Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Nov 25th, 2017

Upcoming Events, Disaster Relief for Northern California & Puerto Rico, and a Bevy of Great Wines

By John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

There will be little respite the rest of this month, so I’ll cut to the chase. This weekend the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo hits Toronto, where I’ll be delivering three great tastings. Hopefully I saw some of you last night at the New World, Old Vines session, but if not, join me for first-rate Italian wines tonight (Friday), or (and!) let’s travel through Spain on Saturday afternoon: Details and tickets. If oysters are your thing (and it’s primo oyster season), get thee to the 2nd annual Great Canadian Oysters and VQA Wine Experience on Monday the 20th, where in addition to copious bi-valves, you’ll taste over three dozen VQA Ontario wines, the majority of which won gold or platinum at the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada. And in the midst of all the revelry, spare a thought for the less fortunate, and make a difference via the disaster relief opportunities below. And with that, click on for the best of the best from a massive November 25th Vintages release.

Disaster Relief: Northern California & Puerto Rico

Michael Godel mentioned the terrible California wildfires last week, and I’m mentioning it again, along with the opportunity to make a difference (and drink great wines doing it).

Join me on December 4th from 6-9pm at the Liberty Grand in Toronto for The California Wildfire Grand Tasting Fundraiser, “an all-inclusive, walk around wine tasting event where wine lovers have an elite opportunity to sample premium and super-premium wines from the Golden State. Upon entrance [$150], participants gain full access to try an incredible selection of California wine… many rarely tasted before in this market. It’s a special evening of showstopping California wines, delicious foods and wonderful company—all for a great cause.”

Members of the trade are also invited to a special tasting of old and rare California wines that afternoon. I know it’s rare to reach into your pocket for a wine tasting, but this is your chance to give back to the wine industry that has surely given you plenty over the years. $50 gets you in; I’m doing the same, and volunteering my time to moderate, along with Jennifer Huether MS, Bruce Wallner MS, Will Predhomme, and Jamie Drummond, what should be a memorable tasting. Thanks to Lifford, The Vine, Jackson Family Estates, Rogers & Co., and The Profile Wine Group for digging into their personal stashes. Contact Steve Campbell, the Grand Fromage at Lifford, to secure your spot. Active trade and media only please.

Donation Recipient: The Canadian Red Cross, who will transfer the funds directly to the American Red Cross in California.

AdvertisementErrazuriz Aconcagua Alto Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Puerto Rico

And while disaster is disaster anywhere in the world, relief aid depends greatly on media focus. Puerto Rico has no glamorous wine estates to capture your attention, nor any fine wines to entice your help, but you can be sure the situation there in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is even more dire than in northern California. I received the note below from fellow master sommelier Emmanuel Kemiji, who splits his time between Napa and Puerto Rico (how’s that for luck), outlining his stepson’s efforts to make a difference, and how you can help:

To my fellow Masters,

As many of you know I reside in both Napa and in San Juan, Puerto Rico where my wife lives with my two young stepchildren. The last weeks have obviously been trying for everyone in light of Hurricane Maria and the devastating fires in northern California. On top of that I’ve had to deal with the rising unrest in Catalunya as my other project, Clos Pissarra, is located in Priorat.

Still in the darkest of moments the human spirit brings out the best in some of us and I want to share a tale of a young man whose deeds have brought light and hope to many.

Fortunately our household on the outskirts of San Juan did not sustain much damage, especially compared to the vast majority of the populace. I was in Priorat harvesting when Hurricane Maria ravaged the island and created a catastrophic situation that simply cannot be described. Tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed. After almost 2 months over 2 million people (70% of the population) still do not have electricity and the prognosis is that it will take 6 months to restore power to the entire island. There are vast food and water shortages and disease is starting to run rampant.

After the hurricane hit I suggested to my wife that she temporarily relocate with the kids to California. After talking it thru they decided that it was more important for them to stay in Puerto Rico and help out those that did not have the luxury of leaving to a safe haven. 

My 15 year old stepson, Ricardo Kury Calderon, took it upon himself to organize a group of high school students to raise funds, negotiate food and water prices with various large distributors, and then on weekends, take those goods to small communities in the central part of the island where nobody has been to help those poor people who live in critical conditions.

He spends every waking moment working on ADELANTE! (meaning Go Forward in Spanish). His goal is to raise at least $30,000 (in the last week he has raised over $5,000). I hope that you can support his efforts, and like he says no amount is too small.

So, there’s nothing tangible in it for you, but hopefully that’s not the only motivation to help! Thanks for reading through this far in any case.

Click here to support ¡Adelante! Organized by Ricardo Kury Calderón.

And now, on to the smart buys and top wines from the November 25th release.

John Szabo’s November 25th Vintages Buyer’s Guide: 


Drappier 2012  Millésime Exception 2012, AC Champagne ($74.95)
John Szabo – Drappier was one of the first houses to go fully dry, and while this isn’t zero dosage, the superb 2012 is very dry and tightly wound, firm and succulent, with real energy and depth. I love the light salinity on the finish and the saliva-inducing acids that draw you back for another sip, as well as the fully mature and complex range of flavours, like maple syrup and toasty-caramel notes over ripe and fleshy, dried orchard fruit. Lovely.

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That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

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