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Weekend Wine: Wine tastings

This week, Vin shares his impressions of some of his finds at recent tastings

While most are happy to pick up a decent bottle to enjoy with dinner, and many are quite content to stick with one or two wines that they enjoy, some are more adventurous.

Those are the people who might read a column like this to identify new, interesting and affordable wines. And then, there are others among them who like to take part in wine tastings when they get the chance.

Some might belong to wine clubs which meet and try new wines on a relatively regular basis.  Others are open to attending events available to the public.  Public events include huge 3 or 4-day long events such as the Gourmet Wine and Food Expo held in Toronto each November, this year from the 16th to the 19th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. Others might enjoy more intimate tastings, such as the one held recently at The Mill restaurant in Sault Ste. Marie, where 20 guests sampled deliciously-prepared small plates matched with appropriate wines.

In between, especially in the Toronto area, you will find larger, one-day tastings sponsored by the LCBO, by trade associations representing various countries or regions, or by larger wine importers who conduct portfolio tastings.

One such event will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 3 at the Royal Ontario Museum. The LCBO vintages program is hosting “One Night In Napa Valley” that evening, pouring wines from almost 50 different wineries. It cost $150 per person, but guests will be tasting top-quality wines that most of us would consider too expensive to buy.  Along with the wine, expect finely catered food, so you can pace yourself as you taste.  For full details, click here

For people involved with the wine on a professional basis, including restaurant owners and staff, events like this often have afternoon trade tastings, giving restaurateurs a chance to seek out wines for their wine lists and agents the opportunity to pick up new wineries looking for representation in Ontario.

Depending on where you live, you may find an LCBO store offering tastings once a week.  For example, on Thursdays from 7-8 p.m., the Scottsdale Drive store in Guelph will feature the following tastings: Sept. 7 – New World Wine ($40), Sept.14 – Q&A for VQA ($30), Sept. 21 – Syrah/Shiraz: What gives? ($40) and Sept. 28 – Tuscan Sun Equals Tuscan Wine ($50).

Frequently in cities like Toronto or Ottawa, you will find wine-makers dinners. These are typically arranged by importers to highlight top-rated producers. These can be pricey, but it gives you an opportunity to enjoy terrific wine and food and meet the people involved in the craft.

On Thursday, Sept. 14, the Eagles Nest Golf Club in Maple is hosting a Signorello Estate Wine Dinner at $275 per person, including tax and gratuities.  Signorello is one of those Napa vineyards that will participating in the ROM event. Contact for more information or reservations.

Wherever you live, you probably can find restaurants that have special nights for wine. Quattro Chop House in Sault Ste. Marie has “Wine-y Wednesdays” when all wines poured by the glass are half-price.  Their list is extensive, so it is a chance to try something new.

I write this column out of Sault Ste. Marie, but it also appears on the Village Media sites in North Bay, Timmins, Barrie and Guelph. If you know of wine events in your communities that you want people to be aware of, please let me know at, and I will do my best to share the news.

The next tasting in this area will be held at La Terrazza Franzisi at Richards landing on St. Joseph Island. Chef Sal Franzisi who previously plied his trade in Santa Monica, California, will prepare five courses, including Pasta alla Siciliana and Beef Wellington. I will be creating some distinctive pairings to complement the dishes. Cost for the event is $75 per person, plus tax and gratuity. To register, please call the restaurant at 705-246-1500.

Whatever your price bracket, there are oodles of options for a night out where you can enjoy some exceptional wines. Get out and explore.

Labour Day Super Sale

From August 31 to September 6, the LCBO has some very good reds at a significant discount.

Wolf Blass Red Label Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, is $4 off at just $11.20.  This is a smooth, no-nonsense red with decent fruit, minty herb, soft spice and very good length.

Marius Rouge from Chapoutier, a great bargain at its regular $12.95 price, is a steal at $9.95. Impressive length and complexity can be noted in this Grenache Syrah blend with good fruit and the wild herb accents common to wines in the south of France.

Bonterra Cabernet Sauvignon, an organic wine from California’s Mendocino County north of Napa and Sonoma, will be $4 off at $17.95.  Mid-weight, the wine has layered, pure fruit flavours of red and dark berries and bright cherry.

Chateau Argedens from France’s Bordeaux region is predominantly a Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon blend, normally $17.95, but just $15.95 for this week. It is supple and concentrated with cassis, lively acidity and soft tannins.

Limited Time Offers until September 10

The Wolftrap Viognier Chenin Blanc Grenache Blanc, $11.95 ($2 0ff) is a good deal at its regular price, but now is even a better time to try this white blend. The 2014 earned an 89 from the Wine Enthusiast and was praised for its peach, pear and orange rind flavours accompanied by herbal notes and spice, with a rich mouthfeel offset nicely by crisp acidity.

Bonterra Chardonnay, $17.95 (regularly $19.95) is fermented in a combination oak and stainless steel, with an effort to offer both apple-like freshness and more tropical and creamy fruit.  It is clean and very expressive of the chardonnay grape.

Paul Cluver Sauvignon Blanc 2015 from South Africa’s Elgin region has marks in the 90’s from both Robert Parker Jr. and Decanter.  $2 off at $17.95, it displays classic gooseberry and citrus character and will please anyone who enjoys quality Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

Peter Lehmann Barossa Shiraz, $17 ($3 off). The 2014 vintage earned an 89 from the Wine Enthusiast which calls it a solid value and identifies vanilla, plum. black olive and lingering mocha in its profile.

Rocca Delle Macìe Riserva Chianti, $13.95 ($2 off) will display dried dark cherry fruit along with cocoa and a classic touch of tar.  It would certainly pair nicely with pasta, or even barbecued ribs. 

Wine Rack Stores

A new label is being introduced at the Wine Rack stores, that of The Noble Experiment Wine Company, a salute to the prohibition area, with the label depicting in black and white vintage trucks from the Roaring 20’s with giant bottles of wine subtly visible in the cargo area.

The Cabernet Sauvignon is moderately light and fruit forward, with some fine tannin and a touch of oak showing through on the finish. Despite having only five grams of residual sugar, this will please fans of red wines that approach the off-dry.

The companion “Wild White” blend is just off-dry with a certain roundness to the mouthfeel, sweet pear flavour and decent acidity on the finish to make this a good sipper and a great accompaniment to Thai or Vietnamese dishes.

Usually $12.25 a bottle, the wines are currently on sale at 2 for $20. You might just want to try a noble experiment yourself.

Vintages September 2 Release


Ventisquero Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2016, $13.95, from Chile’s Casablanca Valley suggests fleshy grapefruit and kiwi, with a stony slate-like note. The fruit is ample even reminiscent of apricot perhaps, but the end is all citrus.

Guillaume Aurèle Viognier 2015, $13.95. From the south of France, this wine has a modestly aromatic nose and is flavourful and refreshing with peach apricot plum characteristics along with citrus on the finish.

Duca Catemario Collezione Privata Pinot Grigio 2016, $14.95, from the Friuli region in northern Italy has more oomph than usual for a Pinot Grigio. It has good intensity and is round on the palate, coming across as “bright lively and nutty with a crisp finish”- Vintages Panel.

El Camino Rectoral Do Umia Albariño 2015, $15.95, from Spain’s Rias Baixas region is tasty and fresh with some brine and minerality accompanying lemon and apple elements. Try it with shrimp or mussels.


There are several fine Cabernet Sauvignons, including the St. Francis 2014 from Sonoma, $29.95, Watchdog Rock 2013 from Washington’s Columbia valley, $17.95, and the Casa Lapostolle Grand Selection 2015 from Chile, $15.95. California’s Avalon Cab Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, $17, is highlighted this month. According to, it has a “satiny vibrant, fruity medium body and a sleek complex medium length, spiced nuts, apple skin, and clementine finish with light oak.”

Sur De Los Andes Reserva Malbec 2012, $15.95, from Mendoza in Argentina has a “fully stocked, hefty palate [and] flavours of black fruits, licorice, herbs and oak finish.”  Wine Enthusiast – 90.

El Gorú Moanstrell/Syrah/Petit Verdot 2015, $13.95. This Spanish red is “an easy-drinking wine with flavourful toast notes displaying good acidity and excellent fruit. Modern and well-balanced.” – 90.

Domaine Lafage Cuvée Nicolas Vieilles Vignes Grenache Noir 2015, $17 is from the Roussillon region of France. “Offering tons of ripe black cherries, blueberries, spice and flowers, it has loads of pure fruit, a sexy voluptuous style and beautiful length” – – 92.