Newsletter #273 - Cautiously Optimistic: A Commentary

27 Oct 2016

Newsletter #273  

October 27, 2016


  • WineReview: Cautiously Optimistic – A Commentary

  • Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch: New & Noteworthy Wines

  • Weekly Wine Video Series:  A Recap of The Latest Videos

  • Ontario Wine UpdatesRe-Tastes and Other Interesting Finds

  • Grape Guy Events:  Make The Most of Your Trip to Wine Country

WineReview:  Cautiously Optimistic – A Commentary

We have just witnessed for the second time (in my lifetime anyway), a change of ownership at Canada’s largest winery / wine brands by the world’s largest purveyor of alcohol, Constellation (who bought the then named Vincor for $1.58 billion in 2006 and will have sold them by the end of 2016) – they have claimed they want to focus more on beer and spirits, while at the same time they purchased Charles Smith Wines of Washington State. And while it’s nice to see Canada’s Inniskillin and Jackson-Triggs back in Canadian hands what does all this say about the selling of wine in Canada? When the world’s largest holder of wine companies / brands decides to throw in the towel here and sell off their Canadian division, yet still holds the remainder of the wineries and brands they acquired with their 2006 purchase of Vincor to me speaks volumes. Now I’m just speculating here, as I do in many of my commentaries, but could it be that Constellation sees the writing on the wall: that making money in Canada (in general) and in Ontario specifically, will not be as easy as it once was under the Liberal’s new proposed “sharing the retail space plan”. Let’s face it, the real selling feature of Vincor’s Canadian holdings were those Ontario money makers: those off-site stores that were a license to print money in the province … and now if the world’s largest can’t figure it out how in the world are the rest of Ontario’s wineries supposed to do it? Are we about to embark down another rabbit hole of when it comes to the sale of booze in this province?

As a quick aside, I have to admit something here, after all these years of ranting and railing against the LCBO monopoly they have done one thing really well – implanting themselves into the consciousness of Ontarians. Sure wine is going to be available in grocery stores, but for 8 out of 10 of us (my un-scientific study of random alcohol purchasers) the LCBO will still be the place most people will buy their wine, because it’s where they have always bought it; the grocery store option will be an after-thought to many, as with beer.  I was walking through a grocer in St. Catharines and stumbled upon the “beer section” (a few cases of popular brands piled on a skid) and for a moment I was shocked to see it and wondered to myself if all these recognizable beer producers were now making de-alcoholized product.  Will Ontarians ever get used to seeing beer / wine in their grocery stores?  Time will tell, but I can’t see it happening overnight, or in the foreseeable future.

Which brings me back to the sale of the former Canadian Vincor properties … Just last week, I was asked for my thoughts and I immediately went to the pessimistic side of things: “does not bode well for the selling of wine here in Ontario”; but then after some careful thought I decided there still might be room for optimism, especially if you look at the purchaser.  At one point in the process it was rumoured that Peller was in the mix of buyers to take over the Constellation Canadian holdings, but in the end it was the Teachers’ Pension Plan that took it for $1.03 billion.  Many on social media lamented that if the teachers do for booze what they did for Toronto sports teams we’re all in big trouble. But I thought of a better angle: Nobody is better at lobbying and twisting the arm of the provincial government to get what they want than the Teachers’ Union … and once they learn how difficult selling wine is, and the antiquated laws we have surrounding it, here in Ontario, they’ll set their sights on making changes, and while the fairly ineffectual Wine Council of Ontario seems to be a mouse nipping at the heels of the governmental elephant, the Teachers’ Union and their Pension Plan will seem like a pack of wolves and hyenas working together to wrestle the elephant to the ground.  So while Peller (had they succeeded in their purchase efforts) would have become the largest Canadian winery by far, they would not have been any more effective at invoking change to the system; on the other hand, the Teachers’ Union could play a large and important role at getting laws passed that will loosen up our repressive and antiquated system up; because who is in more  need of a drink at the end of the day than a teacher, and it should be easier for them to get it and sell it..

The way I see it anyway.


Grape Guy’s Picks of the Bunch:  New & Noteworthy Wines

Coyote’s Run 2015 Pinot Noir - $19.95 (W, L)
This 2015 Pinot Noir is one for the ages, especially for the price … six months in 100% French oak, but older (3+ year old barrels) so the fruit shines through from start to finish: cranberry, sour cherry, black cherry (and that’s just the aromas). Made from de-classified, all-estate fruit, with the addition of 5% Merlot – the palate is smooth with good acidity, plus floral, strawberry and a hint of cedar … it’s pure Pinot-pleasure, especially for the price.  Price: $19.95 – Rating: ****+

Domaine Queylus 2013 Cabernet Franc, Reserve du Domaine - $34.95 (W)
After a recent tasting at Queylus, where I was impressed enough by their staple wines: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and why not, they’re made by the incomparable Thomas Bacheldar – a Burgundian purist – but I was even more impressed by some of his Bordeaux-style outputs, like this Cabernet Franc (with 14% Merlot added). Very smoky with cigar box, violet/floral and intensity of spice; there was also a richness of dark fruit and a mineral component that added interesting layers to the wine. Plus the acidity and spice helped carry the wine to a long finish.  Price: $34.95 – Rating: **** ½

Greenlane 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon - $32.95 (W)
A wine aged for 19 months in all French oak from the hot 2012 vintage – some say the last great vintage in Ontario … and they make a good case for that statement with the plethora of sumptuous and elegant characteristics in this wine: blackberry, white smoke, sweet black licorice and a touch of cedar on the finish – a true delight for Ontario Cabernet Sauvignon fans; because we so rarely see years like this.  Price: $32.95 – Rating: ****

Hinterland 2009 Etoiles - $49.00 (W)
It’s really not hard to recommend Hinterland bubbles, over the years they’ve just been so damn good and so damn consistent; but the 2009 Etoiles takes things to a whole new level. 5 years on lees with no dosage has brought about lemon drop and zest with hints of lime and green apple, but it also shows off it’s mineral-side along with a dry-yeasty quality and good bracing acidity that makes sparkling wine such a versatile food pairing wine (this one in particular). This 60/40 Chard/Pinot sparkling may not be perfect but it’s pretty damn near close; and the real surprise is how fresh it is after 5 years in this very bottle. Drink / Hold 5-10 years.  Price: $49.00 - Rating: **** ½+

Keint-he 2013 Chardonnay, Frost Road - $25.00 (W)
This is another single vineyard, Niagara-based Chardonnay from Keint-he, who seem to get lost in the shuffle when talking County wine.  But with a new winemaker and lower prices Keint-he should be lauded for their wines. This Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation wine is delicate with mineral apple, butter and spice with good acid backing. All this came as a surprise considering the 50% new, medium-toast French oak that housed the wine for 10 months – and despite that the fruit still shines through … plus there’s a lovely spiced-lime finish. A stop by Keint-he for a bottle or 3 should definitely be in order on you next trip.  Price: $25.00 – Rating: ****+

Stratus 2012 Petit Verdot - $38.20 (W, L)
It’s unusual to get a straight Petit Verdot from Ontario, but not unheard of – and you’d think it a more maverick type of planting and making, but over at Stratus it seems that you can teach old dogs new tricks – or at least old dogs can show you some new tricks, with rare grapes. Here longtime winemaker JL Groux has crafted a Petit Verdot that has blueberry, cherry and white pepper elements with subtle tannins and a rich dark berry finish that whacks you with pepper and finishes with supple tannins – in the end it is a true beauty of a wine worth enjoying now through 2022.  Price: $38.20 – Rating: ****

Availability legend:  W (Winery) – L (LCBO/Vintages) –  OL (On-Line)

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 Get FREE the Grape Guy Events App - Plus there are plenty of prizes to be won

The Weekly Wine Video Series: A Recap of the Latest Videos

The Weekly Wine Videos
Every week I'll introduce you to another fabulous wine that you've just gotta try – Check out the YouTube Channel Now

Weekly Ontario Wine Videos

Video #188 - Back 10 Cellars 2014 Chardonnay (Niagara)
Video #189 - Coyote's Run 2012 Rare Vintage Cabernet Franc (Niagara)
Video #190 - Calamus 2012 Meritage (Niagara)
Video #191 - Big Head 2012 Petit Verdot (Niagara)


International Wines Series ... 

Willamette Valley Vineyards 2013 Pinot Noir
Chateau de L'Ou 2011 Secret de Schistes
Montes 2012 Purple Angel

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Ontario Wine Updates Re-Tastes and Other Interesting Finds

Taste it Again / Lost & Found (blog):  the two blogs have merged
(Find out what happened to some favourites and to those that never were tasted) 
Taste it Again:  Andre, Gamay, Franc & More (+2 Foreigners)

From the Cellar (blog)
When it’s not an Ontario wine, here’s what I’m pulling out of the cellar
New Posts Added


PODCAST:  Two Guys Talking Wine
Join me and my co-host Andre Proulx as we discuss all things wine, and sometimes we're not afraid to go off topic
Episode 22 - Talkin' With La Crema
Episode 21 - Talkin' Old Wines


Vintages Release (blog)
October 29, 2016 - Available Now
October 15, 2016 - Available Now

 GRAPE GUY EVENTS Spotlight:  Make the Most of Your Trip to Wine Country

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