Friday, April 22, 2011

Report from ... WWCC Virtual Winery Tasting - April 15, 2011

One of the most interesting Wine Writers' of Canada Circle tasting in some time saw us trying wine from 10 different virtual wineries (wineries without property or retail space to call their own) and talking with 9 principals from these new labels:
Peter Graham, Kevin Panagapka, Ilya Senchuk, Steve Byfield, Nicole Speranzini, Jeff Hundertmark, Charles Baker
Thomas Bachelder - Bachelder Wines
Charles Baker - Charles Baker Wines
Steve Byfield - Nyarai Cellars
Peter Graham - Five Suns
Jeff Hundertmark - 100 Marks
Kevin Panagapka - 20-27 Cellars
Nicole Speranzini - Mike Weir Winery
Ilya Senchuk - Leaning Post Winery
Andrew von Teichman - Generations Wine Company
not personally in attendance, but his wine was there - Paul Ross

Each winemaker or winery principal introduced themselves and their project, many based on single varietals (or at least they started out that way).  And all with one goal, to one day open their own bricks and mortar winery ... or almost all.

A Few Lines About Virtually Anything ...
Nicole, Jeff, Thomas, Andrew, Charles
Charles Baker - started in 2005, one of the first of the next generation of virtuals in Ontario; 100% single vineyard Riesling focused; makes only one wine a year.

Andrew von Teichman - partnered with Alan Jackson to make Union wines, LCBO based brand; makes blends from 100% Ontario grapes; whites and red currently on the general list.

Thomas Bachelder - former winemaker of le Clos Jordanne now on his own, playing negocient in 3 regions: Niagara, Oregon, Burgundy ... all Chardonnay based; coming out September 2011; maximum production 3000 cases (100 from each region).

Jeff Hundertmark - winemaker at Marynissen; single vineyard Pinot Noir based label; will add white in 2011; projected release in 2012.

Nicole Speranzini - winery began in 2005 and was established to help the Mike Weir Foundation; wines made at Chateau des Charmes; 20,000 cases from 5 varietals; new home is imminent which will take them out of the virtual realm.
Peter, Kevin, Ilya, Steve, Nicole
Steve Byfield - established in 2008; cellar master at Calamus; Sauvignon Blanc focus, also makes blended white and red as the vintage dictates; close to 1000 cases total production.

Ilya Senchuk - worked at Lenko since 2002, now with Foreign Affair, Pinot Noir based label, buys fruit from Lowry Estate, adding Riesling and Merlot to the line; purchased 11 acre property to grow his own grapes ... planting begins in 2012; wines coming out late summer or early fall 2011.

Kevin Panagapka - established in 2007; focuses on single vineyard wines; started out with Riesling (from Featherstone Vineyard) and Pinot Noir from his own plot of land; names comes from his grower number (2027); looking at making a sparkling in the future; main intent is to find the difference terroir makes if all other variables remain constant.

Peter Graham - assistant at Lailey Vineyard; virtual based out of Cattail Creek; owned by Gina Edwards; currently an '09 Pinot Noir and 2010 Sauvignon Blanc; sources fruit from different vineyards; Peter joined the team at the beginning of 2011 taking over from Marc Bradshaw.

Choice Quotes ...
Facing the Firing Squad: Kevin P., Ilya S., Steve B.
"If you're making 1000 cases or less it's better to be virtual, the only problem is you don't own your wine."  Kevin P.

About the stigma of being a Virtual Winery:
"When you drink a bottle from New Zealand, Australia, California or where ever do you think whether it's a virtual winery or not?  No, it's a bottle of wine and it's what's in that bottle that counts.  Stop limiting yourselves."  Thomas B.

On the ownership of vineyards and ties to the land:
"We walk those vineyards [where they have contracted fruit from] before and after our day jobs so we are tied to those vineyards."  Peter G.
"Worst thing about being a virtual winery is you don't own your own vineyards; best thing about being a virtual winery is you don't own your own vineyards." Thomas B.
"It's a combination of the vineyard, the owner (the person) and the relationship we build with the land and the people."  Charles B.

Why Virtuals and vital to the industry and established wineries:
"Virtuals provide another revenue stream for their home winery, one that they did not have before."  Nicole S.

A Few Lines About a Few Wines ... wines to watch for
(Because many of these wines are barrel samples all marks are preliminary scores, final scores will be based on the finished product)

Leaning Post 2009 Riesling - "Tank Sample" (~$25.00)
Spent 15 months on lees, has a nose of melon and lemon rind; creamy mouthfeel with lemon drop, a hint of vanilla and sweet peach; nice acidity with a lingering finish.  (****)

Five Suns 2009 Pinot Noir - "Tank Sample" (no price given)
Nose of raspberry and red licorice; palate has sour cherry, anise and nice tannins, there is a slight sweetness to the wine. (*** 1/2)

100 Marks 2010 Pinot Noir - "Barrel Sample" (~$35.00 - 40.00)
Currently only 5 months in barrel, deeper colour than expected from a Pinot, big sweet fruit, dark and rich flavours: dark raspberry notes; this is truly one to watch as it is drinking beautifully right now. (****+)

A tasting of the two virtual vintages (2008 & 2009) ...
"It's nice to have a few vintages to compare, that's the benefit to doing this for a few years. " Kevin P.

The following is a vertical tasting between the two Queenston Road Vineyard Pinot Noirs as done by Kevin Panagapka of 2027 Cellars

2008 - sour cherry, raspberry, cranberry and a hint of nutmeg
2009 - dark sour cherry fruit but is still a bit closed because of its youth.

2008 - sour red cherry, good spice with cinnamon notes, decent tannins with some sweet red berries on the mid-palate ... light and easy drinking. (Sold Out)
2009 - dark sour cherry follows from the nose; the fruit, spice and tannins meld nicely together on the finish with good flavours and good length.  '09 was a Pinot year and it really shows in this bottle.

1 comment:

Dean Tudor said...

My virtual take ...

**** Four Stars (91+ in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Nyarai Cellars Trois 2009 (pinot grigio/sauvignon blanc/viognier blend)
-Charles Baker Riesling Picone 2008
-Charles Baker Riesling Picone 2009
-Union White 2009 (riesling/sauvignon blanc/gewurztraminer/chardonnay), $13.95 LCBO
-Union Red 2007 (pinot noir/cabernet sauvignon/merlot), $13.95 LCBO
-20207 Cellars Riesling 2008
-20207 Cellars Riesling 2008 Falls Vineyard
-20207 Cellars Chardonnay 2010 19th Street
-100 Marks Pinot Noir 2010

***1/2 Three and a Half Stars (88 – 90 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-Nyarai Cellars Sauvignon Blanc 2009
-Leaning Post Riesling 2009
-Leaning Post Pinot Noir 2009
-20207 Cellars Pinot Noir 2010
-20207 Cellars Pinot Noir 2008 Featherstone Vineyard
-20207 Cellars Riesling 2009 20 Mile Bench
-20207 Cellars Riesling 2007 Fox Croft Vineyard
-20207 Cellars Riesling 2009 Fox Croft Vineyard
-Union Red 2009, $13.95 LCBO
-Mike Weir Riesling 2008
-Ross Riesling 2007

*** Three Stars (85 – 87 in Quality/Price Rating terms):
-20207 Cellars Pinot Noir 2009
-Mike Weir Chardonnay 2008
-Mike Weir Sauvignon Blanc 2009
-Mike Weir Cabernet Merlot 2008
-Five Suns Sauvignon Blanc 2010
-Five Suns Pinot Noir 2009