stem game ~
Before switching wines,
Try changing your wine glass! - December 28, 2002
Boxing Day sales in swing, now may be the perfect time to consider
upgrading your stemware. The fact is; the glass that maketh the wine.
This is a sermon that has been preached with religious fervour by Georg
Riedel, a 10th generation Austrian glassmaker. His
family’s firm is credited with the creating to revolution in wine
tasting glasses. It happened in 1958 with the introduction of the
Burgundy Grand Cru glass, which was designed for connoisseurs who wanted
to extract the last ounce of flavour from their prized possessions.
Indeed, it is the only stemware to reside permanently in New York
City’s Museum of Modern Art.
the Gift of Knowledge ~ A
bevy of fine new wine books - December 21, 2002
A friend of mine
recently took me to task for being a tad too verbose - too many
descriptives; adjectives galore! Let me tell you, it isn’t easy being
a wine pundit. There is no question that many tasting notes tend to be
mundane and repetitive. How many times can you say that a red is “plummy”?
While a simple “Mickey likes it”
might suffice, nobody would actually know what it tastes like.
for your feathered friend ~
And what to serve the Big Guy in Red - December 14, 2002
countdown has begun – eleven, ten, nine, … it is almost here. And
yet most of us are still struggling – will that be white or red with the
big feathered one. Ok, we might include
rosé – even if it is made by mixing a little red with your white.
of Whites at Christmas ~ From
today’s Vintages release & the General List - December 7, 2002
So here it is – the
last Vintages release of 2002. Thankfully all 158 items are being
released today meaning that you don’t have to make extra trips to the LCBO
to get what you want.
LCBO Gifting from
Tasteful to Tasteless - November 30, 2002
With only three more
weekends to Christmas, shoppers are donning their thinking caps trying
to figure out their shopping list. Just walk into any LCBO outlet and
you experience a loud refrain of “let it be me.” The stores are
chock a block full of gifts items, which in some outlets can be wrapped
on the spot.
Ca’ del Bosco Winery of the Year ~ Franciacorta rivals the finest Champagne A stunning red as well! -
November 23, 2002
impossible to keep track of the constant flow of wine producers from
around the world who arrive in Toronto daily to pay their “respects”
to the LCBO. Many of them are flogging everyday plonk, which debuts on
the LCBO shelves. More often than not, they end up as discounted
remainders, the visions of soaring sales becoming beached on the rocks
Celebrating Beaujolais Nouveau ~ The Upcoming 51st Birthday Bash -
November 16, 2002
some, this week’s celebration of November’s third Thursday isn’t
worthy of a raised eyebrow. They couldn’t give a hoot about this 51st
Beaujolais Nouveau birthday bash. Indeed, these naysayers sneeringly refer
to it as the most over hyped, non-wine-event of the year. Nevertheless,
somebody out there loves Nouveau. A virtual explosion of wine takes
place this week as over 60 million bottles are instantaneously shipped
from their native villages north of Lyon to every nook and cranny in
France and all around the world.
Many Winners at the Canadian Wine Awards -
November 9, 2002
Of all the wine
competitions I attend over the course of a year, the Canadian Wine Awards really tries to do it
best. There are eight earnest judges from various parts of Canada, each
bringing to the table their own set of prejudices and concept of what
constitutes quality. With the exception of a few flights, the judges
taste most of the wines and all of the finalists. It is a noble effort
and the results were just announced.
Emerging from Obscurity ~ Be it Sherry or Semillon A new take on historical favourites -
November 2, 2002
Sherry baby - can you come out tonight?
Even if the subject wasn’t the elixir from Jerez, Frankie Valli (born Francis Stephen Castelluccio) and the Four Seasons had a great song way back in 1962.
Unfortunately, Sherry has been locked in the closet much too long. Worse
yet, Sherry parties seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur - I
haven’t attended one for years, or is that decades?
Spirits ~ Finding
out what's in the LCBO
is like a Halloween joke gone bad - October 26, 2002
Halloween just a few days away, I am tempted to clear out my pantry. I
seem to have acquired a number of spirits, which would really scare the
hell out of unsuspecting imbibers. You know what I am talking about.
That weird bottle of stuff you have never heard of, usually filled with
an eerie day-glow coloured liquid.
Battle of Hybrids ~ One
to lay away, another to drink today! - October 19, 2002
Vintages release witnesses the battle of two French hybrids: Marechal
Foch vs. Baco Noir. These are crosses between the European vitis
vinifera and various indigenous North American species.
Feasting ~ Fine
selections that will even match that tofu turkey - October 12, 2002
Trying to flesh out that Thanksgiving dinner is always filled with
some trials and tribulations. I remember being once invited to a
meatless Thanksgiving. The “bird” was carefully sculpted tofu that
might have fooled someone with poor eyesight, very poor eyesight. On the
palate it was, well need I say more, tofu-ish tasting! I was very polite
and guarded in my comments. In fact, I even brought a wine, which
married quite well with the meal. Nevertheless a little voice inside my
head said, “Next time bring a grapeless wine - that will show ‘em.”
to Make Your Turkey Happy - October 5, 2002
Thanksgiving coming up next weekend I have tried to cherry pick
today’s Vintages release with the turkey in mind. In terms of whites,
Riesling and Chardonnay are pretty good bets. Fortunately there is one
well-priced white from a new Beamsville Bench winery. Winemaker David
Johnson and his wife Louise Engel launched their venture in 1999 with
23-acre of vineyards. Featherstone
Estate 2000 Off-Dry Riesling
at $9.95 is medium yellow in colour with well balanced, medium bodied,
very slightly sweet, honeyed, peach-apple-melon flavours along with a
refreshing green peach finish.
Good to Spit! ~ Discovering
in the Avalanche of Upcoming October Events - September 28, 2002
is one of the busiest wine months of the year – it is almost dizzying
trying to keep track of the all the upcoming events. Figuring out which
ones are worth attending is a bit of a crapshoot, especially some of the
pricey wine dinners. When you are laying out some $150 a person (after
taxes, gratuity and parking), it is nice to go home with the feeling
that it was money well spent.
Bird is Back! ~ A
toast to dedicated winemakers everywhere - September 21, 2002
of the hottest whites from Germany takes flight in today’s Vintages
release. Yes, the Pfalz bird is back. I am referring, of course, to the
refreshed Karl Lingenfelder 2001 Bird Label
Riesling, which is a
good follow-up of the delicious 1999 (it debuted on April 7, 2001). The
nose is faintly honeyed, bright and slightly schisty with dried lemon
and yellow grapefruit notes. On the palate it is faintly off-dry, tangy
and light bodied with honeyed but crisp, tangelo fruit flavours. Quite
yummy value at $11.55 (*+/**
out of three stars). Considering that there are 250 cases available, I
was mystified by its absence at the LCBO lab preview. Luckily, the
birdman himself, owner/winemaker Karl
I bring a bottle back to Toronto when our paths recently crossed at the
Coming Up in the Classics ~
Boning up on the best of bubblies - September 14, 2002
There are so many wine events happening, one is
tempted to throw in the wine glass. Next Wednesday, September 18th, at 5
pm to be precise, we have the fax/mail deadline for ordering from
September’s Classics Catalogue. Judging by last Monday’s sold-out
preview tasting turnout, some of the better buys might be running low by
the time you read this, as “hard” ordering at the preview was
Can Ontario's new stellar releases
eclipse Tignanello? ~ Yes, if you are looking for something to drink
today! - September 7, 2002
Today we see
part one of the Vintages September release. Last week I clued you into
some of the must buy whites of the release. But what about the reds, you
ask? By now I am sure that some of you have noticed that one great
Italian red icon being released today went totally unmentioned, not so
much as a squeak.
Revving up your taste buds
The head’s up on September’s best buys - August 31, 2002
So here we
are on the threshold of another Vintage season. Fine wine glasses are
being polished for the onslaught of upcoming tastings. Wine club members
are revving up their tasting buds in anticipation and practicing their
expectorations (the polite term for spitting). Sommeliers are dreaming
of getting back their well-heeled regulars who know how to tip.
Classics just around the corner
wait there are great buys today,
if you like fresh meadow muffins - August 24, 2002
I could feel the cooler autumnal air almost nipping at my ear one
rainy night earlier this week. While it felt great to get rid of the
steamy sullen air than has been draped over the city, I was a little desolé
that summer is nearing its end.
there's a ladybug in my fermentation tank - August 17, 2002
am discussing today’s Vintages sale with a wine fan. He asks: “if
these wines are any good, how did they end up discounted and on sale?”
I reply that “there are some really
good wine buys - it’s not that all these wines are bad. Unfortunately,
some don’t sell because of the way our monopoly marketing system works.
That and certain agents who are totally complacent about moving wines
once they’ve been sold to the LCBO are to blame.”
Seeing Red at Vintages
with "flay-vah" to tame your BBQ ribs - August 10, 2002
heater beater whites to rock and roll BBQ reds, this month’s Vintages
release has something for everyone. When I douse those meaty ribs with
my special, homemade, smoky, “Kill-ah” marinade, those meek mild
reds had better stand back. We need some flay-va – reds with cohunes!
Heater beater whites
well priced Vintages discoveries in today's release - August 3, 2002
Vintages buyer beware month. Why? Well of the 143 new faces on the
shelves today, 17 are “previous releases” which have not been
retasted. Given the lowly marks that some of these wines initially
received, I can’t imagine many of them being worth buying, even at the
Having a sparkling summer?
~ A little something to
toast the Pope - July 27, 2002
there I am. Standing in the LCBO lab, eyeball to eyeball, with a pair of
bubblies. What is a taster to do? The first is from France; the least
expensive Champagne on the LCBO general list. It has all the trappings
of being a winner, except one thing - its flavours do not captivate my
heart. Not that it is bad – I am just not keen on its faintly off-dry,
honeyed, apple flavours, too reminiscent of apple cider.
A great Austrian buy from back to front
Wine labels demystified - July 20, 2002
Front labels sell,
but more often than not it is the often-neglected back label that intrigues me.
Not only can it be a wonderful source of information, but also there is great
potential for real entertainment value. I remember one eastern European red, for
instance, proudly proclaiming that it was made from the “finest grape.” I
imagined one gargantuan perfect grape being rolled into the winery and hoisted
on the press.
praise of summer fruit wines - July 13, 2002
am looking at next Saturday’s fruit wine release. The timing is perfect
with an abundance of fresh berries making their seasonal debut. Somehow, I
can’t help humming “Tutti Fruiti” which was the very first hit by
Richard Wayne Penniman aka Little Richard way back in 1955. Born December
5, 1932, he was one of twelve children. His dad Charles, or
"Bud" as he was known, was a Seventh Day Adventist preacher who
sold moonshine on the side. I wondered what would Little Richard be
sipping at this time of year?
the best of Vintages
Release & Next Saturday’s Upcoming Sale - July 6, 2002
of Vintages things are happening. First, there’s the upcoming clearance
warehouse sale of 129 previously listed products with discounts ranging from 12%
to 42%. Note
that some dozen items are actually brand new and have never graced the pages of
a Vintages release. It
begins next Saturday, July 13th
at the LCBO warehouse at 3180 Airway Drive just north of Airport Road.
Daniel Lenko Estate Winery - Why the great wines don't
always appear at the LCBO - June 29, 2002
are some exceptional wines being made in Ontario, which don’t seem to exist.
Small phantom-like wineries whose products rarely, if ever, appear on the LCBO
shelves. Today, in recognition of Canada Day, I will try to demystify this
disappearing act and explain why the great wines often don’t appear at the
World Cup Blues - Winners for
Whiners - June 22, 2002
and I am contemplating this weekend’s celebratory beverage selection.
Unfortunately, it’s getting tougher and tougher when it comes down to
selecting a wine to toast World Cup victors. What with France, Portugal,
Italy and Argentina gone, the pickings are ever slimmer. As for today’s
match, Spain v. Korea and Senegal v. Turkey, by the time you read this the
outcome will be known.
Que Syrah Shiraz! - Terrific quality in today's Vintages
release - June 15, 2002
Every so often a
wine appears in a Vintages release that simply sweeps you off your feet.
It is the kind that tempts one to keep under cover, at least until one’s
own personal supply is assured. As your wine scribe, I leave no bottle
unturned in my quest to track down the best for National Post readers.
Pascal Marchand's 1999 Burgundies
Shine - June 8, 2002
There is no
question that Toronto, in terms of purchasing, is the wine and spirits
capital of Canada. Because of this, there are more cameo appearances by
winemakers from around the world bearing their wares in homage to the LCBO.
Nevertheless, Montreal beats out TO in terms of French visitations, while
Vancouver is the sin qua non of unabashed dedicated genuine wine
Unique Vintages Best
Buys - June 1, 2002
anyone? Continuing until June 22nd, the LCBO in celebration of their 75th
Anniversary is offering a number of classic bubblies at special
reductions. Prices have been cut by just over 30% and there are eight
items to choose from starting at $29.95. One of my favourites, the
reliably tasty Pommery NV Brut Royal Champagne, has been reduced from
$44.75 to only $29.95. This is fine value and would make the perfect June
16th Father’s Day gift.
Tasting of California 2000 Futures - May 25, 2002
am sitting here examing the upcoming Vintages
California 2000 Wine “Pre-Arrival” tasting scheduled for June 11th. There are 80 selections from 30 wineries. To see the list
59 wines will be tasted for $66. The only 750 ml bottles being withheld are
three different Diamond Creek selections. Why? Because only 18 to 24 bottles of
each on offer and, oh yes, they come with a $318 price tag.
Two monthly Vintages releases
How not to double your fun! - May 18, 2002
am sure that most of you are aware that the monthly Vintages release has now
been split up into two parts. The first release of 79 products took place on May
4th, while the balance of 85 products (including 13 special Chateauneuf-du-Pape
wines) is being released today.
guide to cottage
~ From skinny dipping to the barbecue - May 11, 2002
With cottage days
almost at hand, it is time to plan ahead. At one time going to the cottage
actually entailed some form of deprivation. So long foie gras, goodby tv.
Heck, when I was young, we didn’t even have hydro. Well all that seems
to have changed. Cottage life can now be as civilized, perhaps even more
civilized, than our day-to-day inner city experiences.
The ABC best buys of today’s release
~ The svelte Velt
- Austrian whites to tickle your fancy
- May 4, 2002
face it, even the most stalwart ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) fans have a tough
time coming to grips with Grüner Veltliner or GV for short. It’s not an easy
name to get your lips around. And while some might be tempted to say who cares,
it can produce rather tasty wines. In addition, as Austria’s number one
variety there are thousands of dedicated wine producers out there extolling the
virtues of this unsung grape.
The Spicy Whites of Spring ~ Getting The Jump on Summer
- No Conundrum Here, There’s Plenty of Tasty
Buys - April 27, 2002
amazing how the big splashy mainstream labels attract the wine lovers like moths
to a flame. Well move over Icewine, April's spice wines are in! You don’t have
to be a rocket scientist to know that Caymus 2000 Conundrum even at $39.75 is going to fly off the
shelves. And why not? Owner Charlie
Wagner (who recently passed away just short of his 90th birthday) and
his son Chuck are Napa Valley icons.
Best Books ~ Celebrating World Book Day
- Advice for the wine lover
- April 20, 2002
April 23rd just around the corner, I had hoped that my four-decade
wine tasting opus might be finished. Alas, it’s still far from complete. It
isn’t the million plus words I have published over the past three years,
it’s the scratch and sniff section of the book that still doesn’t work.
The German Revival
- Riesling gaining ground on
Chardonnay - April 13, 2002The
1990’s were not kind to Germany. No it wasn’t the climate; it was the
market. The export share collapsed and their wine icons were in serious trouble.
It was as if Blue Nun fell off the wagon or someone had torched Black Tower.
Well-Priced Reds in Today’s Vintages
Release - Great Syrah from California, France and
Australia - April 6, 2002
Vintages release features 140 items – an interesting list which, as they say,
may amuse you by its presumption. Indeed, it’s a miracle how the Vintages
Catalogue is able to dredge up flattering reviews for some seriously
disappointing selections. That certainly wasn’t the case for the best buy red
of today’s release - Voyager
Estate 1999 Shiraz from Western Australia’s Margaret River -at only
$21.55. The sweet, faintly smoky, black raspberry purée nose is followed
up by complex, extracty, creamy, roasted plum and chocolate-cherry flavours that
go on and on. Not only did Vintages not mention James
Halliday’s rating of 94 out of 100 points, but also not a drop was
presented to LCBO consultants or wine writers. Thanks to Voyager’s Ontario
agent, Torion Trading was able to get a sample
just in the nick of time for tasting. You can start lining up now for the 150
Wines Squeezed out by the LCBO - March 30, 2002
amazing how some things are always with you. As a 9-year-old, I would make a
beeline to a neighbor’s house whose Easter ritual involved opening his
treasured bottles of homemade wine. And they weren’t any old wines, but
delicious sweet fruit wines – perfect harbingers of Spring and all the good
things to come.
A Triumph for South Africa! ~ Three
Reds clean up at annual Wine &
- March 23, 2002
your glasses, it’s a great weekend to venture forth, sample and celebrate the
great new reds coming out of South Africa. First, it is astonishing to consider
that three South African reds took all three gold medals awarded in the under
$25 red class at this weekend’s Toronto Wine & Cheese Show (at the Toronto
there isn't enough Q in VQA Anymore ~
Gems at this week’s
Toronto Wine & Cheese Show - March 16, 2002
was exactly 30 years ago when Hugh Johnson author of the world’s best selling
wine book the World
Atlas of Wine let the bomb fly while being interviewed by the
BBC. When asked about Canadian wines, Johnson replied that Ontario’s wines
were the worst he had ever had. “The
foulness of taste is what I remember best – an artificial scented, soapy
flavor. It’s not in my Atlas.”
Whites of Spring
Buys in Today’s Vintages Release - March 9, 2002
Vintages release has a small bevy of Spring whites some of which are worth
trying. The best buys were the ABCs (“Anything But Chardonnays”).
Old World Meets New ~ From Portugal to
Argentina ~ Sogrape Produces New World-Class Wines - March 2, 2002
I am sitting in a Toronto wine bar surrounded by fashionable sippers from a
multitude of New World hot spots. I casually ask why Argentina and Portugal are not to be seen.
“They don’t move – nobody knows anything about them - people are
afraid to order them” was the answer.
Out Vintages’ Discounted Classics
- February 23, 2002
Today is the great Vintages sale day and people were
lined up early this morning trying to bag some discounted Vintages products.
In addition, some 136 Classics Catalogue items also appear in the eight
page 415-item Vintages sale list.
Upcoming Sale at Vintages - February 16, 2002
It was 28-years ago that the LCBO opened its first
Vintages outlet. In those
days it was called the Rare Wines
& Spirits Shop and was initially located in a spartan third floor
room at 43 Freeland Street (before it moved t
o an upscale freestanding
Market Street location across from St. Lawrence Market).
Best Buy Reds – from Malbec to Pinot Noir
- February 9, 2002
Last week I revealed the must buy whites of today’s Vintages release.
Finding today’s great deals in reds is a little more challenging because
the list is mired with some potholes. Make sure, for instance, you avoid
the oxidative, bitter tasting, Bulgarian Vini
Sliven 1997 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve ($10.55)!
Wines to Match the Amorous Oyster
- February 2, 2002
Day looming on the horizon, many are searching for that special “Love
Potion Number 9.” Unfortunately,
if you have to resort to booze to win your lover you’re in pretty bad
shape. My advice, forget
about relying on Absinthe’s magical green ferries or the seductive lure
of Madeira. Simply brush up that personality - be charming and considerate.
sweet from Cyprus - January 26, 2002
There’s nothing like a sweetie to brighten up a frosty winter night. With Valentines Day almost upon us, it’s time to stock up on
something that will be perfect to sip in front of that crackling fire.
Continuing Affair with Pinot Noir - January 19, 2002
Of all the wines to have an affair with, Pinot Noir must be the
worst. I can’t put my finger
on how it happened. It’s just that once you’ve tasted a great one, almost
everything pales in contrast. They’re
neither big nor bold. It’s
their sensuousness, flavours that caresses the palate leaving you filled
~ The Best Buys in Today’s Vintages Release - January
Welcome to the New Year, it’s a pleasure to be back.
My friend, an avid skier, mutters to me “where’s the white stuff?”
I feel like blurting out that the best white “stuff” is in today’s
Vintages release. An so while
skiers and snowmobilers might gnash their teeth at the unseasonably warm
weather, I' am happy to still be able to venture forth sans galoshes.
Vintages Release January 12, 2002
- January 5, 2002
Welcome to the New Year. Here’s
the scoop on next weeks’ release.
Of the 157 listings, a total of 24 (or 15%) were not presented
by the LCBO to consultants and/or wine writers.
Some seven products have been previously released and were not
presented for retasting. To
view the entire upcoming January 12th release Click