Tag Archives: Chardonnay

A Canadian Quickie – The White Daily Slosh

9 Nov

So, what is a Canadian quickie, you ask? The funny answer probably has something to do with parka zippers, a station wagon, and a Canadian Tire parking lot. Not that I’d know anything about that. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.

But, what I mean here is that I’m sending out a few ‘quick’ recommendations for the November 11th release and they are all Canadian wines.

I recommend the Flat Rock Cellars stuff a lot. The 2016 Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling #578625 $24.95 has crept in to my basement and taken up residence with the last few vintages of this same cuvée. It’s about as solid a dry Riesling as the region produces. You notice I said ‘dry’. The rating is ‘medium’ but I find that this wine carries such a dose of acidity that you don’t notice any residual sugar. On the sniff it gives off a little petrol but, after a swirl, mostly peachy vibes. Quite a rocky, minerally, and spicy wine in the mouth. Medium + finish.

Another Niagara Riesling on offer is the 2013 Henry of Pelham Estate Riesling #557165 $17.95. This winery is another that has been featured here a bit but mostly for their spectacular Reserve Baco Noir – a classic take on a grape that most people haven’t had, IMHO. Here the Riesling does exhibit a bit of sweetness but nothing cloying and more about what the grape gives than by design. This wine isn’t quite as insistent as the one above. It kind of pleads its case rather than shouts at you. Maybe better suited as a sipper than Nadja. More citrus as well. Powerful label art – well done.

Last but not least is the 2014 Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay #148866 $28.95. Prince Edward County is about as cool climate as Chardonnay gets. This wine exudes that character – restrained, not overly oaked but expressing some wood effects on the finish, in particular. Clean, acid on the gargle and finish. Apples and citrus on the sniff and swallow. Love it!

Have a great weekend. Cheers.

Bill

#RememberThem – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

10 Nov

poppy

I want to mention tomorrow’s (November 11th) day of remembrance. Many people take this day to remember special selfless people important in their lives who served their country. My hero is Capt. F.R. Dufton of the Royal Canadian Engineers, 1st Army Survey Corps. Very, very proud of my dad – mentioned in dispatches BTW. #RememberThem The eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Take a moment of silence wherever you are. I know I will.

The wine, Bill, the wine. This week’s release features ‘star’ wines. That means (and you might have to turn up your sound because I’m going to whisper), “Expensive wines.” But there are mid-priced and wines that better fit my usual recommendations as well.

Like many an evening, let’s start with bubbly. I often recommend Cremant de Bourgogne as a not quite substitute for Champagne. Last week we had friends over and started with a bottle of the Louis Bouillot Perle d’Or Cremant #51565 $24.95. As we cleaned up the next morning, The Director asked me what we had and said that although she doesn’t usually have more than a single glass of bubbly, she lapierreloved the Perle – as evidenced by the empty bottle. So, I bought a few more to store for the holidays and should have maybe waited until this Saturday to pick up the Bailly LaPierre Réserve Brut Crémant de Bourgogne #991562 $19.95 to get a little variety. This one is more citrusy than the Perle but the bubbles are tight carrying some acidity on the finish – tart but lovely. A great way to start any evening.

bisquerttSince I don’t get the invite to the LCBO tastings pre-release and unlike my blogpals to the south I don’t get samples sent to me by importers (we are nothing if not Victorian on such matters – not complaining – glad to live here at this moment in time – blog for another day), I have to bang on cellar doors, buy a bunch of wine on spec so to speak and hope that some day they will show up on the shelves so that I can talk about them. The 2014 Bisquertt La Joya Gran Reserve Sryah #325407 $17.95 is one of those last wines. I had this some time ago and my notes say, “Compares very favourably with the Montes Alpha Syrah – in style, punch (can’t remember what the hell I meant by that), and softness.” That’s high praise from me as I love Montes Alpha Syrah in most vintages. This Chilean Bisquertt wine is round and smooth. Lots of things to talk about – meaty, dark fruits, and just enough structure – not flabby. Great value and Syrah is a long, hard chase for value! But, then again, I love Côte Rotie, Hermitage, and Saint Joseph. Have I ever told you the Côte Rotie story when I …………..Never mind.

As I scan the release publication, I notice that there are a ton of great value Chilean and Argentinean wines – Susana Balbo Malbec, Perez Cruz Limited Edition Cab Sav, Laura Catena’s La Posta Pizzella Malbec, Kaiken Ultra Malbec. You can’t go wrong with any of those and most likely the in-store consultant will be aware of these and point you in that direction.

badiaBut….drum roll……since they are pimping pricier wines, I have to tell you about the 2010 Antinori Badia a Passignano Gran Selezione Chianti Classico #384552 $44.95. Ramble: I just re-arranged my wine cellar to accommodate a beautiful set of oak shelves graciously provided to me by a friend through his daughter and son-in-law – shout out to J & P. As I rearranged, I discovered that I was overweight in Tuscany, Bordeaux, and Spain. Now, that’s a high class problem to solve. So, why would I want to stock up on this particular wine? I mean, it’s Tuscan. It will contribute to a situation that offends my suspected OCD balance needs. Why? Because my tasting notes say that it’s and I quote here, “Good shit!!!”  I mean:  “sniff – good shit; swish – good shit; swallow and finish – really, really good shit”. Now, that description may not qualify me for WSET Level 4 status but I think you get the picture. This wine is one of my favourite cuvées, year-in, year-out. It might be the best mid-priced wine that I buy on the basis of consistent excellence. In this vintage, everything is ready, in balance, and just so expressive. T – E – double R- F – I – C! You know what this means? I will have to buy even more American, Canadian, and South American wines to balance things out. Damn! But you know what? They are releasing the 2012 Bethel Heights Estate Pinot Noir, the Hidden Bench Terroir Caché Meritage, and the 2013 Foxen Block 43 Bien Nacido Vineyard Pinot Noir this weekend too. I hate it when that happens.

zisolaI had the benefit of tasting through a bunch of wines from Sicily last month. They reminded me of two things: 1) I really want to go to Sicily; 2) Both white and red wines from Sicily are very rewarding. This week, there’s the 2013 Mazzei Zisola #303925 $18.95. This is a biggish, powerful wine. Loads of fruit – figs, raisins too. I think that you might want to let it sit open for a few hours or just give it to me and I’ll put it in my new rack (remember the new rack?) and I’ll keep it for you.

henryWe go through a lot of Chardonnay at our house. Chardonnay may not be the ‘style’ anymore, people might sneer and look askance but, what the hell, we like it – a lot – Burgundy, Central Coast, Lodi, PEC, Niagara………..One of the local Chardonnays we like is the Henry of Pelham Estate Chardonnay #268342 $19.95. This week it’s the 2014. This is a classic Chardonnay in that it has everything but not too much of anything – a streak of acidity, tree fruit and some creaminess and citrus on the finish. Powerful. Like it a lot.

That’s all this week. Just a reminder for those that I might see over the holidays. You are surely wondering what to bring to the house when you visit or perhaps a presssie for Yours Truly. I really like the Badia a Passignano. What I mean by that is I really, really like it. It seems a pretty appropriate gift to me. And that gift may encourage me to open something ‘better’ when you visit – just sayin’.

Cheers

Bill

Punkins and Porcupines – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

27 Oct

Heading to the Grand Theatre tonight to see a play/concert about Joni Mitchell. She is such a creative force. A poet, musician, painter, prairie girl, dulcimer player.

Halloween is coming up and it brings back memories of being dragged along by my boys from house to house. At one time, I would get a wee drink at each house in our neighbourhood. Verrrrry scary! The best memories are my oldest dressed as a porcupine – costume made from a paper bag, make-up whiskers, and straws. He knocked on our neighbours, recent immigrants, who clearly hadn’t gotten the memo about Halloween and didn’t know quite what to do with a kid dressed in a paper bag saying, “Trick or Treat” and not wanting to leave until he got his candy. They must have thought – WTF or the Urdu equivalent! Or, my youngest on his first walking Halloween, cautiously approaching the third or fourth door of the night, ringing the bell, almost apologetically murmuring “Trick or Treat”, receiving his treat, and then turning and running back to the street shouting, “Dad, THEY gave me candy too!” Where does that innocence go.

fermedumontSniffle, sniffle. Enough nostalgia. The wines released this month are a bit Bordeaux heavy and I haven’t had any of them so can’t comment. I’ll pick up a couple and see if I can choke down a bottle or two before my next release post. The other focus is blends and on that score, I’ve had the 2014 La Ferme du Mont Première Côte Côtes du Rhone #251645 $17.95. This is not to be confused with the red from this producer that I recommended last time here. This is their everyday wine. But, it doesn’t cheat in size or interest. Great value CdR that goes down easy and is perfect for a Friday night pizza or graze. On the graze, we have sworn off grazing on Friday nights – which is kinda like pledging to go to the gym – futile. Used to be our tradition – hummus, olives, Syrian flatbread, kibbi, grape tomatoes, loads of wine, and crappy Friday night TV fare.

chimeresStaying in the South of France, the 2014 Château Saint-Roch Chimères Côtes du Roussillon-Villages #119354 $19.95 is full-value as a GSM (60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, 10% Mourvedre). Not all oaked up so the purity of the fruit, particularly the Grenache comes through. Moderate alcohol at 14% ABV. Loads of mature fruit, some garrigue, and even a bit of spice make this a great fall wine. Fresh. We had two vacations in the Languedoc- Roussillon and this wine represents that region magnificently. A sip takes me back to Rocquebrun (below).

Rocquebrun

michelgassierI hate to present too many wines with the same vibe or from the same region but I have to mention the 2013 Château de Nages Vieilles Vines Costières de Nîmes #040964 $19.95. Quick test: What ubiquitous product was invented and first used in Nîmes? I’ll award the first correct answer (no Google allowed) with a first edition copy of my new novel, hitting bookshelves everywhere in 2034. This wine is seemingly an annual pick on these pages. Michel Gassier seldom disappoints and this is no exception. Another GSM with a hint of Carignan which contributes to a structured, solid wine. This is oaked a bit – dark, biggish, anise, herbs. Another great value – stew wine.

flatrockWas in Niagara last week – will post on my visits soon. I didn’t visit Flat Rock but will next time. This Saturday, there’s their 2013 Flat Rock Chardonnay #286278 $18.95. This is a consistent Chard with just a hint of oak – in the bit of creaminess on the finish. Mostly, it’s the typical GS apples and a bit of tropicality. Very nice and a crowd pleaser – even for the trend following ABC crowd. On that topic, we were at the Grand Marchi tasting this month and a representative of one of the wineries went on and on about how people who drink white don’t know about anything other than Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. Word of advice to reps: keep your opinions to yourself. You sound kind of whinny and snobbish when you opine on ‘proper’ wine basics to people that just want to taste the shit that you’re peddling.

moncontourIt’s time to start to stock up for holiday season. We Canuckleheads are past our Thanksgiving but our friends below are just getting ready – election, shrug, Thanksgiving. So, you’ll need a crisp lip-smacking bubbler to greet your guests. I had this two years ago but it is a Non-Vintage bubbly that should stay consistent flavour profile-wise. The Château Moncontour Tête de Cuvée Brut Vouvray #207936 $17.95 should fit the bill for nibbles and bubbly. Medium-bodied, fruitful, great acidity, bubbles taut and tangy. Many cheaper bubblies suffer from sameness – you can’t tell one from the other. This is made from Chenn Banc and it definitely stands out as different. I like these Vouvray Bruts a lot. Interesting fact (according to LCBO write-up): This is from “one of the oldest estates in Loire’s Touraine region. The French author Honoré de Balzac tried to purchase the estate in 1846 but was unable to do so, although it didn’t keep him from mentioning the estate in his novel A Woman of Thirty.” Very cool.

Cheers – enjoy your treats

Bill

Back Home and Unsettled

3 Aug

Love, love, love this song. It sums up my return home from the lake – needing a rest. Saw a great documentary called Spirit Unforgettable (on HBO Canada) about John Mann, the head writer, guitarist, and singer for Spirit of The West, and his early onset Alzheimers diagnosis – in his early 50’s for God’s sake. If you can stream it, watch – it’s gut wrenching and inspiring.

I’m back from the lake. It’s challenging to be cut off from everything except Toronto sports radio (making Leafs shit up to talk about) and my small screen iPhone. No internet, unless I drive half an hour to the local library – which I did but once in three weeks. Oh, I would wander to the woefully inadequate ‘general’ store for a copy of the Toronto Star once in awhile (New York Times crossword and Sudoku needs). And you won’t believe this – I didn’t hear the word ‘Trump’ once – which is, after returning home, impossible to conceive, yeah?

I was completely out of touch on world affairs. While up at the lake, my youngest informed me by email that there was a coup going on in Turkey and that he was, in fact, there in Istanbul right then. A coup? How’d I miss that?He’d be fine – now home safe and sound in Providence. But, the important thing?

How much wine did I have left? Could I make it to the end without a time sucking trip to the Gravenhurst mother ship. I didn’t. And, that wasn’t because I drank too much. Rather I hadn’t planned to drink that much, you see. It was the planning that was wrong. It’s always the planning.

Let me review a small sample of the beverages we had while away:

2015 Hecht & Bannier Bandol Rosé #450767 $24.95 Yeah, it is more expensive than many great rosés that I’ve recommended this year. But, you see it’s Bandol and that means structure and bang. This was chilled to perfection and served pre-dinner with junk food (children were involved – hence the junk – the little buggers loved the wine too). These guys (H&B) make loads of labels from the south of France and I’ve never been disappointed. This is primarily Mourvedre with some Grenache and Cinsault thrown in to perhaps soften the profile. Lip-smacking good.

2006 Marcarini Barolo Brunate (no record of cost but it is a true splurge) All the Piedmonte purists will he shouting at the screen now. Yes, I know it was a bit young to open. But, it was my birthday and I threw caution to the wind. And that didn’t mean that it didn’t eventually open up beautifully. Intense in the extreme with herbal and earthy sniffs, spicy tobacco in the mouth and some vanilla from the barrel, I assume, on the finish. A real privilege to drink this wine. This is why I love Barolo. Can’t afford a lot of it but…
lucente

2013 La Vite Lucente #747030 $34.95 Talking to a friend the other day and he said that he could sniff out Merlot from a mile away and he never truly appreciated it. I suggested that he try some Right Bank Bordeaux before he kicks poor old Merlot to the curb. And, this Italian Merlot blend might change his mind too. This is a joint enterprise of Mondavi and Frescobaldi located in Montalcino. This wine defines the term ‘smooth’. I mean if you look up the word ‘smooth’ in the dictionary, there’s a picture of this label. Seriously good Tuscan juice. Good news? I have more down below. Yahoo!
cambria

2012 Cambria Estate Julia’s Vineyard Pinot Noir #980482 $29.95 If you visit here often, you’d notice that there isn’t a whole lot about California Pinot Noir. I’ve been disappointed so many times that I don’t trust myself – “Do some f**ing research, Bill! Try some better CPN’s FCOL!” I know that would help me pick the winners. So, why this wine? ‘Cause, I get it all the time and really,really appreciate it. Sour cherry but like you’d taste in a pie – softened a bit but still the bite, the acid. Earthy but not dirty. Spicy but not hot. Almost a sin to have by itself but thats just what I did. No regrets. And, if there are any California PN freaks out there, give me a few suggestions. I just love research.
sancerre2014 Henri Bourgeois Les Baronnes Sancerre #542548 $25.95 Love this wine! Perfect for pre-dinner which in this case was BBQ’d fish with mango salsa. Not appreciated by all, I’m afraid. Not the wine but the fish. This is the counterpoint to SB from NZ, like Kim Crawford or Stoneleigh’s stuff. Subtle with great acidity. Gooseberry. Lovely wine and usually available at the mother ship.

2012 Seven Falls Wahluke Slope Chardonnay #385773 $19.95 A well balanced, light Chardonnay. Great sipper. Beginning to think that Washington State does all varieties very well.
blaignan

2010 Château Blaignan #416727 $25.95 It’s damn hard to find a solid Bordeaux under $30 or, to be truly honest, $50. This is a great Bordeaux for sipping or for a meal of something a little less fatty and sturdy than steak. Tannins integrated and supportive rather than front and centre. Fruit a little muted but lots going on to create enough stuff to enjoy fully.

lugnyCaves de Lugny Brut Rosé Cremant de Bourgogne #297846 $19.95 What’s a summer day without bubbly. We had a few Proseccos and Cavas too but this rosé was the beast that we kept coming back to. What an ethereal, tasty treat. Look at that colour. If you are tired of the same old cheap Proseccos and Cavas step up a notch to this classically made wine. Huge value!

 

pommiesPommies Dry Cider #244897 $12.95 (4 pack) I have a cider freak in my family. When we travelled England, he tried every local cider while I stayed with the lovely ales and porters. I never really liked cider. But, I was at my local – The Morrissey House last month and they had the Pommies Dry Cider on tap. Gave it a try and now I’m a convert. This is made in Caledon from Ontario heritage apples, whatever the hell that means. Regardless of the provenance, it’s damn tasty. Perfect for an early afternoon, pre-nap, sip. or, you could end the evening with it. Dry as a popcorn fart.

 

That’s enough for now. Suffice it to say, we had a few more good bottles than that. Well, a way lot more.

This week at the mother ship there’s a few to pick up. I’ve wasted enough of your time already so I’ll just list them here instead of providing a description.
2010 Cims del Monsanto Garnatxa/Carinyena #311894 $15.95 Visited this winery when I was in Priorat. You can read about my visit here Monsanto provides a glimpse into the style and power of Priorate reds.
2009 Hacienda López de Haro Reserva #357335 $17.95 – a Reserva for $17.95!
2013 Fattoria le Pupille Morellino di Scansano #455659 $16.95 – maybe I’m just a Morellino slut (maybe?). I like this stuff always – Italian to the core
2011 Villa Mora Montefalco Rosso Riserva #357079 $19.95 – an Umbrian classic like Monica Bellucci (who just happens to have been born in Città di Castello in Umbria)
2013 Brancaia Tre #164715 $23.95 if I’m repeating myself on this one, forgive me. I know that I’ve fussed over this before but it’s a beaut and worth every penny.

One more Spirit song before we go. ““Cause beauty’s religion and it’s christened me with wonder.” Love that line.

Cheers
Bill

White Man Privilege Rant – The Red and White Daily Slosh

24 Jun

Love, love, love this song. And, it is so relevant today. You’d think it was written yesterday.

I don’t usually express a non-wine opinion on these pages. Whaaat? Duff always expresses non-wine opinions on these pages. Which means that I have mission permission (as the Organizational Development guy in me would say). That said, may I take a wee bit ‘o’ your time?

I’m heading to a fundraiser for Women’s Community House tonight (tickets still available 519-672-8800). It gave me pause to reflect on the issue of woman abuse and it never ceases to shock me. We have been dealing with this issue head-on seemingly forever yet we still need easily accessible services and supports for women and their children who are subjected to this violence. Everything has changed. Nothing has changed. Women still are likely to experience abuse – sexual, emotional……………at a shameful rate. It saddens me. Make me wanna holler.

But luckily, it’s not happening to me. You see, I don’t have to worry about being raped if I had a drink or two at a bar, I’m walking home late at night, I’m asleep in my dorm room, or just ’cause. I was never sexually harassed in the workplace despite my snappy business casual look. My spouse isn’t the most likely person to assault me. Come to think of it…… I will never be carded as part of ‘good’ policing. I won’t be routinely stopped on the basis of my skin colour as I drive to work. I won’t be led to a more intensive Canada or US Customs inspection line for people who simply look like me. My parents and/or grandparents weren’t scooped off to a residential school. I won’t be assaulted, targeted in a terrorist attack, refused service, or excluded from sharing my life with the person I love based on my sexual orientation or gender identity. And, I get to drink wine as a frigging hobby and write about it! Conclusion?    BILL      IS      AWESOME!

So, what did I do to ‘earn’ this life? I mean there must be something that I accomplished that set me apart for special status. Honest answer: I am an older (don’t you dare say ‘old’) heterosexual white male born into an Anglo-Saxon family in a western democracy that just so happens to be the best country in the world IMHO. That means that I, personally, did nothing, squat, zero, nada. I didn’t earn it; I was given it as my birthright. And believe me, I am thankful for my good fortune. But also it’s horribly, horribly wrong. It needs changing on so many levels. It should be everyone’s birthright. Hopefully we are heading in the right direction. But tonight sadly shows me that it’s taking way too long.

Done. Thanks for staying with me. I apologize for the smugness and self-indulgence – wasn’t my intention. It’s just that I am unfortunately a very smug and self-indulgent older white guy. And that’s my friends saying that.

Wine, yes, wine. It is a wine blog after all. Some quick recos.

bacoHave you ever had Baco Noir? Get your binder out and check your tasting notes. Well, Niagara makes good Baco Noir. It ranges from Gamay-styled wannabes to rich, creamy chocolatey age-worthy reds.  The best of the second style that I’ve found is that made by the Speck Brothers of Henry of Pelham. This release (June 25th), there’s a great example in the 2013 Henry of Pelham Reserve Baco Noir #461699 $24.95. This is dark in the glass and in the mouth. Burn barrel and black fruits. But, the main event is really the texture. Soft, full-bodied, moderate alcohol (13.5%) without any heat. Suffice to say, that this is a pleasure to drink on it’s own or with something fresh and soft – perhaps something cheesy. Henry of Pelham does an “Old Vines” Baco (circa $20) and a regular Baco ($15) as well that are usually in the General Listing aisles. Maybe Baco will become you new fave.

medoroSpeaking of smooth, the 2012 Villa Medoro Rosso del Duca Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #357160 $21.95 has a similar vibe but with a nice vein of acidity on the finish and much more complexity. Rich is the first thing to come to mind once it hits your mouth. You might think, “It’s an MdA and $22? I usually can pick those up for $14.” Well, get over that. Seriously. If it doesn’t work out, send me the rest of your bottle(s) and I will give you credit toward a DuffsWines T-Shirt. The Henry of Pelham is an exceptional food wine due to the structure and texture. Great hostess gift if it’s a BBQ (ribs, burgers, grilled portobellos). It’s a night wine, if that makes sense and make sure it isn’t room temperature if your room is 80 degrees plus. In that case pop it in the fridge for 15 minutes. In fact, when it’s unbearably hot, do that with most if not all reds. I have recommended this label in several vintages and look forward to many more.

hogueIn my earliest email broadcasts pre-website, I used to talk about ‘Value Labels”. Labels and therefore wineries that people could usually count on for strong QPR (Quality to Price Ratio). It was designed to present recognizable options you could trust without too much blabbing about the wine. And, when I did, I frequently mentioned Hogue from Washington State. Seldom had a poor one. This week, there’s the 2013 Hogue Chardonnay #402172 $15.95 hitting the shelves. This is exactly what we need by the case this summer. Well-priced, judiciously oaked and balanced without being flabby. Perfect summer sipper for the Chardonnay lover at your place. Look for other Hogue products at the mother ship – Hogue Genesis Cabernet Sauvignon $18.95, Genesis Meritage $18.95.

vouvrayMy niece has relocated to London and she and her husband came over the other night and made me curry. Fabulous family recipe curry. But, what to have with a dish with so much going on? I chilled up one of my Mosels but couldn’t bring myself to pop the cork as I think it’s still developing. So, I went with a Vouvray. No well-thought out pairing paradigm used to connect this sightly off-dry wine with curry but it seemed to make sense. The Vouvray that I bought was 2014 Donatien Bauhaus Les Grands Mortiers Vouvray #140889 $17.95. This wine turned out to be perfect. The curry demanded a bit of sweetness but not too much. The wine was expressive with peaches and enough acid to not get run over by the curry. If you are curious, Vouvray is from the Loire and is made from Chenin Blanc. In my experience Vouvray doesn’t present like the Chenins from South Africa – not as straight forward, not as fruity but maybe that’s just my prejudice showing. I like them a bit off-dry unless it’s bubbly Vouvray where brut is usually the style. About this particular wine, I’m not sure there’s a lot available still. There is another label that seems in higher volumes – 2014 Charles Bove Vouvray #448563 $17.95 – with exceptional reviews, so pick one up and you will shout “Hurray For Vouvray!” A great wine that’s usually overshadowed by Sancerre.

carteressesHey, just as I was finalizing editing this post (Thursday evening), I opened a chilled bottle of 2015 Domaine de Carteresses Tavel #739474 $18.95. I get it. I have a problem with rosés. And that kind of works against my pledge of cutting back on the wine mid-week – tomorrow, I’ll cut back – promise. Wait, it’s Friday tomorrow. Anyway, I’ve raved about this wine before but this vintage seems a bit better then previous. Not quite as crisp as the Côtes de Provence that you may have had. This Tavel really provides a hint at what people are talking about when they say that Tavel is the red wine drinker’s pink. No time to write notes. Suffice to say that it’s fuller-bodied than most rosés – rounder, deeper, almost red winish.  Absolutely love this stuff!

Cheers.

Bill

Family Day For A Wino – #Sunday Sips

27 Mar

family

There’s an artificial holiday in Ontario called Family Day. I believe Don Getty while Premier in Alberta was the first to think that we wanted to spend time with our family. Seriously? What family do you live in? Eventually in Ontario, politicians didn’t want to appear anti-family values, so now we too have a Family Day here.

The Director and I took the opportunity to head to Niagara for a quick look see at some of our favourite wineries. It was a shitty day weather-wise and promising to be horrid by nighttime – sleet, snow, freeing rain.

First stop was just off the QEW on the outskirts of Grimsby at Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery. I don’t believe that I’ve spoken about this winery.  They have an exceptional restaurant in an old Victorian house with the winery Visitors Centre in a newer building. The tasting room (below) is generously appointed with the usual tasting bar, knick knack displays, hewed wood beams, etc. They have a pairing menu of artisanal cheeses and/or chocolate. FYI, most wineries in Niagara and all that I’m mentioning here have a reasonable tasting fee ($5 – $10 which is $1.50 US) that they wave with purchase.

penridge

Tasting Room at Peninsula Ridge

Reds

2012 A.J. Lepp Vineyard Reserve Merlot $18.95 I tend to shy away from Niagara single variety Bordeaux wines – they just don’t seem to get ripe enough – showing green pepper too much. This Merlot had but a hint of that – telling you it was Niagara born. Full-bodied, plummy with firm tannins. Needs time or a long decant to really open up.

2012 Reserve Syrah $24.95 That’s right a Syrah from Niagara. You’d think that it would thrive here. But only a few wineries grow it. This was far and away the best of the wines I tasted at Peninsula Ridge. Peppery, smoky, balanced, solid tannins, long finish. Loved it! I bought but only one bottle as this was the start of the day and, alas, gave it to my sister-in-law as part of a birthday present. Which means I’ll have to return soon.

Whites

2009 Beal Vineyard Chardonnay $18.95 Pen Ridge has a very successful non-oaked Chardonnay called Inox #594200 $14.95 usually available at the LCBO. This one, however, was touched by oak. Nonetheless, the thing that I noted most was the acidity on the finish – not large oak influence. Apples, citrus. A very nice Chardonnay for patio and potato chips.

Peninsula Ridge’s web site: www.peninsularidge.com

Next we trundled to Jordan for lunch. We ate at a new (at least new to us) eatery called Jordan House Tavern right on the corner. Now, you might ask, “What corner?” Well, you clearly haven’t been to Jordan. They’ve done a really nice job at the place. Refurbished an old warehouse-style building. Menu a bit of a blend of roadhouse and English pub. Good selection of craft beers and local wines – I enjoyed a local 20 Valley Cream Ale with my wings – it screamed, “Cottage!”

Then it was off to some more wineries. We stopped at a couple places (nothing notable) en route to Tawse. This is one of my faves – the wine is just so consistently excellent and the venue, staff, etc. are top drawer.

Here’s a great video on how they operate. Take some time, watch it and you will want to head there to taste what they create. Lauded by Decanter magazine, Canadian Winery of The Year multiple times.

Whites

2012 Tawse Estate Chardonnay $37.95 Tawse Chardonnays have a kinship with those of Burgundy. In fact, Tawse has vineyards there. This white was perfectly ready to quaff. Melon, apple, and some oak influences on the nose and in the mouth. Long, lip smacking finish.

2012 Tawse Quarry Road Chardonnay (certified organic and biodynamic) $35.95 This was notably more mineral in character than the Reserve – almost stoney in places. More restrained on the oak influence. Certainly not Chablis in character but definitely leaning toward ‘less is more’. Loved it!

They had a half case of Chardonnays unavailable in single format that The Director decided she needed. Looking forward to cracking one for our Easter dinner today. FYI, the case held- 2011 Beamsville Bench, 2011 20 Mile Bench, 2011 Celebration Chardonnay (this wine was served at the i4C in 2015, I believe).

Reds I love Tawse Pinot Noirs and may have expressed this opinion several times on these pages. They are structured, lean, powerful, and even I can pick out the nuances of the different cuvèes. Which, according to the video above, is the goal here.

2011 Tawse Quarry Road Estate Pinot Noir (certified organic and biodynamic) $34.95 Spice, liquorice, and menthol on the sniff and the swish. This is quite mineral with darker red berries – big, smoky and a long finish. Great effort!

laundry2011 Tawse Laundry Cabernet Franc #130997 $31.95 OK, I know I’ve sung the praises of the Burgundy varieties at Tawse. But, really, if you want to get a sense of the winemaking, this is the test. This is an Old World Cab Franc. Bursting with life both in the glass as you swirl and sniff and then – pow – you get a hit of the mint and black berries. This is Sean Penn – intense, a bit rough around the edges, purposeful, story telling. Love it! Needless to say, it was an expensive day at Tawse.

Off we went with our car listing a bit due to the extra weight. West on King Street and a hard left up the drive to another of my faves – Malivoire. Malivoire has a cool vibe. Where Tawse is somewhat opulent, formal, Malivoire is more playful, experimental. The winery is set into a hill with a quonset hut styled metal roof. This allows a gravity fed operation. Malivoire hit it big a number of years ago with a unique bottling – Old Vines Foch. It became a cult wine. They’ve since got everyone to pay attention to their overall prowess and the many different wines they craft. I seem to annually recommend their Ladybug Rosé #559088 $15.95 (having as a pre-dinner sip with Easter dinner) and Guilty Men Red #192674 $15.95 but tasted other wines this time.

Malivoire tasting room entrance Spring

Malivoire Tasting Room entrance Spring

White

2011 Mottiar Chardonnay $29.95 Tropical and toasty on the nose (I’ve seen ‘brioche’ used but definitely not confident in that until I’ve brioches a bit more). Vanilla, roundish stuff in the mouth with a nice crisp finish which was a surprise given the smoothness of the rest.

2011 Chardonnay $19.95 Although this wine is available at the LCBO #573147, I’m not sure of the vintage currently in stock. I kind of like this better than the more expensive one above. Can’t put my finger on it. This might have a little more zip in the mouth. Flavour profile as far as fruit and oak elements very similar but less tropical more apple. More food friendly. Not that I didn’t love the other – just saying’ for $10 less, I could get 5 bottles of this instead of 3 bottles of the other. Oops, let the cat out of the bag.

2013 Rennie Vineyards Christine Chardonnay $35 I don’t quite understand the relationship between Maliviore and Rennie. Rennie is a family owned and operated vineyard on the Bench, In any event, there clearly is some symbiosis of vineyards if not cross-pollination of staff as well. This wine is a beaut! Can we talk? Frequently New World Chardonnays are one-dimensional – they’re naked, they’re not, they’re round, they’re crisp and acidic. This wine defies some of that. I don’t claim to have a sophisticated palate. For instance, I can’t tell the difference between Maduro tobacco and just plain tobacco. Or, Montmorency cherries from, well, regular black cherries. Mea culpa. This wine, however, helped me to relax and just let it come to me. There was an overall feeling of bon ami. OK, what it really tasted like was a bit tropical – pineapple – an alcohol bump (14%ABV), and the best finish for the whites we tasted that day – medium length, citrusy. It’s a warmer wine than the others, if that makes sense.

Red Here’s where it gets fun at Malivoire. I mentioned above the Old Vines Foch. Let’s start there.

Background Note: My father was a home fermenter. He made wines from anything that could be constituted as fruit – dandelions, sour cherries, etc. But, he also was part of a cooperative venture that purchased fruit from Niagara and everyone got together, drank last year’s stuff (I was a DD) and crushed, fermented, and eventually bottled their wine together. I remember his Marechal Foch bottling as, well, almost the same as all his other bottling – hint of sulphur, very fresh, fruity and light. And not to speak ill of the dead, but it was pretty lacklustre. Not suggesting that my friends and I didn’t poach a few of each case – just sayin’. Now, fast forward to Malivoire’s 2013 Old Vines Foch

2013 Old Vines Foch $24.95 I remember this wine in previous vintages was one of the most unique reds that I’d ever had from Niagara. This doesn’t disappoint on that score. In the gurgle and swish, it feels French to me – Southern France – kind of Grenache-ish. And I love Grenache!  ABV 12% which avoids any heat – chocolatey goodness. You get a sense of power with this wine. I love it now like I loved it before (Fleetwood Mac lyric? Help me here). Dad, wish you could taste it.

2014 Small Lot Gamay $19,95 Gamay might be making a comeback. I read a great review of a Cru Beaujolais by a fellow blogger, Jim VanBergen, you can read it here. To paraphrase, Jim sang the praises of natural wine and how smashing a particular naturalBeaujolais from Morgon was. I also read a piece in a recent Wine Enthusiast about Gamay now being made in Washington. Interesting to watch the ebb and flow of the popularity of grape varieties. hard to keep up. Malivoire has three Gamay bottlings – a single vineyard (Courtney – $25.95), a generic ($17.95), and a Small Lot. The Small Lot is a fun, fresh cherry bomb. This is all about the fruit with just a hint of grassiness hiding on the finish. I bought a few and am waiting for the first Spring weather day to open with apps – yes, I have an app for Gamay. Chilling this wine for a few minutes wouldn’t hurt and would add to it’s refreshingness. Refreshosity? Refreshmency? Love this wine!

We left Malivoire, raced down the QEW to overnight in Hamilton just beating the freezing rain. Watched it all from our room with one of our purchases chilled and popped. I like Family Day.

That’s our day. In the next month or so, I’m going to put together my ideal wine tour of Niagara so that you can benefit from my swings, misses, and home runs.

Cheers.

Bill

 

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.

Reality Shows And The Rainbow Daily Slosh

11 Dec

I have been horribly remiss in keeping up with the mother ship’s releases. I have an excuse but won’t bore you with it. There really is no excuse for not writing about wine.

But before I wade in on wine, let me rant for a bit. Totally unrelated.

“Hi, I’m Bill and I’m a recovering insomniac”. I used to get about 4 hours of sleep a night and sleep walk through work (hopefully none of my former paying clients read this). Over the past couple years I’ve been able to get a good night’s sleep. However, the other night, I just couldn’t get to sleep. So, I wandered downstairs and sat in the dark, which is my theory on insomnia – do not do anything that might interest you or keep you awake. The fact that I unsuccessfully applied this theory to a raging case of insomnia for 20 years leads me to believe that it doesn’t work.

weddingringsIt wasn’t working this night either and I turned on the tube with a commitment to not watch anything interesting. I rolled the remote until I got to A&E – nothing ever interesting there. What’s this? I thought the show I landed on was a comedy – a spoof. It’s called “Married at First Sight”. I fully expected Dana Carvey or Will Farrell to show up. But, it wasn’t an SNL parody – it’s a show about a ‘social experiment’ (their term). If you haven’t had the displeasure – here’s the premise:

  1. Relationship experts (who, it appears got their degree through night school from GetADiploma U) choose two people to get married. These people have never met each other. Seriously, never…..met….each other
  2. Then the two have a  full blown wedding with reception, family members, etc. attending.  I am not shitting you. They don’t see each other until they’re on the aisle – staring at each other and wondering, “WTF have I got myself into?”. The pastor actually talks about marriage being a ‘sacred bond’. But he neglected to add, “Brought to you by Ford.”
  3. Then after dancing the night away, the couple go away with a thousand cameras and live together for awhile with the help of marriage counsellors, I assume, as I just saw previews. And, we get to follow their completely dysfunctional life. Only highlight might be suggestive sexual scenes. ‘Cause folks, they kind of luv each other. Then wait, Tom likes his peanut better on top of the jam instead of underneath – and now, no, they don’t luv each other.
  4. They return to meet with the ‘experts’ that put them together and make a decision – with drum roll – what will Marie and Tom decide – commercial break – fingers crossed that they……oh damn, they’re staying married.

Seriously. Who thinks this shit up? I mean a cable channel is selling Palmolive – “Tough on Grease” on the backs of people who are so needy that they volunteer their time to be on a show like this. And, it seems, aren’t evenly mildly embarrassed. Plus, people watch it. Who are those people?

Well, when you wonder how people can be attracted to Donald Trump or line up on Black Friday for hours for the single 60 inch television that’s on for $50 and then stomp on old ladies to get to it, remember that the lowest common denominator is really, really friggin’ low. Unbelievably low. Lower than something that you might think is exceptionally low – think that low to the power of 10. Did I say it’s low? Not to mention the total waste of an hour of one’s finite life to stare at this train wreck.

Enough, Bill, Stop! Point made.

OK, wine. This Saturday, there are a number of good to very good to great wines. Let’s start with the whites:

cavespringI’ve had three Chardonnays from this release that I quite like. They are different from each other but that’s the point in drinking – well, other than the buzz. The first: 2013 Cave Spring Estate Bottled Chardonnay #256552 $18.95 I enjoyed at the cellar door in Jordan. Now, if you’ve never been to Jordan and you love (in no particular order) tasting wine, eating great food and tagging along with the woman you love while she shops (I’m two out of three), this is the place for you. The Restaurant, On The Twenty, is nothing short of spectacular in ambience, presentation and, most of all, the food. Back to this Chardonnay. This is what I would call typical Niagara Chardonnay – apples,  citrus, crispness and a very judicious use of oak. I think an afternoon (or morning) Chardonnay – clean, fresh. You should come home from work pop and pour this youthful Chardonnay. Enjoy it with stories of unpopular bosses and unreasonable demands. Skip the nibbles unless it’s salty.

featherstonecochardonnayThe next one is from up the street from Jordan. The 2013 Featherstone Canadian Oak Chardonnay #149302 $21.95. Did I say “Canadian Oak”? Yup. The first time I heard of this was with Lailey and their Pinots. The ‘Canadian’ addition didn’t seem to make a difference to me and I think that they’ve ditched the approach there. This one, however, has something different going on – it’s round, more tropical on the nose – hey, enough with the wine smack. Let me describe this wine in a different way. Say you’ve had the wine above – seductively lean and agile (Tatiana Maslany) and you swirl this in a glass. The first impression – Rachel McAdams – friendly, comfy, soft and…………well, I’ll let you make the connection. Very nice effort! Maybe Canadian oak is a keeper.

whillThe last Chard is the 2013 William Hill #437251 $19.95. This is pure California and is a hit at our house where The Director craves creamy, buttery Chardonnays against the flow of unoaked madness. It’s not sickly buttery – just enough to please those that like the cream. It also allows for some pairing with chicken stuff. If you like Chardonnays like La Crema Sonoma Coast, Charles & Charles, you’ll like this a lot.

santaemaRed wines? Oh yeah, I’ve had a few. But then again, too few to mention. Thank you verrry much Paul Anka. There are a lot of very good reds at a price point that isn’t exactly in line with “Daily”. However, if I were to pick one up that would surprise the big spenders it would be the 2012 Santa Ema Amplus Cabernet Sauvignon #076301 $19.95. This wine comes across as a long, complex wine. Why? Because it is. Long and complex, that is. Love this stuff! If you love wines that kind of blend the Old World funkiness with the New World fruit and power – this is it. I felt not so much relaxed as curious with this wine. Another sip brought another take – that makes  good wine. Buy a case!

franceNow, can I ask you to stretch the “Daily Slosh” budget? Go ahead and check with your significant other, I’ll wait………OK, are we clear now? Let’s wade in. Bordeaux is about the best thing that France has ever created. OK, there’s Brigitte, and “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” but that’s about all that surpasses Bordeaux. I’m not alone in this assertion. Every expert wine lover agrees with me. Note to those that don’t agree: keep it to yourselves.

This weekend theres a very nice Bordeaux from a great vintage – 2010 Château Escot #431767 $25.95. I had this wine a while ago and my notes reflect “BARGAIN”. At least that’s what I said then.. I’m not thinking it’s cellarable for long but that’s the attraction at this price – drink it now – or wait a couple years max! This is bigger and fuller than I expected. This wine brings the a vibe of a much more expensive, experienced Bordeaux – not as big on the funk – not a perfect Bordeaux as you have to pay for that – complete for this price, though. I give it 379 on my scale of 248 to 417. Wow.

bertrandI am going to sound like a broken record here but I take solace from my fellow wine bloggers. We all have our faves. So, I shouldn’t feel creepy recommending the same winery all the time. My faves are Susana Balbo and Gerard Bertrand. This week, there’s Gerard’s (can I call you Gerard?)  2011 Gérard Bertrand Grand Terroir Pic Saint Loup #376491 $18.95. I may have recommended this before but am too lazy to go back through my posts. Suffice it to say that there is something about Languedoc that just spells great drinking wine at a great price. Oh, there are some suspect Languedoc reds out there but when they’re done well, they are great. This appellation is one of my faves – so Bill faves times 2. This wine is a candidate for a case for the season. Hard to not appreciate, presents the flavours of the region – a little lavender on the nose – some stoniness on the finish. I have a man crush on Gerard. I’ll leave it to you to decide if you do too. Burn some pork with herbs and enjoy this one.

lucenteOK, let’s talk small splurge. Some time in life we need to feel special. I know that I do, every day actually. As much as I try to affirm myself a la Stuart Smiley, I usually need to open a better-than-daily-slosh bottle of wine to tell myself, “I’m good enough……..” This weekend, pick up a bottle of one of the best second labels that Italy has to offer – 2013 La Vite Lucente #747030 $34.95. This is a classic Toscana – loads of red fruit, smooth but with enough acid and tannins to say, “Let me breathe or put me down and step away from the bottle.” This one would be special with your mother’s spaghetti and meatballs now or decant for a few hours and serve with a simpler pasta – fettuccine con olio d’oliva e aglio. Better yet, cellar this guy for a few years. You won’t be disappointed.

Now, back to reality TV. What kind of reality show could we produce that’s about wine people? How about four wine bloggers live in a house together with four cases of wine? We’ll call it……….Big Blogger? No? OK, we follow a third generation extended family of migrant vineyard workers in California. Called Real Pruners of Napa Valley? Wait, I’ve got a better one –  cameras follow me around in my bathrobe as I sip, type, nap, and sip some more – Real House Wines of London – now, that’s the ticket.

Cheers

Bill

Lazy Recos – October 31st – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

29 Oct

lazy

I have been truly neglectful. I haven’t been recommending many wines available through the bi-weekly releases at our mother ship. It’s not that I don’t care. It’s just that I have been distracted by other things. Well, to be honest, I’ve been lazy. I’ve started about 5 different times to talk about releases and just stalled. There’s no good reason except that it’s my blog and I can do what I want. And, I’ve wanted to travel and then get home and write about it.

But, I thought that I would do a quick post on some of the wines that I’ve found recently that I like a lot. These are not necessarily from the October 31st release but are still available.

Let’s start with the reds.

saint rochI’d say that I have recommended the Château Saint-Roch Chimères maybe five or six times over the years. The 2013 vintage #119354 $19.95 is like the ones preceding it. Only better. It is a healthy, round blend of primarily Grenache and Syrah. It’s a Côtes du Roussillon that smooths out some of the rough edges that you might see with these wines. It is a beaut. Cherries, spicy (Syrah), earthy – Love it! It would be perfect with some kind of roast dinner in this fall season.

vinsobresAnother great red from the south of France is the 2013 Famille Perrin Vinsobres Les Cornuds #566854 $17.95. This is from the Perrin….famille. They are the family that creates Château de Beaucastel, an iconic wine from Châteauneuf-du-Pape. These guys do know wine. This is a very gentle but medium-bodied handful of cherries with a bite. I’m thinking if it’s cherries then a cherry match – Muscovy duck breast, pork tenderloin or something else like that. This is from a village in the Côtes du Rhone that warrants villages designation. Top drawer.

matchbookIf you’ve been reading these pages, you know that The Director does love her Chardonnay. And, contrary to current trends, she likes it oaked. The past few weeks, we’ve been enjoying the 2013 Dunigan Hills Match Book #205492 $20.95. This is oaked but not that much. It allows the typical apple scents and flavours through without adding any tropical fruit stuff. Vanilla on the finish but, need I say, not too much. It’s a Goldilocks Chardonnay – Just Right.

c7cI’ve spoken of my love for wines from Washington State – Columbia Crest, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Mark Ryan and my fave Andrew Will. Love the Will! And, I have written about the quirky, inventive, yet delicious wines from Charles Smith. We have been grabbing a Chardonnay from the – gasp – General Listing aisles. I know. It’s unimaginable that yours truly would linger with the plebes but I am not a snob (he says, with tongue firmly planted in cheek). In any event, Charles Smith has a great chard – 2013 Charles & Charles Chardonnay #394734 $15.95. This is a mid-weight, slightly oaked white with a bit more vanilla than the one above. It’s a keeper. A perfect sipper without food after a long day writing about wine, hanging at your local pub, watching the Blue Jays lose in six. Yes, that means we’ve had a bunch of it. And, it’s a Stelvin twist cap meaning that you can actually open this as a third bottle of the night without incurring cuts and stabs.

Wines previously recommended that are still available in number:

2008 Rivera Cappellaccio Riserva #305276 $17.95  – a full-bodied and well-aged Anglianico – meaty and lip smacking good.

2012 Talamonti Tre Saggi Montepulciano d’Abruzzo #204016 $15.95  – a full-bodied, round fruit sandwich. OK, a bit too weirdly descriptive. It’s just a good sipping wine. I’d say pizza if it’s got lots of cheese and not too much tomato sauce.

Cheers.

Bill

Remember: If you want to know what inventory your local has, click on the link associated with the stock number and choose your city or town from the drop down menu. I can tell how often that’s done and it isn’t done enough to make me comfortable that people know how to use it.

 

 

 

#PEC – Road Trip!

26 May
loyalist gin

66 Gilead Loyalist Gin

I’ve been a bit remiss over the last month. Not sure why I haven’t been posting stuff. I’ve been writing it, just never getting to the part where I upload, edit, rewrite, think about it, and finally post it. Bloggers will understand. That all changes today.

We traveled to Prince Edward County for the first weekend in May. For those not familiar with “The County”, let me provide a brief introduction.

TheCounty_logoPrince Edward County is on the north shore of Lake Ontario. It was originally settled by indigenous people and following the American Revolution, land was granted by The Crown to United Empire Loyalists. Interesting how The Crown decided that they owned the land in the first place. A rant for another time? You see the term “Loyalist” at every turn as it constitutes a lot of the sense of who the people are and where they came from. Plus, it’s a cool way to brand stuff, I presume. Minus the topograhy, it does have a New Englandy feel.

Over the past 20 years or so, courageous winapreneurs have been planting vines and working the vineyards to produce worthy wines. Understandably, it’s taken awhile to establish a track record that warrants the accolades that some County wines are now receiving. To get a feel for the wine trade there, you only have to think back to your first wander in Niagara region when they were trying to get established. Wineries that bore the descriptor ‘cottage winery’ were springing up all over the place and the region was absent of any grand chateau-style tasting rooms, vanity wineries, or lavish wedding venues. That’s changed in Niagara now.

In The County, there remains a sense of exploration and adventure among the 30 plus wineries. Now, that doesn’t mean that the wines are a casualty to experimentation or still years away from a recognizable sense of place. In fact, I’d have to say that the most striking feature of PEC wines is their sense of place. The prime varietals are Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. If you’re a cool climate dude or dudette, this might be your new favourite place. It’s one of those places where you’d say, “You can’t grow vinifera grapes here. It’s too damn cold in the winter.” Well, they’ve thought of that and each fall, the vines are buried. I’m not kidding, they mound dirt on top of the vines. And in the spring, pull all that dirt back off them. Seems like a lot of work because it is. Is it worth it? You bet.

I’ll include our full tasting notes in a later post. Most of the wineries discussed have a ‘club’ approach to participating in their thing. If you’re interested in learning more about the wineries or ordering some for yourself, click the links provided.

Closson Chase

Closson Chase

Closson Chase 

We had two days to wander, dropping into a number of wineries and a distillery. We started at Closson Chase. Like many of the wineries, the tasting room at Closson Chase is in a converted barn (above). Great ambience – no pretensions. Vines are planted on fractured limestone sloping towards Lake Ontario giving the wines a definite Burgundian feel. Until recently, Deborah Paskus was the winemaker there after establishing herself as a Chardonnay Ninja in Niagara. To get an idea of the quality of their Chardonnays, I quote Jancis Robinson, “We have served them blind to wine professionals with top white Burgundies and, quite literally, amazed and astounded our friends.” High praise indeed. The 2013 Closson Chase Vineyard Chardonnay ($27.95) was in  perfect balance with just enough oak peaking through – acidity on the finish. They craft Pinot made from Niagara grapes as well as those from their own estate. I did prefer their 2013 KJ Watson Vineyard Pinot ($34.95) which hails from Niagara. Their 2012 Closson Chase Pinot Noir ($29.95) prepared me for the general structure and character of the County Pinots that I would be experiencing the rest of our trip. Lean, powerful, minerally, and earthy. You never think, “Umm, that’s ripe.” More Oregon and Burgundy less California.  http://clossonchase.com/

The Old Third Tasting Room

Tasting Room – The Old Third

The Old Third

The tasting room staff at Closson told us about a winery that I hadn’t heard of – The Old Third. It’s just down the road from Closson, easy to find. What a cool place. Big open to the roof barn with a tasting room and another area that could serve as a sit-around-and-chat-room – a large open window looking out across the vineyard. The guy who was staffing the room was across the road hanging out when we arrived. It’s all pretty laid back. This winery also specialized in Chardonnay and Pinot with a Cabernet Franc and traditional method cider thrown in for fun. Loved the 2013 Pinot ($42.00) – minerally, lean, powerful and dusty. Really a ’boutique’ winery with small batches of wines from fruit grown on the estate.  http://www.theoldthird.com/

Keint-he Gamay Noir

Keint-he Gamay Noir

Keint-he Winery and Vineyards

On to another well reviewed winery – Keint-he. Did I mention that at almost every winery, we were the only ones in the tasting room? Speaks to timing, I guess. A while back, I had a Keint-he Chardonnay that was made in the County from Niagara grapes, but never their county wines. Have to say that the Keint-he wines seemed to hit the right note for me. The 2013 Portage Chardonnay ($25.00) was all local with a bit of oak thrown in to please those that like a bit of butter.The 2011 Portage Pinot ($20.00) made from County fruit was similar to the Old Third ones above – lighter but still lean and muscular without heaviness – mineral elements, particularly on the finish. If I had to say one red fruit, I’d refuse, there wasn’t any obvious berry peaking through. Although, I seemed a bit muddled after a day of tasting, which I don’t mind – it keeps it interesting and that’s what GPS is for. Right? They have a 2013 Voyageur Gamay Noir ($25.00) from Beamsville Bench appellation fruit. It is tangy and, what’s the word I’m searching for?……….oh yeah, ‘good’. Needs a bit of a chill to bring out the fruit. Not as dark as a Moulin-a-Vent but not as fresh as many other New World Gamays either. I liked it a lot. http://www.keint-he.ca/

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Pizza Time

Norman Hardie Winery and Vineyard

Now, if you asked around, lots of wine geeks know of Norman Hardie and his story. Studied at the University of Dijon, sommelier at The Four Seasons, and itinerant wine worker, he traveled the globe learning about the agriculture that is the magic behind the sip. He discovered the ubiquitous limestone and clay in The County and established Norman Hardie Winery and Vineyard in 2003 with a planting of Pinot Noir. Subsequently, he’s increased to plantings of Chardonnay and Pinot Gris as well. He purchases grapes, including Riesling, from Niagara and other county sites. This winery has a cool wood-fired pizza oven and a great patio (that’s it above) for sipping and just relaxing; which is exactly what we did.

The wine? Well, if you’re a fan of mineral-driven Pinots and Chardonnays, this is the place for you. The Pinot that took my breath away was the 2012 Norman Hardie Cuvee ‘L’ Pinot Noir ($69.00). It’s made from Niagara and County grapes fermented separately and then later blended and allowed to knit together in old French oak, Understated, elegant, dark fruits and a looooooong finish – ready for years in the cellar. The 2013 Norman Hardie County Pinot Noir ($39.00) is a fine example of County reds – first sip seems overly restrained. Second sip starts to build and then as you finish the bottle (did I just admit that?) you notice the depth, layering and a refreshing quality to the wine that wasn’t there at the beginning. Nice to have a wine with lower ABV too (10.9%).

Norman Hardie also had the only Riesling we tasted in The County. A blend of Niagara and County fruit. The 2013 Norman Hardie Riesling ($21.00) bone-dry, needs some time to develop – and that might as well get done in my cellar, eh? What do the critics think of Norman Hardie? “The Chardonnays emerging from Hardie’s small vineyard in Prince Edward County…..are laser etched with acidity, minerality, and the sort of originality that we once thought only Burgundy could deliver “ Matt Kramer http://www.normanhardie.com/

Rosehall Run

The last winery we hit was Rosehall Run. If you’re hungry, they have a food truck that serves, among other things, donut holes dusted with cinnamon or lavender. Yummy. The wine? Well, I loved their 2012 Rosehall Run Cabernet Franc Cuvée County ($29.95). Cab Franc in cooler climates sometimes – wait, almost always – carries a green pepper, vegetal nose and taste. This one didn’t. It was all fruit and dirt. Did I say I loved it? The 2012 Rosehall Run Rosehall Vineyard Chardonnay ($29.95) was the favourite of The Director. Apples and a creaminess that surprised us a bit as we hadn’t experienced that profile on the trip. http://www.rosehallrun.com/

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66 Gilead Distillery

66 Gilead Distillery

We ate at The Hubb in Bloomfield (see below) the first evening and as we finished we asked our server, Lindsey, what we should do the next day. She became quite animated and said, “Why don’t you come and see me at 66 Gilead, the distillery? I work here for breakfast in the morning and then I’m at the distillery from about 11.” So, how could we refuse that invitation? We trundled off to taste hard liquor, arriving at about noon. Yes, a bit scary. Lindsey welcomed us by name to the 66 Gilead tasting room. It’s in a restored farmhouse surrounded by barns, implement sheds and free range chickens. They have artwork, old vinyl, house-made bitters, and tasty treats for sale. It’s all very cool and laid back. My oldest son, Nathan, is a gin hound. On most visits, he helps himself to my gin as the front door is closing behind him. The 66 Gilead Loyalist Gin ($43.95) is interesting. Using botanicals grown in the area and a little touch of local hops and lavender, the gin is ultra soft. Dangerously so. Juniper does not dominate as it does in most other gins I’ve experienced. I had to get him a bottle. The LCBO carries this but in limited availability. They make a pine vodka that struck me as an acquired taste – didn’t care for it. But, the hit of the visit was the Wild Oak Whisky ($68.95). This had a definite Bourbon vibe. Styled with 47% alcohol it disappeared during a recent trip to the cottage with a friend. Funny that. They also fashion a maple whisky, rum, and a sporit distilled from sake among other spirits. For the maple whisky, they take a used whisky barrel and fill it with maple syrup, let sit for 6 months, drain, fill with whisky and let it sit for a good length of time. Viola. I didn’t try the whisky but the maple syrup was awesome! This was my first trip to a craft distiller. I will have to make a point of looking them up when I travel. If you get to 66 Gilead, say hi to Lindsey. http://66gileaddistillery.com/

Our trip to The County was fabulous. It is such a personable place. And, wherever you are, you can feel Lake Ontario’s presence. Not wishing to compare apples and oranges but, if you’ve been to a long established ‘tourist’ wine region, you’ll have experienced the other end of the spectrum. That doesn’t imply a lack of sophistication in PEC – far from it. It’s just a different vibe, an excitement about the possibilities and about being part of something unique. More interactive and, dare I say, friendly? I appreciate that difference. In The County, you can count on bumping into people that you saw at the restaurant the night before, served you at a winery and are now working part-time in a store where you’re picking up a gift. And, bless their hearts, they recognize you too. The wineries are all very close together – biking distance (not that we biked) and have friendly, knowledgeable staff. And, if you pick your time, you could be the only ones wasting theirs.

Additional tidbits:

We ate at The Hubb in Angeline’s Inn in Bloomfield. A bit noisy but the food was well prepared and inventive. Good wine list and by the glass (I had a Gamay from Lighthall – needed a slight chill – but perfect with the fish) – mostly local as you would expect. Countylicious menu $30 prix fixe 3 course meal. Enjoyed ceviche, beet salad, pickerel, a veggie pasta dish and great desserts. Highly recommend. http://angelines.ca/the-hubb-c16.php

We also ate at East and Main in Wellington. A bit more bistro-esque. Good selection of wines – mostly local. The wait staff was a woman from a tasting room we visited the day before. Countylicious menu prix fixe 3 course meal $35. Highly recommend. http://eastandmain.ca/

We stayed at The Century House B&B in Bloomfield. You guessed it. A lovely century home with spectacular gardens. $120 per night. Highly recommend. http://www.centuryhousebandb.com/

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