California Wine Fair


California Wine Fair is Wine Institute’s of California and LCBO’s grand finale to what was a month-and-a-half long promotion of Californian wines (also see my earlier post). The event, held at the Fairmont Royal York in downtown Toronto, featured over 480 wines from 180 California’s wineries (for a complete list click here: wineries + wines) and consisted of 4 parts – a luncheon for invited guests only; private tasting for registered media (11-5:30 pm); trade event for wine retail trade, media and hospitality industry only (2:30-5:30 pm); and a consumer event for the general public for a fee of $75 (7-9:30 pm).


“Early bird catches the worm” – an old proverb whose angle fortunately holds true most of the time rather than its converse – “early worm gets caught”.
The swarm


Today, the former was the case when I arrived early (earlier than others) at the venue. The trade event wouldn’t open for another 2+ hours, giving me the opportunity to take pictures of the ‘calm before the swarm’ in the room designated for both, the trade and consumer events.
From there, I moved to the IMG_5410media tasting room with two round tables setup for the critics to ‘swirl, sip and spit’ and 5 long tables holding 60 different wines – a small subset of the 480 awaiting in the other room. Several well-known and respected writers and critics, some members of the Wine Writers’ Circle of Canada, were already present and hard at work sampling the array of wines. I was recognized by one of the IMG_5415writers, we introduced ourselves personally (as we’ve known each other virtually) and then I was introduced to the other occupants.  Short introductions, card exchanges and everyone went back to reviewing wines.
I took a spot and began reviewing the first wine out of the 20 that I managed.  Beginning with the whites and as Chardonnays were the most plentiful, my focus was on the few IMG_5409non-Chardonnays.  Next, I moved onto finding the best representative of the eight Pinot Noirs present, followed by ‘randomly’ choosing and reviewing Cabernet Sauvignons.


Of the wines tasted, here are the few that sparked my interest and that I would recommend based on their quality relative to price (if known):


2002 Nichols ChardonnayThe 2002 Nichols Chardonnay, allowed to undergo 100% Malo-Lactic fermentation and then aged in French Oak for 11 months, is intensely aromatic with notes of mushrooms, blue cheese, butter and oak. It is medium bodied, aged, has good balance and a long finish. Drink now and for the next few years; sip by itself. My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 92 pts – recommended buy. Tasted Apr/13.
Score 92 pts. California $44.25 On consignment: leSommelier


The 2011 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc Viognier2012 Grimson Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc + Viognier, composed of 79% Chenin Blanc and 21% Viognier, has intense aromas of tropical fruit, passion fruit and citrus. It is medium bodied, fruity, with crisp acidity and a medium to long finish. It is food friendly; drink now and for the next few years while it is still lively. My impression: NICE, 89 pts – recommended buy. Tasted Apr/13.
Score 89 pts. California $19.95 On consignment Lifford


2011 2011 Buena Vista Pinot NoirBuena Vista Pinot Noir has tempting aromas of raspberry, cranberry, pomegranate and vanilla on the nose and smoke and toasted oak on the finish. It has a medium, fruity body, is balanced with good acidity and refined tannins, and has a long finish. It is food friendly; drink now – 2018. My impression: NICE, 89 pts – recommended buy. Tasted Apr/13.
Score 89 pts. California $24.95 LCBO# 304105


The 2007 Heitz Cabernet Sauvignon2007 Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon, aged in French and American oak for 36 months, has intense aromas of black currant, blackberry, violets, dark chocolate and vanilla on the nose and toasted oak and vanilla on the finish. It is medium bodied, integrated, has forward acidity, refined tannins and a long, silky finish. Though food friendly, sip this one by itself; drink now – 2018+. My impression: BEAUTIFUL, 91-92 pts and a recommended buy. Tasted Apr/13.
Score 91-92 pts. California Undisclosed $  Lifford



For other EVENTS in the wine country or in Toronto, please link here.



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