Archive | January, 2016

#MWWC22 Time to vote!

19 Jan

the drunken cyclist

wine-stain1-3It is time to vote!

The Remaining Timeline:

Voting Begins: Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 (Today!)

Voting Ends:  Monday, January 25th, 2016

Winner Announced:  Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

This month, while the number of posts may be relatively few, I dare say that this might be the strongest collection of posts that we have had for the Challenge (particularly since yours truly did not enter). We ended up with twelve submissions (eleven of which are eligible), so take some time to peruse the entries and be sure to cast your vote!

Here are this month’s entries:

Dracaena Wines: The Hole in the Heart is not Filled; Just More Space is Made

Duff’s Wines: Even A Bad Wine Deserves a Second Chance – #MWWC22

The Epicurious Texan: Try The Wine…Again.

Food, Wine, Beer, Travel: Inspired by the Theme Second Chance

JVB Uncorked: Why Wines Deserve a Second Chance

L’Occasion: I Might Pass This Way Again

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Even A Bad Wine Deserves a Second Chance – #MWWC22

17 Jan

hockeybag

There is a strangely masochistic exercise that wine bloggers participate in each month – the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge. It’s a hotly contested fight between bloggers for bragging rights, a bump in site visits, the right to show an image on their site that they are a winner (if I could figure out how to put that on my site, I would – ’cause I’m a winner, baby), and an excuse to open something really, really nice to celebrate victory. Oh, there are a lot of losers and the losers do not, as is de rigueur these days, get a medal for just participating. The winner gets to choose the theme for the following month. Last month’s ‘challenge’ was won by Jill of L’Occasion and she chose “Second Chance” as a theme.

Now, I haven’t been entering an effort into these challenges lately. Not sure why………OK I do know why. I’m lazy, distracted, thinking that blogging isn’t helping me self-actualize and become the man I’m supposed to be. Question: what the hell will? Help me self actualize, that is. But, this theme hit a nerve. It woke up my creative juices, my imagination and two finger typing urge. Here I go.

MWWC

I used to organize and lead wine tastings with a bunch of work colleagues and friends. For each evening, we had themes – regions, varieties, just about anything that allowed for some semblance of order. I’d choose the wines based on theme, price point, and a little adventure.

For one such tasting, we had decided on a broad exploration of Italy. So, I trundled off to the mother ship and picked up the usual suspects – among others, a Prosecco, a Sicilian Grillo (love the Grillo! Can I convince you to try a couple?), a Verdicchio, a Chianti Classico, a Primitivo di Manduria,  a Valpolicella Ripasso, a Moscato d’Asti, a Barolo, and a Brunello. The last two I picked from my cellar. Now, here’s the risk all wine ‘guys’ run. We all think that there are wines that are better than others based on wine geek celebration, price, and cache. We fully expect other people, if left to blind taste them, will agree with our assessment- roughly at least. So, by bringing in one of MY Barolos (about a decade old I seem to remember) and one of MY Brunellos (probably about the same age), you run the risk of your snobby bias being exposed – ’cause I love those wines. No, you must understand that I truly love paying the price for these wines. And, who wants to be wrong when they have a cellar full of evidence of the fact of their error.

Well, we began with the whites. Moved on through the reds. When we started to experience and talk about the Brunello (we were to discover it’s identity later), the person next to me, after a quick sniff, said, “This is horrid. It smells like my son’s hockey bag.” I tend to dismiss much of what this woman says – apologies to JT – but……it did smell horrid and reminiscent of my son Nathan’s hockey bag. And, consequently, not a soul at the table took a sip.

timhortonNow, in Canada, there are universal experiences: weather is a classified topic of discussion (premiere eeew, duexieme eeew, etc.); we seemingly only hang at one coffee shop which we call by a dead hockey player’s first name; and, we have all smelled the inside of a hockey bag. It’s a right of passage for a parent who can afford to equip a young child with armour-like apparel, get up at 5:15 am to take his/her aspiring NHLer to a freezing arena (as if a machine crafted coffee is going to comfort you there), and struggle amid tears and protestations to get the skates that you thought were the right size on this bitchy reflection of yourself. I’m sure soccer parents, football parents, etc. have the same type of stories. But, they do not…..I repeat – do not….have the bag.

I’ve since checked out my numerous wine books, Jancis, Hugh, Karen, etc. but I haven’t found the term, “hockey bag”, in any of the tasting notes. That could be because it takes a highly trained and experienced nose to pick the nuanced notes of leather infused with the body odour of a teen male. Or, just because it’s only truly evident in a certain wine – a Brunello improperly stored too long? Or, a wine needing a bit of a breath before it says,  “Hello”?

So, wait. What usually happens at these events is that as a few people wander off (short hitters), the remaining folks keep talking and it becomes a bitch-about-work and drinking event. And, usually, there’s enough wine left to feed that beast. So, about an hour and a half after the wines were poured, some brave soul (probably mistaking it for the remaining Barolo which was friggin’ fantastic), took a sip from the glass that contained the Brunello. “Hey, folks……….” “(Louder) Hey, shut up and taste the Brunello.” Which we all did. The funk, if I can lovingly call it that, had blown off and the wine was exquisite – deep, leathery, cherry pie. OK, I lie about the cherry pie – I can’t exactly remember. Suffice it to say that the wine was a beaut. And if not the unanimous ‘fave’ of the night, the second ‘fave’ for sure. Lesson learned.

So, if you bought several bottles of a certain wine only to discover on opening the first that it was shitty – relegating the remaining bottles of it to sit scorned by the rest of your cellar. Or, you open a wine to discover that some aroma or taste is interfering with its enjoyability factor. Just be patient and give it a second chance. You have nothing to lose and you might learn something – I just hope it isn’t that you discover the o-dear of the hockey bag. Because that is not the lesson here.

Westcott Vineyards Redux #SundaySips

17 Jan
westcottdoor

Westcott Vineyards

In the fall of 2014, I posted a piece on my visit to Westcott Vineyards in Niagara. You can read it here. Summary for those of you too lazy to click through and boost my numbers: a new family endeavour focusing on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – very cool winery building, balanced Pinots and judiciously buttery Chardonnays and a great story.

This past fall, I wanted to drop back in and hear about their winter, spring, harvest, plans for the future, and taste some of their new releases. It was a day that reminded me that winter was in fact going to be a reality. Windy, cool, and overcast. I arrived mid-afternoon (entrance door above) and the place had several folks in tasting and the fire warming the room – Emma greeting everyone as they arrived.

Emma

Emma

I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned my fondness for dogs. Emma was a sweetheart and very interested in meeting you, seeing if you could spare a pat or two or, if she was really lucky, a treat. And, she was a Lab. I really love Labs and am starting to well up as I type.

Victoria Westcott set me up with a few tasters as she dealt with the other patrons and I sat watching the fire – tasting and loving it. I love my life.

Once everyone was gone, Victoria and I stood and talked through their portfolio, the savages of the past winter and their ambitions for the coming years. Her brother Garett joined us. Garett is the Ass’t Vineyard Manager (according to their website). But, seeing as this is a family operation, I sense that he is a lot more than that. He had a solid sense of what had been going on both in the vineyard and the winery and took a lot of ownership, it seemed to me.

Where was I? Oh yeah, talking to the Westcotts and sipping wine. How cool is it when you can deal with the family that owns, runs, and markets the winery? Answer? Very cool.

The winter of ’14-15 was harsh. Despite burying many of the vines a la The County (#PEC), a portion of the vines were lost. That is so unfortunate and given that Westcott is one of the few here that bury, I’m interested in the damage across the vineyards in Vinemount Ridge.

The wines? Please wait. Let me ramble a bit first.

Westcott has had a partnership with Zooma this past year. Zooma was a small and groovy bistro in Jordan that catered to the locals and visitors over the past many years. they closed up that operation but set up a neat resto, outdoor patio thing at Westcott. If you’ve been to Norman Hardy, this has a similar vibe to that. Although, I sensed that the menu was a bit more expansive here. Well, cool (read: cold) weather set in and the two partners decided to try a Friday night sip, eat, sit around the fireplace thing. I wish that I lived closer so that I could take advantage of this. The day I was there (a Friday), they were set up for a menu of – ham and barley soup, lobster grilled cheese, a charcuterie plate, and pecan pie. Take a look at the picture below and imagine sitting there drinking a glass of Pinot Noir with that lobster grilled cheese.

Westcott Fireplace

Westcott Fireplace – Maybe the you would have figured out the ‘Westcott’ part on your own

violetteThe wines? Well, although Westcott focuses on Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, they do have some fun with other stuff. They have a bubbly called NV Westcott Violette #438200 $24.95. When I used to think of sparkling Niagara wines, I had a bit of a gag reflex. I remember those dark days of Cold Duck (which, if I was honest, I thought was pretty tasty when I was 20. Later? Not so much). So, consequently, I haven’t ventured into that territory until recently. Wineries such as Henry of Pelham (Cuvée Catherine) and Flat Rock Cellars have changed my impression. They do sparkling pretty well in Niagara now. The Violette is no exception. Dry, toasty, crisp, extremely light. We’re talking, “Hi, glad you came. Here’s a glass of something to get started. Help yourself to the popcorn and sushi.” That type of wine.

Their rosé – 2013 Westcott Delphine $15, which I don’t see on http://www.vintages.com so am assuming that it’s not available at the LCBO but only at the cellar door. Have I told you about my love of rosé? Of course I have. This rosé in 2013 was a blend of Cab Franc, Pinot Noir and Merlot. It’s darker berries, dry, with a clean acidic finish. I love rosé all year but suggest that this is a summer wine. Get the umbrella on the patio, some snacks with tomato or shellfish and pour this out!

Now, the main events – Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

They have an unoaked Chardonnay – 2013 Westcott Lillias #425322 $20  that I didn’t taste as I swallow most of my sips and was a 2 hour drive from home. I wanted to focus on Westcott’s sweet spot. Yes Shannon, I can be responsible.

There are two levels of Pinots and Chardonnays – Reserve and Estate. Victoria tempted me with two oaked Chardonnays:

The 2013 Westcott Estate Chardonnay #427484 $26

The 2014 Lenko Old Vines Chardonnay $

estatechardoI love Daniel Lenko’s own Old Vines Chardonnay in  most years. It has cellaring potential and usually has a lot of stuffing. In the case of Westcott’s take, I have to tell you that I preferred their Estate. Which is a high compliment in my books. It was leaner and had a bit of The County in it – minerals, citrus but still some vanilla/butter notes – particularly on the nose and finish – from 12 months in 2/3 new French oak. This is the direction that I believe should be taken in Niagara. Stay with oak but somehow let the ridge or bench come through. If I knew how that could be done, I’d be less directional and more prescriptive in my comments.

The Westcott Pinots were what I had really come for. I loved them last vintages and was hoping that weather or fate wouldn’t dampen my enthusiasm. I tasted three:

The 2012 Westcott Estate Pinot Noir $30

The 2013 Westcott Estate Pinot Noir $30

The 2013 Westcott Reserve Pinot Noir $46

estatepnHere’s the thing. Last time I was there, I bought a few of the 2012 Estate. Loved it. Can’t put my finger on exactly why. This time? Same thing. I could talk about the vintage – you know “wet in some month, warmed up in time….” You wouldn’t really, truly care, would you? It might be a bit bullshit as well. Sometimes, there’s no explanation regardless of the scribes and eonologists. But, let’s talk about all of them anyway.

The 2012 Estate (did I tell you it was my favourite?) had a Burgundian/lean/power feel to me. Cherries, loads of earthy notes on the finish – lip smacking acidity. I remember having the same experience in #PEC – loving the leaner efforts. It might be why I tend to focus on Prince Edward County, Oregon and Burgundy.

I think that the 2013 Reserve, needs a few years to find it’s way, knit together and find a theme. It definitely hinted at power and fruit but all hidden for my palate at the moment. I wanted to wait on it but that’s what Burgundy is for – unrequited wait and wait. The 2012 Estate, on the other hand is perfect now and still could handle another few years down below. Or, I could return to Westcott in a couple years and hope they still have a few bottles of the 2013 Reserve left.

The 2013 Estate was reserved (pardon the pun) as well. It doesn’t have the spunk that the Reserve has but I still think it will evolve nicely. Perhaps showing that it was a riper harvest with lusher fruit. More lush fruit? Remind me not to use the term ‘lush’ again.

I’m not sure you can go wrong with any of the Westcott Pinot Noirs. The last time that I was here, I expected a more assertive style portfolio and was a little surprised at the restraint. It’s kind of like watching a movie that you were told had juicy parts and you find out…….Never mind. This time, I was ready for it. You have to love restraint when it’s executed this well – letting the weather, land, and fate tell the story not the house style.

I could tell you more but my word count tells me that you are very close to clicking away.

If you’re looking for tour bus styled tasting rooms and little mugs and other souvenir ……………um,……shit to take home, avoid Westcott. But, if you’re like me and you want the wine and the people to take centre stage, make sure you get to Westcott and tell them I sent you. there might be a pat of Emma or a free bottle in it for me.

They can be reached through the website http://www.westcottvineyards.com . The website has purchasing functionality and you can sign up for emails about what’s happening there.

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