Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Report from … The Experts Tasting – February 20, 2010

One of my favourite things to be called is “an expert”, it makes me smile, simply because when it comes to wine, it’s hard to be called “an expert” because the wine world is always changing. You can be knowledgeable, you can be up-to-date, you can be in-the-know, but expert, that’s hard to be. Calling someone an expert implies they know all – and the one thing for sure about the world of wine, there’s no such thing as “knowing it all”; every year, every vintage, Mother Nature pushes the reset button and everything you know can go right out the window – your quest for knowledge starts all over again.

I approach the Experts Tasting at Brock University, which is held every year on the Saturday after Cuvee, with the empty-cup-fill-me-up approach. Winemakers, writers, educators, sommelier, restaurateurs and others get together to taste thru that year’s tasting seminar program. Last year it was sparkling wine, this year it’s about terroir: showing the sub-appellations of Niagara. For those who read my blog postings about the sub-ap tour through Niagara this past fall, know my opinion on the sub-appellations: we are still a young wine region in our naissance, when it comes to sub-aps we are attempting to run before we can crawl; and we really are in our crawling phase here. But the panel for our four flights (of 7 wines each) did their best to highlight some of the best wines of the Niagara appellations.

Chris Water, the man behind Vines Magazine, talked about his first love, Riesling, of the seven wines, 4 were excellent, but the most compelling was the Flat Rock Cellars 2007 Riesling – still fresh and lively three years from vintage date, with none of the premature petrol smells that seem to plague hot year Rieslings.

Next up, Rob Power of Creekside, spoke of Chardonnay. Rob seemed a little nervous, his love and passion for wine were definitely on display, but when it came to going off script he seemed to mess up his stories: like the Judgment of Paris (1976) and the Judgment of Montreal (2009) – I’m sure he knows the difference between these two (Paris was the US vs France; while Montreal was US vs France with a Canadian ringer thrown in), but it didn’t come out that way. As for the Chardonnay, two stood out above the rest and both from the ripe 2007 vintage: Flat Rock Cellars 2007 Estate Chardonnay and Malivoire 2007 Moira Vineyard Chardonnay.

Norman Hardie stood at the podium and gave his piece on Pinot (Noir). Norm toils in Prince Edward County, but he also uses Niagara fruit in some of his wines, and he has a real passion for Pinot. He refers to the grape as ‘Capricious and Fickle’, telling us about tasting the same barrels in the cellar on two concurrent days and finding them different on each day. Another 7 wines, with another 2 stand outs: Le Clos Jordanne 2007 Petite Colline and Flat Rock Cellars 2007 Gravity Pinot Noir.

Finally, Darryl Brooker, winemaker for Hillebrand, took the microphone to speak about Cabernet and Merlot. This was a flight in which Flat Rock could not dominate because they do not make wine from these grape varieties. Another flight of 7 and two more good examples of appellation wines from Niagara: Henry of Pelham 2007 Speck Family Reserve and Hillebrand 2007 Showcase Cabernet Sauvignon Clark Farm.

I always enjoy the experts tasting, especially this year (more on that in a minute), but I do question its timing – just after Cuvee. Yes it’s educational and fun to attend, but you have all these writers, sommeliers, and restaurateurs in the neighbourhood (Niagara region), would some of their time best be served touring around the region and trying wines at the various wineries and not sitting around for 4+ hours? Something that always strikes me as odd is that they put us in a room from 10 till well past 2 and then people wonder why they don’t feel like going out and exploring wineries. By the time it’s thru, people just want to get back home. Only the truly dedicated get out their and visit. To prove my point I visited Cave Spring, Fielding and Thirty Bench before trekking back to Toronto. Keep in mind that some of these folks only get out to Niagara once a year (Cuvee time) and it would be nice for them to be able to get out and explore. I’m not complaining, I’m just saying. It’s all part of being a promoter of our industry – which brings me to my exciting news ...

My Highlight of the Experts Tasting …
As of February 20, 2010, at the Experts Tasting, I, Michael Pinkus, being of relatively sound mind (at times) am now an Award Winning Writer. I was given the Promoting the Promoters award in the media category. I would like to thank the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (for no other reason than I watch a lot of movies), my parents for not being alcoholics (thus keeping wine in the house), to my loyal readers, like yourself, for enjoying what I do, for reading my rants and observations and taking action when you deem it necessary. I promise that I will not let this go to my head, I’ll still be the same outspoken promoter and sh*t disturber I’ve always been … just now I have been awarded and recognized by my peers. Thanks to all of you.

A Little Grumbling and a Little Pettiness…
I will have to admit to you that I was not surprised by the pettiness shown by the LCBO representative at the event. Host Nina Hofer introduced all who were coming to the podium. On the second awards presentation, the one for media, she announced that we were running late and that Charles Baker, the presenter, had to keep it to 4 minutes instead of the customary 5 … it was interesting to note that this was the only presentation she made that announcement for, allowed plenty of other presenters to go over their allotted time and even allowed an impromptu speech from another award recipient on the afternoon. But again, what did I really expect, this is the LCBO after all … so for those that did not get a chance to see why the LCBO and I seem to be on opposing sides of the fence, I will direct your attention (once again) to this Ottawa Life Article, published January 2010, written by yours truly: LCBO Monopoly.

Best Wine of the Tasting …
You’ve read about the in-flight wines – now it’s time to tell you about the Best Wine of the Tasting – the one that caused me to run out to the winery and buy a few bottles. It happened during the fifth and final flight, which is a fun little quiz that is suppose to lighten the mood of the room and also show you what you have learned. The first wine poured (in the flight of five) was a 2008 Gewurztraminer from Cave Spring Cellars, which proved to be utterly delightful and refreshing.

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