By Rick VanSickle
A couple of major events are on the horizon — the celebration of Canada’s 150th birthday and the looming LCBO strike. Both drive me to drink.
Many feel if the LCBO strikes it could be as early as next Monday, conveniently disrupting Canada Day booze sales and putting a serious pall over our celebration of this great nation.
This is probably the worst moment in history for LCBO workers to be threatening a strike. Afterall, getting booze has never been easier in Ontario with hundreds of grocery stores now selling whatever you want short of spirits, and a record number of wineries and cideries in Ontario that will be selling whatever you want from their front door. Plus, Ontario wine agencies have never been as good as they are right now getting whatever you need sent right to your front door.
But LCBO union honcho Smokey Thomas, a dinosaur leftover from Prohibition, is really worried that grocery stores are the thin edge of wedge that will put him out of business as privatization proves to be a money-maker for the government at much less of a cost than the LCBO gold-plated model of retailing.
He’s right, of course, the end is nigh for the likes of Smokey and his loosening grip on inconveniencing consumers for decades. The future is not Smokey, the future is private retailers doing what they do best for consumers at better prices, more selection and, the white elephant in the room, convenience.
But should it come to a ridiculous strike, which is unlikely considering both the LCBO and the union want the same thing — keeping hold of as much of their monopoly as they can, it might be prudent to at least have enough wine and spirits as you feel is necessary to get you through the Canada Day weekend.
It will be chaos at LCBO stores this weekend, especially with the Vintages release on Saturday, which features an abundance of Canadian wine to choose from.
Here’s what I can recommend from the release. It might be wise to stock up.
Bachelder Niagara Chardonnay 2013 ($25, 91 points) — This is Thomas Bachelder’s “regular” cuvee, if you can call it that. It’s labeled Niagara but is a blend of the three sites where he sources Chardonnay: Wismer Vineyard, Saunders Vineyard and Wismer Park Vineyard. It falls in line with Bachelder’s style, nothing out of order, a deft touch with oak and always a thought-provoking, complex wine. Here we have plenty of minerality, apple and pear fruit with a touch of lemon and spice. It’s well-rounded on the palate with juicy fruits and toasted spice notes but retains its poise and gracefulness through the long finish. Actually drinking quite nicely at the moment.
Featherstone Cabernet Franc 2014 ($19, 88 points) — A delightful and priced-right CF with a nose of wild raspberry, black cherry, herbs, earth and spice. On the palate all those red fruits and spice are bolstered by medium-plus tannins and refreshing acidity.
Featherstone Canadian Oak Chardonnay 2015 ($22, 90 points) — This Chard was fermented wild yeast strains in Canadian (from Brantford) oak barrels and further aged in Canadian oak for one year. Engel makes no bones about it — “if you’re going to oak Chardonnay, oak it!” This has a big buttery nose of poached pear, ripe baked apple, caramel, toasted vanilla and a range of baking spices. It’s a big, full-on Chard with orchard fruits and then butterscotch, vanilla, caramel and toasted oak flavours that benefit from just a squirt of citrus on the finish. If you like your Chardonnays bold and spicy, this is for you.
Cuddy by Tawse Cabernet/Merlot 2013 ($18, $25, 88 points) — A nose of cherry, raspberry, violets and subtle spice notes. It’s vibrant on the palate with rich red fruits, herbs and spice with moderate tannins and good acidity.
David Hearn Limited Edition Cabernet/Merlot 2013 ($18, 89 points) — A nose of warm dark fruit, cherry pie and array of expressive oak barrel spices. Quite ripe on the palate with notes of black currants, cherries, cassis, a range of integrated spice and delivered on a bed of smooth, soft tannins.
Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc 2015 ($22, 88 points) — Sourced from the Laundry family’s Beamsville Bench certified organic vineyard, it shows aromatics of black currants, cherries, sweet herbs, cedar and spice. This is serious Franc on the palate with evident tannins that will need time to integrate. The red fruits are joined by small, concentrated dark berries, herbs and savoury spice notes.
Hidden Bench Locust Lane Rosé 2016 ($22, 91 points) — Hidden Bench released two rosés this spring, this more subtle, lighter-in-colour version, and a darker, bolder style. The decision to make two different rosés was made after input from wine club members who were torn between the two styles. “Some wanted the lighter one, some wanted the darker, so we made both,” said Harald Thiel with a chuckle. This version is the more traditional style, a “pressed” rosé, not an “after thought,” says Thiel. It’s not a Locust Lane Vineyard Pinot Noir (plus a smidge of the secret ingredient, Viognier) per se, but is named after the home vineyard. The grapes for this wine were grown with rosé in mind from the get-go. Thiel likes to think of this as his “signature” rosé. The colour is pale salmon with a restrained, delicate nose of raspberry, peach and strawberry cream. It’s bone dry but offers a ripe impression on the palate with gorgeous fruit flavours, a bit of weight and structure and a creamy feel on the finish. Love this summer wine.
King’s Court Wild Blueberry Sweet Fruit Wine 2015 ($22, 90 points) — A nose of thick blueberry, currants and other sweet dark fruits. It is thick and rich with concentrated blueberry and bramble with a touch of cassis and kirsch. Not crazy-sweet, but just right. A well-made fruit wine.
Other Canadian wines released, but not reviewed:
- The Foreign Affair Enchanted 2015 ($18)
- Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2013, Okanagan Valley ($31)
- McMichael Collection Tom Thomson Cabernet Franc Icewine and Vidal Icewine 2015 ($150 for two 375 mL in wooden box)
- Vieni Momenti Sparkling Wine ($14)
- Benjamin Bridge Nova 7 Sparkling 2016, Nova Scotia ($25)
- Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay Musque 2015 ($17)
- Cave Spring Estate Bottled Gewurztraminer 2013 ($18)