Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Report from: Angels Gate Meet the New Winemaker Evening – July 5, 2007

Angles Gate Winery threw themselves a bash on Thursday night (July 5, 2007) to introduce the angelic-faithful to new winemaker Philip Dowell. The party was held outside in the courtyard at Hart House on the campus of the University of Toronto – the reason for the move from the winery setting to this downtown Toronto locale, according to Bonnie Sneath (retail sales manager) was to bring the party to our customers, many of whom come from the Toronto area and to make it easier for them to attend. A low-key, laid-back affair, at which a small jazz band played the evenings music and where nine wines were poured and paired with foods picked out by the director of catering and events of Hart House, Arlene Stein; who did, what I felt, was a wonderful job of pairing the foods with wines, based solely on the descriptions provided by the winery. From the simple: strawberries paired with a late harvest cabernet; to the more complex: medallions of beef tenderloin on crostini with blueberry relish paired with a 2002 Merlot. The showcase of wine and food proved to highlight what Philip Dowell was getting himself into by joining this team. None of the wines served on this night were his, per se, the wine he most had a hand in making was the All Canadian Wine Championship winning 2006 Sussreserve Riesling, which he was a 40% participant in; split with former Angels Gate winemaker Natalie Spytkowski, who has moved her winemaking skills over the Angels Gate’s as yet un-open winery neighbour. What this event did show was what a fine winemaking tradition Philip would have to build upon. Also announced on this evening was the planting of a new vineyard and the purchase of Kew Vineyards by Angels Gate.

Below is a review of the three wines that really stood out … I skipped over the 2006 Sussreserve Riesling ($13.95 – winery and LCBO) because I have previously reviewed it.

The evening began with the pouring of an ’04 Old Vines Chardonnay ($23.95 – winery & LCBO) a lush, buttery number that had lots of tropical fruit on the nose, including banana and pineapple … the banana continues onto the palate along with some vanilla-butteryness. Good value for this elegant and highly enjoyable Chardonnay, which I would have expected to pay more for. It was paired alongside a lobster macaroni and cheese.

2005 was good to red grapes in Ontario, they weren’t plentiful in Niagara but they made darn tasty wine – case and point is this 2005 Gamay Noir ($12.95 – winery only). The grapes for this gold medal winning wine (All Canadian Wine Championships 2007) were harvested in Beamsville, stainless steel fermented, and finally oak-aged in large (500L) French barrels for only 2 months. The result is a wine that has typical Gamay characteristics, namely red berries – and lots of it … but the oaking gives it a little heft and some peppery spiciness. A steal for the price and went well with the simple penne pasta with tomato and basil sauce.

Finally, a very simple wine, served with a very simple dessert and yet “divine” seems to be the word to describe it best. My notes had the word “delicious” written 3 times, so I must have liked it. The 2006 Snow Angel ($23.00 – winery only – 750ml … sugar code 5) is made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that were late harvested (after the first frost of the 2006 growing season). The nose is full of raspberry sprinkled with Splenda and yet is delicate in both alcohol and sweetness - well-balanced, so it goes down smooth and easy. Not quite a dessert wine, yet not quite something to serve as aperitif … but quite, what was that word again, oh yes, there it is “delicious”. This wine was paired with fresh Ontario strawberries, but also goes quite well on its own. They have a slogan at Angels Gate, “Devilishly Good Wines” – this one truly is; and when you finish the whole bottle on your own you could say “the devil made me do it” – but instead of practicing the sin of gluttony invite some friends over to share in the fun.

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