Rare wine auction at Vintages goes on-line

NOTE: The LCBO is allowing live on-line bidding at the Vintages Fine Auction Nov. 12-14. Here’s the press release issued Nov. 8 from the LCBO.
The LCBO and Waddington’s Auctioneers are inviting wine enthusiasts from around the world to bid live over the Internet during this year’s Vintages Finest and Rarest Wines Auction being held November 12-14 at Waddington’s Galleries in Toronto.

“The addition of Internet bidding puts this annual auction on par with the world’s best,” according to Barry O’Brien, LCBO Corporate Affairs Director and a chief organizer of the auction.

The Internet bidding is facilitated through web provider Artfact.com. Collectors can also bid in person at Waddington’s Galleries at 111 Bathurst Street, in writing or by phone, fax or email.

More than 2,300 lots of rare wines valued at $3.1 million will be up for bid at this year’s auction. The selection will feature many first-time offerings, including top Burgundy vintages, such as Domaine Romanée-Conti, in 1,500 mL bottles, and highly-prized vintage Bordeaux in their original wood cases. There are also rare pre-World War II vintages and classic Champagnes.

All wines consigned to auction are stored in temperature and humidity-controlled conditions.

“The popularity of collecting wine as an investment grows every year,“ notes O’Brien. “Most wines offered at auction will appreciate in value, especially rare and acclaimed vintages so auctions are an excellent way to build a wine portfolio. This is also an opportunity to buy wines that aren’t available through any other channels.”

The Vintages auction features three bidding sessions, the first one starting at 6:00 p.m. on November 12 and running until bidding closes.  On November 13 and 14, sessions will start at 10 a.m. and last until bidding closes.

“We are pleased to work with the LCBO to present this world-class auction,” says Waddington’s President Duncan McLean. “Our experience with fine art and our network of international clients provide an excellent basis for this partnership.”

Auction catalogues are available for $20 at the auction itself, or as a download at www.vintages.com/auction.  Previous auction customers will receive complimentary copies.  For questions and registration, contact Vintages Auction Co-ordinator John Yoxall at 416-864-6821 or by e-mail at john.yoxall@lcbo.com .

Waddington’s is a Toronto-based, Canadian-owned and operated company that has been in the auction and appraisal business since 1850, and is considered Canada’s largest purveyor of international calibre fine art.

Here’s a direct link the wines being auctioned:

Auction wines

Group launches campaign for cross-province shipping of VQA wines

NOTE: A grassroots campaign to make it legal for Canadians to buy and move Canadian wines across provincial borders was launched today by the Alliance of Canadian Wine Consumers. This is the group’s initial press release.

November 4, 2010, Ottawa, Ontario

Today the Alliance of Canadian Wine Consumers (ACWC) launched their grassroots FreeMyGrapes.ca campaign aimed at making it legal for Canadians to buy and move Canadian wines across provincial borders.

“It is patently ridiculous that I can bring home two bottles of wine from Argentina but could be fined and given a criminal record for doing the same thing from BC,” says Shirley-Ann George, ACWC’s founder.

The 1928 federal Importations of Intoxicating Liquors Act, and coordinating provincial laws that flow from it, prevent cross border transportation of alcohol. These antiquated laws encourage Canadians to buy foreign wines, chokehold wine tourism in Canada’s beautiful wine districts and handcuff job growth at Canadian wineries. In today’s economic environment, this is just plain foolish.

It’s time for these Prohibition-based laws to be brought into the 21st century by allowing adult Canadians to order, buy, ship and transport wine directly from Canadian wineries.

Federal Agriculture Minster, Gerry Ritz, is to be given kudos for initiating discussions on this issue with the provincial agriculture ministers. Fresh thinking will show there are ways to give consumers more choice without harming government revenues.

“Wine drinkers must speak up or the status-quo voices will prevail,” added George.

FreeMyGrapes.ca provides wine drinkers and free trade supporters a petition and sample letters/emails that can be sent to their federal and provincial elected officials letting them know the time has come for change. Canadians want to buy more Canadian wine and increasing the consumer’s choice offers benefits for wine lovers, the wine industry and government coffer.

For further information, please contact:

Shirley-Ann George, Founder

Canadian Alliance of Wine Consumers


C: 613 293-8487

Working toward the same goal, better access to Ont. wine

I’ve had time to reflect on a recent post, the one just before this, on VQA wines stores and a perception that I had about the Niagara wine industry’s largest lobby group, the Ontario Wine Council.

The post drew a lot of response, most of it through DMs (direct messages) on Twitter, email and directly from wine consumers and Ontario wine industry folks who weren’t shy to respond “off the record.” There are an awful lot of opinions out there — most who want better access to local wine, but some worried that a freer system would lead to problems.

Moving toward a more equitable process of getting good Ontario VQA wines into the hands of consumers is not new. But never has interest been so keen. Consumers seem to finally understand that if we fight for change collectively, something can be done to convince those with all the power to get us where we want to go.

I agree with a lot of what the Ontario Wine Council does. It has made incredible in-roads at the LCBO, fought hard to separate good VQA wines from internationally blended wines on LCBO shelves and is a tireless promoter of Ontario wines. Many of the great wine promotions that take place in our province are because of the hard work of the wine council and its energetic, committed staff. The organization has a big job balancing what’s good for the industry and consumers while being effective at Queen’s Park as a lobby group.

Many of the same frustrations we have as consumers are felt equally and more so by the wine council. It’s extremely difficult to move a mountain that doesn’t want to be moved. There is much at stake. Push too hard, too quickly and doors start shutting pretty fast. You become ineffective. I am not a lobbyist and don’t pretend to know how the relationship works from winery to wine council to government.

I do know that change is very slow in coming, in part because we (the consumers) aren’t a loud enough voice to have any meaningful effect on government and, by extension, the LCBO.

We have been close to change in Ontario in the past. The Mike Harris government had a plan it was set to unveil, sources have told me, to privatize the LCBO. But the plan never saw the light of day just as that Tory government was headed into its last days of governing this province during its spectacular collapse.

The Liberals have virtually no stomach for change when it comes to the LCBO. It has said so repeatedly and even the MPP for St. Catharines, Jim Bradley, doesn’t exude a whole lot of optimism that things will move forward any time soon under the Grit regime. There is too much at stake, not the least of which is a backlash from the extremely powerful union that represents LCBO workers. A decent voting block for a party that, if polls are correct, appears to need all the votes it can get.

Which brings us back to the Tories. Tim Hudak — who leads Premier Dalton McGuinty in the polls with an election set for next October — told the Toronto Star recently that, while he is opposed to privatizing the LCBO, he doesn’t like the way things are going now.

“Folks know that I’ve always stood for more choice in the system. A little bit of competition — keeping the LCBO, but allowing other stores, like VQA wine stores, to compete or offer some of our award-winning products that you can’t get at the LCBO,” the Tory leader was quoted in the Star as saying.

Hudak, whose riding of Niagara West-Glanbrook includes some of the Ontario’s top wineries, has said on the record before that he supports Vintners Quality Alliance stores — similar to those in British Columbia. Hudak doesn’t worry about that VQA stores would violate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Opening VQA stores in Ontario is a small step, and maybe all we can hope for in this lifetime, in the right direction. And it certainly looks like, for the very first time that I can remember, we will have choice when we head to the polls next year — the Liberals, pretty much happy with the status quo, or the Tories, who seem willing to shake things up a bit.

A lot of my previous post was directed at the wine council executive and its leader, Hillary Dawson. It was a knee jerk reaction to something that I am passionate about. It was perhaps misguided in that Dawson and the wine council want exactly the same thing we all want — better access to good Ontario wine.

That’s something we can all work together on. Afterall, if we can open up a VQA wine shop in China, certainly we can do it here. Can’t we?

Chateau des Charmes top wine at Royal Winter Fair

Results from the Royal Winter Fair wine competition:

Best In Show:

2007 Chateau de Charmes Cabernet Franc “St. David’s Bench Vineyard” St. David’s Bench VQA

Best Overall White:

2009 Hillebrand “Trius” Sauvignon Blanc Niagara Peninsula VQA

Best Overall Red:

2007 Chateau de Charmes Cabernet Franc “St. David’s Bench Vineyard” St. David’s Bench VQA

Riesling Under $20

2009 Fielding Estates Riesling Niagara Peninsula VQA (Gold)

2009 Flat Rock Cellars Riesling 20 Mile Bench VQA (Silver)

2009 Cornerstone Estates Riesling Niagara Peninsula VQA (Bronze)

Riesling Over $20

2009 Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery Riesling “Robert’s Block” 20 Mile Bench VQA (Gold)

“Aromatic” Whites

2009 Hillebrand “Trius” Sauvignon Blanc Niagara Peninsula VQA (Gold)

2009 Calamus Pinot Gris Niagara Peninsula VQA (Silver)

2009 Colaneri Pinot Grigio “Cavallone” Niagara Peninsula VQA (Bronze)

White Blends

2009 Hillebrand White Niagara Peninsula VQA (Silver)

2009 Stoney Ridge “Q White” Niagara Peninsula VQA (Bronze)

Oaked Chardonnay Over $20

2009 Pondview Estate Winery Chardonnay “Barrel Fermented” Niagara Peninsula VQA (Silver)

2008 Closson Chase Chardonnay “South Clos Vineyard” Prince Edward County VQA (Bronze)

Oaked Chardonnay Under $20

2009 Stoney Ridge Chardonnay “Warren Classic” 20 Mile Bench VQA (Bronze)

Unoaked Chardonnay Under $20

2009 Black Prince Chardonnay Prince Edward County VQA (Silver)

2008 Sandbanks “Waves” Chardonnay Ontario VQA (Bronze)

Merlot Under $20

2005 Colio Estate Vineyards Merlot “Reserve” Lake Erie North Shore VQA (Bronze)

Merlot Over $20

2008 Rosewood Estates Winery Merlot “Emerald Shore Vineyard” Creek Shores VQA (Silver)

2007 Palatine Hills Merlot “Proprieters Reserve” Niagara Lakeshore VQA (Bronze)

Other Reds

2009 Peller Estates Gamay Noir “Private Reserve” Niagara Peninsula VQA (Silver)

2007 Peller Estates Cabernet Sauvignon “Private Reserve” Niagara Peninsula VQA (Bronze)

Cabernet Franc Over $20

2007 Chateau de Charmes Cabernet Franc “St. David’s Bench Vineyard” St. David’s Bench VQA (Gold)

2008 Rosehall Run Cabernet Franc “Cold Creek” Prince Edward County VQA (Silver)

2007 Kacaba Vineyards Cabernet Franc “Reserve” Niagara Peninsula VQA (Bronze)

Pinot Noir Under $20

2009 Pelee Island Winery Pinot Noir “Alvar” Pelee Island VQA (Silver)

2008 Trumpours Mill Pinot Noir Prince Edward County VQA (Bronze)

Cabernet Franc Under $20

2009 Pelee Island Winery Cabernet Franc “Lighthouse” Pelee Island VQA (Bronze)

Pinot Noir over $20

2009 13th Street Pinot Noir “Essence” Niagara Peninsula VQA (Silver)

2008 Rosewood Estates Winery Pinot Noir 20 Mile Bench VQA (Bronze)


2000 Stoney Ridge Merlot/Cabernet “Chateau Cartier” Niagara Peninsula VQA (Silver)

2007 Reif Estate Winery Cabernet/Merlot “First Growth” Niagara River VQA (Bronze)

Red Blends

2007 Southbrook Cab/Merlot/Shiraz Niagara Peninsula VQA (Silver)


NV Chateau de Charmes Brut Niagara On The Lake VQA (Silver)

NV 13th Street Winery Premier Cuvee Niagara Peninsula VQA (Bronze)


2009 Peller Estates Rose “Private Reserve” Niagara Peninsula VQA (Silver)

Dessert Wine

2007 Chateau des Charmes Riesling Icewine “Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard” St. David’s Bench VQA (Gold)

2008 Hillebrand Vidal Icewine “Trius” Niagara Peninsula VQA (Silver)

2008 Reif Estate Winery Vidal Icewine Niagara River VQA (Bronze)

Fruit Wines

Southbrook Vineyards Cassis (Silver)

Southbrook Vineyards Framboise (Bronze)

Looking back on Calamus’ Meritage collection

In many ways, Meritage is the perfect red wine for Niagara.

It takes what the vintage gives, allowing winemakers to adjust accordingly. A hot, dry vintage tends to favour a larger percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend. A cooler vintage like 2008, and more Cabernet Franc and Merlot are used while the Cabernet Sauvignon content is dialed back.

The various vintages of Calamus Meritage that was tasted.

The various vintages of Calamus Meritage that was tasted.

The various personalities of Meritage were laid out for us to try recently at a Calamus vertical tasting of the five Meritages made at the Jordan winery since the debut 2004 vintage.

Meritage (rhymes with heritage) is an American term for a blend of red or white grapes. Under Canadian VQA regulations a Meritage is:

1) A red wine produced from a blend of two or more of the grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, or

2) A white wine produced from a blend of two or more of the following grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Muscadelle.

No single variety can make up more than 90% of the blend.

Curiously, in the country where Meritage was born, it appears the concept has been blown out of the water by persistent court challenges siding with a Napa Valley winery that fought, and won, the right to put Meritage on the label of a wine made from 100% Malbec grapes.

Calamus winemaker Arthur Harder.

Calamus winemaker Arthur Harder.

VQA has kept both the red and white Meritage blends consistent with the heavily regulated Bordeaux red and white regulations, which was the original intent in California, the birthplace of the Meritage designation.

Niagara is divided on the concept. Many wineries craft a Meritage blend but there are also wineries that make proprietary blends out of whatever the heck they want. Also popular are Cabernet-Merlot blends, essentially the same as Meritage, but labeled differently.

Calamus winemaker, Arthur Harder, has continued the traditional route started by the wineries’ owners Derek Saunders and his wife, Pat Latin.

The first vintage of Meritage was actually made by Saunders in 2004. The blend was built more on “whatever we could get our hands on at the time” than any kind of concerted effort in the barrel room tasting samples.

The first blend was something that won’t likely be repeated (though the wine received some critical acclaim) with a whopping 80% Cabernet Sauvignon used in the finished wine.

Today, Harder makes the wine and employs a more traditional system of tasting barrel samples of the various grapes to come up with that year’s assemblage. And each vintage blend is different.

Here are the notes from the vertical tasting at Calamus (the current vintage is 2007, the 2008 vintage was a barrel sample):

The selection of Calamus Meritages

The selection of Calamus Meritages

Calamus Meritage 2004 ($20, very limited supply, 3.5 stars) — Mature fruit notes on the nose to go with kirsch, vanilla and spice. Still some life on the palate but fading with tart red fruit flavours, herbs and integrated oak and spice. Lighter in style.

Calamus Meritage 2005 ($30, very limited, 4 stars) — This is made up of 54% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc and 6% Merlot. Harder calls it “steak in a glass” meaning it’s meaty, evolving and bold. Plum fruits, cherry, mocha, anise and licorice flavours to go with mouth-coating tannins. All that and a nice, long finish.

Calamus Meritage 2006 ($35, 30 cases left, 4 stars) — This is made up of 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Cabernet Franc and 26% Merlot. It starts with black cherry, licorice, forest floor and pepper on the nose. More Old World style with mature fruit and mushroom-earthy flavours on the palate. Likely at its peak.

Calamus Meritage 2007 ($27, 4.5 stars) — This is made up of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and 15% Merlot from the excellent 2007 vintage. A gorgeous nose of plums, blackberry, sweet spice, oak and mocha. On the palate it’s rich with decent acidity and flavours of cassis, cherry, a touch of herbs and bell peppers, truffles, and all leading to a polished finish. This is well-balanced now but will benefit from some cellar time.

Calamus Meritage 2008 (barrel sample) — This is made up of 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 50% Cabernet Franc and 35% Merlot. If the these percentages make it to the final blend, look for a leaner wine than in previous vintages. Fragrant fresh berries, violets and a subtle herb note on the nose. Medium weight on the palate, berries and lightly oaked at this stage.

And a couple of Calamus wines also tried recently:

Calamus Barrel Aged Chardonnay 2008 ($17, 4 stars) — A nose of apple-citrus kissed with oak, spice and vanilla. On the palate it’s like apple pie drizzled with caramel and loaded with fruit, zest, spice and length on the finish. Very nice Chard!

Calamus Red Reserve 2007 ($18, 4 stars) — A blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a splash of Syrah. The nose shows cassis, blackberry and intricate mocha-vanilla spices. Love this wine on the palate with blackberry, melted dark chocolate, spice and oak tones. Save for the cellar.