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.