When I began focusing my journalism career on wine and food back in the mid-90s, I looked to other like-minded writers for instruction and inspiration. The go-to publication on the Canadian wine front was Wine Access magazine, which included formidable experts on the subject on its masthead.
I was awestruck by the depth of knowledge between its pages and thought myself incapable of ever developing a palate as refined as any of its contributors. So I first set out to take a simpleton's approach to wine writing, which led me one day to poke fun at the language used in some of the magazine's reviews.
Somehow my column made it back to the managing editor, who took me to task on my pro's, which in retrospect was more contemptuous than it was humorous. He told me one day I would find myself using the very lingo I was presently sneering at.
And he was right. While I have developed my own style of critiquing, the reviews and articles penned in Wine Access helped to shape it and each issue was an education. As time passed and I found myself sitting at tasting events and competitions alongside the very people I admired in ink, I never forgot the lessons they and the magazine taught me.
Eventually, however, the tone of the publication shifted. I thought perhaps I'd simply reached a point where I couldn't draw much more inspiration from the works of others, but I was finding fewer reasons to pick up the magazine. In 2012, I didn't purchase a single issue. And judging by the announcement earlier this month, it seems like a lot of other wine enthusiasts didn't either.
RedPointMedia has opted to cease publication of Wine Access, effective immediately.
While this leaves me somewhat remorseful, I'm not exactly shocked. I had a suspicion something was amiss when editor-in-chief and long-time contributor Anthony Gismondi stepped away from the magazine in December.
Gismondi hasn't attributed his departure to trouble brewing at the magazine, but it didn't bode well for its future.
Wine journalism gigs are few and far between, especially in Canada, so walking away from one wouldn't be taken lightly. Very few wine writers actually make a living at this and I'm not one of them - I have a day job.
Regardless, the demise of Wine Access leaves a gaping hole in the Canadian wine scene, and only part of that has been created by the departure of the magazine itself. It takes down with it the Canadian Wine Annual, a yearly publication focusing exclusively on domestic wines and wineries - which was supposed to have been reborn this year as the Canadian Wine Traveller.
But worst of all, it sinks two high-profile awards programs, the International Value Wine Awards and the Canadian Wine Awards, which RedPoint described as "resource-intensive."
I've no doubt they were. Indeed, a few years back, I spoke to a key facilitator of the Canadian Wine Awards who shared some of the daunting logistical challenges.
But they were also two of the few competitions I paid any mind to. The Canadian Wine Awards were well organized, even-handed and fairly judged by a panel of
excellent critics whose palates are beyond reproach.
With such a geographical spread between Canada's key wine region, it was true "national" competition in name and practice.
Meanwhile, Value Wine Awards appealed on a level dear to most wine enthusiasts' hearts - price.
Entries had to retail for under $25 and there was special recognition for superior "bargain" wines at a substantially lower price point.
I loved the latter competition for several reasons. First, it demonstrated yearly the conjecture that B.C. wines are overvalued and overpriced as an outright falsehood, since there were many included among the winners.
Second, I enjoy a bargain myself and
often armed myself with the awards list on my vinous shopping trips.
It's my only hope that some organization or group steps in to take over these competitions, or reasonable versions of them, and are not put off by the immense undertaking RedPoint was unwilling to continue bearing.
Quails' Gate 2011 Family Reserve Chardonnay
Creamy, buttery caramel aromas waft up from a wine that smells heavenly and tastes as divine. The bouquet is full of honeyed golden apple, toast, nuts, orange zest, peach and lemon oil. On the palate, it's luscious and ripe, with a creamy texture backed by fresh citrus. Scallops in a brown butter sauce anyone?
Cellaring Potential: 2-4 years
Winery Location: West Kelowna
Spierhead 2010 Vanguard
Rich aromas of olive, coffee, dark vanilla, tobacco, cocoa and hints of mint back dried red currant and cherry notes. Dried red fruit with menthol, herbal, tea, coffee bean and cocoa flavours. Still some bite to the tannins, so a little cellar time would be beneficial.
Cellaring Potential: 3-6 years
Winery Location: Kelowna
Julianna Hayes' Grape Expectations runs weekly in The Okanagan Sunday. Reach her at