Monday, February 18, 2008

Report from: Cuvee Media Tasting - February 13, 2008

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of Cuvee. For those not familiar with Cuvee I can sum it up in one quick little sentence: it's the Oscars of the Ontario wine industry. That’s right, Cuvee is all about peer approval and recognition. A bunch of winemakers head into a room, a lot of wine is poured and they choose the best in a variety of categories - sure I've just oversimplified it, but when you boil it down that's what happens. Of course, there's more to Cuvee than just the awards; there's the Gala – where each entering winery gets to bring their wines (usually their best or newest) to showcase to those lucky enough to be in attendance. There's also a great little passport program called Cuvee-en-Route, participating wineries fling open cellar doors and bring out long forgotten or past winning wines - this is the weekend that your past favorites may just be on sale for the last time. So really Cuvee is all about the wine. Details of these programs (Gala and En-Route) can be found at

At the media tasting we got to sample the top scoring wines from 58 wineries ... not all of these wines are winners, but they were the top rated wines by the judging panel for each individual winery. The judging panel is made up entirely of winemakers – the only exception is the ‘independent review panel’ – just to keep things fair. Each winery is allowed to submit three wines into the competition, so the race is tight. I have to admit there were a couple of wines/wineries I was surprised about – not at how good the wines were, but from the opposite end of the spectrum – the two that immediately come to mind were downright awful, how they made it by both panels I’m not sure … but if these were the ‘best’ from these wineries then I believe that these wineries are in some real serious trouble.

But I will not focus on the bad, there is just too much good stuff out there to celebrate – and Cuvee is about the best - and the best really shine bright in this array of wines. Some of these wines I previously reviewed in newsletters, weekly wine notes, podcasts or elsewhere ... the list that follows are my favorites from this year's media tasting - reviews are linked back to the OntarioWineReview website.

Here are my picks, in no particular order (okay maybe alphabetically) ...
* denotes top ten (by me anyway)

Calamus Estate Winery 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
* Cattail Creek Estate Winery 2006 Barrel Fermented Vidal Icewine
Cave Spring Cellars 2006 Gewurztraminer
Colchester Ridge Estate Winery 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
* Creekside Estate Winery 2004 Reserve Meritage
* Featherstone Winery 2007 Gewurztraminer
Fielding Estate Winery 2005 Meritage Reserve
Flat Rock Cellars 2006 Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling
* Henry of Pelham 2006 Reserve Riesling
* Hillebrand Estate Winery 2006 Trius White
Inniskillin Wines 2006 Montague Vineyard Chardonnay
Jackson-Triggs Niagara Estate Winery 2006 Proprietors’ Grand Reserve White Meritage
Lailey Vineyard 2006 Old Vines Chardonnay Niagara River
* Mike Weir Estate Winery 2005 Cabernet Shiraz
Muscedere Vineyards 2004 Vidal Icewine
* Peller Estates Winery Non-Vintage Ice Cuvee Rosé
*Ridgepoint Wines 2006 Riesling
Stonechurch Vineyards 2006 Dry Riesling
* Thirty Bench Wine Makers 2005 Benchmark Red
* Vineland Estates Winery 2005 Elevation Cabernet-Merlot

Good luck to all the entrants ... and in my Gala report we'll see how many winners I picked.

Also, at this year's tasting, in honor of the twentieth anniversary, there were a few past winning wines showcased ... I highlight the of a few of them below:

Cave Spring Cellars 2003 off-dry Riesling ... (winner Cuvee 2,005)
- Has achieved very good petrol development while still maintaining peach and apricot fruit with very good acidity ... this one's ageing beautifully.

Jackson-Triggs Niagara 2001 Proprietors’ Grand Reserve Methode Classique ... (winner Cuvee 2005)
- This sparkling wine has maintained all that is good about bubbly: lemon, citrus, yeasty qualities, great mouthfeel, persistent bubbles and a lingering apples-lemon finish.

Peninsula Ridge 2002 Merlot Reserve ... (winner Cuvee 2006)
- Here's a wine that’s aging exceedingly well – smoky oak, black fruit, still spicy with robust tannins - if they entered it again they could probably still win.

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