John Szabo’s VINTAGES Preview – Aug 4th, 2018

David Lawrason: A Canadian Wine Industry Champion, & Top Smart Buys
By John Szabo, MS, with notes by David Lawrason and Michael Godel

John Szabo, MSWe hope you’ve been following the results from the National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC) that poured out over the last two weeks. For current and future lovers of Canadian wine, this is THE DEFINITIVE LIST of top Canadian wines. Virtually every winery of note coast to coast submitted wines, the largest number ever, and we’re extremely proud of the medals awarded by our peerless panel of judges. Many expected winners emerged alongside happy surprises from new and improving producers, everything we hoped for. And special congratulations to Two Sisters Vineyards in Niagara, who took the honour of the Best Performing Small Winery of the year, and Road 13, a well-deserved winner of Canada’s Winery of The Year. Create your shopping list of Canada’s best wines. Considering the barrage of news, I’ll keep it simple this week and just present David’s, Michael’s and my top smart buys from the August 4th release (Sara d’Amato is bumming around southern France). But first, on the Canadian theme, WineAlign would like to congratulate one of our own, David Lawrason, who was recently awarded the Canadian Vintner’s Association 2018 Wine Industry Champion Award.

WineAlign’s David Lawrason: A Canadian Wine Industry Champion

Industry insiders know it’s no surprise that David Lawrason was named Wine Industry Champion during the 2018 Canadian Wine Industry Awards ceremony held a couple of weeks ago in Kelowna, BC. Few have worked as tirelessly as Lawrason to shine the spotlight, and educate both professionals and consumers on Canadian wine over the last four decades. As the Canadian Vintners Association press release states, the award was “presented to an individual who has provided exemplary support to the Canadian wine industry through media, research, policy or advocacy… a wine journalist who has spent over 30 years reporting on wine, and making wine more accessible to Canadian consumers”.

“I am thrilled to honour David’s exceptional contribution to consumer wine education today,” continued Dan Paszkowski, CEO of the CVA. “David’s dedication to Canadian wine whether through co-founding the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada (NWAC), or teaching the Canadian Wine Scholar course are a snapshot of how hard he has worked to educate Canadian consumers about Canada’s high-quality fine wines.”

Read the full press release.

Moreover, David has immeasurably enriched Canadian wine culture through his development and mentorship of countless budding wine professionals, who have gone on to their own successful careers in the wine industry, in no small measure thanks to him. Many, myself included, owe David a debt of gratitude.

Here is what a few of the WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada judges had to say about David:

“I’ve known David for more than 20 years now and seldom have I see him flustered by this crazy business. He was a pioneer in the Canadian wine writing business and remains a force to this day. He continues to dream big and push Canadian wineries to do the same. He is also a better typist than me which has always pissed me off.” Anthony Gismondi, Vancouver

David Lawrason and Anthony Gismondi

“I met David through his wine writings, ages before I met him in person. I started seriously thinking, drinking, and collecting wine back in my university days, and it was not long before I encountered his candid, balanced, unadorned prose. I learned about Ontario wines along with him, word by word. It was almost 18 years ago when we finally met – an introduction brokered by his longtime friend Anthony Gismondi. I cut my Judging teeth sharply, thanks to David, who took me in hand and quietly guided and shaped me. I respect, adore, revere, and applaud him. He’s a national treasure. Order of Canada, I should think.” DJ Kearney, Vancouver

David Lawrason, DJ Kearney and Brad Royale

“My first time tasting with David was with Wine Access. We had volunteered to take a late flight of Syrah, it was just the two of us. David’s determination for absolute due diligence to the wines in front of us was so genuine I remember it vividly even today.  He left nothing to chance, tasting and re-tasting, talking and re-talking, combing through the wines like a detective. I felt incredibly lucky to have this leadership in front of me. From that day on I tasted wine with the sense of responsibility to always do my best, always. I suspect anyone who has ever tasted with David has a similar story.” Brad Royale, Calgary

“David’s award was so deserved. He has worked so hard to promote the fact that Canada can make top-class wine. Always enthusiastic for new regions and producers, he is one of the most open-minded critics I have ever known. He supports Canadian wine but also helps wineries push for better and better quality with criticism where and when necessary. He has helped open the doors for so many of us younger judges and writers and supported giving us a chance to have our voices heard. His influence has helped Canada to make better wine and keep that discussion at the forefront. A true legend!” Rhys Pender MW, Okanagan Valley

Rhys Pender and David Lawrason

“I took my first serious steps in wine judging under the careful and smart mentoring of David Lawrason, and one of the things he taught me was to look beyond the obvious, and to go further than first impressions or personal preferences. His dedication to taking in the full scope of the wine world, and in particular the world of Canadian wine, without prejudging and with careful consideration, is exemplary and constantly inspiring.” Rémy Charest, Québec City

“David Lawrason is the main reason I ended up having a national voice as a wine writer and judge. When I met him in Germany, by chance – we weren’t on the same writer trip – I was just starting out in my new career, and he took interest and gave me a leg up. I’ll never forget it and I can’t thank him enough. He’s a great writer, mentor, judge, and friend.” Craig Pinhey, New Brunswick

“I met David a short while after starting to work in and with the Canadian wine industry after almost a decade hiatus in Europe and South Africa. I am forever grateful for the opportunities he has given me over the past years – to judge, write and so much more, and am ever thankful to him as a mentor, colleague and friend. He is a gentleman, in the true sense of the word, generous, thoughtful and kind and with an unwavering support and commitment to the journey and future of Canadian wine and the industry, both within Canada and on an international stage.” Janet Dorozynski, Ottawa

Janet Dorozynski and David Lawrason

“David has enlightened me about two things which have made a difference in my life. One was the wines of Prince Edward County, well before the region became popular. The other was the band War on Drugs, and because of his suggestion I got to see them live at Massey Hall before they only started doing stadium tours. Obviously he is a man of great taste.” Bill Zacharkiw, Montreal

Bill Zacharkiw and David Lawrason

“A generous soul who shares his wealth of knowledge willingly with always having in sight the benefit of everyone involved in the wine industry. And the best travelling partner one could ever hope for! A great example to follow for the new generation.” Michelle Bouffard, Montreal

David Lawrason and Michelle Bouffard

“Put up your hand if you owe a debt of gratitude to David Lawrason for helping you get to where you are in the wine business. There must be thousands of hands in the air right now. That is the scope of David’s reach. It would be impossible to fathom where Canadian wine and wine in Canada would be today without the guidance of this gentleman wine writer, competition judge, educator and mentor. Now it is time for our Prime Minister, Premiers and Trade Ministers to consult with David Lawrason on why and how to free our grapes. He’s the man.” Michael Godel, Toronto

David Lawrason. Michael Godel, Sara d'Amato and John Szabo

“David Lawrason has been writing about wine in Canada for over 30 years and his words are more relevant than ever. A wildly impressive expertise of local and international wine is not due solely to his extensive travel. David knows how to ask the right questions, the important ones, and above all, he knows how to listen. He is able to assemble complex ideas from many points of view to create a concise and convincing argument that is relatable, without pretension and always a pleasure to read. This is what makes him an exceptional educator, journalist and one of the classiest people in the world of wine. Thank you, David, for your many years of support and encouragement. There is no one more deserving of the recognition you have received.” Sara d’Amato, Toronto

John Szabo and David Lawrason

Enough said. David, congratulations, and thank you.

Buyers Guide to VINTAGES Aug 4th

Whites

Rotem & Mounir 2015 Saouma Inopia, AC Côtes du Rhône-Villages, France ($35.95)
John Szabo – What an intriguing wine: full of that intriguingly flinty-stony, sulphury character so common these days (especially in chardonnay), but here on a much riper frame composed of grenache blanc – it’s no surprise that Rotem & Mounir are negociants based in Burgundy. The nose is pungent and forward, far from typical southern Rhône I have to say, but bloody hell, an interesting experience. The palate is dense and thick, ultra-ripe but not flabby, with excellent length. Totally captivating, and yes, worth $36. Best 2018-2025.…


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That’s all for this report. See you around the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

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Szabo’s Smart Buys
Lawrason’s Take
Michael’s Mix

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