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Help with this Winelist...

  • m

We are heading out to dinner for Toronto's annual Winterlicious Festival to a midway upscale restaurant and was looking for some help with their winelist.

Which is conveniently online...

I'm looking for a relatively (in comparison with most of the list) cheap wine between $40 and $70 since we shall certainly get through more than one bottle. We are not complete neophytes but I'm a bit intimidated by this list.

I've been enjoying Spanish Rioja wines lately as well as Cahors, so a mid to heavy weight red would be perfect for windchills of -20.


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  1. White: Huet Vourvray

    Red:Planeta Nero d'Avola

    This wine list is incredibly frustrating in the sub $120 price range, at least, by U.S. standards...

    1. Doesn't it depend on what you eat?

      Some of their markups are scandalous. Pio Cesare's 2005 Dolcetto retailed for around $20 a bottle. They're asking $120?! Let's hope that's a typo.

      1. I can see why you would be intimidated by this list, it seems like they are trying to confuse you.

        Since you like Cahors and they have one in your price range, that would be a great place to start. The Tempo Morellino di Scansano in the "Tuscany, Italy" section would also be interesting. And lastly, since you also said you are enjoying Rioja's, the Telmo Rioja "LZ" in the "Spain" section which can be found (obviously?....) between "Bordeaux, France" and "Portugal."

        Man, the more I look at the list it just baffles me. I have to think something got wonky in the formatting when they posted it online. That thing is weird.

        Also, wines by the glass change constantly, but most places will sell you a bottle as well. If the Poderi Colla Nebbiolo is still there that would actually be my first choice. If you figure the bottle price is 4 times the BTG price, it "should" be around $50. But they seem to be really specific about the fact they give 6 ouce pours...which technically gives them five glass in a bottle so it could be $60-$65, but that is still in your price range.

        1. glad I'm not buying wine off that list as, for the most part, seems terribly over priced...

          1. Spanish Rioja wines are notoriously light-bodied.
            Many are manipulated to be drunk with fish.

            1. as for a "mid to heavy weight red" priced from 40 to 70 bucks...

              Two fair choices on the list... the Argentine Malbecs in the 45-50 range and the two Valpolicellas (reg and ripasso) in the 55-70 range.

              The Ripasso is well overpriced at 70 but it's probably the most predictable... a nice silky "mid" weight red that's very food friendly. The Malbecs may tend to be a bit closed up as they're still quite young... so first choice would be the ripasso for me.

              1. a very confusing and overpriced list, imho!

                the Morellino de Scansano or the Rosso di Montalcino, both full-bodied reds for a cold winter's night, are probably what I would have chosen. What DID you end up with?

                1. For whites, the Huet and Baumard look like good choices.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: SteveTimko

                    The formatting of the winelist is definitely confusing. I agree with the white suggestions of the Huet Vouvray and the Baumard Savennières. They are probably the two of the best Loire producers. The '01 Bastianich Vespa Bianco chardonnay blend is also an excellent wine, if a little overpriced at $85.

                    For reds, the '05 Chenets Crozes-Hermitage. A good vintage from a region that provides good value (at least for me), although I've not heard of this producer.

                    Also, the '00 Meerlust Stellenbosch Merlot. I've not had this vintage, but am a fan of this South African producer in general. A couple of months ago, I had the '01 Rubicon (Bordeaux blend) that was quite graceful.

                  2. Looking at the 2005 Oregon Pinot Noir by Ken Wright, they are charging $210 for that bottle. That is the most I have ever seen for Canary Hill KW. They are marking that bottle up four times.

                    I would drink water with dinner at these prices.

                    1. If you went last night, I too am curious about what you chose.

                      If it's not too late, check out the list of Southern France reds. Several there caught my eye, particularly the Costieres de Nimes, Cote de Rousillon and Faugere options. I was also curious about corkage, which appears to be 30. I think I would plan to buy a bottle and also bring a good bottle not on their list.

                      The list does have some interesting choices, and the mark up seems strangely high. Is this just the difference between Toronto and California? Is it an import taxes difference?

                      Here in California, many of the wines listed in their lower-end are $10 or less a bottle retail. The markups for the Southern France reds I mentioned seems like they are about 2.5 to 3 times. Irritating, but not as much some of the markups elsewhere on the list.

                      1. Thank you everyone for your replies. It confirms my opinion that it is a difficult list without much cohesiveness. It is also pricey even by Canadian standards with what seems generally a 300% mark-up.

                        Ontario wines are primarily controlled by the LCBO, which is the government run liquor store. They have the advantage of being the single largest purchaser of wine in the world and therefore our monthly Vintages releases usually contain some extraordinarily good wines. The downside is the lack of competition and the fact that a large part of the wines imported are only available for a month, through the Vintages program. Having been responsible for a few wine lists in Toronto I can attest to it being a frustrating system. We also have consignment agents who supply mostly restaurants with wines they have sourced or vineyards they have established relationships with.


                        All in all it can be a time consuming job for a restaurant owner to manage a large wine list but many sommeliers in Toronto do an excellent job. I suspect this list suffers from a bit of neglect.

                        Well regardless of all that, the point here is to find some fine wines to enjoy tomorrow. As to Carswell point about what we are eating, I'm suspecting the wine will dictate the food tomorrow. I'm printing off everyone's comments and doing a little research and will certainly report back on our choices.

                        My first posting to the wine board and it has been a pleasure.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Mila

                          The one that caught my eye, and considering the mark up from retail, was the Mitolo Jester from Australia.

                        2. Is it legal to BYO in Toronto?

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: vickib

                            Previous post (souvenir) says it appears to $30, which would leave $45 to pick something from Mila's cellar or Vintages.
                            The restaurant has to be approved for BYO by the provincial authorities.
                            If you live here, you get used to all this nonsense and high prices.

                          2. Four that caught my eye:

                            2005 Nero d'Avola, Planeta $65
                            2001 Touriga Nacional, Quinta do Ventozelo $51
                            2004 Le Tiradon, Mas Janeil, Côtes du Roussillon $65 (mostly Grenache)
                            2005 Pinot Noir "Claystone", Clos Jordane $75 ($5 over your limit but the QPR winner in CJ's PN line)

                            1. Sorry for the delay reporting back, I had a huge presentation for cooking school and I'm no Dale Carnegie when it comes to public speaking.

                              On the day of Toronto's worst storm to date, 30 cm snow and treacherous roads we made our way to dinner. For those interested here was the menu:

                              2 Dozen Oysters - St Simon, Marionport and Kumamoto
                              Beet & Goat Cheese Salad
                              Organic beet with baby greens, warm goat cheese, fried ginger and radish seedlings
                              Pear & Endive Salad
                              Roasted pear, shaved fennel, watercress, frisée, walnuts, Stilton cheese, mustard dressing

                              Seared rare, on a corn & saffron chowder, ribboned vegetables and potato gnocchi
                              Pan-roasted, maple baked brussel sprouts, with grapes, Ontario chestnuts, and Niagara Gamay reduction

                              Banana Coconut Cream Cake With mango puree
                              Honey-Vanilla Baked Apricots With orange-almond biscotti and Forme d’Ambert cheese
                              Maple Roasted Apples With katifi, crème fraiche, maple pecans, and snap cookie

                              Much to my initial disappointment the winelist was quite different to what was online but on closer examination it was a lot more cohesive with more variety, albeit still expensive. We pretty near kidnapped the sommelier to help us with some wine choices and he was a very good sport about it.

                              To start at the bar I needed a warm up, so not very wine-connoisseur-like, I ordered a glass of big Australian Shiraz.
                              04 Coriole Shiraz McLaren Vale SA
                              Notes: Big, jammy, balanced front to back, tobacco, leather, could be spread on toast
                              Translation: I really liked it. I've had Coriole when I was in Australia but that was years ago and they seems to have really matured in their wine making.

                              Next up we needed something with oysters. This was an unusual choice from our sommelier.
                              05 Marche Cocci Vecho Percorino
                              Notes: Clean, salty on the nose, a bit floral and applely
                              Translation: A really interesting choice for oysters, it really was salty on the nose and a bit in the taste. The apple taste was on the finish and was a bit of a drawback as it became a bit cloying at the end.

                              We wanted to try the 01 Quinto de Vetozelo from Portugal but they were out so on recommendation we had the 04 Ca' Pi Pian Barbera d'Asti
                              Notes: Long and lean, just barely fruit forward, great length
                              Translation: This was a real winner without the austerity I sometimes associate with Barbera. It was absolutely perfect with the venison.

                              A glass of uninspired dessert wine finished the meal. Sorry don't remember what as the previous imbibing has been starting to take effect.

                              Thanks chowhounds for you input and as some of the vintages you chose are still available and I will have a chance to try them at a more reasonable LCBO price. We took advantage of being able to shanghai the sommelier, who was also the author of the wine list, to tap his wine knowledge.

                              Thank you again for your help.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Mila


                                Your Barbera was produced by La Spinetta, an awesome modern-styled winemaker in Piedmont. Great choice. (The '05 is a bit cloying, however.)

                                Great notes!

                              2. I'm constantly surprised by the unnecessary complexity of wine shipping laws, both in the U.S. and in other countries!