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 gew├╝rztraminers. 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 Gew├╝rztraminers 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.