VINTAGES Preview Part 1 – Oct 14th, 2017

Sky High Napa and Globetrotting Pinot Noir

This week we tackle the two VINTAGES features at the same time. David Lawrason covers the Napa feature with commentary and reviews on the best buy featured wines, plus thoughts from the recent Napa Valley VINTAGES-sponsored event. Sara d’Amato comments on the pinot noir feature showcasing wines from eight regions around the world. John Szabo tees up next week to mine gems from the rest of the world. 

Napa is Flying Sky High
By David Lawrason, with notes from Sara d’Amato and Michael Godel

VINTAGES’s Napa feature this week was timed around the now annual visit of Napa Valley Vintners Association wineries to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto on October 3.

[As we head into the weekend with a VINTAGES release full of Napa treasures, our hearts ache for those affected by the numerous wildfires in the region – which started days after our original post. There is very little to say from the vantage point of our Ontario comfort zone except that despite these most challenging times, we believe the people of Napa and Sonoma will find their way. Stay strong California and remember, all of us at WineAlign are on your side.]

I was only able to spend about 90 minutes at the afternoon trade event, and focused on “new” wineries. But that proved challenging. Thirty-two wineries came to Toronto, but of those, ten were wineries of which I had no prior knowledge. I am impressed that tiny new wineries would seek markets here, where taxation inflates prices of already expensive wines to nosebleed levels.

Of the newbies I was most impressed with the cabernet offerings from O’Shaugnessey (represented by Rogers & Co), Y. Rousseau (Le Sommelier), Vineyard 7 &8 (Halpern), Krupp Brothers (Brand New Day), Somnium and Quixote (the latter two not represented in Ontario).

It is stunning that so many wineries are crammed into this breathtaking valley. The Napa Valley Vintners Association boasts 530 member wineries. Nearly 80% produce less than 10,000 cases, and 95% are family owned. Napa itself only produces 4% of California wine, which makes the concentration of small wineries even more remarkable.

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Taylor Fladgate 10 Year Old Tawny Port

The truth is, that if you can afford millions to open a winery in Napa, it is a license to make even more, or at least stroke your ego. Of the 79 wines offered at the VINTAGES Trade Event, 38 were priced over $100. Napa may now be the most expensive wine region in the world, or at least certainly challenging Bordeaux, Burgundy and Tuscany for that title.

Cabernet sauvignon – Napa’s star variety – has hijacked the price agenda, which catches other varieties like merlot, zinfandel and petite sirah in the updraft. (Only 12 wines at the event were under $50, and only two were under $40).  The pricing has made Napa the least value oriented region in the world in my view. One can still routinely find good value in Bordeaux, Tuscany and Burgundy. In Napa it is possible but rare.

But hey, there is some damn fine Napa wine too. And everyone wants the chance to taste it. Which is why the VINTAGES event sold out in a week, 400 tickets at $150 per person.

At such events I do not attempt to write publishable assessments and reviews. As to the VINTAGES selection being released on October 14, here are some of our picks:

Buyer’s Guide VINTAGES Oct 14th Napa Valley

Robert Mondavi 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, To Kalon Vineyard, Oakville, Napa Valley ($149.95)
David Lawrason – Despite the history behind this wine, this is in no way a sentimental choice.  It is a gorgeous, seductive cabernet – so nicely intense, rich and sculpted while retaining tension and poise. It really is all together. There are several cabernet-based reds in the world that are more expensive (if that helps) but not many are as impressive as this wine from a great Napa vintage. …


There are nine more VINTAGES Preview recommendations this week that are currently only available to our premium members. This complete article will be visible to all members 30 days after publication. We invite you to subscribe today to unlock our top picks and other Premium benefits.

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In closing, a quick reminder to drop in on a new Ontario wines Pop Up wine education, tasting and retailing location that will be operating in downtown Toronto at the Spoke Club, 600 King Street West (west of Spadina). A  Discovery Tasting Bar operates from noon to 9:30 pm, with weekend and evening tutored tastings and events. Check it out at Taste Local Pop-up Experience. It only runs until October 15. And with Thanksgiving upon us, consider buying local wine (John has some suggestions) as well as local produce for your table.  The options for buying Ontario wines are expanding, with the LCBO, winery stores, some supermarkets and farmers markets now selling VQA wine.

Cheers, David
VP of Wine

Use these quick links for access to all of our Top Picks in the New Release. Non-Premium members can select from all release dates 30 days prior.

Lawrason’s Take
Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Mix

New Release and VINTAGES Preview