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Archive (2004)

A Bountiful 2004 Harvest at Vintages ~ Many outstanding-well priced selections - December 31, 2004
While always a bit suspicious of those lists of the year’s top picks, I am like a moth, lured by the flame. It is impossible to pinpoint all the highlights of the cornucopia offered at the LCBO - 2,405 items have appeared in Vintages alone over the past year. While one might complain: “if you can’t buy it, who cares”, I have included some items still available and/or upcoming best buys in bold type.

For Immediate Consumption ~ Bubbles on the Brain - December 24, 2004
I felt as tight as a pickle, slowly heating up in a gargantuan jar stuffed with pickles and forgotten on the kitchen counter. Of course, I wasn’t really in a jar, nor were my companions pickles. Rather I was in an LCBO store buying some last minute gifts on the day before Christmas – today! Suddenly the loudspeaker thundered: Attention shoppers! In aisle four we have a $10 discount on all bubblies in isle four.” The crowd stampeded but when I got there, the shelves were bare with nary a sparkling wine in sight!

Taking a Shine to Argentina ~ Best Buys in today's Vintages Release - December 18, 2004
With Christmas just one week away, I find myself staring at today’s Vintages release of 42 items (the smallest this year). If you are looking for a reasonably priced Chardonnay from Burgundy, look no farther than Domaine Moillard 2002 Bourgogne Hautes-Côtes de Nuits (642033) at $19.95. The nose shows some charm with its gently honeyed, spicy, ripe lemon, melon and red apple notes. It is dry and well balanced with fairly bright, ripe lemon-pear flavours with a crisp clean finish. Happily, it is also available in half bottles (642090) at $10.95. This wine will go well with your turkey and is in peak shape, especially the half bottles, for immediate consumption. Full bottles can be held for another 12 months.

Wine Books for Discerning Palates - December 11, 2004
With Christmas just two weeks away, it is count down time and I am trying to come up with a list of worthwhile wine books for seasonal gifting or reading. Over the past year, I have recommended more than a dozen worthwhile new books. Many are subject-specific and belong to the Mitchell Beazley Classic Wine Library. They are designed to fill vinous voids of information for discerning palates.

Vintage Holiday Treasures Galore ~ California Gems from Bubbly to Pinot Noir - December 4, 2004
The big man in red arrives three week’s today. It’s enough to send shivers down my spine as I struggle to figure out what I am buying for whom and, perhaps even more important, what I am going to serve. The latter concern can be easily addressed in today’s gargantuan Vintages release. With some 170 items hitting the shelves, it is the biggest single day release in many years. This is especially the case if you add to this 43 new in-store discoveries, which hit the shelves yesterday, Fortunately, from start to finish there are some very special treasures for the holiday season – perfect for gifting or stashing away or entertaining.

Making the Gift Count! ~ Getting into the Holiday Spirits - November 27, 2004
“It is the thought that counts” is something no one would deny. But surely with the copious selection of specialty items available at the LCBO, the time has come to time to make the gift count as well. Of course, it takes a bit more effort than simply going for the most attractive LCBO gift-wrapped package. First, there is the bottle’s content to consider, which can vary from delightful to dreadful. As no product ratings are available, one doesn’t know what is worth buying. As of today, National Post readers can visit my website and get a holiday gift checklist of what to buy and what to avoid, which will be updated as the 100+ special items on offer are tasted.

Vinous Restaurateur Perfection ~ Half Bottles to the Rescue - November 20, 2004
There is no question that restaurateurs need food-friendly wines, which show versatility and good value. While it is flattering to hear that licensees often rush out to snap up my recommendations, such buyers are more than occasionally stymied by the Vintages’ ordering system that no longer allows for large inventory and/or rapid repeat orders.  

"Classic" Remnants ~ Uncovering Impossible-to-Find Best Buys - November 13, 2004
I am looking at remnants from the current Classics Catalogue. Of some 288 items originally presented, as of this week just more than half remain. There they sit in the dark - forgotten, unloved and/or ignored deep in the LCBO warehouse far from human eye or touch. For many, the luxurious Autumn 2004 Classics Catalogue has already become a thing of the past. It is a sad situation demonstrating how Vintages fails to connect with potential customers.  

Argentina in the Spotlight ~ Five Vintages Release best buys - November 6, 2004
Today’s Vintages release has a couple of gems. The first comes from Argentina and happily doesn’t cost a fortune. It was back in 1988 when flying French winemaker oenologist Michel Rolland first hit the vineyards of Argentina. He liked what he saw, especially its fine wine potential at a relatively low price. It wasn’t long before he joined forces with two of his compatriots: the recently deceased winegrower Jean-Michel Arcaute (Château Clinet, La Croix du Casse, Beau Soleil, Château Jonqueyres, as well as the Hungarian Tokaji wines of Château Pajzos) and specialist in viticultural economy, lawyer Philippe Schell. Together they assembled a group of seven French investors (industrialists and wine growers) to finance the Clos de los Siete (Vineyard of the Seven) in “Vista Flores” situated in the Tunuyan region just 90 km south of Mendoza.

New Vinous Tricks & Treats ~ New Barossa Valley Estate releases - October 30, 2004
It is Halloween and I am trying to grapple with a year of vinous tricks and treats. Dealing with the former, every time I enter the LCBO’s Vintages section, I get this scary feeling that they have gone into competition with Toronto’s innumerable dollar shops. It appears that Vintages price makers are fixated on 95 cents as virtually all items now end in 95! It all started last year and is a serious concern for some importers who see their wines rounded up, from say $9.45 to $9.95 with all the spare change going to LCBO coffers. Some have complained that if the price is below the magic mark-up point, rather than mark it down the onus is on the supplier to reduce the selling price so it will hit the magic target. This has been denied by Vintages, who claim they mark down as many wines as they mark up!  

The Law of Rising Prices & Diminishing Returns ~  Being expensive is no guarantee of deliciousness - October 23, 2004
It is a misconception that all it takes is a fat wallet stuffed with cash to track down the tastiest of wines. Unfortunately, being expensive is no guarantee of deliciousness! Truth is; great wines often take a long time to evolve - many are ugly ducklings in their youth. One might also add the law of diminishing returns – doubling the price doesn’t double the pleasure.  

LCBO Events Galore ~ The best tasting deal in town! - October 16, 2004
It’s a month of events galore at the LCBO. Tastings, receptions, dinners, you name it. Of course, very few of these things come cheaply. Earlier this week, for instance, some 200 wine collectors paid $250 apiece to attend the 3rd annual gala preview tasting for this weekend’s LCBO auction taking place today and tomorrow at Ritchies, which is located at 288 King Street East.

Eau de Vie "Pearfection" ~ Spirited Thanksgiving Choices - October 9, 2004
After health, one of the greatest things we are blessed with today is choice. Even if the Ontario pumpkin harvest is devastated by hailstorms, our ability to source anywhere in the world means that we will still have lots to choose from. The urban shift has, no doubt, made us less thankful as most families are now far removed from rural weather-driven calamity. While today’s key challenge is economic survival, Thanksgiving provides us with the opportunity to sit down with family and reflect on basically how well off we are in global terms.  

Fall Wine Fairs ~ From Sonoma to Spain - October 2, 2004
Fall is the most hectic of times for wine lovers. This week sees two major wine events come to town and neither should be missed. On Monday, October 4, “A Sonoma Wine Affair” rolls into the Royal Ontario Museum with 34 wineries pouring 111 wines. With California prices falling and quality on the rise due to a succession of fine vintages, this is bound to be one of the best Sonoma tastings on record.

New Spirits with a New Look ~ From Great Fruit Eau-de-Vie to "Lion's Milk" - September 25, 2004
I don’t know what it is, but when it comes to spirits, there are an incredible variety of bottles out there. It seems that the more unusual the bottle, the more expensive it becomes. Unfortunately, it has been pretty slim pickings around Vintages recently. Certainly nothing in Ontario compares to the SAQ’s stunning downtown Montreal showcase store, which features some 350+ specialty spirits. 

A Serious, Delicious, Head-Turning Rose - September 18, 2004
Today’s September Vintages release features a number of gems that shouldn’t be missed. First and foremost is a remarkably delicious rosé from New Zealand - by far the best I have tasted this year! Unfortunately, some misguided souls still snub pink wines. While there may be a number of flavourless rosés out there, this isn’t one of them.  

From Sizzling Sauvignon to Great Riesling - September 11, 2004
From last week’s focus on some of the best new September Vintages reds, today I explore whites. Starting with Sauvignon Blanc, we have a stellar buy from Ontario at under $20. My top choice for Sauvignon Blanc fans is the terrific Peninsula Ridge 2003 Sauvignon Blanc (592303) at $18.95, certainly one of the best ever produced in Ontario. This Wine of the Week has a light straw colour with a fairly intense, gently spicy, grassy, refreshing nose that gives the best from New Zealand a run for the money. Unoaked and very expressive, the tasty, grassy, apricot-tinged flavours are followed up by a refreshing lingering finish. Now sold out at the winery, you will have to act quickly to connect with the 112 cases at Vintages.

Too good to be true ~ Red Vintages Values - September 4, 2004
This September's Vintages release is the biggest ever with 275 items - so
many that 42 have already been pre-released! Today we have 246 new items hitting the shelves: 169 September 4 releases, along with 51 "In-Store discoveries" and 26 pre-release items from the September 18th release. With all the different sections in the Vintages Catalogue, it is a very hard to figure out on what is coming out when.

A summer cookout ~ When home-made means delicious - August 28, 2004
Last Sunday, we were doing what tens of thousands of others are doing: getting together to share some good wine and food while trying to enjoy the last rays of summer. The plum, freshly dressed, free-range Canadian capon sat in the smoker for 5 hours basking in the sweet aromas of hickory and mesquite. To keep it from drying out, pans of water, some with wood chips added, were carefully placed in the smoker creating a misty steam bath.  

Bargains Galore ~ Vintages Summer Sale ~ Discounts on 1,215 items - August 21, 2004
How often can you walk into an LCBO store and buy a wine that has been marked down $500.05? Well, today you can because it is the annual summer Vintages bin end sale, which features some 199 items. Of course, there is a bit of a catch, to avail yourself of these savings, you have to invest $3,999.95 in a bottle of 1982 Chateau Petrus. For the well heeled, there were still six available in Toronto, five in Ottawa and one in Tecumseh, just east of Windsor, earlier this week.

The Best of Summer Sparklers ~ Finds at the LCBO - August 14, 2004
It is that time of year again when I get a chance do a comparative blind tasting of sparkling wines on the LCBO general list. And what could be a more perfect than a sparkling lift on a warm, end-of-summer day. Wine writing colleague David Lawrason organized the tasting, which consisted of some 38 sparklers from six countries.  

From a zesty zinger from Zilliken ~ To Mythos -  a great Greek brew - August 7, 2004
Everyone can be accused of having a favourite label, but when it comes to beer drinkers I am always amazed by their blind brand loyalty. As one Canadian beer brewing executive told me recently, “you could put almost anything into our bottle (of beer) and they (our customers) would drink it!” And why not, after all hundreds of millions are spent in advertising each year aimed at convincing consumers that his or her choice of brands is the best. The label becomes a badge of honour, part of one’s being. Who wants to hear a scornful “you’re not drinking that stuff, are you” from one’s peers?

A Splash of Spritz ~ What is classified as “white” called “green” but is “yellow” in colour? - July 31, 2004
With multitude of Toronto happenings this long civic holiday weekend, there is definitely something for everyone. And this also applies to drinks. I am sure that those attending this weekend’s Caribana festivities has already stocked up on Jamaican Appleton rum and Red Stripe beer. Given the possible heat and humidity, I have another idea. Why not try a cool, low alcohol (9%), faintly effervescent, Portuguese refresher that beats the heat. 

Preparing for the deluge ~ The best from today’s Vintages release - July 24, 2004
It is going to be tough to find all the LCBO shelf space needed to house the onslaught of upcoming Vintages products. Usually the number of listing falls off in the summer, but not this year. In fact, we will soon be hitting release levels never seen before. Next month’s August release, for instance, sees 194 new products vs. only 164 last year. In September and October, it will jump to almost 300 items monthly - up some 100 items each month! One wonders whether the market can digest all these products. 

The LCBO Yours to Discover! ~ From Limited Time Offers to Undiscovered Classics - July 17, 2004
As much as I complain about LCBO policies, there certainly is a myriad of things going on that are well worth exploring - something for everyone. The “Shake it Up!” program, for instance, has been featuring a series of ever-changing weekly cocktails, which have been available for tasting in many LCBO stores. Today, for instance, stores will be sampling the Mint Divine, which wraps up Whisky week. Apparently it only takes 38 seconds to whip it up - 1.5 oz of Gibson’s 12-Year-Old Finest Canadian Whisky (general list #3558 - $22.95) is mixed with 5 oz. of lemonade, shaken on the rocks and poured into a long glass along with some mint leaves and few blueberries. You can taste it this afternoon at the Kingsway, Fairview, Bayview, Manulife and Summerhill stores. 

The Birth of Vintages ~ It started 30 years ago! - July 10, 2004
I was cleaning out some old magazines when I came across a pile of pieces I wrote for Toronto Life Magazine. One of the titles was “The day the LCBO found 1200 bottles of superb wine hidden under a pile of straw in Argentina.” Ah yes, it was exactly 30 years ago that General George Kitching, the then LCBO equivalent to today’s CEO Andy Brandt, personally took his two best tasters to visit more than five dozen European shippers to ultimately select 150 rarities on the spot for Ontario consumers. The ever-proactive Kitching traveled elsewhere, including South America and South Africa, in search of the best. The results were, certainly for the time, quite incredible. They were housed and put on sale in a non-descript second floor “Rare Wines & Spirits Shop” at the LCBO Queen’s Quay headquarters on 43 Freeland Street. And so was the birth of today’s Vintages. 

Getting the best of Vintages in Cottage Country ~ Winners from British Columbia - July 3, 2004
With next Saturday’s Vintages release at hand, it is essential to plan ahead if you have any hope of getting that great wine into cottage country. To make things easier, until October 11, Vintages is offering a selection of its monthly products in some 43 LCBO stores scattered across cottage country. You can contact your local store directly to see if they will be carrying the product you want, because if they don’t, you have up until 11 am Tuesday, July 6th, to place your order. 

A Survivor’s Guide to White Port ~ And other Portuguese Sweeties - June 26, 2004
Last week I was accused of having a sweet tooth. I guess it’s true to a point, because while I am not a huge dessert fan, I relish a fine sweetie after a meal. For the many who share my enthusiasm, and even the few who don’t, today’s Vintages release has a fine selection and even a few incredible “must buy” sweeties. 

“A Rose is a Rose” but not a rosé ~ Digging one up for daddy - June 19, 2004
As a guy who already has one Rose in his life, it’s always a bit challenging making room for another. There’s no question, becoming infatuated with something new is fraught with angst. Bringing home that new flame can create more problems than it’s worth. After all, as I have been told, real guys should only fall for one Rose at a time - at least according to my Rose. 

Face-Off Time for Summer Whites ~ From Sauvignon Blanc to Chardonnay - June 12, 2004
This month’s Vintages release sees the emergence of many Sauvignon Blanc from a variety of sources. They can vary immensely in style and this release has its share of disappointments, which includes the bitter tasting Creekside 2002 Sauvignon Blanc (572206 now reduced to $14.95) from Ontario and the tart, malic Pecorta 2002 Sauvignon Blanc L’Artiste (998443 $19.95) from California. I would also take a pass on Cloudy Bay 2003 Sauvignon Blanc (304469), which is definitely overpriced at $31.95. Leave the 350 cases for label-focused restaurateurs who will pass it off to their customers for up to $100 a bottle. 

Mice in Gonzalez Byass Sherry Heaven ~ A dry white standout in a sea of sweeties - June 5, 2004
Jerez de la Frontera can be hot, and I mean hot. Last week I attended the 4th biennial edition of Vinoble, the world’s largest trade exposition of sweet wines. Producers from more than 120 wine regions around the world were strutting their wares. Canada’s sole participant, Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Pillitteri Estates found their stand under siege, running out of icewine before the exposition came to an end. 

Classics ~ Too Few & Far Between ~ Unearthing best buys from the upcoming Classics release as well as the previous release! - May 29, 2004
A classic is defined as something that is generally considered to be of the highest quality and of enduring value. Vintages struts out their special wares three times a year and next week’s Spring/Summer 2004 catalogue features 287 “new” items (plus 41 “refeatured” products). Unfortunately, real  “classics” tend to be few and far between. Worse yet, when it comes to actually wanting to see what you are buying, they can’t be found.

Seeing Red on Victoria Day ~ Perfect matches for discerning palates - May 22, 2004
With the Victoria Day long weekend underway; folks are stoking up the grill on the balcony, in the garden and at the cottage. It’s BBQ time and one hankers for that red that will add just the right amount of magic to that steak, smoky rib or even hamburger. While some might suppose that almost anything will do, it is amazing how some reds go well with smoky ribs and yet fail with a steak, and vice versa. Those blessed with a discerning palate will discover that arranging a proper marriage isn’t difficult.

Bringing French wine back to the fold ~ Gems from Southern France - May 15, 2004
In modern economics, market share is everything. Today, Australia has become the new goliath in terms of sales - producing user-friendly, fruit-forward wines at reasonable prices. Climate, utilization of modern technology and absence of restrictive legislation have enabled them to displace France, even California. And yet I can’t help but think that the continuation of this incredible success might be a bit of an aberration.

Chardonnay is still a Mother’s best Friend! ~ Mum’s the word for old & new world Chardonnay - May 8, 2004
The way some ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) fans talk, one might think that Chardonnay is all washed up. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Chard is still the beverage of choice for tens of millions and the world’s number one selling grape variety. In fact, rumour has it that there’s a movement afoot – MFC (Mothers For Chardonnay) supporting the contention that Chardonnay is a mother’s best friend – perfect for Mother’s Day.

May First ~ Wee Nips for Morris Dancers, Marching Workers & Oppressed Wine Agents - May 1, 2004
The first day of May is most dichotomous. On one hand, while people around the world celebrate it as the coming summer, blue-collar workers proudly march showing their solidarity against the forces of oppression. Starting with the former, in ancient times, Romans marched in a procession to the grotto of Egena, where they carried out ceremonies honoring the revival of vegetation and to assure abundant crops. The Anglo-Saxons called it Beltane (Bright Fire) and it was considered the first day of summer. By the Middle Ages, English villagers would awaken at daybreak, gather blossoming branches and build a towering maypole in the village green. Come rain or shine, the truly dedicated assembled prior to dawn with their brightly coloured hankies, sticks, musical instruments, bells, decorated hats, ribbons for singing, Maypole weaving and Morris dancing.

From Austria’s Svelte Velt To Classics from British Columbia - April 24, 2004
Grüner Veltliner is Austria’s key grape and a key to white wine fame. It isn’t easy to pronounce: grew-nurr (nurr as in grrr), which means green, and velt-leaner. Unfortunately, no matter how tasty, this grape’s name doesn’t hang easily on anyone’s lips. Of course, it could be worse, at one time it was referred to as Weisser, Grüner Maukateller and even Weissgipfler.

Spring Sippers from Spicy to Sweet ~ Buying the best of today's Vintages release - April 17, 2004
When it comes to whites, the pickings are a bit slim in today’s Vintages release. Nevertheless, I have some solid recommendations. The first is a very spicy, rather delicious effort from Alsace – Bléger 2002 Gewurztraminer Vieille Vigne (972570) at $19.95. I know that Gewurztraminer isn’t everyone’s cup of tea with its intense, honeyed, spicy, sweet lychee nose. While some gentle sweetness persists on the palate, it still has a refreshing air to it. Look for honeyed, lychee, rose petal flavours with a lingering finish. It’s the kind of white that I could sip all afternoon – a dangerous thing indeed.

Why Big Movers Hog LCBO Shelf Space ~ Or how to make money by reducing choice - April 10, 2004
They are popping up everywhere, like the every prolific Easter Bunny. No I am not referring to our seasonal furry friends, but rather the dozens of identical wines that hog all the best shelf locations at local LCBO stores. Visiting Yonge Street’s prestigious Summerhill store, I am overwhelmed by wave after wave of Australian Wolf Blass. Meanwhile, I scurry around searching the bottom shelves for the facing of the wine I actually want to buy.

A great Beaune is hard to find - April 3, 2004
Being a critic isn’t always what it is cracked up to be. When it comes to wine, there is no question that producers who put their heart, soul and money into their wares are naturally disheartened upon receiving a bad review. Often things, such as unripe grapes from bad whether, are beyond their control. They do the best they can. And fortunately, unlike a film or book, there is always a sequel – another vintage - meaning that the prospect of a good review keeps the flames of hope burning.

"Fair" Competition from World's Wine Regions - March 27, 2004
Last weekend’s Vancouver Playhouse Fair was definitely a fair to remember! I sat beside André Saint-Jacques owner of Whistler’s famous Bearfoot Bistro at the annual Vancouver Playhouse wine auction. André was top bidder spending over $40,000. “It’s a great way to top up and add depth to our cellar plus help a good cause at the same time,” he explains. In addition, he spent another $40,000 on special orders on some of the 1,000+ items offered at this year’s California-focused event.

Best Buys in Today's Vintage Release ~ A spicy new Hungarian blend - March 20, 2004
It was busy last Monday as some harried bargain hunters tried tracking down remaining Vintages markdowns. The sale might have implications for only some March releases. How many, for instance, are going to buy this month’s icewine, when the gold medal winner from the Canadian International Wine Challenge Cilento 1999 Riesling Icewine (460444) can now be had for only $34.95 (a $15 discount)?

Points of Contention ~ What do those numeric wine ratings really mean? - March 13, 2004
Numbers make the world go round, from the stock market and tax returns to school grades. It is exactly the same logic that has made the numeric scoring wines so acceptable - a simple system of shorthand that tells us how good a wine is.

A Survivor’s Guide to Upcoming Wine Events ~ May the tastings begin! - March 6, 2004
It’s that time of year when wine events, like early spring flowers, start popping up everywhere. Unfortunately, they don’t all come up smelling like roses. It starts with Canada’s biggest wine event, the Toronto Wine & Cheese Show taking place next weekend. This massive, commercial, hodgepodge has something for everyone with the proviso that it tends to be a bit of a minefield filled with all too many mediocre wines.

Under-$20 Relief ~ Upcoming Vintages Highlights - February 28, 2004
From last weekend’s February 21st Vintages famine to next week’s March feast - that sums up release quality swings. What is especially exciting is the number of best buys all under $20, a definite blessing as tax time looms.

Today in Vintages Uncovering the Better Buys - February 21, 2004
Today’s Vintages release sees 55 new items appear on the LCBO shelves. Unfortunately, this second February coming is definitely on the lackluster side. Even the pleasant 20-year-old Tawny Port didn’t cut the mustard at its $29.95 per half bottle. The only item worthy of lining up for in the blustery midwinter cold was a single bubbly!  

Heart-throbbing Vintage Valentine values - February 14, 2004
It isn’t always easy to track down the perfectly seductive wine for your Valentine. I remember inviting a prospective girlfriend over for a romantic fireside dinner and serving a decanted, fine, very pricey, bottle of Bordeaux. Imagine my sense of deflation when I discovered that she didn’t drink reds. Thus, rule number one is to check out the preferences of your prospective partner.

A New Look ~ For an award-winning Sherry - February 7, 2004
I am looking at the new label for a best buy, award-winning, winter warmer wondering why they did it. Perhaps wine labels are becoming like restaurants, in need of a facelift every so many years so as to maintain customer interest.

Young Winemaker Winners Hit the LCBO shelves - January 31, 2004
Next Monday is Groundhog Day and I am planning my celebratory toast ahead of time. Ironically, wines at the LCBO and groundhogs have a lot in common - we never know when or whether they will actually appear.

A Little Something with your Offal? ~ What goes with haggis? - January 24, 2004
Offal, a word borrowed from the Dutch afval in the fourteenth century, is usually associated with the less glamorous parts of a slaughtered animal. Literally meaning ‘off fall’ it is most glamorized in the traditional Robbie Burns signature dish haggis. This balloon sausage-like affair is a chopped up mixture of sheep’s heart, liver and lungs with oatmeal and seasonings all stuffed into a sheep’s stomach. It’s usually served with bashed neeps (mashed turnips) and lots of Scotch, the latter enabling one to gather up the strength to actually eat the stuff.

Great 2002 Burgundy Expectations ~ Patrice Rion's newest releases - January 17, 2004
It’s a week before Christmas and I am standing in a cold cellar in Burgundy. The winemaker is scurrying around from one barrel to another with his glass pipette (wine thief), drawing out samples while I struggle to make notes on the 2002 vintage.

From a Sublime German Red To an Amorous Amarone Vintages Discoveries - January 10, 2004
It has taken a long time but Vintages seems to have finally realized that it’s a good idea to let consumer’s know what’s for sale. In the past, wines would suddenly appear totally unannounced out of nowhere. Even the agents wouldn’t know when their products would hit the selves.

The Lowdown on Lodi ~ North America's most exciting viticultural area - January 3, 2004
I am sitting beside might be mistakenly identified as a natural marsh and pond in the heart of Lodi, California. I am sipping a cool glass of Talus 2002 Chardonnay, which is currently at the top of the 2004 list of best value whites. Joining me is winemaker Todd Ziemann who oversees production at the enormous Turner Road Vintners operation, which was acquired by Constellation Brands’ Canandaigua Wine Company just over two years ago from Sebastiani.

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