OntarioWineReview Newsletter 146 ... November 2010
So why am I bringing up this 'dead issue' conversation with Mr. Bruce Walker? (Which, by the way, led to the bigger issue of Cellared in Canada and Esprit wines - and we all know how that turned out) Because this is not such a dead issue after all. A couple of weeks ago the Government of Ontario announced the opening of an all-VQA wine store in China (in the city of Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan Province). Oh happy day - now the Chinese can drink (and copy) all the Ontario icewine they want ... but this begs the question: why should the Chinese have an advantage that we Ontarian do not? Do the Chinese drink more Ontario wine? Why is it so important that China get the opportunity to drink Ontario wines that folks in Thunder Bay, Sault Ste. Marie and Sudbury can not?
I have nothing against the Chinese getting their hands on our wine; I'm glad to see a country embrace our wines as so many of us have embraced their food. But seriously, why should folks living in China have more and better access to Ontario wines then those of us living in the actual province. When I first heard the news, all I could say was an incredulous, "Seriously?" Has Ontario really become, as wine writer Dean Tudor puts it, every time he mentions Ontario, "a have not province"? When it comes to our own wine industry it keeps getting more and more "have not" and won't get.
As I sit in my living room writing this piece, I look across the room at the wine racks in the dining room and see all the VQA labels staring back at me, each one a reminder and a testament to a trip taken to wine country (I buy all my VQA-Ontario straight from the source). Unfortunately, some don't have that luxury, they don't get down to wine country regularly; wouldn't it be nice if wine country came to them? Sure it would. But how could that happen? It's easy, I feel almost foolish to suggest it: VQA wine stores in key areas of the province.
It was about a year ago (or so) that the LCBO was touted as being so forward thinking as to open the most comprehensive Ontario wine stocked store. A great idea for sure, but I question where they decided to open it, in St. Catharines, the heart of wine country; and their motives? Was it really forward thinking or was it a case of meeting your competition head-on? The LCBO's greatest, and only, competition is from the wineries, so they opened a store in the heart of where their competition is, a store that offers everything they have ever put on the shelf with the word "Ontario" on it, in one central location? This store would have been better placed in Toronto, London, Ottawa, Kingston, Sudbury or countless other cities with large populations and/or limited access to Ontario wine country.
Before I continue, we must briefly discuss what is bound to be the biggest argument about Ontario-VQA-Only stores: I know I am going to hear some belly aching and gnashing of teeth about free trade. But why is it that only Ontario is following the Free Trade agreement to the letter, while B.C flies directly in the face of it? They have BC-VQA only stores. If we're not ready to give new licenses for these kinds of stores, might I state, or suggest again, as I did back in March of '08: Why not take a few back, Vincor, afterall, is no longer a Canadian owned company and does not deserve the perks and protection we give Canadian-owned, operated and controlled companies. Why should they get the benefits of stand alone stores while countless other 100% Ontario wineries do not? Why not take a dozen or two back from them? I'm not worried that the LCBO or the AGCO (Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario) doesn't have the power to do it; they could do it at the drop of a dime - but do they have the stones to do it? That is the real question. Besides how many people in Arkansas are gonna be angry that Ontario wine is being sold in a store where their is no choice of Arkansinian wines? Would California really care if they did not dominate in 12 wines stores? They already have 600+ other opportunities to flog their product to the Ontario consumer. Besides, has anybody been into a US wine store and seen how prominently US wines dominate their selection? Forget finding Ontario or even Canadian wines, try finding Chile, Argentina or Australia. (see '... part 2', cont'd below)
Malivoire 2009 M2 Gamay - Small Lot - $17.95 (W)
This is the first bottling under the M2 label - which stands for "Malivoire" (owner's name) and "Mottiar" (winemaker's name). It only stands to reason that Gamay should be the lead off wine in this line. An why not, Gamay has traditionally been the bell-weather of the vintage, the canary in a coal mine of what is to come. M2 is a selection of the best and/or most unique barrels of Gamay from the vintage, and it really does stand out from the Malivoire straight '09 Gamay . The nose is a more pronounced with all-spice and the fruit is a dark, almost black, cherry. 45% of the wine is oaked for 6 months, while the other 55% sees stainless steel. There's a spiced black cherry flavour with hints of vanilla and nutmeg thru the mouth; the finish is long and loaded with black cherry and spice. A lovely and special inaugural M2 and a great bell-weather of things to come in this line. I'm really glad to see Malivoire kept the price the same as their regular Gamay. Price: $17.95 - Rating: *****
Bonus Review: Malivoire 2009 Gamay - $17.95
Foreign Affair Winery 2008 "The Conspiracy" - $18.95 (W)
The Conspiracy is the second wine of Foreign Affair Winery (FA). The FA winery has patterned their wines after those being made in the Veneto region of Italy. In truth, I think they're missing a Valpolicella style wine, but with the addition of "The Conspiracy" they're more than halfway there. This wine is the Ripasso to their Amarone, and it was just a matter of time before they decided to try making it. It is a 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon repassed over the skins of Cabernet Franc grapes, thus starting a secondary fermentation. The result is a wine with added complexity, something needed in a wine from the light '08 vintage. Sweet red fruit, chocolate, sweet tobacco and cherry notes - lovely in the mouth. Now, here's the real conspiracy: trying to get a bottle. This is considered a 'Licensee (restaurants) Only Wine' - you have to go the winery and beg and plead for a bottle and I'm told you "really have to state your case" - but I think for this wine you can make one, and should. Price: $18.95 - Rating: **** 1/2
Peller Estates 2007 Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon - $19.95 (W)
Another beauty from the Peller 2007 Private Reserve line. The nose is red raspberries and cherries – lots of good sweet red fruit that lures you in to take a sip as soon as possible. The palate shows great complexity with subtlety of chocolate interwoven with black cherry; if there is such a thing as a juicy smell then this wine has it; and it tastes the same way. There’s also very nice tannins that round out the structure of this wine. As for the finish, it ends with delicious black fruit and spice … I’d recommend enjoying it now or have some fun with it and lie it down for 5+ years – don’t worry, it can easily handle it. The real question is, can you resist reaching into you cellar for the extra bottles. Price: $19.95 – Rating: ****½
Toronto's Gourmet Food and Wine … Does this event really need any introduction? November 18-21 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre - all the details can be found at: http://www.foodandwineexpo.ca/sitepages/
Ontario Wine Review: ... part 2It's time to take the notion of where to best put Ontario-centric wine stores out of the hands of the LCBO and a handful of self-serving large wine companies. What is this province afraid of? Is big daddy Dalton worried we'll all become a bunch of stark raving drunks because we have greater access to local wines? Even if we do, the good news it's all Ontario grown and made: more drunks on local wines means more jobs for local wineries - that's win-win in my book.
Wine Event Spotlight: There's still lots of things to doMastronardi is murdering again … This time they are hosting "The Holidays ... are Murder!", December 10, 2010 with a Champagne Reception, Dinner and, a murder, all starting at 6:30pm - for reservations call 519-733-9463 or to find out more visit www.mastronardiwines.com.
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