Private Order Break Out

Private Order Break Out

Wine of the Week Bodegas Terras Gauda 2006 O Rosel, Rias Baixas, Spain ($26, 91 points, aromatic, fleshy, lively and spicy white made on Spain’s northwest coast in Galicia, primarily from the local albarino grape (70%) with 20% loureira and 10% caino. Youth is so important with this style of wine that can sink into soupiness as it ages. This is as bright as they come, bursting with star anise, pineapple and grapefruit.

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There are so many Toronto wine events in April and May that one could spend day after day sipping, spitting and scribbling. Since mid-April there have been large fairs by Portugal, France, California, Greece and Austria, with New Zealand coming up May 17 ( The centrepiece, however, gets underway this week with dozens of events around Santé, a kaleidoscope of tastings, dinners, seminars and ship and shop events headquartered in the Bloor-Yorkville district, with large events held at the Carlu (Yonge and College). The big nights are Thursday and Friday, with over 90 international wineries pouring their wares. The South African tasting on Wednesday night (trade on Thursday afternoon) promises great value. I’ll be reporting on this next time…

Amidst all this—and less well known to the world at large—there was a landmark event called Decant held on April 27. In the glittering galleria of BCE Place, Toronto importers uncorked dozens—no, hundreds—of wines that are unavailable at the LCBO or Vintages stores. It was the first time that private order and consignment wines have been collectively showcased in their own venue, and over 500 tickets were sold. To clarify, these are wines imported and sold directly to restaurateurs and individuals. The LCBO plays no role in their selection, but does tax at the same rate and brings the wines through its warehouses. Via private order, buyers must wait weeks and months for wines to be shipped. If the order’s consignment, the wines are already landed and can be delivered direct within days to your home or office. You must order by the case (many are in six-packs).

(By the way, I’ve had it confirmed from two sources that, for every wine listed by the LCBO’s Vintages stores, there are approximately 25 that apply for a listing. Of those, about five are actually tasted by Vintages buyers, and only one is approved. So, the treasure trove of wines that could be available to us, and at can at least partially be accommodated through private order and consignment, is enormous. There are still restrictions due to warehouse space, but perhaps one fine day the government will finally allow the industry its own bonded, private warehouses—an idea that has been floated for years.)

Decant brought together 24 importers. It was organized by Warren Porter, who runs a wine cellaring facility called Iron Gate Cellarage. Decant was also the launch of his new business called which hires sommeliers to act as personal wine consultants and buyers—think of them as your own personal wine trainer—drawing from private order and consignment wines. Complicated, but a clever end run around the importing business and LCBO rules. He promises an annual Decant event and smaller, similar events throughout the year.

With so many wines to taste, and so little time (the constant refrain of my life), I focused on summery whites. Here are a handful of top performers, with ratings, brief reviews and Web sites of the agents:

Cakebread 2005 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa Valley ($43, 91 points, more expensive than we are used to paying for sauvignon but it has a loyal following for its compact, complex, somewhat subdued style. Length is excellent to outstanding.

Alpha Zeta 2006 Pinot Grigio, Veneto, Italy ($15.45, 90 points,, fruity, summery grigio from a New Zealand winemaker—what every pinot grigio should be.

Tin Pot Hut 2006 Sauvignon Blanc, New Zealand ($20.25, 90 points, new in town, with killer aromatics of passionfruit, lime and licorice and juicy, sweet and sour palate.

Rabl 2005 Gruner Veltliner Spiegel Trocken, Austria ($18, 89 points,, creamy yet dry (trocken) with the pear, white almond and peppery nuances of Austria’s signature grape. All purpose summer white.

Rudera 2005 Chenin Blanc, South Africa ($25.95, 89,, tight, dry, mineral chenin blanc with a touch of oak. Well structured; excellent length.