The Wine Diaries: A generous year

PHOTO: STILLKOST/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

When it comes to wine, the year 2012 was extremely kind and in so many ways. There are some who cringe at the term “generous” when employed in a tasting note to describe a particular wine. To me, there may not be a better word to wax dreamily and demurely about the year that was. The grapes were in fact generous in 2012, bursting better than ever with ripe, rich fruit, their ferment having flowed and poured freely at the hands of so many great people. Wine helped to fill the voids and soothed in times of stress, as if there were not a care in the world.

Wine events continued to proliferate. VINTAGES ramped up tasting opportunities, the importers shared lavishly and with munificent grace. There were mass assemblies of producers who came to share their wares from California, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, Argentina, Italy, Austria, the list goes on. A Halpern portfolio tasting was stellar and Stem Wine Group’s gala brought me to my knees. A relentless trafficking of the grape persists, especially by the likes of Profile Wine Group’s Mark Coster who’s omnipotence seemed to find him pouring everywhere. Dinners with fellow geeks threw complementarity caution to the wind while the affair with my wine card at Barque Smokehouse continued its wanderlust.

Tasting through local portfolios and young juice in barrel with winemakers and vineyard representatives really highlighted the year. Norm Hardie and Dan Sullivan showed me what Prince Edward County is and will surely be. Paul Pender twice ran me through his promising casks at Tawse. Vintners in Long Island opened my eyes to the future of its two forks. I am looking forward to tasting around the world in 2013.

Never before have I been privy to a sound as buzzing as our local wine scene. Social media exploded in 2012, especially on the topic of Ontario wine. The elevated level of discourse and discussion became palpable and necessary. The Wine Council of Ontario opened MyWineShop, an initiative aimed at transforming the landscape of wine sold in Ontario. The current harvest looks to be of the ‘best ever” variety. VQA Ontario wrote “conditions were close to perfect going into harvest,” then followed up with “harvest reports on grape quality were excellent for all regions.”

I liken 2012 to 1998. This vintage will see Ontario to wines of stunning fruit quality, acidity, balance and finesse to match what we continue to experience from the exceptional ’98′s, including reds. The 1998 Henry of Pelham Cabernet/Merlot I tasted last winter can testify to this. “You’ve come a long way baby,” I will say to our local, vinous heroes. Ignore the naysayers and keep on the path of the Rockafellar Skank. Just as in 1998, the “funk soul brother” is on your side.

Of the most profound pleasure and fortuitous circumstance is the opportunity I am given to imbibe and to share of other’s treasures.

These are the best wines I tasted in 2012:

The Wine Diaries: 2012

Château Pichon Baron Longueville, Paulliac 1988 (March)This PBL is throwing rocks tonight. I am dazzled by its youth. Purity, clarity, vitality. Embodies Cclaret’s dictionary entry. Opened in the heart of its window. While ’89 and ’90 continue to hog that era’s spotlight, here lies reason number one to endorse ’88.  The turkey of the triple flight.  95  

Corimbo 1 2009 (April) is sweet thistle pie. A cracker jack Tempranillo and nothing but Tempranillo. Candy coated with red licorice and an inexplicable apple flower sensation as if molecular gastronomy of the Ferran Adrià or Heston Blumenthal kind. Exotic and spicy, seeing through me, it “knows my name but calls me ginger.”   95

Tawse Chardonnay David’s 2011 (March) coruscates like the glare of a Koon sculpture, lambient and luminous. Searing tang of citrus and green apple. A crime to show so well, Zen in its persistence and long finish. This vintage and this vineyard may unseat Robyn.  93-95 (barrel sample)

Valdicava Brunello Di Montalcino Riserva Madonna Del Piano 2006 (October) is sacred Sangiovese, an inviolable reliquary of immaculacy deep beneath Montalcino’s altar. A vamp of essential Tuscan fruit. If you were to stand on a hill in Montalcino in winter time and listen carefully, you would hear a low sipping sound. That is the sound of the entire town drinking of the Madonna Del Piano.  97

Château Fonroque St. Emilion Grand Cru 2000 (September) unseats Talbot as the non pareil Bordeaux coalescence of value and longevity from that vintage. Resolute to immaculate balance, black fruit steadfast against crumbling tannins and yet I can see this pushing on for 10 or more. “You like drinking ghosts,” says JM. Yes I do, yes I do.  93

Mas Doix Salanques 2006 (April) is a revelation. A Pegau-esque perfume aux gasseuse leans Rhône but an amazing (65%) Garnacha sweetness veers Priorat. Iodine (Syrah and Carignan) of black slate soil, tar, smoked meat and bacon. A Parker and Galloni thesaurus of descriptors must be bequeathed on this candied (Merlot) wine loaded with acidity in magnums.  CVR** WOTN.  93

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape 1998 (April) would be my wine of choice walking a boulder strewn vineyard on a misty morning in the Southern Rhône. Expressions are hurled around the table, “candified Pinot nose” and “tutti frutti.” For Beaucastel? I can’t believe the tripartite fruit freshness, ambient funk immersion and pencil lead sharpness. This ’98 is ”light as a feather, heavy as lead.” The Beaucastel will brighten up your tomorrow. WOTN  96

Château Léoville-Las Cases Saint Julien 1996 (March)Utopian, foxy, rubicund health. Voluptuous tomato, classy and luxurious on every level. Unabashed, showing off unblemished, curvy fruit. Pellucid, transparent, honest. A player, even if the highest caste keeps the dark LLC down. The sixth major.  94

Domaine Henri Perrot-Minot Morey-St.-Denis En La Rue De Vergy 1996 (March) The dark knight of the three red Burgundies. Smells like merde at first, a pumpkin left to compost long after the hallow night is done. A few swirls and the funk blows away, leaving behind a smashing MSD. Oracular utterances are in the air now. ”Lazer beam of acidity” says AM, “Pinot on a frozen rope” says I.  93

Castellare Di Castellina I Sodi di San Niccolo 1997  (May) of Colli Della Toscana Centrale IGT origins and the fountain of youth. How can it be so fresh? 85% Sangioveto and 15% Malvasia. The Sangiovese clone, also known as Sangiovese Piccolo is here a sweet and beautiful elixir. Polished deep purple Amethyst dipped in smokey, black raspberry water. No hard lines, void of animale and free from Tuscan iron. “No matter what we get out of this, i know, i know we’ll never forget.” Better with the cheese course to come.  93

Good to go!

The best wine releases of 2012

PHOTO: STEFANO TIRABOSCHI/FOTOLIA.COM

Wine is best celebrated with family and friends and the holidays present so many opportunities to share a glass. Pulling corks (or twisting caps) substantiates purchasing choices made in previous years. Last year I noted on, “a quick reflect back on a year of plasmic vials once voluminous, now in condign as a commitment to memory. “

The current season’s pours have the palaver or promise and the eviglio of accumulation to thank for the opportunity. The VINTAGES releases of 2012 perpetuate this promulgated philosophy. The year’s buys have migrated to the cellar, to wait there in abstemious behaviour of maturation. They too will one day climb the steps to a welcoming table, set with family and friends.

Here are my favourite under and over $30 wines of 2012.

Under $30 VINTAGES released wines

Under $30 VINTAGES Releases

1. The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah

Where: Côtes du Rhône, France

Domaine Les Grands Bois Cuveé Maximilien Cairanne 2010 (286336, $21.95) is extraordinary for the appellation. Pitch purple, world-class milk and dark chocolate swirl, creamy silk. The stuff of recent phenomenon, where rocks, dreams and raspberries are crushed and scattered like cake bits over the loam.   91

2. The grapes: Garnacha, Carinena and Syrah

Where: Montsant, Spain

Celler Besllum Besllum 2008 (283515, $15.95) of Cubist Picassan, “cut up, Maria,” heavenly body struts its stuff as an enchantress with an alluring Spanish, violaceous visage. A black cherry, carboniferous quartzite Popsicle for Mr. Jones.  “We all want something beautiful.”  90

3. The grape: Petite Sirah

Where: Alexander Valley, California

Trentadue La Storia Petite Sirah 2010 (291047, $23.95) is massively concentrated out of the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, as if it were packed with five centuries of the Italian American experience. Manages 14.9% alcohol with George Bailey-esque, heady grace. Tasted blind I commented, “if this is under $30 it’s an outrageous deal.” “Well whaddya know about that!!!. “ 92

4. The grape: Riesling

Where: Clare Valley, Australia

Pewsey Vale Riesling 2011 (686600, $19.95) shimmers an iridescent emerald-green on gold patina. Cracks like a whip straight in your face with lemon, lime and slate than lowers a sledgehammer of petrified wood. Snake-like Sasak fruit tang and acidity “goes dancin’ in,”  “builds that power” and lingers long after its skin has been shed.  91

5. The Grape: Sangiovese

Where: Tuscany, Italy

Dei Vino Nobile Di Montepulciano 2008 (285510, $28.95) is a wow wine. Viscous, sweet nectar, full on concentrated berries and polished rocks au jus. An opus dei call to vinous holiness and sanctity. Rapturous feeling of punch drunk love falls over me after sipping this noble Sangiovese (Prugnolo Gentile).  92

6. The grape: Chenin Blanc

Where: Loire Valley, France

Marc Brédif Vouvray 2010 (685362, $19.95) perches high atop a parched, molecular hilltop. Bread starter nip promises stuffed pastry filled with friable, early harvest apples. Wonderful, classic and dehumidified Vouvray.  91

7. The grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot

Where: Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Lulu Island Meritage (277566, $23.95) just sounds like an Aussie moniker when in fact it hails from the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. Maybe the most lustrous B.C. red I have ever laid eyes on. Hard not to forbear a crush on its purple profile, hued like a $100, Single-Vineyard Argentinean Malbec. A bit reductive due to its infantile youth but this is appurtenant to the samphire, currants and peppery Merlot scents. Less weight buoys the palate. Bites back in the end. Follows varietal rules of proportion vis-a-vis the dry martini. Massive CVR** complexity from this massif assemblage.  91

8. The Grape: Cabernet Franc

Where: Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Hinterbrook Rosé 2011 (275818, $16.00) is simply brilliant. Top Ontario Rosé to date. Goes well beyond descriptors like “playful” and “quaffable.” A four-day Cabernet Franc cold soak was the ticket to serious pink success, the choice of grape an engineering master stroke. Hinterbrook’s dark side of the moon. Moody, ambient, rich in tone, lyric and extended play. Rosé needs some mystery and here it is.  ”There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it’s all dark.”  91

9. The Grape: Riesling

Where: Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany

Dr. Pauly-Bergweiler Wehlener Sonnenuhr Riesling Spätlese 2009 (0197186, $21.95) races out of the nuss pit with peerless Bergweiler CVR** Spätlese speed. The late harvest drupe is so focused you would never know how sweet the middle ground really is. Never struggling against circumstance, it slides effortlessly into Spätlese orbit. Searching and finding the German Riesling dream. Sonnenuhr vineyard is here and “the time is right, for racing in the street.”  91

10. The Grape: Chardonnay

Where: Casablanca Valley, Chile

Errazuriz Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2010 (738393, $17.95) will be your best IVR* bet for Chardonnay day on May 26. Wild yeasts make cause for a weird resemblance, reminiscent of February’s Furmint. Delicate, expressive and unusual, the mint flint, brioche and smoked pineapple effect leads to thoughts of Blancs de Blancs. A little malo just might turn this into good bubbly!  89

Over $30 VINTAGES released wines

Over $30 VINTAGES Releases

1. The grapes: Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault

Where: Southern Rhône, France

Le Vieux Donjon Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 (700922, $53.95, SAQ 10817461, $50.50) will dare you to claim any better value from the storied appellation. “Da price boss, da price!” Like I’ve landed on Fantasy Island where Châteauneuf is flowing and it’s always affordable! Kirsch galore, a Rhône cat, sensuous and gorgeous. Goldfinger garrigue, with herbs and acidity so alive and purring. Approachable now, the heavenly structure will see the Donjon through 2025.  94

2. The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

Where: Napa Valley, California

Dunn Vineyards Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (193763, $99.95) is a flat out brilliant composition by the voice of one who once “traded love for glory.” This Cab reverts back to its singer-songwriter, Napa Valley pioneering form. The ’08 is a crooning balladeer intent to hold out its best in a graceful lucubration of layered, dark fruit, restrained restlessness and a vision of long life. Put the Dunn away and look to be rewarded 15+ years on with as good a California Cabernet as you will ever taste.  96

3. The Grape: Syrah

Where: Northern Rhône, France

Delas Frères Francois De Tournon Saint-Joseph 2009 (17525, $33.00) is both militaristic and the stuff of gushing Renaissance literature. Serious Syrah and foxy, Faerie Queene.  Cardinal colour, striking and dreamy. Augustinian diplomat meets allegorical fantasy. Crushed berries, truffles caked by earth, sol de la foret. Built of elegance and power, “such endlesse richesse, and so sumptuous shew.”  92

4. The Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot

Where: Napa Valley, California

Dominus 2008 (212381, $145.95) solicits riposte for parry, to buy or not to buy. The omnipotently voluptuous one resides in a tramontane locale, beyond reach and also the pale. A shocking parade of profound, hyper-purple personality. Even if it suffers “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune“, a lucky man this Dominus, “all dressed in satin,” “nor woman neither.” Colour field shockingly crimson and amarinthine, textured with rich and layered brush stroke, as if Red on Maroon. A Lama, “the flowing robes, the grace, bald…striking.” To me this ’08 leans more Ornellaia than Pétrus.  97

5. The grapes: Zinfandel, Petite Sirah and Carignan

Ridge Lytton Springs 2009 (982413, $46.95) will live in infamy like the ’92 and ’99. Immediate waft of freshly shucked vanilla bean. Ambrosial, earthy, briary fruit. Precise distillation inclusive of 23% Petite Sirah results in an impossibly lambent cordial. Not to mention you gotta love that Draper perfume. Open the magazine in 10-15 years time for the best read.  93

6. The grape: Nebbiolo

Where: Piedmont, Italy

Gemma Giblin Riserva Barolo 2005 (185025, $36.95) has begun to brick at the edges. Mouth rosewatering acidity binged by sour cherry and shellac. Wisp of Monte Cristo and withered rose only Barolo can smell of.  This Gemma is beautiful like a turning season, like something you know won’t last. For now and no more than two to three more years.  92

7. The grapes: Grenache, Mourvedre, Syrah and Counoise

Where: Southern Rhône, France

Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2010 (711317, $89.95) enters no confected, over-extracted or OTT danger zones. The most floral Beaucastel, a doffing of Stoechas Avignon and the omnipresent Rhône garrigue. Persimmon and lavender share time imparting the wine with fumes from les galets roulés of the argilo-calcaireous vineyard beds. Basic hedonism here from such an extraordinary, complex and balanced blend.  95

8. The grapes: Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon

Where: Bordeaux, France

Château Carbonnieux Blanc 2008 (581033, $59.00) is possessive of febrile gooseberry imagination. Blows sweet peach and apricot in and out of the glass in alberge de tours waves. “Hungry like the wolf” and his lycopersicon esculentum. A white PL for the ages.  92

9. The grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot

Where: Tuscany, Italy

Ornellaia 2009 (722470, $189.95) is more approachable than the unparalleled 1998. A silky smooth and velvety texture puts super-ripe fruit at the forefront. While that ’98 rocked my world, this vintage offers immediate gratification, less dominating hard lines and edges. The balance is impeccable but the acidity is tempered, like the finest chocolate. The window is open now, though it may soon close, to drink beautifully for the next five years.  94

10. The Grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara e Altri Vitigni

Where: Veneto, Italy

Remo Farina Le Pezze Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2008 (171587, $33.95) underwhelms as a no kicker. Needs no Euro hype nor boozy heft to make itself understood. Modish mocha java speaks fluent huttish, communicating by lingua franca vernacular to the initiated. “Goopta mo bossa!“  92

Good to go!

Lock, stock and sparkling wines

PHOTO: MICHAEL GODEL, FOR CANADA.COM

as seen on canada.com

 

Some invitations are just better than others. On the rarest of occasions the thrill is easily won, such as my recent inclusion at an epic wine and food tasting. On Tuesday I sampled nine delectable dishes prepared by Chefs Todd Clarmo and David Chow at Stock Restaurant in the Trump Hotel Toronto.

The invite came by way of Wine Country Ontario and PR Director Magdalena Kaiser-Smit. The purpose? To sample 18 Ontario sparkling wines, presented alongside Chefs’ cuisine, by house Sommelier Zoltan Szabo. The food and wine pairings were sublimely orchestrated, elevated by the assistance of and in turn, kudos is to be fired out Master Sommelier John Szabo‘s way.

Be immersed in the emerging industry that is Ontario Sparkling wine and you will find yourself amazed. Angelo Pavan of Cave Spring Winery spoke to the group and was emphatic in saying “Niagara is not trying to make Champagne,” but, he added, ” I think we in Niagara can do Sparkling wine better than anywhere in the world, with the exception of Champagne.”

Lead by the pioneers Château des Charmes, Trius and later, Henry of Pelham, production of Ontario bubbles began to take off after 2000. Pavan didn’t want to try at first because, “it was too much work.” At some point he realized that our climate is more than ideal, most notably because acidity does not drop off in Niagara, due to an extended harvest time. Warm climate producers (like California, South Africa and Australia) may have a two to three-day harvest window and they have to pick at night, or else the grapes begin to oxidize. Pavan sees warm climate, New World fizz as very drinkable, if soft, lacking in acidity and balance.

The production of vintage-dated fizz in Ontario is certainly fashionable, as witnessed by more than 60% of the wines present, but for the purposes of consistency, local weather conditions should see the future trending a non-vintage path.

Sparkling Wine Tasting

Stock Restaurant at the Trump Hotel

December 11th, 2012

First Group of Nine

Casa-Dea Estates Winery, Dea’s Rosé 2011 ($19.95) charms like Strawberry seltzer with a sappy tang and the chalky, calcareous limestone schist of Prince Edward County.  87

Château des Charmes, Rosé Sparkling Wine, Estate Bottled 2009 ($28.95) elevates pink bubbles from a good, acidified vintage with red pear, pink grapefruit aromas. A bit unpronounced, though that works for balance, keeping the A16 and confiture in check.  87

Angels Gate, Archangel Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs 2010 ($21.95) bursts forth in a big, barm way. I hope that I don’t fall in love with this B de B. Inflection the colour of lime and duly scented, but also pithy lemon. Parochial attitude, cutting to tonic at closing time and “the music’s fading out.” Didn’t happen.  86

Mike Weir Wine, Sparkling Brut 2009 ($24.95) shows off a premium mousse with the finest mist yet. Minor atomic note, with pear, mild toast and a touch of residual sweetness. Honeycomb gives way to the slightest charred, cabbage accent. Not unlike Loire Vouvray in that sense.  88

Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate, Entourage Grand Reserve Brut 2009 ($22.95) is a sweet-smelling misty mousse waterfall where white grapefruit replays from vapor to flavour. Dryest fizz yet playing the Angostura angle. Good length.  88

Cave Spring Cellars, Blanc de Blancs Brut NV ($29.95) sees no malolactic fermentation and sits at the top end of dry (12-14 dosage). Most of the fruit is 2008, despite the NV designation. A soda fountain of argon and nitrogen bunsens forth through clean lines and carries an entire cider house orchard of Spartan apple. This one certainly hints at Champagne-like characteristics, of brioche and toast. The apples never relent.  89

Flat Rock Cellars, 2008 Riddled ($24.95) is a completely different animal. “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma; but perhaps there is a key.” The key might be the yeast that brings animale to the wine. A bit fat and flat, with tropical notes of lychee and almond. Speeds up but is a bit of an acquired taste.  87

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, Cuvée Catharine NV ($29.95) is a classic bottling, quite refined, offers the most yeast yet and is obviously the most Champagne-like of the eight so far sampled to this point. A go to Pinot and Chardonnay blend, essential bubbles for holiday cheer.  89

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, Cuvée Catharine Estate Blanc De Blancs ‘Carte Blanche’ 2007 ($44.95) turns the brioche quotient up several notches and is consistent with last month’s note: “combines the exceptional ’07 growing season’s rich fruit with early harvested acidity and extreme patience to result in one serious Ontario sparkling wine. A frothing tonic of citrus zest, baking apples, soda bread, cut grass and creamy grume. Long and true.” 90

Ontario Sparkling & Culinary Tastes

Begin

Baby Kale & Heirloom Carrot Salad

russet apple, québec goat cheese

Cold Poached Lobster Salad

organic greek yogurt & bergamot dressing

Hamachi, Fennel & Citrus Crudo

chilli and tarragon

The Grange of Prince Edward, Sparkling Riesling 2010 ($24.95) seems more late harvest, Spätlese than Sparkling. Nectarous juice with a squeeze of suspended honey and a light citrus spritz. Waited for the sear but it didn’t arrive. Good Riesling though.  85

Trius Winery, Trius Brut NV ($24.95) emerges as elegance defined for dry, Niagara effervescence. Pear, poivre and candlenut do battle then the wine turns and walks silently away. Had its moment in the sun but is perhaps not so refined.  87

Tawse Winery, David’s Block Chardonnay “Spark” 2009 ($39.95) has thankfully shed its baby fat, the cheesy whey that sat atop all else last time I tasted. Today the epoisses is now mild Niagara Gold, or a creamy, Triple-Cream Brie. Still a wine of lees and leisure, with tangy green apple and sharp, piquant flavour.  88

Continue

Braised Veal Shank

yukon potato gnocchi, picholine olives

Roasted Magret of Duck a L’Orange

buttered savoy cabbage

Maple Broiled Black Cod

edamame puree

Huff Estates, Cuvée Peter F. Huff 2008 ($39.95) works expertly alongside the veal. Austere, dry, flinty wine of slate, like Chablis. Green apple, lemon, lime and almond. A bit tough but well-built.  90

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery, Cuvée Catharine Rosé NV ($29.95) and its fine, strawberry mousse is at the head of its Ontario class. Vanilla, Ida Red apple and bitter nut combine like a smooth, creamy, Mediterranean spread to dip the warmest, fresh-baked bread.  91

13th Street Winery, Premier Cuvée 2008 ($34.95) perpetuates the apple theme but here it is subdued, sweet and with blossoms too. There is honeycomb, citrus and an herbal, grassy component no other wine has shown. Lean, perhaps but that’s the minerals talking. Very pretty.  91

Finish

Coffee Crusted Pecorino Romano

clementine gratin

White Chocolate Ganache

greek yogurt, carrot, yuzu

Pain Perdu

tangerine, lychee, marcona almond

Cave Spring Cellars, Blanc de Noirs Brut 2006 ($34.95) is age apparent, tanning ever so slightly. Dry, amber toast, nutty notes, really well-balanced. Fun to see this development, even if it’s fading gracefully.  90

Inniskilin Wines, Sparkling Vidal Icewine 2011 ($79.95) is delicious, don’t think it isn’t, but the high proportion of ice wine makes it just that. Not convinced the bubbles add any depth. This is Icewine first and Sparkling wine second.  Novelty.  88

Hinterland, Ancestral 2012 ($25.00) is not the best wine but it steals the show. The dayglo colour should lead to a cloying sweetness but no, it’s remarkably off-dry. Cherries, not strawberries are here and yes, in a Kool-Aid kind of aromatic way. The taste is very savoury and the sweetness is brought out by the Pecorino.  90

Good to go!

Top 10 under-$15 wines for 2012

as seen on canada.com

The past 12 months have been good to wine consumers in Ontario. I would be hard pressed to remember a time in recent memory when so many good value wines were available on such a consistent basis.

The under $15 niche success can be attributed to many things. A sweeping renaissance in wine making has taken hold across the globe, from the vineyard to the stopped bottle. Manifested in the Old World, we are seeing an unprecedented ability to offer wines at this price. New World locales like Argentina, Chile, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand can match the quality, but as a general rule, the $15-20 range is their sweet spot.

What I am most pleased to note is the increased quality in Canadian wine, especially from Niagara, in the under $15 zone. Lead by the likes of Fielding EstateVineland Estates13th Street and Mike Weir Wines, finding quality releases that won’t break the bank gets easier with every passing vintage.

More than anything, the ability to taste 1000′s of wines by the generous efforts of Ontario agents, trade commissions and through local events has allowed us to uncover the gems. A year-end set of props has to go out to David Churchill and team for setting the table every week for to sample 1000′s more wines from the bi-weekly and on-line VINTAGES releases.

Here are my top 10, under-$15 VINTAGES released picks for 2012.

1. The grapes: Touriga Nacional, Alfrocheiro, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Pinheiro and Jaen

Where: Portugal, Dão

Encostas De Penalva 2009 (293423, $14.95) is downright Joycean in unusual intelligence, sensitivity and character for a blend from a Portuguese cooperative. Soft perhaps, but nary a bitter deterrent mars this cup of crushed raspberries. A young artist’s deep portrait of Dão colour, forged of surreal fleshy extraction, verbose and flamboyant.  90

2. The grape: Nero D’avola

Where: Sicily, Italy

Morgante Nero D’avola 2010 (40816, $14.95) burnishes purple to black in sheen, perfume and vim. Like incandescent charcoal.  Welling hematoma of Aussie licorice, baking spices and lingonberry. Maxes out Nero D’avola’s ability to defend itself against all food comers. Even pancakes and pigs in a blanket.  It should be noted that a second sample was corked.  90

3. The grape: Albariño

Where: Rias Baixas, Spain

Pazo Pondal Leira Albariño 2011 (115816, $15.95) may sport the hue of Cava and indicate bubbles spinning around like a frotteur but its “gotta have no illusions” about itself. A hint of seltzer in a sparkling, platinum hue swirls to honey and paraffin. Acts and looks sharp yet remains in balance.  90

4. The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

Where: Loire, France

Domaine De La Colline Sauvignon Touraine 2010 (169656, $12.95) is the workday done sun-downer few Sauvignon Blancs can match for IVR* assurance. Eglantine and apple tisane. Bony and blanched shallot driven by the Loire’s rocky truffeau, with a smokey persimmon fini glacé. 88

5. The grapes: Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault

Where: Rhône, France

Delas Frères Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône Rosé 2011 (224964, $12.95) offers up strawberry, rhubarb and cream with a savoury accent. Subtle pale, pink, see-through hue and warming humidity. Great value here. Rosie you’re all right. “Looks like it’s me and you again tonight.”  88

6. The grapes: Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot

Where: Tuscany, Italy

Perta Zingari Toscana IGT 2008 (224228, $13.95) from the VINTAGES August 6, 2011 release deals value in quarto from varietals Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah and Petit Verdot. An unusual blend from the Maremma coast for sure but throw me down in the snow if it isn’t unmistakably Tuscan. Iron, leather, pure snappy, fennel fruit and tannic tang are all there. Primary yes, but what more can you ask from $14? Held up 24 hours later for a second go round.  88

7. The grape: Sauvignon Blanc

Where: Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

Mike Weir Sauvignon Blanc 2010 (686972, $14.95) swings from the left side like its brethren on that side of the Gironde. A game built on concentrated gooseberry juice, tangy green fruit and a streak of chippy acidity. Sneaky long and straight down the fairway.  88

8. The grape: Pinot Blanc

Where: Alsace, France

André Blanck et Ses Fils Rosenburg Pinot Blanc 2011 (626606, $13.95) is your weekend summer refresher, your sundowner, your all-purpose white. Oily, mineral-driven, long, acidity at its PB best, full finish. For appetizers, salads and mains. Versatility be thy name.  88

9. The grape: Garnacha

Where: Catalayud, Spain

Filón Garnacha 2010 (280602, $14.95) is actually a bit of a misprision because of its black fruit character. Re-enacts Tuscan IGT and the most modern of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Tar, asphalt, bitter chocolate and sanguine Kirsch and very, very ripe fruit. Grand oak and tons of wine at $15.  88

10. The grape: Melon De Bourgogne

Where: Loire, France

Michel Delhommeau Cuvée Harmonie Muscadet De Sèvre-Et-Maine 2010 (164624, $12.95) scatters nether and beyond the stereotypical need for oysters pairing. Light as the sky, “a free man in Paris…unfettered and alive.” Like I said before, it offers up more complexity, flesh and sea bone than its brethren. Courts shrimp, sparks smoked chicken and even ventures into baby back rib territory. On the card at Barque.  88

Honourable Mention

The grapes: Alvarinho, Arinto and Loureiro

Where: Vinho Verde, Portugal

Casa Do Valle Grande Escolha 2011 (276220, $14.95) while unmistakably Portuguese Vinho Verde, this could be a ringer for Greco di Tufo or Viognier. The long visit to the haberdashery at once wears baking spice, Mezzogiorno mangia cake at Christmas and then white rose, honeysuckle Hermitage. Lofty comparisons for sure but this exceptional IVR* treacle is a chef mastered sweetbread of a double “V.”  89

Good to go!

Bold red wines for last-minute gifting

PHOTO: SERGIO DI GIOVANNI, FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

It’s not just about the big day two and a half weeks from now. Maybe this is the weekend you’ve been invited to the first big holiday get together of the season, or perhaps tomorrow night you’re heading out to a Hanukkah party. Or looking ahead, it’s one week from now and you need more than a decent bottle of vino for that special someone, a friend, cousin, boss, co-worker, or that guy who helped you make all that money this year.

The good wines are out there and ready for the taking. Blink and they’ll be gone. LCBO holiday sales in 2011 totaled $620 million, representing 14 per cent of last year’s total business. Last December, the average LCBO customer spent $47 compared to $38 at other times in the year. December 22 and 23 were the busiest selling days for the LCBO last year, with sales of $41 million and $53 million respectively. This year, the LCBO expects December 21 and 22 to be the busiest shopping days.

The detractors might say that tasting through this release was the “worst red wine day of my life,” but I beg to differ. My advice is simple. Do not procrastinate. Here are six terrific wines that are sure to put a smile on a wine lover’s face.

Bold red wines for last-minute gifting

The grapes: Syrah and Grenache

The history: Ace outfit from Languedoc in the Midi Region

The lowdown: Intrigue is in the air anytime a wine carries the name of the mountain commune Pic Saint Loup

The food match: Blood Orange Cornish Game Hens

Domaine Clavel Bonne Pioche Pic Saint Loup 2010 (297986, $19.95) is a most sunny and warmer modern expression, addictive and trend setting like bacon. Indicates mountain rocky outcrops and an untamed, southern French je ne sais quoi beastly feeling.  Something is definitely right about this Clavel. How can you not be seduced?  90

The grapes: Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

The history: A Château Léoville-Poyferré project with Michel Rolland as consultant

The lowdown: Delivers the hedonistic goods as well as any $50+ red blend from Argentina

The food match: Beef Rib Chop, chimichurri sauce

Cuvelier Los Andes Colección 2009 (144014, $21.95) broods dark and stormy as ever. This 60% Malbec-based, ode to St. Julien, ne0-Bordeaux blend is a fleshy, voluptuous, full choco-bodied beauty. The tannins do some chewing so give it some air. Trenchant dark chocolate as dessert.  90

The grapes: Cabernet and Malbec

The history: Fruit sourced from the Sheoaks and St. Clare vineyards

The lowdown: Classic Clare Valley combo, reminiscent of the legend that is Leasingham’s Bin 56

The food match: Irish Stew, waxy potatoes, heirloom carrots

Tim Adams Cabernet/Malbec 2006 (295535, $26.95) uses its age for rustic purpose. Goes raisin, prune and fig, full-on dried fruit attack. Has evolved with ease, efficiently and with pastoral grace.  89

The grape: Sangiovese

The history: Historic property south of Panzano in an amphitheater shaped valley known as “Conca d’Oro”

The lowdown: Were I to spend my money on one non-riserva Chianti Classico each year, this would be the one

The food match: Chianina Beef Ragu, porcini mushroom

Fontodi Chianti Classico 2009 (933317, $29.95) defines the scent of a Chianti. Rocks of calcar-clay, schist soil, red earth, salumi and porcini. Also fresh, balanced and bursting of ripe, cherry fruit. First class.  90

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: From Niagara’s Vinemount Ridge, this is the wine’s first vintage

The lowdown: The Laidlaw may be winemaker Paul Pender’s most gorgeous but this Quarry Pinot is instantly cerebral

The food match: Stone Road Grille’s Confit Duck

Tawse Quarry Road Pinot Noir 2009 (307686, $34.95) is no folk-weighted wine. Paul Pender has an instant solid rock hit on his hands and Mary paint the town red if it isn’t a Burgundian hymn. Earth, mushroom, mineral and just a hint of new oak vanilla, raspberry and root beer. Won’t peter out either so ignore the refrain and do head down to the quarry. 90

The Splurge

The grape: Cabernet Sauvignon

The history: Emerging superstar out of the Alexander Valley

The lowdown: Who isn’t looking to gift an under $50, exceptional California Cab?

The food match: Wappo Cassoulet, classic french beans with duck confit, sausage & lamb ragout

Stonestreet Monument Ridge Cabernet Sauvigon 2007 (285098, $49.95) rounds out a trifecta of the winery’s superb Ontario releases in 2012, at three very disparate price points. Exiguous stewed note is trumped by graphite, sweet vanilla Quercus, black cherry, Cassis and tobacco. Volcanic eruption of rocky red, Toyon Bush Berry Place flavours. Bet the Wappo would have liked this one.  92

Good to go!

Eight big time value wines

PHOTO: SHOCK, FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

Anyone who has dared to venture into wine stores within a week of Christmas knows that the pickings accelerate quickly from slim to none.

Related – VINTAGES, December 8th, 2012 release

Sure, January will bring new releases, but a paucity of good value wine at any time, let alone late December is tantamount to scandal. Staring forlornly into barren cubicles and languishing in long cash-out lines is no way to go through the holiday season. There will be no excuse for getting caught having to serve sickly-sweet, mass-produced plonk to hopeful party guests. As my friend Bob repeatedly reminds me, “it’s not an option.”

The plenitude on wine shelves over the next four days will make the other 361 pale by comparison. Get out there and stock up on the year’s last wine offer. Here are eight big time values to seek out from the final December release of 2012.

Eight big time value wines

The grape: Viognier

The history: Hails from the Northern Rhône in the wines of Condrieu

The lowdown: Alamos is the high-altitude, value offspring line from Argentina’s Laura (@MalbecLife) Catena

The food match: Mahi-Mahi with Blood Orange, Avocado, and Red Onion Salsa

Alamos Viognier 2011 (507830, $13.95) is pretty fly for a white guy. I get Acacia blossom, nectarine and sweet cream. A Viognier to fool as to its origin and sure it sets out to “do that brand new thing” but this is no wannabe. Huge value from winemaker Felipe Stahlschmidt and brand manager Jimena Turner.  Pleased to tout the value for both its phrenic and copacetic manner.  87

The grape: Grüner Veltliner

The history: White Austrian varietal known for its crisp, bright character

The lowdown: One of the most magnetic white wine producers anywhere

The food match: Potato Rösti, horseradish cream

Domaene Gobelsburg Grüner Veltliner 2011 (965368, $13.95) is bar none, the best value in its class. Buffet of exotics; mandarin orange, longan, rambutan. Simmering acidity, no bitter nut, pith or endgame. Not necessarily long, yet satisfying .  88

The grapes: Xarello and Riesling

The history: Traditional varietal from Catalonia, often used in the production of  Cava

The lowdown: Blended with 15% Riesling, the Xarello comes alive

The food match: Seared and Slow Roasted Salmon, crumbled chorizo, salsa verde drizzle

Terraprima White 2011 (303552, $17.95) shows off a pastel but vivid colour, sidled by scents of spring almond tree blossom and autumn arbequina olive. Riesling injection adds more verve in the mouth, indicated by lemon and lime concentrate. Will work all seasons for a Penedes siesta chill.  88

The grape: Chenin Blanc

The history: From dry to sweet, the Loire’s expression of Chenin seems limitless

The lowdown: This one leans far left, sapless, not socialist

The food match: Roasted Kabocha Squash Soup, caramelized apple, spiced pumpkin seeds

Marc Brédif Vouvray 2010 (685362, $19.95) perches high atop a parched, molecular hilltop. Bread starter nip promises stuffed pastry filled with friable, early harvest apples. Wonderful, classic and dehumidified Vouvray.  91

The grapes: Negroamaro and Malvasia Nera

The history: Salice Salentino tends sun-dried, caramelized and sometimes even burnt, but in a good way

The lowdown: Puglia has turned Salice Salentino into an international sensation

The food match: Smoked and Braised Beef Short Rib, dried fruit, carrots, thyme

Leone De Castris Maiana Salice Salentino 2009 (717959, $13.95) is full-bodied like its brethren and definitive of the dark-skinned Negroamaro. Appasimento-like raisin, Amarone quality, peppered by anise and finishing near oxy by sun-ripened tomato, black plums and stewed prunes. If long and slow braised beef convinces it to relax, it will work just fine.  87

The grape: Gamay

The history: From the vineyard of Les Vins Aujoux in the Côte Du Py

The lowdown: Cru Beaujolais, especially from Morgon, can be exhilarating stuff

The food match: Gamay Risotto, candy beets, white truffle oil

Jacques Depagneux Côte De Py Morgon 2011 (299925, $18.95) parlays Gamay in the prettiest purple package. Violaceous, like young and approachable Nebbiolo, or even Montsant. Hawkish and snappy in its play calling with a volcanic, mineral feel that elevates its game. “I’m glad I know you” Beaujolais, from it’s a wonderful life of Py.  89

The grape: Pinot Noir

The history: Unheralded (until now) winemaker Paul Battilana does his best Beaune impression

The history: Burgundy emerges as a limestone-influenced, light-bodied red in Prince Edward County

The food match: Turkey and Cranberry Pie with Sweet Potato Crust

Casa-Dea Pinot Noir 2009 (296210, $19.95) has won me over two years in a row as a top value Pinot Noir, not just in PEC, but in Ontario. Plush ruby robe, expertly extracted though it is so light on its feet. Less earth and clay than cousin Rosehall but this smells exactly as Pinot should. There is a minor note of fromagerie so consider pairing it so.  89

The Splurge

The grape: Petite Sirah

The history: Not to be confused with Syrah, this is the French varietal Durif

The lowdown: There is nothing remotely petite about this grape or this wine. Durif=énorme

The food match: Grilled Venison Loin, blackberry compote

Trentadue La Storia Petite Sirah 2010 (291047, $23.95) is massively concentrated out of the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County, as if it were packed with five centuries of the Italian American experience. Manages 14.9% alcohol with George Bailey-esque, heady grace. Tasted blind I commented, “if this is under $30 it’s an outrageous deal.” “Well whaddya know about that!!!. ” 92

Good to go!

A Niagara White Christmas

PHOTO: MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

PHOTO: MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

as seen on canada.com

Last week I wrote about bubbles and dessert wines and how they make their way into holiday fêtes like bookends on a shelf.

Related – Sparklers and “stickies” from the upcoming VINTAGES, December 8th Release

When the fizz has left the flute and the appetizers turn eclectic, the imperative focus shifts from pétillement to whist white. It just so happens that a remarkably rich and complex local folio of four will stand in the festive spotlight this coming weekend. Two are more than affordable while the others will demand a few pennies. First of all, it’s the holidays, so go out and indulge yourself. Secondly, the splurge picks are two of the best Ontario white wines I have tasted in 2012.

http://postmediacanadadotcom.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/niagarawines.jpg?w=600&h=300

The grape: Chardonnay

The history: Derek Barnett embraces the no-oak Ontario groove and masters it

The lowdown: Could very well be the most versatile white wine style for the Ontario dinner table

The food match: Tortilla Española

Lailey Unoaked Chardonnay 2011 (299776, $15.95) is like a bottle of apples reduced to smooth, silky goodness. Creamy, August peach and corn, herbal, lemon balm curd, balance throughout. Everyone should be making unoaked Chardonnay in Niagara. It just fits.  88

The grape: Chenin Blanc

The history: A nod to the Loire Valley’s Demi-Sec style, here on the Beamsville Bench

The lowdown: Not sure any other Ontario vineyard combines pedigree, innovation, marketability and saturation with a boutique-style better than Cave Spring

The food match: Omelette Chèvre et Miel

Cave Spring Chenin Blanc 2009 (627315, $17.95) come across off-dry at the outset as an aromatic, interwoven tapestry-bound cheesecloth of chèvre, honeycomb, lemon/lime and naphte. There is mango and creamy vanilla custard on the sweet and tangy palate.  When you go Beamsville, remember to go C-Blanc.  88

The Splurges

The grape: Riesling

The history: “Reserve” may not necessarily be indicated on the bottle, but this is very much a reserve Riesling from the Twenty Mile Bench

The lowdown: Ed Madronich ventures into the realm inhabited by emerging Niagara icons with this tour de force  ’09

The food match: Flaky Blood Orange Tart

Flat Rock Reserve Riesling 2009 (231266, $30.00) sports a cracking new label and cruises lemon hither and lime forth. Toasty, yeasty and wild, the FR cubed is Champagne-like in its baking bread aromas. Flint strike and tang, tang, tang, dayum! This ferment might make for great bubbles, in the vein of Hinterland’s Charmat.  90

The grape: Pinot Gris

The history: Not exactly imbued with Alsatian minerality and acidity but here PG lays down its legacy on the Niagara Peninsula

The lowdown: Winemaker Bruce Nicholson reproducing Zind-Humbrecht? Not exactly, neither in style nor result but call me out if this isn’t the most compelling Ontario Pinot Gris to date

The food match: Lebanese Apricots with Pomegranate Syrup

Inniskillin Legacy Pinot Gris 2009 (229591, $35.00) is a primordial lake of oozing honey and petrol. Verges on Vendanges Tardive, then meanders nut-toasty, spewing scents of mango, papaya and pineapple. Honey again and again, but also that indescribable and golden concentration of evolved, off-dry Pinot Gris, dotted with specs of pepper.  91

Good to go!

Power shift: Wine in Ontario

Photograph by Aaron Lynett, National Post

Photograph by Aaron Lynett, National Post

as seen on canada.com

It’s been a long time, a long time coming
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will”

…A climate for change hovers in the frigid late November air. Sam says, “don’t fight it, feel it.” An unprecedented level of lobbying, legislative tabling and transparent discourse looks to reshape the landscape for the future of Ontario’s wine industry. The Ontario Wine Council just initiated a bold venture called MyWineShop aimed at revolutionizing the retail industry in Ontario. Their manifesto?

“What if you could build your dream wine shop in your neighbourhood?” Now’s your chance to envision an Ontario with greater consumer choice.
mywineshop.ca

In June the federal government passed Bill C-311, opening the door for the provinces to overturn restrictions on shipping wine across their Canadian borders.

Just last week, Nova Scotia followed BC’s lead by introducing the Free My Grapes bill, a set of provincial legislative amendments which will permit direct to consumer wine shipping into that province. Ontario’s laws remain staid silent on the inter-provincial importation of wine and according to lawyer Mark Hicken, that silence indicates a soon to be opening door.

Wine sales continue to grow, the LCBO has many fans and I included have lauded their efforts. Still, the crowd is growing thicker, speaking out, demanding change. Private wine stores exist in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba and Nova Scotia. Critics want to know this. Why not Ontario?

With billions of wine dollars on the table and the window of opportunity seemingly imminent, it is with great interest that we follow the players, their agendas and their alliances. Here are twelve influential leaders who will help to define and decide the future of wine sales in Ontario.

Tim Hudak, Leader of the Ontario Conservative Party

Despite a less than impressive showing in the last provincial election, Dalton McGuinty’s departure and a leader-less Liberal government paves a new road to Mr. Hudak’s future. Adding beer and wine to corner stores in Ontario was a misguided and misdirected attempt at liquor reform but Hudak “didn’t reject the idea outright.” This indicates more than a potential partnership for a plan to introduce private wine retail in Ontario. Sure, the Conservatives first need to steal a majority, but a dwindling economy and renewed fear of long-lasting recession might just be the impetus for a Thatcherian foray and a partial crumbling of the LCBO wall.

Kathleen Wynne, leadership candidate for the Ontario Liberal Party

A discussion that involves Hudak would not be complete without mentioning Wynne. According to Scott Stinson, a front-runner to succeed Dalton McGuinty as leader of the party looks to be the long-time Cabinet minister and MPP for Don Valley West  (along with former Windsor MPP Sandra Pupatello). Good luck to either, as they will first be faced with the difficult task of leading the faltering Liberals and following what would be a miracle win, trying to withstand the wine storm brewing in Ontario.

Phillip Olson, Chair, LCBO

Olson has been Chair since March 2007 and his position was recently renewed in March 2012 for another two-year term. As head of one of the world’s largest buyers and retailers of beverage alcohol, Olson has seen the LCBO through its golden era. In fiscal 2011-12, LCBO sales topped $4.7 billion and it delivered a $1.63 billion dividend to the Ontario government, not including taxes. The LCBO now faces a tsunami of developing support to privatize the industry. Olson and team can look forward to a heavyweight battle for market share.

Hillary Dawson, President, Wine Council of Ontario

While the WCO’s mission is to promote the growth and sustainability of Ontario’s VQA wines, it is Dawson at the helm brandishing the brand new initiative. MyWineShop is turning heads and unequivocally is the boldest move yet by an Ontario coalition with aspirations to overhaul the wine world in Ontario as we know it.

Brian Schmidt, Vineland Estates Winery, President & Chair, VQA Ontario

As the head of VQA, winemaker Brian Schmidt is instrumental in maintaining and ensuring the exceptional quality of Ontario wine. VQA Ontario exercises delegated authority to administer and enforce the VQA Act and its associated regulations. Along with brother Allan, Schmidt is the candidate most likely to press for a change to rules regarding VQA wine format designations. VQA wines that use the appellation of origin “Ontario” may now be packaged in containers other than glass bottles but not wine bearing more specific claims of origin regulated by VQA. Securing that approval from VQA Ontario, the LCBO and the AGCO would have huge ramifications, including allowing for wine served from kegs in Ontario restaurants.

Bill George Jr., Chair, Grape Growers on Ontario

The GGO represents Ontario’s over 500 growers of 15,000 acres of processing grapes, including 176 wineries in the Province’s four viticulture areas: Niagara Peninsula, Pelee Island, Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County.  Bill George Jr. leads an organization that connects growers to the public, the media and the wineries on matters of viticulture, in particular the growing demand for high quality grapes. As an industry partner, the GGO has participated in the creation of over 1,300 additional jobs in the last four years through programs implemented by the Wine Council of Ontario and other industry partners. VQA wine sales at the LCBO have more than doubled over the past five years to over $110 million annually and now make up about 40 per cent of total Ontario wine sales. Good quality grapes, grassroots work and connectivity. This is the work of the GGO.

Moray Tawse, Owner, Tawse Vineyards and Marchand/Tawse

Though his day job as Co-Founder and Vice President of Mortgage Investments at First National Financial Corp. is his bread and butter, Moray Tawse is most passionate about his role as owner of Ontario’s most progressive vineyard. Tawse was the 2012 Winery of the Year award winner for an unprecedented third year in a row at the Canadian Wine Awards. So Tawse goes, so goes the Ontario wine industry.

Bryan McCaw, President, Wine Align

Wine Align is an online service that makes it easier to make smart and informed buying decisions at the LCBO. It boasts the most comprehensive database linked to the LCBO. Many of Ontario’s top critics are on board. Wine Align has entrenched itself in the heart of wine purchasing in Ontario. Yesterday McCaw tweeted “we had a record number of visitors to @WineAlign yesterday (7,900). We’re now getting more in a day than we use to get in an entire month.”

David Lawrason, Toronto Life, The National Post and Wine Align

Lawrason is the most affable guy you would ever want to sit in a room with and taste wine. It is hard to imagine another Canadian wine scribe that covers as much ground, from coast to coast, as David Lawrason does. He is tireless, relentless, opinionated, diplomatic, accurate and concise. His conclusion about privatization? “Alcohol is legal, and so the citizens have every right to sell it themselves, and certainly to select which brands are available, and to shop for it when and where they chose.” Peerless authority on all things wine.

Beppi Crosariol, The Globe and Mail

Certainly less political than his peers, Crosariol concentrates on the wines. As the critic for the largest national audience, his focus stays the course of wine recommendations and where to find them. No other  Canadian writer can reach as many people or influence sales (particularly in Ontario) like the Globe and Mail’s man.

John Szabo, M.S., The National Post and Wine Align

John Szabo has the torch in his grasp and is running with it. His influence is on the verge of omnipotence in Ontario’s world of wine. It is hard to think of anyone who will have more to say and be heard by a larger audience, when the levee of Ontario wine restrictions break. Szabo wrote a lengthy, informative and remarkably diplomatic dissertation on the subject of the LCBO monopoly and what it would mean to introduce private wine stores in Ontario. Though he walked a fine line and succeeded in stressing a need for privatization, he managed the piece with an ambassador’s precision. Still, he finished off by saying, “I hope I don’t get put on an interdiction list for writing this.”

Rick VanSickle, WinesInNiagara

Nobody and I mean nobody works more tirelessly to champion Ontario wines, at field level and in print. Though he has been advocating for the overhaul of the system longer than most, save for Lawrason, Margaret Swaine and Michael Vaughan, VanSickle has recently increased his tone and his voice to push for change. It would be hard to imagine elevated discourse and debate without VanSickle in the fray.

Good to go!