After years of being considered overpriced, California's wines have been flooding the Canadian market in the last few years, breaking sales records. Canada now buys almost as much Cali wine as the whole European Union.
One area where the wines are doing particularly well is at restaurants across the country. California is often the number one category of wines at restaurants now. See my story from Foodservice and Hospitality magazine.
A quartet of vineyards owned by Constellation (formerly Vincor) are increasingly marketed as the "Great Estates of Niagara." Their British Columbia counterparts have been similarly grouped into the "Great Estates of the Okanagan" for several years now.
And there's more than enough to see and do to fill a day with the four wineries as I found out in September. On a glorious summer day, I joined a media group for visits to Inniskillin, Delaine Vineyards, Le Clos Jordanne, and Jackson-Triggs (pictured). Even better, the focus was on the premium product.
In what Stratus is calling a "pre-release", the winery is offering a discount on its signature Stratus Red and Stratus White blends for the month of October. For $38 a bottle, you can stock up on wines with a proven track record of aging well. Come November, with the Vintages release, the price will rise to $44. The "official" release of the wines is not until spring 2014.
The 2010 Red and White blends are drinkable now, but both will improve with cellaring for a few years. Collectors, or those who'd like to start collecting, should seriously think about buying some Stratus this month. Read on for notes on the 2010s and check notes on earlier years to see how previous vintages have aged.
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.
Aging chardonnay is generally the purview of Burgundy - not many other wine regions do this (with intent). It's hard to believe Pelee Island Winery intended to age their 2005 Barrique Chardonnay this long before releasing, but I just had to try this oldster, even though I was worried about the low price.
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.
"Brown spirits, including whisky, are very much in vogue," says James Buchanan of Buchanan's Chop House & Whisky Bar in Calgary. Rougher American whiskey gets the hipster attention, but more refined single malt scotches are also growing in popularity (and sales).
At Le Paradis, an old-school French restaurant near Av & Dav, the Wine Writers' Circle annual dinner happened recently. We all had to bring a bottle, and I raided my cellar for a 1998 Chateau Baron de Pichon-Longueville. The food was classic French and amazing, as was the wine.
Italy's Veneto region reds are dominated by easy-drinking Valpolicella and its more complex cousins Ripasso and Amarone. But head closer to the Adriatic coast and you'll be pleasantly surprised to find a Niagara standby and French classic - cabernet franc.
Tenuta S. Anna's ripe, fresh and well priced cabernet franc is well worth a try.
Sort of. Actually in some ways it's better than a lower-priced Bordeaux because the fruit is so nicely ripe. Bodega de Los Clop has been making wine in Mendoza since 1880 is family-run. The Los Clop is a terrific, smooth malbec that feels more Old World than New World. Excellent quality/price ratio too.
Prince Edward County's Hinterland Les Etoiles is aptly named: it's a star. The winery is only a few years old but already established as one of the best sparkling wine makers in the country. Also one of the priciest - but don't balk... it's very fine and, especially if you're a champagne drinker, worth it.
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© 2005, 2014 Alan McGinty