Sunday, June 3, 2007

Report from: 13th Street Winery Open House - June 2, 2007

13th Street Winery is an Ontario version of a cult winery ... it's one of those wineries that's whispered about in wine circles, and when their name is mentioned the most often heard phrase is "I've heard of them but I've never been there.” They keep cult-like hours (open primarily on weekends); have a cult-like store (small little building that looks more like a storage place than winemaking facility), and have a cult-like following - during their open houses (held twice a year of June and December) people come out of the woodwork like termites, the real followers are there at the crack of dawn, wanting to be first in line to try and buy.

Today nine wines saw the light of day for the very first time (at least to the general public), wines that were bottled about a month prior, in the hopes the bottle shock would wear off before their big day. Here I look at five of those nine offerings, which seem to rise above the others, and a sixth wine that just seemed to be bubbling under.

Starting with the whites, there's the 2006 Funk Vineyard Riesling ($24) with its perfumey, peach, orange blossom and sweet lilac nose … they called it masculine in their tasting notes, but with all the floral I'm not so sure I'd go that far. But this 1 (on the sugar code) has great complexity in the mouth, with biting acidity that causes the mouth to water and yet refreshes at the same time; and don't forget to notice that steady stream of minerals that also plays along the tongue. This one has good length and staying power for the next few years.

13th Street jumps on the Musque bandwagon with a 2006 Chardonnay Musque ($19), but instead of following everybody else and leaving some sweetness in the wine, the boys on the street held their own parade and left this one dry (zero on the sugar code). But don't worry, this Musque is so fruit forward and aromatic you’ll swear it's at least a one - apple, peach and floral are the hallmarks of this wine; it's like summer in a glass.

With all the talk about blending and assemblage in the area 13th Street decided to take it upon themselves to try their hand at it with both a red and a white. The 2006 Et Cetera White ($22) is a fruit salad of flavors and smells: peach, lime, pineapple, apples and floral notes all make this one stand up on your taste buds with vibrant complex flavors. The makeup is dominated by Pinot Gris (30%) with Sauvignon Blanc (20%) and Muscat (20%) also throwing their weight around. Playing backup are Riesling, Semillon and Chardonnay all taking a piece of the last 30%. The 2005 Et Cetera Red ($22) is my bubbling under wine (I have tasted better blends from the Street, but this one is still quite good); it's a blend of Merlot, Gamay, Sauv and Franc, with the latter two taking the most weight. 12 months in French oak gives it some smoky and anise notes along with dark fruit, raspberry, cinnamon and vanilla. There are some tannins swimming around in there too. This wine has a medium length finish and mid-weight heft ... it's ready to drink now and over the course of the summer.

Looking for heft to last a few years? Then you want the 2005 Meritage ($30). Having spent 12 months in French oak this Bordeaux blend, comprised primarily of Merlot (60%), has Cab Sauv (30%) and Franc (10%) playing second and third fiddle respectively. This one's rich in red and dark fruits, lots of cedar oaky goodness and some licorice - both red and black. You could drink it now; but see that at least one bottle makes its way into your cellar; this one could go ten years or more.

Finally, the cornerstone of 13th Street’s winemaking over the years has been Gamay and the 2005 Gamay Sandstone Reserve ($26) is one serious Gamay (and a gold medal winner at the 2007 Ontario Wine Awards). This one screams red from the get-go: red fruit, red currant, red licorice; while the finish is earthy and "brooding" (not my word, Ken Douglas - part owner - used it and I just like the way it sounded, so I appropriated it). If you like, this wine could see a half hour in the fridge before drinking.

Once again 13th Street wowed the crowd with their new offerings, and once again their taste in food was second to none - nothing fancy really, just chicken thighs with cucumber relish on a mini-bun and spicy beef sausage Lebanese-style on flat bread; but I expect nothing less from the boys who, a few years back, served up some of the best pulled-pork I have ever tried; they know that nothing goes better with good wine than the backyard barbecue; especially at this time of year.

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