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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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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: an excellent yet affordable Tuscan red

Weekly Wine PickAntinori 2010 Santa Cristina

$12.10 | Tuscany | 87 points
Recently, many basic chiantis have “morphed” into IGT Tuscan reds, in order to be freed from the shackles of appellation regulations. This allows a wider sourcing to meet volumes, and the use of other grape varieties. Traditionalists were concerned that something would be lost. Not so. Since 2006, Antinori’s popular Santa Cristina has been made at its own winery near Cortona in eastern Tuscany, and its quality has improved.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a classy, complex French Chablis

Weekly Wine PickDrouhin Vaudon 2010 Chablis

$19.95 | Burgundy, France | 89 points
I am delighted to see this classy wine fill out the thin ranks of French Chablis at the LCBO. Although the word “chablis” was once recklessly tossed about to describe any light white wine, the name is now religiously controlled under international wine agreements to identify only those chardonnays (mostly unoaked) from vineyards around the sleepy French village of the same name.

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Casing Prince Edward County: five fabulous, under-the-radar wines

Prince Edward County
Exultet Estates 2010 The Blessed Chardonnay
Exultet Estates 2010 The Blessed Chardonnay
$35 | Prince Edward County | 90 points
Gerry Spinosa and his family planted their first vines behind an old cheese factory in 2004. Their ethereal chardonnay has already won two gold medals at the Ontario Wine Awards. The texture is delicate and silky; spicy oak, nutmeg and resin need a year of aging to integrate with the ripe peach and honey flavours. 1106–1112 Royal Rd., Milford, 613-476-1052.

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Coming Up Rosés: nine great bottles of the ultimate summer dinner party wine

(Illustration: Jack Dylan)

I recently hosted a dinner devoted entirely to rosé. It was on a terrace in Crillon-le-Brave, a small town in Provence, and I was joined by a group of Canadians who were there for a gastro-cycling adventure in Mont Ventoux, the site of the toughest leg of the Tour de France. Most of them were skeptical about pink wine, having only drunk cheap Mateus in their college days. But I was determined to convince them. We were, after all, in the heartland of dry rosé— the grenache, syrah, mourvèdre and carignan vines planted in the arid, stony soils of southern France produce fresh yet rich lavender- and anise-scented pinks. Our aperitif was a zesty Côtes du Ventoux, followed by a delicate, pale Côtes de Provence to go with the shellfish. With grilled pork and ratatouille we ramped up into richer, creamier Tavel. By the time the sun set, the sky matched the colour in our glasses and the doubters were silenced. Here, my favourite rosés for the summer. They won’t cost you a trip to Provence, or your reputation.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a rarely seen Nova Scotia sparkler

Weekly Wine PickBenjamin Bridge Nova 7

$25 | Gaspereau Valley, Nova Scotia | 89 Points
Benjamin Bridge is a new Nova Scotia sparkling winery that’s been drawing raves for its Champagne method bubblies that are fermented and aged in-bottle. But quantities are so tiny it remains essentially unavailable. Nova 7 is a less expensive, higher volume, tank-fermented edition from local Nova Scotia varieties, and it returns to the LCBO, in limited quantities, this Saturday.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a stellar bottle of Ontario bubbly

Weekly Wine PickCave Spring Blanc de Blancs Brut

$29.95 | Niagara Peninsula | 90 Points
Today, Ontario’s lieutenant-governor convenes various Queen’s Park dignitaries to taste the winners of his Awards for Excellence in Ontario Wines. I was on a panel in Niagara that selected 11 out 272 submissions over two days of blind tasting, and this stellar sparkler was among the chosen few. Made entirely from chardonnay, in the traditional Champagne method, and aged three years in the bottle, it highlights Ontario’s great bubbly potential.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a Niagara chardonnay that punches above its weight

Weekly Wine PickRavine Vineyard 2010 Chardonnay

$24.00 | Niagara Peninsula | 91 points
This weekend, 55 wineries from around the world are gathering in Niagara to showcase their “cool climate” chardonnays, a style that’s right in Ontario’s wheelhouse. Burgundy produces the benchmark of this style, with wines that are powerful, complex, firm, cellar-worthy and hopefully not too oaky. Ravine is a relative newcomer on the Niagara scene, making very serious wines from the get-go.

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Nine vibrant, refreshing rieslings that make for perfect patio sippers

(Illustration: Jack Dylan)

There’s nothing quite like the crack of a crisp riesling on a bright spring evening. That bolt of vibrant, citrusy acidity, followed by a flood of peach, pear, honey and wildflowers. But wait, what’s that odd scent—is it flint? Or diesel fuel? Riesling disciples use the term “petrol” to describe its unusual aroma. Although I would argue for the grape’s virtues—as a versatile food wine and as the world’s best cellaring white—riesling has never gained a mainstream following. Not just because of its idiosyncratic bouquet, but because attempts to mass-produce it on the cheap have often resulted in limpid, overly sweet wines. Recently, however, better rieslings have made in-roads on wine lists across the city, thanks in large part to the excellent bottles produced here in Ontario. The LCBO also carries many refreshing, off-dry examples in the over-$15 range that make superb patio sippers and offer extraordinary value—just check out the point-to-price ratios on the following bottles.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a great Ontario summer red for under $15

Weekly Wine PickSandbanks 2011 Baco Noir

$14.95 | Ontario | 87 points
Baco Noir, with its occasional wild, gamey flavour, is not everyone’s cup of tea. But it has remained an Ontario staple because it’s hardy enough for winter and makes big reds with deep colour. From vines grown on her small, picturesque Prince Edward County estate, winemaker Catherine Langlois has been working away to tame the beast, and this new vintage succeeds.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a crisp Chilean sauvignon blanc to fight this heat wave

Weekly Wine PickErrazuriz 2011 Max Reserva Sauvignon Blanc

$15.95 | Aconcagua Valley | 90 points
For the past five years, Chile has been chasing New Zealand’s reputation for intense, pristine sauvignon blanc, largely by moving production closer to the Pacific Ocean, where cooler climes preserve acidity and fruit purity. This brilliant sauvignon—new at the LCBO—is sourced from a single, hillside vineyard near the mouth of the Aconcagua Valley, 12 kilometres from the sea.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a Niagara red from the region’s best vintage to celebrate Canada Day

Weekly Wine PickTrius 2010 Red

$21.95 | Niagara Peninsula | 89 points
If you want to celebrate Canada Day with a homegrown wine, this Ontario red is the ticket. It’s from the best red vintage to date in Niagara. Trius winemaker Craig MacDonald has figured out how to best express the lighter side of merlot- and cabernet-based Ontario reds—an arena where many winemakers still try to extract brute force from grapes that just don’t have it in them.

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David Lawrason’s Weekly Wine Pick: a charming Australian shiraz

Weekly Wine PickHardy’s Bankside 2010 Shiraz

$14.95 | Australia | 89 points
This has been kicking around Vintages for several years, and I have not always been a fan. It went very lean and peppery for a while, but this vintage changes course and offers rich fruit and some charm—all the reasons we loved Aussie shiraz in the first place. And it achieves it without being gooey or sweet.

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