty (reductive) than previous vintages, coming across as gently ripe and sensibly wood-influenced, relatively round, soft but balanced on the palate, with toasty-honeyed orchard fruit lingering alongside caramel on the finish. Admittedly I miss the intense mineral-flint note of the last vintage, but this will surely appeal more widely. Best 2016-2023.
David Lawrason – This is an organically grown nervy and powerful chardonnay with lifted slightly reductive/matchstick notes amid pineapple fruit, toast and vanilla cream. It’s full bodied, quite fleshy and warm yet dry – a big chardonnay for the cellar.
Michael Godel – Stylistically consistent yet somehow different and still the feeling remains the same. Another exceptional Chardonnay to further the winemaking legacy of Mike Grgich, maker of Chateau Montelena’s 1976 Judgment of Paris chardonnay winner.

Clos Du Val 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($59.95)
David Lawrason – Since my first visits to California in the late 70s I have had a fondness for the light more French leaning style of Clos du Val. Founder Bernard Portet was from Bordeaux. This is the most approachable of the cabernets at the moment, with pretty, soft, ripe fruit driven aromas, and lighter, quite elegant styling.
John Szabo – For more immediate pleasure, Clos du Val’s pleasantly dark and savoury, lightly herbal Napa cabernet is your best option. The estate has always favoured a more reserved, less exaggerated style, and here the palate is attractively mid-weight, with light but still grippy tannins, and lingering finish. A fine vintage for the estate, best 2016-2023.

Clos Du Val Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Heitz Chardonnay 2014 Ridge Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 Freemark Abbey Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Heitz Cellar 2014 Chardonnay, Napa Valley ($49.95)
David Lawrason – This is a very fine, tender and elegant chardonnay – more refined than most from California. It has generous if subtle aromas of lemon, vague blanched almond nuttiness, crisp apple and lightly warmed bread. Feels slender on the palate, but in any case wonderfully refined.
Michael Godel – When the Napa Valley name Heitz is mentioned it is Cabernet Sauvignon that comes to most minds, 99 per cent of the time. Chardonnay is a Heitz thing, dating back to 1961. Wound tighter than a wire around a boat winch, this 2014 just needs some time to settle in.

Ridge 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate, Monte Bello Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mountains ($74.95)
David Lawrason – Offered as a Flagship In-Store Exclusive, this too is excellent, and great value compared to the Montebello above. Also more evolved and ready to drink. It’s full bodied, dense, yet lifted and superripe. Great tension and richness.

Freemark Abbey 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley ($54.95)
David Lawrason – This is a bit of a sleeper – not as showy as those above, but worth cellaring. It is a big, brawny cab with reserved aromas of ripe blackcurrant, earth, considerable oak and dried herbs. It’s full bodied, dense, powerful and a touch warm. Into to the cellar now and out in 2020. Tasted May 2016

David’s Recommendations from VINTAGES Special Offer

Judgement of Paris

Ridge Vineyards 2014 Chardonnay, Santa Cruz Mountains, $80
Mayacamus 2013 Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $96
Freemark Abbey 2014 Chardonnay, Napa Valley, $37

Cabernet Sauvignons
Heitz 2005 Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley $310
Heitz 2004 Martha’s Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $310
Chateau Montelena 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga Napa Valley, $193
Chateau Montelena 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Calistoga Napa Valley, $203
Grgich Hills 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $117
Mayacamus 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon, Mount Veeder, $187
Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars 2013 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $279
Stag’s Leap 2010 Cask 23 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley, $280
Clos du Val 2012 Stags Leap District, Napa Valley, $126

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES May 28, 2016

Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys
Michael’s Mix
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 Cabernet Sauvignon

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2016: A Watershed (Dam Busting?) Year for Canadian Wine

The Canadian Wine Report – May 2016
by David Lawrason

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The 2016 growing season is underway across Canada, with vines galloping ahead in B.C. where temperatures have been higher than normal. In Ontario and Nova Scotia however, after a mild winter but a slow, cool spring, the buds are barely bursting as I write on May 10th. May is always a ginger moment here in the upper reaches of northern hemisphere, second only to the September harvest window as a time of anxiety and anticipation. Will the flowering be on schedule? Will late spring frosts descend? Whatever Mother Nature determines for this vintage, much in the Canadian wine retail and regulatory landscape has changed or is changing since the harvest of 2015.

Supermarket Wine Sales

Conversation and action around the introduction of supermarket wine sales has moved onto the front burner in both B.C. and Ontario.

In 2015, B.C. announced sales of BC VQA wines in supermarkets, but on a gradual basis, with a few locations established in grocery stores which have purchased licenses of existing VQA stores. This move is viewed to be expanding distribution of VQA wines beyond international trade agreements and Canadian commitments to the World Trade Organization, so it has ushered in official diplomatic protests from California, Australia, New Zealand, Mexico, Argentina and Chile. B.C. argues that the although the grocery locations are new the licenses are not; they have just been transferred. I’ll let the lawyers figure that out. On the one hand I am disappointed to see the erosion of VQA speciality stores with deep selections of BC VQA wines by staff who care. It is entirely possible that the grocery stores can mount an equal in-store experience, but will they? On the other hand, how many more consumers who have never been to a BC VQA wine store will now discover BC VQA wine in their supermarket. This is the reason for putting wine in supermarkets in the first place, and the reason to risk the international challenge.

BC Wines in Grocery Stores

In February, Ontario also announced that supermarket wine sales will be implemented this year, but the modus operandi is different. As one plank in a government initiative to liberalize wine sales, expand distribution and selection, Ontario will allow wine sales in 300 grocery stores in the years ahead (a pittance), with about 70 going on stream in 2016. In a political move to give Ontario wines a leg up while attempting to keep the international community at bay, half the new locations will sell only Ontario VQA wines, with the remainder selling a 50/50 split of both international and domestic wines. This formula is also temporary; I have read reports that this framework will dissolve by about 2022, and the supermarket channel will be wide open. Meanwhile, the LCBO seems set to re-focus on a “premium wines and on-line ordering and delivery” model that will include Ontario and imported wines currently beyond its retail offerings. Stay tuned – it’s early days as full of supposition and conjecture as the introduction of legalized marijuana. On that note, imagine the outrage from the wine community if marijuana ends up being less regulated and in freer distribution than wine.

Interprovincial Law: Order, Ship and Sip

On October 6, 2012, Gerard Comeau, a retired steelworker from Tracadie, New Brunswick, was charged for driving fifteen cases of beer and three bottles of liquor across the J.C. Van Horner Bridge over Restigouche River from Pointe-à-la-Croix and the Listiguj First Nation Indian Reserve in Quebec into Campbellton, Brunswick. His alcohol was confiscated. He decided to fight this in court, and caught the attention of a team of lawyers focused on interprovincial trade issues: Arnold Schwisberg, Mikael Bernard and Karen Selick. Comeau’s defence was funded by the Canadian Constitution Foundation which took up his cause and prepared a case that finally came to judgment in late April.

The New Brunswick judge ruled that the law forbidding interprovincial transportation of alcohol was unconstitutional. The contravened phrase in the Constitution states “All Articles of the Growth, Produce, or Manufacture of any one of the Provinces shall, from and after the Union, be admitted free into each of the other Provinces”.  We all wait to see if an appeal is forthcoming, and if it is it will very likely become a case before the Supreme Court of Canada. But even so, Canada’s provincial liquor boards, in my opinion, have certainly lost any moral authority on this issue, and consumers and wineries should just go ahead and order, ship and sip.

Mr. Comeau, meanwhile, was asked by a reporter if his confiscated beer was ever returned to him.  He replied “no, and I am thirsty”. Only in Canada, eh?

Sub-Appellations in British Columbia

Since the 2015 harvest, B.C. has thoroughly embraced the study of sub-appellations and new appellations. The BC Wine Appellation Task Force was assembled, and has recommended a significant parsing of Okanagan wine regions, which makes sense given the incredibly diverse climatic, topographical and geological make up of the Okanagan. A report was tabled, and taken to a series of ‘town-hall’ meetings for discussion through the winter. We still await official reports from that process.

BC Wine Appellation Task Group Report

However, on May 7 Anthony Gismondi reported in the Vancouver Sun that “Some committee members I spoke with suggested it could be five to ten years before any smaller sub-GIs come to fruition in the Okanagan or on Vancouver Island, due mainly to opposition from the large and medium sized wineries who are decidedly content with broad appellations that suit their winemaking. If they all vote “No,” they have enough veto power to defeat any of the recommendations and the word is they prefer things as they are”.

I was rather surprised to read this. The mid and large size wineries have the luxury and flexibility to make wines of all designations, and it would seem wise to make different tiers from different appellations for different consumers and price points.

CheckMate Queen Taken Chardonnay

But Anthony’s comment triggered a recollection of comments by Ingo Grady of Mission Hill Family Estate when he was introducing the new Von Mandl Estates Checkmate chardonnays in Toronto in April. He chided the creation of sub-appellations in Niagara (established in 2005) and referred to creating sub-apps has the “ghetto-ization” of wine. I have long known and respected Ingo, and thought at the time that this was mostly about being playfully antagonistic. But in light of Anthony Gismondi’s comments, perhaps it does reveal an anti sub-app position by larger companies. I find this thinking ironic given that the five new $100 Checkmate chardonnays, which will only be sold to upscale restaurants on allocation, are very specifically single vineyard and by extension, sub-appellation wines.

Anthony Gismondi also reported that” it was very likely” that four “emerging” regions of B.C. would be given VQA approval. As he put it: “A handful of far flung regions benefitting from climate change hope to capitalize on the thirst for local wine with the establishment of four new geographic indications (GIs). The Thompson Valley, Shuswap, Lillooet-Lytton and Kootenays will likely be added to the mix with final boundaries subject to a review in consultation with regional stakeholders”. I have tasted an admittedly small sample size from each of these regions this year in the Canadian Wine Scholar course, but I have been impressed by Harpers Trail 2013 Riesling and Baillie-Grohman 2013 Pinot Noir

Harper's Trail Silver Mane Block Riesling 2013Baillie Grohman Pinot Noir 2013 Lightfoot And Wolfville Ancienne Chardonnay 2013 Southbrook Poetica Chardonnay 2013

The Terroir Conference in Toronto

In other national news, the annual Terroir Conference held at the Art Gallery of Ontario in late April presented a seminar and tasting on the Culture of Canadian Wine in Canada. Terroir has evolved over the years to be the leading culinary and wine forum for the hospitality industry in Toronto. Our seminar was sponsored this year by Wine Country Ontario. The panel consisted of winemakers and sommeliers from Atlantic Canada, Ontario and B.C., and included two flights of wines from three provinces. As panel leader I tried in vain to steer conversation to an esoteric view of national perceptions of Canadian wine, but rightfully so attention in the 90-minute program drilled into the eleven glasses on the table – sparkling and chardonnay from five appellations in three provinces. Heidi Noble of Joie Farm in Naramata, B.C., made what I thought was the single most important observation. “All these wines are just so elegant”. From Nova Scotia check out Lightfoot and Wolfville 2013 Ancienne Chardonnay and from Ontario Southbrook Poetica 2013 Chardonnay

The WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada

National Wine Awards of CanadaLast but not least, we are looking forward to the 15th running of Canada’s leading national wine awards competition in Penticton June 22 to 26. Registration is open and deadlines are looming for entries.

The goal of The Nationals is to expose Canadian wine drinkers to the best in Canadian wines, and to provide winemakers a true benchmarking platform. There are no price categories in the competition, leaving each winery the opportunity to compete with the best wines in the country on a level playing field. More importantly, as barriers to ship wines across the country come down, the combination of winning recognition at The Nationals, and WineAlign’s ability to display the results, makes it the only competition with enduring post-competition sales opportunities. This year I plan to fully use the results of The Nationals as a springboard for commentary and discussion in this space. We are assembling the largest and finest group of judges to date, with the inclusion again of Dr. Jamie Goode of the UK and Elaine Chukan-Brown of Sonoma, California, our first American judge.

Hidden Bench Tête De Cuvée Chardonnay 2012Rosehall Run J C R Rosehall Vineyard Chardonnay 2013 Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling 2014 Spierhead Pinot Gris 2014 Laughing Stock Portfolio 2013

There is much more I could have covered in this report, but I will save some content for next time. Meanwhile, the click on the bottle images above to link to five more Canadian wines I think you might like to know about. All were encountered in a recent Canadian Wine Scholar course held in Toronto in April. Check for details on upcoming courses in Calgary and Edmonton June 18-19, Vancouver June 25-26, and Kelowna July 9-10.

If you have a minute, Wine Country Ontario would like you to answer a few questions concerning your views on travel and leisure in Ontario’s wine country. When you complete their short survey, you will be entered into a draw for your chance to win a weekend getaway in Ontario’s wine country. (See below to start the survey)


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

The Canadian Wine Report brings you News and commentary on Canadian wine from a national perspective. Which means that the subject matter, events and tastings have elements or implications beyond provincial and appellation boundaries.

Past issue: Speaking up for Canadian Wines



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Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES – May 14, 2016

Their Favourites, Our Favourites
By David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The May 14 release features 23 “Customer Favourites”, as selected by VINTAGES without any explanation of the reasoning. One can only assume they have impressive sales history – but this is not explained to us in the magazine. Do you need to know? Maybe not, but there is comfort and sway in buying something others consider favourites. We go our own way to present our picks, and explain why (hint, quality/price relationship is a rather critical element).

John has been travelling in recent days and will return with his top smart buys in next week’s report, which will also focus on New Zealand and include a report by Sara d’Amato on the New Zealand wine fairs being held in Ottawa (May 9) and Toronto (May 11 – sold out).

So right to it with our release highlights, with a reminder that you can click on David Lawrason, Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel to see the complete list of our most recent reviews.

The Whites

Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Blanc 2015, Costières De Nîmes, France ($17.95)
Michael Godel – Unctuous floral white blend in which viognier lifts grenache blanc, marssanne and roussanne. Really special vintage from Mr. Marès – the most ethereal yet.
David Lawrason – This is a very fine southern French white blend. Lovely aromas of orange blossom, star fruit, lychee and wood. Quite creamy but not overblown with some fine acidity. A summer patio winner. Great value.

Rodney Strong 2013 Chalk Hill Chardonnay, Sonoma County, California ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Sonoma is California’s bastion for refined chardonnay, and for many vintages now Rodney Strong’s Chalk Hill has been a classic motif of the genre. This is a very elegant and complex chardonnay with lovely scents of vanilla, orange Creamsicle, Crème brûlée, spice and tobacco. Priced well for the quality delivered.

Mas Des Bressades Cuvée Tradition Blanc 2015Rodney Strong Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2013 Bischofliche Weingüter Trier Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett 2013 Gehringer Brothers Classic Riesling 2014

Bischofliche Weingüter Trier Ayler Kupp Riesling Kabinett 2013, Prädikatswein, Mosel, Germany ($23.95)
Michael Godel – This is a ripe to ripping off-dry wow release with a searing tang. Wait and watch it develop for many years.

Gehringer Brothers 2014 Classic Riesling, British Columbia ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – Brothers Gordon and Walter have trained in top institutions in Germany and bring their riesling expertise to Okanagan’s Golden Mile Bench. Their focus for several decades has been on aromatic whites from dry to Icewine. This particular riesling shows a real respect for terroir exhibiting riper characteristics and more of an unctuous quality than your typical Mosel brand but still retains a lively vein of acidity keeping it balanced and focused.


Louis Bernard Tavel Rosé 2015

Rollier De La Martinette Rosé 2015

Fielding Rosé 2015Fielding Rosé 2015, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario ($15.95)
David Lawrason – Quietly Fielding has become one of the leading Niagara wineries for offering expertly made, good value VQA wines. This is a beautifully composed, balanced and fresh rosé with just the right acid-sugar balance. Sip all summer long.
Michael Godel – Some rosé just rubs the wrong way. At first sniff and sip you just know this Fielding ’15 is not one of those. In its fresh and spritely youth this is one of the most pleasurable rosés from Ontario.

Rollier De La Martinette 2015 Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France  ($19.95)
David Lawrason – Whiter Shades of Pink seems to be the new anthem for serious producers of rosé around the world, and they are looking to Provence for inspiration. This very pale Provencal rosé packs more flavour intensity than its appearance suggests. The nose shows subtle, pure sour cherry/currant fruit, rosewater, grapefruit and herbs. It’s mid-weight, firm and dry with a warm, spicy finish. A dinner wine.

Louis Bernard 2015 Tavel Rosé, Rhône, France ($21.95) (450833)
Sara d’Amato – It’s not spring without a great rosé and this classic Tavel fits the bill. To call it bottled Provence is a bit romantic but it certainly exudes typical notes of lavender and wild herbs. The fruit is nicely concentrated and there is a slight tannic edge that makes it suitable for pairing with red meat.


Domaine Courbis St Joseph 2013

Joie Farm Pinot Noir 2013

Viewpointe Focal Pointe Cabernet Franc 2010Viewpointe 2010 Focal Pointe Cabernet Franc, Lake Erie North Shore, Ontario ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Lake Erie North Shore is the warmest VQA region in Ontario, well suited to reds made from Bordeaux varieties. We see too few prime examples! This is a quite substantial, complex and deep cab franc that is maturing into prime time but holding some vitality. Expect lifted aromas of red currants, raspberry, wood smoke, capers and spice. Scores on depth and complexity.
Michael Godel – Wine Country Ontario’s Lake Erie North Shore appellation flashes onto the radar here with Viewpointe’s very youthful and soulful 2010 Cabernet Franc. A huge accomplishment and so worth the side trip.

Joie Farm Pinot Noir 2013, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – Despite a challenging vintage in the Okanagan, this more delicate style of pinot noir is not short on complexity or length. Very expressive with great definition and real purity of fruit – for pinot noir traditionalists.
Michael Godel – A dark berry and mineral pinot noir that will drink well for five years or more though I’m not sure there can be any reason to wait.

Domaine Courbis St Joseph 2013, Rhône, France ($36.95)
Michael Godel – Note the deft touch and dearth structure from this powerful yet elegant northern Rhône syrah. So much berry and tannin, with everything structure requires in between.

Pierre Amadieu 2013 Romane Machotte Gigondas, Rhône, France ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – The wines of Pierre Amadieu are widely recognized as having a “Burgundian” appeal and focus on balance, respect for terroir and purity of fruit rather than boldness, power or muscle. There is no heaviness here in this 2013 incarnation but certainly a great deal of flavour and focus. Pepper and Provençal garrigue add a great deal of charm and typicity to this blend.

Tüzkö 2012 Cabernet Franc, Tolna, Hungary ($14.95)
Sara d’Amato – Under the management of the Antinori family, Tuzko Estate produces noteworthy whites along really interesting reds such as this unexpected find. Interestingly, the rolling hills of Pannon surrounding Bátaapáti in Tolna are said to resemble those of Tuscany.  The pleasant cool herbal notes compliment the fruit on the palate while the firm tannins give this cabernet franc structure and longevity. Excellent value.

Pierre Amadieu Romane Machotte Gigondas 2013Tuzko Cabernet Franc 2012 Rendola Rosso Di Montalcino 2009 Fabre Montmayou Gran Reserva Malbec 2012

Rendola 2009 Rosso Di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy ($15.95)
David Lawrason – At this price grab a handful for everyday drinking with your favourite Italian dishes, or to sip with mild, firm cheeses. From a ripe, softer vintage, this has evolved to prime, and has developed lovely of sweet cherry/tomato fruit, cedar, dried rosemary and licorice aromas. Smooth, warm and delicious if not deep.

Fabre Montmayou 2012 Gran Reserva Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina ($24.95)
David Lawrason – Here is an impressive, beefy and complex malbec that I would cellar for future grilling events. It is approachable now but has the structure to live well into the next decade. It’s full bodied, fairly dense and juicy with considerable alcohol, but dense fruit, licorice and intriguing vermouth-like spices carry the day.

And that’s a wrap for this week. Tune in next time for the up and down, north and south of New Zealand. If you need an excuse to have a glass of wine today, you should know that it’s International Sauvignon Blanc Day. Just use the hashtag #SauvBlanc and you’ll be sharing in good company from around the world.


David Lawrason
VP of Wine

From VINTAGES May 14, 2016

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Mix
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 Cabernet Sauvignon

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


WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008