June the month for Euro 2012 and wine law reform

Thomas Mulcair and Bill C-311


June is shaping up to be a great month for Football fans and wine lovers across the nation. With one week to go before the opening matches for the Euro 2012 comes news of a new Canadian wine law. By the time Poland and Greece kick off the Euro next Friday, the tabled bill brought forth by Conservative MP Dan Albas may soon be back in the Senate. This after NDP MP’s wasted precious time by debating the bill ad nauseum on Tuesday night, filibustering its fast track to the Senate. One has to wonder what role Mr. Mulcair played in his party’s stall tactics.

Albus is the British Columbia MP for Okanagan-Coquihalla.  His tweets and website are relentless in the pursuit of this proposed legislation. The purpose of Bill C-311 is to allow Canadian wineries to ship their wines across provinces in opposition to the archaic 1928 Prohibition-era law. After some scrambling, Albus was rescued by Liberal MP Scott Brison, who offered some of his own parliamentary time to slot in Bill C-311 next week. The Bill has another chance to pass on June 6. Mark Hicken, who runs the website freethewine.ca, notes that Provincial monopolies need not fear a loss or revenue “as over 90% of wine is consumed within hours of purchase and direct-to-consumer shipments from wineries only make up a small segment of the marketplace.”

While the possibilities of Bill C-311 are exciting, this is just the first step. The law would only apply to shipping from wineries within the country. The law will not effect transfers between monopolies or imports from the United States. Inter-provincial shipping limits will also need to be decided upon.

The question here is Ontario is how will this affect our wine purchasing? David Lawrason wrote back in February that “in Ontario, the limit of this “personal exemption” is still in the hands of the LCBO, and we all wait with bated breath to hear how much wine Father McGuinty and his flock think should be allowed to import before we might be considered ‘traffickers’.  But hey, even a single case minimum would be a help.”

The following BC beauty is being released today in VINTAGES. Here’s to hoping more big reds and aromatic whites out of BC (and Nova Scotia for that matter) will soon be available to Winetarians.

Black Widow Single Vineyard Hourglass 2008 (0258822, $54.00), velveteen in texture, owns an Oyosoos Larose-like liqueur. Gemmish cut and clarity, if not a touch syrupy, but five years should stretch out the thick lines. This is big for Merlot, possessive of a Joan Holloway hourglass figure, disingenuous and exploitive of its sultry French oak flavours. Watch out it don’t black widow you after the first glass.  90


Good to go!

Burgundy crush course: Get your learn on

Crush Wine Bar

by featured writer Jascha Baraness

Dinner at Crush Wine Bar

455 King Street West,  Toronto, (416) 977-1234

Executive Chef: Trista Sheen


It had been many months since my last ‘producer specific’ wine dinner, so I took it upon myself to organize a sequel. Focused around the wines of the two great Chablis producers Francois Raveneau and Vincent Dauvissat; we called it the Ravissat dinner. 

There was a second theme for the evening too, much less specific however, Red Burgundy.

We started the evening with one of the world’s most misunderstood wines, a Chateau Chalon’s Vin Jaune, which paired perfectly with a decadent charcuterie board.

Dinner itself was of a slightly modified menu prepared for a Confrerie des Chevaliers du Tastevin by Chef Sheen. Given our white and red themes for the evening, chef’s creations were extremely appropriate.

The Chablis:

2009 Domaine Adhémar et Francis Boudin Chablis 1er Cru L’Homme Mort

2006 Domaine William Fèvre Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume

2008 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis 1er Cru La Forest  (flawed)

2004 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Vaillons

2003 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux  (corked)

2004 François Raveneau Chablis 1er Cru Butteaux

2005 Simonnet-Febvre Chablis Grand Cru Les  Preuses








It was nice to have such a range of different styles from the same region.  Equally impressive were the Ravissat wines (at least those that were sound).  They’re made to such a high standard that tasted blind, their 1er cru wines could easily be mistaken for Grand cru.  With tremendous fruit density, complexity and incredibly low yields usually reserved for the Grand cru vineyards, these wines showed poise and finesse that other producers just can’t match.

In my humble opinion, best in show was the 2004 Butteaux from Raveneau which made me want to kick everyone out of the restaurant so that I could be alone with the wine.  Breathtaking.

The reds followed:

2006 Domaine de Montille Beaune 1er Cru Les Perrières

2004 Domaine de Courcel Pommard 1er Cru Grand Clos des Épenots

2004 Bouchard Père et Fils Volnay 1er Cru Caillerets Ancienne Cuvée Carnot

2002 Domaine Ghislaine Barthod / Barthod-Noëllat Chambolle-Musigny 1er Cru Les Cras

2002 Louis Latour Corton-Grancey

1996 Domaine Bruno Clavelier Vosne-Romanée 1er Cru Les Beaux Monts Vieilles (corked)

1999 Domaine Humbert Frères Gevrey-Chambertin 1er Cru Craipillot 

All wines showed exceptionally well.  The Clavelier being the most anticipated and the biggest letdown (corked).  Once again, in my humble opinion the best red in show was the Barthod, Les Cras (which was my red contribution to the evening – and a little redemption since my Dauvissat had been flawed).

We finished the evening with a lovely sweet one.

1994 Dr. Fischer Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Beerenauslese (Germany, Mosel Saar Ruwer)

The wine wasn’t quite showing the vibrancy that we had expected, but then again it may have been palate fatigue.

All in all, a lovely dinner with great friends and a great lesson in the importance of buying producer specific wines in Chablis and Burgundy.

LCBO marketing inserts. Are you talkin’ to me?

The LCBO takes another hit. Policy bashing is nothing new to the world of the Ontario liquor monopoly and it remains unfazed. A certain trash talking Queen’s Park Columnist ranted this past weekend about strong-arm tactics whereby the LCBO forces its suppliers to advertise in glossy marketing inserts at inflated prices. These newspaper leaflets call a wiki of violations into question. Taxpayer money squandering, backwards marketing, breathless promotion, lack of information, misrepresentation, corruption and greed! Wow. All that from a few pretty photographs of food and plonk!

Look, I’m as big a conspiracy theorist as the next scrib. But come on, a little love for the big, bad machine, please. Great people work there. Product consultants are knowledgable and personable. Stores are clean, well run and the providence of wine is kept with integrity. Prices are stable and I will say it again. For every overpriced wine there is another one with your name on it. For every wine you want but can’t get because of an archaic lottery system, another waits for you. A shortage of quality product is not the problem. The alternative represents chaos and anarchy. Alberta is so far a failed experiment. The maze of laws for selling and shipping from one US state to another are confounding and constricting.  Sure, the profit addiction needs to be addressed but that is why we have lobbyists, especially in Niagara. You will be amazed at the changes coming soon to Ontario wine legislation. Wait for it. Privatization will one day be necessary but we are not ready for it. This is the LCBO’s golden era. The money being poured into the system is a boon for everyone working in the industry. Wrong time to complain. That goes for the wine geeks and the 12,850,000 “owners” too. You will just be biting the hand that feeds.

It seems the esteemed correspondent has never talked to a mirror and mimicked the effortless social interaction he sees all around him, but does not participate in. The LCBO does this everyday, as do I. There’s a little Travis Bickle in all of us.

Each time I find an LCBO advertorial I too ask no one in particular “…have you noticed which products grace these pages?” One quick glance and its “are you talkin’ to me?” I get neither my information nor my inspiration from these “wineserts.” The dumbing down advertorials are harmless and not worth fussing over. At least some people got paid to work for a living. My only complaint is the weight addition to an already overflowing grey bin.

Good to go!

Tasting through Portugal and the VINTAGES May 26th Release

Portuguese Corks

Three thematic release posts done, canada.com1, canada.com2, canada.com3, 16 more tasting notes to go. Shout out to Anne Yarymowich and Annick Le Goaix for some splendid Portuguese gastronomy last week at the AGO’s Wines of Portugal tasting. Read it at canada.com.

Anne Yarymovich. Credit: Dany Le Goaix



















Quinta do Infantado Red 2009 (95158, $21.95) was the best Portuguese wine I tasted. João Roseira uses no yeasts, no additives, just grapes fermenting and developing by themselves. This is wine truly made in the vineyard. Balance in every facet. Smokey, meaty and fat for a three Tinto Douro, the Infantado offers up the greatest of simple pleasures.  89

Wines of Portugal Tasting. Credit: Dany Le Goaix

Lingenfelder Freinsheimer Musikantelbuckel Riesling Kabinett 2010 (87593, $17.95) wins the award for longest label. Ciders with pretty, apple effervescence and Vidal-esque hairspray viscosity but ultimately buckles under its own weight. Sad to see it leaving sa-soon.  85

Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 (229856, $99.95) would have been a beastly treat if it were not corked.  NR

Ridge Monte Bello 2009 (711085, $145.95) is a wow wine. Deep, deep purple. Thick, oily extract of red bark and sugary berries baked in a pie. Offers crazy love and goes the full monte. “I can hear her heartbeat for a thousand miles.” Strikes fear and loathing in Wineontarians in need of a price kvetch. Get over it. Good wine is expensive. Ciao Bello!  93

Rubicon Estate Cask Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (29553, $74,95) dry rubs its sweetheart of the rodeo nose with brown sugar, thyme, sage, molido, ancho and fleur de sel. There are more ingredients but if we revealed them we’d have to kill you. Country Rock Cabernet. You don’t miss your water when killing this. This Cask cries out for flesh.  90

Chateau Smith Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 (280107, $24.95) the creamy vanilla shaken, not stirred Cab. Good structure and backbone if not a whole lotta linear, skyscraping action.  87

Urraca Cabernet Sauvignion 2008 (271080, $19.95) of Agrelo identifies with Provence. Mired in the weeds of dill, borage and thistle. Further herbal notes of tarragon along with olives and tobacco. So much savoury.  85

Barossa Valley Estate Ebenezer Shiraz 2006 (971705, $39.95) is bold, beefy and blasted from blown speakers. The new pornography in Aussie Shiraz, impressive for its place and will show some balance 10 years on. Certainly no Scrooge and generous with matters of fruit and heart. “A lot of oyster but no pearls.” Will get you through a long December.  92

Tait The Ball Buster Red 2009 (269472, $24.95) is a bitch. Tart and flavoured by sun-kissed berries, jawbreaker and gobstopper. Dense and concentrated, “stone cold sober as a matter of fact.”  88

Astrolabe Voyage Pinot Noir 2009 (179200, $24.95) trips the tongue, grips the mouth and sends them spiralling into space. Expressive of vanilla and baking spices. Big tannins for Marlborough Pinot. Needs a little spirit of the west and to “go home for a rest.”  86

Sequillo Cellars Red 2009 (277996, $29.95) ankles along a rocky Swartland road. Hard lines make this ambitious South African seem Mourvedre dominated.  86

Momessin Les Griottes Morgon 2010 (276402, $17.95) casts a lovely opaque, red lollipop hue. Bitter tar, griottes and sherry join red apple in this darling Gamay. “Let there be sunlight, let there be rain,” drink this Beaujolais off and on again.  87

Chateau Pipeau 2008 (138131, $29.00) always offers great Bordeaux value but this bottle is flawed. Smells like merde NR

Di Majo Norante Ramitello 2009 (973214, $15.95) steps right up to the IVR* plate and antes up mezzogiorno shun with liturgical love. Sun melted licorice and grilling scents meet juicy acidity, finesse and restrained power. Molto bene89

Coto De Imaz Gran Reserva 2001 (976811, $29.95) is highly concentrated for Rioja, especially at 11 years old. Tempting leafy aromas as of tobacco and tumbling like a Billy Tallent riff.  Or is that just my Imaz-ination, “running away with me.”  88

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

Good to go!

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-To-Value Ratio

CVR** – Vintage Direct Curiosity-To-Value Ratio

VINTAGES May 26, 2012 Release: Tuscany

Vineyards in Tuscany. Credit Peter Gridley

May 23, 2012

More from the VINTAGES, May 26th Release:



Here five terrific wines that raise the bar for the varietally variable and blue-blooded Sangiovese. Etruscan treasures of high benevolence, proud and unwavering in stature. Quality across the board from Aziendie Agricoli enjoying a new Renaissance and representing a vinous gateway to classical civilization. Architecturally driven bottles of pleasure, engineered today by masters of their craft.

Vicchiomaggio Agostino Petri Chianti Classico Riserva 2008 (993360, $19.95) represents immense IVR* in modish CCR. High toned Sangiovese fruit perhaps void of a certain transparency but in equity with necessary acidity.  Forward thinker and delicious. The ’01 was $25.95.   88


Castello Di Ama Chianti Classico 2007 (39768, $33.95) the dictionary entry for CC defined eclipses the storied ’04 and ’06 in weight, balance and power. Complex, confounding, a funk of its own accord, not animal or barnyard, but something other. A Stanley Clarke, Zabadoobeede Bass Days beat. Smoke, tar and grotto florals like a Snake Head’s Frittilary92

La Mannella Brunello Di Montalcino 2006 (279083, $39.95) of compendiary and dirtless, sylvan cherry spice is “hard to handle now,” a corvo nero to Chianti’s gallo. Gangly at present, the old school Mannella will grow in stature to shake its money maker and take off in future flight.  88







Ruffino Ducale Oro Chianti Classico Riserva 2006 (353201, $43.95) is money, a Siena red and golden sunset of  licorice sweetness. Viscous liquere-spiked espresso with big tannic grip. Five to 10 years away from pay dirt.  89

Antinori Pian Delle Vigne Brunello Di Montalcino 2006 (651141, $59.95) of fat and hearty, bubbling beef broth contributes towards defining Tuscan animale in Sangiovese. Iron and lead brined cherries soaking in beef suet. This Antinori is a resplendent, modern expression of Brunello.  91

Good to go!

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-To-Value Ratio

CVR** – Vintage Direct Curiosity-To-Value Ratio

Fiddleheads, Morels, Ramps, Rhubarb and Gamay


May 22, 2012

Fiddleheads already as adult ferns. Leeks unswelled, Morels hiding underground. Have I ever noted the forest so dusty, so dry? No rain. No moisture in the ground. This on the heels of the previously alluded to heterodoxical winter of no white stuff. Peer beneath the surface and a modest harvest is discovered.

Ramps of Modest Swell

At this point in the Spring Wild Leeks tend to burrow deeper underground but the lack of moisture finds them much closer to the surface. The unearthing is done with ease.

The boys dig in

The ferns are tall as a tree, wide as a house. The bracken sweeps across the forest floor. Healthy and climbing rhubarb is on the verge of going to seed.

Giant Ferns



Dominique Piron Les Pierres Morgon 2009 (231969, $22.95) loads up on black cherries seeped in a floral bath of Brunnera, Heuchera and unfurled Matteuccie fougère-à-L’Autriche. Schist, granite and iron minerality imbue the wine with dynamic volume. The relationship between the Gamay and earthy vegetables are “all the more a pair of underwater pearls, than the oak tree and the resurrection fern.”  89

Piron Morgon 2009










The fort continues to take shape…

Forest for The Fort





Good to go!

VINTAGES May 26, 2012 Release: Chardonnay

Chardonnay Grapes



May 21, 2012




May 24th happens to be the third annually designated Chardonnay Day so this quintet of quality gold comes in right on cue. This a marketing concept using social media as the thread that connects the global conversation together. All the while raising a glass to Chardonnay’s continued ascension back to global prominence.


Closson Chase K.J. Watson Vineyard Chardonnay 2009 (230912, $34.95) teaches an elementary lesson in Upper Canada terrior. The best Chard sites along the Niagara River grow fierce, fighting vines, in turn producing “green tiger” grapes of great colour. The Watson is viscous, with aromatics as if Stag’s Leap Viognier, where white peach and rock lobster are fruggin’ on the beach at cocktail hour. “Pass the tanning butter.”  90

Closson Chase    KJ Watson Chardonnay 2009


Kistler Les Noisetiers Chardonnay 2010 (251223, $74.95) of laser focus allows the complex nature of this cuvée to “glitter, glisten, gloss, floss.” The Sonoma Noisetiers is often hazy hued as is the nature of its unfined and unfiltered ways but here in’10 it’s metallic, shiny, scaled back a notch and open to the whole world. Less nut, more gold and very focused. My favourite to date.  91

Kistler Les Noisetieres Chardonnay 2010


Mount Eden Vineyards Wolff Vineyard Chardonnay 2009 (17988, $25.95) is a toddler as compared to its extraordinary adult, Santa Cruz cousin. This SV was the wolf’s howl back when it came in under $20. It is worth admitting that junior is heavy on the toasty BTU’s, green apple core, band aid and tang the juice (sorry, drink) crystal.  87

Mount Eden Wolff Chardonnay 2009


Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2010 (903617, $20.95) darts to and fro like a cat. Intense, verdigris, cheeky CVR**and soft as banana cream pie. Oscillates but has remarkable balance and Margaret River reflexes, landing on all fours. Length to cure an odd coupling thirst and ‘unger89

Vasse Felix Chardonnay 2010


Domaine Chenevières Fourchaume Chablis 1er Cru 2009 (277921, $29.95) the bittersweet symphony traverses a grippy, yellow moonscape. Tart pears and peppery spice drift in the zero gravity air but do not persist. The lack of verve renders this Fourchaume weightless and down to earth. A Burgundian urban hymn.  88

Domaine Chenevières Fourchaume Chablis 1er Cru 2009




Good to Go!




IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-To-Value Ratio

CVR* – Vintage Direct Curiosity-To-Value Ratio



4.7 billion reasons to love the LCBO


May 17, 2012



Transferring a record $1.55 billion to the Ontario government, the LCBO was able to give 9.9 per cent more than the previous year. According to Kristin Craik, “clearly, as by LCBO’s successful example during the global recession, the alcohol industry thrives in times of strife.” So good was business, the LCBO was able to open 19 new stores and carry out major upgrades to 32 others.

 Here are the figures:

  • Net sales of $4.710 billion for 2011-12, up $218 million or 4.9 per cent over 2010-11
  • Transfer of  a record $1.63 billion dividend to the Ontario government, $80 million or 5.2 per cent more than in 2010-11
  • Net income rose $98 million to $1.658 billion, up 6.3 per cent
  • Vintages’ sales rose 10.2 per cent or $39 million over the previous year to $425 million
  • Wine sales rose 5.7 per cent to $1.66 billion (whites up 6.6 per cent, reds up 5.2 per cent)

“Net sales growth resulted from consumers trading up to premium products, incremental sales from new stores, an appealing product mix and effective marketing,” LCBO president and CEO Bob Peter said in a statement.

It comes as no surprise that the LCBO recorded a record profit for the 17th consecutive year. The only shock is that despite continued consumer unrest and unparalleled Canadian capitalist savvy, no one has been able to do anything about it.

In the past year we’ve seen mobs, movements, protests and sit-ins. A St. Patrick’s Day riot rocked London, Occupy Toronto sat in parks, squares and malls and Quebec students have raged to protest tuition fees. How has the LCBO remained immune to violent demands for change? Well, for one thing, that $1.55 billion deposit into the province’s coffers goes along way towards paying for health care and education, not to mention roads (wink, wink, say no more). And, they have taken social responsibility to an unprecedented educational level. Just don’t ask Martin Cohn or Jan Wong about their take on the issues.

According to the Ontario Auditor General report, the LCBO is not using its buying power to negotiate the best prices. Wine geeks grumble incessantly about the LCBO’s failure to use their top three world buying power to negotiate good deals. While that is certainly true, especially with respect to California imports, there are more wines at competitive prices available, at all times, then I could ever want for my cellar. Winetarians listen up. You don’t need that bottle of overpriced Pontet-Canet, Pahlmeyer or Petrus. Analyze the product offerings, locate the good deals and buy something else.

Good to go!





Wines over Two-Fours on Victoria’s Weekend



May 16, 2012


The birthday of Queen Victoria, a.k.a. Widow of Windsor, The Grandmother of Europe and Drina, leads an annual Canadian pilgrimage to purchase flats of beer by the two-four. Truth be told, the Queen held an enthusiasm for wine from Hochheim (Rhinegau, Germany) and Hungary’s Emperor Franz Josef had a tradition of sending her Tokaji Aszú , as a gift, every year on her birthday, one bottle for every month she had lived. She also reportedly had previously used Marijuana, Opium, Coca (raw cocaine) and chloroform. Wow!

Victoria Day







So why don’t we go wine over beer for the long weekend? Well, partly because our friends at the Ontario Craft Brewers are doing such a bang up job. Also because a Canadian boy’s future begins on Monday, (Tuesday on a long weekend) and his weekend starts on Friday. Still, my job is to steer you down the road of vinous possibility. I would stop short of recommending Drina’s namesake cocktail, the Queen Victoria’s Tipple, a simple mix of  ½ a tumbler of red wine plus an amount of Scotch “…stopping a good deal short of the top of the tumbler.” Hang on to your chalance, beat off the beer dictators with a cudgel and proclaim, “I have no attitude without a glass of wine.”


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 Barque88














Los Haroldos Reserva De Familia Malbec 2008 (269068, $14.95) heralds BBQ season officially open. This despite its closed aromatics and taste obscura. Biddable aspersions make good the silver-tongued, concrete poem. Silence will lead to golden connections with grilled meats.  At Barque.  87














Good to go!

Time the magazine to watch Draper’s Lytton spring eternal



May 14, 2012



Shout out to the GOP. Not the Romney, need for breast feeding discussion in America kind. The wine blogging variety. The GOP‘s  fearless leader known affectionately as Bastardo coined the phrase, “that Draper perfume.” As in Paul Draper, as opposed to Don, but no less a mad man when it comes to concocting Zinfandel blends out of Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma. Draper’s perfume is unmistakable, inimitable, intoxicating. “Nothing else in the world smells like that…smells like victory.” Once upon a time there roamed Ernest and Julio, “party guys,” but today’s magazine should have that Water Buffalo-type Paul Draper grace the cover. I can’t think of another Californian winemaker as being of the people. I am unabashed to say the Lytton Springs is my favourite Dry Creek Zin and no mid-value California red consistently impresses 10 years on like this one. The LS can be had south of the 49th for less than $40 but can still play with the bigger boys. Here, a sneak peek from the VINTAGES, May 26, 2012 release.

Paul Draper, Ridge Winemaker /Standard Newspaper














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

Lytton Springs 2009












Good to go!