Tuesday, August 19, 2008

I Love Rieslings!

Ever since I have been drinking wine I have had an affinity with Rieslings. Way back when I was introduced to the beauty of the grape when I was able to taste many of the great Rieslings of Germany. I remember meeting Fritz Hassenbach of Gunderloch Estates, the only German winemaker to be given multiple perfect scores from the Wine Spectator magazine (He actually came to Stargazers to host a Winemakers dinner in 2003). The experience meeting Fritz was wonderful and over the years I have had the pleasure to enjoy many of his wines, including one of his 100 point wines.

Now I still enjoy a good bottle of German Riesling now and again but not very often. Why would I when we can make just as good a wine here in Ontario. Niagara makes some stellar Rieslings. Angels Gate, Cave Springs and Vineland have been perennial favorites of mine. I am pleased to say that Lake Erie North Shore Rieslings are up to par with both Niagara and Germany. The Sanson Estates 2007 Riesling is a very pretty wine and typical of the style. There is a beautiful pear nose with luscious stone fruit flavors. I like my Rieslings very racy so for my taste it lacks acidity but the supple mouth feel is quite pleasant.

I have a bottle of the 2006 and 2007 Rieslings from Smith & Wilson chilling in my fridge and I will give you my report on the difference in years shortly.

Until then, Drink up!

Monday, August 11, 2008

I'm Back

So I have taken a break for the last six weeks from this blog. Honestly I haven’t been drinking much wine. With the kids being out of school and routines going straight out the window, so went the blog. Stephanie and I are going to be more diligent in our wine drinking… Oops I mean wine writing.

I was down at the LCBO in Windsor and I noticed Colio’s new line of wines “Girls Night Out.” I think that this is a brilliant marketing idea. I know that girls quite often get together for wine and gossip nights and now they have a wine just for those occasion. How does the wine taste? Honestly I don’t know. I am deferring the description to my better half the next time she has a “Girls night out”.

What I have been drinking is Smith & Wilson’s Pinot Gris. This is a full bodied wine for a Pinot Gris. There is lots of grapefruit, banana and a touch of coconut wrapped around a firm acidic backbone. I don’t suggest this a patio sipper, but definitely a food pairing wine. I would suggest either coconut shrimp or scallops with a tropical fruit salsa to match the acidity. Either way it marries well with food as the acidity cleanses the palate for the next bite.

On the docket over the next couple weeks I intend to focus on Rieslings. I have a bottle of Sanson’s Riesling that won bronze at this year’s All Canadian Wine Championships as well as Smith & Wilson’s 2006 & 2007 Rieslings. Look for the notes on these shortly.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Focal Pointe and Zweigelt

Stephanie and I opened up a bottle of Viewpointe 2002 Focal Pointe Cabernet Franc the other night with dinner. I like what John is doing with his wines, and there is a definite consistency with his reds. The Focal Pointe has a deep dark color with a tempting smokey cedar nose. The luscious deep black fruit caresses the palate with balanced tannins and hints of chocolate. The wine is maturing nicely and I would suggest drinking it over the next 5 years with a big juicy steak.

Another older wine Stephanie and I enjoyed was the 2002 Pelee Island Reserve Zweigelt. Typical of many local wines there is abundant earthiness when it is first opened. Subtle honey aromas with mushroom and barnyard fill the glass and hints of cranberry and tobacco develop as the wines open. The tannins are round and beautiful with a lingering finish. This wine definitely reminds me of an Italian Amarone with its earthy flavors. Enjoy this with food that features mushrooms and or truffles.

Monday, June 23, 2008


In my quest to explore local wines, I discovered a few months ago that there is a Meadery located just outside the borders of Chatham-Kent in Alvinston. Stephanie, the kids and I took a drive to Munro’s Honey and Meadery to pick up some local honey and to explore their meads.

Let me tell you that they have a great gift shop. There are all things bee there, including a glass hive where MJ and Madeline spend a good time looking for the Queen Bee. I respect Munro’s as their honey is unlike many honeys you buy in the grocery store. It is fragrant and floral and has all the trademark honey characteristics without tasting sugary sweet.

Now for the Mead. I must admit that this is my first time tasting Mead, but considering Munro’s have won many medals, I think this was a good place to start. I picked up three bottles for tasting, Mead, Honey Wine Mead, and Sweet Mead. The first two are slightly off dry table wines while the Sweet Mead was definitely a dessert style wine. Munro’s also make a Dry Mead but they are temporarily out of stock.

In general the table Meads have similar flavors to Sauvignon Blanc—grassy, cat-pee, with simple clean flavors. The Mead featured a grassy, honey nose with a very perfumed palate. The finish was very clean and simple. It somewhat reminded me of Drambuie on too many rocks (not surprising since honey is a main ingredient in Drambuie). The Honey wine had a beautiful golden color with honey and cat-pee aromas. It has a fuller body and is rounder and sweeter than the Mead with a dry finish.

The Sweet Mead had a beautiful sweet honey and floral nose with a full bodied mouth feel and a slightly waxy finish. It would go well with a dry fruit tart or custard dessert.

In general, I would say that Mead is a nice treat now and again, but I wouldn’t want to drink much all at once… the hangover would be deadly.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ontario Wine Week

On Tuesday I was in Toronto at the Wine Council of Ontario’s trade luncheon where they announced the 2008 VQA Restaurant Award of Excellence winners. In addition to releasing the names of the award winning restaurants, the event featured a tapas style luncheon put on by four Chefs pairing Ontario wines with local foods. Mike Robbins from the Kettle Creek Inn paired a 2006 Fume Blanc from Peninsula Ridge and a 2006 Riesling from Chateau de Charmes with Smoked Manatoulin Island trout cakes presented on organic greens with a tarragon cream. The smokiness of the fume blanc paired well with the trout cakes while the Riesling featured refreshing lime and limestone notes and went miraculously well with the organic greens and the tarragon cream.

The second course was created by Roberto Fracchioni from the Milcroft Inn. Roberto produced a lemon thyme crusted Creemore Springs Organic Artic Char with fresh asparagus. The two wines that complimented this dish were he 2006 Dean’s List Chardonnay from Niagara College Teaching Winery and 2006 Signature Series Sur Lie Chardonnay from Peller Estates. The NCTW Chardonnay had a beautiful aroma of popcorn seedlings but it was out of balance and featured too much oak for my liking. On the other hand, the Peller Chardonnay was beautifully balanced with lychee and pear flavors.

Chef Mike Matthews and Brad Long from Veritas restaurant in Toronto prepared braised Kerr Farms short ribs. You may know Brad Long from his work on Food TV’s Restaurant Makeover. I was pleased to see that Chatham Kent’s own Bob Kerr is really making a name for his meats and vegetables in Toronto. Now keeping with the local ingredient theme I would have chose Smith & Wilson’s Watercress Creek Cabernet Franc to go with this dish, but instead they chose two brilliant reds from Niagara. The 2005 Fielding Meritage and the 2006 Red by Thirty Bench winery are both stunning wines and paired well with the braised ribs.

For dessert Chef Nathan Isberg from Czehoski restaurant in Toronto created a strawberry Napoleon with honey pasty cream that was delicious. They sourced their strawberries from Fosterholm farms around the GTA. With the weather this year the strawberries weren’t quite ripe, but Nathan marinated them in maple syrup to bring out the flavor. The dish was paired with 2005 Dan Aykroyd Winery Signature reserve Vidal Icewine and the Peller Estates Signature series Ice Cuvee sparkling wine. The Peller cuvee was brilliant with tight bubbles and just the right hint of sweetness to pair with the Napoleon.

I must comment on how lucky we are in Southwestern Ontario with our extended growing season. Asparagus is just now in full swing in the GTA while we have been enjoying it for over a month now and the season is almost over. According to my local grower, our strawberry crop is in full swing and we are having a bumper crop while in the GTA they aren’t ready yet.

The event ended with a tasting with about 30 Niagara wineries and Pelee Island Winery participating. There were some stunning Rieslings and beautiful Gamay from 13th Street winery. Pelee Island held its own showcasing their Select Chardonnay, Reserve Pinot Noir, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. If you haven’t tried the Pelee Cabernet Sauvignon, make a point of it because it is really good.

Oh, by the way the reason I was at this luncheon was because Stargazers was awarded a Gold award of Excellence for our wine list.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Pelee's Blanc de Blanc

Continuing on my quest to taste and write about all the local award winning wines from the 2008 ACWC, Stephanie and I opened up Pelee Island’s 2007 Blanc de Blanc. As I understand this wine, it is Pelee’s value wine selling for about $9 at the LCBO (it is also the biggest selling white wine at the LCBO). The wine is a blend of Vidal and Seyal Blanc, but the Vidal really shines through. There are very pleasant flavors of peaches and pineapple with just a hint of steeliness to add complexity. There is a hint of residual sweetness and the acidity is in check. This is another solid table wine that is best suited to cocktail parties and lazing around the pool. Just as a side note, I made some madras curry pork with cucumber raita and some fresh picked asparagus. The sweetness in the wine stood up to the spiciness of the curry.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Smith's Vidal & Muscedere Pinot Noir

Award Winning Wines:

This weekend Stephanie and I opened up a couple of the wines that won awards at this Year’s All Canadian Wine Championship. The first wine we opened was the silver medal winning 2006 Smith’s Vidal from Smith & Wilson. It was a well balanced, easy drinking summer sipper loaded with grapefruit and pineapple aromas. Enjoy it on its own or with light seafood dishes (pickerel with a pineapple salsa would be a good match).

The second wine was the double gold medal winning 2006 Pinot Noir from Muscedere. It was a light bodied wine that tasted youthful and tight at first. It wasn’t until it was matched with food--- a grilled pork loin with sweet potato roesti and dried cherry demi glace—that the true spirit of the wine emerged. Raspberry and cherry aromas started to jump out of the young tannins revealing a beautiful balance between the fruit and acidity. Muscedere only made 50 cases of this wine, and at $20 retail, this is definitely one to pick up a case to drink in a year or two.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Smith’s Vidal:

Stephanie and I sat down for dinner tonight and opened up a bottle of Smith & Wilson’s Smith’s Vidal 2006. This wine brought home a silver medal at the All Canadian Wine Championships a few weeks ago. The wine has developed very well over the last year into a beautifully wine. The nectarine aromas fill the glass with a very well balanced acidity to compliment the fruit. We enjoyed it over a plate of chicken curry that went very well. The stone fruit really molded with the curry to create a harmonious union.

The other night we enjoyed another medal winning wine. Last year Aleksander’s cassis brought home the best in category medal from the ACWC and we opened up our last bottle of it on the weekend. I remember drinking it last summer and being blown away by it, but now I must say that I was disappointed with the way the wine has developed. It has lots of acidity left and you can tell it is black current, but it has lost its balance. It was harsh and acidic. This leaves me to speculate that fruit wines are not meant to age the same way grape wines do, but of course the only way to prove this is to sit some down and try them a year or two from now. The question is, Can I wait?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008



Today Stephanie and I were down at Colio meeting with head winemaker Tim Reilly. Tim has been with Colio since 2002 and took the reigns from original winemaker Carlos Negri when he retired last year. Tim took the winemaking course at Niagara College and learned from Jim Warren and others in Niagara. Tim began to change the style of Colio’s white wines beginning with the 2003 vintage changing the style of Colio’s Pinot Grigio to what it is today, and award winning full bodied style. In his second vintage, his new style Pinot Grigio won a gold medal at the All Canadian Wine Championship. The 2007 Pinot Grigio has ripe pears with brown sugar notes and a clean long finish. Tim is taking Colio’s white wines to a new level as he launched a Reserve Riesling. It is dry with lots of forward fruit without being too acidic. There are lots of mineral notes and a hint of petrol that I am sure will come through more as it ages. This Riesling does drink well young, but will only improve with age.

Tim also led us through a tasting of the 2005 CEV Reserve Red wines. This is the first vintage that Tim has had complete control of the reds. Starting with the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon Stephanie and I were both impressed. The nose on the Cab took me back to the tour of Napa Valley Steph and I took two years ago—lots of mint and eucalyptus. Unlike California Cabernets Colio’s is a finesse wine. There are nuances of cassis, red fruit and barnyard (aka Brett). The Reserve Cabernet Franc shows great potential as well as the structure is solid and cherry flavors are beginning to develop. The Reserve Merlot tastes the youngest of the three wines. Similar to the Cabernet Sauvignon, the Merlot showed mint and cedar notes but the tannins need to soften with some time in the bottle.

Tim took a tank sample of the 05 Reserve Meritage. It was starting to drink well despite not being bottled yet. Both Tim and I agree that the best example of what Lake Erie North Shore can produce is in our blended wines. The Meritage shows lots of potential with balanced tannins, ripe fruit and balanced acidity. To finish off the reds Tim had a sample of his 6 barrel Shiraz that should hit the shelves by the fall. It has lots of pepper and spice on the nose and the flavors remind me of Dr. Pepper—sweet cherry cola flavors.

On thing that I surprised me is Colio’s new pricing strategy. Their goal is to keep all their Reserve wines under $20 (except for their Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon which is priced at $21.95 because Cabernet Sauvignon is more expensive to grow). The wines are a phenomenal value considering Reserve wine in Niagara routinely hit $30 and up.

Monday, May 26, 2008

ACWC Results

I promised you last week to publish the results of the 2008 All Canadian Wine Championships. Below is a list of the trophy wines and To highlight some local winners, Double Gold Medals went to Muscedere for their Pinot Noir and also to Aleksander for their Chambourcin. I highly recommend popping down to Ruthven to pick up the Chambourcin. It is a phenomenal value at just $10.95 per bottle. Kudos also go to Smith and Wilson for three silver medals for their Syrah, Chardonnay and Vidal.

The quality of Riesling in his area in Lake Erie North Shore is improving as Gold and Silver medals went to Rieslings from Viewpoint and Sanson Estates. Colchester Ridge Continues to shine with their wines as their Merlot and Cabernet Merlot both brought home medals.

All Canadian Wine Championships
2008 Results

Trophy Winners

Best Red Wine of the Year
Jackson-Triggs Okanagan, BC 2005 SunRock Meritage

Best White Wine of the Year
Wild Goose Vineyard, BC 2007 Mystic River Gewurztraminer

Best Sparkling Wine of the Year
Henry of Pelham Winery, ON Cuvee Catharine Rose Brut

Best Dessert Wine of the Year
Hernder Estate Winery, ON 2007 Vidal Icewine

Best Fruit Wine of the Year
Rossignol Estate Winery, PEI 2006 Blackberry Mead

Double Gold Best in Category

Pinot Noir
Muscedere Vineyards, ON 2006 Pinot Noir
Other Single Hybrid Reds
Aleksander Estate Winery, ON 2006 Chambourcin

Medals of Merit
Other Medal Winners
Gold: Viewpointe Estate Winery, 2006 Riesling
Gold: Colchester Ridge Estate Winery, ON 2006 Merlot
Gold: D’Angelo Vineyards 2002 Pinot Noir
Silver:Smith and Wilson Estate Wines,2007 C-K Chardonnay
Silver: Smith and Wilson Estate Wines, 2006 Smith’s Vidal
Silver: Pelee Island Winery, ON 2007 Blanc de Blanc
Silver: Sprucewood Shores ON 2007 Pinot Gris $14.95
Silver: Smith & Wilson Estate Wines, ON 2006 Syrah
Silver: Sanson Estate Winery, ON 2006 Baco Noir
Bronze:Sanson Estate Winery, 2007 Riesling
Bronze: Pelee Island Winery, 2007 Late Harvest Vidal
Bronze: Sprucewood Shores, 2005 LENS Pinot Noir
Bronze: D’Angelo Vineyards 2005 Cabernet Franc
Bronze: Colchester Ridge 2005 Cabernet-Merlot
Bronze: D'Angelo Vineyards 2005 Baco
Bronze: Colio Estate Wines, 2006 Late Harvest Vidal
Bronze: Muscedere , 2006 Cabernet Franc Icewine

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

All Canadian Wine Championship

I write this blog post during a break from judging the All Canadian Wine Championship in Windsor. This is a really great competition for wines from right across the country. There are wines from Nova Scotia to BC here and it gives me a feel for what is happening across the country.

On the first day of judging I had the opportunity to taste 50 gewürztraminers. The flight was quite impressive as most of the wines were quite good. There were 1-2 that were impressive and I look forward to getting the results later this week to see who made them. Following the flight of Gewürztraminers I tasted a flight of 18 merlots all priced under $20 a bottle. I was impressed at this bunch of wines as they showed ripe fruit (usually in a flight of value merlots there is green flavors of unripe fruit more often than not). There definitely are some values here.

To end off the morning of day one I tasted 12 red Icewines. There was quite a cross sample of wines here including a red sparkling ice wine. All the wines in this flight were quite good, but not surprising considering Canada in known for making good Icewines.

After lunch I tasted a flight of 38 Pinot Noir’s priced at over $20. I must say that on mass I was very disappointed with the pinots. Of the 38 only two actually tasted like a pinot should. I was really surprised at this as Canada can usually produce a decent pinot noir. I assume that most of the wines were from the 2006 vintage which was not a stellar year for red wines.

I ended up the afternoon with a flight of 18 fortified fruit wines. There were 4-5 wines that were in the style of a tawny port and a really good blueberry wine.

Tomorrow is another day of tasting and I will keep you up to date with what I taste. I will also post the local winning wines as well as all the Trophy wines later in the week.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Aleksander Cabernet Sauvignon

I was down at Aleksander Estate winery the other day and they have released their new Cabernet Sauvignon. Now I have always liked Izabela and the Bembin family for what they have done with their family winery. The history of the winery is very interesting, how her father Alex was working at a winery in Austria before coming over to help at Pelee Island Winery before buying 5 acres and planting vineyards himself. As it happens with family businesses, what started out as a vineyard to supply other wineries with grapes turned into a winery itself.

Izabela and Alex are both great winemakers and their wines are very well made, but in a simple grass roots of winemaking style. They do not have the room in their current winery, nor are they in the position to barrel age their wines or experiment with their wine. The wines they produce are clean, fruit forward with an individually Aleksander stamp on them. The 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon follows their style to a ‘T’ as it is clean and bright with ripe raspberries and a good acidic backbone. I would suggest sitting down with this wine and some grilled pork for a decadent food and wine experience.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Ontario Wine Awards

This week the results of the 13th annual Ontario Wine Awards were announced with a number of local wines bringing home awards. Colchester Ridge pulled home a gold medal for their Chardonnay and Pelee Island won two silver medals for their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and 2005 Shiraz. Right on the heals of the Pelee Shiraz was the yet to be released 2006 “Watercress Creek” Syrah from Smith & Wilson which won a bronze.

Bronze medals were also handed out to Colio for their 2005 CEV Merlot Reserve and to Smith & Wilson for the 2006 Viognier.

Five medals for our wineries s a really good showing at this event. I am excited for all the local wines as the annual All Canadian Wine Championship is to be held in two weeks time. Last year 20 wines from Lake Erie North Shore brought home hardware.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Colchester Ridge Estate Winery:

Last Thursday night Stargazers was pleased to welcome Bernie Gorski from Colchester Ridge Estate Winery (CREW). Colchester Ridge has been open for 2 years now and their passion is really starting to shine in their wines. Bernie, who happens to own another business hauling bulk wines for the local wineries, makes very approachable and fruit forward wines. Some of the wines that we featured last Thursday were his Chardonnay which features a crisp apple nose and lively acidity. The full creamy body has a hint of anise that went well with a tarragon cream sauce. He currently has two other white wines, a gewurztraminer and a sauvignon blanc, and he plans to release a riesling soon. Bernie’s wife Nancy and I had a debate about whether the Gewurztraminer tastes more like Pez candy or Bananna popsicles (in the end we decided that both flavours are there).

I think Bernie shines with his full bodied, easy to drink reds. He has a Cabernet Merlot blend as well as a straight Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The Cabernet Merlot is a big full bodied wine wine waxy crayons aroma with deep current, black pepper and wood notes. The tannins are quite pronounced but do balance out with 15-20 minutes in the glass. The single varietal wines are along the same big easy drinking style.

One wine that surprised me was Bernie’s icewine. I tasted it in early February and at that time it taasted like eucalyptus, mango and grapefruit with a racy acidity. After tasting it again now, the wine has changed dramatically. The eucalyptus and the racy acidity has balanced out leaving a very beautiful mango/peachy wine. I can only look back and say that in February it was going through a classic case of bottle shock.

Now I don’t think there is any scientific proof that wines go through a funk (a period of time where it doesn’t exibit its true flavours and potential) for the first month or so after being bottled, but winemakers know it is so. Wine can also go through periods of funk as they age so if you have a number of bottles in your cellar and you try one that doesn’t seem to be as good as the last bottle you tried, make sure you wait a month or so before opening up the next bottle as it may just be in a funk.

On another note, this summer is going to a busy time in and around the wineries this year. Make sure you check out some of the winery festivals such as Mastronardi winery’s Festival of Dionysis coming up June 7. It is a fantastic party every year, for more information take a look at the Mastronardi newsletter ar http://www.mastronardiwines.com/newsletter/springsum08.pdf.

Friday, April 18, 2008

House Wines

Introducing Mike's Blend!

As many of you know I have been busy lately with running the restaurant, spending time with the kids and writing about wine on my blog (www.thewinehunters.com), but did you know that I have also been busy making wine? That is right I have been working at a local winery making my own wine for Stargazers and I am pleased to announce that it is ready!

I am pleased to say that Stargazers now has a house wine. I have been working on it for a while now and I feel I have the blend right where I want it. I have always stayed away from having a house wine because the North American view of a house wine is akin to cheap plonk that is more often than not oxidized and a horrid value for the drinker. Exactly what I don't want you to suffer through when you are enjoying a relaxing dinner. I much prefer the European house wines where the wine is an expression of the region and the quality of wine blends quite well with the food, and gives great value for the money.

In creating these blends I did a lot of research and work to keep the quality of these wines high and create value. First, I dispensed with the bottling process. Glass and cork and the corresponding environmental fees add about $2.00 to the price of a bottle of wine in Ontario. I have packaged Mike's blend in 20L casks and I have purchased 1/2 liter and 1 Liter decanters for you to enjoy. Not only does this reduce the cost, but it is also more environmentally friendly. But enough about the packaging let me tell you about the wines.
My New Wine (Continued)

Mike's Blend White:
The white wine I have crafted is made primarily with the vidal grape. I have produced and easy drinking, fruit forward wine with lots of apple and pear flavors. It blends well with seafood as well as being a perfect summer patio sipper.

Mike's Blend Red:
The red wine is made with over 90% cabernet sauvignon. It has a decent amount of structure, but again I have blended it to bring out the fruit. The tannins are balanced and I did not use any oak, the result was a beautiful garnet colored wine with loads upon loads of black current flavor. It is an easy drinking wine but it has enough to it to stand next to Friday night's Prime Rib.

Don’t Believe Me?
Right after I released these two wines, one of our guests Rick Birmingham from Union Gas and his wife reluctantly sampled my wine. Now Rick and Annette have toured many major wine regions including Napa and Sonoma Valleys, Niagara and elsewhere so they enjoy a good bottle of wine. His words before tasting the wine to me were “O.K. Mike what kind of Plonk are you trying to serve here.” I admire that he was honest in his skepticism, but after his first sip his skepticism changed to surprise. “Wow, That is good?” was Rick’s reaction.

As an introductory offer I have priced this wine very competitively (O.K. downright cheap!). For the next month we will be featuring it for just $5.50 a 150 mL glass (or for better value $15.95 for 1/2 Liter and $27.95 for a 1 liter carafe). I may be biased (but when it comes to wine I have trained myself not to be), but I don't have a bottle of wine on my list for under $35 that is any better than our new house wines. I encourage you to come in and enjoy a glass!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Que Syrah, Syrah!

That is what Mary Jane from Smith & Wilson wanted to call the second wine in their Watercress Creek Release line. Last Christmas Smith & Wilson released a 2005 Cabernet Franc under the Watercress Creek label and promptly took it off their shelves in January. Their goal was to create a Christmas limited release wine with the best fruit of each year’s crop. From the 2006 vintage they chose to bottle a Syrah. The plan was not to release it until December, but they did give everyone at last week’s Parade of Chefs sneak peak of what is to come. For those who don’t know, the Parade of Chefs is a fundraiser for the Chatham-Kent Hospital foundation featuring dinner prepared by seven of the areas Chefs. Each of the chefs prepares a different course which is paired with a wine from local wineries including Smith & Wilson, Aleksander Estate, Pelee Island Winery and Colio Estates.

Stargazers pushed the envelope this year by preparing a salad and pairing it with a red wine (salads are hard to pair with any wine and hardest to pair with a red). Chef Ian composed the salad of purple leaf lettuces tossed in a blueberry, balsamic and beetroot vinaigrette and we paired it with Smith & Wilson’s 2005 Chambourcin. Now after having more than two years in the bottle, the chambourcin is developing a lot of blueberry flavors and we kept the acidity of the dressing low as not to interfere with the wine.

The main course was a marinated leg of lamb that was paired with the Syrah. The lamb was good as it was marinated in Asian flavors and the wine was very impressive. The wine smells of ripe plums and when it hits your palate a celebration of blackberries and black pepper begins. There is a juicy acidity gets your taste buds fired up ready for any rare red meat that you can throw at it. There is a lot more going on in this wine that will do nothing but develop further before it is released at the winery just in time for Christmas.

For the last few years I have become quite a fan of Smith & Wilson’s wines. Every year their wines are solid and very well made. They do not try over doing their wines, but just taking what fruit Mother Nature has blessed them with and allowing the natural flavors to shine through. I have made sure that I am on the waiting list for one of the first cases of Syrah to be released in December I would certainly encourage you to do the same.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Barrel upon Barrel:

Last night I have a couple over for dinner who really enjoy their wine. This was the perfect opportunity for me to open a couple of wines to compare together. I chose three wines to compare, the 2004, 2005 and 2006 Double Barrels from Smith & Wilson. George and Mary Jane have a knack for making remarkably consistent wines. The 2004 was one of the first wines they released when they opened the winery. Today it is drinking very well with a beautiful tobacco nose with ripe plums and hints of black and bell pepper. The 2005 (which is still on the winery shelves) is much rounder than the 04 (due to the longer hotter growing season); with cedar on nose and a similar ripe plum and black pepper flavors. The 2006, which was just bottles about 6 weeks ago and not expected to be released until September, is just in its infancy but showing signs that it is not going to have a problem filling the shoes of the 2004 and 2005. It is similar in body to the 2004 with hints of young strawberry and hints of oak. As the wine opened the plum and black pepper flavors came through and rounded into a very good, approachable wine. I don’t think that any of these three wines are meant for long term aging with best enjoyed within 4-8 years.

We all agreed that the 2005 was the best of the three vintages having much more concentration and body. We finished off the night with a couple of dessert wines from Erie Shores. Their Winter Harvest Vidal is full of brown sugar and peaches with a little bit of spritz. After being opened up awhile caramel apple flavors began to appear. The 2004 Erie Shores Vidal Ice Wine was a traditional syrupy wine with stone fruit and brown sugar. Both wines complimented the fresh fruit pizza we enjoyed for dessert, but the unanimous choice as favorite was the Winter Harvest Vidal. Not that I don’t like Icewines, but after a big meal the lighter late harvest styles seem to be much more enjoyable.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thinking about Spring

So with the Spring Solstice and Easter coming up this weekend I have been really trying hard to think spring. I have been drinking mostly heavy red wines because the winter weather just won’t give way, but I have opened up a couple of white wines recently to try and trick my palate into thinking that it is spring. I opened up a couple of Sauvignon Blanc’s this week. Sauvignon Blanc is becoming more and more popular and we can really do a good job making them in Southwestern Ontario. I do like Colchester Ridge’s 2006 Sauv; it has a nice mellow herbaceous nose with sweet musk melon flavors. The finish is crisp and lemony and it would go quite well with sea scallops with lemon butter. Another Sauvignon Blanc I have enjoyed recently is the 2005 from Sanson Estates. Dennis has always made some good wines and this one features aromas of grapefruit & fresh mowed hay with over ripe pear flavors and a citrus finish. A perfect patio wine that would also de well with pan seared whitefish with a citrus salsa. Finally I would be remiss not to mention two more, Harold Wagner’s Log House Dry is a powerful sauvignon blanc with grapefruit nose, warm herbal flavors and a dry finish and Smith & Wilson’s 2005 Sauv (which is unfortunately sold out at the winery, but I still have a case) is a beautiful wine. I spoke to George & Mary Jane last week and I don’t think they have plans to make another Sauv until possibly 2008 or 2009.

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Better than reading a James Harriot Novel.”

That is what one of the guests said about Harold Wagner last Wednesday evening when he hosted a winemaker’s dinner at Stargazers. Not only did the wines shine through the evening, but Harold’s storytelling ability is second to none. For two and a half hours Harold entertained with stories about his horses, apples (and visiting kindergarten classes during harvest), and his foray into winemaking. If you missed the evening the next event is scheduled for April 24th and features Bernie Gorski, Owner and Winemaker at Colchester Ridge Estate Winery (CREW).

Bernie has a different story to tell. Bernie is an entrepreneur who has a passion for wine. Beginning as an amateur winemaker, Bernie has built Colchester Ridge from the ground up… starting with good grapes and a lot of TLC in the winery. It is my understanding that CREW is Bernie’s retirement project, a business that he loves and can focus his attention on when he decides to step down from his other businesses. I am sure that Bernie will be just as entertaining as Harold, just in a different way. Similarly, Bernie’s wines have a different personality to them than Harold’s.

CREW’s wines are big and powerful. His whites are bone dry and have some really interesting characteristic. His 2005 Chardonnay was really non-descript, but his 2006 is stellar! It has a crisp apple nose, with a full creamy body and a hint of anise that really adds some interest. His Gewurztraminer is a dry Alsatian style with sweet candy nose (just like Pez right out of MJ’s Lightning McQueen dispenser), with a dry lemony finish, but it is the reds that stand out at CREW.

All of Bernie’s red wines are built on big structure… ripe fruit with lots of tannins and generous use of oak. Both the 2005 Cabernet Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are big wines that need some time to balance out the tannins. The Cabernet Merlot has a waxy crayon aroma with deep current and black pepper flavors. The Cabernet Sauvignon is more elegant with a blueberry nose, creamy cassis flavors and rich firm finish.

Bernie has also just released his first Ice Wine. I would describe his 2006 Vidal Ice wine as an Icewine for those who don’t really like Icewines. It has the stereotypical brown sugar aromas but instead of being sweet and syrupy, it is warm and racy with acidity. The flavors range from grapefruit to mango with a healthy dose of eucalyptus thrown in.

We have prepared a stellar menu for the night featuring Blue Marlin paired with the Gewurztraminer, and Elk with a blueberry jus complimenting the Cabernet Sauvignon. I would recommend making reservations for this event early as we are intent on keeping this an intimate evening and limiting the number of seats available. To book your spot call me at (519) 351-9351.

Hosted by Bernie Gorski
Colchester Ridge Estate Winery

Thursday April 24, 2008

Served with a tarragon cream
Chardonnay 2006
(Crisp apple nose with lively acidity. Full creamy body with a hint of anise)

Infused with coriander on a romaine leaf with a citrus salsa
Gewurztraminer 2006
(Sweet Pez candy on the nose with a dry lemon and citrus flavors)
In a house made pastry shell with hints of blue cheese
Cabernet Merlot 2005
(A Huge full bodied wine waxy crayons aroma with deep currents, black pepper and wood. The tannins are quite pronounced but do balance out with time in the glass.)
On sautéed red skin potatoes with a blueberry demi glace
Cabernet Sauvignon 2005
(A well structured cabernet Sauvignon with blueberry nose,
creamy cassis on the palate with a firm creamy finish)
Ripe mangos glazed over a shortcake shell
Ice Wine 2006
(Brown sugar nose with eucalyptus, mango and grapefruit.
Very warm with a racy acidity without being too sweet or syrupy)

Per person

Friday, March 7, 2008

Meritage… Take 2!

A month ago I opened up a bottle I was saving for a while now, the 2004 Meritage from Sprucewood Shores, and it ended up being corked. I am pleased to say Gord Mitchell, the Owner of Sprucewood Shores dug into the last case they had in their wine library to replace it for me. I hesitated to open the replacement bottle fearing lightning would strike twice, but alas the wine was good. Very good actually. The wine opened up with big blueberry aromas and just a hint of cedar. The tannins were remarkably mature with a solid acidic backbone. The wine is not what I expect from a Meritage as far as weight goes, it is a little light lending itself more to be enjoyed with a very meaty fish (such a s blue marlin with a blueberry butter) or a dish like chicken in a cream sauce, but very tasty indeed. This is a very well made wine. The use of oak is restrained and even the tannins are on the light side of balanced. The pleasant acidic backbone of the wine will definitely keep this wine alive for a few more years to come.

I wish I had opened up its younger brother, the 2005 Meritage to compare side by side. Instead I will rely on my notes and memory to compare the two. The 2005 is a very pretty wine with more cherry aromas than blueberry. On the palate the 2005 shows a hint of anise not found in the 2004. Both wines showed similar cedar flavors and as they opened both wines developed the stereotypical peppery ness of the LENS terroir (although the 2004 is more black pepper-ish and more pleasant than the 2005’s spicy white pepper… give it another year and I am sure it will balance out nicely like the 2004). If I had them both in my cellar at this time I think I would drink the 2004 and see what the 2005 develops like over the next year or so.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Cuvee 2008

Cuvee 2008

So this past weekend I was down in Niagara for the 20th Annual Cuvee festival. It is a charity event Wine Council of Ontario to benefit the Niagara Community Foundation. On the Friday night there was a Gala held at the Fallsview Casino that included a tasting of a number of wines from Niagara and a few from Prince Edward County and Lake Erie North Shore, as well as an awards ceremony.

21 wines were awarded medals from different wine styles. The wines, submitted by 55 wineries from across the province, were judged by the winemakers themselves giving the Cuvee Gala an “Academy Awards” feel to it (the wine industry recognizing itself). The big winner of the night was Creekside Estate Winery who pulled home four different awards, but I think the surprise of the night was when the award for best Cabernet Sauvignon went to Pelee Island for their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve. This wine is the only wine recognized with an award that was not from the Niagara Peninsula. I was please to Congratulate Winemaker Martin Janz after the awards presentation and enjoy a glass of the Cabernet with him. The wine is drinking very well right now with luscious red fruit, hints of mint and leather and a touch of blood orange citrus. The wine is well structured with strong but integrated tannins. It is a very well made wine and very deserving of the Cuvee award. Congratulations to Martin and all the folks at Pelee Island Winery. Below is a list of the other winners of the night.

Best Red Wine: Thirty Bench Winemakers Benchmark Red 2005
Limited Edition Red: Creekside Estates Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
White Wine: Cave Springs Gewurztraminer 2006
Limited Edition White: Featherstone Estate Bottled Gewurztraminer 2007
LCBO General List Red: Hillebrand Artist Series Meritage 2005
LCBO General List White: Hillebrand Trius Riesling 2006
Sparkling Wine: Peller Estates Signature Series Ice Cuvee Rose NV
Sweet Wine: Reif Vidal Icewine 2005
Limited Edition Sweet Wine: Cattail Creek Barrel Fermented Vidal Icewine 2006
Meritage: Creekside Reserve Meritage 2004
Cabernet Sauvignon: Pelee Island Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005
Cabernet Franc: Cave Springs Cabernet Franc Estate 2005
Merlot: Hernder Winery Merlot 2004
Syrah/Shiraz: Creekside Broken Press Shiraz 2005
Red Assemblage: Mike Weir Cabernet Shiraz 2005
Riesling: Thirty Bench Small Lot Riesling “Triangle Vineyard” 2006
Sauvignon Blanc: Jackson-Triggs Niagara Grand Reserve White Meritage 2006
Chardonnay: Niagara College Teaching Winery Barrel Fermented Chardonnay 2006
White Assemblage: Hillebrand Trius White 2006
Gold Award: Henry of Pelham Reserve Riesling 2006
Gold Award: Stonechurch Riesling Dry 2006

On the subject of Pelee Island, I opened up their Premium Select Chardonnay 2006. This is another impressive wine. It has a creamy, almost caramel and tropical fruit nose. It is a pleasantly warm and luscious with good green apple acidity. I can imagine sitting down with a nice plate of brie and smoked salmon and being in heaven. I am really impressed with what Pelee Island is doing with their wines. It seems like as soon as you pay $14.95 or above for one of their wines the quality and value increases tremendously.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Mastronardi Estates

So on my wine tour a few weeks ago I stopped by Mastronardi Winery. They are located just up the street from Colasanti’s on Mersea Rd. 3. The Mastronardi’s originally bought the property off of Colio (it was the original CEV vineyard) to turn it into Greenhouses, but they discovered they enjoyed the challenge of growing grapes so they started up their own winery instead. They have hired Lyse Leblanc (formerly of Leblanc Estate Winery) to make the wines and she is doing a great job. The first I would recommend is their Sparkling wine a’Dorah. It has very tight bubbles with lots of toasty bread and complexity (Plus my Daughter Madeline loves Dora… The Explorer… and before the age of two she seems to be taking to wine too). If you are fonder of still wines, their Chardonnay has a nice balance of oak and fruit and their Meritage is full of blackberry and tobacco. The wood is balanced and it has a refreshingly clean finish. They also make a Zweigelt that is a good simple easy to drink table wine with a hint of foxyness to it. Overall they are doing a great job and with the experience of Lyse in the barrel room, Mastronardi’s is a winery to watch.

Next weekend I am heading to Niagara with the family for Cuvee. A festival put on by the Wine Council of Ontario. I am looking forward to experiencing all the latest wines from across the province and on Saturday I have been invited to an ‘Experts Tasting’ put on at Brock University exploring the ‘Art of the Blend’. I am looking forward to this as I believe in my experience that wines from this area show best when blended together. I will bring you up to speed on the events next week.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Joy of Cork

So I have waited until the last minute to write this column because I am spending “Family Day” with Stephanie, MJ and Madeline and I planned to open a special bottle I have been saving for a special occasion—a 2004 Meritage from Sprucewood Shores. The 2004 was Tanya’s first vintage and the Meritage won a GOLD medal at the All Canadian Wine Championship last year. It was in such demand that they sold out on their Grand Opening Day. I showed up at the winery a month later looking for some and had to use all my powers of persuasion to pry a few bottles out of what was supposed to be their library stock.

I was looking forward to opening this bottle as I just tasted the 2005 Meritage a few weeks ago. It is a very pretty wine with a bright cherry & cedar nose with red liquorices and balanced tannins. A touch of the peppery Lake Erie North Shore Terroir came out as it opened. I was looking forward to enjoying the 2004 with a steak and sautéed mushrooms. I opened the bottle and poured some into our wineglasses. As I brought the glass up to my nose with the expectations of more cherry and cedar notes, I had to stop. Wafting out of the glass was the unmistakable aroma of nail polish remover. Now acetate is not an uncommon smell in wine, I opened up a 2003 Amarone from Italy two weeks ago with the same smell and numerous other similar bottles in the past.

The thing that all the wines I have tasted with this distinctive smell have in common is a faulty cork. If you have ever heard someone refer to a wine as ‘corked’, ‘corky’ or ‘faulty’, this is what they are referring to. In addition, if you have ever wondered where the tradition of tasting the bottle of wine before serving it to guests came from, it has a lot to do with avoiding the embarrassment of serving a ‘corked’ wine to guests.

According to most wine experts, anywhere from 5-12% of all bottles of wine are corked—almost 1 bottle per case! To me this is one of the most disappointing parts of having a wine cellar—not being able to enjoy that special bottle that you have been saving, on the special occasion.

Now what should you do if you encounter a faulty bottle? If you find it at home, you can return the bottle to the LCBO for a full refund. If you are in a restaurant, politely inform your server that the bottle is corky and they should bring you a new one. I will share a story of a time that I had a corky bottle at a restaurant.

About a year ago Stephanie and I took a long weekend in January and went down to visit some friends in Pittsburg. On the way back we stopped overnight in Cleveland and went out for dinner. We happened to come upon a Restaurant called the Blue Point Grill. When I was looking over the wine list it said that they had won a number of Wine Spectator Awards of Excellence and that they have 20 trained sommeliers on staff (wine experts). I asked the waitress if she was one of the sommeliers (which she was), and I challenged her to pick the wine for us. I told her off the cuff that my restaurant had a Wine Spectator award as well (not to brag, just so she didn’t try to bluff me off with an inferior bottle of wine). Anyway our waitress brought out a bottle wrapped in a napkin to have some fun and play name that wine, which I did--- corked! It was no problem as she just went and got another bottle. (Not that it is important to the discussion of corked wines but just to brag a bit, to the amazement of our waitress I did recognize the second bottle as a Spanish wine).

So if you ever discover aromas of must, mould or nail polish remover, or if you ever have a wine that just doesn’t taste right, feel free to ask for another one or return it to the LCBO for a refund.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

What To Pair With a Salad

So here I was in a little of a conundrum last week. I was at a planning meeting for the annual ‘Parade of Chefs’. It is a charity event held every year for the last five years to benefit the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. A number of area chefs get together and each prepares a different course for the meal paired with a wine from an Ontario Winery. In the past we have done the desserts and soup so this year we were given the salad course. To make it challenging and give the event a different twist, every course to be served that night s going to be a different color. Ian and I thought green would be too easy, so instead we decided on a purple salad. It will consist of purple kale, purple romaine, garnished with beets and a blueberry beetroot vinaigrette. Now the challenge is what wine to serve with it. I got thinking and imagining the flavors and I really couldn’t see a white wine pairing well, and a red… well I have to be careful. First, we can’t make the vinaigrette too acidic or no wine will stand up to it (which shouldn’t be a problem as the beetroot and the blueberries combine well enough that we shouldn’t have to use much vinegar), Second the red has to be full bodied enough to match the vinaigrette but not tannic—so I pretty much had to stay away from Cabernets and Merlots. Baco Noir? No too smokey and acidic. Pinot Noir? Maybe, but not enough oomph. Then while I was brainstorming with Mary Jane from Smith & Wilson Mary Jane brought up their Chambourcin. They still have the 2005 on their shelf that has really developed into a beautiful wine. It has a nice round body with sweet round blueberry and strawberry aromas. The tannins are very much in check and just a hint of pepperyness that it will marry well with the salad. Or at least I think it will. I would encourage you to get your tickets to the April 10th event early and taste the combination for yourself. For more information visit www.foundationckha.com or call (519) 336-2538 for tickets.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Wagner Estates… Not Just Fruit Wines Anymore

I made a point of traveling down to Maidstone this week to visit Wagner Orchards and Estate Winery. I have met Harold a number of times at different events and tasted some of his fruit wines in the past, but this is my first visit to his winery. The more I get to know Harold I really admire him. I liken him to George at Smith & Wilson, they are both salt of the earth farmers that greet you in the winery in their tattered farm jackets and overalls, but they both produce very good wines.

The winery is located on their orchard farm spitting distance from the 401. Harold admits that apples are the main focus of his business as in the fall the farm turns out thousands of apple pies, strudel and other baked goods. It is no wonder that he makes some great apple wines. He has a sparkling apple cider that he calls Pug’s Head Cider (I assume after one of his dogs that greeted Stephanie and I at the door). This was a great find as the bubbles were so small and tight that the appearance reminded me of a good vintage champagne. The aroma is distinctively applesauce. The flavors are very light and it has a good crisp acidity. I can see two uses for this wine, for toasting like you would with other sparkling wines, with the light carbonation it could be drank like beer or in place of Strongbow or another of the British ciders.

Before I talk about his two grape wines, I want to mention two other of Wagner’s fruit wines. The Fire House red is a cherry wine that is a very purfumey dry wine that (with Valentines Day next week) reminds me of candy cinnamon hearts. It would go well with spicy food or if you want to try it with a dessert, it goes very well with pumpkin pie (trust me I tried it!). Wagner’s Black Ice is a black current Icewine that is not too sweet. It has a touch of mint flavor followed by black current, black currents and more black currents with a racy acidity.

As I mentioned above, these are the wines that I was familiar with from Wagner’s. What I was surprised to find was his Log House Dry and Log House Red. The Log house dry is a not so subtle Sauvignon Blanc. It has a powerful grapefruit nose with a very warm viscous herbal flavor and a dry finish. If you like Sauvignon Blanc, this is a Sauvignon on Steroids! The Log House Red is a Gamay Zweigelt blend that is round, supple and really drinking well now. It has sweet raspberry and black current flavors with a touch of mild white pepper and balanced tannins.

I will end off telling you about two wine events coming up in the next month. First, Colchester Ridge is hosting an open house on February 9, 2008 from 12-5. They are launching their first Icewine. The 2006 Vidal Icewine is different than your typical Ontario Icewine. It has the stereotypical brown sugar nose with some grapefruit and eucalyptus. What sets this Icewine apart is it has a racy acidity and it is really warm (winespeak for high in alcohol). If you don’t enjoy syrupy sweet Icewines, you may want to give this one a try.

The other event coming up is a Winemakers Dinner with Harold Wagner here at Stargazer on Wednesday March 5 2008. We have paired the five wines I mentioned above with a 6 course meal. The night begins at 7 pm and it is only $65 per person to enjoy the six courses and five wines. I have included the menu below. For Reservations call me at 519-351-9351

Wagner Estate Winery

Wednesday March 5, 2008

On a green apple and celeriac slaw
Pug’s Head Cider
(Sparkling apple cider with a beautiful applesauce nose
with fine light bubbles and crisp acidity)

on a roesti potato with a white grapefruit salsa
Log House Dry
(A Powerful Sauvignon Blanc with a grapefruit nose,
warm viscous herbal flavors with a dry finish)
Diced lamb stewed in honey, cumin and chilies
atop cinnamon basmati with Indian style pickles.
Fire House Red
(a purfumey dry cherry wine reminiscence of cinnamon hearts)
On a blue cheese and red onion gratin with raspberry sage reduction
Log House Red
A gamay zweigelt blend with round & sweet
with raspberries & black currents, mild white pepper and balanced tannins
With a black current ice cream
Black Ice
(Black current Ice wine with mint, black currents black currents & more black currents with a good acidity and not too sweet

Monday, January 28, 2008

Rondeau Reds

Rondeau Red Vs. Rondeau Red

As promised last week I am continuing my series comparing wines of different vintages. Last week I compared 2002 and 2004 Cabernet Merlots from Pelee Island. This week I opened up two Rondeau Reds from Smith & Wilson the 2005 and 2006. This is classic case of a good year followed by one that was not as strong. 2005 was an excellent year with a long hot summer while the 2006 was cooler and it shows in the wines. Both wines are fruit forward but the 2005 has very pronounced tannins with cedar and plum and dark cherry flavors. The wine has a lot of structure and is still coming into its own. The 2006 however is has slight vegetal characteristics with muted strawberries (vegetal and green pepper flavors indicate that the grapes were not quite ripe wheen they were harvested). The fruit and tannins are in good balance right now signaling that even though it is a year younger, it is ready to drink before the 2005. My advice to you if you have some 2005 Rondeau Red in your cellar is to leave it there and pick up some 2006 to enjoy for the next year or so while the 2005 gets better and while we wait for the 2007 (which has the potential to be the best year ever for Ontario wines).

Speaking of the 2005 vintage. I had the chance to enjoy the 2005 Sprucewood Shores Pinot Noir the other day. It is a beautiful example of a pinot with loads of leather, cedar and cranberry flavors. It is a great value for about $15.95 per bottle. Sprucewood also has just released their 2005 Meritage. The 2004 Meritage was sold out last June (they had to limit people to 2 bottles per person during their Grand Opening Celebration) and I don’t think the 2005 will be around long either. I will review my notes and share them soon.

Pelee Island Cab Merlot

A Tale of Two Wines:

As I mentioned last week, I was down at Pelee Island Winery picking up some wine and seeing what was new. As you may have read previously, I am a big proponent of going to the wineries and buying wine direct. There were two finds, the shiraz I raved about last week as well as a 2002 Vinedressers Cabernet Merlot—I think they were clearing out some of their cellar library because they are currently selling their 2005 Cabernet Merlot aswell. This is another of the many reasons to visit the wineries themselves (in additon to the main one, try before you buy), sometimes they have these deals on older library wines that are available nowhere else.

I opened up a bottle of the 2002 and the 2004 Cabernet Merlot for a side by side tasting. The 2002 still had very aggressive tannins and beautiful dried cranberry notes. When I first tasted it my mouth screamed for a rare piece of beef to match the dry ripe tannins. The 2004 on the other hand was quite similar except the cranberry flavour was sweet ripe and juicy and the tannins were much rounder and ready to drink. This is a classic example of vintage years being important to a wine. 2002 was a great growing year and the wines were big and full with potential to age longer. The 2004 vintage created some excellent wines aswell, but more for immediate gratification. I don’t see the 2004 drinking much better with another 2 years of age under its belt, but the 2002 certainly will improve even more (the tannins will mellow and the fruit will develop even more of the intense dried characteristic).

From what I understand from talking to the local winemakers (as well as reading some other wine writers), the wines from 2007 show promise of being one of the best years ever in Ontario. The summer was long and hot with a long fall harvest. This is a good time to stock up on 2005 & 2006 wines to drink now and over the next few years as we wait and let the bounty of 2007 (when they are released) sit in the basement and get better with age.

This week I intend to open up Smith and Wilson’s 05 & 06 Rondeau Red to see what a difference a year makes with it. If you want to experiment yourself, I do have both the 02 and 04 Pelee Cebernet Merlot’s on the list at Stargazers as well as the 05 & 06 Rondeau Reds.