Friday, June 1, 2007

Report from: Lailey Vineyard Open House - May 26, 2007

During this year’s Wine and Herb Festival, I took some time out to pop into Lailey Vineyard, who were having their open house and new release weekend. On this particular weekend they were releasing nine new wines to the public, and I got a sneak peek at some up-and-comers over the next few months. With nine wines there is no way to describe them fully in the space I have, so for now let's look at a short description of each. My advice is to go to Lailey and try the ones that interest you ... and there’s bound to be at least one or two on this list.

Starting off with the 2005 Chardonnay Niagara Peninsula ($19.95), with its buttery and oaky nose and taste, typical of oak aged Chardonnay, but quite tasty and cellarable for five-plus years.

For summer parties on the patio, the 2005 Cabernet Franc Rose ($15.95) is a beauty; with its strawberry, raspberry and citrus nose and cherry-lemonade flavors. The 2005 Cabernet ($19.95) is classic Barnett, (winemaker Derek Barnett) ... this 50/50 blend of Franc and Sauv is aged fourteen months in French (90%) and American (10%) oak; it's plum and pepper driven with some smoky cedar undertones. There's a whiff of green pepper here, but it blows off after a few minutes leaving behind blackberries and cassis.

The steal of the afternoon had to be the 2006 Riesling ($13.95) with its peachy and petrolly nose and flavours - there's also a wee hint of botrytis in there and that makes it all the better. The Riesling that Derek Barnett is most excited about won't see shelves till Christmas; but with a sneak sniff and taste I can tell you in all honesty, to save some of your holiday budget for the upcoming Riesling Dry ($19.95). Made with 25% botrytis affected grapes, the wine currently shows light peach tones in both nose and taste, and botrytis fans will know what I mean when I say "typical botrytis scents" … if you don't, you owe it to yourself to find out. A good, crisp, clean seam of acidity also drives this wine across the palate.

Lailey is also releasing two Sauvignon Blancs ... one now, one later. The 2006 Sauvignon Blanc Niagara River ($19.95) spent three months in used oak and has the three G’s of Sauvignon Blanc: grassy, gooseberry and grapefruit - chilled it's a perfect summertime sipper. Wait a few months and you'll be able to experience the Fume Blanc ($24.95) ... seven months in one year old French oak barrels, this wine has developed light citrus tones amongst the grassy gooseberryness and has also smoothed out the rougher tart edges; this one’ll go great with anything you serve during the holidays.

The new additions to the portfolio also included three more reds and a white. Derek Barnett got his start making Chardonnay for a north-end Toronto winery called Southbrook, so Chardonnay is something he is intimately comfortable with, and truthfully it's hard not to recommend any of his. At the ‘Brook he made plenty of oaky, ageable Chards, many are still drinking well now. But some of us aren't into the heavy Chards, that's why the 2006 Unoaked Chardonnay ($15.95) is a welcome treat: fresh and fruity with a long finish and some fun spicy qualities. I picked up a bit of buttery flavours in this wine too - Derek said that's from the three months lees contact.

Finally, we have the big reds: the 2004 Canadian Oak Cabernet Sauvignon ($29.95), with 17 months in Canadian wood; it has developed complex flavours and smells of cherry, plum and cassis (as the fruit), green pepper (as its young vegetal note), and a creamy toffee like finish (as its current swan song in your mouth) ... this one could see the cellar for five-plus years. The other big red is the 2004 Canadian Oak Cabernet Franc ($34.95) - Barnett may not buy into the wave of screwcap closures sweeping the region, but he's big into the Canadian oak experiment. Plum, blackberry and sour cherries are keynotes to this wine. Another seventeen month sitter between Canuck staves, this wine goes into the bottle unfiltered for better aging potential, and will most likely throw sediment, so decanting is a good idea. It’ll sit on its side for seven-plus years and still taste great.

The last bottle not talked about was the 2005 Zweigelt, which has been picked for inclusion in the Weekly Wine Notes section and will appear June 12th. Also look for Lailey’s 2006 Impromptu (approximately $24.95) a blend of which 60% Syrah makes up the bulk of it, with Cab Sauv (20%), Malbec (10%) and Petit Verdot (10%) making up the rest. Currently this wine shows a tightness that will subside with a few months in bottle. Behind the cloak of greenness it opens up with red fruit, namely cherries and raspberries, and some herb and spice flavours ... the wait is on to see when this little piggy goes to market (planned for fall 2007).

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