As one of Canada's top sommeliers and wine writers, John Szabo is always on the lookout for something new. After selecting a few "cool new wines" for a tasting a few years back, Szabo noticed that they were all from "volcanic" soil regions - Santorini, Mt. Etna and Lake Balaton in Hungary. He decided to put together an article about volcanic wines, and it turned into something much bigger than expected. It's now a big, beautiful book.
I tasted a few fine chardonnays that will be released on November 26. One rare treat is a very old Chablis. It's not often that we see a 13 year old Chablis launched on the market - and alas it's priced considerably higher than most...
Yes California has great weather, but that weather is also very reliable: in terms of wine production, that generally means not much "vintage variation". La Crema's latest pinot from Sonoma Coast is proof of that - it's just as good as in previous years.
A trio of wines from Columbia Crest in Washington state show an impressive price/quality ratio. Top favourites chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot from this often overlooked wine region were featured in a release at the LCBO at the end of June.
Vodka currently dominates the country's spirit category according to Statistics Canada. In B.C. and Quebec, it also reigns supreme, while in Ontario it holds the Number 2 position, according to the respective liquor boards. But vodka still offers great potential for bar managers to look for both margin improvement through higher value cocktails and upselling to premium brands that continue to gain strength in the market.
Pierre Sparr is one of the most important producers in Alsace, France, and the winery hosted an intriguing tasting of some of their wines at a Thai restaurant: yes, it's true, riesling, gewurztraminer and sparkling wines go very well with Thai food, including spicier styles. Pai is located in the heart of downtown, where the financial district meets the entertainment district. It's packed and lively, and the energetic young crowd is cool: quirky hairdos, piercings, tattooes, casual yet nonchalantly sexy attire, etc. (plus a few new media/app developer types). Profile Wine Group secured a private room for the more sedate wine tasting group, which included me. We got to taste some very nice wines from Alsace along with the fine food of Pai - really good pad thai and a great mango salad, among others.
The most pleasant surprise was the quality and price of the two cremants - one white, made from pinot blanc, the other rose, from pinot noir. Just $18.95 each.
Pierre Sparr Cremant d'Alsace Brut Reserve [388603 | $18.95]. Rich nose with white fruit and lemon zest. Delicate mousse, super dry and fresh but with a nice creamy feel, lovely fresh finish.
Pierre Sparr Cremant d'Alsace Brut Reserve [39016 | $18.95]. Red fruit on the nose with darker red fruit flavours on the palate - nice raspberry notes. Also very dry and with a delicate mousse. Fuller, but still fresh.
Pierre Sparr Riesling Grand Cru Schoenenbourg [to be released soon, will be $24.95]. This terrific dry riesling was the favourite, and the price is so right. Rich nose of delicately honeyed fruit and green apple, and the vaguest hint of petrol. Dry on the palate but quite juicy. Lighter bodied, it was a little less acidic than I expected. Smooth and sophisticated, it really worked with the pad thai. We were told it's great with sushi too and I believe it. Great value.
Garnacha from Espana
A terrific tasting at Boehmer on Ossington Avenue featured a good selection of garnacha-based wines from Spain. Alas very few of them are available retail at the LCBO, but those that are offered some incredibe value: garnacha is an underrated grape in my view.
Here are three great-value picks, all available at the LCBO.
Castilo de Monseran, 2015 [73395 | $9.95]. Lots of ripe cherry fruit on the nose, but edging towards cough drop... Fruity but dry on the palate with good tannins and decent acidity. Nice big wine with a little price.
Beso de Vino Old Vines, 2014 [253591 | $9.95]. More muted nose on this one but some rich fruit emerges. On the palate it's fresher and has some raspberry fruit. Nice, inexpensive red here.
Marin Old Vine Garnacha, 2010 [214205 | $12.75] A different richer take on garnacha here - lots of rich, dark ripe cherry fruit with a bit of earthy undertone. Both tannins and acidity are elevated for a dry, fresh taste on the palate. A little more money, but a little more serious too... great value red!
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