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

Tasting of the year... Larose!

I went to a number of tastings in 2016, but the standout for me was the one I organized to compare the 2004 vintages of Chateau Gruaud Larose and Osoyoos Larose. But my favourite wine of that tasting was not either of them...



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!


Chenin blanc from... India?

Yes, believe it or not, there's a growing wine industry in India. On a visit to New Delhi earlier this year, I picked up a couple of local wines in a fancy wine store. One was a not-so-great Sangiovese, but the other was this pleasant Chenin Blanc.


Columbia Crest impresses

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.


Rose in bloom

After the longest, coldest winter ever and the coolest, dullest spring ever, the temperatures have finally risen. It'll be June before it's t-shirt weather, but don't wait - celebrate spring with rosé now.


Value VQA Cab-Merlot

I was once told that it's extremely difficult to get a bottle of VQA wine to market for less than $12, and a look at the pricetags bears that out. So finding a good Cabernet Merlot blend at $13.75 is great news for VQA fans. 

The first Reif Estate vines were planted in the late 70s and the winery opened in 1983. They've recently released their 2012 Cabernet Merlot, a ripe, fresh crowd pleaser with plenty of fruit. 


Pick a Picpoul

It's feeling like "Indian Summer" so how about a fresh and zesty white from the sunny south of France? Picpoul de Pinet fits the bill, and the Ormarine out now is very cheap.




Strut is the in-house Wine Rack brand of all-VQA at a lower price. Eye-rolling wags replace the first 't' and the "r" with 'l', but I went ahead and tried some anyway during their recent Gay Pride promotion. I got a bubbly surprise.



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