Friday, November 28, 2008

Report from ... Southbrook Poetica Launch - November 19, 2008

Of late there has been lots written and said about Southbrook, and owner Bill Redelmeier has made it his mission to keep this winery in the spotlight over the past year. But this winery, with all its newfound bluster and new fangled building, also has a past, which we celebrated today while also looking ahead to the future.

For a winery that made little fanfare back when it was located in Maple (north of Toronto), these days you can’t open a wine magazine, newspaper or read a column about Ontario wine without them getting a mention. Today was the launch of Poetica, what many a Southbrook fan once knew, by another name, as their top of the line wines … that old name now has a Lord Voldemort complex about it (a name that should not be mentioned) … but I will use it here as I scan over each shoulder to make sure the Southbrook police aren’t lurking: Triomphus … now that you have read it I think you best bolt the door.

In truth, most of these bottles of the released Poetica wines have been re-labeled from the giant golden “S” that had previously adorned them, along with their seemingly hand-written Masi-esque front label. Now they have a stylized (seemingly hand-written) piece of Canadian poetry on the front label. And, much in the same way that Hillebrand selects its labels for its artist series of wines, so too will Southbrook chose their poetry for labels of Poetica in years to come. This first offering of nine bottles has poetry from the likes of bp Nichol “Blues” (the oldest poem chosen – 1966) to Wendy Morton’s “If I had a name like Rosie Fernandez” (2006 – Wendy was also on hand to read her poem). Other poets included P.K. Page (1997); Gwendolyn MacEwen (1969); Sarah Slean (2004) and Lesley Choyce (1998).

As for the wines we tasted they were the Chardonnays from 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2000 and 1998 – and the Cabernet Merlots from 2006, 2002 and 1998.

Top Chardonnays were the two oldest from the (winemaker) Derek Barnett era of Southbrook’s history; both wines are sold only in magnum (1.5L). The 2000 Chardonnay ($136) was golden in colour with toasty-buttery smells with hints of cinnamon and marmalade. The palate retained a spiciness with good acidity. Marmalade aspects from the nose also follow in the mouth along with nutmeg, cinnamon, butterscotch and vanilla … this was a big, mouth filling wine full of flavour.

The 1998 Chardonnay ($148) was still very nice, but had a bitterness on the back of the tongue (which was its only drawback); the nose was still fruity, buttery, and spicy with vanillaed-orange-flower nuances. There was a movie theatre popcorn taste, a good spiciness, cinnamon and orange marmalade with a brown sugar sprinkle.

Next in line was a toss up between the 2004 and 2006. The 2006 was buttery, big and oaky and tasted older than what it was, while the 2004 had orange marmalade, spiced orange and notes of honey on the nose, with spiced lemon, hints of butterscotch and marmalade on the long finish. So now that I’ve talked it through, I guess my third choice is the 2004 ($56 – 750ml).

As for the reds … I think the 2002 and 1998 Cabernet Merlots showed the best. The 2002 has coffee notes along with smoked green pepper and tobacco – there was also cinnamon, spices and herbs … much better than my bottle performed a few months ago. The 1998 Cabernet-Merlot ($168 – 1.5L) has those pleasant dried fruit characteristics and earthy tones – the wine travels nicely through the mid-palate, but ends with a touch of bitterness; must be something to do with that 1998 vintage.

These wines are all in limited quantity and available only at the winery.

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