Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Report from ... Fiesta Buckhorn – July 19, 2008

On lecture days I don’t do much sampling, my feeling is that your lecturer should at least start out coherent and sober. I’m usually running around, checking out the room, acquiring the wine, poring over my notes (or should that be "pouring"), putting the wine into a semblance of order – and then, if I have some time, I wonder out into the festival and check out some of the wines for tasting.

Buckhorn is a favourite venue for many wineries. They get out of the confines of the wine store and cellar and drive out to the country (30 minutes north of Peterborough) to enjoy the outdoors lifestyle – that is why you’ll usually find so many winery principals at this event; who wouldn’t volunteer to go to cottage country for the weekend?

For those who have never been to Buckhorn, it is probably one of the most unique wine events in Ontario. Held at the same place every year at the end of July, the Buckhorn Community Centre. This unique venue has cabins in the backyard, 11 in total, which form a circle around the property. Each cabin is home to a few drinking establishments (be it winery or brewery) and a few food booths. You walk from open-air cabin to open-air cabin picking up samples along the way. It’s a thoroughly relaxing and enjoyable day of food, drink and … did I mention the live music that’s held in the gazebo located in the center of the circle. For those who weren’t there and are interested, you missed a great lecture, I poured 10 wines and everybody had a good time drinking, listening and hopefully a little learnin’ happened along the way.

As for my notes on those wineries I did get a chance to visit, I have many cheers and a couple of jeers to pass on to you …

Hurray to Legends Estates for their 2006 Malbec ($18.95), great price for this first year labour of love product from owner and winemaker Paul Lizak. 22 months in French oak, this wine really packs a punch; smooth with black fruit and spicy characteristics, medium alcohol (13%), but has a big taste in the mouth with a bit of heat. Pepper and black cherry as well as a finish that’s ripe with peppered-strawberries.

Hurray to Frogpond Farms, Ontario’s only organic winery, for both a 2007 Chambourcin ($14.00) which delivers a chalky-cherry taste with a good finish of black cherry and tobacco, which is almost Franc like in nature, and extremely chillable; and their 2007 Cabernet-Merlot ($16.00 / 500ml), aged 6 months in 2500L German oak barrels: blackberries, a touch woodsy and earthy along with tons of black fruit and an ageability factor of 5+ years.

Hurray to Downey’s, who bucked the usual pour-your-wines trend and made delicious Sangria with their Raspberyy-Apple ($12.95) and Strawberry-Rhubarb ($12.95) … they did this to show the versatility of fruit wine and they succeeded admirably.

Hurray to Inniskillin, who, for the very first time in their 15 year history of producing their Late Autumn Riesling ($12.95), have made the wine a VQA product (or so my server told me) … a lovely sipper full of apple, peach, pineapple and other tropical smells and tastes.

Hurray to Angels Gate, who gave those in attendance a sneak peak of their soon to be released 2005 Cabernet-Merlot ($15.95). This 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Franc and 10% Merlot spent 9 months in mainly French oak, and a whack of time in bottle, to smooth out this big bomb: earthy, black fruit and full of wow in the mouth tannins … a big wine from a big year that’s big on taste – though it needs some time to settle down, it’s still a bit tight.

Hurray to Harbour Estates, who previewed their upcoming LCBO release, 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon ($12.95), sweet strawberries mixing in with black fruit along with cherry and cassis. This one was aged 6 months in French oak and now a further year in bottle. It’s smoothing out developing nicely. They were also pouring their 2002 Premier Vintages ($35.95) a 5 Bordeaux varietal blend (Sauv, Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec) made only in good years. Still a beauty with dried fruit nuances through the mid palate … if you have some it’s time to drink it – but you also have another 2 to 4 years to decant and enjoy. Next Premier Vintage being assembled is the 2007 edition.

Finally … a BIG FAT boo-hiss-hiss boo (that’s the jeer folks) to Jackson-Triggs, who pulled off a double shame-on-them. First, at an Ontario wine event that focuses and showcases Ontario products (wine, food, beer, ingredients, etc) they had the audacity to pour their blends: Esprit and Naked Grape concoctions; but that’s only the beginning of their faux pas. The biggest travesty was the bottle of Black Label Jackson-Triggs 2005 Merlot … as many of you are hopefully aware, Jackson-Triggs had always distinguished their off-shore and VQA products with a White Label (blend) and Black Label (VQA – 100% Ontario) … seems they are pulling a fast one to fool the public; the 2005 Merlot Black Label is a non-VQA made from “a higher level and quality New Zealand grapes,” according to my server, as if that makes this ruse more palatable. Does this company have no shame, or pride, left?

And that’s my report from Buckhorn, there is so much good happening here that it just shouldn’t be missed, just make sure you’re watching for those VQA labels.

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