Even cooler Cali pinot
Terrific deluxe meritage from Two Sisters
A cool California chardonnay
Pinot grigio beats chardonnay!
Frame-up: The Beer Store, beer tax and beer prices

Tasting Notes


Sparring partner

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!

Deutscher Wein

At the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo I had a chance to taste a number of German wines not widely available. As part of the LCBO's ongoing efforts to be relevant and modern - and to cater appropriately to certain markets - the Products of the World program involves setting up certain LCBO stores with a "boutique" of wines and other drinks from a certain country. For example, Greece has such a section in the main LCBO store on the Danforth. Germany has one in Waterloo, which opened in October. 

Sommelier Lesley Provost served a flight of cool wines, including Clemens Busch, a mouth-puckeringly bone-dry riesling that also manages to have a lovely aromatic nose with floral and white fruit notes. It is in the relatively new dry wine category of Großes Gewächs (Great Growth), which designates the top level dry wines from certain areas. It's a pricey one at EUR28 even from the winery (so, north of $50 here), but really something. 

Three other cool ones are available at the Waterloo boutique - Leitz Out riesling, which is also very dry but has a little more fruitiness and some lemon notes; Hex Vom Dassenstein Pinot Gris, which is super dry, very delicate, with muted fruit and aromatics. (237502 / $20.95); and Villa Heynburg barrel fermented chardonnay. It's very rare to get a chardonnay from Germany and this one reminds me of Chablis, with a bit more oak. Nose is muted and fruity, then its very dry and lean on the palate, with lemon and a nice amount of oak (237510 / $30.30); 


Although the event is a shadow of its former self - as those of us who were drinking it in the late-80s, early-90s know - the launch of Beaujolais Nouveau is still a thing. The LCBO is just about to release its modest selection, of which five are from actual Beaujolais. The real standouts for me, especially at the price, were the two Italian "novello" wines. 

One completely unexpected one is the Kerner Nouveau, The Hanging Man from Reif Estate in Niagara. They've made a fuller bodied, aromatic, sweet and juicy wine out of the little-known kerner grape, and I guess it qualifies as a "nouveau", so why not? Could be a fun dessert wine and it's just $12.95 [321324]

Really good taste and value are the two Italians: Mezzacorona Novello [321267] from Trentino - bold nose, cherry/berry fruit, smooth, juicy - and Negrar Novello Del Veneto [321269], which is a very dark red with a slightly cooked fruit nose, but then fresh and juicy on the palate. Both are just $9.95. 

The Dubouef Nouveau from Beaujolais had some dark plum notes on the nose, along with strawberry. Light and smooth. Fresh finish. [321264 | $10.95]

The G. Dubouef Beaujolais-Villages Nouveau has a bolder nose of strawberry jam, with juicy berry fruit on the palate. It's smooth and light but there's a bit of tannin to give it weight. [321135 | $15.95] 



The Grandi Marchi tasting in late October showcased Italian wines at the Royal Ontario Museum, a popular spot for wine tastings. 

Here are three standouts for me

Antinori Pian delle Vigne, Bosso di Montalcino 2014: rich dark cherry fruit on nose, nicely juicy fruit on palae, solid tannins adding heft, and fresh acidity. Nice finish [Vintages 73686 | $31]

Il Falcone, Castel del Monte Riserva 2009: Beautiful rich nose of red fruit with earthy secondary notes of leather and toasted wood. Surprisingly tart on the palate, with cranberry and orange peel under the red fruit. [Vintages 177295 $23.95]

Guidalberto, Toscana IGT 2014: Delicate light ruby colour. Muted nose with notes of cherry and currant. Fresh and lively on palate, with juicy red fruit and mineral notes. Medium bodied with nice hints of spice and wood under. [Vintages 72439 | $51.95]

And if you're loaded, Sassicaia has still got it: complex  but delicate nose of cherry blackcurrant, oak, hint of mint. Pretty smooth on palate. $215 [out at the end of November]



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