Sunday, December 14, 2008

Report from ... Lailey Vineyard Pre-Launch / Futures Event - November 27, 2008

A small, intimate venue (Fine Wine Reserve – Toronto) was the scene for the small, intimate Lailey pre-launch and futures event … a chance for the big city friends-of-Lailey, who can't make it down to their annual winter open house in early December - to get a taste, and purchase, upcoming wines. Winemaker Derek Barnett was on hand to present the wines he called "some of the best wines I have ever made" - which is saying a lot, because he's been at it for over fifteen years and has made some pretty outstanding wines in his time, including wine of the year at the Ontario Wine Awards for his (I believe) 1998 Cabernet/Merlot (for Southbrook) – a feat that has yet to be matched (all other times it has been an icewine that has taken that prize).

Today a few oldies warmed up the palate for the newer offerings: 2007 Counterpoint White was on hand, 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and 2007 Niagara River Chardonnay - then it was on to the tank and barrel samples.

2007 Chardonnay Old Vines ($40.00 - release: February 28 – Cuvee weekend) - only four barrels were produced (approximately 95 cases) of this wine, made from vines planted in 1974. A mix of new French barrels (for both fermentation and aging), then moved into one and 2 year old barrels for another four months of seasoning. The nose is vanilla and butterscotch loaded, while the palate shows the fruit off quite well, mainly peach with buttery-vanilla and a titch of butterscotch. A little bottle age should settle this one down nicely and then it’s a keeper for the long haul, 10+ years.

2007 Pinot Noir Old Vines ($45.00 - release: February 28 – Cuvee weekend) - this 100-case offering marks the first time Barnett and Lailey have separated their oldest estate Pinot vines (planted 1994), and equaling less than an acre of fruit. Barrel treatment was in new French, long toast barrels for 15 months (both fermentation and aging). The nose has the typicity of Pinot Noir (minus the earthy aspect), sour cherry, red fruit and a touch of vanilla ... the palate is toasty and woody with cranberry, sour cherries and real big tannins. This is a wine that shows great potential and real finesse, though it'll need time to settle down. 2-3 years of aging minimum.

2007 Cabernet Franc ($30.00 - expected bottling: February/March, 2009) - this wine was fermented in three small batches and carefully basket pressed, then blended and barreled. By the time of its expected bottling it will have spent sixteen to eighteen months in a mix of French (95%) and American (5%) oak. Today, it has a subtle nose of cherry, tobacco, cassis and blackberry … it also has tannins you can smell. The palate is big and bold with rich tannins, tobacco, blackberry and cleansing, yet lingering, acidity. This wine could live comfortably in the cellar for eight to ten years, but you'll want to pull one out every so often to see how it's doing. Only 200 cases will be produced.

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30.00 - expected bottling: February/March, 2009) - this wine is showing its hand a little more than its Franc counterpart. The nose is far from subtle with big black cherry, vanilla and blackberries; while the palate, is already incredibly juicy with great fruit (cherry, blackberry, plum, cassis) and other notes (chocolate) ... rich smooth and delicious with great acidity. Another cellar dweller for sure (8-10 years). 200 cases will be produced ... barrel treatment saw the use of 25% U.S. and 75% French wood.

2007 Meritage Canadian Oak ($40.00 - expected bottling: February/March, 2009) - this is another first for Lailey - the first time they will release a Meritage wine. A blend of Cabernet Franc (66%), Cabernet Sauvignon (17%) and Merlot (17%), it's a wine that Derek himself called "heavier and richer”, while also commenting, "[it] shows nice characteristics and shows the fruit very well.” This wine was aged together from the get go in equal parts new, two and three year old barrels. The nose smells of sour cherry, black cherry and cassis, while the palate shows both juicy fruits and gritty, firm tannins -black cherry takes the lead in the fruit department, while chocolate and tobacco carry the tannin weight. Good punch and drying finish - this is yet another that will age extremely well into the next decade.

For those fans of Derek's Impromptu red blend, expect it’s bottling to be the same as the above Franc, Sauv and Meritage. Currently, it is a very shy and closed off wine but shows real potential for the future. Full review pending release.

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