Archive | October, 2014

(Not Really) Previously Unexplored Wineries – Flat Rock Cellars

31 Oct

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First thing I’m going to do? Change the title of this series from “Previously Unexplored Wineries” to “Sometimes Previously Unexplored and Sometimes Regularly Explored Wineries”? “Wineries ‘n More”? Not quite? “Wineries-o-Rama”? I know, it needs work. I’ll get my crack marketing team to blue sky it, socialize the concept, and prepare a few story boards for our consideration.

The reason I need to change the name of the series is that today I’m going to talk about a winery that I have visited and ‘explored’ on several occasions – Flat Rock Cellars.

Flat Rock Cellars was started in 1999. However, the owning/managing family Mandronich have been involved in viticulture for quite a bit longer. Flat Rock’s vibe is eco-sensitive, fun, small-batchy, quirky. They are clearly tied to the land – their spot on the bench – and take care to ….take care. Although they don’t have biodynamic or organic certification, you can relax. They employ a low-impact approach to their business, from geo-thermal heating to gravity-flow processing. They have Estate, Reserve, and single vineyard wines. Although there’s a gewurtztraminer line and the syrah below, Flat Rock is primarily pinot noir, chardonnay, and riesling – grapes that do well in cool climes. So, if you’re first and foremost a Bordeaux varietal guy or gal, take a pass. Flat Rock came to my attention and stayed there, in part, due to my love for Nadja. We’ll talk about her later.

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The Perch

On an early fall day, we arrived somewhat sated after a lunch at On The Twenty (scallops, for me) in Jordan Village. If you’ve never, you need to…..dine at On the Twenty, that is. It’s a special treat. But, Flat Rock beckoned and we answered the call. Well, answered the call after we (we as in – not me) shopped a bit in Jordan. Flat Rock’s reception building (pictured above) is a hexagonal perch on the side of the escarpment looking out over the valley below and on to Lake Ontario and, as their website points out, a vista extending to the bright lights of Toronto on a clear evening. It really is a great place to sit and sip. I’ve been there several times and it was always quite busy. This time we lucked out as there were only we two until some interlopers arrived. Ted greeted us and we immediately found out that we knew some of the same people in #lndnont. You see Ted lived in London and used to be in the entertainment business – the technical side. Those that grew up watching Polka Dot Door will be excited to learn that Ted toured with the Polka Dot Door touring company; working as part of the legendary Jones’ crew. I’m betting a solid member of IATSE. For those from regions that don’t get TVOntario (most of the world), Polka Dot Door was a children’s staple when I was plugging my boys into television to educate them (read: babysit). Star of the show? Polk-a-Roo – an actor dressed up as an unrecognizable animal who could only say, “Polk-a-Roo, Polk-a-Roo.” I know, I can’t figure out how it stayed on the air either. Anyway, Ted was our very capable guide through the wines of Flat Rock. The tasting room is a large, very open room with glass on all sides. It has a bit of an industrial feel – wood and steel – open displays of their wines. So, if you just want to walk around and discover on your own, it’s easy. After we got the, “Oh yeah, we know him too.” And, “London still sleepy?” out of the way, we waded into the wines.

The wines:

If you’ve been reading me for a while or received my emails before I went high tech with a website, I’m Breton you’ll remember that I’ve recommended Nadja before. Did you catch the erudite literary reference? No? Too nadjasurreal for you? Hmm, that didn’t catch either? Nadja is the name of the vineyard that’s immediately south and slightly above the reception building at Flat Rock. It is planted to riesling, I think exclusively. Every year, the Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling seems to get a bit better – vine age? We tasted the 2012 Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling #578625 #19.95 (availability extremely limited – 2013 now available through winery). These wines are always dry, clean, and seamless. This vintage brought some peaches with the usual citrus. Not so much on the nose but in the mouth and on the swallow – battling a good dose of juicy acidity. A lovely wine and maybe the best vintage of this I’ve had. Although it could just be that it’s the last vintage that I’ve tasted. My bet is that it’s gracefully cellarable for ten years.

We know that The Director loves her oaked chardonnay and Flat Rock makes a few iterations. The 2010 Chardonnay #681247 $16.95 was the oaked chardonnay that they were pushing. I mean Ted was pushing – to demonstrate their judicious use of oak. This is the same wine as their Good Karma Chardonnay (with Good Karma, Flat Rock donates a portion of proceeds to the Ontario Association of Food Banks). Well, the wine had typical chardonnay aromas of apples, some citrus. The buttery apple pie tendency with oaked chardonnays was cut a bit on the finish with some bite. Well balanced effort for this price – not overly ripe or buttery. I’d say this is a bargain for those that like an oaked chardonnay but want it food friendly as well. And the bonus? It’s a ‘local’.

 

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View from the reception building balcony

Flat Rock has a rusty shed on their property. So rather than seeing it as an eye sore or actually fixing it up, they decided to name a line after it. That’s what I need to do with my garage. Create a trademark with it. Then I wouldn’t have to clean it. I’m thinking ‘Duffswines Cluttered Garage Pages’? Anyway, as far as I can tell, this is the premium line for Flat Rock chardonnay. The 2011 Rusty Shed Chardonnay $20.25 (this vintage not available at the LCBO but the 2012 #1552 is in very limited supplies) is a more sophisticated take on oaked Niagara chardonnay. Not that the one above is clumsy (the 2010 entry level one above was the one we bought a few of, actually). It’s just that this seems a little more integrated and settled – minerality more evident too. Oak treatment subtle and complementary – not showing off on its own. If you’re oak more front and centre – select the regular bottling. More subtle and integrated oak – this is the chardonnay you’ll want.

Rogue_LogoMy familiarity with Flat Rock starts with Nadja and ends with pinot noir. However, they had a syrah that I hadn’t ever had and I just needed a tiny sip to realize that syrah doesn’t need to be shiraz in Ontario. The 2011 Rogue Syrah $35.20 (only available at cellar door or on-line) leans much closer to Saint Joseph than Barossa. If you like the latter, you’ll miss that shiraz jammy fruit with this syrah. This is leaner. It carries some herby stuff and darkness on the nose and was quite closed in the mouth. Tannins evident. Now, I’m not sounding too positive but quite the contrary, I liked this a lot. It seems to need some time in bottle or with a decant, I’m thinking that the dark fruit and herbs (coffee?) that made their presence felt on the nose will start to emerge. Distinct european feel. A powerful wine. My preference would be for this to sit for a while longer. Matching to an herbed pork roast, is what I’m planning.

frpinotFlat Rock Pinot Noir is available at the LCBO as part of their Vintages Essentials program. It’s always around waiting on any occasion to twist a cap. Oh yeah, all Flat Rock still wines are sealed with Stelvin screw tops. The vintage we tried was the 2012 Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir #1545 $19.95. This cherry red wine smelled of red fruits, tasted like red cherries and carried some grip and a little spice on the finish. This puts in a regular appearance in our house and cottage as a sipper or with some pinot-matching food – chicken, fish, hummus, Kernels (that mix of cheese and caramel, in particular). It’s an accessible pinot at a fair price. Interestingly, I saw a bottle of this very wine in the Bottles store in Providence, R.I. last January. Nice to see some Ontario wines getting out and about.

Flat Rock has several pinot noirs from specific blocks within vineyards – Pond Block, Summit Block, Bruce Block. I tried the 2011 Flat Rock Bruce Block Pinot Noir $29.95. If I had a sophisticated palate, I’d wax eloquently about the subtleties of terroir and how each wine is impacted. Although that isn’t likely to happen, I’d swear that this one has been crafted with Clone 115 – evident in the darker colour. OK, I read that on-line. This wine was not ready-for-primetime yet IMHO. Great red fruit on the nose with some earthy notes – pushed with some coolness out of the glass. Coolness, as in – no heat from elevated alcohol. This wine has ABV of only 12.3%, which is a nice change from some other North American pinots that push 14%. But much of that aroma didn’t replay in the mouth. It had gentle but substantial tannins that, I think, would balance out over time getting out of the way for the fruit and earthiness. Hard to say.

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Tasting Room

That’s all we tasted on site (it was our third winery, with one still to go). But, over this past summer, I have enjoyed 2013 Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir Rosé #39974 $16.95. This pink is deep and strawberry good. At first sip, you might think that it’s a bit off-dry, particularly if like me, Tavel is your thing. But don’t rush to conclusions and have a second glass – I think that it’s not so much off-dry as it is fruitful. Patio? Too late in the year? How about in front of the fireplace with those shrimp things you’ve been planning to make.

I’ve also enjoyed the Flat Rock Gravity Pinot Noir #001560 $29.95 but haven’t had the 2012. The 2012 vintage hits the stores on November 8th. In the past, a solid pinot that presents as ready to drink and is typically, for me, a bit earthier, deeper and more complex than the ‘regular’ bottling or my experience with the Bruce Block.

Other wines in their line include: Crowned and Riddled – two sparklers; Red Twisted and Twisted White – two blends; an unoaked chardonnay; a late harvest and a regular off-dry Gewurtztraminer; a regular bottling riesling; and, a Rogue pinot noir. Have not tasted any of them.

Flat Rock has a Wine Club –  Club On The Rock – which provides access to limited wines, library wines, and early access to general release wines. It also holds some events at the winery. One of the events is Ed’s Tour – where you get a tour and private tasting with the winemaker, Ed Madronich (requires a minimum of 4 peeps – anyone want to go with me?). You can join or buy wine on-line at http://www.flatrockcellars.com . Head to the website for some videos on Flat Rock which I couldn’t play as I was told I had “blocked plug-ins” which sounds quite dire. Do I need to see a doctor?

I know that I always tell you to get to a winery near you. But, this time you need to consider that winter approaches and festive occasions demand good wine and a story about a winery visit. Well, I made up that second part but wouldn’t a winery story be a good conversation piece during one of those awkward annual moments with that insufferable wine geek Uncle Bill?

Go visit Flat Rock and tell Ted that I sent you. Samples, Ed?

Other wineries in the Previously Unexplored Wineries Series

Kacaba, Megalomaniac, Pondview, Colaneri, Sue-Ann Staff, Westcott

Next Winery – Southbrook

Images courtesy of http://www.flatrockcellars.com

Try Something Different – The White Daily Slosh

24 Oct

If I’ve posted this video before, I don’t apologize. Love the Joe, Love the horns. Saw him live last year with my son – brilliant! And loud too. Turn up your speakers, hit play and listen while you read.

As I mentioned in my last post, there aren’t a lot of wines from this release (October 25) that I’ve had the pleasure of tasting in the vintage offered. And, despite the advances of winemakers both in the vineyard and the shop, vintage matters in all but the most mass-produced wines. I’ve added a Vintages Essentials choice to fill in. The Vintages Essentials wines should be readily available in most mother ship stores.

sketches rieslingI haven’t included Tawse Winery in my series of Previously Unexplored Wineries because, well, they were never previously unexplored. I’ve been dropping in there since I started the wine thing. Love their cab franc, pinot noir, and chardonnay. Did I mention the pinot? Cool spot with great staff. One of my coolest wine gadgets is a turntable (or as my mom called it – a Lazy Susan) made from one of their barrel heads. Tours used to be somewhat impromptu – not sure now if that’s the case but a great way to spend an hour or more. They also make great riesling that seems to get lost in amongst their other offerings. Their entry level stuff is in the Sketches of Niagara line. Their 2013 Tawse Sketches of Niagara #089029 $17.95 is a medium sweetness effort but I have to say that the acidity that it carries dampens much of the sweetness – barely off-dry to me. It’s well balanced, has some citrus, not any of the kero that riesling (particularly older) can bring. I just tasted it – not drank it – didn’t have with a meal. But, I’d say some type of Thai or fusion cuisine would match well. If you are attracted to riesling with clearly present acidity (the title of a new Tom Clancy novel about winemakers threatening world domination )– this would be a perfect pick up. Good juice. And, even though I won’t be talking about Tawse in a special installment, you need to go see them. Tell them I sent you. Maybe I’ll get samples.

yviognierThere are some labels that seem to hit the mark more often than not. That goes for Yalumba’s “The Y Series”. It comes in at an affordable price and is consistently good value. In this market, we usually get the viognier and the shiraz/viognier blend every vintage. But this is the White Daily Slosh, so I’m talking about the viognier. Topic: Viognier – what the hell is it? Talk amongst yourselves. Viognier is a grand old grape that made its name in the Northern Rhone with a wine that might be the most sought after white wine in the world, Condrieu. Qualification: if you are a grand cru Burgundy dude or dudette, you’ll be chasing something else. But, even you’d have to admit that Condrieu is special. In the Northern Rhone, viognier is even planted with syrah and used in the famed (and delicious) Côte Rôtie, a red wine. Unfortunately for we mere mortals, Côte Rôtie is a bit expensive too. Anyway, over the last decade or two, viognier has been planted further afield and used as a single varietal in Australia, California, and the south of France (primarily the Languedoc). My friend, Andrew – he of the charcuterie fetish – loves viognier and, frankly, turned me on to it. Where was I? Oh, the Yalumba. This week, there’s the 2013 Yalumba The ‘Y’ Series Viognier #624502 $16.95. This is a little more French in style than last vintage – not as busy or round for me. I like this better, more straight ahead and I liked the 2012 a lot (as did J & O). This is maybe a bit more food friendly (some backbone) but I love viognier all by itself too. Good effort. If you trend to full bodied stuff like creamy, oaked chardonnay this may be a gateway wine to riesling and sauvignon blanc.

pacoWe are off to Spain next year. Some time in Cataluña, Rioja, and, if I get my way, Rias Baixas chasing down some wines and grabbing some sun and great food. How to prepare? Explore Spanish wines and food. I picked up the 2012 Paco & Lola Albariño #350041 $18.95 to reacquaint myself with this juicy grape. This is a salty white wine. It reminds me of a Kiwi sauvignon blanc on the nose – grapefruity. I had it with a mango salad with shrimp and it battled the lime-chile dressing to a draw – a refreshing wine that doesn’t lose its appeal just because we had a frost warning last night. Distinctive bottle. I realize that you aren’t to wear white after Labour Day. But, it is simply fine to drink dry crisp white wines like this and rosés, for that matter any time of year. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of this wine available so “Act Fast”, as the commercials suggest.

Vintages Essentials

There’s pinot grigio in the Essentials aisle all right. And, although I’m a wine agnostic, I can’t go there. I apologize profusely (well, not much actually) that I can’t comment on pinot grigio offerings in the Vintages Essentials library. So, click away if you’re jonesing for some of that pg.

balbocriostoorontesNow, for the rest of you. If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll know that my favourite woman of wine is Susana Balbo. I’ve never met her despite my stalker-like emails and incessant LinkdIn requests. Come to think of it, my LinkdIn account is dormant. I like her winemaking style. Her entry level stuff is varietally true and simple. The higher level wines get specific and hooked on to the land a bit more. This is one of the former. The 2013 Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés #001834 $13.95 is focused and citrusy. It’s a great value for white wine drinkers who like a wine to have some weight and expression. I like its smell. That doesn’t sound quite how I intended it. The wine has a lot of power in the glass after a swirl or two. Big sniff – lovely. If you take this to a party, probably no one would have tried a torrontés wine before – you’ll gain style points.

Images courtesy of – http://www.vintages.com

Election Night – The Red Daily Slosh

21 Oct

Municipal elections are taking place in Ontario this upcoming week and I thought that this video sums up the coverage that we’re likely to get. If I lived in Toronto, I’d know who the Silly Party candidate is. Hell, everyone in North America knows who that is. Although we have candidates here in London vowing to stop the waste, shut down the gravy train at City Hall, and save the hard working taxpayers of this city……..oh, about a billion dollars, is all. So, maybe Toronto isn’t alone with Silly Party candidates. My election night beverage choice? High test – single malt. You need real alcohol to survive this stuff.

This week’s release (October 25) features Tuscan “Trophy Wines” and wines from Chile. Guess which ones cost the most. Using ‘trophy in this way seems to intimate that the wines are beautiful but perhaps hollow as in ‘trophy wives.’ Not exactly the vibe they were looking for, I bet. Regardless, it means that we won’t be talking about the Ornellaia or Luce but I will find you some decent ‘daily’ sloshes. And, because there aren’t many reds that I’ve had that I’d also recommend, I’m going to add a wine from the Vintages Essentials program. Vintages Essentials should be available in all but the smallest stores.

amplusStarting south of the equator with Chile, we find the 2010 Santa Ema Amplus Cabernet Sauvignon #076307 $19.95. This is a pure “New World” cab sav. It’s got some oak both on the sniff and in your mouth. It has classic black currant scents and on the finish and some spice as you swish it around. It’s a smooth yet determined drink – lots of power and a bit of heat (14% ABV). I’d like it with elk burgers, steaks, or something warm and cozy. OK, I have no idea what goes with elk burgers never having had them. It does sound exotic though doesn’t it? “Serve at 62 degrees F. with organic elk burgers, ancho chile aioli and lightly dusted and fried Jerusalem artichokes”? Nice spicy steak wine.

BordonAbout this time last year, I recommended the ’04 Rioja Bordón Gran Reserva. I loved its maturity and food friendliness among other things. This year, the ’05 vintage is on shelves. The 2005 Rioja Bordón Gran Reserva #114454 $22.95 is one of those wines that you fill up your tasting note with – so many different scents and flavours. That doesn’t mean it’s confused (or that I am), just full of experiences and nuances. Like the ’04, this wine is very accessible and smooth with maybe less tannin and acidity – incredibly drinkable. A wine that needs food and friends. Come to think of it, all wine needs friends. That’s why I have an imaginary one. Friend, that is. It allows me to drink wine more often. This wine would develop further over another few years, if you want to see what it becomes when its more experienced. I still have a couple ‘04’s that I’m waiting on.

Biggest complaint I receive from my long suffering listserv peeps is, “Bill, what’s with the price creep? You used to recommend all sorts of wines around $15. We don’t like to spend so much on wine. We’re not winos like you.” Mea culpa both on the ‘wino’ label as well as the price creep. But, let me explain why that might be – the price creep, that is – the wino thing would take awhile. This week’s release features Tuscan wines that average about $40 each. The rest of the offerings may not be so expensive (California aside) but still exceeding the $25 limit on average I have for the “Daily Slosh”. And, this is somewhat normal for the New Arrivals or New Release wines. I have taken to buying cheaper wines in the hope that they will come around again and I can talk about them. That’s real sacrifice on my part but I do what I can for you. In the interim, I’ll try to make sure I mention at least one choice that isn’t over $20. And, I’ll mention some General Listing and Vintages Essentials wines to fill in the gaps as needed.

palaciosremondoThis week there’s one of the Perennial “Best Value” wines arriving. The beauty of the 1012 Palacios Remondo La Vendemia #674564 $16.95 is that it’s not expensive, it’s readily available a couple times a year in this market, and in this vintage, it’s really really good. If you like Garnacha and I really do, you’ll love this. And, surprise, if you like Tempranillo and I really do, you’ll love this. It’s got the personality of both of these grapes showing through. Tannins soft a la Garnacha and acidity, herbal notes from the Tempranillo. This would be a great stand around and party red wine. A host/hostess gift? Now, if you’re a New World red gal or guy, maybe you’d want some food with this – nah, you’d love it by itself too. Let it breathe a bit before you quaff.

Vintages Essentials Selection

cettoYears ago, I picked up what was then my first Mexican wine. Well, it’s still my only Mexican wine to be truthful. Trying new regions, new wines, new grapes and blends provides such a great experience. Even if you kind of decide that it isn’t your cup of wine, you still get to sip something from somewhere else, made in another important tradition. A privilege really. Oh yeah, years ago…….I tried this wine and thought, “Wow, really? This is from Mexico and isn’t a margarita ingredient or illegal?” Even more important was that this wine was pretty good. Well, a few weeks ago, my friend Rod had me to dinner and opened the 2011 vintage of this wine and almost apologized for the commonness of the wine (price equating to commonness – which is not true). It was still as good as I remembered the olde vintage! The wine? The 2011 L.A. Cetto Petit Sirah #983742 $11.95 (yes, I said $11.95 and we’re not standing at Trader Joe’s in Omaha) isn’t Fuzion. I repeat, “This isn’t Fuzion”. Which is a good thing, right? Not sickly sweet and thick. A wine that improves with some air, it carries some herbal notes, some tannins and acidity in the mouth but all pretty balanced for a wine at this price point. I liked its spicy goodness – with a steak or sausages on the grill? – something fatty for sure. Rod and I had it with steak – well, we started the bottle as the steaks were being prepared (Chet Baker in the background) and, surprise, it was done before the steaks were served. But, I bet it would have been a match.

Images courtesy of:

L.A. Cetto, Rioja Bordon – http://www.vintages.com

Santa Ema Amplus – http://www.santaema.cl.en

Palacios Remondo – http://www.winealign.com

Previously Unexplored Wineries – Westcott Vineyards

15 Oct

 

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Two weeks ago, I penned a post on winery stumbling in Niagara featuring, in that post, Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery. You can read that post here. This is another in the Previously Unexplored Wineries series.

One of the great things about wandering in Niagara is the surprise discovery. For me, it’s usually a wine. But on this day, it was a whole winery. Wine communities tend to co-promote. At first glance, it’s counterintuitive. A car dealership doesn’t tell you that you’ll find a great SUV at another dealership, do they? Well, my experience in several wine regions of the world is that wineries are supportive of each other. The effect of cross-pollination of staff, families, and winemakers? They all party together? A small community experiencing symbiotic bliss? Or, maybe they just want you to find what you like and are only too willing to point you in that direction. It’s Miracle on 34th Street Kris Kringle-esque. Let’s hope that doesn’t change. The alternative is a tasting room with shady staff leaning in and whispering, “Hey, dos guys up da road? Dare pinot? It’s cut. Dey cut the pinot with syrah. You can’t trust ’em. Ours is puuure Niagara pinot. Good sh** (wink, wink)” Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, being referred to Westcott Vineyards. We were tweaked to its very existence by Ted, our personal sip and spit tour guide at Flat Rock Cellars (which I’ll feature later in a post). Ted told us that Westcott made mostly pinot noir and chardonnay, both in a pretty assertive style. Umm, who likes assertive chardonnay? So, we had to wander over to Westcott which is in the same neighbourhood as Sue-Ann Staff’s and Flat Rock Cellar – maybe a kilometre away.

wextcott barn

Westcott Vineyards is a family run winery. When we were there Victoria and Garrett Westcott, daughter and son of the owners, were in the tasting room. Well, in fact, they were the only winery reps in the tasting room. What you need to know is that the concept at Westcott is natural, uncomplicated with a bit of rusticity thrown in. The winery and tasting/sales room is in a restored barn (picture above) that we were informed was moved from another location. Long harvest tables made with reclaimed wood and cement floors. It would be quite toasty when the fire is on. And, similarly to Sue-Ann Staff’s, it really presents the wine as agricultural produce not alchemy. I didn’t see farm implements but I had a feeling that they were lurking somewhere not too far away – gravel drive which is de rigeur in Niagara. Their website and personal sales pitch is focused on ‘small’. They don’t make a ton of wine and they allow the vintage to dictate what they can get out of the vineyard. No attempt to make every vintage taste the same. They get winemaking assistance from a Bordelais.

 

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Westcott Tasting Room

Before I get in to the wines I have to mention the boat. Their trademark and many of the references in the names of wines have to do with a restored boat found on the shores of a lake in Quebec at a family cottage, I believe. It has some historical connection to someone famous as well as to the Westcott family but I had already been to three wineries before this and had ditched the pen and paper; so the details escape me.  The boat is one of those grand old wood craft that plied the lakes of Muskoka, Quebec and New England during the heydays of cottage and resort development. This one – and I saw pictures – is spectacular! Well, anyway there’s a very important connection to the boat and it’s people. I just can’t remember it. Note to winery webmaster: put a word or two about the boat on winery’s web site.

Victoria took us through a tasting. Again, there’s a tasting fee here but refundable with purchase.

The wines:

Westcott_2012_Estate_Chardonnay-124x3592012 Estate Chardonnay $26.00 – Although this wine has had some time in oak (ferment and age) it doesn’t present as oaky in the glass. Lots of apple pie though – classic oaked chardonnay nose. In the mouth, the oak is faint and the apple replays with an assertive finish – a hit of acidity. Some creaminess but not a big chardonnay. Nice sipper for me. Dinner wine for The Director. ABV 13.5%.

2012 Estate Pinot Noir $30.00 – I was expecting this to be one of those big 2000’s California-style pinots after Ted’s claim of assertiveness. But, I was surprised at how restrained it was. Now I find that after a lengthy day tasting, my palate, which is a bit sketchy anyway, gets lazy Westcott_2012_Pinot_Estate2-124x359and maybe I need wines then that are unlike what I’ve been tasting before. So, I question myself when a wine doesn’t translate from swish to sip. But this wasn’t that. This seemed to be asleep, if that makes sense. This wine had some great things going on in the glass (earthiness, bushes, and strawberries) but it didn’t translate in my mouth. This usually means for me that it needs air or time in bottle or both. It, unlike the chardonnay above, carried some heat from the modest ABV of 13.5%. I think that this wine will start to show it’s best stuff in a few years (3 – 5) or two innings of post season baseball in the glass.

Westcott_2012_Reserve_Chardonnay-124x3592012 Reserve Chardonnay $29.00 – This chardonnay was more serious, maybe austere, than the Estate. It held somewhat the same flavour profile fruit-wise – maybe some tropical notes added – a lot more integration of the oak – more balanced. The oak didn’t so much stand out as simply provide the foundation for the fruit. It was more restrained than I had expected. I would favourably compare this to any other oaked, upper-tier Niagara chardonnay. I noticed on their web site that this has a little less alcohol (13%). Top drawer effort for oaked chardonnay lovers. But in no way did we think it over-shadowed the Estate – just different. We, in fact, purchased the Estate. Maybe because of my pinot noir choice below. Weary wallet syndrome?

Westcott_2012_Pinot_Reserve2-124x3592012 Reserve Pinot Noir $46 – I hate it when my favourite wine costs the most. So, why was this my favourite? Well, first of all – the aroma in the glass had pronounced dirty stuff. I love dirty stuff. Oh behave, let me clarify – dirty stuff, for me, as in smelling or tasting like a musty shovel of loam – kind of. I know that most wine geeks would use earthy instead and dirty is not a desirable aroma or flavour, so maybe I’ll switch to that from now on. A friend of mine has told me that he doesn’t fancy pinot noir because of the ‘earthy’ stuff. I love it because of the earthy stuff! This wine delivered more on that earthy nose than the Estate. It opened quickly and had pronounced red fruit in the mouth. It delivered on Ted’s claim that Westcott pinots were assertive. I liked this a lot. Unfortunately for my bank account, they had plenty in stock. I would have opened one of these for Thanksgiving dinner but want to leave them to figure out what they’ll become when they grow up..

There are several other wines on offer at Westcott – a rosé (Delphine), an unoaked chardonnay (Lillias), and I believe they just released a sparkler (Violette) using the charmat method. At press time (always wanted to say that), there is no availability of their products at the LCBO. You can purchase their wines at the cellar door (call 905-562-7517 email info@westcottvineyards.com ahead) or on-line at http://www.westcottvineyards.com/shop/

Glad Ted gave us the heads up on Westcott Vineyards – a great addition to my Vinemount rotation. Get thee to a winery near you!

Images courtesy of the winery.

Rainbow Daily Slosh

11 Oct

I read a piece by Eric Asimov courtesy of Charles Scicolone that talks about the issue of expressed bias in wine criticism. Great piece. Question: Should a wine critic attempt full neutrality or should they allow their biases to come through as long as they are declared? If you’ve been playing along at home, you’ll know that I have many biases and hopefully, they’re expressed clearly as I expound on the wines that I love. In other words, if you don’t know me by now….Also, I’m not often talking about wines that I don’t care for. So, even by exception, you’ll get to know my preferences. But, that doesn’t mean that I think there are wines that you ‘should’ drink and wines that you ‘shouldn’t’ drink. Well, that’s not true. I do think some wines need to get a pass. But, I don’t judge – drink what you love. And often. Just consider the wide world of wine and once in a while take a jump in the deep end. I’ll swim with ya. If you’re interested in reading Eric, I’ve linked to Charles’ reblog of Eric’s piece here.

I’ve had difficulty getting to white wine recommendations. The same goes for sparklers. So, I decided to incorporate all colours into this post. I’ll try and make it short, he says as a long and winding idea comes to his mind.

Sparklers

carpeneDo you have friends that like to open a bottle of bubbly as you enter their kitchen? No? Then get some new friends. Our friend, Suzie B. loves her Prosecco and frequently is itching to open a bottle. That opportunity presents itself when you cross the threshold. I’m not complaining mind you. I initially had trouble warming to Prosecco, however. I found that the category was a bit watered down – non-descript. I found the same thing with Cava a few years back. I just got tired of the product just got less interesting and fun. I said it was me not them and we went our separate ways. Well, that all ended when my friend, Andrew, introduced me to Carpenè Malvolti Cuvée Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore #727438 $16.95. This is a very dry Prosecco with some minerally components……OK, it is my favourite Prosecco year-in year-out. Period. Why? Way more fruit (white flesh), controlled, tight bubbles, and a nice kick at the end. Balanced. I think Suzie will love it and I’m hoping she’ll pop it the moment we walk in the door. Hey, Canadian Thanksgiving is this weekend. A perfect time to pop and pour one of these.

Red Daily Slosh

langagarnachaLast year, I featured the 2008 vintage of the 2011 LangaTradicion Centenaria Garnacha #194795 $14.95. It was well received by all my readers (several? – well, more than ten). This vintage is a bit stricter – more evident tannins than Grenache usually presents. If you like garnacha (grenache) like I do, you’ll appreciate this well-priced wine with some real food. Think Cotes du Rhone and you’ll get the garnacha vibe. This one appears more mature than the vintage suggests – some stewing of the fruit and a little earthy, smoky thing going on particularly in the glass. Great value!

villamedoroWhen I see a repeat bottle in the ‘New Arrivals’, it bugs me. What’s ‘new’ about a wine that was available a year ago? I feel betrayed by the mother ship trying to sneak an old friend through as the new kid in town. Then, I’m conflicted. Do I recommend again? I loved it before, why not show it some love again? So, here goes. The 2009 Villa Medoro Rosso del Duca Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #357160 $18.95 is a nice big MdA. My previous review here. But, I know you’re lazy and don’t want to click here and there to get your news. So, to quote myself (December 2013), “Medium to full-bodied. It also has a great nose of Italian-ness – dirty, smelly, funky that follows you to the finish – not George Clinton funky but Isley Brothers – relatable, I’m thinking. And, it tastes good too. Perfect wine for a thin crust sausage pizza (spare me the deep dish), spaghetti with store bought tomato sauce, or a plate of antipasti.” Just a word to the wise. Montepulciano d’Abruzzo’s are not your shy Italian wines – subtle, intellectual, requiring you to draw them out. MdA’s make a statement – simple and straightforward. I love ’em.

mommyRemember Mommessin? It used to come in two formats – red and white. It was a litre and a half, dirt cheap, and French too. One of the neat discoveries that I’ve made over the years is that some of these big French box wine style companies also make tasty and even vineyard specific wines too. Bouchard et Fils, Louis Latour, and Georges Duboeuf Come to mind. Mommessin works like that too. They please the masses with some straight up red and white in big bottles with thumb holes and make some great, distinctive wines as well. This week, the 2012 Mommessin Domaine de Champ de Cour Moulin-a-Vent #430876 $19.95 fills that niche. Distinctive, that is. Moulin-a-Vent Beaujolais is more….masculine than most other Beaus. It has a structure that doesn’t really say Beaujolais to most people but still brings the fruit that we love. This one is in that vein – solid tannins and acidity carrying some fruit (hiding a bit still – give the wine some air) and a country feeling – think of sitting on a piazza watching those little white (read: rusty) pick-up trucks that they have in Europe filled with freshly harvested grapes bombing along, heading to the winery for crush. Sip, nibble something local (cheeses?) and remember how special it is to be there. This wine is perfect for that image.

White Daily Slosh

spyvalleyThe white wine that used to carry the most controversy was chardonnay. It’s too big, too creamy, too woody, just too too. Now we are inundated with unoaked chardonnay and that’s supposed to be what we want. Sorry, I don’t like most of them. Now, I’m hearing some of the same disputes about sauvignon blanc – too ‘cat pee’, too grassy, too gooseberry, too big, too big, too big. OK, time to take a break from dictating what a wine is supposed to be like. Style is a matter of taste. Please disregard my opening paragraph – I reserve the right to be contrary. I don’t like bow ties. Really think they look stupid – especially on television personalities. Who the hell was that Charles guy on CBS? That does not mean that they aren’t ‘true’ ties. No matter what styles come and go, bow ties are still legitimate ties. And, no one is compelled to wear them or like them. Where was I? Oh, sauvignon blanc. I think that the most controversial sauvignon blancs come from New Zealand. They aren’t shy usually. Have an abundance of bite, fruit, and grassiness. Maybe a bit over the top for some. This week there’s one that I think does all that respectfully. It isn’t shy but not dominating the conversation either. It’s grassy or herby – I can’t quite decide which, an assertive nose (Jimmy Durante?) and packs an acidic punch. I quite like this style. The 2013 Spy Valley Sauvignon Blanc #686675 $18.95 is that wine. I’d suggest that you not drink this as a sipper. It needs some food. I’d say seafood (shrimp?), salads, limey Asian stuff.

Wines that I’ll pick up:

clarkeSpent an interesting post-golf round discussion about wine with John. He told me that he doesn’t know that much about wine but loves red Bordeaux. Especially those that have a bit of age. Sounds like he knows everything that he needs to know. There’s a perfect mid-priced red Bordeaux on the shelves this week – 2009 Château Clarke #503904 $37.95. I went to a Bordeaux Futures tasting one year for the ‘03’s. My friend and I wandered about tasting red after red. Near the end of the night whilst removing the sock from my mouth, I tasted the ’03 Ch. Clarke and thought, “What the hell, it’s one of the lowest priced ones and it tastes like every other at this point.” And also thought, “I think that I’d better stop drinking….I mean, tasting, now.” I bought a bunch and watched it evolve over a few years. It was great value. Not a long cellar candidate. But very nice. I can’t speak to this vintage specifically but I think it’s pretty safe to say it will reward a little time and a modest investment for a Bordeaux. John, go for it.

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