Tag Archives: Flat Rock

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

Essentials Recommendations

10 May

A couple posts ago, I used a video of The Blind Boys of Alabama with Susan Tedeschi singing People Get Ready. I got a few responses saying that they had never heard Susan before. So, I’ve added another of her tracks above – a great John Prine song – great flute solo. Susan’s an accomplished blues guitarist and singer. Her main squeeze is Derek Trucks. How much great music must come from that house? Listen to it as you scroll.

On to the wine. Last week, I was asked by a golf buddy what would be a good red wine to take to a friend’s house for dinner. After I asked the requisite question about what the food was going to be (“Who knows?”), I kind of stalled. Oh, I finally gave a couple suggestions but I felt inadequate. Aren’t I supposed to know these kind of things off the top of my head? I think the issue for me was availability. What wines would be in stock and, ergo, a good recommendation?

The mothership has a cadre (over 100) of higher quality wines and spirits that are usually available in larger stores and they’re called the Essentials Collection. They range from Cristal Brut Champagne ($297) and Tignanello ($103) to Cathedral Cellar Cab Sav ($16) and Anselmi San Vicenzo ($17). It’s a broad spectrum but you should be able to find something that fits the occasion and your budget.

Budget Reds

Monte Antico #69377 $15.95 This is a food wine and it’s Italian. Meaning serve it with pizza, pasta with a tomato sauce, etc. Maybe even a mushroom dish. It has that bite that I love.

LAN Crianza #166538 $15.95 A $16 Rioja Crianza that carries the day. Perfect everyday medium-bodied red. I’m having ribs tonight and might pair them with this unless I get paralyzed down in the basement (so many choices) and end up bringing up something else. If you can find the Viña Real Crianza @ $18.95 – grab a couple bottles as it is very nice as well.

kaikenKaiken Malbec #58339 $14.95 This is a good value Malbec for those that love that grape. I know there are cheaper ones out there but step away from the Fuzion and make a very little step up price-wise to this much better version.

Mid-Range Reds

Muga Reserva #177345 $23.95 If there is even a hint that your guests or you, for that matter, like Iberian wine, this is the the ‘go to’ choice from Essentials. Consistent and typical Rioja cedary goodness. Food or just plain sipping.

Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Sauvignon #193573 $22.95 If it’s VQA you’re looking for, this is a great example of Niagara Bordeaux red. A hint of green pepper but not distracting from the dark fruit. Good steak wine. It’s tasty.

tenutacastigligoniMarchesi de’ Frescobaldi Tenuta di Castiglioni #145920 $21.95 I have recommended this wine so many times that I can type the name without checking the spelling. Pure Tuscan goodness. Spicy and fabulous with a simple lamb dish.

Honourable Mention

Wynn’s Coonawarra Black Label Cab Sav, Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir, Espãrao Reserva, E. Guigal Côtes du Rhone, Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon

Budget Whites

Anselmi San Vicenzo #948158 $16.95 If you like the vibe of whites from north-eastern Italy (Soave), grab this one. A perfect paring would be sun and friends.

Willm Reserve Riesling #11452 $15.95 An extra dry Riesling from Alsace. Stony, citrus. Great food wine.

Crios de Susana Balbo Torrontés #1834 $13.95 I couldn’t forget Susana. This is her entry-level Torrontés. I think it’s the perfect grape for sipping.

Mid-Range Whites

cloudy bayCloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc #304469 $32.95 The SB that started the whole Kiwi love-in. Powerful, clean, gooseberry. Perfect with grilled seafood. It can handle spicier, heavier fare – maybe even blackened grilled fish.

Mission Hill Reserve Chardonnay #545004 $21.95  BC wines are available in short supply here. So grab a bottle of this judiciously oaked Chard. Perfect with chicken, salmon or for just you and your imaginary friend (never drink alone).

Henri Bourgeois Les Baronnes Sancerre #542548 $25.95 This would be a nice counterpoint to the Cloudy Bay above. Both SB’s but totally different styles. This one is restrained, minerally, and better with cleaner foods – like scallops or salads. Friends that winter in Florida start their evening imbibing with a white, frequently a Sancerre. Good sipping.

Honourable mention

Mer Soleil Chardonnay, Tawse Quarry Road Riesling, Malivoire Chardonnay, Astrolabe Province Sauvignon Blanc

Rosé

Malivoire Lady Bug #559088 $15.95 Have recommended this almost every year. I’m typed out on it.

So, if you need a wine that’s not from the General Listing aisles – something with a little cache, wander to the Vintages section, search these out and please let me know what you think. After all, I am all alone and appreciate contact with the outside world. Well I’m alone except for my imaginary friend, that is. Clink, clink.

Cheers.

Bill

Visiting Niagara Region Day 1 – #SundaySips

17 Apr

This was playing while I composed this and it seems appropriate…….’cause we are taking the car or bicycle to Jordan.

Spring has finally arrived.

And Spring deserves a road trip. My favourite road trip that doesn’t require a road map for me is down to Niagara to visit some of the most underrated wineries around. “How underrated are they?” Well, I get the Wine Enthusiast and Wine and Spirits and I can’t remember when they have ever mentioned a Canadian, let alone Niagara, wine. Decanter did a  nice piece with a Canadian wine on the front cover. But generally, Niagara is the Rodney Dangerfield of wine. Even here in Ontario, I have friends who wouldn’t consider a wine from Niagara regardless of my strong recommendation – they just don’t even want to try it – they know they don’t like it. Let me repeat that – “regardless of my strong recommendation”. Are you shitting me? If I, Duff, recommend it, you can abso-friggin-lutely count on the fact that…………….I’m going to like it a lot. And, by extension, maybe you will too.

I get the lack of air play and respect for Niagara, I think. Low volumes, low brand recognition, strong competition in all categories, and many of their better wines’ price point. There’s lots of noise for a wine consumer to navigate.

I want to provide a bit of a guidebook to a tour of Niagara. And after you’ve taken it literally (or in the comfort of your own home) and sampled their offerings, you make up your own mind.

As I see it, Wineville Niagara is laid out like this – there are the wineries you visit on the way to or from (Niagara Escarpment/Twenty Valley) and those that you visit when you have unloaded your stuff in a lovely inn or bed and breakfast in or near that tony village – Niagara-On-The-Lake. If you try to mix it up, there are issues related to time pressure, confusion, wrong turns, marital discord, and potential DUI convictions. Trust me – I know this. And, it’s important to sample wines from both of these larger chunks. So, don’t miss either.

The lens I’m using is one that takes into consideration travel time (assuming a couple days at least) and the experience that you’ll have (both wine and atmosphere). And, it’s my blog so these wineries and dining places are from my own experience and are tailored to my palate and taste. There are 88 wineries in Niagara and some will be horribly disappointed that they don’t get a mention on this heavily subscribed blog but here’s a hint for them: it’s easily rectified with an invitation to a tasting/tour and free swag for Duff. After all, I am that easily bought. Here we go.

Before we start, make sure you’ve done a little research. I’ve listed one solid resource at the bottom of the page. For restaurants and accommodations, of course, there are the usual suspects TripAdvisor, Yelp, etc. Also, I’m trying out a new app called Winery Passport. Let me know if you use it and opinion.

First Day (on the way to NOTL)

A good mix of wineries from large to artisanal, from Riesling to Pinot to Viognier to Chardonnay. I’m somewhat travelling towards NOTL from Hamilton:

Leaning Post – 1491 Hwy 8 Stoney Creek, ON Tel: 905-643-9795 http://www.leaningpostwines.com Artisanal winery – taking grapes from small plots throughout the area. Great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay but also make Gamay, Riesling. Up and coming.

rosewood

Rosewood Winery

Rosewood Estates Winery – 4352 Mountainview Road, Beamsville, ON Tel: 905-563-4383 http://www.rosewoodwine.com Lovely winery situated amongst several others (Angel’s Gate, Thirty Bench – so you could kill a flock with one stone). They have an apiary and make mead as well as very nice Riesling (MS), Pinot Noir, and Merlot. And, they had a senior dog when last I was there. I pay attention to this kind of detail. Check to see if they are having a wedding there before you go.

Daniel Lenko Estate Winery – 5246 King Street West, Beamsville ON Tel: 905-563-7756 http://www.danilelenko.com Great Old Vines Chardonnay, Heritage, Merlot, and a few takes on Viognier which are interesting (many barrel and bottle aged e.g.. 07’s and ’08’s available) family style presentation, family run grape growers from way back. Great down home vibe.

Vineland Estates – 3620 Moyer Road, Vineland ON Tel: 1-888-846-3526 http://www.vineland.com Beautiful  tasting room/reception centre, tour, etc. Exceptional restaurant. Specializes in Riesling for my money although other varieties are available.

The Malivoire Wine Company – 4260 King Street East, Beamsville ON Tel: 1-866-644-2244 http://www.malivoire.com I wrote about Malivoire here. Chardonnays, Gamay, Foch, Rosé.

Tawse Winery – 3955 Cherry Avenue, Vineland ON Tel: 905-562-9500 http://www.tawsewinery.ca I wrote a bit about Tawse here. They make exceptional terroir-driven Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs, and Cab Francs. Solid Riesling too.

Flatrock Cellars – 2727 Seventh Avenue, Jordan ON Tel: 1-855-994-8994 http://www.flatrockcellars.com I wrote about Flat Rock here. They have a beautiful reception area, reasonably priced and tasty Chardonnays, Pinots, and a great Riesling (Nadja’s Vineyard). Great vibe. You can see all the way down to the lake and across to Toronto on a clear day.

Westcott Vineyards – 3180 Seventeenth Street, Jordan ON Tel: 905-562-7517 http://www.westcottvineyards.com A family-run boutique winery specializing in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. You can read what I wrote about Westcott here. I believe that on weekends in the summer, there is a nice bistro-like place to sit and get some local food.

creeksideCreekside Estate Winery – 2170 Fourth Avenue, Jordan ON Tel: 1-877-262-9436 http://www.creeksidewine.com Summertime weekends (check web site) there’s a great casual bistro – The Deck – that offers light stuff. Good place to pause particularly if you are cycling. Creekside has a counter-culture vibe. To that end, they grow and make Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz (not even calling it Syrah which is de rigeur here).

Bonus Coverage: Dillion’s Small Batch Distillers – 4833 Telford Road, Beamsville ON Tel: 905-563-3030 Yes there is a distillery in Beamsville. Dillon’s makes exceptional gin, oak-aged Canadian rye whisky (white), vodka, bitters, and absinthe.

Note: All wineries, and Dillon’s, charge a tasting fee. In most cases they waive that should you purchase. If you want to be sure, ask.

Where to Eat

OnThe Twenty – 3836 Main Street, Jordan ON Tel: 905-562-7313 Can’t recommend this highly enough. Exceptional takes on classics and seasonal, local stuff. Upscale

Vineland Estates – Address above Tel: 1-888-846-3526 ext. 33 Inventive cuisine, good pairing program. Upscale

Jordan House Tavern – I wrote about this here. Traditional roadhouse fare. Craft beers, local wines.

Where to Stay in Jordan

Inn On The Twenty – 1-800-701-8074 http://www.innonthetwenty.com Upside is that it’s in Jordan which means quiet and close to wineries. Downside is that there is limited nightlife.

Where to Stay in NOTL

riverbendinn

Riverbed Inn

http://www.vintage-hotels.ca  several upscale establishments. My fave is The Prince of Wales – good dining room, spa). These are all upscale.

River Bend Inn http://www.riverbedinn.ca (winery, a bit out of the town, beautiful setting, exclusive feel)

Oban Inn http://www.oban.com Lovely inn rebuilt from the ruins of the original that burned down a decade or so ago, good dining

BranCliff Inn http://www.brancliffinn.com (close to the theatre and main drag)

Bed and Breakfast There are a zillion bed and breakfasts. I’d recommend one of the heritage homes on a side street or down by the river

Resources:

Wineries, local map, info: http://www.winecountryontario.ca/niagara-escarpment-twenty-valley

In a couple weeks in another #SundaySips, we will explore NOTL or Niagara-on-the Lake

 

 

 

Phone Rage – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

14 Apr

Question: What is proper smartphone etiquette at the gym?

cellhonebanThe reason I ask? I was at the gym the other day (no scoffing, please) and retired to the sauna after several hours of heavy weights. I entered to find a young man on the top bench in full gym gear, including shoes. EEEW. But that’s not the real issue. He had his smartphone with him, earbuds in and music blaring enough that I could hear the lyrics to Hotline Bling. And, that’s not all. He kept texting someone (clickety, clickety, click) who’s return texts were announced with an annoying gong. What to do:

  1. I could have asked him politely to get undressed after all saunas are for the semi-naked, place phone in Airplane Mode, and turn the music off – maybe could be taken the wrong way on the, “get undressed, please”;
  2. I could have asked if he was so pathetically lonely that he needed an electronic substitute for his blankie even in the sauna – a bit too psychoanalytical; or
  3. Do what I actually did – the indirect dis – which was start to talk to the other naked man in the sauna about how sadly attached people were to their gadgets, wink, wink. He promptly got up and left. Not the man I was talking to, although he might have thought about it, but the offender left. Point made. Not sure what I would have done if he ‘got in my face’, as they say. Headline: “Man Killed in Sauna was Victim of Phone Rage”

The reason I mention this is that today I was sitting, thinking. Just thinking. No smartphone, no music on. I repeat – just me alone with my thoughts. A lost art? I’m not bragging because I couldn’t do it as long as I used to. After awhile, I needed to put some tunes on, find my phone and check for texts and emails that would validate my existence. Yup, Bill is here ’cause he got a text. I, too, am needing a little electronic recognition, I fear. But never in the sauna.

And, if you believed the “several hours of heavy weights” I claimed above, you don’t really know me. It was 90 minutes on the treadmill and fifteen on some circuit training machines. OK, that’s a lie too. It was mostly just the sauna.

This week’s (April 16) release has some old favourites of mine and a couple new faces.

frchardLet’s start close to home – the 2013 Flat Rock Chardonnay #286278 $18.95 will serve you well in the build up to summer and then on warm summer evenings. Any oak is is under the influence of the juicy fruit (not the gum) and a nice bite of acid on the finish. Nice effort by a very solid winery. You can read about my visit to Flat Rock here.

kacabaAgain from Niagara up on the escarpment, the 2011 Kacaba Cabernet Sauvignon #326496 $24.95  is a handful and carries that personality of red rather than black or cassis fruit. Tannins suggesting further cellaring back when I tasted it. Perhaps not needing that now. Great red meat wine – grab a steak and pop, breathe and enjoy.

 

brazinLodi is an under appreciated wine region IMHO. It’s straining to be recognized, loved, and benefitting economically from that love. My fave wine from Lodi? Zinfandel. This week there is a repeat offender from these pages – 2013 Brazin (B)Old Vine Zinfandel #256750 $20.95. This won’t remind you of those yuuuuge Zins that we all like despite ourselves. It’s more reserved, complicated. Laura Linney? Love Laura. Love this wine too. I lamented about not getting it on with California ones lately and this is an excuse to break that trend. This really says, “Cottage.”

mdfcsWhile in Lodi, let’s pick up a bottle of the Michael David Freakshow Cabernet Sauvignon #405175 $26.95. I love these guys. Their Petite Petit is an annual must buy. This one has the coolest label. This is big, complicated in a very nice way – different sensations in the mouth – dry, fruits, smack, finish. There’s a dirty quality to it – oh behave. A terrific wine.

saintamourA wine that was released a while ago but is still hanging around and worth a visit is the 2014 P. Ferraud et Fils Cuvée Ensorceleuse Saint-Amour #443044 $19.95. I seem to remember that Saint-Amour as a Cru is a bit more seductive and less masculine than, say, Moulin-a-Vent or Morgon. Well, this wine flexes it’s fruit muscles plenty. Raspberry pie is what I thought to myself. Not syrupy but tangy raspberries. In fact, think raspberry pie and then sniff and sip. I told you. My friend, Grant, will dig this big time. Great sipping wine with a cigar for him.

Wines that I’m curious to try:

2013 Edmeades Zinfandel #105924 $23.95 A Mendocino Zin. Say no more.

2011 Cune Reserva #417659 $24.95 This is usually such a pleasurable, easy to quaff Rioja. Here’s hoping the 2011 is.

Spring is here! Enjoy the weekend.

Bill

Wine As a Depilatory – The Rainbow Daily Slosh

11 Jun

I found an interesting and little known wine fact in one of my readings this week. Around 1000 BC, a white wine, that has DNA similar to Greek Assyrtiko, was used by the Phoenicians to wax their legs. Apparently, the acid and alcohol in the wine cleanly removed all leg hair. Smooth legs were revered by women and leg hair on a woman was seen as a negative class distinction back then. Vines were planted throughout the Levant to provide sufficient wine to render most Phoenician women smooth legged. All this explains the familiar Phoenician morning-after phrase – “Hair of the Leg.” Interesting.

This week, there’s a just a handful of recos, so I’ll just wrap all the colours of the wine rainbow together in one post.

carpeneThis time of year is great for cheap but cheerful bubbly. Is there really a time of year that isn’t? And Prosecco can be a good option. However, there so much Prosecco out there now that the category is a bit watered down IMHO. So, I tend to stay with one or two labels because bad Prosecco is, well, very disappointing. Ever since my friend Andrew introduced me to it, my ‘go-to’ Prosecco is Carpenè Malvolti 1868 Brut Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore #727438 $16.95. I find it has the proper balance of fruit, tight fizz, and weight for me. It is maybe a bit more stony than you’re used to but that’s why I like it. Pop a cold one of these when Suzie or Nicole comes over. They luv Prosecco! Question: do you say PRO seek o, or pro SEK o, or PRO sek o? I kind of interchange them just in case. That way I’m right part of the time.

frcchardonnayWe visited Flat Rock Cellars last September and I wrote about them here. They are, for my money, one of the most consistent producers of reasonably priced wines from Niagara. The 2012 Flat Rock Cellars Chardonnay #286278 $18.95 is a perfect example of that. This isn’t your over-oaked, buttery vanilla bomb Chardonnay. But, neither is it one of those stern, minerally, unoaked varieties. It’s kind of what Goldilocks wanted – “just right”. It’s fruit first and fresh. Although this would be called a cool climate Chardonnay, I’d say that it will appeal to those that also like the warmer styles such as those from California, say. Confused? Don’t be. Get a bunch for the patio, deck, dock, table, bed, balcony, or sidewalk. Did I say it was just right?

trespicosWell, what have we here? It can’t be. Yes, it’s 2012 Borsao Tres Picos Garnacha #273748 $19.95. This was one of the better values in the store for several years when it was priced about $3 – $4 cheaper. Not sure what drove the price up. Lenin would say it’s the greedy capitalists. My friend, Tim would say it’s the unions. But, I bet it’s just a typo by an overworked LCBO employee. And, now they have to live with it. They must make a zillion cases of this stuff. You can’t go into a wine store in Canada or the continental US without seeing it. This vintage will be ‘released’ several times this calendar year at the mother ship. Don’t let that fact dissuade you from purchase. It’s pure Northern Spain  Garnacha – intense, full-bodied, cherries, woody things, and herbs. I wondered why so big and found out upon inquiry (Wikipedia – I know, I previously pledged not to Google wine stuff – but I caved) that the DO Campo de Borja gets very little rain, meaning fewer berries and it’s hot which combines to make it full-bodied and assertive. It needs food really to be appreciated. Great BBQ wine.

langaA cheap Garnacha – 2012 Langa Tradicion Centenaria #194795 $14.95 arrives this Saturday as well – a tiche less large than the one above. Provides good value. As well from a dry zone – DO Catalayud. It is a substantial wine as well. These wines really reflect the stony, scrubby ground they come from. This one has less complexity, more straight forward than the Tres Picos but at $14.95 it rocks. This would work with burgers.

fptavelFrom last release there’s the 2014 Famille Perrin Tavel #680801 $19.95. Tavel is the red drinker’s pink and this one definitely will appeal to those that prefer red wines. It’s substantive for a rosé but still carries that refreshing cleansing sensation in your mouth. Good and dry – darker fruits – no strawberries here. A hit of acid on the finish. I recommended this wine to a friend to accompany dinner and it was a winner. Great cottage wine with fresh tomatoes, olives, shrimp, avocados, and bread – that kind of stuff. Inventory is getting low – so get a move on.

castellodamaFor a wee bit of a splurge pick up the 2009 Castello di Ama Riserva Chianti Classico #039768 $34.95. This is all Chianti – cherries, earthy, mustiness. Lovely wine. As a fellow wine drinker tweeted yesterday about a different wine, “Wow, Wow, Wow.” That’s a triple Wow! And, as a former math major, I know that that’s just one Wow removed from a top score of 4 Wows. If this is the 2009, how great will the 2010 be? I’m betting 4 Wows. Cellar this one for a few years or pop and pour.

Oh yeah, the part above about the Phoenicians – just made that up. Not sure why. But, how many women out there thought for a minute that it would provide a great excuse to buy wine? And, those wine geeks were getting ready to reveal this interesting fact at their next tasting. Admit it.

Cheers!

Bill

 

Three Rieslings – The White Daily Slosh(es)

18 Mar

This day in music history – 1972 – Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” hit number one on the US singles chart. His only solo recording to make a top 20 slot.

Just a few quick white wine recos for the March 21st release.

I’m a member of a fantasy baseball league and part of the fun is sending smack emails to other team owners. It usually takes the form of taunting someone about losing their star to season ending surgery – cheering someone tearing their ACL seems wrong but it feels pretty good when it’s not your guy. Last week as we struggled to find a date for our draft, a fellow owner stated that he was quaffing a Riesling at that very moment. I’m not sure what exactly I said but it was clearly interpreted as being disparaging about Riesling. That’s not what I meant. I love Riesling. Editors Note: He knew exactly what he said – something about some sommeliers and their lazy recommendation of Riesling.

This release there are three local Rieslings that bear a look see. I had all three at the cellar door and that usually means that my notes aren’t quite as expansive – more experiential, less intellectual.

frcnvThe 2013 Flat Rock Cellars Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling #578625 $19.95 has pretty well been recommended here for each of the past three vintages and I usually make some reference to the surrealist Andre Breton but it is lost on my audience. The Nadja style is one of bone dry, taut minerality and high acidity. This year is no exception. Lip smacking and good now with food that has some pop or later after the fruit (apples, pears) is allowed to open out and show itself – requires some time in the cellar, perhaps. In fact, this label usually does quite well with a few years at least. My ‘go to’ Niagara Riesling. You can read about my visit to Flat Rock Cellars here.

vinelandelevatioSpeaking of time in the cellar, the 2012 Vineland Estates Elevation St. Urban Vineyard Riesling #038117 $19.95 is a definite cellar candidate. I opened a 2008 Elevation Riesling last year and it was just beginning to come into focus. Still crisp but starting to fatten up a bit. The 2012 seems to have even a better chance of improving over time. This label has some sugar – classified as ‘medium’ in sweetness – but I appreciate that it has enough spine to not come off as sweet or cloying. I’m big on this wine but let me quote Michael Godel at www.winealign.com “To purchase in increments of less than a case may be considered a crime against Riesling.” That’s pretty convincing. So I throw down to my fantasy baseball Riesling friend, “Michael, you had better get some of this, cellar it, and when I win in 2020, give me a bottle”.

13rieslingThe last Riesling brings a return to these pages of 13th Street. I featured one of their reds here. The 2013 13th Street June’s Vineyard Riesling #147512 $19.95 is the first Riesling that I’ve sipped from this winery. This is another dry one that has a definitely heavier feel to it than the Nadja’s. Not heavy – sweet, but heavy as in mouthfeel – fruit, chewiness? Anyway, an interesting wine and one that is pretty great now but will even be better over time. I had thought that, in Niagara, the kero that Riesling can develop over time was most likely found in wines up around Flat Rock Cellars and Sue Ann Staff but this one from a different appellation (Creek Shores) will, I bet, develop some of that yummy petrol over time. Just think the weight indicates that’s the way it will go.

Interesting observation: all three recommendations are single vineyard wines. It’s nice to see Niagara develop individual vineyard personalities and have the courage to make them. I’ve just realized that the best of all three of these will be experienced down the road a while. But, surely there’s something else you can drink while you wait for these three to reach their peak. They’ll be worth the wait. And, I need suggestions for wine for my fantasy baseball draft. I’ve pretty well stayed in Italy or Spain the past few years and haven’t won. So, it may be time to shake it up. Anyone?

 

Holiday Advice – Fini

22 Dec

I want to change gears for a bit. Maybe, like me, you struggle to find meaning in the beliefs, rites and traditions that are on full display at this time of year. What is their origin? What is their meaning? This short clip helps me better understand. I hope it helps you too.

This is the third and last of three posts offering some recommendations for wines a little out of the ‘daily’ range.

You can read the first installment (Cabernet, Sauvignon Blanc) here; the second installment (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay) here.

When I wrote the first post, I had the brilliant idea to do three posts based on specific varietals and I began without truly scoping out the series. The problem is that there are too many types of wines to capture in the third installment. I can either turn the trilogy into a Diana Gabaldon style series (Outlandish Wines?) or I could just fill this last post with some good ideas that I haven’t mentioned yet. I’m lazy and the latter sounds best.

badiaChianti? Yes, please. What Italian red is the friendliest wine from the boot? Well, some may say Pinot Grigio but they’d be wrong. It’s Chianti. And, we are lucky that there are a few great vintages on the shelves right now. One wine that would impress your friends and family is 2009 Antinori Badia a Passagnano Chianti Classico Riserva #384552 $44.95. I enjoyed a bottle of Chianti with a friend this month and all we could talk about were the cherries that we could smell and taste. I know, it’s kinda weird. It was a fruit cake-with-cherries red wine – not sweet like fruit cake but the red fruits and yeastiness. Cherries are the predominant fruit in the Badia as well. Classic Sangiovese. More serious than your father’s Chianti – some heft – full-bodied. People I know make turkey chilli with leftovers. This is a perfect wine if the chili isn’t too spicy. Let it decant for a bit. FYI, wine-searcher.com has it at $69 a bottle in US.

If you picked up my recommendation of 2008 Ondarre Reserva #723452 $18.95, you’ll say that you that don’t have to sell the farm to taste great Tempranillo. It is indeed tasty (I bought a bunch – and am looking to buy a bunch more). But, this is a post about splurging a bit. So, why not pick up the 1998 Vega-Sicilia Único #230284 $829.00? Why murrietanot? It’s $829.00, that’s why not. I just wanted to see if you were paying attention. If not the Unico, then maybe the 2008 Marqués de Murrieta Finca Ygay Reserva #209148 $27.95? This is ready to drink now, medium-to-full-bodied and quite round in the mouth for a Rioja, softer. Great dark fruits. A beautiful sipper, a second glass wine getting better as you go. This too with the turkey chilli.

Ontario Niagara Riesling is making its mark with a good vintage in 2011, in particular for Cave Spring. I tasted the 2011 Cave Spring cavespringCSV Riesling #566026 $29.95 at the beautiful tasting room adjacent to On The Twenty restaurant. Have I told you just how good the food is there? This is a medium Riesling but it doesn’t finish as sweetly as that would suggest. It’s full of peaches – there’s citrus too that may be the counter agent to the residual sugar. Or, it may be the acidity. There’s some lip smacking on the finish. From old enough vines to provide a hint that petrol will emerge. Beautiful and age-worthy.

It’s hard to splurge on rosé and yet it is a great wine for celebration and a turkey dinner. Especially if it has some depth, for me, that means Tavel would be good as well as some local pinks. Tavels:

2013 Delas Frères La Comballe Tavel Rosé #374884 $21.95

2013 Domaine des Caribinieres Lunar Apogé Tavel Rosé #375626 $19.95 see my earlier review here.

Ontario rosés:

2013 Flat Rock Pinot Noir Rosé #39974 $16.95

2013 13th Street Pink Palette Rosé #275834 $15.95

Both of these pinks carry a bit more sweetness, while still remaining in the ‘dry’ category, in their profile than the Tavels which are bone dry.

taylorThis week (or maybe last week now) the #NWTW (New Wine This Week) was Port. Port is a great sipper to have around for the holidays and maybe the only time that I drink it. It is lovely to sit and sip a glass of Port while recounting the story of The Baby In The Manger while young children in appropriate costumes for their part in the story sit somewhat bewilderingly at Uncle Bill’s feet (sorry, couldn’t resist a totally inside family joke). Port is good any time but best after dinner. Read this post by Please Bring Me My Wine about pairing Port. My faves:

Taylor Fladgate 10 Year-Old Tawny Port #121749 $34.95 (always in my cupboard)

1995 Dalva Colheita Port #69930 $32.95 this is a nutty, spicy treat.

I have something to share with the group, “I don’t drink Champagne very often.” There, I said it and now I can deal with it. It may not work – naming the problem out loud, that is. It didn’t work very often with my re-offending parolees. Then again, getting off crack might be a little harder than popping the cork on a few more bottles of Champagne. All this to say that I hesitate to recommend a bubbly splurge. My advice is to spring for Champagne or at least a Cremant de Bourgogne – there really is a difference between Boone’s Farms Sparkling Shotgun and Veuve Cliquot. Or, Prosecco and Mumm’s. Then again, if you’re making Mimosas, as we do, Cava such as Segura Viudas will do. On dealing with my specific problem? I’m going to work hard at it over the holidays (I have a personal plan, prescriptive action items, and measurable goals) and, Doc, I’ll report back next appointment.

castellaniOh yeah, this started back in Part 1, with a request for an Amarone recommendation from our Concierge Service. What did I recommend? 2009 Michele Castellani Cinque Stelle Amaraone Della Valpolicella Classico #75127 $57.95. I have had earlier vintages of this wine but not the ’09. Typically, the style is large with many dimensions – quite dark and dried in the fruit department – scents of leather and compost. A very special wine with which to end the meal (and post).

Remember: Wine is groceries; not a luxury (thanks to Richard Betts for that perfect phrase)

Cheers!

Bill

 

Holiday Advice – Part Deux

19 Dec

Last year I featured Bing and Bowie as an awkward couple. This year I thought we’d examine another unusual pairing. Think about it. Arguably the best female voice of all time and the guy who gave us Delilah – a song about an angry man stabbing his g/f in a fit of rage. Talk amongst yourselves.

This is the second part of three posts offering some recommendations for wines a little out of the ‘daily’ range. The first installment can be read here.

Pinot Noir

gravityPinot Noir may be the most personal of all wines. Some like them lean and under the tank top – muscular, others like ’em softer and round. I’m in the first camp. So, here goes. In Ontario, there are many great local pinots. You could start with 2012 Flat Rock Cellars ‘Gravity’ Pinot Noir #1560 $29.95 an earthy, darker-than-pinot, fruitful wine. Bigger on the nose than usual for this wine – probably 2012 showing through. Lovely wine. Another Ontario gem is any pinot by hardiepnNorman Hardie. Prince Edward County, Norman Hardie in particular, instills a very different take on pinot than Niagara. The 2011 Norman Hardie Unfiltered Pinor Noir #125310 $39.00 is a cherry tea stained long drink of pinot. What does it remind me of? Earl Grey tea – it’s tea alright but not the same. This is pinot but not the same as pinot. Complicated but worth getting to know. I’m heading to The County in the New Year and can’t wait to visit some of their exciting wineries.

Oregon has a very classic take on pinot. Lovely stuff. But, we are disadvantaged with limited selection. I couldn’t find any that had anything but a scattered availability in the province. I read other bloggers that talk about the breadth of choice they have with Pinot Noir in America. Alas, we have many more Burgundy available – which means we can go broke early and often. However, a non-Sonoma ‘go to’ calerapinot for me is Calera – which we do have. The 2012 Calera Pinot Noir #933044 $33.95 is a great introduction to a world of California pinot that isn’t ‘one-dimensional’ like the lower priced entries seem to be. I find you need to stretch the budget a bit particularly with pinots. Calera has several single vineyard offerings too that we get each year – the Jensen Vineyard being my fave and a wine that you don’t want to open because it just gets better and better with time. The one above is their entry level and is ripe, red fruity, earthy, and very accessible. Good value.

rdbgcIf you prefer a more Burgundian take and you don’t want to get a second mortgage, I’d suggest a bargain cru – Beaune Teurons 1er Cru. I call it my ‘Go To Cru Crew’. But, I see that there are but a few available. Another time. So, what to splurge on? Well, the 2012 Roche de Bellene Vieilles Vignes Gevrey-Chambertin #240242 $56.95 is dark and a bit wild but easy to understand, if that makes sense. I bought a couple and mistakenly opened one right away to find, as I knew that I would, that it wasn’t ready for prime time. Duh. Buy this for someone that has or is building a cellar.

akaruaAnd no, I didn’t forget New Zealand pinot. There are a bunch but let’s get some focus. The 2012 Akarua Pinot Noir #79541 $37.95 is a lovely Central Otago pinot. It’s not shy with red fruits and a lovely seam of acidity. Extremely food friendly. Go ahead and splurge on this one. Low risk – high reward. The minty, herbiness would match a sage turkey perfectly. I think that I’ve just talked myself into it. Damn, I hate when that happens.

Pinot recap – all but Roche de Bellene ready to drink and all good matches for turkey dinner.

I headed up these sections by varietal. But, I probably should have simply provided some whites, reds, rosés and bubblies instead of going the varietal route. Well, live and learn. At least tying Chardonnay to Pinot Noir makes some sense. Right?

Chardonnay

mersoleilOaky chards don’t get a lot of love these days. But, I still like them if there’s some balance and I don’t have to pull slivers of oak out of my tongue. A biggerish Chardonnay is the 2011 Mer Soleil Reserve Chardonnay #958975 $34.95. It is decadent (so, delete the “ish” above) with a hint of butter and some citrus on the nose but pure tropical fruit and butterscotch in the mouth and on the finish. We like the buttery ones here and this is a staple down below – that would be my basement. It works with creamy chicken stuff and the turkey if it’s not a spicy treatment but more trad. If you want to buy local, pick up the 2011 Tawse Daniel Lenko Vineyard tawsedlchardonnayChardonnay #344796 $44.95. This is made with grapes from the old vines at Daniel Lenko. I’ll tell the story of my visit to Daniel Lenko another time. Suffice it to say, the place is unique among the array of wineries on the bench. Blend Lenko’s grapes with the Burgundian leanings of Tawse and you get a Chardonnay that’s a bit more Old School than the one above. Pure tropical fruit and apples on the nose joined with some of the oak induced butter and vanilla in the mouth – a mineral echo on the finish. Love it. The Mer Soleil is Janis Joplin; the Tawse – Joan Osborne. Both great styles – substantial, full of flavour and nuance, just different.

Classic white Burgundy is around but scattered availability. It can be pricy. If you want to partake of the classic Burgundian Chardonnay, I’d suggest two approaches: Chablis (minerally, stony and crisper – lovely stuff – look for 2010) and Meursault (a little rounder, nuttier, and deeper – pricier as well). I haven’t tasted any of those that I see on-line and, frankly, there aren’t many. Ask a consultant at the store for advice if this is your leaning.

Now, I’m off to The Morrissey for a craft beer (or two). Have a great weekend!

Part Three: first of next week

(Not Really) Previously Unexplored Wineries – Flat Rock Cellars

31 Oct

flatrocktm

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.

frc

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’.

 

frvineyards

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.

frstore

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

Previously Unexplored Wineries – Westcott Vineyards

15 Oct

 

westcott logo

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.

 

wesrcotttastingroom

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.

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