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Jan. 26 - 2005 A Miracle Vintage ~ Tumultuous Week of Highs and Lows

Jan. 19 - Looking for Value? ~ Wines from Argentina to the Rescue

Jan. 12 - Looking Back - Looking Ahead ~ Spanish Wines Looking Up

Jan. 5 - New Year Bargains

Dec. 29 - Having a Sparkling New Year's Eve

Dec. 22 - Sumptuous Sippers ~ For days with Slippers

Dec. 15 - Wine Awards Canada - Charting 339 of Ontario's Best ~ Toasting Ontario's Best Sparklers from Brut to Gently Sweet

Dec. 8 - A Sparkling Vintages Release ~ But buy carefully

Dec. 1 - Holiday Gifting ~ The twin pack is the way to go

Nov. 24 - Eight Buys from Today's Vintages Release

Nov. 17 - Introducing the Signature Selection

Nov. 10 - 2005 Burgundy ~ The wine gurus like it!

Nov. 3 - Magic in Montreal ~ Le Marché an Inspiration for Local Wineries

Oct. 27 - Scary Times at Vintages ~ From Tricks to Treats

Oct. 20 -Best of the West

Oct. 13 -Today at Vintages ~ Bordeaux and Much More

Oct. 6 - Wine Auction Fever ~ Confessions of a Wine Auction Junkie ~ Forget Screaming Eagle and pass the Rum

Sep. 29 - Southern French Accents

Sep. 22 - Perfect for an Autumn day ~ Is that a bottle of spicy wine under your kilt?

Sep. 15 - A Celebration of the Ontario's harvest ~ Faces behind great wines

Sep. 8 - Reel Wines for Real Film Lovers ~ Can't snuggle? Here's what to smuggle! ~ Plus Ontario Recommendations

Sep. 1 - Dust off your Lederhosen ~ Austrian Wines Finally Unleashed in Vintages

Aug. 25 - Summer Twilight Selections ~ Spanish Synergy

Aug. 18 - The Wines of Chile ~ Soaring to the peaks of the Andes

Aug. 11 - Discovering Greece - a wine odyssey ~ Splendid Assyrtiko from Santorini

Aug. 4 - Spain - From the Classics to the Cutting Edge ~ Revving up for Rioja

Jul. 28 - Days of Wine & Roses no more! ~ Under $10 wines a rare breed

Jul. 21 - Que Sera, Syrah ~  Big, Smoky and Beautiful

Jul. 14 - Finding the best wine matches ~ Sizzling Seafood at Scaramouche

Jul. 7 - Sizzling Sauvignon Blanc ~ Vintages Best Buy Whites

Jun. 30 - In search of the Ontario Idol ~ Tracking down the best for Canada Day

Jun. 23 - Vintages Price Hikes ~ Hitting the customer where it hurts

Jun. 16 - Life After Yellow Tail

Jun. 9 - Rosé Rules ~ From serious to casual, unearthing that ambidextrous rosé

Jun. 2 - The ones that didn't get away! ~ Unearthing recent best buys - all under $20

May. 26 - New Zealand’s Natural Gems ~ The best of whites

May. 19 - Alsatian with that Crustacean?

May. 12 - Paradoxical Portugal ~ Old World Grapes with New World Appeal

May. 5 - Toronto's First Private Import Wine Fair ~ Private Imports Picking up Steam Despite LCBO Bullying

Apr. 28 - Toasting Mom with France’s Finest

Apr. 21 - Prime Time for California

Apr. 14 - Victims of Vintages

Apr. 7 - Delicious Ciders that won't break the Easter bank

Mar. 31 - Racy Rieslings ~ Perfect Springtime Sippers

Mar. 24 - Quest for the Best of Portable Potables ~ The Battle of the Boxes

Mar. 17 - For the love of the Irish ~ A Greek wine for St. Patrick's Day

Mar. 10 - VDN to the rescue ~ Sublime sweet bargains from southwestern France

Mar. 3 - Canada's greatest pinot noir? ~ If you can’t find the best, try LCJ’s less expensive bargains

Feb. 24 - Cuvée 2007 ~ Ontario winemakers whoop it up

Feb. 17 - Pinot Noir Madness III ~ New Zealand takes another step forward

Feb. 10 - Burgundy Comes to Town ~ Despite Limited Vintages Buys ~ The Good News is Virtual Buying

Feb. 3 - Great Values South of the Equator ~ Both in Vintages & on the General List

Jan. 27 - Napa a go-go ~ Wine Parties vs. Tastings

Jan. 20 - Winemaker Niel Groenewald ~ Pushing the South African Envelope

Jan. 13 - Montreal Passion Vin ~ Delivering Excellence on Every Level

Jan. 6 - Off-the Beaten-Path Wines ~ Hard to Find in Today's Vintages Release

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Discovering Greece - a wine odyssey
Splendid Assyrtiko from Santorini

© Michael Vaughan 2007
National Post Weekly Wine & Spirits Columnist
Saturday, August 11, 2007

To see this article as it appears in the National Post click here 

All listings are automatically linked to the LCBO database
If there is a product that interests you, just click on the name below and you will instantaneously connected with the LCBO database. The product will appear in blue and all you have to do is click on the name again and then the next screen will provide details along with the store search. Just click on store search. The number of bottles in each store is updated nightly. Call the store first to see if stock still remains (each store phone number is listed).

It's a miracle. I am referring to the phenomenal whites now being made on the island of Santorini. I recently visited this Greek gem and was astounded by the whites made from Assyrtiko - a variety most people have never heard of. This amazing grape can ripen perfectly in the most challenging of conditions - searing heat, dessert like rainfall and extremely infertile soils. And yet, not only is the resulting wine refined and flavourful, but it also has an abundance of fresh, natural acidity.

It is said that Santorini's Assyrtiko vines are also among the world's oldest - so old, that there is a movement afoot to make the ever-diminishing vineyards, which are being gobbled up by tourist development, a world heritage site. From over 4,000 hc, only 1,200 hc remain - almost ¾ being Assyrtiko.

Unlike any other vineyard in the world, the vines look like low tortured bushes with grape clusters often left dangling on the parched volcanic-laced stoney soil. No close spacing here, the roots need room to spread out to absorb every drop of moisture. Water is on strict allocation and evening mists are critical for survival. Vines are trained into a unique basket-shaped form, which protects them from the gale-force winds.

It is here where I tasted most of the Assyrticos made at the island's dozen wineries. Santos is the biggest, an impressive coop with over 2,000 members. It has an excellent visitor centre and a bevy of pretty decent wines. I was, however, most impressed with one of the smaller producers, owned by Paris Sigalas, a mathematician by training who started the winery in 1991. Today his whites are hailed as being the best in Greece.

In one of those weird twists of fate, I was able to do a vertical tasting of Sigalas wines thanks to the Toronto-based wine agent Steve Kriaris owner of the Kolonaki Group (416-6307392). The Sigalas 2005 Santorini, despite14% alcohol, is very well integrated with lots of bright, fresh, ripe lemon-melon flavours. Easy to drink and perfection with seafood. It is available at only $19.95 from the agent. The fleshier, delicious Sigalas 2003 Santorini is a consignment selection at $26.95. It can also be ordered directly from Kolonaki.

The best wine previewed was the splendid Sigalas 2006 Santorini. It is loaded with ripe Anjou pear flavours and has yet to arrive in Canada. I scored it over 90 points. This and the other 2006 Sigalas wines have benefited tremendously from a new press that very slowly squeezes the grapes. It is an extremely gentle squeeze meaning that some of the bitter compounds found in previous vintages have now vanished.

Paris Sigalas is putting the finishing touches on his new winery. Don't miss trying the bright, 70-30 based 2006 Assyyrtico-Athiri with its mineral backbone or the rich, spicy, toasty, grapefruit peel driven Sigalas 2006 Barrel Santorini, which is not inexpensive.

The bad news is that although these Siglas Santorini wines has been submitted to Vintages a number of times, Vintages has consistently refused to taste it. The good news is that it will be at this weekend's Taste of the Danforth Greek Wine Garden (located at Pape and Danforth), where you can personally check out the goods by buying sample tickets. To see what's being served click here

Also on tap is another gold medal winning Santorini white, which is being released at the LCBO on September 15th. Boutari 2006 Santorini Assyrtiko at $15.95 has an attractive, slightly spicy, ripe apricot nose and dry, zesty, ripe melon-apple flavours. Compare both for yourself. If you like it, Kolonaki has it available by the case at only $14.95 a bottle, which is a dollar cheaper that at Vintages.

While some less expensive Greek wines are challenging, bargains do exist. At only $8.15, for instance, Kourtakis 2004 Vin de Crete Red (415406 - general list) will definitely hit the spot especially if slightly chilled on a hot summer day. Light in alcohol (only 12%); look for dry, medium-light bodied, slightly spicy, plummy, red cherry flavours with Beaujolais-like crispiness. As for the great Greek reds, they really do exist. Future updates from my Greek wine odyssey will keep you abreast of what's worth buying.

Also this weekend is Niagara Farm to Table Experience on Sunday, August 13. It features local tomatoes and is presented by Chef Stephen Treadwell and grower Dave Perkins. Held at Chateau des Charmes winery from 4:30-6:30 pm, tickets are $50.00. For info call the winery at 1-800-263-2541.

Coming Up

Continuing to Sunday, August 12 - Toronto 12th Festival of Beer
Toronto's Festival of Beer will feature exhibitors offering 200+ major, macro and micro brews from the palest pilsners to the deepest stouts, featuring some of Canada's oldest brewers. Held at the Historic Fort York - 100 Garrison Rd. Tickets are $21 per person for advance purchase or $26 at the gate for Friday or Sunday, and $26 per person for advance purchase or $31 at the gate for Saturday.
For information click here.

Continuing to Sunday, August 12 - Taste of the Danforth
This year's festival will be the 14th Anniversary of the Krinos
Taste of the Danforth
. Click here for more information.

Saturday, August 11 - Hillebrand Blues
Bring your favourite chair or blanket and listen to the sounds from the lawn overlooking the Stone Road Vineyard. VQA wines and wine country cuisine available for purchase. Held at Hillebrand Estates Winery, 1249 Niagara Stone Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, from 4 pm to 8 pm. For more information visit Tickets are $30.00 per guest. For information call 1-800-582-8412.
For a review of the WINERY ONLY just released 2005 Trius Red 
click here

Sunday, August 12 - Niagara Farm to Table Experience
The Bosc family invites you to come and experience a celebration of Niagara's fresh bounty, produced locally and brought directly from the farm to your table, presented by Chef Stephen Treadwell and Grower Dave Perkins featuring tomatoes. Held at Chateau des Charmes, 1025 York Road, Niagara-on-the-Lake, from 4:30 to 6:30 pm. Tickets are $50.00 per person. For tickets contact Allison Vandenbos at 905-262-4219 ext.27 or email 
or click here for information.

2001 - 2007 Tasting Note Database
Our tasting note database from December 31, 2000 to July  2007, covers every Vintages release product for the past 80 months. There are more than 15,000 notes in the database data. Just enter the name of the product, supplier name or CSPC number. Or you can search by type of wine, country of origin, even wine agent! Nothing could be easier. Also you can get information on the agent by clicking on the agent’s name, as well as current LCBO store inventory by clicking on "Check LCBO Availability", which will automatically tell you the number of bottles at LCBO as of last night.

To use our Tasting Notes Database: click here

** For All Visitors **
Vintages Releases
To see the complete list of upcoming products from the
August 18 release, including In-Store Discovery items,
click here (sorted by date of release).
You can also see it sorted by agent click here

To see the complete list of upcoming products from the
September 1 release, including In-Store Discovery items,
click here (sorted by date of release).
You can also see it sorted by agent click here

Copyright Food & Beverage Testing Institute of Canada 2007
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