Anthony Gismondi: Canada comes in from the cold with first national wine auction


Canada’s first national fine wine auction takes place in Alberta, courtesy of

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The majority of wine cellars sold in Canada triggered by death, divorce, illness, or simply a collector’s wish to cash out, quietly go down between intermediaries in back alleys, warehouses or sometimes out of car trunks backed up against each other accompanied by a wad of cash.

For the longest time, the secondary sale of any wine was forbidden by Canadian liquor monopolies, who were the sole purveyor of alcohol in Canada. The rest of the enlightened world enjoys a sophisticated, robust secondary market for wine, led by auction houses or licensed retailers that are only too happy to buy or sell your cellar and look after all the details required to make it happen.

It is a service that is invaluable to anyone, especially to those who unexpectedly inherit a complex cellar of old wines and could use all the help they can get evaluating and liquidating it for affair price.

Ironically, the government presents few obstacles to collectors when it is selling wine to the public. But, when it comes to legal owners selling their hard-earned and valuable assets, the government has either said no or been less than helpful while imposing, you guessed it, more fees and taxes.


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As it stands in B.C., The Liquor Distribution Act provides the BCLDB with the sole authority to purchase liquor for resale in the province. Accordingly, in any “private” sale of liquor, the BCLDB must be the purchaser and subsequent reseller. Once the LDB confirms the product has been held for a minimum of one year, it provides a Private Liquor Disposition Agreement to be completed and returned by the buyer or seller. Once the documents are in order, the LDB issues a permit number and waits for the buyer or seller to inform the LDB of the date and location of sale.

On sale day, an LDB representative meets the buyer and seller, witnesses the agreement signing and collects a five per cent commission. Yes, wine is a product that keeps on giving. Already laden with the original handsome ad valorem tax, plus a B.C. Liquor Store retail markup, PST and GST, the cellar’s new higher value attracts the commission above plus a new round of PST and GST.

All that is set to change in a big way this weekend when Canada’s first national fine wine auction takes place in Alberta, courtesy of The goal is to finally free Canadian buyers and sellers from government clutches, allowing broader access to vintage wine and rare spirits from private collections for sale across the country. IronGate is riding high from a successful online charity wine auction business launched in November 2020, and its commercial division is ready to unleash a deep cache of rare wines meticulously sourced from private collections across Canada.


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But is it legal? We know the Alberta government has OK’d the process, and Iron Gate Auctions has answered the vital question of shipping — “The key is that the auction house transfers title to the successful bidder.” That allows a specially selected shipping company that knows how to handle wine in all weather conditions, to contact the new owner to ship the wine anywhere in the world.

Wines from every region of the world and all price points will be on offer at this inaugural auction, which begins Tuesday at 10 a.m. PDT and runs until 7 p.m. on March 30. There is no cost to register and place bids. Successful bids will be charged a 17.5 per cent buyers’ premium, well below the auction industry standard of 20 to 22.5 per cent. Purchases are only subject to GST in Alberta, another obvious benefit of the auction taking place in Alberta.

“The relatively limited movement of private wine collections in Canada to date means that there is a huge opportunity right now to find wines with provenance and bottles in fantastic condition,” says Iron Gate owner Warren Porter. “These are great incentives for early adopters to jump in.”

If you are still in shock, Iron Gate will host a Demystifying Wine Auctions free webinar on Sunday at 5 p.m. PDT. Participants will learn how an online auction works, get buying strategies for success and hear expert analysis of hot commodities and smart buys. It is time to update the cellar list.

Weekend wine picks


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Mission Hill Estate Series Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$17.99 I 87/100

UPC: 776545310118

If you know how to make serious wine, my experience is usually other wines, especially affordable wines, will be made with the same due care and attention. It’s certainly true at Mission Hill Family Estate, proud to put its name on entry-level wines because they deliver for the price. This Sauvignon Blanc carries on the growing tradition at MHFE to make excellent Sauvignon Blanc. The nose is aromatic with grapefruit and sweet tropical fruit that spills across the palate. The finish is full flavoured and medium-long with lime and lemon pith and a clean, fresh ending. Try this with cream cheese and crackers topped with smoked salmon. Good value.

Pfaff Pinot Gris 2018, Alsace, France

$22.95 I 89/100

UPC: 3185130071025

The Alsace style of Gris is almost always richer and a little, not a lot, weightier than the Italian version, but when tasted with some B.C. Gris, there are similarities. Look for a welcoming fragrant nose with notes of pear and ripe melon. The attack is off-dry and creamy, with more ripe pear, rosé petals and honeysuckle notes that run through a spicy finish. It was an excellent match to barbecue chicken with a similar odd-fry saucing. Well done.

Estelado Brut Rosé 2018, Valle del Curicó, Region del Valle Central, Chile

$21,99 I 90/100

UPC: 8410113005793

Estelado is an ode to the first grape variety planted in Chile back in the 1550s. It was known as Listán Prieto in Spain. In New World colonies, it was tagged the mission grape, while in Chile, it would become País. The rosé is made with 100 per cent País, dry-farmed by farmers resurrecting a historic grape and supporting traditional small family traditions. The colour is Provençal pale orange/red, while the nose is a light fragrant floral affair with earthy, cherry aromas. The attack is crisp and in the drier style with less than five g/L of dosage, leading to a delightful, spicy, strawberry, citrus sparkler: a perfect sparkling rosé for hand passed bites.


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Chateau Montus 28013, Madiran, Sud-Ouest, France

$31.99 I 89/100

UPC: 3372220130018

An 80/20 mix of Tannat/Cabernet Sauvignon that comes standard with an opaque colour. The nose is aromatic with a big savoury hit of dried herbs and cherry aromas. It’s aged in 80 per cent new oak, adding even more power to the mix, but it seems to answer the rich black fruit flavours mixed with cedar and leather notes through the finish. There is fine freshness here, lending some overall balance to the final picture as big as it is. Best with grilled led lamb or similar big mu items. A giant of a wine.

Frind Estate Premier Merlot 2019, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada

$32.99 I 88/100

UPC: 626990415275

Merlot continues to make its way in B.C. and as its origins improve, so do the wines. Frind Estate is using fruit from Rock Pile Vineyard in Oliver. The old gravel pit has a new life, and it seems at one with Merlot. Look for a fresh, open, mocha, cherry chocolate nose with cedar and sagebrush. The attack is similar, with sweet intense cassis and espresso. It finishes with a touch of residual sugar, which won’t bother most folks, but I think you should age this three to five years to let all the parts come together. Think mushroom burgers or a flat iron steak.

Cardero’s Mediterranean Prawns & Scallops.
Cardero’s Mediterranean Prawns & Scallops. Cardero’s

Recipe match: Mediterranean prawns and scallops

Food has the power to transport. And this dish aims to take you — or at the very least, your palette — to the Mediterranean. From the team at Cardero’s, this flavourful dish of prawns and scallops benefits from a medley of ingredients including grape tomatoes, spinach, red chilies and more to create a memorable mix of flavours that will have you dreaming of exciting escapes.


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Cardero’s Mediterranean Prawns & Scallops

2 tbsp (30 mL) extra virgin olive oil

2 tsp (10 mL) minced shallots

Pinch of cracked red chilies

1 cup (250 mL) cooked quinoa

1 cup (250 mL) cooked farro

6-8 grape tomatoes cut in half

20 small spinach leaves

1 tsp (5 mL) kosher salt

1 tsp (5 mL) lemon juice

4 basil leaves (chiffonade)

1 oz (28 g) white wine or fish stock

4 large scallops (grilled or pan fried to preference)

5 large prawns (grilled or pan fried to preference)

Rinse quinoa, add one cup of quinoa with two cups of water & salt to taste bring to a boil or medium high heat and reduce to gentle simmer until water is complete absorbed or about 15 minutes

Rinse Farro, add one cup of quinoa with two cups of water & salt to taste bring to a boil or medium high heat and reduce to gentle simmer until grains are tender but not mushy or about 20 minutes, drain excess water

Add shallots, cracked chilies and olive oil to a pan over medium heat, add cooked quinoa and farro and cook for 1-2 minutes

Add spinach, tomatoes, basil, lemon juice and wine, cover and cook for one minute. Season with salt and transfer to a plate.

Prawns and scallops can either be cooked on the grill or pan fried, season with salt and pepper.

Plate quinoa and farro mixture on the plate and top with cooked prawns & scallops

Option to finish with a sauce of choice, our chef recommends a lemon butter sauce

Easy version: Reduce 1/3 cup whip cream with half a lemon until small bubbles appear. Turn off heat and stir in 1/4 lbs butter cut into small cubes.


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Harder version: Reduce 1/3 cup white wine, 1/3 cup white wine vinegar, half a lemon squeezed, 5 peppercorns, one bay leaf, two sprigs of thyme and one shallot sliced up. Reduce until all liquid has evaporated. Remove from heat and slowly stir in 1/4 lbs of butter. Strain and add minced capers if desired.

Recipe match

Prawns, scallops, lemon butter sauce, quinoa and farro call for a fine Chardonnay.

O’Rourke’s Peak Cellars Unoaked Chardonnay 2019, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada $22

A clean, dry, fresh style that comes with pineapple, sweet melon, and peachy/pear undertones and freshness to cut through the utter and quinoa.

Lake Sonoma Chardonnay 2018, Russian River, Sonoma County, California, United States $26.99

A fresh ripe peach, pear, melon, and mandarin flavour is the perfect style to enliven this tasty butter-swathed seafood, quinoa and farro dish.


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