LCBO Elsie Awards

An LCBO store in Toronto

An LCBO store in TorontoPhoto: Aaron Lynett/National Post

as seen on canada.com

House cleaning, a.k.a. skimming the fat from the stock seems to be on Rob Ford’s Toronto city hall agenda as staffers continue to resign and be dismissed of their duties. Premier Kathleen Wynne says “I am worried about the situation at Toronto City Hall and as appropriate, we will be involved”. Meanwhile, the provincial liquor monopoly continues to roll along. On Wednesday night, May 29th the LCBO held their “Elsies,” an awards event held annually to honour its suppliers and agents for their innovation, creativity and commitment to customer service and social responsibility. The Elsies, a play on “LCBO,” is an annual industry awards program now in its 19th year.

“The Elsies are an important recognition of LCBO suppliers and agents who have excelled at product marketing,” said Shari Mogk-Edwards, vice-president, Products, Sales and Merchandising, and co-chair of the Elsies. “These winners have been great partners of the LCBO in creating opportunities for consumers to discover new and interesting beverage alcohol products.”

Congratulations to all the deserving recipients. Big shout out to Curtis and Heidi Fielding, winemaker Richie Roberts and the entire Fielding Estate team for their VQA Excellence Award. Also, kudos to Hilary Dawson, Magdalena Kaiser-Smit and their team at the Wine Council of Ontario for being honoured with the Partnership (WOW Leader) in Training Award. Here are the 27 Elsie Award Recipients for 2013.

SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY: Diageo Canada Inc. – Guinness Canada #TAXI

BEST SPECIAL EVENT: Labatt Breweries of Canada – Beer Discovery Project BEST VINTAGES ON-PREMISE COLLABORATION: Lifford Agencies – Lifford Portfolio Tasting at Wychwood Barns

ENVIRONMENTAL COMMITMENT: Miguel Torres SA BEST FOOD&DRINK AD: Corby Distilleries Limited – Absolut BEST GIFT ITEM: Mill Street Brewery – Mill Street Celebration Sampler Pack BEST NICHE MARKETING: Diageo Canada – Johnny Walker, Chinese New Year VQA EXCELLENCE AWARD: Fielding Estate Winery VINTAGES PORTFOLIO AWARD OF EXCELLENCE: Profile Wine Group BEST IN-STORE TASTING PROGRAM: Andrew Peller Limited

BEST INTEGRATED MARKETING PROGRAM: Forty Creek Distillery Ltd. – Support of Forty Creek Barrel Select and their growing family of brands BEST VINTAGES EVENT: Charton-Hobbs Inc. – Dom Perignon Reception and Dinner

BEST NEW PRODUCT LAUNCH: SPIRITS & READY-TO-DRINK: Forty Creek Distillery Ltd. – Forty Creek Copper Pot Reserve BEST NEW PRODUCT LAUNCH: WINES: Andrew Peller Limited – Skinny Grape BEST NEW PRODUCT LAUNCH: BEERS: Carlsberg Canada Inc.- Somersby Cider PARTNERSHIP AWARD – PRODUCT FLOW: Samarie Lumsden – Corby Distilleries Limited PARTNERSHIP IN TRAINING AWARD: Wine Council of Ontario – WOW Leader Program PARTNERSHIP AWARD: VINTAGES: Rick Slomka – Wines of California PARTNERSHIP AWARD: BEERS: Taras Hetmanczuk – Molson Coors Canada PARTNERSHIP AWARD: WINES: Philip Mirabelli – Noble Estates Wines & Spirits PARTNERSHIP AWARD: SPIRITS & READY-TO-DRINK: Ryan McCue – Diageo Canada Inc. PARTNERSHIP AWARD: RETAIL: Linda Belsey – Forty Creek Distillery Ltd.

PARTNERSHIP AWARD: SUPPLY CHAIN: E. & J. Gallo Winery Canada Ltd. SPECIAL RECOGNITION AWARD: Doug Beatty AGENT/SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR AWARD: CLASS C: Keep6 Imports AGENT/SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR AWARD: CLASS B: Mill Street Brewery AGENT/SUPPLIER OF THE YEAR AWARD: CLASS A: Forty Creek Distillery Ltd.

Good to go!

See the humanity in real value wine

Glass of red wine PHOTO: FONS LAURE/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

There is no secret that Canadians and especially the wine consumer from Ontario, desperately want more choice. We want private wine shops that can specialize in niche products. We want all Canadian grapes to be granted passports to travel freely from province to province. We want access to real wines made by passionate human beings. We don’t want plonk.

Twice a month I taste through in excess of 100 hundred wines scheduled for release through VINTAGES, the fine wine and spirits division of the LCBO. On some days the wines, as a group, seem merely “better than dough.” On other days they cause one or more of my colleagues to say things like “this is the worst red wine day of my life.” The public knows that we have lagged for many years in wine retail. The public is ahead of the LCBO think tank on this.

Fortunately, or not, depending on how bright a side of life you look, more often than not I can look through and beyond the barbaric fringes and pick out a few primitive, unfettered warriors from the monopolistic offering. Once in a while the sea of humanity reveals itself and many wines shine, express their terroir, their somewhereness, their completeness. Here are nine estimable examples ready for immediate enjoyment, now in a store near you.

Clockwise from left: Delas Frères Saint-Esprit Cotes Du Rhône Rosé 2012, Le Gravillas Plan de Dieu Cotes Du Rhône Villages 2010, Marechal Brut Crémant De Loire, Domaine Des Aubuisières Cuvée De Silex Vouvray 2011, Domaine Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris 2010, Château Lyonnat 2006, Château La Grange De Bessan 2009, Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko 2011, and Bonaccorsi Viognier 2010

Delas Frères Saint-Esprit Cotes Du Rhône Rosé 2012 (224964, $13.95) is all sun and strawberry, almond and grapefruit tree scents after dark, so much spirit in the night. Salinity, markedly well-made and Muga-like. “Stand right up now and let it shoot through you.”  87  @HHDImports_Wine

Le Gravillas Plan de Dieu Cotes Du Rhône Villages 2010 (264648, $14.95) is simply a ton of wine for $15. That said, it takes extraction to the maximum and is yet blessed with a graceful level of gravitas. I wouldn’t want to drink too much of this, or any other similarly concentrated and heavily fruit- endowed Rhône but there is enough mineral and tar character to keep Le Gravillas honest.  88

Marechal Brut Crémant De Loire (141077, $15.95) foams frothy forth alive and expansive out of a yeasty starter, spins lightly on its A16 axis and revolves tightly wound around a citrus spindle. A working class Marechal, real and made for the people. Perhaps not La Grande Illusion but a wine that will “show the common humanity present across these divisions.” About as good as Méthode Traditionnelle sparkling Loire Chenin Blanc can be and priced to fly.  89

Domaine Des Aubuisières Cuvée De Silex Vouvray 2011 (57042, $17.95, SAQ, 858886, $17.60) speaks sedimentary cryptocrystalline vernacular to narrate its Loire Chenin Blanc story by way of a ripe apple and blooming rose style. Off-dry and dehydrated by the chert, that defining, dusty silex soil. There should be land-driven $18 wine available, always and everywhere.  89  @LoireValleyWine

Domaine Schlumberger Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris 2010 (21253, $19.95, SAQ, 913897, $22.85) returns the storied Alsatian to top form after a confounding ’09. Cool climate, perfervid pear considers dressing up in lime-spiked papaya but chooses to turn on its heel to put on a sequin-dotted silk dress. Spot on, shimmering scintillant.  90  @drinkAlsace

Château Lyonnat 2006 (243774, $19.95) built upon 85 percent Merlot, 11 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon and four percent Cabernet Franc has ancient and learned Right Bank morphology written all over its sweet, scorched earth perfume. Has entered the zone, in toasted cedar and grilled beef on the bone integration but caramel and kindling are just around the corner. Get in while the coals are smoking. Reminds me of the good oak days.  89

Château La Grange De Bessan 2009 (321331, $19.95) is a poster child for affordable, humanistic Médoc, Left Bank, hyped vintage Bordeaux. Mutton on the reductive nose does not impose a run and hide. Purple flowers, parquet smoke and dark chocolate co-mingle with iron, calcium and limestone. Meat-friendly, complex, well-structured.  90  @BordeauxWines

Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko 2011 (74781, $21.95) must be a fairy tale, a Boucles d’or narrative of structure and complexity from the first swirl and sniff. Airy, saline, built of rich, gold guts. Perfectly ripened orchard fruit and fresh-squeezed grapefruit. Taste it and there’s a joyous dance, a kefi bursting inside, like great Champagne but minus the bubbles.  92  @KolonakiGroup

Bonaccorsi Viognier 2010 (318121, $23.95) from Santa Barbara’s Happy Canyon is bottled, golden Californian sunshine, rich, unctuous and tanned. Will be accused of being obnoxious, bellicose, even Sisyphean, but she and I don’t care. Spicy, candied yellow apple, sappy, honeysuckle scent meets an efflux of buttery cashew, like toasted Chardonnay crossed with aged Chenin. Grand Cali Viognier.  91  @jbonaccorsi

Good to go!

Around the world in eight Chardonnays

PHOTO: SUTSAIY/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

Chardonnay covers more than 400,000 acres seemingly everywhere and is the most widely planted wine grape on earth. Today marks its fourth annual global celebration. Who knew there was this marketing concept using social media as the thread that connects the global conversation together. If you live in Niagara and have some free time, then you my friend are in the right place. Many wineries (17 at last count) are offering special events and free tastings today, including Flat Rock CellarsTawseLaileyHidden BenchThirty BenchSouthbrookCoyote’s RunNiagara College Teaching WineryPondviewChateau des CharmesStratus13th StreetHenry of PelhamCave SpringMalivoire and Norman Hardie. Click here for a full list of events.

Chardonnay is cool, especially in Canada, blessed with a quintessential climate for growing the most international and recognizable of the world’s white grapes. Chardonnay comes in all shapes and styles, from unoaked to heavily toasted, aged in stainless steel or concrete vats to barrel fermented. Some styles use wood chips, some Chardonnay is fermented on its lees. Chardonnay is responsible for some of the world’s great Sparkling wines, especially Champagne. Is there a comparable white grape that speaks of its origins in more varied tones? Conversely, can another variety be singled out as having suffered through more international vinification manipulation? So, Chardonnay conjunction junction, what’s your function?  Want to know what Canadians are saying about Chardonnay? Ontario Wine Chat has the answers.

If you are looking to experience the wonders of Chardonnay, from a global perspective, surrounded by experts in a setting designed for relaxation and genuflection, look here:

In anticipation of the International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration #i4c2013 and to pay tribute to this marketing sensation that is International Chardonnay Day, here are eight great examples from near and far, all available to taste, try and sample somewhere close by.

Clockwise from left: Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2010, Domaine du Chardonnay Chablis 2011, Southbrook Vineyards Triomphe Chardonnay 2011, Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2010, Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2011, Hidden Bench Tête de Cuvée Chardonnay 2009, Drappier Signature Blanc De Blancs Brut Champagne, and Stratus Chardonnay 2010

Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musqué 2010 (246579, $15.95) from Wines for the Ides of March is fresh in chert, posy aromatic and stuffed with an airy, sense of whipped lemon cream. Salinity and white pepper add kick and spice to this Chardonnay cousin only Cave Spring seems to have mastered.  89  @CaveSpring

Domaine du Chardonnay Chablis 2011 (183574, $19.95) deserves 105 points for the domain name alone but really this is just solid, good fun. Chablis as I expect it to be. Apples and cinnamon, ginger, a hint of macadamia and citrus zest. Minor bitter note trumped by ripe fruit and a clean finish. Really quite good.  88

Southbrook Vineyards Triomphe Chardonnay 2011 ($21.95, 172338) from A wine pentathlon binds FSO2 with jack or durian, febrile fruit. For now hard to figure, like a grey rose or a Pink Floyd. Offers up a creamy warmth in resonant echoes but amplified as if still trapped inside the barrel. The best days remain ahead for this certified and biodynamic Chardonnay, which in two to three years time will “come streaming in on sunlight wings.” 89  @SouthbrookWine

Wolf Blass Gold Label Chardonnay 2010 (606186, $29.95) is about as internationally-styled as it gets from the Adelaide Hills of South Australia. Smells like it’s still inside the barrel, as if the tropical fruit was wrapped up in a smoking, sweat lodge towel. Big on hot rocks, steaming and emitting earthy scents, nutty in every respect, big, big Chardonnay. Nerve, verve and understanding.  90  @WolfBlassWines

Norman Hardie County Chardonnay 2011 ($35, winery only) from Come together, over wine is not merely a window into the vintage but the portal. Bright, golden fruit, freakish level of mineral and longer than the old Greer Road. Norman will always have ’08 but the newbies will be lucky to discover 2011. Who wouldn’t fall for its charms. When it comes to this Prince Edward County Chardonnay, “one and one don’t make two, one and one make one.” I call that a bargain.  92  @normhardie

Hidden Bench Tête de Cuvée Chardonnay 2009 ($45, winery only) from Big wines from California and the Bench from HB’s oldest, most highly regarded and meticulously maintained vines shows ravishing and refined restraint in elegance. Warm pineapple and mango coagulation jarred by the vintage’s piercing acidity and immense length. Head of the class, rings the bell, nails the lecture.  93  @HiddenBench

Drappier Signature Blanc De Blancs Brut Champagne (599860, $46.95) continues a VINTAGES string of excellent value in Champagne releases. Made from 100% Chardonnay, this BdB is pronounced in , yeasty dough definition, hinting at agave and unwashed cheese rind. Where there’s bubbles there’s a way and I like where this one is going. The agave replays in sweet waves, as does the the sour in faint yet discernible sloshes. Much to contemplate in this NV sparkler.  90   @Halpernwine

Stratus Chardonnay 2010 ($55) from Stratus and Momofuku: Modernity incarnate from natural yeast, full batch (bunch) pressing and heeded by Paul’s call to full malolactic fermentation, this fruit was picked on November 15th, a day “you had to go run and pick fast.” Groux is not trying to make California or Burgundy but make the best in Niagara. Clarity and sun drenched hue, tropical fruit dominance, sweetness, malo-butterscotch obviousness. Some tart orchard fruit late but certainly warm vintage wine. Not the most arid Chardonnay but blessed with great length.  91  @Stratuswines

Good to go!

Go Gamay Go

Beaujolais at Acadia Restaurant Photos: (DANIEL YAM/WWW.DANIELYAMPHOTOGRAPHY.COM)

Beaujolais at Acadia Restaurant
Photos: (DANIEL YAM/WWW.DANIELYAMPHOTOGRAPHY.COM)

as seen on canada.com

It’s the current war cry by the voices of those who know. A plea and a calling to Canadian growers and winemakers to plant and bottle more Gamay Noir. A proclamation in favour of a great grape and one that forges signature wines out of Canadian soils. I am an ardent supporter of and a willing rider on the Gamay bandwagon, in the name of connaitre and savoirkennen and wissen, recognition and understanding.

They are ostensibly all climatically cool, the wine regions of Canada. The Okanagan and Similkameen valleys of British Columbia, the Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore and Prince Edward County of Ontario, the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia and Monteregie of Québec. But, it’s not just about the weather anymore. Existentially speaking, Canadian wine is cool.

Gamay is the grape of Beaujolais in east-central France and the principal variety of that immediate geographical neighbour to the south of the world’s most influential and serious of all wine regions, Burgundy. Thin-skinned, low in tannin and often in acidity too, Gamay has for centuries played last fiddle and ugly cousin to Pinot Noir. With the rise of the Beaujolais Cru, that is, red wines made from recognized and identified plots within appellations like Moulin à Vent, Brouilly and Morgon, Gamay has left the orchestra pit and is rapidly gaining solo notoriety. Beaujolais is no longer nouveau. It’s old hat.

While I wait for the #GoGamayGo network to convince our councils, marketing boards and vintners to establish a Canadian Cru system, or at least a comprehensive tasting of Canadian Gamay, I’ll turn my attention to our French forefathers.

Anthony Collet discussing Beaujolais Photos: Daniel Yam/www.danielyamphotography.com)

Anthony Collet discussing Beaujolais

On Wednesday, May 15th, The Beaujolais Wine Council, led by Anthony Collet of Inter Beaujolais and with the assistance of the Siren Group, hosted a wine tasting at Acadia Restaurant. Five ineluctable courses ushered in 12 diverse Beaujolais. The patio luncheon featured Indian, Korean, New Orleans and Portuguese barbecue created by chef Patrick Kriss. Chef’s plates are like holorimes, simple yet complex, parts seemingly unrelated yet bound together by rhyming flavours and techniques. Food crucially matched to Gamay ready to be reckoned with. The least of which made for simple, pleasurable drinking, the best as sang-froid, cellar worthy candidates. Here are the notes.

Beaujolais Wines

Beaujolais Wines

Château Des Jacques Beaujolais Grand Clos de Loyse 2010 (11094399, $19.75) from Louis Jadot holdings in Romanèche is shameless Chardonnay, forwardly fruity and straight on the rocks. From a stainless steel ferment, the Loyse gives off a vinous, tart, pressed gas and Hercynian sedimentary note. Soft white, lithe and airy.  88  @liffordwine

CREOLE SHRIMP, anson mills grits

Georges Duboeuf Beaujolais Fun 2009 (228155, $10.95, SAQ, 11459482, $14.75) talks turkey, offers a pretenseless picnic of pure Gamay fruit and remains remarkably fresh for a 2009. Puts the FU back into fun against many a challenger. I may be alone in defence of this simple quaff but inveigle against my wine soul if this ‘aint a good deal.  87  @dandurandwines

Louis Jadot Beaujolais-Villages Combe Aux Jacques 2011 (365924, $17.95, SAQ, 365924, $16.70) seems a simple distillation hosting a floating purée of raspberry and cranberry. A sniff of smoldering tree bark keeps it interesting. Nothing to hide from, nor to rush to.  86  @ljadot

Related – A terrific write-up of the event from The Wine Sisters

Acadia Restaurant's Piri Piri Chicken

Acadia Restaurant’s Piri Piri Chicken

 

PIRI PIRI CHICKEN LEG, yogurt

Bouchard Aîné & Fils Beaujolais Superieur 2011 (9431, $11.95) the fresh fruit maker shows some mid-life separation in peppery kick though it’s really quite round. Leads my table mates and I to believe it should be semi-chilled in good ones and over-chilled in less than good vintages.  86

Jacques Dépagneux Morgon Côte Du Puy 2011 (299925, $18.95) is possessed of the appellation’s basic lexical features, that is morphemic, mannish, “spell mmm, aaa child, nnn” linguistics, in smoke, spice and acidity. Goes deeper than non-Cru Beaujolais, if it’s just a bit leaner than when I first tasted it last November. This Gamay speaks in muddy water, beefcake tones now but may not be talking as proud as time goes by. Very good but not quite great example.  89

Domaine Joseph Burrier Saint-Amour Côte de Besset 2009 (11154419, $25.85) confounds by holding out a yes or no answer as to its possible ringer status. Inscrutable Gamay, puckering in dried raisin and cherry, but also sun-dried tomato. Baked, nearly tawny, sullied even. Clearly a child of the searing vintage, hefty and despite the cooked character, it matched quite well with the piquant chicken.  87

Acadia Restaurant's Grilled Eggplant

Acadia Restaurant’s Grilled Eggplant

 

GRILLED EGGPLANT, peanut, coconut & curry condiment

Château De Pierreux Brouilly 2011 (5496, $18.95, SAQ, 10754421, $20.15) is wondrous Gamay, clearly defined by aromas of juicy berries and all things forest. I could enjoy a boatload of this floral Brouilly without ever taking a sip. Further to that it starts out soft, vanilla relaxed, glides in confident refinement then spikes in smoke, tar and heat on the back palate. Could use a chill.  88

Villa Ponciago Fleurie La Réserve 2011 (299917, $21.95) from Champagne house Henriot is the most feminine thus far, expressive of a queen’s terroir, delicate, poignant, pretty. Deserving of a Roy Orbison croon, “ma fleur de lis, je t’aime beaujolais.” Reminds me of blueberry pie, or plum pudding, this PYT, full of aplomb and plume.  89  @WoodmanWines

George DuBoeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2010 (122077, $12.95) is a blast from the past, a parson’s project that wants to be juice but really it’s just pink turning red drink. Pink, red, sugar, water…drink. Certainly the most “nouveau” of the lot, this “catch twenty-two” bottle represents everything the region is trying to avoid and diversify away from. I will admit there is a touch of earthy complexity, just enough so to give it a lifeline and value.  85

Acadia Restaurant's Korean Short Rib

Acadia Restaurant’s Korean Short Rib

 

KOREAN SHORT RIB, crispy rice, sesame & chili

Domaine Manoir Du Carra Juliénas 2010 (290981, $19.95) the pearl finally puts some funk into “an otherwise empty room.” Dandy, candied peony, cracking good, cinnamon scented and jammy in Rhôneish behaviour. More structure than most.  Beaujolais’ daughter.  91

Domaine du Vissoux Moulin-à-Vent Les Trois Roches 2010 (11154427, $24.75) from star winemaker Pierres Dorées is the tasting’s prince, handsome, chivalrous, a lady’s man. Black cherry, duck reductive, sweet and musky. Searches for game, digs for truffles, wants to be seen with slow-cooked meat.  88

Domaine Piron-Lameloise Chénas Quartz 2009 (240481, $22.50) the flamboyant and flirtatious one is like a (clears throat) mini Brunello. Cherry, rose, tea, cedar and sandalwood seem so Sangiovese in a Grosso way. Who knew ’09 Beaujolais could seem so Tuscan.  90

DARK CHOCOLATE GANACHE, chantilly cream, caramel popcorn

Good to go!

A lesson learned from the averted LCBO strike

PHOTO: PETER J. THOMPSON/NATIONAL POST

as seen on canada.com

Two words. Buy local.

It was like Armaggedon in LCBO stores across the province on Thursday and that’s exactly what the spin masters wanted to see. Everyone waited with bated breath while being told “talks are continuing in hopes of averting the strike, but if no deal is reached then the strike is on as of 12:01 a.m. Friday.” Yikes. What were the poor citizens of Ontario to do?

canada.com’s  said that “Ontario drinkers are having a bit of a freak out.” Really, Ontarians were losing their minds? Did they not already know that alternative, high quality and affordable options are right in our backyard?

The question is, why give the monopoly a “bump in sales” for “precious, soon to be (maybe) unavailable liquor.” Why fall for this (conspiracy theory alert) marketing juggernaut? Ontario is literally armed by a firmament of booze soldiers stationed at every visible post and outpost. You just have to know where to look.

Related – LCBO strike looms as drinkers stock up

Guess what. The strike was averted. Quelle surprise!

According to VQA Ontario, there are over 140 licensed wineries including grape and fruit wineries. Most people who live in this province are within an hour or two’s drive to Niagara, Prince Edward County or Lake Erie North Shore appellations.  With the exception of the May two-four weekend statutory holiday on Monday, May 20th, every winery will be open for business. Visit one. While you’re at it, check out a micro-brewery or micro-distiller. The Ontario Craft Brewers list 29 breweries on their site. At least one is likely very close to where you live. Still Waters Distillery and Dillon’s in Concord and Beamsville respectively are close enough to several million Ontarians. Check them out. #MeetTheMakers

Here are some tweets to get you thinking:

Here are three local wines, available for purchase at the winery or delivery (by the case) to see you through a fake LCBO strike.

From left: Château des Charmes Cabernet/Merlot 2010, Rosehall Run Pinot Gris Cuvée County 2011, and Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot Estate 2010

Château des Charmes Cabernet/Merlot 2010 ($19.95, winery) composed of two Cabs (Sauvignon and Franc) and one Merlot is both curvy and linear, Gehry-ish in structure, like the Art Gallery of Ontario. So juicy, so stupidly affordable and clearly designed for dinner; small plates, stove-top one stop, oven-roasted, big barbecue. It don’t matter to this Bordeaux-blend. Saturday? Next Wednesday instead? Any night of the week.  89  @MBosc

Rosehall Run Pinot Gris Cuvée County 2011 ($19.95, winery) combines fruit from their Estate Vineyard and the neighbouring Fieldstone Vineyard. Dan Sullivan’s PG is as glycerin-textured as any in the County. It’s mildly piquant, hugely pear, wearing big fruit flavours on its sleeve and even a touch of cheese. Calling it characterful.  90  @Rosehall_Run

Henry of Pelham Cabernet-Merlot Estate 2010 ($24.95, winery) from the most easterly of the Niagara Escarpment appellations called the Short Hills Bench, is a bit of a west side story. The two Cabs here are the Romeo (Tony) while the Merlot is somewhat of a Juliet (Maria). Their love story goes from “womb to tomb, birth to earth,” from plum to prune, vintage warmth to cool earthy flavour. This one tingles in the nose and also a dances on the buds in a twirling, dream-like state. Bright berries give way to classic Bordeaux-like aromas of tobacco, tea and licorice.  91  @HenryofPelham

Good to go!

‘London Calling’ for Canadian wine

PHOTO: NASKO/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

Just in case you were under the impression that Canadian wine is made solely for and consumed only by Canadians, think again. The world is hungry for our prized grapes and unbeknownst to 99 per cent of the 35 million inhabitants of this vast country, the A-Team is out there in the field.

As I write this, Canada is re-introducing itself to the world by way of an essential and comprehensive tasting hosted today by The Canadian High Commission at Canada House, Trafalgar Square, London. A group of wine luminaries and emissaries are pouring sparkling wines, red wines produced from Pinot Noir, Bordeaux blends or varietals, Syrah or Gamay, white wines produced from Chardonnay or Riesling and Icewine. REDISCOVER Canadian Wine is an unprecedented event, working in conjunction with London’s Westbury Communications to remind and renew a European media and trade contingent of the quality and international viability of the wines from Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia.

Canada House, London (Photos: Janet Dorozynski)

The dream team is led by Dr. Janet Dorozynski, Global Practice Lead, Canadian Wine, Beer and Spirits, Global Business Opportunities Bureau, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada. Dr. Dorozynski’s deputies along to help promote the Canadian wines in London are the Wine Council of Ontario’s Magdalena Kaiser-Smit, Director of PR and Linda Watts, Project Manager, Canadian wine expert ambassador Tony Aspler and Barb Tatarnic of Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology & Viticulture Institute.

Winemakers, owners, vignerons, wine consultants, international sales directors, export directors and marketing consultants have made the trek after wineries from across Canada were invited to submit their wines in a blind tasting judged by a panel of Canadian judges. The panel previewed over 250 Canadian wines and selected 89 wines from 37 wineries to qualify for the London, England tasting.

With help in partnership with Foreign Affair and International Trade Canada, Wine Country Ontario, support from The Cool Climate Oenology & Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) at Brock University and from The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, the Canada House event is fully and completely positioned to raise the profile of the Canadian wine industry abroad.

London Calling: REDISCOVER Canadian wine

British wine scribe Stephen Brook notes, “Canada has long been out of the ‘promising newcomer’ category. These are wines we all need to discover.” Gerard Basset OBE MW MS adds, “I have discovered some superb wineries and producers with both flair and talent.”

For more information on the event click here.

In celebration of the calling to London, here are tasting notes on eight wines being poured today in London.

Flat Rock Cellars Gravity Pinot Noir 2010 ($30, 1560winery) from A wine pentathlon reels in Twenty Mile Bench fruit in a warm vintage as well if not better than any of its peers. Founder Ed Madronich is clearly slope and soil obsessed and this Pinot Noir is a study in topography and geology. To paraphrase Madronich, it’s  ”more Pommard than Volnay, in a deeper and more masculine way than the Estate bottling.” Pinot barrels most representative of the Gravity style were chosen for the final blend, in this case noted by woodsy black cherry and spiced root vegetable. “Get a little savagery in your life.” 90   @Winemakersboots  @UnfilteredEd

Cave Spring Cellars Riesling ‘CSV’ Estate Bottled 2009 ($29.95, winery only) from Come together, over wine comes from the oldest, lowest-yielding vines at the estate grown on the limestone, Beamsville Bench terrace. A three month rest on its lees imparts honey on the nose though the palate is dryer than off-dry. Mineral, pop-driven even. A hoovering, wizened Riesling, puckering, turning inward, yet to hydrate. Unique for Escarpment ’09 and will realize a quenching later than most. I for one will put this aside and revisit at the end of the decade, when “golden slumbers fill your eyes.” 89  @CaveSpring

Charles Baker Riesling ‘Picone’ 2011 ($35, winery only) from Come together, over wine trembles with nervous energy and will need some bottle time to shed its shocking, A16 soda popping feeling. Right now “he got joo joo eyeballs.” Give it a year, or even two for the Vinemount Ridge clint (citrus and flint) to come together in a fit of focused, piercing acidity. This is Baker’s sharpest, knife-edge Riesling in the block and while I never thought it possible, this one is sure to outshine 2009. For Charles Baker ”one and one and one is three.”  93  @cbriesling

Exultet Chardonnay ‘The Blessed’ 2011 ($35, winery only) from You can lead a county to the city is exemplary even if it may not be proprietor Gerard Spinosa’s favourite vintage. Commands an ineffable presence in gold sheen and parses meaning through balance and poise. The new oak is very noticeable but the ’11 acidity is grand. Their integration is seamless, the wine shines and a few years time will only increase its lustre.  92  @ExultetEstates

Pillitteri Estates Cabernet Franc Reserve ‘Exclamation’ 2010 (Alex Kolundzic, $35, winery only) from Top juice flows at Cuvée 25th anniversary from family vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake ventures into voluptuous, black forest, fruitcake territory. A 24-month soak in French oak imparts espresso and leather and it’s as if this CF was raised in Napa or designated IGT. But this is NOTL were talking here. Improbable and believable. Tasted twice.  91  @Pillitteriwines

Hidden Bench Estate Pinot Noir 2010 ($38, winery only) from A wine pentathlon takes my previous impressions to a higher plane. Standing correct by calling it a “a vintage relative release” but it’s so much more than “a quaffable, generous fruit sui generis.” Beets turn into plums. Opaque hue reminds of graceful Nebbiolo with a dancer’s legs in aperture. Wins in judicious use of French wood. Tannins persist in the rear-view mirror. Big ’10 that speaks of another level in Beamsville Pinot Noir. “Think about it, there must be higher love.” 91  @HiddenBench  @BenchVigneron

Château Des Charmes Equuleus 2010 (Paul Bosc, $40, ONT, winery only, SAQ,  11156334, $41.25) from Top juice flows at Cuvée 25th anniversary from the Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard is a classically styled blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc and 25% Merlot, only made in exceptional years. Apropos choice from 25-year old vines (in 2010) from the warmer St. David’s Bench for Cuvée’s 25th show.  Poised, balanced and regal yet this mare is temporarily a head-shy, sensitive equine red. Will trot out furlongs of tobacco and meaty aromas from now and through maturity in five plus years. A saddle of round, red fruit will age gracefully.  92  @MBosc

Stratus Syrah 2010 ($48) from Stratus and Momofuku: Modernity incarnate is picked early as compared to other well-known varieties like the Cabernets and this vintage saw a 25% yield decrease/concentration increase. Pretty, focused and indicative of candied flowers in replay with a note of citrus blossom. A Syrah that clearly speaks of Groux’s infatuation with aromatics. “What I do know, my Syrah is improving overall.”  90  @twineswines  @Stratuswines

Good to go!

Wine: It’s a matter of tasting notes

Message in a bottle PHOTO: VIPERAGP/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

There’s a new message in the bottle. A growing, grumbling movement suggests that wine consumers have little use and perhaps even less tolerance for wine tasting notes. The concept of keeping score to endorse a wine’s value is always one that sparks hot debate but trending now is a derision towards what some see as a gross abuse of language, as it pertains to writing about wine. In a sudden and dramatic shift, writers are voicing their strong and in many instances, indignant opinions. Scribes are up in arms, mad, barking, “We’re not going to take it anymore.” Critiquing the critic is the new hot, and bothered. So much for the high road.

So, what’s the big deal? What’s the real problem here? Are we to be convinced that the average wine drinker has really become turned off by a heinous and excess use of speech? Are “thrown nouns” disrupting the ability to experience a more “nuanced understanding” in your wine? Has wine writing gone over the top and into the arena of the absurd? The Wine Diarist wants to know if you Care For A Word Salad With Your Wine? His take, “in general, tasting notes suck.” Have a lesser breed of wine writers confused, ostracized and alienated the wine buying public? Should the notions of professionalism and credibility seriously be brought into question?

Eric Azimov of the New York Times has gone so far as to distill wine into two words, sweet and savoury. He writes, “it’s one or the other.” Azimov feels that tasting notes are turning people off wine. My fellow Postmedia Chats colleague Rod Phillips is one who believes that tasting notes should be void of nouns, such as apples, sedimentary rock or bull’s blood. Phillips is adamant that notes be restricted to the concepts of balance, terroir, intensity, weight, sweetness and tannins. Others cringe at the overuse of adjectives, like supple, scrumptious or generous.

Should tasting notes stick to the direct and simple, like “the wine is flawed,” or “the wine is correct?” Is the sole purpose to describe a wine as light, medium or full-bodied? Is the balance between sweetness and acidity all that really matters? A well-respected writer, David Schildknecht comments, “The ubiquity of the descriptor does not make it inappropriate.” Jamie Goode writes that, “Tasting notes are the stock in trade of wine writers and critics.” So much of it may be crap but you’ve got to write about something. There’s the rub. Writers and critics. Perhaps it’s time to decide who you are, to choose who to follow and who to ignore. Many wine writers have been hurled onto the quadrae like slabs of meat, or cadavers, to be cut, dissected, broken apart. Why the schadenfreude? Why the sudden and furious need to chastise and belittle? It must be those useless, verbose and ridiculous tasting notes. Total bullshit. Utter poppycock.

Michael Godel Photo: Marc Rochette/www.marcrochette.com

Michael Godel
Photo: Marc Rochette/www.marcrochette.com

What about that high road less taken? Decanter Magazine’s Andrew Jefford writes, “Tasting notes are the kerosene of wine criticism: they have powered its ascent, and keep it aloft.” In his article Whither Tasting Notes? he also concedes that “A well-written tasting note has practical worth, in that it communicates a sensual experience via metaphorical and analytical means, and puts that experience in its appropriate context.” And yet, Ron Washam the Hosemaster of Wine so rightly reminds us that “In real life, wine ‘experts’ never ever talk about wine the way tasting notes do. Try describing a wine in (Robert) Parkerese at a wine judging and you’re likely to get waterboarded with Prosecco.” From Alder Yarrow, Is the Wine Writing World Out of Touch?, “Of course, most people writing about wine aren’t writing for the average wine drinker.”

Look, an astronaut can cover and alter the lyrics to David Bowie’s A Space Oddity aboard the International Space Station. Writers have forever been stepping beyond the comfort zone, like Hunter Thompson making a mockery of the Kentucky Derby, or George Plimpton playing Quarterback for the Detroit Lions. A wine writer can’t have a little fun?

I have no pretensions that my tasting notes might move, enlighten or teach and it’s no secret that I do not take myself seriously, especially when I write about wine. My M.O. is a lighthearted one but it is built upon a work ethic of incessant tasting, a burrowing tour of language and a whole a lot of pop culture. Music, especially lyrics that elicit word associations when tasting wine, are infused into my tasting notes. Why bother, you ask? What can anyone learn from that? The answers are simple. Read between the lines. Seek some entertainment value. Appreciate the written word, enjoy the wine. Wine makes me think, my brain forms associations and I put them to paper. I like the exercise, literally. My writing strikes a chord with some, hatred with others. That’s life. The variety helps to add colour and spice to rooms anointed with 100 wines.

Wine Tasting Photo: Michael Godel

Wine Tasting
Photo: Michael Godel

When 33 Ontarians (and two ringers) were poured at the Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute’s Expert’s Tasting back in March, I wrote, “Right in my wheelhouse and on so many levels.” This was because the tasting was orchestrated alongside the songs and lyrics of music, my music. Everyone enjoyed the cross-cultural referencing that day. The tasting was humbling, educational and a whole lot of fun.

The art of transcribing sensory experiences is natural, base, cathartic and necessary. Writing, whether it be about sculpture, painting, movies, sports or wine, aims to tell a story. I am careful to credit where a wine comes from, its history, its land and its maker. I am always cognizant that it has been given life at the hands of someone who cares deeply about the natural and living process. These necessary and critical points are never taken for granted.

I was fortunate to have been properly and ritually immersed into wine during the summer of 1987. Three weeks ago the Art History department and University of Toronto community lost a great mind and teacher. Prof. Jens T. Wollesen passed away on April 22, 2013. I have Professor Wollesen to thank for introducing me to the world of Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. The 1982 Tuscan vintage was very good, not the classic that was 1985, but I had little to complain about while sipping them in the Enoteca La Fortezza di Montalcino with Prof. Wollesen. Professor’s tutelage laid down a foundation for wine discovery and the dizzying setting overlooking the Val d’Orcia opened up my pen to a world of thoughts. The next 25 years are history.

Good to go!