Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Thomas & Vaughan Old Gold – Heritage Series

Let’s end the year on a sweet note by grabbing something out of the cellar and checking on it’s progress. Here’s a blast from the past that I uncovered at the back of my fridge.

Sometime over the last year I took a bottle of wine, put it in the fridge, and forgot about it. Not on purpose mind you. It was a dessert wine, and each time we got to dessert we decided against having it. Soon I had forgotten about it entirely. Now, basically what happened, besides getting really chilled wine, was I stopped the aging process – think of it as cryogenics for wine.

If you are, or have been, a fan of Thomas & Vaughan over the years you know they made a sweet half bottle of wine before it was fashionable to make a quality sweet half bottle of wine. They made it from Catawba grapes and they called it “Old Gold”. Catawba grapes were virtually banned in Canada during the rip out and re-plant back in the 70’s, when Ontario decided to go from the sweet Baby Duck type wines and start making the varietals we all know and love today. The Catawba is widely grown and made into wine down in New York State (believe it or not, the 2nd largest wine producing state in the US next to California). Catawba makes a sweet wine no matter what style you are trying for, though I can’t imagine a dry Catawba wine (I’m sure somebody has tried though).

This Thomas & Vaughan “Old Gold” has been out of production for sometime, and because there is no vintage date on the bottle I can not pinpoint the exact age of the wine, but I’ll hazard a guess at about 7 years … if somebody does know the last time they made this wine, I’d love to know. So how does this approximately 7 year old, slightly illegal, Catawba wine taste? Pretty darn good I must say.

Now, remember, mine has been sitting in the fridge cryogenically chilled for about a year – so if you have a bottle it may have a little more perceptible age on it, but these are my notes from the tasting. Amber in colour, which shows its age, because this wine is usually vinted pale-to-golden yellow (like an icewine). The nose shows signs of apricot, pear, apple, raisins and sweet cinnamon sugar. The taste is just as intriguing – a baked apple with cinnamon and nutmeg at the beginning, changing to a tart, unripened apple in the back palate, finishing off with a rusty (oxidized) apple finish. The medium body and low acidity really adds to the taste making it an exemplary dessert wine in its twilight years.

This wine, although no longer made, nor very popular, aged with great style, grace and complexity – too sweet in it’s youth it really shows something different and more pleasant in its latter days. Kudos to Thomas & Vaughan for taking the chance on this wine. No longer available anywhere – unless you have a bottle hidden somewhere.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mike Weir Estate Winery 2005 Chardonnay - $15.95

This wine came as quite a surprise – not sure what I was expecting but I got more than I bargained for. These days I see Chardonnay on the label and immediately I get my back up and I start having “expectations” of over oaking and a flavour profile that is going to accost my tongue and other senses with an array of “too much”. But this Chardonnay truly impressed with a sweet middle and dry finish. An initial buttery nose gave way to lime, pineapple, vanilla and subtly sweet fruit aromas. The taste proved to be even nicer with sweet vanilla and apple on the forefront of the palate, following through with some apricot and dried fruit on the back palate. A wonderful wine to sip on before, during and/or after a meal, in this case maple-soy-ginger glazed salmon.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Rosehall Run 2004 Buckthorn Red - $14.95

Rosehall Run is definitely on of the wineries to watch in Prince Edward County. All the wines I have tried from their portfolio, be it from Niagara grapes or County grapes, have been of exceptional quality. They, like Long Dog, have the goal of one day being self sufficient in grapes and using out-of-County fruit only when they want to, not because of need. This all-county Zweigelt fulfills that wish … and admirably. There are only a handful of wineries making Zweigelt, and that’s too bad, because when made well these wines can be as flavourful and food friendly as any you’ve tried. This one is a great little quaffer, good for pizza or pasta nights. Well-balanced acidity with a raspberry and blackberry nose and taste. Available at the winery only.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Norman Hardie Winery 2005 County Cabernet Franc - $24.00

From young vines come young wines with little finesse – that’s just a simple rule of thumb, but thankfully, in the hands of Norm Hardie that’s not always the case. Norm has produced yet another wonderful wine, but this time he’s used all County fruit, from his 4 year old vines, which makes the wine both interesting and appealing. This wine can be consumed two ways: slightly chilled or at about room temperature … and it makes for an interesting experiment on how temperature affects wine.
With a slight chill the wine has a red raspberry nose and soft fruity flavours … so it makes a great wine for sipping at a party or on a patio somewhere (I would say on a late fall afternoon – but our weather this year does not seem to be co-operating in this endeavour). Wait for the wine to warm up a little and you’ll be able to pick out more smells and tastes, in short the wine becomes more complex. Now there are a lot more aromas in the glass, then the chilled version would suggest. Those soft approachable red raspberries turn to black raspberries along with blackberries, licorice, cloves, sage, cinnamon and oak. Meanwhile the soft fruity mouth-feel switches gears and becomes black fruit, cassis, plum, and earthiness with a medium finish. It’s an interesting experiment, but one you might want to try on a less expensive bottle – at $24 this wine might seem a little high, but consider the 2005 short crop and that this wine is all-county fruit, and you’ll see why it’s that price. I’ve set a bottle down for a couple of years to see how it develops, you on the other hand can either drink it now or do the same … and we’ll test it again then. Cheers. Available at the winery only.