Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Report from: Austrian Annual Wine Fair – Wednesday April 25, 2007

The Austrian Wine Fair reminded me very much of the Greek Show I recently attended … though not in wine style: the Greeks do more reds while the Austrians are more white oriented; instead its the way we get them (or don’t get them) here in Ontario. In Austria they are making some very good wines, heck I would say some great wines, and most of them represent good value at that. As I was thumbing through the wine guide that I was presented with upon arrival (a list of the wines being poured with space from tasting notes), my initial perception was that over half the wines would at some point be available on LCBO shelves; because on the far right hand side of the book were the LCBO CSPC numbers, and there were quite a few wines claiming availability. But my bubble was soon burst. As I approached one of the tables I asked one of the Austrian representatives when I would be seeing their wines in the LCBO? She answered with a sad, “probably never.” When I showed her the LCBO numbers beside her listed wines she informed me, “that’s a misprint.” I learned the same thing as I went from booth to booth, table to table. Upon closer scrutiny and asking a lot of questions, I discover that less than one-quarter of the wines listed would be made available through the LCBO, some others were available through consignment, while most seem to be private order only … which, from what I gather, is a sticking point for a lot of agents, making it more difficult and complicated to get these wines.

Once again, as with the Greek show, it would seem that listing some of the great Austrian wine finds I tasted would do nothing more than tease and tempt you into wanting something you just can’t get. Suffice it to say keep your eyes on Vintages shelves for what might be coming. Check out some of the Gruner-Veltliners and Zweigelts that come through the liquor board; and taste some of the Rieslings and Blaufrankisch from Austria when you get the opportunity. Many of these wines are good values and are quite tasty, especially the Gruners, they would make great summer patio sippers by themselves or with light foods. And don’t let something like inaccessibility stop you. Oh wait, it already has. Here’s hoping we see more of these wines on our shelves soon.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Report from: Vinexx Wine Tasting – April 24, 2007

I have to admit that I had never heard of Vinexx (a wine agent based out of Hamilton) before I attended this tasting of some of the wines in their portfolio. As I walked from table to table I quickly realized that though I didn’t recognize Vinexx, I sure did recognize the wines they represent, many of which appear regularly on Vintages shelves and some on the general list. So without further ado I give you my highlights of the day’s tastings so that you can rush right out and pick some up, or in the case of upcoming wines, make plans to pick some up soon.

Starting things off was the Bailly-Lapierre Cremant de Bourgogne Non-Vintage Reserve Brut from France, a delicious blend of 60% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay and 20% Aligote made in the traditional sparkling wine method. It’s apple and toasty nose and taste were a welcome beginning to the day, and at $17.95 (750ml) or $9.95 (375ml) it represents a true bargain in sparklers at the LCBO – the half bottle is good for sharing or drinking on your own without fear of bubble-loss the next day. Coming in May (#641423). The Rose version of this wine, made from Pinot Noir and Gamay Noir (#33985), will be arriving at the same time so that you have a choice between the white and the pink. The pink has good strawberry and raspberry notes and is selling for the same price – but I think my preference is for the white.

Let’s stay with the whites for a bit and look at some the still wines. The Tinhorn Creek 2005 Pinot Gris (#530683 – now available - $18.15) is a beautiful fruit forward wine with fresh pears, lime and apricot on the nose, and a tropical fruit with lime taste. I have heard through the grapevine (so to speak) that British Columbia winemakers are trying to make Gris their grape and if this is the kind of wine they’re making with it, I say more power to them.

As everyone knows by now, New Zealand makes some of the best Sauvignon Blanc, but they’re also making a name for themselves with Pinot Noir. Today two were being poured, but only one caught my fancy, the Sherwood Estates 2005 Pinot Noir from Marlborough ($21.95 – consignment), this flavourful Pinot is available by consignment only, which means you’ll have to contact Vinexx directly (see below) … the wine is elegant and fruit driven, with an earthy, raspberry nose and more raspberry in the mouth … it’s a tasty little sucker to say the least.

Chile is all the rage these days, proving themselves to be quite adept with almost anything they put their grape-stained mitts on. The newest grape to show signs of life in Chile is Sauvignon Blanc and this Errazuriz Ovalle 2006 Panul Sauvignon Blanc is stunning, especially when you consider its $13.95 (+GST – consignment only) price tag. My notes say “very nice” in the margin, but that’s not enough to describe this one … think of grassy, grapefruit and guava notes with a slightly sweet fruit finish, though still rated as a zero on the sugar-scale, this great summer sipper has a medium-short finish and is as elegant as any Sauvignon Blanc you’ll find in that price range. If there is any justice in the world this wine would find it’s way onto every patio come the hot weather. Speaking of justice and a wine that should be on every table the red sibling to the Sauvignon Blanc, the Errazuriz Ovalle 2005 Panul Cabernet Sauvignon from Marchigue, Coastal Colchuagua, Chile, is really the wine find of the day. At $13.95, it packs a lot of wine for not a lot of coin: raspberry, cassis, allspice, menthol and eucalyptus on the nose, the taste of chocolate, red fruit and red licorice in the mouth … this award winning quaffer has taken 2 bronze and a gold at some very prestigious shows – pick this one up, you won’t be sorry (consignment only) ... and you’ll be the hit of any party, especially your own.

Flip flopping between whites and reds seems to be the way this review is going but I have one more white to showcase before carrying on with 4 reds. Fitz-Ritter 2004 Riesling Kabinett from Germany (#28498 - $16.15) is currently available and is really good value in a German Riesling. A soft nose reveals little about the wine but the taste is tropical fruit, mineral, some petrol and above all, delicious – what more can I say?

I’m going to end this tour of the Vinexx portfolio by staying in Europe for four more wines from France (3) and Spain (1). First, a Maison Sichel 2003 Chateau Labadie (#35741 – available June 2007 - $20.15) is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (43%), Merlot (50%), Cabernet franc (4%) and Petit Verdot (3%) – figs, blackberries, currants and raspberries tickle the nose, while spicy oak and black fruit dance on the tongue … it’s the wine of the month for June at Vintages and I can really taste why they chose it, good value, good wine.

France is also the home for Chateau Constantin Chevalier 2003 Cuvee des Fondateurs (#28361 - $20.15) also available in June. This one has a sweet front and mid-palate dominated by red fruits … the tannins make a late appearance in the mouth, but don’t hinder the clean finish in the slightest.

Let’s look at one more from France, Chateau D’Argaden 2003, released scheduled for May 2007 (#681643 - $17.95) offers good value in a Merlot (55%)/Cab Sauv (45%) blend. Using both new (30%) and aged (60%) oak, the wine has a complex red fruit and spice nose with good tannins integrated between black fruit and oak – Yum.

Finally we head south to Spain, where the perennial favourite, Vina Bajoz 2003 Crianza (#930438 - $15.95) is not only good value, it’s one tasty wine. Made from the tempranillo grape this wine shows black licorice and spice on the nose with mostly cherries and strawberries on the taste; buy some and take it with you to your first summer BBQ where red meat will be the staple, better yet bring two, this one will go very nicely thank you very much.

Vinexx is bringing good wines into Canada, and best of all into Vintages stores so that they are easily accessible. While they may not be a household name let’s thank them for bringing good wines at affordable prices into our households and onto our tables. Cheers.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Report from: Ontario Wine Awards Gala Dinner & Award Ceremony – April 21, 2007

Having just attended the Ontario Wine Awards Gala Dinner and Award Ceremony (held at the beautiful Queen’s Landing in Niagara-on-the-Lake), as well as being on the panel of judges for this event, I must tell you that there are some great wines being made in Ontario and some wonderful emerging wineries (new players and old guards alike). Below is a list of the Gold Medal winning wines.

A hearty congratulations goes out to Paul Bosc Sr. for winning Winemaker of the Year honours; at last one of the most glaring oversights on this prestigious list has been rectified.

And to Maleta Estate who took home Wine of the Year honours with their 2002 First Frost Last Grape American Oak-Aged Vidal Icewine.

And the Gold Medal winners are:

Sparkling Wine – (tie for Gold)
Thirteenth Street Winery 2002 Premier Cuvee
Hillebrand Estates NV Trius Brut

Dry Riesling
Calamus Estate 2005 Riesling

Sweet Riesling
Hillebrand Estates 2005 Trius Riesling Dry

Dry White Varietal
Reif Estate 2006 Chenin Blanc

Fielding Estate 2006 Gewurztraminer Reserve

Pinot Gris
Calamus Estate 2006 Pinot Gris

Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon
Peninsula Ridge Estates 2005 Fume Blanc

Oaked Chardonnay (under $20) -
Peller Estates 2004 Private Reserve Chardonnay

Oaked Chardonnay (over $20) -
Mountain Road 2003 Reserve Chardonnay

Unoaked Chardonnay
Angels Gate Winery 2005 Chardonnay

Thirteenth Street Winery 2005 Gamay Noir Reserve

Pinot Noir
Flat Rock Cellars 2005 Gravity Pinot Noir

Red Hybrid
Henry of Pelham Family Estate 2005 Baco Noir Reserve

Cabernet Franc
Marynissen Estates 2004 Cabernet Franc, Estate Bottled

Cabernet Sauvignon
Reif Estate 2002 First Growth Cabernet Sauvignon

Reif Estate 2002 First Growth Merlot

Creekside Estate 2004 Reserve Shiraz, St. David’s Bench

Cabernet/Merlot Blend - (tie for Gold)
Creekside Estate 2002 Reserve Meritage
Stoney Ridge Estate 2003 Founder’s Signature Collection Meritage

Late Harvest
Chateau des Charmes 2005 Late Harvest Riesling, Estate Bottles

Select & Special Select Late Harvest
Henry of Pelham Family Estate 2005 Special Select Late Harvest Vidal

Vidal Icewine
Maleta Estate 2002 First Frost Last Grape American Oak-Aged Vidal Icewine

Vinifera Icewine
Magnotta Winery 2004 Cabernet Franc Icewine Limited Edition

Small Crush, Dry White Award
Creekside Estate 2005 Laura White

Best Label Design
Flat Rock Cellars 2005 The Rusty Shed Chardonnay

These and many other award winning VQA Ontario wines will be poured during the Consumer Tasting Event (now known as Sip Ontario), held in the Distillery District in downtown Toronto on Tuesday June 12 … tickets are on sale now. To find out more check out, as well you can see the full list of award winners which include the Silver and Bronze winning wines.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Report from: Greek Wines Road Show – April 19, 2007

When I first started buying wine there were a few places in the liquor store that I would always visit: Chile, Australia, Spain and Greece (Canadian wine, namely Ontario, I would visit the winery for – the LCBO, for me, is a place to buy the imports). My reasons were simple: Chile because they were my first love for reds; Australia because they seemed then, as now, hip and popular and I had to know why; Spain and Greece because their price point was pretty low and the wines were always good.

Problem was Spanish and Greek wines were not and still aren’t very plentiful here in Ontario. For example, where Chile gets two large-island-shelving unit (both sides – one for reds and one for whites) and Australia takes up 4 large-islands worth of product; Spain and Greece get a miniscule one side of an island for both their reds and whites, all lumped together. That equals not a lot of choice; which is why this show was such an eye-opener. I knew the Greeks made good quality wines at exceptional prices, but not this much, and from so many rich and wonderful native grapes (both reds and whites) and a plentitude of producers. Now they are also planting and blending their native wines with more international varieties. One attendee said to me, “they’ll never sell here, the names are too complicated and tough to remember.” But what the brain can’t retain the palate will remember – though I do see his point. Grapes with names like Assyrtiko, Malagousia, Savatiano (whites); Agiogitiko, Limnio and Mavrodaphne (reds) are all tough to remember and tougher to pronounce – but they are taking their place beside Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc on the bottle labels and making more outstanding wines then I remember having, in the days when my average bottle price was under ten dollars, the Aegean Island Red at $6.90 was an awesome little quaffer back then. The prices now don’t seem to have risen substantially but the quality is even better.

Sadly many of these wines never see the light of day on the LCBO shelves. Some are consignment only, while others are just not made in enough quantity or just remains “over there” due to lack of interest (the inability for many of these grape names to catch-on). Many of the wines I tasted at the show were not available, nor were there any release dates scheduled; though might I suggest a little experiment I think you’ll enjoy. The next time you head into the LCBO (or any liquor store, Canada, the U.S., wherever) check out the Greece section and just look for something that strikes your fancy; the value to quality ratio of the wine will surprise you (e.g. a 2001 Boutari Grande Reserve from the native Xinomavro grape retailed for $18 and tasted like it should be double that price). The price and quality will make taking a chance on a bottle of Greek wine well worth it.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Report from: California Wine Fair - April 16, 2007

California … sun, surf, and sand, though now I am sure we should add wine to that list of California staples. There are proably more wines that come out of California than movies coming out of Hollywood. Doing some rough calculations in my non-math oriented, wine soaked brain after the show, I figured that with 56 pages in the California Wine Fair tasting book with approximately 2 wineries per page – if each winery brought an average of 4 wines (some more, some less, but they average out at about 4 per), you’d be looking at trying to taste approximately 448 wines. Now, if you consider these are just the ones they brought to showcase, there must be plenty more back at home in their respective tasting rooms, that’s a virtual sea of wine.

So there I was in a room filled to the brim with wine from sunny California and wondering where to begin my reporting, how do I get across the many flavours of the state of Schwartzenegger and Zinfandel, the state that beat the French at their own game in ‘76 and the state that has been accused of over-oaking their whites and under-oaking their reds? How about I start with the stuff you can get or will be able to get in the near future and move on from there.

Now (April – May):

Coming in May will be some Coastal Wine from Beaulieau Vineyards, sounds French but this stuff is pure California. Lots of great red fruit and easy drinking, at $12.99 a perfect wine for every day consumption and all BBQs … look for the 2005 Coastal Shiraz and the 2004 Coastal Cabernet Sauvignon in the general list section of the LCBO.

Cline Cellars has been a staple at the LCBO for a long time, mainly in the Vintages section – but their general list Zinfandel ($14.20 - #489278) is a real bargain for Zin fans – light, fruity with chunks for raspberries. Their Los Carneros Syrah ($20.15 - #955435) is also good value for the money – good body, excellent spiciness, you definitely get more than what you pay for in this bottle.

The Delicato Family is making a name change, shortening their name somewhat along the lines of KFC; now they want to be known as DFV (Delicato Family Vineyards). In May look for the Irony 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon ($22.95 - #25106) at a Vintages near you, it’s pretty easy to spot with its distinctive orange label … in the bottle you’ll find dark fruit flavours and ripe tannins, there’s also some full bodiedness here; all made from Napa fruit that’s been aged in French and American oak.

Finally, in the “here and now” department (May 12), pick up a few bottles of the Robert Hall Winery 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles ($29.95 - #25205), it’s my pick for best Cab Sauv of the show (Bang for the Buck wise). $29.95 is not a lot to pay for a wine of this caliber. Good vanilla and cinnamon notes, lots of red fruit (mainly cherries) and touch of apparent sweetness through the mid-palate. The Robert Hall Vineyards boast Bordeaux style soil, longest hang times and great diurnal temperature, thus getting the best fruit, and I can’t disagree after sipping on this one, it’s delicious.

Later (June & Beyond):

I’ll start the later column with my Bang for the Buck selection: Dry Creek Vineyard 2005 Heritage Zinfandel (max $19.95, may be less upon release); the sailboat label seemed like a good analogy, because I was totally blown away by this wine. A sweetish-like mid-section carried this wine through my mouth … very red fruit dominated, some chocolate, light on the tannins, good acidity, a well-balanced wine through and through. The interesting part is the old clone vines the fruit comes from. Dry Creek takes old vine buds and grafts then onto new vines, therefore you get new vines producing old fruit … get it, got it, good.

Speaking of Zinfandel, June sees the return of the Gnarly Head Zinfandel from Delicato (DFV), it’ll be wine of the month in Vintages, and the price has come down 2 bucks from last year’s offering (now $17.95). Aged in French, American and Hungarian oak the wine shows signs of strawberries, raspberries, fruit compote, plums and a fig finish – made form 35-80 year old vines.

The Trinchero Family has a wine name that is sure to cause a stir at your next party if you use it at just the right time. Be prepared to pipe up and say, “Who’s up for a Manage a Trois? Red or white?” Both will be available for $18.95 on July 21st in Vintages. The white is a blend of Chardonnay, Muscat and Chenin Blanc, it has great playful peachy notes. The Menage a Trois red in Zinfandel heavy with Merlot and Cab Sauv in the supporting roles, lots of red fruit, chocolate and cherries here. Yummy!

Finally, if you can wait till July and beyond you’ll be able to get your hands on some sinfully good wine from Michael-David Winery. The 7 Deadly Zins is back – pepper and spice backed up by red fruit forwardness and a zip of acidity, all for $24.95. That should tie you over till the next wave come along … so be on the look out for 6th Sense Syrah ($24.95) with its spicy black fruit character (no release date yet). And speaking of character, the Lone Ranger of wine strikes again with Incognito, an award winning red blend who’s identity changes year after year; the 2004 version ($24.95) if full-on deli in the mouth with spicy smoked meat flavours – chewing a wine never felt so right (no release date yet).

Consignment Only:

L’Aventure’s Optimus, a blend of Syrah, Cab Sauv and Petit Verdot is fruity and enjoyable and contains less oaky flavours every year, so the fruitiness will continue to increase year after year ($65.00 – Halpern Enterprises). Rutherford Wine Company’s $23.95 Cabernet Sauvignon is a mouth pleasing red with sweet fruit, cherry, raspberry and chocolate (Eurovintage International). Finally, Z-52 has two Zins worth shouting about … Agnes Vineyard and Clockspring Vineyard, both $23.40 a bottle. Agnes comes from the sandy soils in Lodi and 45 year old vines: chocolate and spice dominated with red fruit taking a back seat, very smooth in the mouth. Clockspring hails from Amador County, grown 1500 feet up in volcanic red soil. This one’s meatier with more spices and a sweet finish, though it is still quite tannic (Small Winemakers Collection).

Special Mention:

“No representation?” I asked in awe of what Trygve Fekjan (of Arizona based American Wines International) had just told me, he shook his head. “That’s a crime,” I said. He was there representing JanKris Winery, located in Templeton California, and I had just sampled the 2004 Crossfire (Paso Robles), a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Syrah and 25% Merlot … a totally awesome wine with tones of raspberry flavours that travel front to mid-palate, change to chocolate and pepper in the back and a lingering anise-like finish. Simply superb – somebody better pick these guys up and bring this bottle to Ontario. Please … it’d be a crime not to. By the way, their Cabernet Sauvignon was quite tasty too.

Closing off with news of a new winery opening in May 2007 in Medocino County … Jacuzzi wines, part of Cline Cellars but a totally unique winery unto itself. Growing more interesting, non-traditional grape varieties in California, namely Primitivo, Sangiovese, Barbera, Nebbiolo and other European (read Italian) grape varieties. Good Luck on this new endeavour … and if you get the chance try the Primitivo, it’s a cousin of Zinfandel (if not the parent) and has much elegance and finesse wrapped up in pepper and dark fruit (

So much wine, so little time and only one tongue to taste it all with … that’s the big dilemma of California wine. Cheers.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Report from: Churchill Cellars Portfolio Tasting - April 2, 2007

Churchill Cellars puts on quite the spread during their annual portfolio tasting … not just wines, but cheeses, sandwiches and the best little shortbreads I’ve ever tasted (more on that later). Held in the Barbara Frum Atrium at the CBC building, this invitation only event (you sign up for their newsletter and the invite comes sometime in February) is held annually to let consumers try what Churchill is offering through the LCBO, Vintages, restaurants and on consignment. This year a few things struck me as great value, good wine and readily available.

Cheap and Cheerful to Darn Good:

The 2006 Banrock Station Cabernet Sauvignon ($12.00 - #603365) is a great red-fruit driven everyday drinker … parties, pizzas, you name it.

Robert Mondavi Private Selection Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.90 - #392225) is another great drinker with black fruit, black cherry, cassis and a sweet cherry finish … this one is for more serious parties and patio get togethers. For your next occasion you could do much worse than bringing Robert with as your date.

Casa Silva Carmenere Reserva was recently released into the LCBO Vintages section ($14.95 - #24679) – raspberry and strawberry throughout the smell and taste – red fruit dominated with a sweet and spicy finish – quite smooth and ready to go; well priced too.

D’Arenberg (from Australia) has become quite the staple on Vintage shelves … the Footbolt Shiraz ($20.95 - #984021) has really good spicy fruit in the glass; if you like your Shiraz with a kick you’ll love the jolt you get from the bolt.

Climbing the price ladder, the just released Ravenswood 2004 Sonoma Old Vines Zinfandel ($28.95 - #673798) has great nutmeg, spice and hints of oregano on the nose with a milk chocolate smooth finish and lots of fruitiness to boot. I recommend holding onto it for 5 years and see what happens. Staying with Ravenswood, their 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon ($31.95 - #25213) is black fruit dominated, smooth and lush in the mouth with great sweet fruit through the mid-palate.

The 2003 Simi Merlot ($30.95 - #30759) has spicy black fruit and chocolate tones. Smooth as silk. While the pre-Christmas expected 2004 Chateau Reynella Basket Pressed Shiraz ($35.00 - #510628) was stellar, with a sweet cherry nose, some mouth-drying tannin along with spicy black fruit and eucalyptus.

My need to finish the day off with something sweet drew me to the Port table where the chocolate, cherry and plum driven Dow’s Late Bottled Vintage Port [2000] ($16.95 - #613927) was being poured. This is a total steal for Port lovers.

I promised you a tip on the best shortbread and here it is … Get your hands on ones made by M & G Kitchens. They were sampling some of the most delicious shortbread I have ever wrapped my mouth around. They make them in two varieties, which in total encompass 8 flavours: Sweet and Savoury. In the Savoury category you can choose from Herbes Provence; Moroccan Spice; Smoked Paprika and Coconut Curry. My personal favourites were in the Sweet category, where you gets ones like Chai, Chocolate Hazelnut; Buttercrunch Pecan; and an utterly awesome Vanilla. All are cut into bite sized cutes and go well with a variety of wines. They may seem a little steep at $8 a box, but well worth it. To check out where to buy them go to their website

Report From: Germany Wine with Jazz – April 2, 2007

Roy Thomson Hall was the scene for the German Wine Fair which is full of producers I can’t pronounce and labels I don’t recognize, and many of which will never see the inside of the LCBO, but it does provide one with a great opportunity to try some of the best white wines in the world. The event was organized into 25 different tasting tables (some having the designation of an A & B at the same table) and 33 producers … organized for the most part in alphabetical order. I found my eyes swimming across names like Valckenberg, Reinhartshausen, Kruger- Rumpf and Kupferberg; and mangling wine and label names, not only in my head but when I piped up to try something, I became self-conscious quickly and began to just point and say “that one” a lot. I find German labels very confusing, now I know the difference between a Kabinett, a Spatlese and an Auslese, but would most consumers? For that matter could you really taste the difference after so many similar wines? Here is a small sampling of what we will be seeing on our shores and in our stores that are worth picking up extra marks if you get the pronunciation right:

The A-Z of German Wines:

August Kesseler/Pieroth has a dry and peachy 2005 Riesling that is currently on the LCBO’s general list shelves … a steal at $10.95 (Pieroth 2005 Riesling #23895).

Balthasar Ress’ 2003 Riesling Auslese Hattenheimer Nussbrunnen ($24.95 – May 27 Vintages Release – 375ml) – honey-peach nose, sweet and lush in the mouth with a beautifully long finish.

Deinhard had two wines I was dying to try, their Riesling Piesporter Goldtropfchen and Lila Riesling Brut (sparkling wine), but somehow they got lost in shipping and didn’t make the show. So a 2005 Beernauslese had to suffice with it’s honey, peach and pear on both the nose and palate. Look for it later this year in Vintages for around the $20 mark for 375ml.

Gunderloch’s 2005 Riesling Auslese Nackenheim Rothenberg will retail for $49.95 and be available November 24, 2007 … if you’re wondering whether it’s worth fifty bucks I’ll tell you this, then you can decide: it has a delicious ripe nose of apples and pears with a minimal amount of petrol and minerality in the mouth and that will develop more over time – good sweetness and it all finishes up with a long appley finish … this one has a “yum factor” of 10.

Franz Reh has a general list Gewurztraminer for $11.65 (#622027), which I found a little on the dry side with some slightly spicy and lemony nuances.

In Vintages currently you can find a 2004 Riesling Kabinett Hochheimer Holle Domdechant Werner’sches Weingut ($18.95 - #722413), which has a finish to match its name – long. Petrol and lanolin notes on the nose, some stone fruit and a touch of sweetness are also present on the more and following through on the taste.

Dr. Loosen himself was on hand to talk about his wines … a rather interesting looking gentleman in his plaid suit, complete with tight fitting waist-coat, a blue and white checked shirt and mismatched tie … but anything from his table was worth trying, absolutely delicious. I don’t care how he dresses, in this case it is not the clothes that make the man, its’ the wines. If you can still find the “Dr. L” Riesling it is a great place to start a love affair with the good, if somewhat eccentric, Doctor. ($13.95 - #599274)

Schloss Reinharthausen has an attractive, eye catching, baby blue label … their wine will also catch the attention of both your nose and mouth totally off-guard. The 2004 Riesling Kabinett Hattenheimer Wisselbrunnen is out Saturday April 14 for a bargain of $18.95 a bottle – crisp with mouth watering acidity and great white fruit flavours … this one is very nice.

June 9th will see the release of St. Urban-Hof’s 2005 Riesling Kabinett Piesporter Goldtropfchen at the ripe price of $20.95 – sweet with some petrol, mineral and lots of fruit flavours to drive it all home. I could see lying this one down for 5-plus years and letting it develop further.

Ending the tour of tongue twisting German wines A-to-Z is of course Zilliken, Forstmeister Geltz-Zilliken to be exact. With this easy to pronounce and remember 2006 Butterfly Riesling Dry – a soon-to-be-released general list item for $15.95. This one has quite a zingy, citrus taste that is quite lively and refreshing.

Report From: Hamilton Food & Drink Fest – April 1, 2007

“You’re obviously not from Hamilton,” said the Lakeport rep to me when I asked him where Lakeport calls home.

“How do you know that?” I asked.

“Because we’re from right here in Steel Town,” replied jovially. Lakeport was just one of the 50+ exhibitors at this year’s (2nd Annual) Hamilton Food & Drink Fest held at the Hamilton Convention Centre … and from all reports it was bigger and better than last year. Barb from Reif Estate told me “I heard some exhibitors didn’t come back this year, but I don’t know why, this show is amazing.” And in those four words she pretty much summed up the feelings of both exhibitors and attendees at this year’s event; a mixture of good local restaurants, an array of Ontario wineries from both Niagara and the Lake Erie North Shore; some area breweries and a smattering of agents, who brought with them the international flair of spirits and wine.

Kicking off with Wine:

First stop was Mastronardi (who seem to be a fixture at all the events lately) – I tried their 2002 Merlot ($29.00 – winery only) for the fourth time. This rich full-bodied red is mellowing out quite nicely with age, the fruit and wood are really integrating well together. This truly was my favourite red of the day. Reif Estate was pouring their terrific 2005 Gamay Rose ($10.95 - #669366) which will be perfect for the summer ahead: light and dry with strawberry and raspberry on the taste. Coyote’s Run slipped me a glass of their general list 2005 Unoaked Chardonnay ($14.95 - #26740) a crisp, light and lively affair mixing good fruit and tropical notes on both the nose and taste. Finally, I bumped into Robert of EastDell fame (see brunch at EastDell), he poured two Diamond Estate (EastDell’s parent company) wines: the EastDell 2003 Cabernet Merlot ($14.95 – #620187) which had some dark fruit and earthiness with just a hint of tannin to it – I would recommend another year on it’s side should smooth this baby right out; and a Birchwood 2006 Gewurztraminer/Riesling ($10.85 - #572156), this’ll be a summer party/patio pleaser for sure with apple and lychee on the nose, honeyed apple and pear on the taste - I even picked up a little lime – very refreshing. You should be seeing, and serving, this at the cottage.

Internationally Speaking:

Also in attendance were some of the agents from around Ontario, they brought international wines and spirits to this mainly local themed event. Of particular interest was a fruity, easy-going Italian number from Cecchi, Bonizio Sangiovese Di Maremma ($12.10 – #613299), a well-priced pizza wine with minimal tannin, great value. New to the LCBO is the Twin Fin 2003 Shiraz ($13.95 - #34132); it follows along the same line as the other Twin Fin offerings (Pinot Noir and Cab Sauv), fruit forward and ready to go. There’s some red fruit and spice on this Shiraz, making it easy drinking and a sure BBQ season favourite for summer get togethers.

Want Food with That?

A few stand out restaurants from the show were KOI (Hamilton), whose coconut shrimp had everyone raving. Any booth I stopped at to ask for food recommendations always started with. “The coconut shrimp at KOI is to die for …”. My Thai (4 locations: Burlington, Hamilton, Brantford, Ancaster) served up a delicious fresh spring roll – mine was a little heavy on the coriander, but delicious nonetheless. And, surprise, surprise, the Hamilton Convention Centre caterer was serving up the most amazing mini-burger I have ever tasted, topped with Asiago cheese, sun dried tomato mayo, fried red onions and red peppers … absolutely delicious.

Bring on the Suds:

Finally, the afore mentioned Lakeport let me try a few of their more interesting beers … the Honey Lager is good for you honey beer fans (of which I am one) and the Wee Willy offers up good body and some toasted caramel flavours. I asked about their “new” red beer which they told me is expected to be on shelves at all Beer Stores by the end of the week of April 2 – but unfortunately they had none to try (my brother told me as I was writing this article, that he’s been drinking it for awhile now, so what give?). Lakeport (for those who don’t know) is the 24 for $24 company, good beer at a fair price and was just bought by Labatt’s last Thursday March 29, 2007) – though the promise is business as usual. Hope so cause they sure live up to their claim.

I must say that the Hamilton Food and Drink Fest was a rousing success for all who attended, and from talks with exhibitors they enjoyed being there too. The elegant and intimate setting with live music at one end and cooking demonstrations at the other, and all manner of food and drink in-between was a welcome change from the boisterous big room events. One ticket seller told me they had 2200 people go through the fest on Saturday (12-8), which seems impressive for a show of this size. The ticket seller also lamented that they may have to take up two rooms next year to accommodate all the people. My feelings are as long as they are able to maintain the atmosphere they can expand all they like.

One small note to next year’s organizer: the only thing I would definitely recommend changing is the glassware … while a great little memento, it did little to help showcase the wines that went into it; a standard ISO glass would have performed better – a small glitch in an overall very impressive show. Long may the fest go on.