On the Road with the Grape Guy

Report from - Gourmet Food and Wine Expo–Toronto Nov. 23, 2006

03 Jan 2007
Another year and another Toronto Gourmet Food and Wine Expo is in the books. Held at the Toronto Convention Centre in downtown Toronto, it showcases wines from around the world with a theme region taking center stage. The question that is asked so often is does Toronto have too many wine shows? My answer is more of a question than a downright answer: is there such a thing? But seriously, Toronto seems to have a wine show for every region, locale, distributor and importer and yet the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo brings them all together under one roof for a weekend of good food, good wine and a playful atmosphere. Sure there were a few problems that were glaring: like why the featured wine region, “Best of Niagara”, was buried so far at the back of the hall? And why was it decked out like some backwater-hicksville display with white picket fencing and lamp posts; when compared to the high-techness of Chile, chic-uniformity of France and cool-classiness of California? Finally, why were the Wines of Australia notably missing from all but the VIP night on Thursday? Does Australia feel they have Ontario all locked up and don’t need to show off there wares at one of the biggest shows of the year? Quite the act of hubris if I do say so myself. But all-in-all the Gourmet Food and Wine Expo proved to be another successful showcase for some of the best wines out there currently and ones that are coming to an LCBO/Vintages store near you. Without the Aussies there it allowed other regions to shine.

Currently Available:

Let’s start by looking at some wines from South Africa that have a story to tell. Robertson Winery is actually a co-op with many different growers under their umbrella. Every year they hold a competition to determine who is making the best single vineyard expression of a specific varietal. The winner gets their wine made as a premium offering, single vineyard designated, under the Robertson Winery label. The rest of the wines go into a final blend, or house style wine. The three available this year through Vintages are stunning examples of good quality and fair priced wine. The 2003 Prospect Hill Cabernet Sauvignon (#687814 - $18.95) is delicious and juicy, made in an old-world style, that could use some more time in the bottle to soften it up a bit. The 2004 Wolfkloof Shiraz (#626341 - $19.95) is full, lush and ready to drink now. But the best value is the Retreat Sauvignon Blanc (#933085 - $14.95) with grapefruit and grassy notes, a true expression of the grape and great flavours in the mouth … this one is a winner from start to finish. The whole line of wines are ones to be searched out and purchased immediately.

Looking elsewhere in Vintages: Vina La Rosa’s La Capitana Merlot, from Chile, is a delicious version for those who like their merlot on the fuller richer side with just a hint of oak flavouring (#655209 - $14.95). And just released this past Saturday (Nov. 25) – the Hess Collection Cabernet Sauvignon Select (#947887 - $21.95) has great chocolate notes that make you come back to the glass for another taste again and again – best of all the smell is there too – it’s one of those wines you’re afraid to drink because it smells so good but the taste might let you down – this one delivers on both counts. Yummy.

General List Gem:

Also from Chile comes this Carmenere gem from Santa Alicia, a juicy, ripe and delicious expression of the grape at a great price $10.45 (#309302). Make sure it’s the 2004 vintage, and you won’t go wrong putting this on your table or even giving it as a unique gift this holiday season (who else gives Carmenere?). Back to South Africa, the general list Shiraz from Robertson Winery ($12.20 - #610949) is great value for an every day sipper.


Delicato’s 2005 Gnarly Head Old Vines Zinfandel ($19.95) is coming back to Vintages this spring. It’s delicious sweet berry flavours make this wine another winner from this award winning California winery.


There were lots of wine available through consignment only methods (which means they are not in the LCBO and must be purchased from their agents, and you usually have to order a minimum of a case), but none seemed as worthwhile as this bargain from Chile. Vina La Rosa winery (again) – has a lighter every day drinker called La Palma at $12.99 for both Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, which is a great value. The merlot was simple, easy drinking, with wonderful black fruit flavours. No oak is used in the making of this wine so the berry flavours really show through – and it’s micro-oxigenated (simply put – they add oxygen to the wine to make it ready to drink now instead of having to shelve it a few years). The Cabernet Sauvignon undergoes the same treatment but it’s a little more complex on the palate and proves to have a bit of a bitter finish, a few more months in bottle should take care of that. Buy both – drink the merlot first and wait for the Sauv to come around.

The Hostess with the Mostess:

Finally a big thank you to Kimberly, who made attending the show easy for a few of our readers and myself. She was the one who provided us with the tickets we gave away and the information updates that kept us abreast of what was happening this year at the show. Thank you to Kimberly, your staff your staff and all those who helped to make this years’ Gourmet Food and Wine Expo another rousing success.

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