Buyers’ Guide to VINTAGES June 27, 2020

Cottage Wine, Canadiana and Rosé for Everyday

By Sara d’Amato, with notes from: Michael Godel, John Szabo and David Lawrason

Getting stir crazy? You are not alone, as urban dwellers flock to cottage country this week. Previous concerns about the spread of COVID-19 to smaller communities were de-prioritized last month when the province of Ontario lifted the ban on short-term rentals (less than 28 days). The debate is still out over the safety risk this activity may pose but the increasing precautionary measures and a relatively steadying of the COVID curve have allowed for continued re-opening. Those of you with cottages may have been partaking in much needed getaways or may have decided to firmly plant yourselves among the trees and water for the foreseeable future. If you are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, why not do so from a greener space? Others may be furtively searching for rentals that are now, unsurprisingly, in short supply.

Our family’s cottage is in the Kawarthas and we have been making week-long stays while the kids are virtually schooled in the great outdoors. We have been very careful to bring our own food and wine with us from Toronto for these stays but for the first time last week, I had to go into town. As the city folk inevitably descend into cottage country, and local businesses that cater to that influx reopen, precautions are notably in place. The vast majority of individuals were wearing masks. Line-ups to store entrances with 2-meter demarcations were being respected. The line-up at the portable trailer LCBO shop near Minden was hopping with a considerable queue. (These portable LCBO units are used when there is increased seasonal demand, when the LCBO is gauging interest in an area or for the purposes of relocation.) I was relieved that the sanitary measures seemed to be just as strict or stricter than in Toronto. That being said, let us help you put together a substantial wine list in an effort to limit your in-person visits.


There is no one answer as to what constitutes a great cottage wine. It could be a simple, easy-drinking style that gives immediate pleasure or is a contemplative wine to sip slowly while the sun dips below the horizon. What will we be drinking this week? Below you’ll find our top cottage picks from this week’s VINTAGES release. Be sure to use the WineAlign inventory finder when making your list. A reminder that online ordering with curb-side pick-up is more widely available than ever and will save you a considerable amount of time in line. As for other outlets from which you can buy, WineAlign is now offering a new Passport Series in addition to our WineAlign Exchange programs. Both programs are curated by our critics. The former offering wines from specific locations around the globe while the Exchange is quarterly subscription-based program with customizable options. We are discontinuing the Agency Wine Cases and focusing only on WineAlign curated cases (there are still a few cases left though). The LCBO’s recent commitment to give wine agencies a platform through which to sell their own mixed cases means that most agents will continue to do so on their own. We do hope that this program helped you discover new wines and shed light on the many ways to purchase wine in the province.

Much to my dismay, no announcement was made on Canada Day introducing the regulation allowing direct-to-consumer interprovincial shipping of wine into Ontario. It was anticipated that on July 1st of this year, a decision would be made as was stated in the amendment to the Liquor Licence Act. What a coup it would have been to share this news with weary Ontarians as we celebrate Canada! Instead, all we have is an unceremonious postponement of a subsection of the regulation until July 1, 2021. It is unclear that this revokes the legislation that was to come into effect last week or not. We shouldn’t have to speculate. If, like me, you find it inconceivable that shipping wine direct-to-consumer from the rest of Canada would be denied, then ask for clarify from your MPP. With no official statement from the Ford government, we are in the lurch, yet again. Canada Day has just come and gone but it should be a reminder of the bounty available locally to us as consumers. Please check out the Somewhereness cases, a collaborative project between the 13 wineries that make up Somewhereness and WineAlign. A series of cases continues to be on offer here. A couple of top Canadian wine picks of this VINTAGES release are highlighted below.


Château des Charmes 2015 Blanc de Blancs Sparkling, Traditional Method, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada ($34.95)
Sara d’Amato – A creamy, leesy and gracefully aged Blanc de Blancs that is both comforting and expressive. The richness of chardonnay is expansive on the palate and a generous dosage adds roundness and flesh to this high acid style. Very good value for a vintage sparkler of five years.

Benjamin Bridge 2018 Tidal Bay White, Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia ($21.95)
Michael Godel – Tidal Bay is one of the great appellative category creations in wine in that it tells a Minas Basin, Nova Scotia story through the collaborative effect of essential white grapes through a distinct maritime voice. Translation: Fresh, airy, salty and thirst-quenching. This from Benjamin Bridge does more.

Cottage Finds

Invivo X 2019 Sauvignon Blanc By Sarah Jessica Parker, Marlborough, New Zealand ($22.95)
David Lawrason – Not sure why actress SJP has lent her name to a NZ Sauv Blanc (she has an apparel brand too) but “the fellas” at Invivo have made an excellent wine. It is full flavoured, intense, well tuned and spry with classic flavours.
Sara d’Amato – A fleshy, aromatic collaboration between Marlborough’s Invivo and Manhattanite’s Sarah Jessica Parker. This crushable cottage find is delicately floral and offering more substance than expected on the palate with a curious leesy note. Lemongrass, lily and cucumber add to the soothing appeal of this restorative sauvignon blanc.
Michael Godel – The South Island’s Invino pairs up with south Manhattan’s Sarah Jessica Parker for a savvy in the city collab that you just know will fly. The voice of relationship reason should know a thing or two about bonding and building so expect great things. Invivo’s wines over perform, are underrated and speak in both qualitative and profitable voice. What’s next “Y” MB pinot noir? “Bueller, Bueller, Bueller?”

Tessari Barco 2018 Organic Soave Classico, Veneto, Italy ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – fresh and delicate on the nose, this Soave Classico is an inviting and representative take on the lighter side of the garganega spectrum. Lemon oil and mineral add more depth than expected to the palate. A satisfying porch sipper.
John Szabo – There’s plenty of wine here for the money to be sure, a sharp entry point into the Tessari range. I like the fleshy, ripe, orchard fruit-driven palate and the balanced acids and alcohol (12% declared) and long finish.
Michael Godel – Barco, as in boat, a new garganega for the VINTAGES market from top volcanic Soave producer Tessari. Apposite to the Grisela, more fruit, less salt, dare it be said, more to offer the square, a.k.a plays it safe community. Rounder and more body, less soul but plenty of proper volcanic voice. Easy and delicious.

Château Tertre de Launay 2018, Entre-Deux-Mers, Bordeaux ($14.95)
David Lawrason – Very good value in a perfectly tuned, light and fresh young Bordeaux blanc, based on sauvignon blanc. Expect clean, subtle grassy aromas of celery leaf, lime and avocado. The 12.5% alcohol is perfect.

Banfi 2019 La Pettegola Vermentino, Tuscany, Italy ($18.95)
John Szabo – Here’s a clean and fleshy, varietally accurate vermentino from Tuscany, featuring the sweet green herb and citrus fruit/zest character of the grape, rendered in a soft and approachable style. Acids are more than sufficient to keep the ensemble buoyant, and there’s no lees or wood influence.
David Lawrason – Vermentino creates light, lively dry whites in the Italian Riviera and surrounding coastal areas, which includes Tuscany. The aromas here are nicely lifted with florals, vague almond and lemon. It is light to mid-weight, nicely zesty with some salinity and spritz.

Von Schubert Maximin 2018 Grünhaus Monopol Riesling, Qualitätswein, Mosel, Germany ($19.95)
Sara d’Amato – If you’re in the mood for an awakening, this deeply earthy, naturally spicy and intense riesling should do the trick. Undeniably compelling, this modern style is relatively dry and at 12% abv, it is quite substantial for the Mosel.
David Lawrason – This is a quite lovely dry and spry young riesling that could only be from the Mosel, with this lightness, tension and sense of grace. Very impressive intensity and length as well.
John Szabo – A typically racy, but unusually dry, Saar riesling here; is this a product of global warming? Dry Saar riesling at 12% alcohol? Whatever the case, it’s a stellar bottle of wine for dry riesling fans. Even in the warm 2018 vintage it still retains crackling, electric acids, and a flavour profile that can only be described as reminiscent of mineral oil.

Boya Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Certified Sustainable, Coast Zone, Do Leyda Valley, Chile ($14.95)
John Szabo – Another distinctive, sharp value sauvignon from Garcès Silva in the Leyda Valley, so eminently well-suited for sauvignon, pure, pungent, green, and green tropical fruit flavoured, a bit aggressive, yes, but authentic.

Grands Serres Les Hautes Vacquieres Vacqueyras 2016, Rhone Valley, France ($26.95)
John Szabo – Fantastically gravelly, stony, scorched earth-flavoured, this is a classic southern Rhône, from a classic vintage. Wild herbs meet dark fruit in the regional idiom, while density and richness fulfill the necessary at the price. Sharp stuff, drink or hold mid-term.

Cono Sur 2018 Valley Collection Reserva Especial Pinot Noir, San Antonio Valley, Chile ($17.95)
Michael Godel – If you have not yet checked out the wondrous possibilities for pinot noir out of the San Antonio Valley then start here with leading estate Cono Sur and this absolute delightful stunner. Full fruit ripeness is managed by equal and opposing acidity in comforting massage for the great pinot noir assuage. So elastic, malleable and the parts of the wine just seem to fit so easily into each other. Wouldn’t miss this $18 steal no matter what else I mighty be doing this week.
David Lawrason – Cono Sur has specialized in pinot noir for years, building a separate winery dedicated to its production. From the cooler, coastal San Antonio Valley site comes a quite fine and lovely, fresh pinot with generous cranberry/raspberry, finely etched herbs and background oak toast.

St. Supéry Estate Bottled Cabernet Sauvignon 2016, Napa Valley, California ($57.95)
Michael Godel – As for know-how, top sites and a plan to bring Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon to a consumer that wishes to, wants to, needs to afford something of high quality…St. Supéry answers the call. Sweetness of a Napa ideal, fine acids and even finer tannins. No holes, nor tough mudding neither. Smooth, quietly rich and satisfying.

Domaine de La Madone 2018 Le Perréon Beaujolais Villages, Burgundy, France ($16.95)
Sara d’Amato – A very pure incarnation of Beaujolais, fresh and appealing, jaunty and plump. Made in a fashionably reductive style with what feels like a bit of carbonic maceration, it is brimming with notes of red and black currant along with cracked black pepper.

La Pieve Barolo 2016, Piedmont, Italy ($41.95)
John Szabo – From the terrific 2016 vintage, La Pieve’s fine ‘village’ Barolo is a classically firm, perfumed, tightly wound and densely styled nebbiolo, absolutely regionally correct yet overall in a more polished, modern expression. It has your protein-rich BBQ evenings covered this summer, or cellar comfortably into the mid-‘20s.

Château Pierre de Montignac 2014, Medoc, Bordeaux, France ($25.95)
David Lawrason – Now maturing into fine form, this is a quite elegant Bordeaux with more ripeness than I expected from a 2014. It is medium bodied, quite smooth and well balanced with classic cedary with minerality and herbs on the finish.

Castelgreve 2015 Riserva Chianti Classico, Tuscany, Italy ($23.95)
Sara d’Amato – This 2015 is evidence of a remarkable vintage offering impressive structure with plenty of grip and concentration. Very fine oak spice is well meshed with the dark fruit and new leather and licorice on the palate. Solid core of acidity, still impressively youthful. A great value. For any occasion.

Patrick Lesec 2017 Galets Blonds Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône, France($60.95)
 Sara d’Amato – Old, low-yielding vines are almost a given in the appellation of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and this 2017 incarnation is a notable example of that fact – impressively concentrated but also beautifully balanced. Although the alcohol is naturally high, the palate feels ethereal.

Jean Max Roger Cuvée La Grange Dîmière Sancerre Rouge 2015, Loire Valley, France ($29.95)
John Szabo – Drinking quite beautifully at this stage, this typifies the delicate pinot noir expression possible in the limestones of Sancerre, not unlike nearby Champagne and Auxerre. This is filigree and fine, tart but not shrill, maturing but shockingly youthful for a 2015 from a “minor” pinot region. If you’re a fan of classic Burgundy, consider this side trip with a friendly price tag.

Rosé for Everyday

La Cadierenne 2019 Cuvée Grande Tradition Bandol Rosé, Provence, France ($24.95)
Sara d’Amato – This Bandol offers an impressive aromatic complexity with pure notes of blackberry bud, anise and cassis. Garrigue, sea salt and mineral add freshness where acidity may be lacking. This is the whole package and a terrific vintage for Provence!
Michael Godel – A perennial stalwart and with 2019 in pocket the stars align for Rosé Bandol heaven. Here’s the rub and the balance in extract you desire for the style and the result. Plenty of ripe fruit, early realized and actionable acids, finalized by knowable and wanton balance. Meant and uttered, not to mentioned sipped in the best way.
John Szabo – A rosé to sip after sundown with depth and concentration that demand cool service temperature and substantial fare at the table, or even short term ageing.  Note the 14% alcohol declared! Serious stuff.

Hugh Hamilton 2019 The Floozie Sangiovese Rosé, Mclaren Vale, South Australia ($18.95)
Sara d’Amato – Floozie refers to the “black sheep of the family” (and certainly not you). Dry, pale and certainly Provençal inspired with plenty of fruit. As the pale pinks of Southern France rapidly increase in price, this is a relative bargain!

Grapes for Humanity A special word from John Szabo and Geddy Lee:

In other news, in a continued effort to support the ravaged Ontario restaurant industry, WineAlign would like to draw your attention to the laudable initiative of Grapes For Humanity. This charitable organization is undertaking an online Fine Wine Auction, with all proceeds going directly to affected businesses. Read the donation request letter below, penned by supporter Geddy Lee, legendary front man of the rock band Rush and fine wine lover himself. It’s a worthy cause, and even a bottle or two from your cellar will help.

“The restaurant industry has been devastated by the outbreak of COVID19. Among those impacted are people who are already among the most vulnerable  in the work force: young Canadians whose first job  is in a kitchen or new  Canadians who bus tables while they learn the language, or multi-generational restaurateurs who have invested their entire future  and their children’s  by growing culinary institutions that make dining in our city the envy of major cities all over the world.

After years of enjoying their service, it’s our turn to serve them, the  Chefs, sommeliers, waitstaff, delivery personnel, farmers, fisherman, bakers and more whose livelihood has evaporated virtually overnight.

They’re not doctors or ICU nurses, epidemiologists or vaccine manufacturers. But they are essential to us and have shared some of our life’s most intimate or profound moments (that big deal you landed! the night you got engaged!) or our toughest ones (goodbye dinners for kids heading off to college). l’m talking about people we know whose livelihood is the hospitality business. They make sure we have what we need, open early or stay late, find whatever we have to have that isn’t actually on the menu. Nothing is ever too much trouble. Now is the time to remember their generosity  because they need our help.

In an effort to help these individuals who now find themselves in dire straits, Waddington’s in conjunction with Grapes for Humanity Canada will be hosting a Rare and Fine Wine Auction, the proceeds of which will benefit the Ontario Hospitality industry and its struggling work force.

And so I am reaching out to you, my fellow wine lovers, to ask you to donate something great from your cellars. Something that will help us raise some badly needed funds to help keep our friends  in the hospitality world afloat and better able to survive this economic tsunami.

We will come out of this…but right now we must throw  a lifeline to those who need  us … let’s do this  by sharing our good fortune and raiding our wine cellars so the staff and independent restaurants  can weather this storm.

Direct Benefactors include Toronto Restaurant Worker’s Relief  Fund and Save Hospitality.

Please contact Doris Miculan Bradley ([email protected]) at Grapes for Humanity Canada for more information and a donor application sheet.

Thank you so much….” – Geddy Lee


That’s all for this week. Happy Cottaging, or “Camping” if you’re from the north!

Be sure to check out our latest Passport Series offering, destination California! John Szabo and I are also pleased to announce that we will be launching our new podcast “D’Amato & Szabo: Wine Thieves” this coming week. We begin with a multi-part series focusing on Burgundy’s top values. The podcast will be accessible from the WineAlign website with further details to follow.

Sara d’Amato

Don’t forget to follow us on Instagram for the latest WineAlign recommendations, tips and other interesting wine information.

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.

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
Michael’s Mix
Lawrason’s Take
Szabo’s Smart Buys

New Release and VINTAGES Preview