Most consumers regard the LCBO as the only source for purchasing wine in Ontario. That is understandable when you consider the blanketing influence a monopoly has over the public. The commodification of wine in this province can be like gasoline and health care. You know exactly where to go when you need a fill-up, a prescription or a bottle of wine. Or, do you?
There are options. The most obvious is a one or two-hour drive west on the QEW or east on the 401 from Toronto, to the Niagara and Prince Edward County wine regions. A bit further west you can find cellar door availability in the Lake Erie North Shore and Ontario South Coast areas. There is something else out there. You can also buy by the case.
The greatest little secret in Ontario lies in the briefcases full of fine wine in the hands of Ontario’s importers and agents. The importers tote portfolios of consignment wines rarely seen on LCBO shelves, often found on restaurant lists, ready and willing to fill cellars, wine fridges and passive wine racks in homes scattered across this province. You just need to know where to look, who to ask and get some sound advice on what’s worth purchasing, by the case.
The thing is, you have to buy by the case when using an Ontario importer as your source and there are many reasons to do so. At WineAlign we break it down for you. Restaurant pours buy the glass, cellar-worthy wines, cases to split with friends, house wines, etc., etc.
There are some who might question the motive and the execution. It’s quite simple really and transparent. The agenda is straightforward and obvious. WineAlign is a dual-sided platform for wine commerce and education. One hand allows agents and local wineries to promote their wares and to introduce their hard work to a public that might not otherwise know they are there. The other hand allows critics from across the country to write independent reviews on their wines, the best of which are included in reports on those agents and vignerons. Some of the wines do not receive favourable reviews. As a consumer, do you want to see those reviews linked to in the article? Would you not rather be informed about what floated the critical boats and to know what to buy? The sponsored content is advertorial. The reviews are not.
“Importers pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, if any, is entirely up to each critic, as it is with our reviews of in-store wines.”
A Report on Consignment Wines in Ontario
Written by WineAlign
For an explanation of the program, the process and our 10 Good Reasons to Buy the Case, please click here.
Over the past six months we have tasted wines from several portfolios. I wrote about the first Buy the Case with Trialto Wine Group, listed in the link above. Here are some of my reviews from the more recent tastings, from Noble Estates, Treasury Wine Estates, Cavinona and Da Capo Wines.
Domaine Pfister Pinot Blanc 2013, Alsace, France ($22.99, WineAlign)
Hillside Marl sites provide the fruit and fodder for this precise Pinot Blanc. Auxerrois can be used to infuse brio bolstering punch for such a pristine white made by the deft hands of winemaker Mélanie Pfister. I have tasted this 2013 more than 15 times and it always come up the same; clean, polished, lithe and on a sure bee-line away from the honey comb. The need for development is not the crux of this pleasure. Sips alone and swallows alongside much varied gastronomy is the matter at hand and should be on many an occasion. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted many times, November 2014 to September 2015
Planeta Etna Bianco 2014, Sicily, Italy ($29.99, WineAlign)
From Castiglione di Sicilia (Catania) and the most ancient of Sicilian grape varieties, what more could be ingratiated in depth of Carricante and its carbon dating fascination. The rich mineral layering is intense and munificent at the same time. Herbs and salinity in candied flowers grace both nose and palate. This is a near perfect vintage for such a wine. Clearly built slowly by sunshine and long shadows. Finishes as philanthropic as it began. Drink 2015-2021. Tasted September 2015 @ @
Hedges Cuvee Marcel Dupont Syrah Red Mountain Les Gosses Vineyard 2012, Washington ($49.99, WineAlign)
Less than 3,000 cases were produced of this single-vineyard (Les Gosses), 100 per cent Syrah. This has the je ne sais quoi of Syrah meets Red Mountain AVA, in fact it has the JNSQ of anywhere in the Syrah diaspora. The regular attributes of meaty, gritty, peppery, pitchy and prime are all in. What sets it apart is balance and chivalry. “Everybody has their own opinion” and mine of this wine could lead to addiction. Addicted to the mountain song it sings in refrain, again and again. This is no Jane doe of a Syrah. It steals the limelight and puts on a terrific show. Drink 2015-2022. Tasted September 2015 @ @
Nickel & Nickel John C. Sullenger Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Napa Valley, California (142546, $174.99, WineAlign)
Gorgeous aromatics from the depths of deep clay, raised on sunshine and held back from crossing any extracted or sullen wood lines. A keen sense of graphite shredded into wheat and concrete streaks through the purity that is pristine 2012 Oakville fruit. This is Cabernet for the cellar, to collect by the half dozen (or more if you can afford it) and open one every two years for the next 12 to 24. This has the legs and the agility to slowly braise and develop for at least that long. The balance and the length are as good as it gets. Drink 2017-2036. Tasted October 2015 @NickelandNickel
Laurent Perrier Grand Siècle Grand Cuvée, Champagne, France (379982, $199.99, WineAlign)
Grand Siècle is a wine paid full attention in detail. The master’s blown glass should make that crystal clear. Chardonnay (55 per cent) and Pinot Noir (45), give or take a few approximating points is culled from a blend of 11 grands crus; Avize, Chouilly, Cramant, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Ambonnay, Bouzy, Louvois, Mailly, Tours-sur-Marne and Verzenay. If freshness, elegance and structure are the intent, here is a wine in kind of a perfect three for three, though elegance is the clear winner. When all aspects are aligned, where finesse talks in soft spoken tones and why Champagne can be so delicate is the mystery revealed in the Grand Siècle. A walk through this cuvée is getting lost in a ten foot flower garden, canopy overhead. A taste means delicate gastronomy. A glide to the finish is effortless. All this adds up to wonderful symmetry. Champagne can be great when it tows a direct, purposed line. This will last decades and it can certainly, twist my arm, be enjoyed now. Great combo. Drink 2015-2035. Tasted September 2015 @
Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, California ($19.95, WineAlign)
This California-designated Cabernet is composed from fruit drawn out of the North Coast and Central Coast. The North Coast vineyards stretch from Sonoma to Lake County and the Central Coast fruit in Paso Robles and Santa Barbara. A warm (13.8 per cent alcohol) Cab to be sure but several shades this side of hot. The tones are elevated and a bit jumpy, with fruit noting plum, pomegranate and ultra ripe to sweetened cranberry. Wood spice (from eight months in French and American oak) gives cinnamon and Goji berry. The perfume keeps wafting in waves, intoxicatingly so, prepping the palate for really solid fruit flavours. Though not the deepest nor the longest spoke on the Cabernet wheel, this CSJ works in the simplest, apropos ways. Highly aromatic, well-structured, righteously crafted and respectfully restrained. The sweet finish is dipped in chocolate. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted May 2015 @
Castello Di Gabbiano Chianti Classico Riserva 2011, Tuscany, Italy ($22.95, WineAlign)
Always at or near the apex of CCR value, the 2011 is of a rich, modern, pitched deeply and highly purposed vintage. It elevates its game in all facets; fruit, acidity, tannin and warmth. A muzzle of bees seems to add muted, buzzing complexity in a Sangiovese with a faint if unusual smell of honey. In this Riserva, the “sun gets passed, sea to sea…with the breeze blown through.” The natural ripening leads to aromas indicating slow-cured plum, anise, and candied rose petals. The deeper tones are like hot autostrada surface, the gait slow roasted, with charred protein and dehydrating red fruits. In three years the fruit will seem fully dried, slightly oxidized and potentially caramelized. Express compliance of these instructions need heed by agreeing to drink this in the short term with an hour or two of radio air time. This to allow the astringent tannin to be tamed. Roger, Wilco that. Drink 2015-2018. Tasted May 2015 @ @
Coldstream Hills Pinot Noir 2012, Yarra Valley, Australia ($29.95, WineAlign)
Culled from the upper and lower Yarra Valleys, the ’12 is a high-toned tome of rusty, dusty, ricochet in fruit. Seemingly warmer than its 13.5 alcohol suggests, but like the Arizona desert, it’s a dry heat. The metal urgency of sloping hillside impart is a bit tense. The is the OZ equivalent of terse Burgundy when mired in youth. The copious quantity of red fruit, both tart and ripe, is admirably in and with more time, beyond the current anxious phase, will come around again. The depth of flavour and grain ingrained in texture pushes the point. The finish is distinctly parallel and long. Drink 2016-2020. Tasted May 2015
Etude Pinot Gris 2013, Carneros, California ($39.95, WineAlign)
Made in Pinot Gris exactitude, of inklings warm, in certitude dry, to intimations Alsatian, with nobly bitter flavours and a wealth of grape tannin. The preceding aromas recalled late August orchard’s stone fruit. With lieu-dit (think Altenbourg) premier cru (equivalent) ability, this is a very stylish Pinot Gris with layers of fruit and acidity. It’s certainly one for the cellar, to forget and allow for a secondary set of developments, in wax, honey and atmospheric, elemental aerified notions. Quite fearless PG. Were it $30, it would surely be a multi-case buy. Drink 2017-2022. Tasted May 2015 @ @
Mas Las Cabes Côtes Du Roussillon 2012, Ac Côtes Du Roussillon, Languedoc-Roussillon, France ($19.75, WineAlign)
Beautifully funky southern French Syrah-Grenache meld, at once warm and then modern, entrenched in earth and laden with a smother and a smoulder. Syrupy but characterful far beyond simple, with spice, savour and garagiste intent. The garrigue accent runs across the grain in high altitude, windswept ways. Solid protein red for any day of the week and a candidate for restaurant list partner. Drink 2015-2019. Tasted August 2015 @
Frank Family Zinfandel 2012, Napa Valley, California ($42.75, WineAlign)
A really lovely Zinfandel, of pure red fruits and just a fine, delineating, if zig-zagging swath of bramble. Though the alcohol (listed at 14.8 per cent) is anything but peckish, the heat does not overtake the fruit. This has so many barbecue forms and fetishes written into its DNA. It will comply with nary a complaint. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted August 2015 @ @
Albino Rocca Duemilaundici Barbaresco 2011, Piedmont, Italy ($65.95, WineAlign)
Point blank Barberesco, autarchic and traditional, built on memories and bent on making new ones. From a clay-limestone, south facing, single vineyard in a cru called Montersino (in the Treiso commune). Where it differs from the Ronchi is the natural cure coursing in slow food motion through its blood stream, carrying micro-oxygenated blood. There are notes of crushed aniseed and sweaty clay. The mouthfeel is silkier, more refined and the tannins sweeter. Can actually imagine this pleasing sooner and also for longer. Drink 2017-2032. Tasted August 2015 @
Terre Di Giurfo Kudyah Nero D’avola 2013, Doc Sicily, Italy ($19.50, WineAlign)
Kudyah is the arabic name for the Sicilian town of Licodea Eubea nearest to Terre di Giurfo’s vineyards. Quite classic, rich, ruby red raspberry and earth Nero d’Avola. Tons of fruit, chews of liquorice and a mineral finish add up to a very direct, simple pleasure. A scrape of orange zest adds a florality to lift spirits and relieve stress. Just a bit salutary and saline on the finish. Very honest Nero. Tasted 2015-2018. Tasted July 2015 @
Contadi Castaldi Franciacorta Rosé, Lombardy, Italy ($33.50, WineAlign)
Statuesque, rustic, ancient ruin of Franciacorta, on a clear day, of tall grasses, oxidative apples and slices of hard Lombardian cheese. A total, classical, storied package of gastronomy in a bottle. Not so much Rosé as much as bubbles with a fostered history of age. Arid as the desert and piercing from acidity. This will be misunderstood by some, reveled in by others. Drink 2015-2020. Tasted July 2015 @ @
Fattoria Di Milziade Antano Montefalco Rosso Riserva 2011, Doc Umbria, Italy ($50.50, WineAlign)
From arguably a better vintage than 2012, this Montefalco exhibits a deeper treasury of fruit, thankful and necessary to handle the wood it has been dealt. The fusion into such a sanguine and ferric stream has been achieved with more direct consciousness than the free-feeling and liberismo 2012 normale. The red fruit here is dense, steroidal even, yet still pure and direct. Largesse in rusticity is the plainly assessed goings on, chewy and dusty, a figure head for Sagrantino in Umbria. This is Italian wine to define the meaning of provinciale, deeply ingrained for place, history and tradition. Like its baby brother it will need time to settle but not so much that the fruit submits to the tannin. Drink 2018-2023. Tasted July 2015
Good to go!
WineAlign: Michael Godel