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Multi-Course Dinner Paired with Award Winning Inniskillin Wines (Ottawa)

WineAlign is delighted to present a multi-course dinner with each course expertly paired with the award-winning wines of Inniskillin on Thursday, May 1st in Kanata. 

Rod Phillips

Rod Phillips

Join us for an exclusive dinner at Graffiti’s Italian Eatery in Kanata with winemaker Bruce Nicholson, as he guides you through a select offering of Inniskillin wines, each paired with a specially prepared gourmet dish. Bruce will speak about the unique viticulture and terroir of the Niagara region and talk about some of the history behind one of Niagara’s most iconic wineries.

Bruce will be joined by Rod Phillips (WineAlign, Ottawa Citizen).

Event Details:

Date:  Thursday, May 1, 2014
Location: Graffiti’s Italian Eatery, Kanata
Reception: 6:30 – 7pm
Dinner: 7:00pm – 9:30pm
Tickets: $80.00 (plus taxes and fees)

Please note tickets are limited, so book early to avoid disappointment.

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Purchase Your Tickets Here

Menu

Each course is paired with an Inniskillin wine.

Baby Arugula, figs, prosciutto, goat cheese, reduced balsamic vinaigrette.

Crispy Blue crab cake, mango relish, and shaved fennel.

Seared duck breast with roasted parsnip, shallots, potato and heirloom carrots in a tarragon and orange glaze.

Fresh fruit Martini with Chocolate Almond Biscotti

*There are no substitutions*

 

About Bruce Nicholson:

Bruce Nicholson

Bruce Nicholson, Winemaker, Inniskillin Niagara

Bruce Nicholson joined Inniskillin Wines, Niagara-on-the-Lake as Winemaker on January 1, 2007, after an outstanding career in the Okanagan where he was Senior Winemaker for Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Estate in British Columbia.

Born and raised in Ontario’s leading wine region, the Niagara Peninsula, Nicholson was intrigued by the winemaking industry from an early age. After studying Sciences at Ontario’s Ryerson University and University of Windsor, Nicholson apprenticed in winemaking in Niagara before heading out to Western Canada. Ironically he approached Inniskillin Co-Founder Karl Kaiser in his first attempt for a job in the Niagara wine industry. As fate would have it, that job did not materialize, and now Nicholson has come full circle to lead Inniskillin’s winemaking team following Kaiser’s retirement in 2006.

Recognized for his broad skills and talent, Nicholson was selected to lead Jackson-Triggs Okanagan Winery in 1993, and has since been credited for creating its award-winning Okanagan VQA wines. He has gained considerable recognition in the international arena as well as leaving an indelible mark in the history and growth of the British Columbia wine industry.

When the opportunity presented itself, Nicholson was eager to apply his experience and skills in Niagara leading the Inniskillin Winemaking Team which includes Assistant Winemaker Marc Pistor and thirty year veteran Cellar Master J.R. Patterson. Nicholson’s wines are both distinctive and defined. He is dedicated to his career goal of staying true to the individual characteristics of the varietals while ensuring that it reaches its maximum potential. He pays attention to both the Science and the Art of winemaking, commenting, “I enjoy working with the good acidities here in Niagara and I believe the potential is endless.”

About Graffiti’s

SEE and BE SEEN at the newly refreshed Graffiti’s Italian Eatery, conveniently located in the Holiday Inn Kanata. The ideal choice for breakfast or casual fine dining for lunch or dinner, Graffiti’s is perfect for special occasions or meeting friends and colleagues. Featuring modern italian cuisine, Graffiti’s offers a variety of “Venetian inspired” menu selections, including our clay oven fired gourmet pizzas and focaccia flatbreads, tantalizing pastas, plus a full range of entrees including Black Angus beef selections.

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Note: Our winemaker events have been consistently and quickly selling out.  If you are interested in attending then we advise you to purchase your tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

Purchase Your Tickets Here

 

 

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Vintages Preview for April 12th 2014 (Part One)

Dried Grape Wines Back in the Spotlight
by John Szabo, with notes by Sara d’Amato

Judging by the recent flurry of releases, first from Ontario (see the February 15th release) and now from Italy, appassimento wines – made from grapes partially dried before fermentation – are a hot commodity. April 12th puts the Veneto, the world’s reference region for dried grape wines, in the spotlight, with VINTAGES offering a competent selection of both traditional and modern styles of ripasso, Amarone and other IGT blends. I offer a half-dozen recommended wines, including three Amarones, loosely categorized by style. Sara d’Amato adds her picks, and we have dug up a handful of Ontario examples still in stock at VINTAGES. The rest of the highlights for the April 12th release will reach your inbox next Thursday.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The Veneto region in Italy’s northeastern corner is the epicenter of production of appassimento wine. The term, derived from the Italian verb appassire, to wither or dehydrate, refers to wines made from grapes that are partially dried before being pressed and fermented. Cassiodoro, minister to King Theodore of Ravenna (in today’s Emilia-Romagna), described the technique in meticulous detail in the early 6th century, and the wine he references, acinaticum, is the archetype for today’s Recioto della Valpolicella.

Cassiodoro recommended hanging grape bunches on metal hooks from the rafters in a draughty barn, ensuring that each bunch was kept separate and well ventilated, lest unwanted rot set in. But while this romantic image of withering grapes in old barns with open windows may still be conjured up by the mention of Amarone or Recioto, modern appassimento methods resemble more research laboratory than medieval farmhouse.

Appassimento from Sordato.it

Appassimento from Sordato.it

Speak to Amarone producers today and they’ll tell you about dehydration and metabolic kinetics, and the interaction of withering time and speed on wine composition. The metabolic changes that occur during drying – malic acid degradation, oxygen consumption and CO2 production, the formation of various alcohols, acetic acid and aromatic compounds like terpineol (floral, lilac perfume) are far better understood than Cassiodoro could have ever fathomed. Most estates have laboratory-like temperature and humidity controlled drying rooms, with ventilators that run continuously, not just when the evening breezes pick up, so that precise characteristics can be sought. Such a highly prescribed appassimento process yields a much cleaner, more reliable product than even just a few decades ago, with far less loss due to rot and other cryptogrammic diseases. Amarone drinkers rejoice, unless of course you had a penchant for the funky old days.

Here in Ontario, appassimento is gaining in popularity, with at least ten wineries now experimenting with dried grape wines, as well as one each in Nova Scotia and Québec. These numbers will surely swell when The Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) at Brock University reveals the results of an ongoing, in-depth research project in partnership with industry to evaluate and compare different appassimento techniques, now in its 4th of five years. Ontario may be poised to become the second epicenter of appassimento.

CCOVI Greenhouse

CCOVI Greenhouse

Using cabernet franc from one vineyard, CCOVI is comparing the results of drying grapes (to 26º and 28º brix) in a barn with windows and fans (at Cave Spring), in a re-purposed tobacco kiln with a propane heater and fans (at Reif Estate), in a greenhouse (European Planters in Niagara-on-the-Lake) and using a specialized drying chamber developed by Vineland Research Station CEO Jim Brandle and bio-systems engineer Bernard Goyette in conjunction with Graham Rennie of Rennie Estates and John Young of Kew Vineyards and Angels’ gate.

A trial was also initiated this year to answer the age-old question of whether noble rot (botrytis), at least in small percentages (up to 10%), is desirable, while a promising yeast strain, isolated at Brock from the skin of Icewine grapes, is being tested to see if levels of acetic acid and acetone – two regular but unwanted features of appassimento wines – can be naturally reduced.

Sensory evaluation of the resulting wines is underway and will be compared to the wine made from control grapes left on the vine to ripen to the same level, as well as to wine made from the same fresh grapes.

“It’s already clear that each technique brings different results”, says research director Dr. Debbie Inglis. “Even grapes dried off the vine continue to undergo biochemical activity, meaning that there’s more than just dehydration (water loss) going on”. Glycerol increases and acids decrease at different rates according to treatment, and each variety will surely bring its own set of curves to the graphs.

In the end, CCOVI’s goal is simply to quantify the differences of the various techniques, not to say which makes better wine or which grapes to use. “We will give winemakers the information of what happens and how much it costs so they can decide which works best for them. It’ll be up to the industry to determine which style of wine they’d like to pursue” continues Inglis.

COVVI is also in discussions with the VQA technical committee, with the ultimate goal of assisting in developing industry standards, though anything formal is still years away.

In the meantime, get your appassimento fix with these recommended wines from the ancestral home, coming to you on April 12th at VINTAGES.

Traditional Style

Think of these as the more savoury, rustic, earthy styles, for fans of traditional European wines.

Bertani Villa Novare Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2010 Michele Castellani Colle Cristi Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2008Brigaldara Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2009 2009 Brigaldara Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico ($49.95). The Cesari family purchased the villa and surrounding lands that is now Brigaldara in 1929, though wine has only been made here since 1979. The sensibility is, however, firmly old school, as this dried fruit, nuts, herbs and pot pourri-scented Amarone reveals. There’s even a pleasantly earthy, underbrush/dried peach note reminiscent of late harvest/botrytis affected wines (possible?), nicely balanced by the typical bitter dark chocolate flavours of classic Amarone. Not at peak yet to be sure, this should hit full stride within the next 5-7 years or so.

Michele Castellani 2008 Colle Cristi Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico ($45.95). This is a relatively light and delicate, savoury, old school example of Amarone from Castellani’s Cà del Pipa vineyard in the heart of the Classico appellation, with loads of charm and great balance. Tannins are fine and dusty, almost but not fully resolved, so tuck this away for another 2-4 years minimum for maximum enjoyment.

Bertani 2010 Villa Novare Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore ($19.95). Bertani, formerly known as Villa Mosconi, is credited with labeling the first bottle of Amarone in 1940. It’s not surprising then that this storied house produces an arch-traditional example of ripasso, and all the more complex and interesting for it. The palate is firm and juicy, wonderfully balanced, coming across as neither excessively raisined nor simple and fruity – the way old school ripasso should be. Best 2014-2020.

Balancing Tradition with Modernity

These wines manage a fine balance of clean, bright fruit alongside more traditional savoury flavours in a style that should appeal broadly.

Zeni Costalago 2012 Tommasi Crearo Della Conca d'Oro 2010 Zenato Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2009 Zenato 2009 Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico ($49.95). Zenato’s Amarone offers substantial caramelized fruit, herbal liqueur, bitter chocolate and spent coffee ground type flavours – in other words, complexity comfortably above the average, while the palate is thick, rich and viscous, densely knit, with superior concentration and length. Overall this is a fine bottle of wine, which will continue to evolve and improve over the next 4-7 years no doubt, and hold into the late ’20s without a stretch.

Tommasi 2010 Crearo Della Conca d’Oro ($19.95). Though labeled as an IGT Veronese, this wine hails from the heart of the Valpolicella Classico zone in what’s referred to as the Conca d’Oro, the golden amphitheater with its volcanic clay soils referred to locally as crearo. It’s the addition of cabernet franc to classic corvina and local oseleta that takes this out of the traditional appellation. In any case, the wine is quite fine, fresh, supple, succulent and balanced, with a fine mix of both fresh and raisined fruit, dried herbs and flowers and gentle baking spice. Complexity is above the mean, and I’d say this will continue to evolve and gain interest over the next 2-4 years and beyond. Best 2014-2020.

Zeni 2012  Costalago, IGT Rosso Veronese ($15.95). Of the entry level appassimento wines on offer this release, this blend of corvina, corvinona, plus cabernet and merlot is the smartest buy. It’s a nice mix of modern and traditional, fresh and gently raisined fruit, retaining an inviting liveliness and juiciness. Length and depth are modest, though appeal is broad. Best 2014-2017.

Sara’s Appassi-Picks

Tenuta Sant’antonio 2010 Selezione Antonio Castagnedi Amarone Della Valpolicella ($43.95). Four brothers, 50 hectares of vineyards and a heck of a lot of experience are responsible for this very good value Amarone named after the late Castagnedi patriarch. Here is a wine with the structure, presence and intensity you would expect from a wine of this style. Put away for another 3-5 years for best enjoyment.

Monte Zovo 2011 Sa’ Solin Ripasso Valpolicella ($17.95). A polarizing wine – ripe and rich but with more depth that character than immediately meets the tongue. I absolutely loved the notes of cherry, bramble, sandalwood, dried leaf, tobacco, plum, and wild blackberry that came to life on the palate. Its long, smoky finish proved sensual and compelling. I’ve tasted this vintage twice now over the span of two years and continue to derive great enjoyment from its lush and penetrating flavours. At this price, it is worth a gamble.

Tenuta Sant'antonio Selezione Antonio Castagnedi Amarone Della Valpolicella 2010  Monte Zovo Sa' Solin Ripasso Valpolicella 2011 Tedeschi Amarone Della Valpolicella Classico 2009  Zenato Ripassa Valpolicella Superiore 2010

Tedeschi 2009 Amarone Della Valpolicella ($39.95). Tedeschi’s style has been on the thick and sweet side of the Amarone as of late and certainly modern. I tend to shy away from this overt and filling style and so I was delightfully surprised to taste this latest incarnation from the 2009 vintage. It is bold and appealing but also feminine, floral and with a plethora of distinct flavours that can be progressively discerned. Widely appealing and deservedly so.

Zenato 2010 Ripassa Valpolicella Superiore ($25.95). Finally, Zenato’s Ripassa struck a chord with me. This is an expensive Ripasso, as the style goes, but one which consistently over-delivers for the price. The elegant vintage showed some real restraint on the palate and a judicious use of oak that was quite welcome among many flaming examples in this feature. A smart buy.

Ontario’s Appassimentos

The following appassimento reds made in Ontario are also still in stock at VINTAGES. Click the links to read full reviews.

The Foreign Affair 2011 Dream, Niagara Peninsula ($28.95)

The Foreign Affair 2009 Temptress, Niagara Peninsula ($44.95)

The Foreign Affair 2012 The Conspiracy, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95)

Burning Kiln 2012 The Strip Room Merlot/Cabernet Franc, Ontario ($24.95)

Marco Piccoli, Jackson-Triggs

Marco Piccoli, Jackson-Triggs

Speaking of Ontario, you might want to buy one of the few remaining tickets for this week’s Winemaker’s dinner. David Lawrason and Jackson-Triggs winemaker Marco Piccoli will guide you through a select offering of Jackson-Triggs wines, each paired with a specially prepared gourmet dish at EPIC restaurant in Toronto. Marco will speak about the unique viticulture and terroir of the Niagara region and talk about some of the history behind one of Niagara’s most iconic wineries. Find out more here.

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo MS

John Szabo, MS

From the April 12, 2014 Vintages release:

Wines of Veneto
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find our Critic’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Château St. Jean Fumé Blanc 2011


Fortessa Canada Inc.

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Ontario Wine Report: Cuvée 2014 and Brock’s Experts Tasting

This is the first of our monthly reports on Ontario wine by WineAlign’s Ontario-based critics.  Both Sara d’Amato of Toronto and Janet Dorozynksi of Ottawa attended the ever-growing Cuvée and Experts Tasting events earlier this month and file their reports. It was announced during this year’s event that Brock University’s CCOVI program will be managing this event going forward, with proceeds going into wine industry training and research programs.

Cuvée Winemakers Showcase Their Best
by Sara D’Amato

Cuvee 2014Set in the Grand Ballroom of the Niagara Fallsview Casino, this 26th anniversary of Cuvée event showcased wines from 41 different Ontario wineries and a solid group of critically acclaimed Chefs. What was particularly exciting for guests of this annual event is that they are afforded the opportunity to fraternize with all of the participant Winemakers and Chefs. In addition to the Gala event on the night of February 28th, “Cuvée en Route” allowed pass-holders to take advantage of “red carpet” or exclusive tastings at the individual wineries all through.

This year’s Gala followed last year’s format which allowed winemakers to choose only a single wine per winery to showcase at the event (despite some grumbling that the wines were not always chosen by the winemaker). Regardless, I’ve warmed up to this approach for a number of reasons. One wine per winery is much easier to conquer and keep straight – let’s face it, not all of us are critics who are spitting at this event. In addition, this format allows the winery to put its best foot forward and to showcase wines that often get overlooked, expressing some personality along the way. Finally, the atmosphere feels less competitive and much more convivial as it is free of the constrains of awards and “best of” categories of years past.

I did very much enjoy the amped up décor, grandiose feel and terrific food this year which included the likes of Chef Erik Peacock’s Lamb Belly Man Tao (who subsequently was awarded a Promote the Promoters Award at CCOVI’s Experts Tasting). Such offerings certainly deserve a resplendent setting – not to mention the lovely company, dressed to their nines. But enough about style and backdrop and on to the wines . . .

Cuvee 2014It’s no wonder so many producers chose to showcase their 2010 reds at Cuvée this year, as it was a warm, near perfection year for darker hued wines. But reds were not the only stars of the show – pinot gris was shockingly good. Chardonnay was also striking and both pinot noir and sauvignon blanc made a strong presence.

Despite some minor variation, the wines largely showed very well and the choices were smartly made by the wineries. I would have loved to taste every offering, but unfortunately conversation and a real time impediment always seems to prevent such a monumental task. It was great to see so many WineAlign members at the event as well. And I extend a special thank you to Dan Trcka from Grape Selections who has shared his photos with us. (You can view more of Dan’s Cuvée pictures and his event summary at: http://grapeselections.com/cuvee-2014/ )

All WineAlign Critic and member reviews of the winery offerings can be found on under the tag: Cuvée 2014.

Stratus Red 2010 ($110- magnum) This awe-worthy offering from the hands of J-L Groux at Stratus is a wine of immense complexity and impact. Still young and a bit tight, the palate shows notes of wild dried herbs, rose petal, black fruit, vanilla, cedar and tobacco. Elegant, balanced and superbly knit. This rich tapestry of flavour set on a sophisticated and carefully coaxed structure is sure to provide enjoyment over the next half decade and more. Harmonious and brilliantly integrated are the hallmarks of J-L’s assemblages.

Cuvee 2014Lakeview Cellars 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Niagara, Ontario ($29.95) A gold medal winner in the National Wine Awards of Canada, this rich, ripe and highly gulpable cabernet sauvignon is a testament to the fact that we shouldn’t give up on this varietal in Ontario. In a warm, favorable vintage such as 2010, cabernets can be showcased proudly as a single varietal bottling. Notes of blackberry, a little bramble and pepper make up the palate bolstered by firm tannins. Acidity is mild but present and pleasantly balances the wine.

Ridge Road 2013 Pinot Gris ($16.95) A mere six weeks in bottle and this lovely pinot gris is already starting to show its colours – literally speaking it is a pretty pink hue (as the skins of this grape are actually pink) but also boasts a really sensual aromatic profile that includes notes of peach, honeysuckle and rosewater. Just off-dry, elegant and nicely balanced. Medium-bodied with a food friendly attitude. Notes of fresh green herbs linger on the finish. Relatively new to the scene, Ridge Road came to be a winery in its own right in 2009 on a 100-year-old established vineyard site on the western extremity of the Niagara region in Stoney Creek.

Calamus 2013 Pinot Gris ($16.95) It would appear that 2013 was a terrific vintage for Ontario pinot gris. Here is a wonderful example of such elegance of this cool climate style – Alsatian in feel with just a touch of sweetness. Creamy with notes of peach, pear, honeysuckle and white pepper. Mid-weight with great balanced. Pretty, lingering and honest.

Peninsula Ridge “Wismer Vineyard” Sauvignon Blanc ($19.95) A very impressive sauvignon blanc from the superb Wismer vineyard site. This harkens back to the days of Jean-Pierre Collas when sauvignon blanc reigned supreme at Peninsula Ridge. The winery is currently under the winemaking direction of Jamie Evans who has coaxed the maximum expression from these lovely grapes and has done so with a sensitive hand. The wine is hugely aromatic featuring complex and compelling notes. The palate is impressively succulent and nervy, fresh, classically built with notes of gooseberry, lemongrass and thyme. Clean, vibrant and with terrific length and at a very fair price.

Cuvee 2014Domaine Queylus 2011 Pinot Noir Reserve, Niagara, Ontario ($45). Domiane Queylus is a unique project spearheaded by winemaker Thomas Bachelder that has taken many years to come to fruition and involved good friends with a common goal. Without sounding sentimental, there is a great deal of love in this bottle. An impressively grand pinot noir that makes a real textural impression on the palate – with a feathered tickling of the tongue, the tannins are present but unobtrusive. Classically styled in the Burgundian tradition but with Niagara feel that brings a greater juiciness and a touch more lushness to the palate. Nicely ripened, the palate features notes of cran-cherry, sweet tomato, a slight smokiness and bergamot. However, the wine evolves so quickly in the glass that more is revealed with each sip – a wine to keep in your glass throughout the evening.  Should be very interesting so feel this evolve over the next 3-5 years.

The evening came to a conclusion with Sun Media Après Cuvée Party which saw most of the guests dancing the night away with Icewine & bubbles or sampling an array of local craft beer, charcuterie and cheeses. Cuvée 2014 proved to be another terrific celebration of VQA wines with a greater sense of camaraderie and local pride than ever before. For more information visit the Cuveé website at: http://cuvee.ca/grand-tasting and maybe we can meet there next year!

The Experts Tasting at CCOVI
By Janet Dorozynski

The annual Experts Tasting at Brock University’s Cool Climate and Oenology Institute is one of the highlights of the trade tasting calendar in Ontario, with this year’s 25th anniversary edition being no exception. Each year the tasting focuses on a particular theme, for example a wine style, grape variety or a specific region/appellation in Ontario. This is my ninth or tenth year to attend this annual event and I have to say that this benchmarking exercise is always very informative and instructive. It is a means to see how wines being made in Ontario fare against one another, as well as against the foreign wine ringers that are always thrown in.  Many of the wines are from current releases or vintages but we also get to taste back vintages which show the evolution and how each wines are maturing.

Janet Dorozynski

Janet Dorozynski

This year’s tasting boasted a record attendance of over 150 members of the trade, media and wine industry, with a bus load of Toronto sommeliers brought in courtesy of Wine Country Ontario and Will Predhomme, former sommelier extraordinaire at Toronto’s Canoe Restaurant and now wine guy about town.

The 25th anniversary tasting focused on grape varieties and wine styles that are noteworthy for Ontario and we had the opportunity to taste through flights of Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and red blends from Bordeaux grape varieties. There was also the final “Wine Options” flight, based on the Australian blind tasting sport or a multiple choice test on the wines tasted, where we worked in teams to identify the grape variety, appellation, region or country of origin, vintage and price for five different wines. Sadly I wasn’t part of the winning table but we did put in a respectable showing with a final score of 85 out of a total of 120 points.

We started the tasting with a flight of Riesling “breakfast wines” with several stellar examples from Niagara and a ringer from the Finger Lakes. There were three Rieslings from Charles Baker, from the Picone Vineyard in the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation in Niagara, which is the farthest away from Lake Ontario at the top of the Niagara Escarpment and, some might say, the least forgiving in terms of climate and terrain. However, from what we tasted, Riesling seems to have found a home in this sub-appellation, with the slightly off-dry styles of Charles Baker Riesling showing great intensity, finesse and ageability.  The 2009 Riesling was especially impressive, with spicy citrus and pear notes, coupled with typical Riesling petrol notes and a long stony finish.

The Cool ABC flight, which stood for Appealing, Balanced Chardonnay, shone the spotlight on what many believe to be Niagara’s and Ontario’s signature white grape variety.  Most of the wines showed cool-climate deliciousness with good restraint of oak usage. Notwithstanding, the Kittling Ridge 2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay from Niagara Peninsula showed more generous oak with intense floral and citrus and stone fruit flavours in an overall appealing package.  And at $16.95, it certainly had many in the room wanting to have another look at a winery that was recently sold to Magnotta Wines.

Brock's Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute Experts TastingThe two red flights featured Pinot Noir and red blends, made predominantly from well-known Bordeaux grape varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  Pinot Noir, which we learned from CCOVI’s newest oenologist and scientist Belinda Kemp, is a decidedly “unfunny” (read difficult and pernicious)  grape in the flight  entitled “You’ve been Pinot’d”,  showed a range of aromatics and flavours, from light and floral red fruit flavours, to deeper, grippy dark berry flavours, depending on the vintage, site and of course, winemaker.  A contrast in styles and approach is evident between the Inniskillin 2011 Pinot Noir Reserve and Foreign Affair 2009 Pinot Noir, the latter comprised of 40% appaissimento or dried berries in the blend, resulting in dense dark fruit and intense flavours, while the former showed very enjoyable but leaner red berry and current flavours with fresh acidity and a long chalky finish. Most of this Pinot flight, and in fact, many of the wines tasted, were very good indeed, with many showing the range and diversity of Ontario wines.

The red blend flight put the question to the tasters – “are we on the right track?” and had us determining if Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc or Merlot was the dominant grape in the blend. With Merlot comprising the  dominant majority in a number of the blends, notably the Konzelmann Heritage Reserve 2012, Trius Red 2011 and Truis Grand Red 2010, which showed juicy and dense dark fruit, with the slightest hint of bell pepper flavours that could be coming from the Cabernet Franc or Sauvignon,  or from the Merlot itself.  The 2004 Meritage from Creekside Estate Winery and  2002 Henry of Pelham Reserve Cabernet Merlot, both showed remarkably lively flavours and intensity and are proof that Ontario red blends can be worthy of ageing.

The final “Wine Options” flight featured all the above varieties and red blends with a Lake Erie North Shore Syrah thrown in, an experimental bottling called North Shore Project, which is collaboration between Hinterland Wines in PEC and Will Predhomme, with fruit sourced from the vineyards of Colio Estates. The goal is to put LENS or Ontario Syrah on our radar and judging from this example, Syrah has a bright future in Ontario’s southern-most appellation.  Next year’s Expert’s tasting will focus on significant wine styles and emerging grape varieties in Ontario and I’m sure will prove as equally interesting as this year’s tasting.

In addition to an instructive tasting, the winners of the Promote the Promoters Awards were given out to recognize those who promote, in an exemplary manner, VQA wines in Ontario. This year’s winners included William Mancini, a product consultant from Toronto and a posthumous award to the LCBO’s David Churchill in the LCBO category; Erik Peacock, from Wellington Court Restaurant in the category of Hospitality; Shawn McCormick of UnCorkOntario.com in the category of Promoter-at-Large; Lloyd Schmidt, viticulturist and Canadian wine pioneer for Lifetime achievement and to Wine Align’s VP of Wine, David Lawrason in the Media Category.  For more information on the Award winners and a complete list of the wines tasted at this year’s Expert’s Tasting see here: http://www.brocku.ca/ccovi/outreach-services/experts-tasting

Editors Note: You can find our Critic’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


 

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Lawrason’s Take on Vintages January 4 Release

Must Buy Reds Under $20, Ontario Winners, Welcome Leaning Post

David Lawrason

David Lawrason

The first release of 2014 comes awfully early. It’s even more difficult considering the average quality therein, which is a normal occurrence in January it seems. To be fair, I have not yet tasted all the wines, and I will be finishing off next week and posting the missing notes. But so far among VINTAGES “Smart Buys” there are no really smart buys. Elsewhere in the catalogue however things improve. There are some “must buy” reds under $20, a strong contingent from Ontario, and some excellent to outstanding expensive “Flagship Store Exclusives”. And I bring you news of Leaning Post, a great new little winery that has opened its doors in Niagara.

Must Buys under $20

Domaine Tournon Mathilda Shiraz 2011, Victoria, Australia ($19.95). You may still spy stray bottles of the 2010 vintage on the shelves, which is equally good. This is a high-strung, biodynamically grown, northern Rhône styled shiraz from the inland hills of Victoria. What makes this wine so vital and in some ways intriguing is that there is no barrel ageing involved – the straight goods, edgy and authentic. Domaine Tournon is a project by Michel Chapoutier of the Rhône Valley, one of the star winemakers who will be attending the 2014 Vancouver International Wine Festival at the end of Feb.

Domaine Tournon Mathilda Shiraz 2011Zonte's Footstep Avalon Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2010Monte Del Frá Bardolino 2012Zonte’s Footstep Avalon Tree Cabernet Sauvignon 2010, Langhorne Creek, South Australia ($17.95). This is from a vineyard on the shores of Lake Alexandrina at the mouth of the Murray River. From here it’s a hop, skip and jump to the Southern Ocean, indeed salt water once and still occasionally backs into the fresh water lake through a narrow channel. I mention this because of a saline scent I pick up in this otherwise surprisingly rich, vibrant and long finishing cabernet. The winery website addresses this flavour length by saying “This wine hangs about after you have tasted it for so long it seems almost self-defeating”. We’ll let you ponder that awhile.

Monte Del Frá Bardolino 2012, Veneto, Italy ($13.95). At this price I will personally be buying a few bottles of this lovely, fresh and mellow red to sock away for summer al fresco drinking. It is sourced from sloped, moraine soils above Lago di Garda near the village of Custoza. The winery controls over 140 ha in the region, paying attention to “agronomic (organic)” practices and going for lowish yields to extend flavour depth. This is a true bargain.

Niagara Buys

Malivoire Guilty Men Cabernet Merlot 2011Flat Rock Riesling 201213th Street Merlot 201213th Street Merlot 2012, Creek Shores, Niagara Peninsula ($17.95). In my opinion this is one of the best reds yet made at 13th Street, and it cranks up my anticipation for the 2012 Niagara reds still to come. It is looking to be a truly fine vintage, not just a hot/ripe one. The fruit was healthy and naturally balanced, which Jean Pierre Colas chose to celebrate by avoiding oak barrel ageing altogether. Good call!

Flat Rock Riesling 2012, Twenty Mile Bench ($16.95). Here again the 2012 vintage seems to have imparted a fine natural balance and pitch perfect ripeness, both accentuated by judicious acid-sugar balance in this barely off-dry riesling. Flat Rock has been around long enough (since 1999) to have found the handle with its maturing riesling vines. Even better the price is terrific. Great value here.

Malivoire Guilty Men Cabernet/Merlot 2011, Niagara Peninsula ($19.95). The soft touch of winemaker Shiraz Mottiar – aided by the gentle gravity flow production system – has created a light but charming young red that will drink well over the next three years or so. It’s good to see a 2011 Niagara that is not too green.

Great Red Flagship Finds

The following more expensive wines will only be found at VINTAGES larger “flagship” stores. This year the In-Store Discovery program of limited, unheralded release of small purchase wines morphs into the somewhat less enigmatic Flagship Store Exclusives program. Same idea; small lot purchases only available at the larger stores. See the complete list of wines and stores at: Vintages.com.

J. L. Chave Selection Offerus Saint Joseph 2011Punset Barbaresco 2008Kistler Pinot Noir 2011J. L. Chave Selection Offerus Saint-Joseph 2011, Rhône Valley France ($33.95). Great value in classic northern Rhône syrah from a family winery that has made wine since 1481, among the oldest lineage in France. The secret to Chave’s much heralded success appears to lie not so much in individual sites, but uncanny blending abilities. Offerus appears to be from more than one source in St. Joseph, a steep appellation Chave is rebuilding one terrace at a time.

Punset Barbaresco 2008, Piedmont, Italy ($52.95). This estate in Nieve has been in the Macarino family for decades, with Marina Macarino taking over in 1987 and moving the production to organics. This is a terrific wine indeed, a fine composite of classic flavours and structure without giving into nebbiolo’s penchant to be austere.

Kistler Pinot Noir 2011, Russian River Valley, California ($79.00). This is pricier than many might want to pay for California pinot but it is an exciting wine. This winery is best known for its pioneering work with chardonnay, but it is ramping up Sonoma pinot with four separate vineyard bottlings. This is the more basic Russian River composite, but it brushes with outstanding 95 point quality. Great energy here!

Leaning Post Opens its Doors in Niagara

Before Christmas I paid a visit to Ilya and Nadia Senchuk at their newly-opened Leaning Post Wines on Road 8 in Winona, and in a word – bravo! A new premium, terroir-focused winery is born in Niagara!

Leaning Post Wines - Open for Business

Ilya and Nadia Senchuk
Open for Business!

I was going to say a new label, but Senchuk has been producing Leaning Post as a “virtual label” since bottling his first (superbly evolving but sold out) 2009 riesling. The tiny production of riesling and pinot noir was being made at A Foreign Affair, where he is still involved, but in 2012 he moved his Leaning Post production into the re-fitted 1864 barn on his property in Winona, across the road from Puddicombe Farms. And the range expanded to include chardonnay, merlot and a soon-to-be released syrah, all from carefully purchased, single block fruit. “My goal is to expose the intriguing terroir-based differences within Niagara” he said.

Senchuk has also planted his own eight acres of pinot and chardonnay behind the barn this year on three metres of sandy, gravelly soils over a clay base. The site lies at the western apex of the Lincoln Lakeshore appellation where the distance between the lake and the escarpment face is a mere 1.5 kms, making it “very breezy” says Senchuk, which is handy for reducing rot and mildew in humid Niagara. The property is actually the easternmost within the city limits of Hamilton, and metres away, across the line in Grimsby, rises a new 150-home subdivision. “Nice of them to build a market for my wines right next door” he said, “I have already had future neighbours drop in to say how delighted they are to have a neighbourhood winery”.

Some may remember CCOVI grad Ilya Senchuk as the assistant winemaker at Daniel Lenko in his early days from 2002 to 2009. After a brief stint at Te Kairanga in New Zealand he returned to Niagara to take lead of the appassimento-driven winemaking at A Foreign Affair. And although he still thinks the appassimento style (concentrating flavours by drying grapes) has its place in Niagara for certain varieties, it is not a process he thinks applies to his pet grapes – pinot noir, chardonnay and riesling.

Ilya Senchuk

Ilya Senchuk, Winemaker

The Leaning Post Chardonnay 2012 ($35) is from the Foxcroft Vineyard in the Twenty Mile Bench appellation. Senchuk avoids racking or lees stirring his chardonnay, and the result here is a big, bright and quite powerful example with strong fruit and oak components that, in my opinion, need more integration. But the acid structure and weight are impressive.

He took a bit of a flyer with a Leaning Post Merlot 2010 sourced from the McLeary Vineyard in Twenty Mile Bench. It aged almost two years in barrel while Senchuk waited for it to “do something”, and he was thinking of selling it off. But it bloomed recently into a remarkably right-bank Bordeaux-like merlot of both finesse and power.

But clearly his primary passion is pinot noir. To date most of his pinot has come from the Lowrey Vineyard at the base of the St. David’s Bench adjacent to Ravine Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake. This is one of the warmest pockets in Niagara, and the Lowrey family of Five Rows Craft Winery have been growing pinot here for over 25 years, selling much of their production to enthusiasts like Senchuk. The Leaning Post Lowrey Pinot Noir 2010 ($38) is moving toward prime with intriguing dried herb complexity and a quite broad yet well-structured palate. The 2012 is similar if more poised, lying in barrel beside a lighter, juicier, berryish pinot from a vineyard in the cooler Vinemount Ridge appellation. Both will be released in the next month or three. He was contemplating whether to pull them out of wood as we spoke.

Senchuk is also a big fan of syrah in Niagara, and argues that Niagara is not as “cool climate” as popular opinion suggests, and that it is indeed a fine place for syrah. The stunning Leaning Post 2012 Syrah ($40 range) is ready for bottling to make his point, and will be reviewed and rated on release.

A trip to the winery at 1491 Hwy 8 in Stoney Creek, only ten minutes beyond the Burlington Skyway at the Fifty Road exit, is the surest way to purchase the wines, but they are also available via their website at LeaningPostWines.com. And you may find them in certain Ontario-wine friendly restaurants like Canoe and the Farmhouse Tavern in the Junction.

That’s it for the first release of 2014. In the next week or two watch for WineAlign reports on an Australian promotion at the LCBO, as well as a report on the Wolf Blass Cabernet Classification tasting that saw six WineAlign critics assemble in Montreal to blind taste the world’s top cabernets including all the 2009 First Growth Bordeaux.

All the best in 2014.

David Lawrason
VP of Wine

Editors Note: You can find David Lawrason’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

From the January 4, 2014 Vintages release:

David’s Featured Wines
All Reviews

Winery photos courtesy of Leaning Post Wines on Facebook


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 Villa Maria Private Bin East Coast Gewürztraminer 2012

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VQA Wines to be sold at Farmer’s Markets

A small step towards loosening the tight regulatory environment…

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

The Ontario Government announced this week that it will begin to allow sales of VQA Ontario wines at farmers’ markets across the province. Kathleen Wynne, Ontario Premier and Minister of Agriculture and Food, has been the impetus behind the move. “I’m committed to supporting this innovative industry and I encourage consumers to choose Ontario wines first. They’re local, they’re good for our economy, and they support good jobs”, says Wynne.

While the details of when and exactly how wine sales will be integrated into markets have yet to be determined, “anything that expands distribution is good” says Wine Council of Ontario president Hilary Dawson in a phone interview. “We don’t know the details yet”, said Dawson, “but this is happening. The Wine Council has received an official letter from the government to attend a meeting in January with responsibility stakeholders like the Attorney General’s Office and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario”.

Essentially, what is being proposed is an add-on endorsement to an existing winery license. Wineries are permitted to sell their wines from their own premises, and in some cases from satellite outlets. The endorsement would simply expand a winery’s retail channels to include farmers’ markets. Any concerns that this move may lead to illegal trading are thus largely unfounded. As Dawson points out, “I think most wineries will be diligent in following the rules since their full winery license is at stake.”

Most local wineries have welcomed the news. “We’re farmers after all”, says winemaker Norman Hardie. “Having local wines sold alongside local foods will only serve to reinforce the connection to our land. Besides, it makes perfect economic sense. The sale of local wines puts many times more money back into the local economy relative to the sale of imports”.

Michele Bosc, Director of Marketing for Château des Charmes agrees: “Any opportunity to have our wines more readily available to consumers is a good thing. We are especially keen on linking local food to local wine and farmers’ markets are an ideal setting to do so. The local food movement has become mainstream so now we have to work to have VQA wines also to be mainstream in the minds of Ontario consumers.”

Doug Whitty, owner of both a private farm market and 13th Street winery, has some experience in the matter and has likewise greeted the news positively. “At our own winery and farm market, we experience many more customers, especially young people, who seek to make this connection as they include Ontario VQA wines and local food as part of a lifestyle that is fun, healthy, educational and promotes sustainability”, says Whitty.

Other local wineries are more skeptical, however. “In my humble opinion this is a bone being thrown to small wineries who are having difficulty getting shelf space in the LCBO/Vintages stores and to appease the LCBO privatization lobby”, writes Harald Thiel, owner of Hidden Bench, via email.

Thiel would like to see a more significant change to the VQA retailing landscape, suggesting instead to reserve shelf space in the LCBO for “100% Ontario wines”, and restricting the sales of all non-VQA Cellared in Canada wines (or “CICs”, wines made from a blend of local and imported wines), “to only the dedicated channels of those wineries that benefit from that license [to produce import blends]”, a reference to winery-owned stores such as The Wine Rack, owned by Constellation Brands. “That was the original plan under the 1993 free trade agreement. 2003 was to be last year when both channels were to be available to CIC wineries”, reminds Thiel.

Even those who support the Wynne government’s announcement question the viability of selling their wines at farmers’ markets. “It’s hard to say if this is a good opportunity or not as there is so much regulatory work that needs to be worked out by the government. And we are such a highly regulated industry it is never a straight line,” says Paul Speck, President of Henry of Pelham Winery.

Doug Whitty agrees that it will be logistically challenging and echoes Thiel’s concerns: “there are significant costs to selling at farmers markets and these costs, coupled with limited days and hours available for retail operations within them, may limit participation. This announcement is welcome but it certainly does not address the continuing need for increased retail market access for Ontario VQA producers in the province.”

Among the many questions to be answered include which farmers’ markets will be eligible. “Obviously the government wants to avoid someone throwing up a fruit stand at the end of their driveway in order to sell wine”, Dawson tells me. There’s also the question of how space will be allocated at highly coveted markets like St. Lawrence, the Brickworks, or St Jacobs, which are already at capacity in any case.

Another hurdle is the fact that most markets open long before alcohol can legally be sold or sampled in Ontario. Will wine sales be prohibited until after 10am, and sampling until after 11am?

And even if sampling is permitted, Thiel for one doubts that farmers’ markets provide any real opportunity for premium wines, considering the sampling costs in relation to projected sales. There’s also a high risk of “depremiumization” of a brand. Most winery principals agree that offering samples of premium Ontario wine in plastic or other disposable cup on a hot, busy summer outdoor market day, for example, is far from ideal. And serving in proper glassware brings a new range of logistical challenges such as transporting, storing, and washing the glasses. “Can you imagine premium brands like Roumier, Pierre Yves Colin, Ponzi or Anthill selling at a farmers markets?” questions Thiel.

Additional considerations include whether a winery stall will be required to have hard walls, or other restrictions on the physical space imposed in order to control access to alcohol, whether wineries will be permitted to group together save on costs or gain access to markets, how wine will be shipped and warehoused, and whether a winery principal will be required to be on hand to sell (as opposed to a winery representative or hired worker), as some markets demand from their food farmers.

But, “let’s not make this too complicated,” urges Dawson. “Too many conditions will limit participation”.

Although this is viewed as a minor victory for VQA Ontario wine, it can be also viewed as a small step towards loosening the tight regulatory environment surrounding the sale of alcohol in the province. As Dawson points out: “if the government can feel comfortable doing this, than other changes are possible”.

Stay tuned for more details on this story in January 2014.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, Master Sommelier

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Sara’s Sommelier Selections – Dec 7, 2013

Flying Solo – Wine Without Food

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

One of our many roles as Sommeliers is to match food with wine in fine dining establishments in order to enhance the experience of the diner. However, Sommeliers are employed in many different ways such as a consulting in building wine lists for new or established restaurants and bars, providing insight to private collectors about the contents of their cellars, and generally helping consumers find exactly what they are looking for to enhance every occasion.

As of late, I have had requests to both pair wines to specific occasions, but more insistently to recommend wines that can be drunk on their own – i.e. do not necessitate food pairings. Although many of the wines I have recommended from previous releases could fly solo as well, here is a list of wines that can be enjoyed outside of dinnertime.

What to look for in a wine that can be enjoyed on its own? Firstly, a wine should be optimally balanced and feel harmonious. Ratios such as acid-to-sweetness, fruit-to-oak and tannins-to-fruit should be proportional such that they match intensity and are nicely integrated on the palate.

Secondly, look for wines with smooth tannins and rounded acids. Youthful rieslings that have throat-ripping acids or tough Napa cabernets are best reserved for foods that can mellow those properties, or else they need to spend some time in bottle so that the structural components can soften and integrate.

Thirdly, and perhaps counter-intuitively for some, wines work best in an aperitif/cocktail setting if they are dry or just slightly off-dry. Sweet wines are best when paired with salty, creamy or fatty foods and occasionally fruit or desserts. On their own, more than a glass or two may result in a difficult subsequent morning or, more immediately, palate fatigue.

Fourthly, a wine should be “ready to drink”, either because it has been allowed time in the bottle to mature, or it was produced deliberately for immediate consumption (a great deal of wines on the shelf fall into this category).

Conversation pieces! Wines can be icebreakers especially if they come from lesser-known regions or are made from grapes that are less common.

The final principals are reserved for those who are entertaining or a choosing a wine for a cocktail party style gathering.

Reach for a crowd-pleasing, easy-drinking wine as opposed to something esoteric, experimental or something weirdly wonderful. Often, we critics will use this language in our reviews, which should nudge you in that direction.

The last overarching consideration is affordability! With the exception of very specific circumstances, or if you have a great collection that you would like to share, most people, especially around this time of the year, are looking to stretch their dollar and get the best bang for their buck when a larger group is involved. Fortunately, there is a good deal of selection in this category. I would particularly direct you to Steve Thurlow’s 50 Best Value LCBO picks.

Here are some suggestions from today’s release that should prove most enjoyable “seule” and the reasons for why they were chosen:

De Wetshof Finesse Lesca Estate Chardonnay 2012 ($18.95)
BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Chardonnay is an incredibly versatile variety in terms of the styles and flavour profiles it can express, where it can be produced around the world and its ability to match an array of foods and situations. It is also becoming a la mode again (and arguably, was it ever really out of fashion?) I always like to have one familiar choice in a group setting as it sets people at ease right away. In addition, Chardonnay is the ultimate comfort wine, especially when lightly oak-aged, offering a touch of vanilla, warm butter, and butterscotch to compliment the warming alcohol. You also don’t have to worry too much about temperature here as much Chardonnay can often be very enjoyable even close to room temperature. So go ahead, leave it on the counter and finish off the bottle!

De Wetshof Finesse Lesca Estate Chardonnay 2012

Saltram Mamre Brook Shiraz 2010 ($26.95)
Barossa, South Australia

Wines that are big and bold are often best left on their own as opposed to pairing with food. They risk upstaging your cuisine, whereas served solo, these wines will take center stage. The only caveat is that they can be filling so if serving before mealtime or in large quantities, be wary of this. This Saltram Shiraz consistently over-delivers – it is bold and rich but not overbearing – terrific on its own.

Saltram Mamre Brook Shiraz 2010

Quinta Dos Carvalhais Duque De Viseu Red 2009 ($13.95)
Doc Dão, Portugal

A romantic comedy on the agenda or perhaps a hopeful nightcap? Wines of the Dao are my aphrodisiac and their complex, delicate flavours are perfectly suited to appreciation without food. In addition, the wines tend to be dry, concentrated but not overly tannic, so they are ideal sans-dinner!

Quinta Dos Carvalhais Duque De Viseu Red 2009

Pecan Stream Chenin Blanc 2012 ($14.95)
Wo Stellenbosch, South Africa

When I first tasted this prior to release – I immediately described it as a crowd-pleasing aperitif wine. Well-made, friendly and flavourful but not overly challenging, it will have you or your guests pleasantly satisfied and for a price that won’t break the bank. A side party tip – drinking white wine, or even just finishing with a glass of white, can mitigate the red lips/teeth and tongue problem that is oh so apparent in lively discussions at cocktail parties.

Pecan Stream Chenin Blanc 2012

Veramonte Primus 2011 ($19.95)
Colchagua Valley, Chile

Blends! Blends are often made to create a balanced wine. Many traditional blends have been established because of the grapes’ ability to compliment each other. I was particularly fond of this lush and savory blend of carmenere and syrah, which tastes a lot pricier than the tag reads.

Veramonte Primus 2011

Wishing you happy entertaining!

Sara d’Amato

From the Dec 7, 2013 Vintages release:

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find Sara d’Amato’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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Canada’s Wine & Food Culture: Something’s Missing

Rhys Pender, MW

Rhys Pender, MW

Admittedly, this article is a bit of a rant, a lot of head scratching, reflection and question asking, all blended with opinions. It is about Canadian wine and food culture, or the lack of it.

The Canadian wine and food scenes have come an incredibly long way over recent decades. Until recently there was no real Canadian cuisine, and the wine industry was set more on maximizing subsidies than making quality wine. Now there are  exciting, regionally driven, locally supported wine industries to be proud of in four provinces. However, in spite of this achievement, and wines that continue to climb higher and higher in terms of quality, there is something missing in wine and food culture in most of Canada (perhaps with the exception of Quebec). What is missing is where the two cultures come together, the understanding and, more importantly, the pairing and enjoying wine and food as one as common practice.

There are certainly many reasons why the culture of matching wine and food in Canada is not as advanced as in some parts of the world, but that doesn’t make the fact that culture is lacking any less disappointing. While chefs, farmers and the media have worked hard to build an enviable local-based Canadian food scene and passionate winemakers and grape growers have followed on from the hardworking pioneers to produce wines that are starting to be a real, and really interesting, reflection of their Canadian terroir, there has been very little crossover between the two fields. It begs the question why?

One might ask, isn’t this the job of sommeliers? Trained sommeliers, working across the country in restaurants, are doing their bit to help the cause, but their playing field is almost exclusively high end restaurants and clubs, circumventing most Canadians who can’t afford to eat out in top spots. The low end restaurants, where the Joe average can afford to eat regularly, generally have terrible wine lists, seemingly purchased purely on price, and staff who know little about the food or the wine they are serving. The customer, with little guidance, ends up settling for some large, uninspiring brand and the likely overall restaurant food and wine experience is unmemorable. It is not surprising then, when glancing at diners in a restaurant, to see so many tables going without wine altogether. There is no incentive to develop any food and wine culture in this environment. Contrast this with restaurants in most of Europe where even the inexpensive and casual places have staff who seem to know, at least, the local wines and wine is so part of the meal it is regularly included in the affordable prix-fixe menus.

pairings restaurantThe culture of pricing wine in restaurants also does little to encourage consumers to embrace food and wine pairing. Most restaurants choose to use a percentage markup system, essentially punishing their customers by taking higher profits as they order better wines. The result of this? Consumers will dumb down their purchases, ending up with a lesser quality pairing experience and no gains made to the advancement of wine and food culture. Could a flat rate per bottle not encourage greater interest and passion, not to mention maybe more bums on seats in the restaurant? Restaurants in most other western countries get by with much lower wine margins and seem to survive. I know I personally would eat out more often if wine was not so expensive.

The media, too, has done little to join wine and food, typically focusing its attentions on one area or the other. When trying, as so many media outlets seem to end up doing to survive, to become “lifestyle” publications, they generally end up doing a terrible job of covering both. Watching cooking shows in the United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand, there is always a link to wine and how it pairs with whatever has just been cooked, but in North America this is a rarity.

Why is Quebec seemingly an exception to all this? It is not only the ties to the culture of the French, the famous devourers of all things food and wine, but some stronger link to and passion about their terroir. A wine and food culture is deeply engrained not just in fine restaurants but also in the home. And a true wine and food culture can only exist when it is part of daily life, not a one off experience.

The pairing culture in Quebec seems to penetrate all walks of life. Wine lists in Montreal are loaded with food friendly, crisp and mineral whites and juicy, savoury red wines that are made for the table. Contrast this with lists in much of Canada centred around big brands and big wines that are generally the worst for successful food and wine pairings. Culture can’t be forced on us and it certainly takes time to evolve. Many of the diverse cultures who settled Canada, and made it the patchwork quilt it is today, still maintain strong food traditions. Maybe, simply, it was only the Quebecers who were settled with any wine culture?

If we want to start the cultural change for Canada’s wine and food culture to develop, more needs to be done from all angles. Some of the less expensive restaurants could benefit from some consulting and staff training to get a basic, but interesting, wine program together. I think it is fair that if a server expects to be tipped then it is fair that they should know a little bit more about what they serve, both wine and food. Media needs to help bring the culture of wine and food into the home and sommeliers and educators need to promote wine and food as a part of everyday life, not some snobby form of luxury lifestyle.

The liquor laws in Canada have certainly not helped. Provincial liquor boards and licensers have somehow managed to make buying and drinking wine feel Rhys BC storesomehow morally wrong, giving the feeling that the prohibitionists are watching, looking down their noses at you. Exorbitant percentage based markups again have the effect of dumbing down the experience. This has the effect of driving the sales to the low priced big brands, those often doing little to support or care about quality driven, terroir based wines and great food and wine experiences. And the profits are usually sent out of the country to large corporations.

What if liquor boards focused their attention on interesting, high quality, hand picked wines, had a flat per bottle markup and then trained staff to be able to share information on the wines? The result would be better experiences for the customer and lower prices in restaurants. Sales of wine might increase in all channels, helping to further a culture of quality. Unfortunately the provinces are addicted to the profits rather than building any culture.

There are some positive trends, but they always end up preaching more to the already converted. Winemakers’ dinners and programs like Gold Medal Plates help to celebrate Canadian bounty, both wine and food. The British Columbia Wine Institute has launched a Perfect Pairings program to promote the best of BC, but none of these reach regular Canadians and let them see how much benefit, both gastronomically and on a larger scale of things that matter, great local wine and food combinations can bestow.

Maybe at the end of the day regular Canadians don’t care. But if they don’t, the erosion of wine and food culture will continue, and the proliferation of increasingly dumbed down wine and food experiences will intensify. Money will flow to the big corporations and small and local will become even smaller. Hope springs from mini success stories such as the rise of organic foods and success of farmers’ markets and city gardens.

The wine world seems to be going in two ways, simplified, sweet and manipulated wines are growing their market share at an alarming rate while at the same time a counter culture of quality, terroir driven and individual wines are fighting back, winning small successes. The trick is getting these stories to the masses, getting people to care and feel good both about where they are spending their money, and discovering the joy that wine and food culture can bring. The food and wine Canada is growing and making is certainly deserving of a culture around its enjoyment.

Cheers!

Rhys Pender, MW

If you have comments on this article and other thoughts on this topic please share them below via Disqus. 

 

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Sara’s Sommelier Selections – Nov 23, 2013

Living Local over the Holidays

Sara d'Amato

Sara d’Amato

As a Sommelier and wine critic, travel is part and parcel of our life. And as the holidays approach, travel is on the agenda for many of you as well. When I travel, I always bring with a bottle of something local for my host. And with all due respect to the maple syrup industry, that particular iconic Canadian product is now available almost across the globe. Something truly unique and often unavailable across the globe, however, is a piece of local terroir – a snapshot of a particular and specific time and place which evolves uniquely over time. If you’re travelling near or far over the holidays, why not bring a piece of your home to another’s? Certainly a one-of-a-kind gift!

If the price point seems a bit higher on these recommended wines, there is good reason. This week’s release is a massive collection of high-end wines from many exceptional producers making up the “Our Finest” feature. As we approach the holiday season, consumers tend to spend a little more on wines as the occasions to entertain friends and family increase significantly. Secondly, wines at this price point are often game changers for those skeptics of local products. If entertaining at home, try pouring these wines into a decanter and serving them ‘blind’ – you are certain to surprise and impress (and what better way to make for a memorable evening). As you may have heard many times, what we do best in Canada is small, scale, high quality wine production – these should be a point of reference.

Tinhorn Creek Gewürztraminer 2012 ($24.95)
BC VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

Celebrating their 20th anniversary this year, sustainably-minded producer Tinhorn Creek has grown from humble beginnings to a 150 acre estate. Produced from relatively old gewürztraminer vines, this wine reminds me of a French woman (and pardon the generalization) who appears so effortlessly put-together. Similarly, this wine flows so seamlessly and achieves such elegant balance that it can be easy to overlook the complex layers and care that went into achieving such a result.  Highly recommended!

Food pairing: Holiday cheese platter

Tinhorn Creek Gewürztraminer 2012

Stratus White 2010 ($44.20)
Niagara On The Lake, Ontario

An iconic Niagara blend, made up mostly of semillon and sauvignon blanc with a touch of chardonnay and the aromatic viognier. Serious but also intriguing, there is no denying its deserved wide appeal. As Canada’s reputation is unfortunately taking a hit in the media, it’s time to put the focus back on what we do extraordinarily.

Food Pairing: Fried risotto balls (arancini di riso)

Stratus White 2010

Hidden Bench Estate Pinot Noir 2011 ($32.95)
Beamsville Bench, Niagara Peninsula, Ontario

A bombshell of a pinot noir – a descriptor that doesn’t often go hand in hand with such a terrific example of this varietal but this muscular pinot noir is show-stoppingly complex and quite riveting. Decant before serving as it is quite tightly wound.

Food Pairing: Pork chops stuffed with cherry and walnuts

Hidden Bench Estate Pinot Noir 2011

Stratus Red 2010 ($44.20)
Niagara On The Lake, Ontario, Canada

Such a terrific vintage for Niagara and for Stratus – the 2010 is possible the most impressive blend yet for this iconic winery. Although this is a second recommendation from the same winery, the dynamic duo in this release is too difficult to choose between. My colleagues, apparently, feel the same way.

Food Pairing: Beef Wellington

Stratus Red 2010

Palatine Hills Neufeld Vineyard Meritage 2010 ($29.95)
Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario, Canada

Neufeld vineyard continues to produce some spellbinding reds. This historic sloping, vineyard site, owned and maintained by the Neufeld’s themselves who have long been grape growers in the region is brought to life by winemaker Jeff Innes who has crafted a truly impressive blend from an exceptional year. All the pieces are in place to make this wine quite special.

Food pairing: Osso Bucco or Szechuan Beef

Palatine Hills Neufeld Vineyard Meritage 2010

Santé!

Sara d’Amato

From the Nov 23, 2013 Vintages release:

Sara’s Sommelier Selections
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find Sara d’Amato’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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We Are Drinking Canada’s Best Wines Too Soon

WineAlign’s Rhys Pender explains why our wines can age well and picks examples of successfully aged wines.The answer” he argues, “could be to follow the Bordeaux model and essentially sell futures to maintain cash flow, but it will take the market a while to have enough confidence in the wines for this to become a reality”

Rhys Pender, MW

Rhys Pender, MW

Are we drinking our best Canadian wines too early? I’m sure the majority of the best British Columbian and Ontario wines get quaffed down barely a year or two after they are bottled and I’m also sure that this is not when they show their greatest qualities. Being a young industry without centuries of tradition as to how the wines age and develop, consumers and winemakers have taken the cautious approach and underestimated the potential for the best wines to mature into something special.

It is easy enough to understand that winemakers wouldn’t want to come straight out and, at risk of appearing arrogant, say these wines will not peak for a decade when so many of the wineries are not even that old themselves. But too often producers are not giving the wines the credit they deserve. For wines to be good candidates for long ageing a few things are required, and Canadian wines have these in spades.

Why should French and Italian wines be able to age and Canadian wines not? Acidity, the great preservative, is retained naturally in Canadian wines to the point where many other world regions are openly jealous. When combined with concentrated fruit flavour and, in the case of many BC red wines, firm tannins, all the components are there for great potential in the cellar.

So knowing that the wines have the structure and the fruit to age, why aren’t consumers buying by the case and patiently waiting for the wines to evolve and mature? All that is lacking is the confidence, both from producers and consumers. There is simply not enough track record.

But as the number of wineries with 10 or more years of experience increases and the old guard is being pushed to greater and greater quality by a new ambitious band of young wine producers, confidence is starting to grow. There are more and more wines made to a high level through quality vineyard management giving intensely flavoured and structured grapes. In short, the grapes are getting better and so, therefore, are the wines. Many wineries now have enough vintages to run internal vertical tastings of their wines and the results are very positive and increasing their confidence.

Winemaking has also evolved and advanced having an impact on how Canadian wines age. In some cases, modern winemaking that fiddles and interferes with the natural composition of the must makes wines that taste approachable when young but their longevity is questionable. In other cases, respect for the fruit from vineyard through to bottle has resulted in wines more naturally balanced and concentrated and that age gracefully and interestingly.

Vintage variation, something that has been quite extreme in Canada in recent years could have an impact on the ability of wines to age but even the coolest vintages seem to develop nicely. I have had many good experiences with wines that were a little linear, light and not very generous in their youth that, after about 8-10 years, turned into something interesting, soft, balanced and very enjoyable. Riper, richer vintages also seem to age well. A Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon from the hot 1998 vintage tasted a mere baby at 10 years of age. Yet an Estate Syrah from Mission Hill from 1999 (BC’s coolest vintage on record) was still elegant and beautiful after 13 years.

How do we make the swing and get consumers to start cellaring more Canadian wine? It is going to take a lot of education and for producers to be confident and stand behind the ageability of their wines. It is too much to expect the producers to hold back the wine themselves for release at a later date (although a few places are doing this) as cash flow is always an issue and storage space at a premium. To have four, five or six vintages at different stages of their life in the cellar would cost a fortune.

The answer could be to follow the Bordeaux model and essentially sell futures to maintain cash flow, but it will take the market a while to have enough confidence in the wines for this to become a reality.

The best white grape varieties for ageing seem to be riesling and chardonnay, although chardonnay’s lifespan is shorter. Chardonnay becomes nutty, rich and soft while riesling can stay fresh for decades adding baking spice and petrol notes to all the citrus and tree fruit intensity.

Burrowing Owl Cabernet Sauvignon 2010Nichol Vineyards Syrah 2010For reds we have pinot noir, syrah and the Bordeaux varieties and blends. Merlot, known in most of the world as a soft, mellow wine is much more structured and capable of ageing as a stand-alone variety from the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys. Bordeaux blends, after a few years, start to soften in texture and complex secondary flavours start to emerge while the often overzealous tannins melt away. Pinot Noir can become amazingly gamy, earthy and full of spice while the meaty and peppery notes in syrah develop layers and layers of complexity.

When you look at the price of Canadian wines they also look like a pretty good bargain compared with other international wines that are capable of improving for a decade or more. A $35 Canadian red blend will often outperform $35 Bordeaux or other similarly priced wines from around the world.

Successful Examples of Aged Canadian Wines

Some of the successfully aged Canadian wines I’ve been lucky enough to have in the cellar or taste include a 1994 Syrah from Nichol Vineyards tasted at 16 years old. It still had life and was amazingly complex. The current vintage, 2010, should age quite well too.

Blue Mountain Pinot Noir 2011Blue Mountain Pinot Noir Reserve 2010Tasting the aforementioned Burrowing Owl 1998 Cabernet Sauvignon at 10 years of age was quite a bizarre experience as there were no signs yet of any age. The 2010 might not be quite as concentrated but should open up nicely in 6-8 years.

Even many of the less expensive Cabernet-Merlot or Merlot wines have aged favourably. Recent positive experiences with a 1996 Mission Hill Merlot at 17 years of age showed a nice, complex meaty, vegemity, spicy wine still with lots of flavour.

Pinot Noir, not surprisingly due to its crisp acidity and flavour concentration, ages very well from Canada. Old examples of Blue Mountain Pinot Noir in both the regular and reserve tier have been delicious at 10 years of age. The 2011 Pinot Noir and 2010 Reserve Pinot Noir are both very good candidates for the cellar.

A 1991 Henry of Pelham Riesling tasted just this year was very developed but still had honeyed fruit, richness and spice and was drinking beautifully.

Summerhill Cipes Ariel 1998Sumac Ridge Steller's Jay Brut Sparkling Wine 2008Sparkling wine seems a natural candidate for ageing as grapes are picked early and with high acidity. Recent tasting of older vintages (1997/1998) of Sumac Ridge Steller’s Jay Brut has shown they get more interesting over time. The 2007 and current 2008 may well do the same. Summerhill only recently released a 1998 Cipes Ariel. This enigma of a wine always receives mixed reviews but when a fresher bottle is uncorked it has endless complexity and plenty of the goût anglais for those who appreciate that style.

Quails’ Gate Stewart Family Reserve Chardonnay 2011There has been the odd anomaly too. A Quails’ Gate Family Reserve 1994 Chardonnay tasted at 14 years old was still holding on nicely. This wine had been rated highly in its youth and outlived the expectations of most chardonnays in the world. The current 2011 Stewart Family Reserve is excellent and has the intensity and acidity to age.

I could go on and on with all the positive experiences drinking older Canadian wines. There really is something unique about the structure that comes from the unique growing conditions, matched nowhere else in the world. I think it is time for people to embrace that these wines age well, producers should now be confident in recommending cellaring and consumers should start putting bottles away to experience the best of what Canadian wines have to offer.

Cheers!

Rhys Pender, MW

Editors Note: You can find Rhys Pender’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names or bottle images. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!

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John Szabo’s Vintages Preview for October 26, 2013

2013 Ontario, 2010 Bordeaux, Oregon & Top Ten Smart Buys

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, MS

There are still lots of red grapes hanging in Ontario vineyards, but producers are already talking about the quality of the vintage. I’ve canvassed growers from Niagara and Prince Edward County for a sneak preview of what we can expect from 2013. In the meantime, the annual Taste Ontario event last week provided an opportunity to taste current releases, and I share a handful of my favorites in this week’s report. The VINTAGES October 26th release features 2010 Bordeaux, heralded as a great vintage, and I’ve highlighted the best values, as well as a pair from the Oregon mini-feature and the usual Ten Smart Buys.

Top Ten Smart Buys

This week’s top ten includes a candidate for wine of the vintage in Châteauneuf-du-Pape and a gorgeous 2008 Barolo at the premium end of value; a pair of glorious fortified wines for cool weather enjoyment from opposite ends of the price spectrum, as well as brilliant white Burgundy, zesty grüner veltliner and a South Australian roussanne with complexity well above what the price category demands. See them all here.

Oregon

Elk Cove Pinot Gris 2012Evening Land Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2011Oregon is the minor feature of the October 26th release, with a handful of wines hitting the shelves. Of these, two caught my attention: 2011 Evening Land Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, ($33.95) and the 2012 Elk Cove Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley ($24.95). Canadian-born winemaker Isabelle Meunier makes the wines at Evening Land’s Oregon operation (wine is also made in California and Burgundy) with the consultation of Burgundian guru Dominique Lafon, and the wines feature elegance and finesse across the board. The 2011 is a pretty, red fruit flavoured pinot with supple but dusty tannins, succulent acidity and a marked savoury edge. This is classy stuff, for fans of old world style pinot with minerality and depth without heaviness.

I’ve recommended wines from Elk Cove in the past, one of Oregon’s oldest vineyards planted in 1977. Pinot Gris is the state’s signature white grape, and this 2012 is classically styled (in the Alsatian sense), just off-dry with fine flavour intensity and length. It would make a great match with lightly spiced fare or dishes with a sweet-sour-salty profile (think Chinese sweet-sour sauces).

2013 Ontario: “A long, Cool Season with the Potential For Excellence”

It’s of course premature to make any definitive statements about a vintage that isn’t even finished yet, but if you believe in the adage that great wines are made in the vineyard, then the majority of the work is done, and the initial reports are highly positive. Growers still have their fingers crossed for fine weather to bring the later ripening reds like cabernet sauvignon and syrah to full ripeness, but with much of the harvest already fermenting, there are smiles about.

Niagara Peninsula

“Overall, 2013 resembles 2011 and 2009. It was a bit cooler than ’11 and a bit warmer than ’09”, reports Tom Penachetti from Cave Spring Vineyard. “Riesling is still a work in progress, but appears to have the potential for true excellence, with great balance of sugars and acids and very complete flavour development. And Cabernet Franc is also shaping up beautifully. If all goes well, the wines will be ripe and aromatic, with a good balance of tannin and ripe yet still bright fruit character”, says Penachetti. And even more good news is that there will be plenty of wine to go around: “Yields are larger than average, like in 2011, but the flavours are complex and quality excellent.”

Paul Pender of Tawse is equally enthusiastic: “I am loving what’s coming out of the 2013 vintage. It’s definitely my kind of vintage. The longer, cooler growing season has produced some remarkable flavours in the Pinot, Chards and Rieslings. Acids are great and alcohols moderate”, he says.

Full flavour development alongside moderate alcohol levels, at least for white varieties, seems to be a common thread across the province, a feature that I find particularly exciting about 2013. Rob Power from Creekside Estate confirms: “the whites have great flavour intensity and classic Niagara acidity. This physiological ripeness was not matched by super-high grape sugars, so the wines will have good old-fashioned alcohol levels in the low 12s.” Bruce Nicholson of Inniskillin agrees on the strength of the whites: “Aromatic whites look very good with the help of some nice September sunshine”.

Growers were initially concerned about the late start to the growing season – bud burst came a couple of weeks later than the average – though warm weather in June, and additional warm periods again in August and September allowed grapes to catch up. And while there was a lot of precipitation during the growing season, according to Penachetti, “it came in short bursts and was never followed by hot, humid weather. Instead, it was almost always brisk and sunny after the rain, which minimized disease pressure and allowed for quick drying”.

It remains to be seen how the later reds will fair. “We are enjoying a great fall that has helped us catch up with a cool summer, but patience is still the name of the game this year especially for reds”, cautions J-L Groux of Stratus, well known for harvesting his reds into November even in warm years. “We now have great Chards, Sauvignon Blanc, Gewurztraminer, and Rieslings in the winery but reds will be a November affair”. Michèle Bosc of Château des Charmes is optimistic: “thus far we have been delighted at the maturity of the fruit, and if the forecast is to be believed we could be equally as delighted with the late reds as we are with the whites/early reds.”

Prince Edward County

In Prince Edward County where virtually all varieties (early ripening grapes like pinot noir and chardonnay) have been picked, Rosehall Run’s Dan Sullivan reports a more challenging growing season. Frequent disease pressure required attentive canopy management, but Sullivan has similar enthusiasm regarding quality, thanks to a late season period of warm, dry weather. “Although the year started late with a bud break 10-14 days later than 2012, the season really picked up speed and the generally glorious weather over the last month has made the vintage” he says. Bruno François of The Old Third describes conditions in September and early October as “absolutely perfect for viticulture”.

The ever optimistic Norm Hardie makes the claim that 2013 is “the best yet”, while Sullivan, although reluctant to make as definitive a prediction, states that “it’s fair to say we expect the 2013 vintage to be very good to excellent. Our Chardonnay and Pinot (667 clone in particular) are some of the best I’ve seen in my 10 crushes at Rosehall Run.”

Stay tuned, and join winemakers in a little prayer for sun.

Taste Ontario

While we’re waiting for our first tastes of the 2013s, here are some recommended current releases available at the LCBO or direct from the winery:

Henry Of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc De BlancCharles Baker Riesling Ivan Vineyard 20122012 Charles Baker Wines Charles Baker Ivan Vineyard ($27.00)

Baker has done a fine job with the Ivan Vineyard in 2012, the best from this site to date. He seems to have coaxed an extra dimension of minerality from the vines while maintaining freshness, vibrancy and verve. I like the palpable astringency, from low yielding vines and genuine concentration no doubt, capturing the ripeness of 2012 without any hint of heaviness or sweetness. The finish lingers on admirably. This might just give the generally superior Picone Vineyard bottling a run for the money this year. Best now-2020+.

2008 Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Carte Blanche Blanc de Blanc ($44.95)

A fine, tight, bracing, dry bubbly that takes its place alongside the best of the province, but patience required. The 2008 is considerably more tart, lean and austere then the inaugural 2007, accurately reflecting the far cooler vintage conditions, and I suspect this will continue to age, and improve, slowly in the bottle and ultimately outlast the first edition. I’d tuck this in the cellar for another year or two minimum to allow some softening and evolution.

Fielding Estate Cabernet Franc 2011Rosewood Select Series Semillon 20122012 Rosewood Estates Winery Select Series Semillon ($18.00)

The 2012 Semillon from Rosewood steps it up a notch (or two) from the 2011, offering considerably more ripeness and depth, with fruit moving into the tropical spectrum: pineapple, melon, and guava. There’s also a fine blast of fresh lime-citrus to freshen up the ensemble, along with a plush and flavour-rich mid-palate. A top-notch effort from Ontario with this rather rare and difficult grape, but one that proves that it can be done in the right sites with the right handling.

2011 Fielding Estate Winery Cabernet Franc ($21.95)

Fielding delivers a classic cool climate cabernet franc in 2011, complete with fresh cut grass, wet hay, damp earth and roasted green pepper. Wood has been used to good effect to fill in some flavour gaps, adding its smoky, spicy, meaty nuances, while the palate is medium-full, fresh and lively, with firm dusty tannins but more than enough fruit and other flavours to see this through to positive evolution. Best after 2015.

2011 Thomas Bachelder Lowrey Vineyard Pinot Noir, St. David’s Bench ($53.95)

Bachelder’s 2011 Lowery Vineyard pinot from one of the oldest pinot sites on the escarpment offers a delightful nose of cinnamon-spiced cherries and cranberry chutney, ably integrating old barrel spice with fine fruit concentration in this challenging vintage. I think he’s nailed this one on the head with the supple, rich texture, yet structured palate, with moderate tannins fully enveloped in fruit extract. The length and flavour depth are also exceptional. Lovely wine, for drinking now, or hold up to a half dozen years or so.

Malivoire M2 Small Lot Gamay 2012Lailey Cabernet Franc 20112011 Lailey Vineyard Wines Cabernet Franc ($25.00)

Here’s a fragrant pure, complex and inviting wine from Derek Barnett that surpasses expectations for the price category. There’s a fine mix of high-toned red and black fruit, floral, fresh tobacco leaf and delicate baking spice nuances that come together nicely. The palate delivers substantial flavour and length on a light to mid-weight frame, with lively acids and fine-grained tannins. Terrific length for the money.

2012 Malivoire Wine Company Small Lot Gamay ($19.75)

An arch-typical, zesty, cold cream and tart red berry-flavoured gamay from specialists Malivoire, whose gamays are, year in and year out, among the best in the country. I love the bright, crunchy currant and pomegranate flavours, the black pepper and the saliva-inducing acids. Fine length, too. Well worth a look for fans of the grape/genre.

Bordeaux 2010

There is much hype surrounding the Bordeaux 2010s, which along with 2009 and 2005 are considered the best vintages of the last decade, if not the last thirty years. For a more comprehensive view, see Sara d’Amato and Julian Hitner’s posting from February of this year.

To sum up, the 2010s are tight, firm and unyielding. Compared to the 2009s, they are downright austere. Indeed, 2010 couldn’t be more different than 2009. Whereas the 2009s are all about plush fruit and supple tannins in an immediately seductive style, 2010 was an extreme, drought-ridden growing season influenced by the El Niño weather pattern. A cool August and September kept acidities high, while water stress resulted in shriveled berries, robust tannins, high alcohol and big concentration overall. In a positive light, these are wines that will age slowly over the long term. But for all but the most basic bottles, forget about them for at least half a dozen years.

There are just under a dozen 2010s to be released on October 26th, all under $30 and mostly from satellite appellations, so it’s not a representative collection of the top stuff. But it’s enough to get a sense of how austere and unfriendly some wines are. Raisined fruit flavours were a frequent feature, along with high alcohols (15% alc Bordeaux?) and the occasional exaggerated use of wood flavour. But to be fair, I’d say that it’s a tough period of evolution in which to be tasting these, and I had the sense that many wines, even at entry price points, were going through a ‘dumb’ (non-expressive) stage. It will be fascinating to follow them as they age.

Here’s a short list of the Château that seemed to have managed the stress well, yielding balanced, albeit well structured wines. Click to read full reviews, and note the recommended drink from and to dates.

2010 Château Rahoul, AC Graves ($29.95)

2010 Château De Maison Neuve, Montagne Saint-Émilion ($19.95)

2009 Château Reynon, AC Premières Côtes de Bordeaux ($23.85)

2010 Château La Couronne, AC Saint-Émilion Grand Cru ($24.95)

2010 Château Doms, AC Graves ($17.00)

John Szabo, A Master Class

I hope you can join me at the Gourmet Food & Wine Expo for an insider’s tour through the world of wine. I’ve selected an outstanding lineup of up-and-coming grapes, regions, producers and styles – the stuff you wouldn’t likely know about unless you are immersed in the wine trade – that are ripe for discovery. Pick up some tips on how to taste, serve and pair wine and food like a master sommelier along the way. See more details and get your tickets here.

That’s all for this week. See you over the next bottle.

John Szabo, MS

John Szabo, Master Sommelier

From the October 26, 2013 Vintages release:

Top Smart Buys
Bordeaux Selections
All Reviews

Editors Note: You can find John Szabo’s complete reviews by clicking on any of the wine names, bottle images or links highlighted. Paid subscribers to WineAlign see all critics reviews immediately. Non-paid users wait 30 days to see new reviews. Membership has its privileges; like first access to great wines!


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