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

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 (, 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.