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Saturday, September 27, 2008

REPORT: National Study on the Perception of French Wines in Canada (CROP)

The Time and Date: Wednesday, September 17, 2008  10AM to 2 PM

The Event: unveiling of the results of a national study on the perception of French wines, done by CROP for Sopexa.

The Venue: Third floor gallery of Burroughes Building, Queen St West

The Target Audience: wine importers, media

The Quote: "Overall, there was nothing new…BUT there is hard evidence to support what we already knew about. That's useful"

In summary, promotional activies revolve around in-store tastings, newsletters, wine classes, and newspaper articles. The demographics were 18-24 (entry level, cheap, social wines); 24-34 (exoticism, social), 35-54 (hard core), and 55+ (traditional, no real health concerns). French wines, of course, really do well in Quebec, but taper off as one moves westward. There was a suggestion that Sopexa could downsize its Montreal office and enlarge its Vancouver office for more promotion, especially with VANOC 2010. The survey made no distinction between Cellared in Canada and VQA wines, which was unfortunate since most people reported drinking "Canadian" wines. The overall perception of French wines: too expensive, not daring enough, snobby. There was little attachment to French wines outside of Quebec. But there is a potential for growth in Canada through awareness of more artisanal wineries and wine education, such as a French wine club (the former Compagnons de Vins de France? Come on down, Kristine Bach…).

The Wines: with the lunch, we sampled some wines from France (where else?): Leon Beyer Pinot Gris 2006 Alsace (attractive), Domaine Lamargue Viognier 2007, Le Bourgogne Chanson Pinot Noir 2006, Chateau Pey La Tour Reserve 2006 (needs time; Vintages Essentials), and the stunning Mas des Bressades Cabernet Syrah 2006 (from Vinexx).

The Food: a nice spread of salmon and chicken, plus salads and whole grains, desserts, etc., from Daniel et Daniel.

The Downside: too much data was transmitted too fast, and there were no handouts to rely on. We desperately needed summary sheets.

The Upside: the survey covered more than French wines – other countries' wines were also analyzed and how Canadians perceived them.

The Contact Person:

The Marketing Effectiveness (numerical grade): 84.



Thursday, September 25, 2008

TRADE TASTING: Sonoma Wine Affair, Toronto September 18, 2008

The Time and Date: Thursday, September 18, 2008   2:30 – 5 PM

The Event: the 2008 Sonoma Wine Affair

The Venue: Arcadian Court, The Bay

The Target Audience: wine media, wine trade, sommeliers

The Availability/Catalogue: wines were all over the map, with access through Vintages or Consignment or Private Order.

The Quote: "Nice, quiet little show, no feel of being rushed. It was 5 PM before I even knew it. What happened to E & J Gallo? They were only in Vancouver".

The Wines: I did not try all the wines. Notable with their absence from Toronto were Gallo and Geyser Peak, plus Schug Carneros and Sonoma Cutrer.


**** Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages 2004 $105

-Chateau St. Jean Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

-Chalk Hill Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 $80 Vintages March 2009

-Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Blancs 2004 Vintages sparkler

-Landmark Overlook Chardonnay 2006 $39.65 Lorac

-Rodney Strong Chardonnay Chalk Hill Estate 2006 $26.99 Mark Anthony

-Rodney Strong Symmetry Meritage 2005 Mark Anthony

-Seghesio Family Home Ranch Zinfandel 2006 $45 Dionysus



***1/2 Three and a Half Stars (8890 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Arrowood Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay 2005 $49.95 Vintages

-Chalk Hill Chardonnay 2005 $45 Vintages March 2009 Authentic

-Ferrari-Carano Winery Chardonnay Alexander Valley 2006 $40.25

-Flowers Winery Chardonnay Sonoma Coast 2006 $66  Rogers

-La Crema Chardonnay 2006

-Landmark Steel Plow Syrah 2006 $39.65 Lorac

-Pedroncelli Winery Chardonnay Dry Creek Valley 2006 $14 Grape Expectations.

-Ravenswood Barricia Zinfandel 2005

-Rodney Strong Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2005

-Sebastiani Vineayrds Secolo 2006 Vintages February 2009


*** Three Stars (8587 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Blackstone Winery Sauvignon Blanc 2007 $16.95

-Arrowood Chardonnay 2005 $37.95 Consignment John Gibson Agencies

-Chateau St. Jean Chardonnay 2007

-Ferrari-Carano Winery Fume Blanc 2007 $23.95 Authentic

-Francis Ford Coppola Director's Cut Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2006 $26.50 Lifford

-Francis Ford Coppola Director's Cut Zinfandel Dry Creek Valley 2006 $26.50 Lifford

-Kendall Jackson Vintner`s Reserve Chardonnay 2006

-Murphy-Goode Chardonnay 2006 The Vine

-Trentadue Merlot Alexander Valley 2005 $31.20 John Gibson

-Trentadue La Storia Zinfandel Alexander Valley 2004 $35 John Gibson



The Food: cheese and pate, crackers, lots of fresh veggies left over.

The Upside: a chance to taste some really great wines – it has been three years since the Sonoma team came to Toronto.

The Contact Person:

The Marketing Effectiveness (numerical grade): 90.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A tasting of Fabiano (Veneto) wines, and a lunch at Romagna Mia, Sept 16, 2008

The Time and Date: Tuesday, September 16, 2008  1 PM to 3:30 PM

The Event: a tasting of Fabiano (Veneto) wines, and a lunch.

The Venue: Romagna Mia

The Target Audience: wine media

The Availability/Catalogue: all wines are available. We tasted four off the General List, plus five that are on Rapid Release at the LCBO for Saturday September 27. Apparently, Veneto wines are the hottest category, and the LCBO could not wait until October 25 when a huge release of Veneto wines are to appear.

The Quote: "Romagna Mia is doing a festival of Fabiano wines this month."

The Wines:


**** Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Fabiano Negraro Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2006, +96875, $23.95.

-Fabiano I Fondatori Amarone 2003, +96859, $75.95


***1/2 Three and a Half Stars (8890 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Fabiano Storica Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2006, +96883, $18.95.

-Fabiano Rugala Amarone 2004, +96867, $45.95

-Fabiano Storica Amarone 2004, +673566, $47.95

-Fabiano Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2006, +34058, $14.65



*** Three Stars (8587 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Fabiano Pinot Grigio Terre Degli Osci 2007, +34066, $14.65

-Fabiano Valpolicella, +117259, $16.75 en magnum 1.5L

-Fabiano Soave, +116988, $13.75 en magnum, 1.5L


The Food: to accompany the wines, which we could drink and match in any order, we had mixed Italian cold cuts with diverse breads, strozzapreti all Romagnola (a meat-based sauced pasta), and the dolce of gelato al Parmigiana-Reggiano (cheese ice cream) – the latter paired nicely with the Amarone. Plus coffee.

The Downside: it was lightly attended, maybe because it conflicted with other tastings plus the LCBO Tuesday tasting. Product Consultants were skedded to come after 3:30.

The Upside: enough room to spread out and to question the agent, Laura Higgins of Eurovintage

The Contact Person: Laura Higgins

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 86.


Monday, September 22, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The No-Nonsense Guide to World Food (by Wayne Roberts)

THE NO-NONSENSE GUIDE TO WORLD FOOD (Between the Lines, 2008, 192
pages, ISBN 978-1-897071-44-1, $16 CAD soft covers) is by Wayne
Roberts, a Toronto-based environmental activist who writes for NOW and
co-ordinates the Toronto Food Policy Council (he's also the author of
"Real Food for a Change" from 1999). It has been co-published with the
New Internationalist as one of its "No-Nonsense" series, basic guides
to activist projects albeit on a higher plane that Dummies or Idiots
series. Other series topics include animal rights, climate change, fair
trade, globalization, human rights, sexual diversity, women's rights,
and world poverty. It's a great survey of the problems that plague
global food production and distribution, all of it in the macros (since
this is a survey book) of social justice, public health, and green
economics. Of course, he brings in related systems with sustainable
living, the role of governments, the hundreds of groups that have
united (with stories behind these organizations). He deals effectively
with the hunger campaigns in Cuba and Brazil. All we see in the papers,
though, are stories about escalating food prices, high levels of
obesity, and threats to food from global warming. He tries to go behind
these stories to get at the issues by highlighting the post-World War
II evolution of a cheap food system, the government subsidies, and the
disconnect between humans and their environment. He has end notes after
each chapter, lists of international contacts and websites, and an
Audience and level of use: serious foodies, fans of Michael Pollan,
Some interesting or unusual facts: "Food production is one of the
world's dirtiest industries, doing more damage to more territory than
logging, mining or heavy industry. About 170 million food producers are
child laborers, which speaks to the poverty and mistreatment
subsidizing low food prices."
The downside to this book: I wish Roberts had spent more space talking
about Via Campesina. This really important group needed further
exploring. Also, there is no mention of biodynamic or Demeter.
The upside to this book: according to the publisher, "there are on-the-
spot reports of heartwarming experiments around the world". And there
are doable proposals. But still…
Quality/Price Rating: 94.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Demeter and Organic Tasting of Ceago and Jeriko California Wines, Sept 16, 2007.

The Time and Date: Tuesday September 16, 2008  3 PM – 5 PM

The Event: a tasting of two newish California wineries, Ceago Vinegarden (Biodynamically Certified by Demeter) located in Lake County and owned by Jim Fetzer, and Jeriko Estate (Organic Certified) located in Mendocino County and owned by Daniel Fetzer.

The Venue: Fine Wine Reserve, King Street West

The Target Audience: wine writers.

The Availability/Catalogue: all of the wines have been sourced and will be available through different streams of Vintages, Consignment, Private Orders, and the like, through the Ontario agent, The Living Vine (Mark Cuff).

The Quote: "The Fetzers are brothers, and now have finished their eight year non-compete clause since selling Fetzer Vineyards to Brown Forman".

The Wines: all of these organic wines were very good quality and fairly priced. We were also able to taste a few other organic wines from the Living Vine portfolio; these are also included below. Prices are retail.


**** Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Tres Sabores Napa Valley Rutherford Perque No? Zinfandel 2005, $29.95 [dense, chunky]

-Heyl Zu Herrnsheim Rheinhessen Riesling Spatlese 2007, $36.95 [ripe body]

-Erbaluna La Morra Piedmont Barolo 2004 Vigna Rocche, $67.95 [quality, extract]

-Ceago Vinegarden Clear Lake California Sauvignon Blanc Kathleen's Vineyard 2007, $25.95 [good MVC}

-Jeriko Estate Mendocino Chardonnay 2006, $19.95 [well-integrated oak]

-Jeriko Estate Mendocino Merlot 2004, $26.95 [dynamite finish]


***1/2 Three and a Half Stars (8890 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Erbaluna La Morra Piedmont Barolo 2004, $54.95

-Ceago Vinegarden Clear Lake California Chardonnay Del Lago 2007 $28.95

-Ceago Vinegarden Clear Lake California Cabernet Franc Del Lago 2005, $55.95.

-Ceago Vinegarden Clear Lake California Merlot Del Lago 2006, $30.95.

-Jeriko Estate Mendocino Brut Sparkling Wine 2005, Chardonnay, [first organic sparkler in North America], $39.95.

-Jeriko Estate Mendocino Syrah 2004, $26.95.

-Jeriko Estate Mendocino Cabernet Sauvignon 2005, $30.95.


*** Three Stars (8587 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Organic Vignerons South Australia Grenache/Viognier Rose 2007, $18.75 [off-dry]

-Vina Esencia Mendoza Occhioverde Unoaked Merlot 2007, $16.95

-Heyl Zu Herrnsheim Rheinhessen Riesling Kabinett Off-Dry 2007, $23.95

-Heyl Zu Herrnsheim Rheinhessen Riesling Estate 2007, $25.95

-Ceago Vinegarden Clear Lake California Syrah 2006, $30.95


The Food: California styled pizza at room temperature; the one with bitter greens was excellent. Apparently, one writer (NOT me) finished off all the pizza.

The Downside: this was a hurry-up call, with barely 15 hours notice.

The Upside: a chance to taste some really good Demeter and Organic wines.

The Contact Person:

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 92.


Monday, September 15, 2008

Chile Wine Trade Show in Toronto, Oct 1 (pre-tasting, Sept 10)

 The Time and Date: Wednesday September 10, 2008  11AM to 1:30 PM

The Event: Media Preview Tasting of Wines of Chile, in advance of the October 1 show at the Fermentations in the Distillery District.

The Venue: Crush Wine Bar (downstairs)

The Target Audience: wine media

The Availability/Catalogue: all wines are available in the LCBO system except for two which were private orders.

The Quote: "Some amazing wines here…"

The Wines: some 50 wines were offered in a blind tasting. Sometimes we did not know the varietals.


**** Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Vina Cousino Macul Riesling Dona Isidora 2007, +57182, $11.95.

-Vina Amayna Chardonnay 2006 Leyda Valley, +76265 Vintages, $23.25.

-Vina Caliterra Carmenere Tributo 2006, $16.95 consignment (Calibrium).

-Vina Valdivieso Malbec Reserva 2006, $22.45 consignment (Carriage Trade)

-Vina Haras de Pirque Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Syrah Haras Elegance 2004, +640672 Vintages, $33.75.


***1/2 Three and a Half Stars (8890 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Vina MontGras Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2007 +58632, $11.95.

-Vina Maipo Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Especial 2008 +81216 Vintages Nov. 22, $16.95

-Vina Maipo Carmenere Reserva 2007 Rapel, $13.95 consignment (Select)

-Vina Botalcura Carmenere La Porfia Grand Reserve 2005, +61887, Vintages, $18.95.

-Vina Undurraga Carmenere Sibaris Reserva Especial 2007, +96602 Vintages, $15.95.

-Vina Cono Sur Pinot Noir Vision 2007, +689992 Vintages, $15.95.

-Vina Errazuriz Shiraz Max Reserva 2006, +614750, $17.75.

-Vina Haras de Pirque Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere Albis 2004, +579813 Vintages, $55.

-Vina Anakena Cabernet/Merlot/Carmenere ONA 2006, +59493, $17.95.

-Vina Valdivieso Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2005, +32110 Vintages, $17.95.

-Vina Requingua Cabernet Sauvignon Toro De Piedra Reserva 2006, +39362 Vintages, $14.95.


*** Three Stars (8587 in Quality/Price Rating terms):

-Vina Cono Sur Carmenere Vision 2007, +59360 Vintages, $15.95.

-Vina Cousino Macul Cabernet Sauvignon Antiguas Reservas 2006, +212993, $15.45.

-Vina MontGras Cabernet Sauvignon Reserva 2007, +619205, $12.20.

-Vina Miguel Torres Cabernet Sauvignon Santa Digna Reserve 2006, +177451 Vintages, $14.95.


The Food: basic gourmet sandwiches and salads from Crush.

The Downside: initially, there was no paper on which to write notes.

The Upside: relaxing, easy to focus on the task at hand, no one talking to me.

The Contact Person:

The Effectiveness (numerical grade): 93.




Friday, September 12, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: THE BATTLE FOR WINE AND LOVE, or how I saved the world from Parkerization

THE BATTLE FOR WINE AND LOVE, or how I saved the world from
Parkerization (Harcourt, 2008, 271 pages, ISBN 978-0-15-101286-2, $23
US hard covers) is by wine writer and bloggist Alice Feiring (In Vino Veritas). It is an
exceptional book, and while I may take "exception" with some of what
she says or does, it is one of the most interesting reads this year,
even this decade…It is mostly a memoir, chronicling her journey through
the world of wine. She begins with a 1967 Barolo that turned her
around, and later in life she went to Italy to find out more about that
particular bottle. She discovers that Robert Parker Junior, by becoming
an icon bigger than himself, has created a lust for the jammy fruit
bombs with vanilla-cream overtones – a lust shared by both producer and
consumer. Just about any Australian-Chilean-Argentine-American wine can
be "Parkerized" (definition: created so as to elicit 90 points or more
from Robert Parker Junior). And we all know this. Where it gets sticky
is when unscrupulous European producers (some large, some small, and
who see their sales decline because North Americans are drinking
Parkerized wines) decide to change their style and depart from terroir
wines to global jammy wines. Feiring hates the style; she loves Euro
wines because of their character, earthiness, edge, and their food
friendly palate. She visits numerous American wine merchants, and
travels to Italy, Spain, Champagne, and Burgundy, detailing all the
lies and deceptions of the trade fairs. Some names are mentioned. She
believes in authentic wines: sustainable viticulture, hand picking, no
added yeasts or enzymes, no added flavours from oak or chemicals, and
no processes that alter alcohol and aging levels. Unfortunately, as she
notes, too many large (and medium) producers are jumping on the
sustainable, natural, and biodynamic bandwagon. And they have NOT been
certified. She certainly stomps on them. But as one winemaker in Italy
says, "Here is the crime: industry pretends to be artisan and trusting
people believe them. This is the crime." Other chapters deal with UC at
Davis and phone interviews with "Bob".
Audience and level of use: wine consumers and wine writers everywhere.
Some interesting or unusual facts: "From about the late 1980s onward,
the Parker palate has largely dictated how wine is made worldwide." and   
"A business [Enologix] was actually thriving by helping wineries shape
and coerce a wine into a fat, oaky, thick, dense wine that Parker would
give big point to."
The downside to this book: there is no discussion on bottle sizes. Her
story about Krug changing its taste profile did not consider that her
"good" sample of the new formula was from a half-bottle which had aged
faster because of its size.
The upside to this book: hey, there is an index! And informative…
Quality/Price Rating: 95 (sorry, Alice, I use Parker numbers for

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


1. BIODYNAMIC WINES DEMYSTIFIED (Wine Appreciation Guild, 2008, 177
pages, ISBN 978-1-934259-02-3, $24.95US soft covers) is by Nicholas
Joly, one of the French leaders in biodynamic wines. He's been at it
for over 25 years. It was translated from the French by Matthew Barton.
Biodynamic borders on astrology and mysticism as applied to non-human
life forms, and deals with the Platonic four states of matter. This is
a book about the philosophy of biodynamic considerations without the
specific details that a viticulturist would need. It is and energy
management system. Rudolf Steiner gave a series of lectures in 1925
indicating what is to be done by extending traditional farming
practices to include interactions with the earth and the sun, the moon
and stars. Winemakers must eschew all the –cides (pest, herb, fungi)
and all the artificial fertilizers. They must also not use anything
that would deny the wine from expressing its own terroir, such as
Rolland's micro-oxygenation, cryo-extraction, reverse osmosis, many
yeast, oak chips, additives like Tanin Plus and Sinustan, enzymes,
excessive filtering. If wines are to be unique and authentic, then they
must show terroir and the only way to do this is to be biodynamic. The
appendices here include a list of the Return to Terroir Association
members for 2007, the Charter of Quality, and a 2007 list of US Demeter
certified and in-conversion biodynamic wineries, vineyards and farms.
There are also 16 colour plates of photos. The philosophy has moved
along at a rapid rate. Already there are changes are in effect for the
US harvest of 2008. There will be the possibility of biodynamic grapes
for eating, and two levels of biodynamic wine. One from all biodynamic
grapes in which the wine process can be re-jigged and sulfiting levels
adjusted, and another called "Biodynamic Gold Standard" with a Demeter
logo, a more strict process. Details are at and
Audience and level of use: deeply concerned wine consumers, wine
Some interesting or unusual facts: I always ask organic winemakers if
they'd pursue biodynamic wine. Almost all of them said "No" because it
would take too much more work.
The downside to this book: apparently, the Library of Congress has no
subject heading for "biodynamic" anything, just "organic farming".
There are a few typos, such as "Umbrecht" for "Humbrecht". And what I
found disappointing was the lack of text on what Demeter was.
The upside to this book: the philosophy and principles behind
biodynamic were very well-expressed.
Quality/Price Rating: 90.