Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Report from ... Mike Weir Winery Grand Opening - June 21, 2014

On my way to the airport (heading to Umbria, Italy) I stopped off at the Mike Weir Winery Grand Opening.  Finally, Mike has himself a winery to call his own - this "winery" was beginning to seem like that family member that everyone has, you know the one: they never leave the house to find their own way in the world ... over the past decade this "winery" has been linked with Creekside and Chateau des Charmes - and I am sure there were others playing host to barrels and tanks along the way.  But now Mike Weir has a new home, at the old EastDell location - and in truth its a beauty ... let's take a look - and if you're in the area, stop by and be impressed:
(4041 Locust Lane - Beamsville, Ontario: Open 7 days a week from 11am-5pm)

The New Mike Weir Winery
located at the old EastDell property
For those that remember the property, the view is still something to behold
and now it is even more open and visible from the moment you walk in the door

Exclusive wines will be available - another reason to visit
With wines on tap behind the bar ...
will this trend take off - is Ontario ready for wine-on-tap?
Mike Weir was in attendance to meet and greet
with those who came to finally see his new home.

Sharing a Glass with Mike ... Mike & Mike's Excelllent Adventure
(you caption this one) This is just proof that I was there -
can you tell I was getting ready to board a plane in 4 hours?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Report from ... Drinking with Dave - December 22, 2014

My buddy Dave in Michigan knows I have a soft spot for Cabernet Franc ... These days, each time we get together, we bring a bottle each to the table, today Dave brought a Darioush 2011 Cabernet Franc, Napa Valley; this is a big gun, sporting a whopping 14.8% alcohol.  Not exactly what I was expecting in Cab Franc, being an Ontario Franc drinker gets you used to certain elements in the wine not found in warmer versions of the grape; the Dariosh had a number of those great Ontario-esque features like tobacco, blackberry and cassis but there was also a subtle smokiness, white pepper and a floral aspect to the wine - and it was very tasty. 

Then Dave makes a remark that he has some rare and unusal Zinfandel, but he'll save them for next time ... The hell you will, we'll at least open one right now ... And we did: Teldeschi 1996 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley - Lot #1.  Another wine with big booze, but not as high as the Franc, at only 14.2%.  There's an earthy note with dried /fresh plum, raspberry and sour cherry, there's also an earthy finish with hints of vanilla. Wine proves to be, for the most part, tart and sour and needs lots of aeration to become something you want to drink ... This was my interesting wine of the day - but the Darioush was better, even with age taken in.

Post Scrpt ... The Thirty Bench 2007 Red I brought from Ontario was a big hit.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Report from ... Montes Dry Farming Initiative Tasting - March 2, 2015

Aurelio Montes Jr. came to town, do da do da ... to promote Montes' newest initiative: Dry Farming, plus an introduction to one of Montes' newest wines "Taita", which is in such limited production (200-250 cases) that only 36 bottles are being made available in Canada - not cases ... bottles.

Aurelio stressed that a winery has to still be on the cutting edge, even if they have been around awhile (Montes recently celebrated 25 years); "must be aware of what's new, what's happening and trends," he said, to remain relevant in these fast and ever-changing times.  

Montes has moved to a different level of sustainability in their winery practices, which looks at 4 major components:  environmental, energy, workers and community - for example, Montes reduced 60% of its energy usage.

They have also started dry farming (using zero irrigation), which can't be done everywhere, but it's being started in the vineyards where it can be done.  By doing this they get less yield, less clusters per vine and increase in pulp to skin ratio (in 2011 with irrigation it was 12%, in 2012 by dry farming it was 37%) ... the result is better quality wines in the bottle ... the good news is that Montes has kept the same price point - so kudos to them.  As example of what dry farming has done in terms of grape production:  they used to get one bottle of wine per vine, it is now half a bottle per vine.  But the real proof will be in the bottle and here Montes gave us a tasting of the Montes Alpha, the first wine to be released with their dry farming initiative, a semi-vertical using the 1999 (to show age-ability), 2011 (irrigated) and 2012 (dry farmed).  As well we tasted a couple from their Outer Limits series and a couple of other little surprises.

The Wines ...

Montes 2013 Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc ($19.95)
no more than 1000 cases are made of this wine
depending on the vintage wine rests on lees 6 months to one year

Nose of asparagus and grapefruit leads to a grapefruit, grassy
palate that very Sauvignon Blanc with a long finish. (*** 1/2+)
Montes 2014 Outer Limits Cinsault ($19.95)
first year this wine was made ... only 100 cases
very little Cinsault in Chile, Montes found 100 year old vines in Itata

Very plumy and grapey with sweet fruit and floral along with a little
tartness on the finish - this one is fresh and fruity.  (*** 1/2+)

Montes 1999 Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon
a 16 year old bottle of Cab from Chile
Yes there's a dryness to the wine and the fruit: dried strawberry and cherry,
with oak notes and pencil shavings, but smooth; this one still has plenty of life.
Montes 2011 Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95)
the last year of irrigation
Cherry, plum, strawberry, chocolate, spice, mocha; good spice with
a dry tannin finish - this one is enjoyable now til 2018.  (****)

Montes 2012 Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon ($19.95)
dry farmed appears for the time - upper part of label
Real intensity of fruit on the nose: rich blackberry, cassis, mocha, black cherry;
but on the palate this wine needs time for the fruit to really show itself.  (****+)
Montes 2012 Purple Angel ($62.95)
most successful wine in the company's history
made from Carmenere with 8% Petit Verdot to help the finish
aged in specially selected and developed French and American oak barrels

Lovely mocha, chocolate, red and dark fruit mix with gentle spice and silky
yet masculine tannins; great intensity of blueberry, blackberry, smoke, vanilla and spice.  (**** 1/2)
Montes 2007 Taita ($300 - 350)
only 36 bottles will be made available in Canada
24 months in French oak; 3 years in bottle; special vintages only
85% Cabernet Sauvignon - 15% Syrah/Carmenere ("winemaker's selection")
"Taita" = grandfather figure with life knowledge and experience - Wisdom in Wine

Aromas of coffee, blackberry and cassis are followed on the palate with black cherry,
mocha, chocolate, spice - silky smooth yet with intense fruit, dark and brooding; also
with a touch of cedar on the finish ... shows real elegance.  (**** 1/2)

Report from ... Albana Seminar and Tasting - February 22, 2015

When I told some of my colleagues I was headed to Romagna for a Sangiovese and Albana tasting, I got a lot of flak about the Albana.  Sangiovese, of course, is a grape grown all over Italy, but Albana is very regionally grown, specifically in the Romagna area.  It was the first white wine granted DOCG status (in 1987), and even the seminar leader made note that the status was due to a "very strong lobby."

The history of the grape, could be described, at best, as a checkered one.  Pliny the Elder was the first to critique the grape and he had nothing good to say about it.  In 1303, the first true description of the wines from the Albana grape were recorded, and in the 1700's we find the first references of specificity of wines from the district of Romagna.

Common aspects of Albana are its thick skin, richness of colour and tannins (which makes it quite unique in the realm of white varieties, which are not known for having any tannins at all).  Albana is also good for drying and the production of sweet wines; and while the grape is not strong in aromatics what it does have is quite distinctive - whether that is good or bad was not mentioned to us.

Albana in my opinion, is a misunderstood and misused grape variety that suffers from poor winemaking practices of the past, which in turn helped to give it its poor reputation - in the mid-80's there was a massive movement away from the natural aromatics, alcohol and character of the grape to make it more appealing to a mass market ... and although there is now a movement afoot to restore the grape's primary characteristics the grape is still paying the price for past mismanagement and those bad winemaking decisions.  By managing the quality and focusing on the old vines in the region available to them the hope is to revive this grape, but it will take time.  

From my tastings of the selected wines, the best of them learned how to harness the tannins possible in these wines and embrace the characters particular and peculiar to this grape.

There was a question posed during the seminar about the lack of definitive style between the wines; but I think it's too early in the rebranding process of this variety to pick one style over another - trial and error will dictate where this grape and the wines are headed.

The Wines of Note ...
of the 7 wines tried during the seminar these three had the most appealing qualities:

Aromas: white flowers, unripe pineapple
Palate: there's a pleasant, pseudo-sweetness here
floral, waxy and apple flavours with good acidity (*** 1/2)
Aromas: almond praline, oxidative with deep colour
Palate: pleasant pineapple core, weighty with seeming tannin
notes; with the right food/sauce this would be a killer (*** 1/2+)
An odd little wine that shows weight, tannins, acidity
and drinks like a red with all that it leaves behind;
it does have a pineapple note that is the only indication
that it could be a white.  Peculiar, but welcomely so.
Takes a few sips to fully understand. (*** 1/2+)

Report from ... 16 Mile Cellar Winemaker's Dinner - March 7, 2015

In his opening remarks owner Joe Groia called the experience of owning a winery "a business full of terrific people, and yet a stupid business to get into," [ed. note: I can only assume he meant due to all the red tape].  Tonight, at 16 Mile Cellar's first winemaker's dinner held at Treadwell's in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Joe and Susan Barnacal showcased four finished wines and one interesting barrel sample.  

Tonight we dined on some delectable treats coming out of the Treadwell kitchen, including a hand-foraged mushroom dish that went incredibly well with a 2011 Pinot, a Parsley-Potato soup that tasted better than the picture I took lets on and a pork stack that was as hedonistic as it was delicious.  As for the wines the star of the show was a 2011 Chardonnay that set the table for the wines to come ... let's take a look.

Arrival at Treadwell's for the 16 Mile Cellar Dinner.
The tables are set with ultimate care ...
... in Treadwell's 24 feet underground private dining room -
no cell service down here to disturb your dining experience ...
and that's kinda nice.
A glass of Rosé sits on the table ...
this is my artistic shot of the night
Sommelier, James Treadwell, explains the food & wine pairings
Winery owners Susan Barnacal and Joseph Groia ...
"I really love our 2011 Civility," says Susan -
and if you read the review below you'll see I agree.

Current winemaker:  Regan Kapach
The Food ...
Parsley and Potato Soup with Smoked Bacon
Soft Free Range Egg, Garlic Popcorn
BC Albacore Tuna Tartare with Blood Orange Granitee
Salad of "Marc's" Winter Mushrooms
with Crispy Parmesan Crumbs
Trio of "Cumbrae Farms" Pork:
Slow Cooked Cheek with Confit Jowl and Sage Wrapped Tenderloin
Black Bean Puree, Jalapeno Sauce
Vanilla Cheesecake with Raspberry Swirl Ice Cream
The Wines ... (click wine name for full review)
2013 Renegade Rosé - $16.95
(*** ½)
2011 "Civility" Chardonnay - $24.95
(**** ½)

2010 "Incivility" Pinot Noir - $29.95
2011 "Incivility" Pinot Noir - $29.95
(*** ½)

2011 "Rebel" Chardonnay - $19.95
(*** ½+)