Sunday, May 31, 2009

Report from ... Archibald’s Fruit Wine & Food Festival – May 30, 2009

Hot dog (probably the only food not available for tasting today) a wine and food festival with a twist. The twist? It’s fruit wine, the 10th Annual Archibald’s festival that brings local area eateries (in and around Bowmanville) together with Ontario fruit wineries. This year there were 10 participating wineries. Some, like Southbrook, Muskoka Lakes and Rush Creek are annual attendees, while others like Countryman’s and Moon Shadow are relatively new to the festivities. This is by no means all the fruit wineries of Ontario – for that Archibald’s would have to clear out their entire parking lot and set the tents up there … but it is a good representation of fruit wineries in the area, and from a little further. I have to hand it to Archibald’s, this year’s event was well thought out and spacious as compared to last year’s. Last year there was one long tent with wineries and foodries up and down each side, causing a over-crowding situation where you always felt like you were in the way and stepping on your neighbour-taster, combine that with the heat and flash of a heavy downpour and the tent became stifling at times. This year the tents, yes plural, were set up in a “U”-shape with the wineries and food stations on the outside perimeter, and the interior had lots of tables, chairs and plenty of room to move about and enjoy your sample without feeling rushed or in the way; kudos to the organizers (Archibald’s) for realizing the need for a much better set-up.

So Who Was There …

Applewood, Countryman’s, County Cider, Kawartha Country, Moon Shadows, Muskoka Lakes, Ocala, Rush Creek, Southbrook and of course the host, Archibald’s. My foodie took the day off, so I was on my own for food selections, and those who know me know that food takes a back seat to a good glass of wine, but there were some interesting and tasty dishes to be had – keeping in mind that sometimes simple is best.

Food First …

Chanterelle Bistro (Bowmanville) served delicious mini lamb burgers that were succulent and juicy topped with a mint jelly. Everything from the bun to the jelly was homemade.

A gentleman by the name of Eben Vanderstam, who goes by the moniker “Chef Eben”, had the most sought after treat of the day: Durham Pork and Beef Meatballs Walsaka. Everybody was carrying at least one of these delicious squash ball sized meatballs around, smothered in a delicious sweet and tangy sauce; if you were unlucky enough not to be carrying one around (or hadn’t tried one yet) you sooner or later found yourself asking someone, “where did you get that?”

Steamers Catering (Newcastle) had the dessert of the day to die for: Chocolate Crunch Trifle … chocolate cake, chcolate pudding with toffee-almond crunch mixed in, all topped with whipped cream and a cherry. I suffered through one, but would have gladly suffered through a dozen more.

Now, The Wine …

Ten wineries pouring a minimum of three wines each, though many were pouring more, and the choices of what to try seemed endless. But the wine of the day went to Applewood Farm Winery for their Mac Meade ($12.95) – there is no doubt as to why this wine won it’s Double Gold status at this year’s All Canadian Wine Championships (its second in as many years).

Other delights included Rush Creeks’ Rockin’ Raspberry; Kawartha Country Wines’ Raspberry Social and Raspberry Chocolate; and Muskoka Lakes 2007 Cranberry and 2007 White Cranberry. There were also previous favourites like the Moon Shadow dessert series (Maple Sugar, Strawberry Shortcake and Cranberry Ice), Applewood’s Hard Eight Raspberry Cider and Mukoka Lakes’ Red Maple.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one wine from the host and I found a great little bit of bubbly called Hard Cranberry that’s an apple based wine with a shot of cranberry to minimize the sweetness and ramp up the refreshment factor.

Another successful and eye-opening Fruit Wine Festival – it’s here that you will find the innovators of the wine industry – they push the envelope to make interesting and authentic wines because of their passion for the product, because they sure don’t get the recognition they deserve from the wine buying public or the LCBO and certainly none from government – but that’s a story for another day. What I suggest now is finding your local fruit winery, step inside and see what interesting things are on the shelf, or you can always wait for the 11th edition of this festival to come around.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Report from ... The F’in Winery Tour – May 10, 2009

Some language may not be suitable for some readers.
Reader discretion is advised.

What would you do it I told you to get the ‘F’ to Beamsville and take part in an F’in wine tour. I suspect, depending on my tone, you might just tell me to F-off. But that’s precisely what three F’in wineries were telling you to do on the weekends of May 2 & 3 and 9 & 10. They wanted you to pry your lazy carcass off the F’in couch, pile your F’in bones (and any other effer you could talk into going with you) into the car, and come on down to the Beamsville area and take part in the “F’in Winery Tour”. The effers I am referring to are Flat Rock, Featherstone and Fielding – and I would not be wrong in calling them Mother-Effers because May 10 was Mother’s Day – coincidence? I think not.

For this event each winery had cooked up, or at least concocted, an F’in dish to pair with their F’in wine, and each dish was based on a pasta that start with the letter “F”.

Featherstone went with a hot Fettuccine dish, they called “Featherstone Fettucine” – they showed real creativity here in the naming. Owner Louise cooked it up right in front of you, using garlic and gorgonzola, along with flour and fettuccine. I have to admit what it lacked in name it made up for in flavour; it was F’in good, and paired nicely with one of my favourites, their 2007 Gamay.

Flat Rock showed a little more iniative when naming their Fusilli dish, “Flat Rock’s Fabulous Fusilli”, a cold pasta salad with prosciutto, asparagus, olives, green onions and asiago cheese paired with their two Twisteds, 2006 Red and 2007 White. The white was good on its own, while the red paired well with the salad. As an aside, I recently got a taste of the 2008 version of Twisted white and it’s frickin’ phenomenal.

Finally, Fielding freaked everyone out by dishing up “Feel-Good Farfalle” (as a kid I used to call this pasta “Fart-Full” – just cause it sounded funny) – the dish contained red, yellow and green peppers, olives, sausages, herbs, balsamic and oil. It was served in a fiesta-sized cup and paired with 2007 Red Conception and/or 2008 Rockpile Pinot Gris.

The F’in Winery Tour was a fun frolic for friends and family, a simple event worth the two-fivers you would have paid for it; and thankfully something these F’in wineries will be continiuing for years to come. When asked about the name and the reactions they have been getting to it one winery told me that they had just one complaint about it. One customer emailed to say that this type of event “debases the winery” and the “seriousness of what they are trying to achieve with their wines and the industry”. Obviously this is the same guy who called the FCC about Janet Jackson’s boob during the Super Bowl a few years ago (it debases the seriousness of the sport; as if the cheerleaders aren’t showing enough of their own goodies; not that I’m complaining, but I digress).

This F’in Tour is lots of fun, worth the price of admission and I’m glad to see wineries taking iniative and banding together to create unique and fun filled experiences, with food, that lighten up the mood and make wine, for lack of a better term, “fun”. Taking the seriousness out of wine and putting a free-spirit back into it. As for my overall impression of the F’in Winery Tour, I’d say I had a fuckin’ good time.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Report from ... Niagara-on-the-Lake's Wine and Herb Festival - May 2009

As in past years’ we ranked the food, the wine and the pairing. Best wine went to Palatine Hills, for their 2008 Gewurztraminer ($13.95 – see Picks of the Bunch below for review). Best food was to be had at Coyote’s Run with a pop-in-your-mouth-delicious Cheese Tartlet. As for best pairing, that honour was shared between Strewn (Riesling/Potato Gnocchi) and new-comer Stratus (Riesling Icewine/Bergamot Crème Brulee). But there were many other inspired and worthwhile pairings. Below is the list by star ratings (5 = outstanding; 4.5 = excellent, 4 = very good, 3.5 = good, 3 = average, 2 = fair, 1 = poor) – only one winery got a 2 (which is a pretty good ratio for now having 21 wineries) while 2 wineries picked up the coveted 5-star rating … you’ll also find some selected comments about the pairing.

5-Star (Outstanding)
Stratus – Bergamot Crème Brulee w/ 2007 Riesling Icewine … “perfect pairing, a great first time effort, can they match this next time out?”
Strewn – Potato Gnocchi with lemon and goat cheese in a sage leaf butter w/ 2006 Riesling Semi-Dry … they used 14lbs of potatoes, flour, etc. and only 1½ lemon rinds and yet the lemon comes through, augmented beautifully by the Riesling. This is the first time Strewn has used their cooking school to their advantage.

4½-Star (Excellent)
Palatine Hills – Honey-coriander dressing served over cold rice noodle salad with dried apricots w/ 2008 Gewurztraminer … we differed here, I liked both but not together, the foodie thought it worked well together, we compromised at the half-mark.
Peller Estates – Compote of apricot and horseradish with icewine reduction as a base for black pepper and chervil ice cream w/ Ice Cuvee … they get their points here for uniqueness and originality of the food, they seem to use the same wine every event.
Southbrook – Arugula Pesto Pizza with roast potato, goat cheese and tomato w/ 2008 Cabernet Rosé … for this newcomer to the party you just knew it was going to be a pizza, but they had such delicious results with their creation.
Sunnybrook – Terragon Biscotti w/Bosc Pear wine … this usual bottom dweller stepped up their performance with a simple pairing that worked great together.

4-Star (Very Good)
Cattail Creek – Shrimp and goat cheese on a crostini with tomato cilantro pesto w/ 2007 Off-Dry Riesling.
Coyote’s Run – Cheese Tartlet with chive and roasted pear w/ 2008 Pinot Gris/Pinot Blanc.
Lailey Vineyard – Fennel Bulb sautéed in butter and kosher salt wrapped in phyllo pastry w/ 2008 Vidal
Niagara College – Thai Curry Shrimp w/ 2006 Rosé
Pillitteri – Cranberry-Lavender upside down cake w/ 2007 Merlot Bianco (Rosé)

3½-Star (Good)
Chateau des Charmes – Lemon basil cracker with Aligote wine jelly w/ 2007 Aligote … the herb and wine went very well together, especially if you plucked a leaf off the plant and nibble that on its own then sipped some wine.
Konzelmann – Mixed bean oregano salsa infused with sambal oelek sauce w/ 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve (see Picks of the Bunch below for review).
Maleta – Douanne cheese, fresh baguette, savoury infused honey w/ 2007 VIEW Pinot Noir … simple yet effective.

3-Star (Average)
Hillebrand – Asparagus soup “with shit in it” w/ 2007 Artist Series Limited Edition Gewurztraminer … a good attempt at innovation but was too complicated to fully enjoy; “the girl spent more time explaining it than I did enjoying it.”
Inniskillin – Cornbread rosemary cheddar muffin topped with Cabernet Sauvignon butter w/ 2006 Klose Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Jackson-Triggs – Basil biscotti w/ 2007 Proprietors’ Grand Reserve White Meritage … “it was a good crumbly cookie, this pairing was saved by the wine”
Joseph’s – Foccacia with French Sorrel and caramelized onions with 7-year old cheddar w/ 2006 Chenin Blanc … “when all is said and done it’s just bread”, saved by the food.
Marynissen – “Fireside Dinner” (Beef Stew) w/ 2006 Syrah … simple can sometimes be too simple, “didn’t they do this before?”
Reif – Cold pea soup with grapefruit mint w/ 2006 Sauvignon Blanc

2-Star (Fair)
Stonechurch – Thyme Rolls On (Thyme cream cheese on a cracker) w/ 2007 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay … “I’d eat a few at a party”, “the cracker had more flavour than the cheese.”, a fancy/cute name does not make for a fancy pairing.

See Newsletter #109 for details of the event and why it is one of the premier events in the Niagara Region. (coming May 28)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Report from ... Tre Amici Portfolio Tasting – April 28, 2009

Now this was quite the tasting, held in the Pantages Hotel on Victoria Street, just around the corner from Massey Hall (I added that to give those who know where Massey Hall is a little perspective). Along one wall were food tables serving desserts, beef, bread, cheese, fish, you name it the food was most likely there. Down the middle aisle you could find an array of spirits like Tequila and Grappa and there was also Italian beer and ice cream made with wine. The best part about the tasting, besides the vast amount of belly-filling goodness spread throughout the room, was the great display of wines at prices that were friendly to both consumer and licensee alike. Put simply, there was quite a bit of wine that you and I could afford quite easily – and an even better bargain if you could split the case with a friend or two.

Take for example the Crea Vini Primitivo Del Salento (red), a plumy, vanilla-cherries and chocolate number for a mere $12.95. Those wishing for a little more complexity in their wine could spend three-dollars more a bottle on the Villa Pillo Cigalino (red) with cherry, cranberry, spices, pepper and herbal notes – this one is just a youngster so when you pull it out of your cellar, 5 years hence, you’ll crow at how little you paid for such a wonderful wine ($15.95). Bubbly lovers were also bound to find a bargain. The fresh and lively Tenuta Santome Prosecco Brut was only $18.95, while the same winery’s Santhomas Spumante Brut Rosé, a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris, had a sweet fruity freshness with lots of strawberry and raspberry notes – a playful summer patio bubbly for only $21.95.

Those wishing to drink something other than Italian wine found themselves in luck when the swung by the Carlos Basso booth. This Argentinean estate (aka Vina Amalia) had both a delicious white (Sauvignon Blanc - $14.75) and red (Malbec - $17.95) at very affordable, reasonable and, in some cases, a steal of a price. The Basso Signature Blend (50% Malbec, 25 Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Petit Verdot and 10% Syrah) was an incredible bargain, even at $39 a bottle, it was big and spicy with vanilla cream, cinnamon, chocolate and gobs of black fruit. Their Cabernet Sauvignon Reservada ($25) was another big black-fruited wine that was under-priced or is it that it over-delivered – let’s say it’s a little from column A and a little from column B.

Not everyone offered up outstanding value … there were some wines that offered outstanding taste, but you had to pay for it. Barolo fans would have found their way over to Cascina Adelaide, where a series of single vineyard and blended vineyard Nebbiolos awaited them. The four-village 2004 Barolo ($64.95) offered spices, herbs and dried fruit; the 2004 'Cannubi' ($83.05) raised the bar to include lovely red fruit, cedar and big tannins; while the top of the line 2000 Barolo Riserva ‘Per Elan’, from the Cannubi vineyard ($122.75) was killer, with all its smells and flavours: dried fruit, cinnamon, leather, anise, with mouth-filling, drying tannins. Lovely food wine … Italian anyone? For an accompaniment just look around the room.

Unique wines were also available. Tenuta Santome had a 2004 Rabaso – a grape that only grows in their village. Wild cherries, vanilla, leather, tobacco, spicy and full bodied … this very regional wine was intriguing; of course, you pay for its rarity - $38.95 – but then you have something that not many people possess to drink … so maybe it is worth it? You decide.

Finally, I stopped at a winery located in one of my favourite regions, Vineto, where I sampled Valpolicella in all its forms. The Grotta Del Ninfeo’s 2004 Amarone ($65.85) was heavenly and the star of the table: big cherry, wood and spice on the nose and a chocolaty-plumy smoothness on the palate. Interesting fact: during this process (drying of the grapes for Amarone) the grapes lose 60% of their weight over the four-month drying period.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Report from ... Ontario Wine Awards Gala Dinner & Award Ceremony – May 8, 2009

The 14th Annual Ontario Wine Awards was held on Friday night and a record number of wines entered, 501, all vying for the Gold, Silver and Bronze awards in 25 different wine categories … there were also 4 other categories: Winemaker of the Year, Wine of the Year, Wine Journalism Award and Label Design Award. Thirsty Traveler Kevin Brauch hosted this event with a little better success than the previous two hosts – though you could still hear some groans and moans from the audience. I had no problem with him, especially during his sabring stunt to a bottle of bubbly, in honour of mine and my fiancées engagement – which had happened at 5AM that morning after a long-overnight journey from Detroit. I would especially like to take this opportunity to publicly thank Tony Aspler for such a special moment during his awards ceremony.

Besides myself, because she said yes, big winners included Tawse with three golds (Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir), Creekside three golds (Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot) along with Malivoire and Gretzky taking home a couple of pieces of golden hardware. Wine of the Year honours were broken down into White and Red – sparing us from another year of an Icewine taking top prize. Vineland’s 2005 Reserve Cabernet Merlot was the red with a score of 91.5 and Thirty Bench 2007 Riesling took home the white prize, with a score of 90.5. Winemaker of the Year, and rightly so, went to Thomas Bachelder from Le Clos Jordanne. The Wine Journalism Award went to John Szabo for his article in The Globe and Mail “Napa North”.

And the Gold Medal winning wines are …
Wines highlighted in blue are linked back to for a full review (many are so new they have yet to be reviewed) … the rest of the winners, in the silver and bronze categories, can be found at

Sparkling Wine –
Maleta Estate 2006 View Old Vines Brut

Dry Riesling –
Thirty Bench 2007 Riesling
*winner of the White Wine of the Year Award.

Semi-Dry Riesling –
Tawse 2008 Misek Vineyard Riesling

Dry White Varietal –
Fielding Estate 2007 Viognier
*last year Fielding won for their 2006 version of this wine.

Gewurztraminer –
Tawse 2008 Quarry Road Vineyard Estate Bottled Gewurztraminer

Pinot Gris –
Pelee Island Winery 2008 Pinot Grigio

Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon –
Creekside Estate 2007 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

Oaked Chardonnay (under $20) -
Mike Weir Estate 2007 Chardonnay

Oaked Chardonnay (over $20) -
Peninsula Ridge Estates 2007 Reserve Chardonnay

Unoaked Chardonnay –
Vineland Estates 2007 Chardonnay Non-Oaked

Rosé / Blanc de Noir -
Legends Estates 2008 Malbec Rosé

Gamay –
Malivoire Wine Company 2007 Gamay

Pinot Noir –
Tawse 2007 Cherry Avenue Vineyard Estate Bottled Pinot Noir

Red Hybrid –
Malivoire Wine Company 2007 Old Vines Foch

Cabernet Franc –
Colio Estate 2005 Reserve Cabernet Franc

Cabernet Sauvignon –
Creekside Estate 2005 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Merlot –
Creekside Estate 2005 Butler’s Grant Vineyard Reserve Merlot

Syrah/Shiraz –
Stonechurch Vineyards 2007 Reserve Syrah

Meritage and Cabernet/Merlot Blends –
Vineland Estates 2005 Reserve Cabernet Merlot
*winner of the Red Wine of the Year Award.

Late Harvest –
Chateau des Charmes 2007 Estate Bottled Late Harvest Riesling

Vidal Icewine –
Wayne Gretzky Estates 2005 Vidal Icewine

Vinifera Icewine –
Riverview Cellars Estate 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine

Sparkling Icewine Award –
Inniskillin 2006 Sparkling Vidal Icewine

Blended Red Award –
Wayne Gretzky Estates 2006 Estate Series Shiraz Cabernet

Blended White Award –
Caroline Cellars 2006 Momentum Enchantment

Best Label Design Award –
Fielding Estate 2008 Sauvignon Blanc

These and many other award winning VQA Ontario wines will be poured during the consumer tasting event (now known as Sip & Savour Ontario – which will include culinary pairings of regional cuisine), held in the Distillery District in downtown Toronto on Tuesday June 16, 2009 … tickets are on sale now. To find out more check out

For more wine reviews and related articles go to,
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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Report from ... Foster's California Tasting - April 22, 2009

Foster's (yes the beer company from down-under) has quite a stable of U.S. based wineries under its umbrella, ten to be exact; and we're not talking tiny little no-name wineries here: Beringer, Chateau St. Jean, Stags’ Leap, Greg Norman (California Estate) and Etude, just to mention half, and seven of these wineries were in town just last month for the big California Tasting .... California must love Toronto and vice versa. As you have read, the California tasting is massive, so I was looking forward to a "smaller" tasting to wrap my head and tastebuds around some of California's icon wineries; but even with only ten wineries on hand that’s still a whopping 72 wines being poured … below I pick my top eight, by varietal. For those looking for whites, sadly you'll have to go elsewhere, most of the whites poured at the show were Chardonnay (with a few Sauvignon Blancs and Pinot Gris) and nothing stood out to me here; though if I remember to do so, I’ll let you know which was my favourite white in the room in some kind of offhanded comment (look for it).

Cabernet … Top Cab honours at this event go to Stags' Leap Wineries 2005 ‘The Leap’ Estate Grown Cabernet Sauvignon ($99.95). This was a delicious wine that had big ripe juicy black fruit and a ton of chocolate; and as any chocoholic knows, you can't resist the chocolate.

Merlot … Sbragia, was showing 6 wines, and they had some of the best in the room – I mean that across the board. All 6 were in my top three of something. In fact, had I been doling out a top white honour their Sauvignon Blanc would have taken top prize. That said they also came up with two list topping, amazing reds. The first is the Sbragia 2006 Dry Creek Home Ranch Merlot ($34.95). The nose was simply jump-in gorgeous: sweet cherries and chocolate being the most prominent smells. The palate had a smoothness that glided over the tongue with seamless, supple tannins - a good fruit-spice-mix with lovely cherry and sweet black licorice that finished with hints of cinnamon. Gorgeous.

Pinot Noir … In the past California Pinot has not impressed me much, in general they are too jammy with too much candied fruit; but today there was a certain je-ne-sais-quoi in the air and three Pinots really stood out:
Beringer Third Century 2006 Pinot Noir ($19.95) - red fruit and vanilla spice greet the nose, a creamy mouth-feel with a nice tannin-to-acid mix on the finish.
Chateau St. Jean 2006 Sonoma County Pinot Noir ($29.95) - good red fruit nose and flavour with a nice mineral quality on the tongue. Nice acidity backs this up with fine tannins.
Taz 2006 Fiddlestix Pinot Noir Santa Rita Hills ($39.95) - this wine is the story of two cherries: the sour on the nose and the juicy supple red ones on the palate.

Red Blend … Here Beringer’s 2005 Knight’s Valley Alluvium Red ($39.95) won out by a nose, literally. The smell of this one just sucked me in and had me wading in the pool of its richness: mint, spicy-red fruit and cinnamon. The palate proved to be a little closed off of this moment giving hints of some smooth spicy character to come, but give it another year or so and it should shine as bright as the smell.

Syrah … It takes an Aussie these days to pull off Syrah/Shiraz and Greg Norman Estates 2005 Camatta Hills Reserve Syrah ($49.95) was just the ticket. The nose is black pepper, black cherry with hints of chocolate. In the mouth, you'll find it follows the nose to perfection with big black fruit and pepper; finishing off with robust tannins and a dusting of pepper.

Zinfandel … Here's your second Sbragia wine, and this one stood heads and tails over the others in the room: Sbragria 2006 Dry Creek Gino’s Vineyard Zinfandel ($39.95) - my notes are all in point form as I wrote down words that came to my mind while I savoured this wine: vanilla, cherry, plum (nose) … creamy smooth chocolate, big red fruit on the palate, finished with just the right amount of tannins. I’ll leave you with that hanging about on your tongue, for you Zin fans its heaven. Later.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Report from ... Bouchard and Fevre Tasting - April 28, 2009

Today, it's off to Burgundy to taste some very upscale Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays … alright, so I am not getting on a plane, but I am taking mass transportation – I’m hopping a bus-subway combination to make my way down to the Toronto Yacht Club to savour samples being offered by Woodman Wines. Now I’ve never claimed to be a Burgundy expert, my hat goes off to those who even claim such an honour, all those cotes, domaines and negocients is enough to make one feel that their head is going to explode. But I do understand the concept of Terroir - a sense and essence of place in the wine - of which Burgundy offers up a good argument for the concept. Each parcel of land gives the wine a different flavor and smell, even if it's ever so subtle … to understand Terroir one must check into Burgundy for an extended stay.

But as usual I’m off topic … you came on board to read about wines from William Fevre and Bouchard Pere et Fils and it's about time I take you there.

This relatively small tasting, 36 wines (8 from Fevre, 28 Bouchard), all showed subtlety of taste nuances in each glass. All were from the 2007 vintage - unless they happen to have a back vintage to compare it with. With prices starting at $32.00 for either house, I find much of the good Burgundy wine to be prohibitive to the average consumer (whose tastes and price range set at about the $20 to $25.00 mark – now adays it’s even lower, for example of that see the rise of a wine called FuZion at only $7.45 a bottle). But if you do find yourself with some extra shekels burning a hole in your pocket and your Jonesing for Burgundy (Chardonnay or Pinot Noir) here's what I recommend.

William Fevre ...

Three from Favre caught my tongue and each could be part of your day: (NB: all these wines are Chardonnays).

Good morning: 2007 Chablis ($32.00) … great wine to start the tasting, fresh fruit, lively and crisp with great minerality … this is a great wake up wine (meaning it snapped my mouth and taste buds into action - not the kind where you keep a bottle on the bedside table, but to each his own, right?).

Good afternoon: my second wine was 2007 Chablis Premier Cru Beauroy ($51.00) … basically you take the fresh mineral fruit from the first wine, add some subtle vanilla (from barrel) … all the while preserving the great fruit quality, and developing something extra – a softening of the acids (but not too much). This is your midday Chablis.

Good night: this is my "good night Irene" selection, the 2007 Chablis Grand Cru “Les Preuses” ($100) … this wine has seen extended aging in barrel (twelve to fifteen months) and lees contact (dead yeast cells remain in the wine during maturation to add even more complexity to the flavours). This wine remained crisp yet soft, had great fruit and wonderful barrel notes. To break it down simply, take the above description of the second wine throw in a dash of butterscotch, ad body and fullness to the mouth feel, and you've got your night time Chablis.

Bouchard Pere & Fils …

More wines to choose from. An array of Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays, of which I recommend two Chardonnays and four Pinot Noirs (a top three and one that’s bubbling under):

My top Chardonnay(s):
2007 Grand Cru Corton-Charlemagne ($204.00) … it just had so much going on both nose and taste-wise: cinnamon, vanilla, apple, pear and lemon smells; while in the mouth, smooth citrus flavors, soft lemon, creamy vanilla … this one was all about delivering pleasure to your palate with the least amount of aggression.
Next up: 2007 Premier Cru Meursault ($114.00) … lively nose of mineral, vanilla and butterscotch, palate had a lovely peach vanilla note.

The Pinot Noirs …
For me this came down to price - the top three (of my tasting notes) were close as far as enjoyment and subtle differences. It was then I learned that I have some pretty expensive taste, so in the end I just asked myself a very simple, straight-forward question: “is it worth the money? If I had the funds, which would I feel comfortable buying?" I do this because in the end it's all about the mighty dollar (or so my father told me).

1 - 2007 Premier Cru Volnay “Caillerets” ($96.00) … red cherry and vanilla greet the nose; the palate shows a nice complexity of flavor: great cherry, touches of sweet cranberry, along with spices and cinnamon. Entry is smooth, tannins are supple.

2 - 2007 Grand Cru Le Corton ($128) … this was very cherry, strawberry and vanilla cream, there was a little bite in the mouth from tannins, but not enough to be off-putting in any way. There's also a nice mineral component to this wine and the finish offers up an interesting sweet and sour cherry note.

3 - 2007 Premier Cru Nuits-Saint-Georges “Les Cailles” ($128.00) … mineral and cherry notes, great smooth mouth with a chalky-mineral finish.

Special mention: 2007 Premier Cru Savigny-les-Beaunes ($45.00) … simple yet very tasty, with a beautiful cherry nose - sour cherries, good vanilla, some tannins and earthy tones. Very enjoyable and delivers what to expect from Pinot Noir.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Report from ... Somewhereness - April 22, 2009

Welcome to Somewhereness, the showing of six premium Ontario wineries (Flat Rock, Norman Hardie, Malivoire, Stratus, Tawse and Charles Baker). For the media tasting Somewhereness was held somewhere-else … the St. Lawrence Market demo kitchen, instead of where the main event was happening for the rest of the folks (in the evening) - Artscape Wychwood Barns. Something-else was interesting about this year's event … it would seem that Tawse has officially changed their name to “Tawes”, a fellow writer pointed out the new spelling on the printed material we received (our tasting sheet) each incident that should have read "Tawse” was actually spelled "T-A-W-E-S" ... even the websites and e-mail address. An interesting way to announce your new name, with subtlety, very Tawse/Tawes like.

Aside from the new spellings and name changes Somewhereness is a very interesting events; a chance to try the new releases (and in one case, back vintages) of some of Ontario’s premier (read expensive) wineries.

Tawse (or Tawes) ...
I’ll start this off with some kudos to this winery. When they first began operations, Tawse prices were astronomical and exclusionary, today I believe they have seen the light. Sure some of their wines are still in the stratosphere of the price chart, but for those of us who like our wines in the twenty buck range Tawse now has something for us too: Sketches. Sketches is the old ‘Echos” line under a new name. Restaurants wanted some exclusivity when it came to the Echos line, so Tawse drew up a new plan – Echos for restaurants, Sketches for the masses. The 2008 Sketches Riesling is wonderful, while the 2007 Sketches Cabernet-Merlot is everything you’d expect from a 2007 red (think great harvest year) for an incredibly reasonable price of $19.95 for a wine with a decade ahead of it. I was also a huge fan of the 2007 Growers Blend Pinot Noir, a pretty hefty wine for 38 clams, big and mouth filling with ageing potential written all over it. It's mixing the vision of great wine, a price structure that includes everyone, and a willingness to listen to the consumer (especially when it comes to pricing) that'll make Tawse the big winner in the end.

Stratus, Malivoire and Norman Hardie ...
I’m still awaiting the 07 reds from wineries like Stratus and Malivoire - though the Malivoire 2007 Mottiar Vineyard Pinot Noir is a great tease of what's to come, and don't forget about the Malivoire Ladybug Rose 2008 - perfect for the patio this summer. And Hardie has had some great Pinots and a Riesling come out from Ontario’s vintage of the century.

Charles Baker …
Charles presented a tasting of three of his vintages, all Riesling: 2006, 2007 and the new 2008 – the back vintages are aging well while the 2008 Riesling has great potential for longevity in the cellar.

Flat Rock …
Another impressive showing from the Rock, the 2008 Riesling is minerally and peachy; the 2008 Gewurztraminer is rosy and spicy, and the 2007 Pinot Noir is the best starter-Pinot they've ever made (as opposed to the Gravity – reserve - yet to be released).

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Drinking with Another Dave (Wisconsin) - May 2, 2009

It's official, everybody in the wine business in the U.S. is named Dave ... at least everybody who works / owns a wine store is.

If you haven't already checked out my What I'm Drinking Tonight from last night so you have a little background of where I am and what I'm talking about, I'll wait for you to come back, so go ahead, click over ...

Welcome back. A few years ago I read a book called Love By the Glass, where the couple, Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher, would go to their local wine store and find finds amongst the displays of boxes and baskets of wine while talking with the merchant. Unfortunately, I couldn't relate. I'm from Ontario, where our "local merchant" is the LCBO (a powerhouse monopoly), and the most talking you get from any of their employees is when your Visa gets declined. But over the last two days I have found myself at Dave Biegemann's Pop More Corks store, where I have seen what being a wine merchant is all about.

Dave engages everyone who walks in, offers them a tasting of what he has open (a selection of 8 wines - 4 white, 4 red), talks knowledgeably about the wines, its place of origin, the grape(s), heck, he even throws in bits about the winemaker as if he knows them personally - then again, maybe he does. Over the past two days I have witnessed wine selling as well as education. His customers gather 'round, wanting to taste the wines he has open, but also they want to hear and learn about what they are drinking. I would have to say that when it comes to selling his customers on wine Dave has more personality than most LCBO employees and gives more info about a wine in 10 minutes than many 'CBOers do in a week.

As for the wines I tried while wondering around the store, I wish I could tell you about them. This is the first time I've ever been so awed with the surroundings that I forget to pay attention to the wines. He's poured something with a blue circle on the label with a 41 in the middle, a beauty of a Spaniard called Tres Picos (I've had this baby before), an Argentinean Cab from Crios and a Chinon (France) Cabernet Franc called Cuvee Terroir; along with a number of whites (kept cold in a metal tub on the counter) ... I promise to pay more attention to the actual wines being poured next time, instead of my usual wandering and marvelling about the store. And to believe I found such a place in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin - amazing. We don't have places like this in Ontario why?