Friday, February 18, 2011

Report from ... My Lunch with Andrzej - January 17, 2011

Earlier in the week I accepted an invitation to lunch from Ontario's Roaming Winemaker Andrzej Lipinski ... I dubbed him that in a review I wrote a few weeks ago and I think Andrzej wanted to set the record straight.  Andrzej has quite the interesting story to tell of a young man coming to Canada in the early 90s and getting his start at Vineland Estates ... interestingly enough he was not a winemaker by trade, but in fact an auto mechanic - though he did grow up in a town that had the only wine festival in Poland.  But the wine industry has a lure and Andrezj was soon working in the cellar of Vineland before he became the assistant.  The rest of the story is one of a man who won awards, made a name for himself and has really been looking for a proper fit ... Now I won't start getting into the misunderstood artist toiling at his craft story that you've heard a thousand times before, and I don't think that fits Andrzej anyway, but I will tell you he has some pretty interesting wines being made at the two wineries we visited, and that's really what this story is all about.
Starting my day in Niagara-on-the-Lake's newest addition to the winery landscape, Colaneri, we began our tasting at the tasting bar with some of their current releases:

2009 Riesling "Stellucha" (Little Star) - $15.95 ... 30% of the fruit comes from Colaneri's own vineyard, the other 70% from John Howard on the Beamsville Bench.  The nose is peach and pear with a nice hint of something sweet.  The palate shows lime, apple peel with a nice sweet sensation though well balanced and with a good medium length lime finish.  This'll be a hit in the summer for those hanging around a deck, dock or patio.  Interesting to note that the grapes for this wine were harvested on December 21, 2009; "I like a long hang time," said Andrzej.  (****+)

2009 Pinot Grigio "Cavallone" - $25.00 ... the 12 hours of skin contact has given this wine a pretty peach colour, then it aged for 7-8 months in old 225L barrels - and, interesting to note, 20% of the grapes were dried in a tobacco kiln (this is a practice that Andrzej is using more and more).  The smell is a oxidized apple and red apple skin; but it's the flavour that is really the best part here: apple and pear with good acidity to balance and a bite that grips the tongue long after your swallowed, giving it quite the long finish.  I know it's not a textbook 'Pinot Grigo', but the owners are Italian, so they stick to their roots on this one. (****)

2009 Gewurztraminer "Mistera" - $25.00 ... this one saw 12 hours on the skins of the grapes too, but 50% of the fruit was dried in the kiln, then aged 7-8 months in old 225L barrels and came up with a whopping 14.3% on the alcohol scale.  The nose is soapy with a lychee-mandarin fruit quality.  The taste starts with orange zest and moves its way to a soapy finish; very intense.  It has a real zing on the finish that I attribute to acidity and spice.  (*** 1/2+)

Moving down into the barrel room we tank and barrel sampled some nine different wines.  We started with the 2009 Chardonnay (release scheduled for summer 2011), the nose lures you in and the palate seals the deal on this one.  Andrzej says it is ready for bottle but I will wait to give a full review once it has found its way there; but so far the buttered toffee, vanilla and baked caramel apple are a huge selling feature.

We tried the 2010 Fume Bianco (still in barrel), with 30% of its fruit dried in the kiln, it's been in barrel since November and has developed a good tropical nose with hints of grassy and grapefruit, the palate has vanilla and grapefruit ... an obvious integration of the fruit with the barrel.  Should come out in the next 3 or 4 months.  The 2010 Pinot Grigio has got lots of fruit character: sweet peach and pear along with apple, tropical pineapple and a definite punchy finish of Bosc pear (another 4 months to go in barrel).  

I got a tasting of the 2009 Ripasso ("Corposo") right from barrel.  A wine that will sell for $18.95 and will soon be released (half of the wine has already been bottled).  A blend of 60% Cabernet Franc and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon that spent 14 days on Amarone-style dried skins and 25 days on its own skins.  Now 13 months in barrel, of which 50% were new.  This one should fly off the shelves with its very ripe cherry, vanilla and milk chocolate on the finish.  Looks like I'll have to wander back to try this one again, once the bottle shock has worn off.

Half of the Barrel Cellar at Colaneri
Also tried from barrel: 
2009 Cabernet Franc (50% dried fruit) - lovely red fruit dominated and a sweet perfumed nose.
2009 Syrah (50% dried fruit) - violets, floral, white pepper, and a smoked meat quality on the finish.
2009 Merlot (50% dried fruit) - smoky raspberry with a touch of choco-cherry.
All of the above reds have been in barrel at least a year and have alcohol levels of 14%+, but they do not have that hot taste associated with high alcohol, Andrzej says it is due to the high natural acidity we get in Niagara - "I love acidity," he chimed over and over.

2009 Red Blend is a mix of 33% Merlot, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, of which the Merlot and Syrah had a 50% dried fruit ratio and the Cabernet Sauvignon was 100% dried (Amarone-style) ... a nice blend of cherry, raspberry, chocolate and pepper.

Finally, the full monty for Amarone fans 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon 100% dried fruit (Amarone-style), this one borders 15% alcohol and is loaded with smells and flavours.  It spent 40 days on its skins fermenting.  smoked cherry, chocolate, raspberry, licorice (both red and black) and spice ... this is going to be a beauty upon release.

Andrzej also let me try some of the 2010 reds that have just gone to barrel - tastes like a good vintage in the Colaneri cellar.

Lunch ...
From there we went to lunch at the About Thyme Bistro, chef Ryan did himself proud again with a great Roasted Sweet Potato Soup that was thick and rib sticking (to bad it wasn't colder outside) and the 'Big' Pork Sandwich on a 9 Grain Ciabatta Bun (I thought it was going to be pulled pork but it turned out to be cut pieces of pork loin ... delicious).  All paired well with an Organized Crime 2008 Cabernet Franc ($34 at the winery and selling out quickly).   Now it was off to see what Andrzej has been up to with the Crime family.

The scene at The Crime
The Organized Crime Winery ...

2009 Riesling - $21.00 ... you can smell the acidity here but it is so much more than that.  The nose is lime and talc while the taste has got apple core style sweetness and good minerality.  It enters the mouth sweet but finishes dry, showing a great seam of acidity and terrific flavours.  This one hits the right notes.  (**** 1/2)

2009 Fume Blanc - $28.00 ... made with 85% Sauvignon Blanc (of which 50% was dried in a tobacco kiln) and 15% Viognier (of which 100% was dried) then aged in older barrels for 7-8 months.  The nose is tropical and vanilla while the palate is where the fruit comes shining through with a balance of lemon and lime, nice acidity and a long lemony finish. (****)

2008 Gewurztraminer - $22.00 ... a lovely Gewurzt nose with lychee and spice, the palate picks up on this and gives lots of lychee and spice to the tongue, it also has a bit of that Thrills gum soapiness that is fun to find in Gewurzt.  (****+)

2008 The Download - $36.00 ... for a red made in a 'bad' vintage this is one good wine; it really shows you what can be done with blending and proves why the Bordelais have been doing it forever.  This is a blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 20% Merlot and 7% Petit Verdot aged 18 months in oak.  The nose is pretty simple with lots of raspberry nuances, but the palate delivers much more.  Sour cherry, tobacco, vanilla and spice with a decent amount of acidity to keep everything in check and a wine to pair well with food. (****)

2008 Cabernet Sauvignon - $35.00 ... the quality of this wine comes from vineyard management, in 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon would have been a tough slog, but the Organized Crime folks thinned the fruit to one bunch per shoot on the vine, thus limiting what the vine had to concentrate on making.  The nose is dark fruited with spiced cherry; the palate has dark cherry, touches of spice with a cherry finish, hints of wood and nice minerality.  Simple but very drinkable and surprisingly good considering the vintage.  Drink now and over the next 2-3 years. (****)

Barrel Room finds at Organized Crime ...
Another marathon of tasting from barrel to tank and back to barrel and then another tank.  Andrzej is proud of all his wines from all his wineries and it is the kiln dried wines that makes him, not only unique in what he is doing to advance Ontario winemaking, but almost giddy with excitement.

Tank Samples:
2010 Riesling ... pretty, tropical, pear, delicious apple, good acidity mixed with the sweetness.
2009 Gewurztraminer ... lovely tropical notes, nice mouth presence, 50% dried fruit, barrel aged 7-8 months in old barrels - acidity screams but the fruit sings.
2010 Gewurztraminer ... only 3 months in barrel here, lovely lychee and perfumed notes.
2009 Pinot Noir ... hits on all the right Pinot notes: black and sour cherry, nice spice and hints of cinnamon, first Pinot in Niagara region to use the new 828 clone.  Aged 13 months in oak.

Barrel Samples:
2010 Viognier ... to be blended into the Sauvignon Blanc, there isn't enough to make a varietal wine.  100% dried, currently in barrel for 3 months, still retains the tropicality of the fruit with vanilla and enhanced pineapple notes.
2010 Sauvignon Blanc ... interesting on its own, but then I asked for a mix of the two based on what Andrzej sees as his final blend (85% Savvy heavy) and it truly was something special.
2010 Cabernet Franc ... fresh red fruit, young wine in old barrels, still has plenty of time to age and develop.
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ... darker and more concentrated fruit than the Franc
100% Dried Fruit (Amarone Style) - from barrel ...
2010 Cabernet Franc ... raspberry, cherry fruit with nice tannins, very mouth filling.
2009 Cabernet Sauvignon ... big ballsy red to be.
2010 Merlot ... this one is chocolate all the way thru, and a killer at 15.4% alcohol, without the tell tale signs of big alcohol.
2010 Cabernet Franc ... an even bigger 15.9%, the most prominent smell and taste: tobacco.
2010 Cabernet Sauvignon ... dark chalky fruit.
2010 Petit Verdot ... black licorice dominant with lots of cherry and hefty tannins.

2009 The Download ... will now be a 100% dried fruit blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (66%), Cabernet Franc (16%), Merlot (9%) and Petit Verdot (9%) ... this wine is still resting in barrel to develop complexity and integrate but so far shows cocoa, coffee, big tanins, blackberry, cassis and plum.

Many thanks to Andrzej Lipinski for taking the time, and all the folks from both Colaneri and The Organized Crime that came by and introduced themselves.
View from the Barrel Cellar at The Organized Crime WInery

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