Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Report from ... SWOVA New Vintage Tasting at Sprucewood Shore – August 9, 2009

SWOVA is the South Western Ontario Vintners Association – otherwise known as the wineries of the Lake Erie North Shore (LENS). They get together annually, in August, to promote their newest and finest wines (one year there was a short fall of new wines, so that’s where the idea of also promoting their ‘finest’ came into play). I am happy to report this year there was a plethora of new wines to taste, and plenty of wineries were quick to point out that this was/is a new vintage tasting, so all they were pouring was the new stuff.

Here’s something I have always loved about this gathering of the clan (wineries), it roves … that means it goes from winery-to-winery every year: 2 years ago it was at Erie Shore, last year Mastronardi hosted, and this year it was Sprucewood Shores turn to put on ‘the really big show’ (details for next year’s tasting can be found at the end of this report). The reason this is such a wonderful idea is because of Ontario’s arcane alcohol selling laws, which prohibit wineries from selling their product at tastings – except of course for the host. Because the SWOVA tasting roams it gives each winery not only a chance to showcase itself and how it throws a party, but also allows them the benefit from the traffic and sell their wine. This also meant that Sprucewood could be a little more generous with their pours because they had product on-hand and at-the-ready. Noticeably absent from this year’s tasting was Sanson Estate and Viewpointe – somebody said it was because they are not part of the association; this got my head working overtime as I thought back even further to previous year’s tastings … I am sure I have seen both of them there before, in fact Viewpointe hosted back in 2006 … just goes to show that there are always rebels in every crowd.

Sprucewood put on quite the spread on this very hot afternoon. With highs reaching a balmy 94F degrees (~32C) with lots of sticky humidity. The food consisted of hot hors d’oeuvres tables scattered throughout and a hot entrée horseshoe in the very center of the large tent – unfortunately I did not take advantage of the food so I can’t comment. But from the looks on the faces of those sitting at tables – and the piled high plates, as well as seconds, thirds and possibly fourths, I’m going to say the food was as big a hit as the wine. But I was on a mission: to find the best wines of the SWOVA tasting, the rest (with full reviews) will turn up in newsletters and Weekly Wine Notes over the next few months.

Bubbling Under … the 4.5-star wines …
There were quite a few 4.5 star wines (full reviews pending – check the website or sign up for the newsletter to keep up-to-date), including Mastronardi’s 2007 Cabernet Franc – a steal at $12.95; Muscedere’s 2007 Syrah – a $40 limited edition (25 cases) wine that really delivers. Colchester Ridge, now wanting to be known as CREW, 2007 Merlot – at a mere $14.80 is a real bargain; Pelee Island’s 2008 Riesling over delivers with crisp flavour especially at the unbelievable price of $10.95. Newcomer Black Bear Farms (fruit winery) has a hit on their hands with their fresh strawberry flavours and aromas Strawberry sweet wine; while another fruit winery that seems to play around successfully with grapes, Wagner Estate, took an old favourite and jazzed it up a bit: his usual Vidal only Log House White ($11.00) had 10% of a minerally Riesling added to it with stellar effects. My final four-and-a-half-star selection was as big a surprise to me as it may be to you: Aleksander Estate 2007 Baco Noir ($11.95) – which lacked the usual unruly earthy-gaminess I find in Baco and replaced it with a big port-like appeal: fruit and chocolate.

Something from the Host …
It would be rude not to mention the top new wine from the host, and that would be their 2008 Riesling ($12.95), which was described by winemaker Tanya Mitchell as yummy – and I would have to agree.

5 Star Selections …
This year’s tasting produced 2 stellar bottles that are must buys right now – that means get your hands on them right away, because, as it turns out, both are fairly limited in quantity.

Muscedere Vineyards 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon ($30.00) … first time the boys at Muscedere have worked with the king of reds, and what a debut. Made from grapes taken from 3-year old vines, cropped down to 10 clusters per vine or one ton per acre. This wine is big in the fruit forward department, lots of cherry, raspberry and blackberry along with vanilla and herbs backing it up. The entry is sweet blackberry and raspberry with good tannin structure and balancing acidity. Aged 12 months in new French oak the wine shows signs of good ageability; alcohol was kept in check at 13.3%, though the hot growing season of 2007 would have had brix (sugar) levels high; and then there’s the big extended fruit finish. Only 75 cases made. Price: $30 – Rating: *****

Colio Estate 2007 CEV 9-Barrel Shiraz ($19.95) … another low production wine from the stellar 2007 vintage. Back in 2005, winemaker Tim Reilly created the first Shiraz ever for Colio and called it “6-Barrel Shiraz”, in 2007, another good red vintage, he got a little more to play with – and once again created something extraordinary. Aged 16 months in 100% Hungarian oak, or which 30% was new. Great red fruit, spice and pepper on the nose, the palate is smooth and supple, there’s great fruit in the mouth with solid tannin structure, lots of raspberry notes with an interesting change up of pepper from nose-to-mouth: white pepper aromas, black pepper palate. This wine must be tried and buyed (I mean bought) to be believed it’s from Ontario. Price: $19.95 – Rating: *****

Next Years’s SWOVA Tasting: Sunday August 8, 2010 at Muscedere Vineyards – see you there.

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