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.

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