Tag Archives: Malivoire

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

 

 

 

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

 

Pink is the New Black – New Red? – New White?

25 Jul

The background music was chosen due to my return from vacation after weeks of research for the blog. Feel free to sing along. Because, I think that’s a big part of the attraction of this song. So, you’ll have to excuse me I’m not at my best…….

“And, what did you do on your vacation, Bill?” Well, glad you asked. I drank a lot of wine, read a bunch of books, pretended to fix things, swam almost every day, and enjoyed the company of family and friends. Now, everything is relative and there may be a select few out there that would scoff at my characterization of my wine volume as “a lot”. But, I’m guessing most would be more likely to suggest I turn over the boat key before noon on most days. Although, I do it all for you – my 14 followers.

I thought that I’d talk about the rosè I enjoyed over the past three weeks. Loads of people out there don’t drink rosè. They say, “I only drink red,” “rosè is for women only, yea?”, or “I lived on Mateus in college, so puleeze don’t foist any on me now” (expanding my vocab – hence the word “foist”). Now, I’d agree with them if they said that they don’t like white zinfandel, peach blush, strawberry samba. But, to channel and paraphrase Long John Baldry, “Don’t try to lay no boogie woogie on the king of rosè!”

On to the wines. I’ve included the usual links so that you can see what’s out there but some of these are in limited quantities – so good luck.

I’ve spoken of Tavel wines many times over the past few years. I love ‘em! A small village in the Southern Rhone lends its name to each and every one of them. They are the pink wine for red wine lovers. They have a gutsy quality that might surprise those that characterize rosè as light. Drink them cold and young. They are made as a blend of red and sometimes even white grapes – the leading red usually being Grenache. And, we like Grenache a lot don’t we? I mean Côtes du Rhone and Chateauneuf-du-Pape have Grenache as their leading actor.

apoge2013 Domaine des Carbinieres Lunar Apogè Tavel Rosè #375626 $19.95 is a perfect example of the more rugged pinks that come from this appellation. Served icy cold, it makes you wish for some solid spicy food with a hint of garlic – an arugula salad was what I had – it was verrrry nice. It’s a bigger wine than the other pinks I’m speaking of today. So, stop the “I only drink red” BS and pop a cork on this biodynamic (Demeter certified) wine.

carteressesThe other Tavel I enjoyed was the 2013 Domaine des Carteresses Tavel Rosè #739474 $18.95. This was my fav. It was a tich (is that how titch is spelled?) lighter than the one above. It also seemed to be more dark in the friuit department (field berries?) with a citrus thing on the finish. Chill this baby and sit by the lake. No lake? Sit by the river. No river? Sit by the inflatable toddler pool. On the patio under the umbrella? You get it – get outside with this wine. If you’ve had a glass of pink while on vacation in some Mediterranean clime and thought to yourself, “This is the perfect wine for here.” Well, news flash – this wine will take you back.

mariusWe’re staying in the south of France with the Chapoutier entry into pink – Chapoutier Marius Vin de Pays d’Oc #367383 $13.95. Dry, light in colour and in weight. This is a sipper. Cautionary tale: this wine is alcohol and you just can’t pour one glass after another without irrationally arguing about something that you actually, in retrospect and the light of day, care very little about – just sayin’. Crisp, cold with a touch of shrubby stuff. What to serve this with, if you didn’t take my advice to have it by itself? Go to www.mariusbymichelchapoutier.com . Now the site is en francais but if you’ve grown up with flacons de mais on your cereal box, you can easily translate (and there’s always Google’s “translate this page?”) The suggested pairing that interests me the most is the pêches rôties aux amandes.

flatrockroseNow, what would a rosè review be without sampling some of the best of Niagara. The 2013 Flat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir Rosè #39974 $16.95 carries a little more sweetness than the French pinks above. I don’t mean that you don’t have a little pucker but it’s fruit forward (pardon me that wine blog cliché). The wine does scream, “I’m made from pinot noir!” through it’s tea stained tannins and strawberriness. I’d suggest this for those that prefer a wine less astringent but it does satisfy a little red wine lover in me. Flat Rock attends to environmental stewardship – this product is created in an old world attention to simplicity and getting the hell out of the way. Great stuff! Very quaffable. But, as Ron Popeil would say, wait there’s more.

While you’re enjoying a rosè made from pinot noir, why not pick up the 2013 Megalomaniac Pink Slip Pinot Noir Rosè #85126 $17.95 to compare? I mean, you are going to drink at least two bottles, aren’t you? No? Are you trying to make me feel that I have a problem? Well, I picked it up and had a Niagara Rosè off. This one is a tich (there’s that word again) sweeter still but not sugary more like an off-dry Riesling might seem. It is maybe the one of all these that brings fruit right to the top of the glass before you sip. No tasting lessons required to pick up the cherry and berry aromas and flavours. So, that about does it. Wait, there’s more.

Another Niagara staple is the Malivoire Lady Bug Rosè #559088 $15.95 (on sale right now for $14.95). I don’t need to say much about this, if you’ve been reading this blog for awhile. I always recommend it as a ‘go to’ rosè for those of us lucky enough to have the mother ship keep it in stock at all times.

Recap: and there will be a test. The French pinks are drier, more crisp. The Niagara pinks have a fuller fruit expression and carry a little sweetness.

And, I’ve been remiss in not acknowledging the passing of my “gateway to blues” guitarist, Johnny Winter. God bless him.

 

 

Don’t Mess With The Rhone – The Red Daily Slosh

20 Jun

A good theme song for Duffs Wines? The Marvelettes don’t exactly drop it like it’s hot but they are seriously bustin’ some moves. And, despite the comments inserted, the Supremes are not my favourite group.

These recommendations are for the June 21st release.

Can we talk? A friend asked me the other day what my favourite wine was. And, before I could answer, he said, “It’s Southern Rhone red, isn’t it?” I had to think about it. I don’t think it is. I mean I recommend an awfully lot of them. They can be a shade cheaper than other good European wines. They are readily available at the mother ship. They can fit almost any occasion. Grenache and Syrah are two of my favourite things (cue: Julie Andrews). Maybe they are my “Go To” wines. But, I love just about all wine. I’ll have to think some more on it. What are your favourites? And I mean, what do you reach for the most?

lfdmWell, since we’re waxing about reds from the Southern Rhone, let’s talk about a repeat recommendation – 2011 La Ferme du Mont Le Ponnant Côtes du Rhone-Villages #171371 $19.95. Our monopoly must have bought a tonne of this as it was offered previously with good availability. This wine is a seriously good CdR . It is medium-bodied but has a very powerful aroma after a swish or two – not as shrubby and garriguey as some other CdR’s – but dark and fruity. My previous post (June 21/13) on this wine says that it’s serious. Not serious as in dealing with the global financial implications of destabilization in Iraq. But, serious as in ambitious, full-flavoured, and structured. Some nice lip-smacking acidity for food friendliness and enough tannins to match serious food. I’m getting a few for the cottage BBQ. It was only $17.00 last June. But, don’t let that dissuade you. It’s still good QPR.

pondviewcmA while ago, I wrote a piece on Pondview Estate Winery. I was impressed with their reds, and in particular, the premium Bella Terra line. But, there is a ‘reserve’ level too. Now, as far as I can tell, there are no hard and fast industry rules in Ontario around the use of the term ‘reserve’. Correct me, if I’m wrong but a quick look at other Ontario labels leads me to believe it means for most wineries a step above their entry-level products – priced accordingly. This weekend the 2011 Pondview Cabernet/Merlot Reserve #307561 $18.95 reappears at the LCBO. This winery sits in the Four Mile Creek appellation which, with Bordeuax grapes such as these, usually shows a riper, more fruit dominant profile. Not sure why it’s not labeled as from Four Mile Creek unless there are non-estate grapes being used. Regardless, this wine is excessively drinkable by itself or with some burnt meat. Cherry, darker berries balanced nicely with evident tannins and a hint of smokey cedar. If your thing is California cabernet, give this a try. It’s regularly $22.95 – so maybe limited availability at $18.95.

csmsyrahIf you play along at home, you’ll know that I’m partial to Washington wines – Syrah, Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Riesling mostly. They provide good value and I tend to like them – Charles Smith, Dunham Cellars, Columbia Crest, Canoe Ridge, et al. I guess I don’t have to defend it – I just like them most times. I shill for Chateau Ste. Michelle a bit too as it’s one of the producers that we have good access to in our market. I know they are one of the ‘big’ guys but I think they do an honest job with their products. I recommended their chardonnay last time out. This week there’s a great summer wine of theirs – 2011 Chateau Ste. Michelle Syrah #949651 $17.00. I detect very little of the spiciness that syrah can bring. But, there’s a lot of fresh fruit, earthy herbal stuff with balanced acidity and tannins (tannins perhaps subdued after a couple years in bottle). It’s drinking well right this minute. Give this a try if you like Aussie shiraz but sometimes find it a bit too over the top – and it’s warmer weather now so you want a lighter experience. This would be the one.

Haven’t had but drawing interest:

morgonWarmer weather suggests Beaujolais to me. Beaujolais and baseball. Another thing – why no wine at the Blue Jays games? “Get your Chatty Nuf dee Pap heeeeere.” Just sayin’. This week there’s a promising Morgon – 2012 Jean-Paul Brun Terres Dorées Morgon #264465 $23.95. The label is different from their Cotes de Brouilly Beaujolais, which I don’t get when that one is so distinctive. But, perhaps their crack marketing team thought that an unexpressive and boring label could best capture the imagination of Beaujolais lovers by blending in with every other label on the shelf. Regardless, the previous vintage was a very structured, bigger then ‘just Beaujolais’ Beaujolais. I liked that it had some backbone, some cellaring potential too. Some describe Morgon as a ‘masculine Beau’. I’d have to agree. I’d think a great cottage/patio and appetizer wine. I’m getting a few for next month.

Just a tip: if it’s hot outside or inside, it’s not a bad idea to chill red wines so they aren’t 30 degrees Celsius when they’re poured. That’s not what’s meant by ‘room temperature’. What I like to do but forget most times is leave these reds in the fridge for about 10-15 minutes before serving. I’m sure there are wine expert approved comprehensive charts on the web that would be a great help. But, without getting too complicated, I’m just suggesting that you try and get a bit of the heat off the bottle before serving, particularly during the dog days of summer.

 

 

The “Out Of The Darkness” Survival Kit

31 Mar

George, Ringo, Phil, Elton and Eric (with a perm, it seems). And does anyone recognize the guy playing tamborene? He looks familiar but I can’t place him.

It’s almost spring-like weather if you’re in the Great White North or even the Northeast. At the risk of jinxing us, I’m going out on a limb and saying that winter is finally over. And, we’re jonesing to get on the patio or deck and into the sun. But, since we’ve had so little practice over the last thousand months (or so it seems), I thought some suggestions for what you’ll need to truly enjoy this time of year is in order.

Twist Cap Wine – Let’s face it, in most cases, our utility corkscrews are crappy. They were free with the purchase of a box of wine back in 1994 and only see the light of day when you travel (got one in my overnight kit) or at the cottage. So, rather than worry about that, go to twist caps. That way you don’t require any additional accessories and they avoid any unpleasant injuries when opening bottle number three in mid-afternoon. You know those injuries where you’ve been a little careless or overzealous removing the foil or inserting the screw……….. Oh behave – you know what I mean. So, most of my recommended wines will be so enclosed.

sippy winePlastic Wine Glasses – I can hear the purists out there screaming, “Bill, not plastic! It ruins the nose, the flavours, the wine!” Well, I agree that there is something specialer, more special? about drinking wine from the appropriate made vessel. And, that would most definitely be made of glass. But, similar to the corkscrew, accidents can occur. I’m suggesting that you eliminate the worry of potential breakage of the Reidel (designed for medium riesling) glasses by using plastic glasses or, gasp, tumblers. Yes, tumblers like they do in many Mediterranean countries and my backyard. Have you seen those coloured wine sippy cups (picture above courtesy of http://www.whatonearthcatalog.com and available at Kiss The Cook here in London)? They’re pretty cool but have a back up plan as you tire of them a bit after the 3rd or 4th glass. Who wants to sip glass 4 through 7? Your sipping muscles get tired.

The Nibbles – Spring is special and perhaps the third best part of a Patio Sip and Nibble is the nibble. I don’t usually stand on formalities or conventions but I do draw the line for this occasion at packaged nibbles as in potato chips, tortilla chips, etc. It just isn’t done. Those snacks are for propping you up while in the throes of depression or, as we like to call it, winter. So, get off your ass and head to those stores that have been proliferating like rabbits – the Whole Foods style stores that make their “own” recently re-packaged nibbles (all from the same supplier, I bet). Or better yet, dig out one of your never-looked-at-in-two-years-because-you-get-recipes-on-line cookbook entitled “Nibbles On The Patio: 100 Sure Fire Recipes” make something yourself.

The Wine – I’m going to suggest that you remember that wine is one part of a patio day in the sun – not the only part. And, it’s hard for me to say this but I mean that you needn’t try and carry the day with the wine – it’s nice enough just to be outside and swigging something other than hot chocolate. It’s more important that the wine matches the gleeful and fun nature of the pationess. And, I think that we can stay at home for most of these.

Rosé
malivoireladybugMalivoire Labybug Rosé #559088 $15.95 – This is a wine that you should always have in the basement – to be utilized as a First Aid remedy for the blahs. Fresh, strawberries and a bit of a bite – perfect for nibbles – even if they are substantial nibbles. Serve well-chilled.
charteressesTavel – No, not a character from Fiddler On The Roof. It’s a rosé from the south of France, where rosé takes on an almost spiritual character. Who am I kidding? – it’s just wine but very good. A lot more substantial than many rosés (the reddest of pink wines – red wine lovers’ rosé) – so, made for real food. Some of my favourites are: Domaine des Carteresses Tavel #739474 $16.95, Domaine Maby la Forcadière Tavel Rosé #701318 $16.95. mabyroseDownside is that these Tavels have corks, better left for early in the session.

 

Pinot Noir
flatrockpnFlat Rock Cellars Pinot Noir #1545 $19.95 (on sale right now for $18.95) – this red is great for many occasions but I think that twisting a cap on this with some smoked salmon something would be perfect. Or just by itself, which I admit I’ve done but really just once.
thenedThe Ned Pinot Noir #361261 $19.95 – from New Zealand this is a great introduction to Marlborough’s take on pinot noir. A little darker than the Flat Rock but equally zesty and fun. Nothing serious here and that’s not a knock; that’s a compliment. Who wants to work at it when you’re outside sipping and slurping?

Riesling
There are a couple of ways to go here – dry or mediumish
csestaterieslingCave Springs Estate Riesling #286377 $17.95 this dry (not bone) riesling is one of the wines that shows us all that Niagara does wieswing weewee well – consistent, citrusy, a bit of floral something-something, and an acidity that’s lip-smacking good.
rosewoodsussreserveRosewood Sussreserve Riesling #258806 $14.94 this is a Beamsville Bench medium riesling but with enough acidity to quieten down the sweetness. Just saying that if you are one of those that say, “I only drink dry wines.” Then, decide whether you want to be convinced that there’s life outside dry wines. If you do – slug some of this down. If not, forget about it. This comes from a winery that doubles as a meadery (is that a word?) and it’s spooky but I detect a hint of clover in this.

Pinot Grigio – Hey, this is a wine blog and pinot grigio before June is like wearing white after Labour Day – it’s just not done. In fact, not sure it’s done after June either.

Now, I’ve missed some. You might say, “somewhat intentionally”, to drive some chatter in the comment box below about what wine I failed to include – Grüner Veltliner? Chardonnay? Dolcetto? Bubbly? Come on, you know there’s others.

So, get out there – grab some sun, some friends that have been hibernating, and some artchoke bruschetta, lamb kabobs with mint, roasted sunchoke with rosemary dip. See, there I go. A person that writes about wine can’t help it – we all have to get fancy about something. If it isn’t the nose of fresh fig paste and spice box nuances, it’s the creative use of unusual food pairings that sound impossible with ingredients that require a trip back to Whole Foods. So I’ll drop the wine pairing smack, get out the chips and dip, popcorn, nachos and salsa and get yourself some spring. And, if nibbles are the third best part of pationess, what are first and second? Well, friends and wine, of course! Here comes the sun!

 

 

Front-On, Dude – The Red Daily Slosh

13 Feb

This is for the February 15 release.

barI read a bunch of bloggers (actually a ‘barrel’ of bloggers is the proper term when they write stuff about wine) that do a great job of educating readers on the world of wine. I’ve been at this ‘real’ blog thing for a year and a bit after three years of a newsletter, and the penny just dropped – I recommend wines, ramble about stuff, but it is frequently the same stuff nothing new or educational. I know this because I did a statistical analysis of my recommendations, collated the wine tasting terms used to describe these wines, and applied an algorithm to evaluate the variability of wines and their characteristics. These were further divided into quadrants that represented sixteen different experiences and price points. The graphic analysis is below. OK, I couldn’t copy the chart from my Excel worksheet. But if it was below you’d notice that I have never used the term unctuous.

cytcarmenereSo, let’s start the Red Daily Slosh with a repeat recommendation (that didn’t last long, did it?). Technically, it isn’t a true repeat because it was a different vintage before but…. Anyway, it’s the 2011 Concha y Toro Winemaker’s Lot 148 Carmenère #030957 $18.95. They say that this is an Ontario market-only bottling. Don’t get too excited because they just call it something else elsewhere, I’m betting. What’s carmenère? An opera whose title is the victim of a fat-fingered typist? No. Actually, it is a traditional Bordeaux grape that they don’t use much, if at all, anymore in Bordeaux blends. It migrated to Chile and other regions where it was thought to be merlot (Chile) or cabernet franc (Italy). Interestingly, the mistaken identity came to light when it appeared on an episode of Maury Povich (Who’s The Father of My Baby, Merlot?), had a DNA test, and found out it was, wait for it………………gasp, carmenère! It’s Chile’s answer to Argentina’s malbec in that it is arguably done best and definitely most frequently in Chile. Usually medium to full-bodied, dark, and yummy. Cheaper versions can be a bit sweet and creamy a la cheap malbec but good ones are chewy, edgy and great burnt meat wines. The Concha y Toro above is the latter – the full-bodied and yummy one. It’s syrah-like spicy, dense but some edge to make it feel less ‘heavy’ and has some bush on the nose and in the mouth – woodiness. Love it. Tannins are smoothing out nicely. I think that, if you’ve never had carmenère, this would be a great place to start. If you have had it, do it all over again with this wine from the most complete winery in Chile.

charvetI’d like Spring, please. Yes, it’s a bit of a bugger here with temperatures in the minus 20 Celsius range many days. And, what will we see on the shelves this weekend but a Beaujolais. Wait, isn’t Beaujolais a better warm weather red? Well, it can be but this is maybe more a shoulder season Beaujolais. More substantial and serious. The perfect wine as we wait out the shitty weather. The 2012 Domaine Gérard Charvet La Réserve d’Amélie Moulin-à-Vent #356741 $20.00 would be a bit expensive for a common Beaujolais. But, this one is worth the splurge, IMHO. This is strawberries and even some darker fruits on the sniff – pure and straight forward in the mouth but I don’t mean one-dimensional; rather purposeful – it sneaks up on you on the second swallow and the second glass is even better, duh. Make sure it isn’t too warm – basement temp is best. I’ve recommended a bunch of Beaujolais (mostly for Grant) and love the Cru Beaujolais. Moulin-a-Vent is my favourite. Hurray for Beaujolais! Spring can’t be too far away.

gamayAnd while we’re sipping on gamay why not try one of the better versions of this grape from Ontario. The 2012 Malivoire Gamay #591313 $17.95 is always good value but this year it is a bit deeper with darker fruit than usual. Not sure if they allowed the grapes to ripen more or it just worked out that way given the vintage. This would be a good gamay-off with the Beaujolais above. This one a bit lighter. Buy them both and re-familiarize yourself with the two faces of gamay. I really appreciate the consistency of Malivoire at all their price points. I had this at the cellar door and I encourage you, if you’re down that way to make Malivoire one of your stops.

foretThere’s a club that I’ve mentioned before called the Wine Century Club. It requires that you drink wines that represent 100 different grape varieties. This week there’s a grape that I haven’t knowingly had – negrette and I think it might be my first catalogued wine for WCC sainthood. The negrette grape is mostly found in southwestern France – this one is from AC Fronton (hence the title) 2010 Chateau Bellevue la Forét #354134 $13.95 . They say it’s “hearty old-school”, brambly, and goes with an Olivier salad. I think that they have confused me with someone who knows what an Oliver salad really is. We’ll see. Try one with me and we’ll compare notes.

That’s all that I have any positive perspective on for the weekend.

Music accompaniment – Last time I included a video of Cream and a friend wondered why I made the Eric Clapton reference in the lead up, because he didn’t recognize Eric in the video. Why not? He’s the old worn out crooner isn’t he? Nope, he’s like 18! So, I’ve included one this time of Cream and an iconic song, again – Eric is in the red. He’s not Eric The Red but wearing the red Sergeant Pepper knock off.

Barrel picture from wikipedia

NY’s Resolutions and the Red Daily Slosh

3 Jan

I always flirt with New Year’s Resolutions. They most frequently deal unsuccessfully with moderation, exercise, and propriety. This year, I decided to stick to wine:

montesshelftalker#1 NY’s Resolution – No More Reading Shelf Talkers. Shelf talkers are those little tags that hang in the liquor store in front of wines with the score and maybe a description of the wine made by an accomplished wine critic. Wait a minute I’ve never seen my scores! Second wait a minute – I don’t provide scores. What I mean is: when I’m on a mission, I do not want to be subverted by the shameless marketing of unknown people. I hate it when that happens (all too frequently). I get that scores provide some way of distinguishing wines and ascertaining value. But, I’m not buying it anymore. I love all wine and I want to feel like I can just pick a bottle without fear of ‘making a mistake’. To hell with Mr. Parker and the lot – I’ll decide what wine is worthy of my cash all by myself, TYVM.  I mean, how can you make a mistake with wine? More on the obvious answer to that question in a later ramble.

#2 NY’s Resolution – Go For The Unusual. Now if you know my personal life, you’ll realize that this is not as sexy as it sounds. I’m not suggesting handcuffs, nyotaimori (and, if you know what that is without Googling, let’s talk), or whips. More, I’m thinking that I should try a broader range of wines. If I was ambitious, I’d try the Wine Century Club – but, to quote Groucho Marx, “I would never be a member of any club that would have me as a member”. So, it’s going to have to be searching out and drinking wines that I haven’t tried before. Where or where would I learn about these wines? Well, I follow many weird and adventurous wine bloggers and I know that they’ll help me.

#3 NY’s Resolution – Drink The Good Stuff. OK, if you’ve been following this informative blog, you’ll know that I’ve rambled on this a number of times. But, this time, I’m serious. I will open all my ’99 Chateau de Beaucastel. Well, baby steps – maybe some Cotes du Rhone?

That’s it! Pretty easy to follow – no weight targets, no difficult exercises, no need to practice my pathetic golf game (just a tweak with my pre-shot routine, I’m thinking?).

cosumanoNow on to the wine.

In life, you discover that you’ve been missing stuff. It always happens when you stumble on something that you didn’t know was so bloody good. Remember that time in the back seat – a revelation, right? Well, in wine, my revelation has been Sicilian wines. I came to it late in life. I have never been to Sicily but everyone I know that’s been there is effusive in their praise. The wine, the people, the land, the wine, the food. Then, there’s the wine. So, when I saw that there was one of my favourite Sicilian wines released this weekend, I had to recommend it. I enjoyed the 2010 Cosumano Noà #109512 $19.95 this fall – well, officially last fall. It is made with Nero d’Avola, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon. This is a very aromatic, substantial wine. It has a nice tannic edge and is dark in the fruit department. Absolutely not speaking from experience here but I don’t think you can just swill this. OK, you saw through that and I definitely am speaking from experience – I did just swill it and it was great but would have been better with food –  something acidic, tomatoey, sausagey. Love it! I can’t wait to travel to Sicily.

guilty menI realize that I have been neglect in recommending Ontario wines. I’m going to right that wrong starting today. In that vein, and because I love it for what it is, I’m saying get thee to the 2011 Malivoire Guilty Men #186247 $19.95. This is a cabernet/merlot blend made by one of the more consistent wineries in Niagara. It’s a drinkin’ wine. I should correct that as all wines are for drinkin’. What I mean is that this red is medium bodied, made for enjoying now, often, and on almost any occasion like all guilty men. You don’t need to fuss with food – would go well with any typical red wine fare. Just pop, correction – twist, and pour this refreshing red. Great idea for host(ess) gift or for a crowd. Get a case.

clifford bayI’ve been on a bit of a New Zealand Pinot Noir kick lately – Mount Riley (yum and reasonably priced), Sacred Hill (oops all gone), Amisfield (très yum and not so cheap), and just last week Quartz Reef (mega yum and priced accordingly). So, I had to try just one more – 2011 Clifford Bay Pinot Noir #309500 $19.95. I could tell you how it represents Marlborough pinot but I would have to know what Marlborough pinot typically carries. I don’t but will find out in good time. But, this is a nice example of how I like pinot – lean, powerful, and a bit earthy. I don’t usually let pinot breathe much but this needs a bit of air to settle the acidity down, if that makes sense. I guess I mean that the second sip is better than the first. Red fruits, some stoney stuff, and just enough bite. Lovely.

riscalI attended a Secret Santa this year. I lucked out and got a lovely bottle of Spanish Rioja 2008 Marques de Riscal Reserva #32656 $22.55. I have to say that this is as smooth and satisfying a Rioja as you’ll find for this price – spicey, cedary, and chocolaty. Beautiful stuff. If you love Rioja in an old-fashioned style, this is for you. I’m feeling that the description above isn’t effusive enough. How about “this is good sh*t!”

I am on my way to Providence next week. So, if anyone has recommendations for wine shops and restaurants, please let me know.

 

Reaching for Riesling, Among Others – the White and Sparkling Daily Slosh

14 Mar

 

Mailvoire RieslingRead a fantastic article by Tony Aspler (actually a transcript of a speech he gave) where he lays the groundwork for how the Ontario wine industry can improve. He talks about what Ontario does really, really well. And, no surprise, Riesling is mentioned as one grape that Ontario excels with. If you do a Niagara run, Cave Spring’s CSV and The Adam Steps Rieslings, and Flat Rock’s Nadja’s Vineyard are my favs. But, when I was at Malivoire a couple of weeks ago, I sampled their 2011 Riesling too. Loved it! I love tasting the wine in the winery best – talking to folks, getting free stuff. The tasting panel write up suggests sushi and I have to agree. Sushi with this Riesling (great balance, stuffing and enough acidity) is perfect. Makes me want to run out to Gozen for spider and rainbow rolls tonight. Oh, the wine? 2011Malivoire Riesling (#277483 $15.95.)

Want another Riesling – kind of a brother from a different mother? I am big fan of The Winegetter and he is all about wine (surprised?), but particularly German riesling. It’s been a bit of an education for me and much overdue. If you like German Riesling, want to like German Riesling, haven’t given German Riesling a chance, or are just curious about German Riesling, here’s a good starting point to try – the 2011 Balthasar Ress Hattenheimer Schützenhaus Riesling Kabinett (#735241 $17.95). This is a sweeter Riesling, maybe medium in our normal way of describing sweetness. However, if you let it sit in your basement for a few years, that sweetness lightens up a bit and you might get some petrol developing too. It’s got the typical acidity that Riesling brings to the table – so good with food which would be served on that table now. Give this a try – price is great too.

VintageInkNeed a chardonnay for breaking Lent? Try the 2011 Vintage Ink Rite of Passage Chardonnay (#245712 $16.95). I mean Lent shouldn’t require abstaining from chardonnay especially when there’s a new Pope in town to celebrate. Pope Francis drinks malbec, I bet. He’s a Mendoozy. Back to the wine above – this is a creamier chardonnay than many from Niagara. So, if that’s your thing, bring it on. Price is wonderful and just like the name and the image of this winery imply – its fun to drink. Come to think of it, what wine isn’t fun to drink?

Muga2011Ever had a Viura? Anyone? Buehler, Buehler? Viura is the primary white grape of Rioja. Thought that Rioja only made red wine? If it did, that would preclude Arlene (Ms. White Wine) and me ever going to Rioja. This week the shelves will be marginally full of 2011 Muga Barrel Fermented White (#958736 $15.95). This wine in past vintages has been warm (can I say that about a chilled wine?). I guess I mean that it’s a mouthful of spice and peaches to me like a peach pie only not sweet and without the crust. So, the metaphor isn’t really that good, is it? You need to try this at $15.95. If you haven’t, you should. Break out of the rut.

Spoiler Alert: Repeat Recommendation.

Sparklers are perfect for spring and spring is coming, right? Wet snow falling as I type. This week there’s a yummy, dry rosé sparkler It’s made from pinot noir – so carries some of the fruit that you love – I say strawberries. Lots to like about this and how can you argue about the price. Cave de Hoen Heimberger Brut Rosé Crémant d’Alsace (#168948 $16.95). Pick up a couple for the summer too.

A Grisly Discovery and a Mosey Down the Mosel for the White Daily Slosh

1 Mar

Malivoire_Pinot_grisDropped in to Malivoire a while back and tasted a nice break from the ordinary Niagara slate – a pinot gris. Everybody who ends up sloshing the ubiquitous pinot grigio, needs to try this. You won’t recognize the grigio in this wine. It has a lot more flesh (or as my typo says – felsh) and is a really, really interesting wine. Don’t read: interesting and see: weird, different and threatening. See: fun, satisfying and just right for sipping on a surprisingly warm March afternoon. For the 2011 Malivoire Pinot Gris (#591305 $19.95), if I was a wine geek, I’d say that this is Alsatian style. But, I’m not, so I won’t. But, if you wanted one like that, this is it – rounder and more substantial than the usual pinot grigio.

HenryPelChardA couple of chardonnays need some love – 2011 Henry of Pelham Barrel Fermented Estate Chardonnay (#268342 $19.95) and 2010 Te Awa Chardonnay (#301135 $18.95). Before we get into the riveting description of these wines, remember to serve them a bit warmer than freezing cold from the ice box. Wine Lecture of the Week: I think chardonnay needs a bit of room temperature to flesh out, get jiggy, and realize its potential. Both these wines will satisfy the wine lover who says they don’t like oak-dominated wines (liars, most of them) and still satisfy those who unequivocally say that oak is the bloke that stokes their……..sorry ran out of ‘oke’ words. Send in your suggestions. As I usually do, I’d suggest a coupling of these for a tasting. Bring some friends over. You do have friends, right? And, try them both. Continue reading

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