All stories by David Lawrason

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a barely fermented Ontario red that’s worth the “nouveau” fuss

Weekly Wine PickGeneration Seven 2012 Nouveau

$11.95 | Niagara-on-the-Lake | 87 points
This year’s crop of beaujolais nouveau bottles arrives today at the LCBO (it is the third Thursday of November, after all), but there’s really no compelling reason to rush out and grab an armload of the barely fermented 2012s. I quickly sampled the nouveaus from France, Italy and Ontario on Tuesday at the LCBO tasting lab, and this context showed just how average “nouveau” wines can be. The beaujolais in particular were scratchy, starchy and thin, perhaps due to a rather wretched 2012 season in France. In Ontario, however, the 2012 vintage was spectacular. Add the fact that Château des Charmes (which makes Generation Seven) is an experienced grower of gamay (the beaujolais grape), and this one becomes the natural choice.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a serious California Zinfandel

Weekly Wine PickSeghesio 2010 Sonoma Zinfandel

$29.95 | Sonoma County, California | 91 points
Californians like to think of fruity, rich zinfandel as their signature wine, but few pay it real respect. Many zins nowadays are too sweet, too chocolatey and too soupy. The Seghesio family specializes in serious and structured zinfandel, and sells a range of bottles from single vineyards, anchored by this larger-production Sonoma County wine.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a new spin on Rioja

Weekly Wine PickPalacios Remondo 2011 La Vendimia

$14.95 | Rioja, Spain | 89 Points
If you have not tried the wines of Alavaro Palacios, Spain’s modern viticultural wunderkind, here is a great opportunity at a great price. The scion of a Rioja winemaking family, Palacios is most famous for bringing once-obscure regions like Priorat and Bierzo into the limelight. He has made over his Rioja wines as well, infusing a delicious, fruit-driven drinkability without making them too sweet or oaky.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a cabernet lover’s cab from Jack London’s vineyard

Weekly Wine PickKenwood 2009 Jack London Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

$37.95 | Sonoma Valley, California | 91 points
The French have a great term for certain wines that draw you contemplatively into their world: vins de meditation. Kenwood’s Jack London Vineyard Cabernet has always drawn me in that way, summoning a powerful image of the Call of the Wild author writing away in the cabin atop the hill where this vineyard was first planted in the 1860s. The wine itself has this kind of outdoorsy, tough ambiance as well—I strongly suspect it fuelled some of his evenings at the desk.

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Nine wines to build an unbeatable cellar, chosen by our critic David Lawrason

I recently spent an evening with my cousin pouring over-the-hill wine down the sink, about 10 bottles in all. We tasted each one first. The New World reds were cooked into a raisiny, composty glop. The higher-acid Euro and Canadian wines, including a cheap 1981 Bordeaux, were dried out. I pronounced them all deceased. The cull cleared my cousin’s wine rack of special occasion bottles she’d been given over the years. Being sentimental, she couldn’t bear to drink them, even though most were under $20 and never meant to age. There is no sure-fire formula for selecting age-worthy wines. However, buying more expensive and concentrated wines will help—the more full bodied a wine, the longer it will keep. That means caber­net sauvignon and its Bordeaux-style blends, syrah and its Rhône family and many native varieties from Italy, Spain and Portugal are good bets. Your job is to be adventurous and willing to open them. Wine is made to be enjoyed, not hoarded.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a light, woodsy pinot noir from New Zealand

Weekly Wine PickSacred Hill 2011 Pinot Noir

$18.95 | Marlborough, New Zealand | 88 points
Pinot Noir is the most autumnal of red wines, often described as having the scent of forest floor, dried leaves and mushroom—at least, that’s how pinots from  Burgundy are usually described. The expanding universe of New Zealand pinot noirs, on the other hand, have more obvious raspberry and floral scents. This recent LCBO listing is an exception, finding a nice seam between the New and Old World character.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a Spanish white for sauvignon blanc lovers

Weekly Wine PickMania 2011 Verdejo

$13.95 | Rueda, Spain | 89 points
The small, sleepy town of Rueda lies in the arid highlands northeast of Madrid. Like the equally somnolent Chablis in France, Rueda sits on chalky soil, which makes for terrific white wines. But Chablis was discovered centuries ago, and Rueda only recently—resulting in a land rush and several new ultra-modern boutique wineries. This bottle from Bodegas Félix Lorenzo Cachazo, a family that helped create the Rueda appellation, embodies what the excitement is all about. It’s a great buy at $14.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a classic bordeaux from the killer 2009 vintage

Weekly Wine PickChâteau St. Georges 2009 St-Georges St-Émilion

$34.95 | Bordeaux | 90 points
Bordeaux was once the last word in fine red wine, but the rest of the world has overshadowed it for a while now. The very ripe 2009 vintage, however, might just put it back on top, and many great wines from the region are set to be released this fall in Ontario. This one’s from a consistently fine château near St. Émilion that has been making wine for centuries. It will educate first-timers to bordeaux’s subtle charm, and please those who have been drinking the classics for years. For the quality presented, the price is a fair one.

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The New Guard: the best of the bunch from the LCBO’s fall release

David Lawrason Portrait

(Illustration: Jack Dylan)

Fashion is fickle, even in wine. There are occasional stampedes toward trendy brands: Argentina’s Fuzion and Australia’s Yellow Tail went the oenological equivalent of viral. And then there are deeper changes in taste over time. Two such seismic shifts have occurred over the last few years. The first is an acceptance of blends. The word is freighted with negati­vity because the cheapest wines are often thrown-together blends. However, some of Europe’s best wines have always been blends, and vintners elsewhere are starting to craft new fusions. The second change is a taste for lesser-known appellations. Languedoc in France and Sicily in Italy are challenging the market supremacy of overpriced wines from Bordeaux and Tuscany. In the New World, regions like Paso Robles in California and Leyda in Chile are taking on icons like Napa Valley and Maipo—and the newcomers are often more affordable. I’ve sifted through the LCBO’s massive fall infusion for the best of both trends.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a go-to bottle of Chianti

Weekly Wine PickRocca Delle Macìe 2008 Chianti Riserva

$15.95 | Tuscany, Italy | 89 points
Tuscany is the focus of a current Vintages release, with a high-flying assortment of classic Brunellos and cabernet/merlot–influenced “super Tuscans.” But this somewhat more low-flying $16 Chianti is the best buy of the bunch, and it has been delivering its charm and richness in every vintage I can remember in recent years.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a sprightly riesling from a virtual winery in Niagara

Weekly Wine Pick2027 Falls Vineyard 2011 Riesling

$18.95 | Vinemount Ridge, Niagara Peninsula | 90 points
You can travel back and forth across Niagara and never find 2027 Cellars. That’s because it’s a “virtual winery” run by Kevin Panagapka, who assists at Featherstone Estate and makes his own stuff using their facilities. The concept is helping many new winemakers get established without the bone-crushing expense of building their own place. 
Trained in New Zealand, Panagapka has a real flair with Niagara fruit sourced from small, single vineyards—this one atop the Niagara Escarpment in a cooler zone.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a rich Ontario baco noir from an especially fulsome vintage

Weekly Wine PickHenry Of Pelham 2010 Reserve Baco Noir

$24.95 | Ontario | 90 points
For the next two weeks, the LCBO and Vintages are rolling out an Ontario wine promotion—punctuated on the 29th with an event called Taste Ontario—which provides a great window onto the advances being made with Ontario riesling, chardonnay, pinot noir and cabernet franc. But one of my favourites remains this good ol’ Ontario baco noir, which is especially rich and fulsome in the hot 2010 vintage.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: an Okanagan merlot that’ll make you reconsider Sideways

Weekly Wine PickQuails’ Gate 2009 Merlot

$25.94 | Okanagan Valley, B.C. | 91 Points

Merlot has become the great forgotten red grape since being Sidewaysbut don’t tell that to the folks in the Okanagan, where merlot remains the most planted red grape. The 2009 vintage was the best for red in the past five years, and the experienced hands at Quails’ Gate didn’t miss the opportunity to produce some great wine.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: the perfect late-summer pinot

Weekly Wine PickDomaine Parent 2010 Pinot Noir Bourgogne

$19.95 | Burgundy, France | 90 Points
With one foot in autumn and the other still in summer, meal choices are starting to go through the usual seasonal transition, which is why I suggest this light, versatile pinot noir from Burgundy. Domaine Parent is one of the legendary producers of the Cotes d’Or, responsible for some of the region’s greatest and most famous wines. This basic “Bourgogne” may be low on the status (and price) totem pole, but sourced from 30-year-old vines, it delivers honest, complex red burgundy, and is a very good value.

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Gamay Days: David Lawrason picks nine of his favourite gamays, from France to Niagara

(Illustration: Jack Dylan)

Gamay is often known as the grape that makes lowly beaujolais nouveau, the gassy juice that’s sold only weeks after the grapes are picked. However, top-notch gamay can be silky, fruity and rich, yet light—the perfect red for late-summer evenings. The best ones in the world come from 10 cru villages strung out along the slopes of Beaujolais, where 99 per cent of the vineyards are devoted to gamay. The 2009 and 2010 vintages from these appellations are excellent, and the LCBO has released some great buys under $20 at Vintages. Here in Ontario, winemakers plant gamay because it ripens early and ought to be a winner in our short growing season. In a tasting of gamays from Beaujolais, Niagara and Prince Edward County, however, I found our local editions were thin and joyless by comparison, likely due to cooler temperatures. The trick to buying good Ontario gamay, then, is finding a hot vintage; luckily, 2010 was warm and long, and it’s on LCBO shelves now. Here are my favourites, from France to Niagara.

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