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?