Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Report from: Lake Erie North Shore Vintage Tasting 2007 – August 11, 2007

For the last few years I have been telling you to get yourself down to the Lake Erie North Shore area. I don’t know how many of you are actually listening or paying attention, but seriously the time in nigh. On August 11th, I trundled my way down there again (was there for a brief tour in July) to check out what’s happening at the (New) Vintage Tasting at Erie Shore Vineyard (on County Road 50 in Harrow) … last year you may remember the event was held at Viewpointe Estate (read review) and next year I’ll be attending the same event at Mastronardi Estates. If you’re paying attention you’ll notice this is a roving event held annually, which means each winery gets a chance to host it, and therefore the opportunity to sell their wine – the rest you have to visit directly, and all 13 wineries attend the event.

Erie Shore put on a wonderful event – the tasting of both food and wine was held under the big top, with a complimentary horse and buggy tour of the vineyard if you so desired, pair that with the proper glass of wine and you have yourself a romantic little 11 minutes – the length of the tour – for two; and being at the Vintage Tasting in the Lake Erie North Shore, the “right glass of wine” is not far away. Many of the wineries were showcasing their ’06 whites and their rich and ripe ’05 reds. Some wineries like Sanson and D’Angelo, paraded out some great back vintages from 2002 – a Bird Dog Red blend and Cab Franc respectively; while Mastronardi had something bottled just for the event (a’Dorah), and Pelee, had 3 wines put in bottle just in time (3 Vinedresser wines: Shiraz, Cab Sauv and Pinot Noir). The food was also very tasty and plentiful, and there was something to tempt everyone’s craving for a nibbly, there was a food station for each corner of the tent. I shied away from the frog’s legs, but relished in a marinated pork tenderloin and Asian coleslaw made by Jim and Judy (more on that later).

If you weren’t at the event you missed out … big time … so for those of you who weren’t in attendance I am going to give you the highlights of the afternoon. I tried to keep my notes brief and stick to one wine per producer – some producers I visited in July and reviews appeared in my most recent newsletter, namely Colchester, Viewpointe and Sprucewood, so they will not be included here.

The Host With the Most …
Erie Shore was pouring 5 or 6 wines, but their standout was the 2006 Summer Sun Rosé. 100% Cabernet Franc in the prettiest pink colour you’ve ever seen, and for $12.45 it’s a bargain. A nose of strawberries and cotton candy followed by a taste reminiscent of raspberries, strawberries and sweet red cherries … delectable, and only a one on the sugar code, but crisp clean acidity make it taste and feel sweeter on the tongue. The 2006 Riesling was also a standout.

Kickin’ It Off With Bubbly …
Mastronardi has released their first ever sparkling wine. Made with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Riesling, this bubbly is truly an occasion unto itself: apples, honey, floral, lychee and toasty – an exquisite, slightly sweet (1) sipper good for afternoon get togethers, moonlit nights on the beach, and everything in-between. And the price for this romance in a bottle … wait for it … $15 (get out! I swear.) – buy two or three. The 2005 Gewurztraminer also has many redeeming qualities, and its $13 price tag is just the beginning.

An Array of Whites to Choose From …
On this hot August afternoon, white wine was the mode du jour and a welcoming libation; good thing there were plenty to choose from: like Sanson Estates 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ($15.95) with citrus, gooseberry and grass on the nose, a sweet grapefruit taste and good acidity holding it all together.

Smith and Wilson has produced the regions first Viognier (2006 - $12.00) … a great aromatic nose with apples and peaches as the most prevalent smells, but has a much more complex taste that includes great fruity flavours: white peach, apples, pears and ripe pineapple. The Viognier comes from 4 year old vines, was made in stainless steel and not a grain of sugar was added … the wine ranks on the sweetness scale somewhere between a .5 and a 1. This is a tasty little sucker and for $12 how can you pass it up.

The Muscedere boys are one of the few proud Canadian/Ontario wineries using Canadian oak, and with good results. Their 2005 Canadian Oaked Chardonnay ($20) has wonderful tropical fruit, vanilla and detectable coconut notes … cool.

A Red By Any Other Name …
Pelee Island Winery unleashed 3 Vinedresser wines at the tasting, these are their reserve wines, and all three get high marks from me; but none more so than the peppery, spicy and black fruit dominated Shiraz ($18.95), which spent upwards of 20 months in oak. Certifiably yummy, somebody get me a steak – pronto!

Not Just Wine …
Harold Wagner, of Wagner Estate, has done it again – this guy continually takes fruit wine (and products) to a new level. This time it’s cider, Pug’s Head Cider ($6) to be exact. He uses green Mac apples (those that didn’t turn red because they were on the inside of the tree) – ferments them using brown ale yeast, which gives him a super slow fermentation that lasted all winter long. This cider is crisp, clean, with great apple flavour and it mixes well with his Black Ice (black current) and Framboise (raspberry).

Something Sweet to Tempt the Palate …
Colio choose this event to launch their new 2006 Late Harvest Vidal ($11.95). With longer than usual hang time for these grapes (late January) the grapes had time to concentrate their flavours and develop a lot of icewine qualities – except for the sweetness (6) and the price … but the flavours and smells are unmistakably icewine like.

And for you Foodies …
Finally, a special shout out to Jim and Judy, who’s marinated pork tenderloin (in a honey garlic ginger sauce) and Asian coleslaw were a huge hit. With the few restaurants in attendance serving chicken, pork, spring rolls and frog’s legs, this couple stood head and shoulders above everyone, their combination of flavours not only inspired people to talk about them throughout the tent, but inspired many to go back for seconds, thirds and fourths (myself included). Now here’s the kicker – they aren’t restaurateurs nor are they caterers, just friends of Alma and Harvey (owners of Erie Shore Vineyard) who asked to attend because “they love to cook”. Bring ‘em back next year.

Speaking of next year, did I mention Mastronardi will be hosting, should be an awesome time. Until then, many thanks to Erie Shore who put on a party extraordinaire with the other wineries from around the area – and if you didn’t get yourself down here to try the wines this time you still have a chance to catch all these wineries in one place at the Shores of Erie International Wine Festival in September … or just come down anytime, you’re always welcome.

There really should be more hype about this wine region … top-notch wines, beautiful part of the province, everything’s near water so there’s always great scenery and did I mention the wine. See you at Mastronardi in 2008, or on the trail throughout the year.

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