Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Muskoka Lakes Winery 2001 Cranberry – Vintner’s Reserve - $14.95

Last week I found myself up north in Bala, Ontario, at Muskoka Lakes Winery – a winery based (mostly) on cranberries, not surprising considering it’s locale in the “Cranberry Capital of Canada”. I tried plenty of cranberry-based wines (white cranberry, cranberry blueberry and a cranberry sparkling cooler) and some blueberry wines as well (stainless steel and oak-aged versions) … and if you will remember I hailed their Red Maple (cranberry with a touch of maple syrup) as one of my favourite wines of the 2006 Wine and Cheese Show (Newsletter 28). Now, I’ve got another interesting wine from this winery to share with you.

Who would have thought that fruit wine could age, beyond a couple of years, and get better. But cranberries have similar properties to grapes, which includes tannins; but unlike grapes they are not temperamental about the weather, they will ripen properly each and every year. This allows Muskoka Lakes the opportunity to make the “same” wine year after year (even if they do vintage date the bottle). Which now brings me to this week’s bottle of choice. In speaking with the store employee (thank you Corrie) – it was determined that cranberry wine is better when aged 3 to 4 years (maybe even 5 to 6 years, winemaker said they have another year or two in them – the science isn’t exact at this moment). This wine is from the 2001 harvest (hence 4 years old: from harvest [2001] to shelf [2002] is about a year) and lacks the mouth-puckering tartness of the 2004 or 2005 versions (currently on the shelves). The nose is sweet cranberry and cherry; the taste is smooth and easy with just a hint of the cranberries-tart taste, incredibly smooth, with soften cherry and cranberry on the palate. A much easier and infinitely more pleasant drink for summer sipping, without the lip smacking scrunched up face you’ll make from the tarter versions. The moral of this tale is to buy some and stick it in the cellar for a few years. The good news is that the 2001 is still available in limited quantities up at the winery (or can be ordered over the internet) as the “Vintner’s Reserve 2001 Cranberry” – so you can taste where the ’04 and ‘05’s are headed.

Go up to Bala, enjoy the day by the lake or on the water … but for heaven sake get to the Muskoka Lakes Winery and taste the difference a few years can make … you be the judge on what you like better. (For those who like tart tart tart cranberry taste – the 2004 or 2005 cranberry will definitely do the trick. Available at the winery only.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Niagara College Teaching Winery Autumn Gold (Crab Apple) - $9.95

Here’s a wine that I tried with a friend in the middle of last week during one of those hot summer days, and we differentiated on our opinion about the wine. When I purchased this wine I was told that it is “delicious and very interesting”, and very unique … it’s made of crab apples grown on the property of the College. Its golden colour speaks to its name and is lovely to look at through the clear bottle it comes in. My friend and I got the same nose of raisins and rusty apples, but we differed completely on our opinion of the taste. She thought the sour-tartness of the wine was refreshing, especially for the summertime; while I found it rancid and off-putting … way too sour to enjoy, no matter what the temperature. So while she continued to drink and enjoy the wine, I moved on to something else. But that got me thinking about something you hear all the time: “if everybody liked the same thing then they’d only make one kind of wine” which obviously they don’t. So, I put this one out to you dear reader, invest the $9.95 for a bottle of this unique wine and let me know what you think. Available at the winery only.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Niagara College Teaching Winery Gamay Noir - $12.95

One good Gamay deserves another … 3 weeks ago in this column, Lailey Vineyards got kudos for their newly released, light bodied, fruit-drive Gamay; and because summer is still here I decided to feature another. Gamay, as you know, is usually a fruity wine and one of those reds that is “socially acceptable” to chill. The Niagara College Teaching Winery is the first in Canada where students, under the tutelage of Jim Warren and his staff, get to make wine from start to finish … and believe it or not, they have garnered a few awards along the way. This wine has tons of fruit flavours … the nose is red licorice, raspberry mixed in with other red fruit; while in the mouth it’s bursting with sweet cherries and a variety of berries, like blue, black and rasp. Very fruity, very drinkable and great for summer … or, heck, whenever you like. Have a friend who claims not to like red wine; this would be a great place to start to prove him or her wrong. Available at the winery only.

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Hillebrand Winery 2004 Late Harvest Vidal - $18.95

Many years ago I tried my very first late harvest vidal, it happened to be a ’98 Hillebrand Late Harvest Vidal, and at one point it was my favourite wine - not an every day sipper to be sure, but my favourite special occasion wine. To this day I still remember it’s luscious flavours and tropical nose - it became the benchmark for all the Late Harvests to follow. Now, the 2004 version tops what my memory recollects. Apples, pears, mangos, golden plums, honey, apricot and cantaloupe are all flavours that can be picked up by the nose – while the mouth simplifies matters a bit with honeyed-pear and nectarine flavours. And, of course, there is the balancing of elements the proper amount of sweetness with just the right level of acidity, making this wine pleasant and extra special to drink. In three words: luscious, thick and delicious. Don’t miss out on something this wonderful – perfect as a dessert on its own. Available at the winery.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Lailey Vineyards 2005 Gamay - $13.95

You have probably heard me (or read anyway) talk about the new penchant in Ontario for making fuller bodied more age-worthy Gamay … which is not usually the norm for this Beaujolais grape … well it’s nice to see that the art of the light bodied quaffing version has not been lost either. Award winning winemaker Derek Barnett makes this one as an easy drinking, chillable (if you wish) quaffer. The Blackberries and blueberries on the nose are followed up by slightly oaky, cherry and plum flavours in the mouth. Simple, sweet and easy – what Gamay, was originally, intended to be. Available at the winery only.