Sunday, December 2, 2007

Lailey Comes to Toronto - November 29, 2007

Let’s pop in quickly to the Lailey Toronto Open House which they moved from the winery, deep in the bowels of Niagara-on-the-Lake, to the Fine Wine Reserve, deep in the heart of downtown Toronto … essentially bringing the wines to their T.O. clients instead of having them to schlep their way down there when the weather might not be all that inviting. Have no fear Niagara based fans, Lailey’s regular open house at the winery will take place in early December (Saturday the 1st); this was just Lailey’s way of thanking their big city based clientele – and what a nice gesture it was.

Winemaker, Derek Barnett, enjoyed being in the warm confines of the Fine Wine Reserve … “I love the great underground atmosphere of the place, we’re actually under street level. It’s a perfect place to hold a tasting – I love it.” Though Barnett couldn’t get over the Toronto weather, “I left Niagara in short sleeves, it was seven degrees; I drive an hour and a half up the road, get out of the car and it’s bloody cold.” (For the record Toronto was at minus 4).

Tonight Lailey
showcased 15 of their spectacular wines, both whites and reds. Barnett’s reds always need time to mellow (5-7 years) or a good decanting to allow some air into them when they are young … and lately I am learning the limitations of an ISO glass – especially during the Cabernet Franc Challenge I am currently in the midst of (but more on that during the Cab Franc write-up). Tonight it’s all about Lailey. Now I won’t delve too much into their wines or the winery, as a full OntarioWineReview article is currently in the pipeline for the new year, but here are a few reviews you can look up from the wines I tried this evening and was mightily impressed by: 2006 Gewurztraminer ($19.95), 2005 Cabernet ($19.95), 2006 Syrah – Canadian Oak ($34.95).

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Foster's Tasting ... November 28, 2007

The Distillery District was the home to the Foster’s tasting on this cold Thursday night … you might know Foster’s as the beer of Australia, Paul Hogan claiming it’s “Ripper Stuff” (during his Crocodile Dundee fame days) … since then the company has grown to include many Australian as well as U.S.-based wineries under their umbrella. Well known Australian names like Penfold’s, Wolf Blass, Rosemount are found alongside U.S. icon brands like Beringer, Stags’ Leap, Etude and St. Clement … and don’t forget the crossovers like Greg Norman, who has wineries on both continents. All-in-all 77 wines were available for tasting on this night, many of which are available at the LCBO. There was also a tasting of some back vintages by well known producers, a 1998 Grange, a 1957 Wynns Coonawarra Cabernet, a 1993 Wynns Cab Sauv and 1990 Wynns John Riddoch Cab Sauv, right alongside the Beringer Private Reserve from both 1999 and 2001 … anyone who thinks Australians only make drink now wines better thing again, as some of this old timers proved they still had the muscle, while the American wines also possessed plenty of staying power. Here is a list of 11 wines that you should be looking for and enjoying – either now or in the future.

Party Ready …

This is nothing too taxing, but it will go over well at your next get together: Beringer 2006 White Zinfandel ($9.95 - #239756), I like my Zins big, red and plumy, but this pink version is how many casual wine drinkers know Zinfandel – strawberry and raspberry on the nose with a strawberry bubble gum taste, this ones not for lying down, it’s for drinking – getting all tipsy and giggly and such. Rosemount makes wines on a party level and on a serious level … for partying their Diamond Label Shiraz ($15.95 - #302349) fits the bill quite nicely; all fruit forward and peppery with cherry and raspberry thrown in for good measure. Looking for a white to join your party pink and red? Let Wolf Blass help with its Red Label Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc ($14.15 - #323063) served chilled this one’s got great citrus (read: grapefruit) smells and peachy-citrusiness in the mouth. It’s easy going and party ready … and as always, the name Wolf Blass is not only recognizable it adds class to any gathering.

Every Day Reds and Whites …

As we inch up the price scale these are the wines you’ll wanna sit down and dine with. Beringer 2005 Founder’s Estate Merlot ($19.95 - #534255) the nose is black fruit with a predominance of black cherry – in the mouth you’ll find cherries and chocolate all over. The beauty of Blass is that up and down the line they bring value to every price point; for lovers of Cabernet Sauvignon check out the 2004 Premium Selection Cabernet Sauvignon ($24.95 - #321927 – black and white label), spicy, peppery, chocolaty and minty all greet the nose – pepper and black fruit dominate on the palate … there’s still a fair bit of tannin bite here so decant or save for a few years (there’ll always be more dinners). Shiraz-fans should spend a few extra dollars to get the 2004 Gold Label Shiraz ($29.95 - #590273) – lots of chocolate, cherry and plum on the nose and all follows on the palate with an abundance of spice and black fruit mixed in. Penfold’s is also a good name to bring to the table, and their Bin 128 2004 Coonawarra Shiraz ($29.95 – 509919) is a fine addition: cherry, vanilla and black licorice present themselves on the nose, black fruit, pepper, spice and some tannins make up the mouth – another candidate for the decanter or the cellar. Lovers of Chardonnay should be prepared to shell out $29.95 for the 2005 Stags’ Leap Napa Valley Chardonnay – this rich and ballsy white has butter, vanilla and oak upfront on the nose, further sniffs will reveal buttered popcorn and toffee. The mouth shows lots of buttery oaky flavours – a rich front palate and mellow finish.

Special Occasion Wines …

For those special occasions when you just have to pour something nice to impress, be prepared to ante up money-wise and palate-wise. Beringer 2005 Knight’s Valley Cabernet Sauvigon ($39.95 - #352583) is red fruit sprinkled with vanilla and cinnamon – a red fruit bomb explosion in the mouth with a lingering finish that leaves no doubt that this is a California Cab. California also brings a Pinot Noir for non-Pinot drinkers. Gone is the earthy-mustiness, say hello to sweet fruit on both the nose and palate: Etude 2004 Carneros Pinot Noir ($69.95 - #655555) cherries and strawberries are your dominant flavours and smells. Speaking of fruit the 2004 Devil’s Lair Margaret River Chardonnay ($39.95) from Australia, is not only a dead ringer for pineapples and banana on the nose, but the tropical party continues in the mouth (complete with fruit hatted lady) … and I just love the name: Devil’s Lair – bring that to the table and tell people (or your solo guest) it’s your “house wine” – see who laughs and who gasps - (insert maniacal laugh here).