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Canadian wines shine at three fine wine auctions in February; plus Niagara wines released at Vintages Saturday

Ontario wine auction

By Rick VanSickle

As wine actions go, February is the mother of all wine auctions in Ontario. No less than four high-end sessions of bidding for rare and fine wine in various formats go under the hammer in this the month of love.

The breadth of the wines up for bidding is shocking — high-end Bordeaux, Burgundy, Italy, Australia, Port, Alsace, Germany, Napa Valley, Loire, Hungary and in all formats (from 375 mL to jeroboams) — but what caught my eye was the showcase of top Canadian collector wines finally making it onto the senior circuit.

Past auctions have had a smattering of token Canadian wines, if any at all, and usually the tried and true Icewine exclusively, but three of the four upcoming auctions have well-rounded Canadian lots from Niagara, Prince Edward County and B.C., which shows that wine collectors in Canada are starting to stock their cellars with top-end Canadian juice.

The Canadian wines up for auction offer a snapshot of what knowledgeable Canadian wines collectors are after.


Some of the producers who hit the auction block in at least three of the upcoming auctions include (all Niagara unless otherwise noted): Osoyoos LaRose (Okanagan), Le Clos Jordanne (the brand has ceased to exist, but remains hot for collectors), Tawse, Norman Hardie (Prince Edward County), Stratus, Closson Chase (Prince Edward County), Inniskillin, Henry of Pelham, Southbrook, Cave Spring, Vineland Estate, Daniel Lenko, Mission Hill (Okanagan), 13th Street, Malivoire, Cave Spring Cellars and CC Jentsch Cellars (Okanagan).

It just shows that domestic collectors have started stocking their cellars with the best of what local producers are doing. The bidding results will show just how much of a stomach buyers have for top Canadian wines.

Here’s a look at the various auctions coming up with some highlights, heavy on the Canadian contingent.

Coast to Coast Against Cancer Auction
and the Estate of Jim MacLaren

This is a simultaneous auction being conducted by Iron Gate — Private Wine Management of two private collections.

The live auction (which you can bid via email) consists of inexpensive older vintage wines with over 1,400 bottles from all over the world at an average price of $45 a bottle. The first collection, Coast to Coast Against Cancer, helps support a children’s cancer charity.

The auction takes place on Feb. 22. There are a total of 1,414 bottles valued at approximately $90,000.
Due to the sheer volume of wine and the relatively low price per bottle, Iron Gate has chosen to package the wine into 130 mixed lots of 6 or 12 bottles. You can view the wines for bid HEREPhotos of all the bottles can be found by clicking HERE
The original intent was to offer the wine, on a smaller lot basis, via an online auction platform. The AGCO and LCBO, however, insisted on the auction being a “physical location” and as such a “live” auction is being offered with email bids accepted.

Lots from Coast to Coast are not subject to HST. Lots from the Estate of Jim MacLaren are subject to HST.

Both lots are subject to a 12.5% buyers’ premium.

Coast to Coast Against Cancer

CTCAC is a charity that, through a number of annual events, raises much-needed funds for children’s cancer charities. In August 2014 it was discovered that Steven Sokolowski (an avid wine collector, pictured left), founder and secretary of the charity had misappropriated funds and in December 2015 was ordered to pay back over $700,000. The full details can be found in this article from the Toronto Star HERE.  Among the assets seized from Sokoloswki for reparations included the wines listed herein. Proceeds from this sale will go directly to the coffers of Coast to Coast Against Cancer to help pay down this theft. The wine was extracted from a temperature controlled cellar in Toronto and it was clear that great care had been taken to store these wines in optimal conditions.
Quite a few interesting mixed lots of 12 bottles with very good reserve prices from top wine regions including California, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Alsace, Rhone, various Italian and good depth in Aussie wine. Some highlights (minimum reserve price in brackets):

Best Canadian wine

  • 12 bottles of late vintage California Chardonnay, anchored by Mer Soleil from 1998 to 2009 ($277)
  • A mixed dozen of Aussie reds from Brokenwood and Clarendon Hills from 2001 to 2005 ($783)
  • Turley zinfandel, 1998 to a large collection from 2003 ($748)
  • A Canadian 12-pack of 6 Laughing Stock, 1 Osoyoos LaRose and 5 Mission Hill Oculus ($416)
  • A range of 12 different Chardonnays from Burgundy, mostly Chablis from 1999 to 2008 ($379)
  • A fantastic collection of Alsace Riesling and Gewurztraminer from 1997 to 2008 ($530)
  • An interesting range of Chateauneuf du Pape from 2000 to 2001 from seen top producers ($605)
  • A mixed bag of Burgundy, Chateaufenuf de Papes and Bordeaux spanning 1998 to 2005 ($732)
  • More Canadiana with 11 Le Clos Jordanne Pinots and one Norman Hardie County Pinot ($273)
  • A 12 pack of Stratus Red 2004 ($304)
  • Icewine from Peller, Southbrook, Henry of Pelham and Inniskillin covering the years 1996 to 2007 ($479)
  • More icewine and late harvest from Inniskillin, Southbrook, Henry of Pelham, Cave Spring, Vineland Estate, Daniel Lenko and a pair of Norman Hardie Pinots thrown in ($215)
  • 10 Stratus Red 2005, 2 Norman Hardie Pinot 2007 ($608)

In all, 54 lots in the charity portion of the auction, most 12-bottle lots.

Estate of Jim MacLaren

Jim MacLaren was a lifelong collector of wine in Ottawa. MacLaren had a penchant for the hidden gems from around the world but there was a focus on the great wines from Germany, Alsace, Bordeaux and Burgundy. MacLaren sought out the best wines within a reasonable price as opposed to acquiring an “ego” collection and the depth of this cellar is a testament to that passion. The wines were picked up by Iron Gate staff from a temperature and humidity controlled room in the home and transported in same conditions back to Toronto.

Some highlights (minimum reserve price in brackets):

  • A mixed lot of 12 bottles of Burgundy and Bordeaux from 1998 to 2005 ($336)
  • A mixed lot of 12 Italian wines, mostly Barolo, from 1986 to 2011 ($366)
  • A playful 12 bottle set of Zind Humbrecht (Alsace), other Alsace and six bottles of Moulin Touchais all ranging from 1990 to 2007 ($469)
  • An all-German Riesling 12-pack from 1993 to 2012 ($478)
  • A 3000 mL bottle of CC Jentsch Cellars Chardonnay (Okanagan) with various sized bottles of Vintage Port and Tokay spanning the vintages 1994 to 2014 ($407)
  • A magnum of Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace Pinot Noir 2007 ($113)
  • One double magnum of CC Jentsch Cellars Small Lot Series Viognier plus three double magnums of The Chase red blend, all 2014 ($338)

Vintages/Waddingtons Fine Wine
Online Auction and Live Auction

Waddington’s Auction house is conducting three auctions in February under the licence of the LCBO. There is the Fine Wine Online Auction as well as the Fine Spirits Online Auction, and the Fine and & Rare Live Auction being held Feb. 25. Details for all three can be found HERE.

It should be noted that bidders pay a 20% buyers’ premium plus 13% HST, so add 33% of price of your winning bid.

Some of the Canadian wine highlights from the on-line auction:

  • 13th Street Pinot, Le Clos Jordanne Claystone Terrace, Malivoire Old Vines Foch, Pinot and Gamay and Norman Hardie Pinot, 8 bottles, 1 mag (estimate $300/$400)
  • A mixed lot of Cave Spring CSV and Norman Hardie Pinot Noir, 8 bottles from 1999 to 2009 ($300/$700)
  • A mixed lot Henry of Pelham Baco, from 1998 to 2002, plus Prince Edward County’s Hubbs Creek Pinot 2009, five bottles ($100/$500)
  • Icewine mix of Henry of Pelham, Inniskillin and Stratus ($100/$200)
  • Huge 22-bottle lot of various Closson Chase Pinot and Chardonnay from 2002 to 2008 ($600/$900)
  • More Closson Chase Chard and Pinot from 2007 and 2009, 9 bottles ($200/$300)
  • A nine-bottle lot of Le Clos Jordanne Pinot and Chard plus Tawse Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot ($300/$400)
  • 13th Street Riesling, Cave Spring Cellars Riesling, Tawse Pinot and Carly’s Block Riesling, 11 bottles total ($500/$600)
  • Norman Hardie Riesling and Tawse Riesling, 8 bottles ($200/$300)

Niagara wines released at
Vintages on Saturday

A diverse selection of Niagara wines is being released Saturday (Feb. 18) across a wide selection of varieties and blends.

Here’s what Wine In Niagara can recommend:

Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2014 ($19, 90 points) — Zingy lime, orange blossom, citrus rind and ginger notes on the nose. It’s a polished Riesling with good balance and a playful tug of sweet-tart citrus and tangerine fruit on the palate with hints of ginger and minerals. Very nice Riesling.

The Foreign Affair Enchanted 2014 ($18, 90 points) — As far as owner Len Crispino is aware, this the “first white Ripasso made in Canada.” It’s a blend of two-thirds Riesling and one-third unoaked Chardonnay with the Chardonnay grapes passed over appassimento Chardonnay grapes to add complexity and texture. The nose shows pear, peach, grapefruit, sweet spice notes and grilled pineapple. It’s fleshy and bold on the palate with a rich broth of orchard fruits and lifted lime and grapefuit notes to keep it fresh and lively.

Henry of Pelham Estate Pinot Noir 2012 ($25, 89 points) — A poised and polished Pinot with a raspberry, cherry and cranberry nose to go with subtle spice notes. Turns a bit more complex on the palate with red fruits giving way to darker tones, more evident spice and fine, silky tannins leading to a long(ish) finish.

Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Baco Noir 2014 ($25, 90 points) — The Speck Family Reserve version of the estate’s Short Hills Bench planting of Baco is only made when perfect conditions warrant it. The wine spends 18+ months in top American oak barrels. It’s thick and rich in the glass with a dark purple colour and a nose of ripe plums, highly extracted raspberries, bramble, herbs and savory spice and cedar cigar box notes. Concentrated red and dark fruits emerge on the palate and are punctuated by savoury herbs and spices and carried on a high-toned bed of tannins. Baco lovers will love this wine.

Other Niagara wines being released but not reviewed:

• Strewn Vidal Icewine 2013 ($25 for 200 mL)
• 16 Mile Cellar Rebel Chardonnay Musque 2014 ($17)
• Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musque 2014 ($17)
• Kew Marsanne 2014 ($20)
• Rockway Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2014 ($23)
• 13th Street Cabernet/Merlot 2013 ($20)