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The Globe & Mail ‘the Catalysts’ nominates WineAlign’s Bryan McCaw

The Globe & Mail, in partnership with The Lincoln Motor Company, is in the midst of a contest called the Catalysts. To give you an idea of what it’s about, here is a quote from their website:

“We are seeking to spotlight creative people behind the headlines. They may not yet be household names, but their achievements in fields like food and drink, style and design and arts and culture, are game-changing. Their peers, their audiences and their customers recognize them as leaders and what they’ve done has changed the way others live, work and play.”

So, of course, we are thrilled that WineAlign’s own Bryan McCaw was nominated in the Food and Drink category.

Since launching almost five years ago WineAlign has steadily added Canada’s top wine critics and grown to become Canada’s largest wine community.  In the last year over 1 million different people have visited the website.  The site is currently focused on helping Ontario wine consumers find wines at the LCBO. In March 2013 WineAlign expanded to British Columbia and will expand to Quebec in June 2013.  In addition to adding new provinces, WineAlign is launching two new wine awards this year which will become the largest wine awards in Canada.   The National Wine Awards of Canada will seek out the best in Canadian wines and the World Wine Awards of Canada will judge wines available in Canada from all over the world.  WineAlign has also launched it’s own original video series, “So You Think You Know Wine?” which showcases the extraordinary talents of wine critics and sommeliers.  WineAlign wants to become the definitive wine resource for Canadian wine consumers.

Have a look at this short video highlighting WineAlign and Bryan’s nomination: “Wine tasting is not glamorous at all. It’s hard work!”

Bryan McCaw - the Catalysts

You can follow the Catalysts contest on Twitter @catalystsglobe

Good luck, Bryan!

Filed under: Featured Articles, Wine, , ,

Anthony Gismondi Joins WineAlign!

Press Release: Another highly respected wine critic added to the WineAlign team

Anthony Gismondi

Anthony Gismondi

TORONTO – January 18, 2013WineAlign, Canada’s largest community based service for reviewing, sharing and discovering wine, today announced that Anthony Gismondi is joining its highly respected team of professional wine critics. Gismondi is one of Canada’s most respected wine critics and one of Canada’s best-known critics on the international stage. He has been writing about wine for almost 30 years and has been the wine critic for the Vancouver Sun since 1989. Gismondi was the former editor in chief of a national wine magazine and founded several wine awards.

“I have a great deal of respect for the WineAlign team already in place and am excited to be joining them as a principal critic and partner in a purely wine-focused role,” says Gismondi. “I also look forward to assisting with taking WineAlign to a new level nationally as plans to roll it out across the country are put in place. Canada has a diverse collection of wine drinkers, none more enthusiastic than those on the West Coast, and I look forward to sharing the team’s thoughts and opinions on wines with the rest of the country as we move forward.”

WineAlign’s VP of Wine, David Lawrason added: “I have tasted, judged and travelled with Anthony for over 20 years, and have grown to admire not only his knowledge and experience, but his straightforward approach to wine and whether the wine in turn is honest and good value for the consumer.”

“We are delighted that Anthony is joining us,” says Bryan McCaw, President of WineAlign. “Anthony is joining some of the most respected wine critics in the country in helping consumers find the best wines at their local wine store. He’ll bring a new perspective to our readers and will be a key part of our B.C. and national expansion.”

WineAlign is a free community-based service for reviewing, sharing and discovering wine. It was launched in December 2008 in collaboration with several top wine critics to create a resource for consumers to find the best wines at the LCBO. WineAlign, which is growing rapidly with close to 1M unique annual visitors, answers the question: What wine do I buy? It combines reviews from top-critics and community members to create an objective resource to help users find great wine. For wine lovers outside of Ontario, Canada, WineAlign provides the most comprehensive wine resource, including reviews of the latest wines and vintages from some of the country’s top sommeliers and wine critics.

About WineAlign

WineAlign is the ultimate service for making informed buying decisions at the LCBO. Use it before you shop from your home or office computer, or while standing in the store aisle with your mobile device. It aligns current store inventory, professional critical ratings and reviews, your budget, your food choices, your taste preferences and those of your friends. It is also a practical site, providing valuable tools to manage your own cellar and inventory and build your own personal rating system. It is also a social site that enables you to share information and discuss wine recommendations with friends and associates. You can also follow us on Facebook at www.Facebook/WineAlign or on Twitter @WineAlign.

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

An Exclusive Event with Etude’s Winemaker Jon Priest – May 16th, Sassafraz, Toronto

WineAlign is delighted to offer its members an exclusive tutored tasting and reception with Winemaker Jon Priest of Etude Wines. Join us for a rare opportunity to try Etude’s portfolio of wines – each based on sustainable vineyard management and minimal winemaking intervention.

Jon PriestWith varieties modeled on the best from Burgundy and Bordeaux, these wines speak clearly of their contemporary California origins, combining rich, ripe fruit with an elegant structure and opulent mouthfeel. Etude’s Pinot Noirs, including a highly esteemed bottling made from rare heirloom selections and single-vineyard offerings, are vinified from grapes grown on the Etude Estate Vineyards in the cool Carneros region.  Fruit for the winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from the warmer, northern half of the Napa Valley. The consistent high quality of grapes Etude grows and sources, combined with the skill and experience of the winemaking team, explains why Etude wines consistently earn the highest accolades from consumers, trade and wine critics, resulting in wines with authentic varietal expression.

“Is Jon Priest one of California’s great unsung winemaking stars?  On a recent 23 winery tasting tour through California his Etude pinots and chardonnays topped my charts, and his cabernet is mighty fine too.”
– David Lawrason

The sit-down tutored tasting will held at Sassafraz and co-hosted by WineAlign’s Master Sommelier, John Szabo. Enjoy the great Sassafraz food in an informal tapas style.

Etude Event

Purchase tickets here.

IMPORTANT:  Our last few winemaker events have sold out in a matter of hours.  While we’ve increased capacity for this event we still expect it to sell out quickly.  If you are interested in attending then we recommend you purchase tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Event Details: 

Winery: Etude Wines
Winemaker:  Jon Priest
Quote:  “Inspired grape growing diminishes the need for winemaking intervention.”

Date: Wednesday May 16th, 2012
6:00pm Reception with hors d’oeuvres
6:30-7:45pm  Tutored Tasting
7:45-8:30pm  Tapas – served family style
9:00pm  Event concludes.

Venue: Sassafraz restaurant, Yorkville, Toronto
Seats: 60
Fee: $65 (+HST)

Etude Estate Pinot Gris, Carneros
Etude Estate Chardonnay, Carneros
Etude Rosé of Carneros Pinot Noir
Etude Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros
Etude Deer Camp Pinot Noir, Carneros
Etude Heirloom Pinot Noir, Carneros
Etude Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley

Purchase tickets here.

Filed under: Events, Wine, , , , ,

Happy Birthday to us – three years today!

It’s been three years since we launched way back on Dec 10th, 2008.

For those of us behind the scenes, WineAlign remains an exciting project and we continue to grow, rapidly.  We now have over 26,000 users.   In 2011 we’ve been growing at an average rate of almost 6% per month.   In December we will have over 100,000 visitors to our website.

Monthly Growth

Monthly Visitors Growth

In the last month we have had almost 70,000 different people visit our site.

Google Analytics: 09Nov11 to 09Dec11
Google Analytics: 09Nov11 to 09Dec11
Recently, we were pleased to discover that the popular web-ranking tool Alexa, had ranked us as the 3rd largest wine website in Canada.  We only trail the massive provincial monopolies in Ontario and Quebec.
Canadian Wine Sites Ranking

Source, Dec 10th, 2011

As always, we continue to be amazed at the passion our users have for wine and for WineAlign.   Acting on their suggestions and ensuring that WineAlign meets their needs remains our highest priority.

I want to thank our users, critics, bloggers, developers and advertising partners for helping to make WineAlign a success.

Tonight I’m going to celebrate with a glass (who am I fooling… a bottle) of great wine!


– Bryan

Filed under: News, ,

John Szabo’s Vintages preview for Oct. 15

Tuscany & Argentina – 
Poliziano Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2007Tuscany and Argentina are featured in the October 15th VINTAGES release, familiar territory for most wine lovers. The former is a fully developed region with parallel streams of both ultra-traditional and post-modern, while the latter is a newcomer to the scene, still navigating the intricacies of selling wine internationally. Both are popular sources for wine. Of the Tuscans in this release, my most serious enjoyment was caused by the 2007 POLIZIANO VINO NOBILE DI MONTEPULCIANO DOCG $25.95, also my top smart buy. It’s a model that I’d love to see more Tuscan producers follow: pure class in a classic and recognizably Tuscan style.  Like the region, the traditional and the modern co-exist in harmony at Poliziano. The winery is partly powered by clean, renewable solar energy and is equipped with all the modern winemaking aids. Yet the style remains resolutely classic: a mid-weight, sangiovese-dominated wine, with balance, integrity and complexity, relying more on finesse and refinement rather than heft, raw power or wood. The finish lingers on beautifully. Other recommended Tuscan wines include 2007 TENUTA DI NOZZOLE LA FORRA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA DOCG $29.95 and 2008 VOLPAIA CHIANTI CLASSICO DOCG $21.95 . See the full list of recommended Tuscan wines here. Read the rest of this entry »

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David Lawrason’s take on vintages: Oct. 15

By David Lawrason

Tuscany’s Brunello and Maremma  – Tuscany shares the spotlight with Piedmont on this release, and Vintages has done a good job assembling a fine cross section of very good to excellent wines from both Italian regions. Tuscany in particular has been front of mind lately, partially because of an article on the region coming up in Toronto Life’s November issue; but also because of two recent portfolio tastings by agents who import a lot of Italian wine.  Also, in the back of mind has been the realization that a number of good Brunellos have come through Vintages in recent months. Conduct a WineAlign Find Wine search on Brunello and you will see 16 currently in stock with 90 point or better ratings.

San Felice Campogiovanni Brunello Di Montalcino 2005 Brunello di Montalcino is Tuscany’s classic kingpin –  usually a rich, stately red made 100% from a small berried sangiovese clone simply called brunello. It is best drunk after a few years in bottle. Indeed its regulations require that basic Brunello not be released for 50 months after harvest, with “Riserva” and year later.  This accounts for 2006 being the latest vintage on the shelf, with many 2005s also available. This gives us the opportunity to drink properly matured, smooth and rich reds right off the shelf, and I am thoroughly enjoying that change of pace. SAN FELICE CAMPOGIOVANNI 2005 BRUNELLO DI MONTALCINO ($44.95) is another very fine example coming on October 15.  And if you want to buy directly from agents I suggest you go to the to seek out stunning Brunellos from Siro Pacenti, Collemattoni and Valdicava. At look for Brunellos and other Tuscan wines from Grevepesa, Poggio San Polo and Terrebianca. (Individual reviews are not on WineAlign as they were tasted in the less controlled and consistent setting of a trade show). Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Wine, , , , ,

John Szabo: Ontario 2009 Pinot Noir living up to expectations

Postmedia File Photo

By John Szabo

For several years now industry followers have been touting pinot noir as one of Ontario’s most promising varieties. It’s a “short cycle ripener” meaning that it should be well suited to Ontario’s relatively compact growing season, able to reach full maturity before getting clipped by frost. Many parts (but not all) of Niagara and Prince Edward County also have the right soils that in theory should yield fine wines.

Yet until recently quality has been spotty, with the occasional bright exception, but too many substandard examples damned by faint praise along the lines of “this shows promise”. It’s been a clear of case of wishful thinking sullying sincere beliefs, as though everyone were willing pinot from Ontario to be as good as they wanted it to be. The highly regarded 2007 vintage has turned out to be a disappointment in my view, with many pinots yet, and likely never, to shed a burly cloak of tannins from either overenthusiastic extraction or simply overly thick, rain-starved berries full of sugar but unripe polyphenols. Read the rest of this entry »

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Steve Thurlow’s Top 50 value picks: Sept. 2011

By Steve Thurlow

There are seven new wines on the Top 50 this month as a result of recently tasted wines, price changes, new additions to the LCBO’s selection and new vintages of existing listings. The Top 50 list features the wines commonly referred to as General List and Vintages Essentials. I constantly taste the wines at the LCBO to keep this report up to date. You can easily find my Top 50 Value Wines from the WineAlign main menu. Click on Wine > Top 50 Drop Down MenuTop 50 Value Wines to be taken directly to the list.

To be included in the Top 50 for value a wine must be inexpensive while also having a high score, indicating high quality. We use a mathematical model to make the Top 50 selections from the wines in our database.

Every wine is linked to WineAlign where you can read more, discover pricing discounts, check out inventory and compile lists for shopping at your favourite store. Never again should you be faced with a store full of wine with little idea of what to pick for best value.

In addition to the great value wines below, please check out the season finale of our video series.  We just finished recording season two and we’ll be releasing new episodes from season two: “The Tournament” through-out the fall. Read the rest of this entry »

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John Szabo’s Vintages preview for Oct. 1

By John Szabo

Top Ten Smart Buys:  The Top Ten wines for savvy buyers this week includes a terrific $20 Niagara chardonnay from the winemaker who is setting the pace for the grape in Canada, a very fine 1er Cru Chablis for $26.95, a single vineyard Barolo from the great 2004 vintage for just $33.95, and a Chilean Malbec that will have the Argentines across the border questioning their South American domination of the grape. See them all here. Read the rest of this entry »

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WineAlign Reaches 20,000 User Milestone

With record growth, WineAlign poised to become the largest community of wine lovers in Canada

TORONTO – June 6th,  2011 – WineAlign ( announced today that it now has 20,000 registered users.

WineAlign was launched in December 2008 by Toronto entrepreneur Bryan McCaw, who has partnered with several top wine critics to create a resource for consumers to find the best wines at the LCBO.  “WineAlign answers the question: What wine do I buy?  We combine reviews from multiple top-critics and community members to create an objective resource to help users find great wine. For example, we can tell you what the top-rated Cabernet under $20 is at your local LCBO right now,” explains McCaw.

WineAlign User Growth

WineAlign User Growth

“With 20,000 members we’re well on our way to becoming the largest community of wine lovers in Canada.” adds McCaw. “We’re excited about the record growth we’ve experienced in 2011 and believe that for our partners, we represent one of the best ways to reach wine consumers in Ontario.  Over the last six months our average growth rate has been 8%/month and we’ve been averaging 40,000 unique visitors per month during that same period.”

Visitors Per Quarter

Visitors Per Quarter

According to McCaw, this is only the beginning, “We’ve got a few exciting developments we will be introducing in the coming weeks, including: new mobile applications with integrated bar-code support, a new video series which we believe is unique in the world, new columns, content and partners.  We are on track to expand outside of Ontario before the end of 2011.”

WineAlign’s critics include: David Lawrason (Toronto Life), Master Sommelier John Szabo, Steve Thurlow, Rod Phillips (Ottawa Citizen), Gord Stimmell (Toronto Star), Margaret Swaine (National Post), Sara d’Amato, Julian Hitner and Evan Saviolidis.

Filed under: News, , ,


WineAlign Reviews

Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2008