Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES March 7th, 2020

California and Global Picks, Nitpicks & Dreaming Big

By David Lawrason with notes from Sara d’Amato

COVID-19 permitting, the annual California Wine Fair, now in its umpteenth year, will be held Monday April 6th in Toronto. There will be a new wrinkle however with the Fair moving from the convenient but stuffy ballrooms of the Royal York Hotel to the Beanfield Centre at Exhibition Place. Change is good. With about 150 wineries on board it promises to remain one of the largest wine events of the year. For ticket info and a $5 discount for WineAlign members go here. Ticket sales are in support of Second Harvest.

But allow yourself a Lotto Max moment and dream big.  Wouldn’t it be amazing if every wine presented at the California Wine Fair was available for purchase then and there? Or at least at a pop-up wine store on the premise open for the following 48 hours.

Because I am really tired that virtually every conversation between consumers and producers at this show and others (not picking on California), ending with “sorry not available at the LCBO”, or alternatively, “sorry only available by the case from the agent or winery”.  Is this any way to run an enterprise?  Why even pour the wines and have a consumer event if consumers cannot buy the wines?

Vintages features a meagre dozen California wines in its lead-up California feature on March 7.  They have selected a few interesting cabernets in particular and Sara and I put forward our picks below. But again, they are missing such a selling moment. Why not arrange to have a tranche of 50 wines on the release available, even if only at a limited number of stores.

And one more LCBO nitpick before getting to our recommendations. There are four very fine Ontario wines featured in the March 7 catalogue – all recommended. All are continuously available Vintages Essentials.  Note however that none have a vintage date published in the Catalogue.  This is an historic issue with LCBO general lists and Vintages Essentials. The LCBO can’t control when a vintage will ‘roll over’ in terms of the wines continuously coming into their system, so they don’t publish vintage dates. Which again makes life easy for them, but vintage dates do matter to consumers, especially in vintage sensitive, cool climate, variable Ontario.

Xavier Vignon Côtes Du Rhône 2018 

So, here are our recommendations, noting that only about half the wines being released were presented to the media for preview. So that the LCBO maintains control (of commerce not the public good).

Buyers’ Guide March 7th: California Picks

Rodney Strong Knights Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Knights Valley, Sonoma County ($39.95)
David Lawrason – A charming ripe and rich cabernet on the softer side with a fragrant, floral and mint/menthol character that I equate with Knights Valley fruit. It is full bodied, quite supple yet dense, with soft tannin. Ready to enjoy now.
Sara d’Amato – One of the standouts of the California feature, this rich and satisfying cabernet is juxtaposed by a rather severe and impressive structural edge. The oak is important but not imposing. Open with food or decant if immediate enjoyment is your goal.  …

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And that’s wrap for this release.  We will return in two weeks with all hands-on deck for the March 21st release.

VP of Wine

David Lawrason

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Lawrason’s Take
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