Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Norman Hardie Winery 2006 County Chardonnay - $29.00

Norman Hardy looks like a laid back kind of fellow, he has one of those accents that's a mish-mash of everywhere he's been and nowhere in particular; but get this wondering winemaker between a few of his barrels of wine and suddenly you know his origin is somewhere between the vineyard and the cellar. In the cellar he seems to atke on the roll of the nutty professor, going from barrel to barrel sampling, tasting and measuring; and the blends he comes up with are nothing short of wonderful. Before me sits a glass of his 2006 County Chardonnay (set for release in July 2007); only 800 liters will be available and it's gonna go quick – Norm’s wines are always in high demand. Aged in both new and second use French oak, this wine has tropical fruit on the nose with vanilla bean and butter. The palate is right at the heart of what Norm is aiming for and here he again hits the mark, “I’ll sacrifice aromatics for better structure and taste”, he once told me, and while the nose might leave a little something to be desired, the taste does not . Melon, vanilla, tropical fruit, nutmeg, baking spice and a mid-palate that has amongst other things has a thin coating of butter. The acidity in this wine is just right, and really gets the mouth watering. Then there’s the length, which will keep you coming back for more. Another notch on Norm’s belt of tasty, quality wines.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Scotch Block Country Winery Sweet Scarlet - $14.95

Some fruit wineries call their sweet wines “ice-wine-style” wines, others call them “dessert wines” or even “fortified/port-style” wines; but what ever they call these sweet beauties they do make dessert-time fun. I’ve also noticed of late that many fruit wineries are trying to find that magic-matching of fruits; and although some seem a little out there, others truly hit the mark. Scotch Block, located in Milton, has come up with something truly unique and wonderfully tasty. Sweet Scarlet is a cranberry-strawberry fusion in the sweet wine category. There’s no mistaking the smells and tastes, but it’s interesting to see how they combine. If you just let this wine sit in the glass the unmistakable smell of strawberry hits the nose; swirl the glass around and cranberry becomes the dominant smell. In the mouth it’s a similar sensation, with sweet strawberry in the mouth, finishing with the tartness of cranberry, and I could swear there’s some cinnamon that sneaks its way into the mid-palate. It is because of the cranberry finish that this wine does not come off as being overly sweet. Ice cold is the best way to serve this wonderful dessert wine … great on its own or, believe it or not, with a stick of red licorice.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Lakeview Cellars Estate Winery 2005 Starboard - $22.95

I have good news and bad news about this wine … the bad news is that it’s up in price, but what do you expect, it’s from the 2005 short-crop vintage. Short crop means less wine, which translate into more money for high-risk wines where the possibility of something going wrong is greater. The good news, nothing did, and Lakeview has made one fantastic port-knock-off. I’ll let you figure out the Starboard / Port reference on your own and instead give you the highlights of this beauty. Made from 100% Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, fortified to 19% alcohol and topping out at a mere 7 on the sugar scale. This wine exhibits classic port-like characteristics: sweet black cherries and milk chocolate on the nose followed by full on dark chocolate covered cherries and sweet damson plum in the mouth, and a long sweet finish. Not as thick as port, nor as complex, but let’s give it some time and see how it develops – right now it’s quite delicious, I’d like to see what it’s like in 10 years or so.

Additional note: After 4 weeks of being open and taking a nip ever so often, the wine still retained great flavours and smoothness. Keep capped and at room temperature – and serve with dark chocolate.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Three in One - Mountain Road Chardonnays

Word has finally made it onto the streets: the Grape Guy is not a chardonnay fan, and every Tom, Dick and Winemaker is out to change that way of thinking. The most recent is Mountain Road Wine Company, who recently released a slew of chardonnays – two of which were award winners: one at the Ontario Wine Awards (OWA) and the other a double-gold recipient at the All Canadian Wine Championships (ACWC). We’ll start with the non-winner of the grouping, the 2004 Unoaked Chardonnay ($15.15); which I believe, by all rights, should have been an award winner. Many wineries are getting away from too much oak in their Chards, while others are giving wine drinkers the option of staved or non-staved (wooded). This unoaked version is wonderfully fruity on the nose with tropical fruit layers: mangoes and pineapple, on a bed at leafy green lettuce, probably from some extended lees contact. The front-palate follows the nose, while the back is peach pit and leafy. There's plenty of alcohol in this one (14%) and the finish is delicious under-ripe peach. Moving along down the line of new Chardonnays is the 2003 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay ($16.15). This one has the same alcohol heat as it's unwooded counterpart, but there's plenty of barrel influenced tastes and smells here; the colour also shows it's a barrel origins with a more golden hue. The nose shows butterscotch, vanilla, and nutmeg with a subtle hint of some grassy-leafiness. In the mouth the wine explodes with a multitude of flavors including: vanilla, toasty spices, some leesy-butteryness, and celery salt; some long oakyness finishes this one off in your mouth (this barrel fermented won the gold at the OWA’s). Finally, we have your double gold medal winner; and with all this hardware they should anoint Steve Kocsis (owner and winemaker) the new King of the Chards, if there was such a crown to be given. The 2003 Barrel Fermented Reserve Chardonnay ($26.15) has got some hot, hot heat in the alcohol department (14.7%), making this one good for drinking or cleaning wounds. The nose is pure butter and vanilla, while the palate shows buttery, oak and cinnamon flavors. This one needs time to settle down and develop further, but its mouth coating flavors and pleasant lengthy finish bodes well for its future.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Fielding Estate Winery 2006 Sparkling Riesling - $28.00

Fielding has been making a name for themselves with their Rieslings, so it only stands to reason that if they were going to make a sparkling wine that Riesling would be the grape they’d choose to make it with. This is winemaker Ray Cornell’s second go around with sparkling wine and it is decidedly a very good effort. This wine is made using the tank method so the bubbles aren’t as long lived as they would be in the traditional method; they start off big and bubbly and calm to a delicate upward trickle. When the cork is first popped you’ll find a fresh, vibrant and extremely moussy wine … but as many hairdressers know, mousse doesn’t last forever and the same can be said here. Once dissipated you’re left with a fizzy refresher that manages to hold on to its bubbles over the long haul; then again a bubbly this good does not remain in your glass for long. Once the foaminess dissipates and the fear of getting bubbles up your nose is gone, take a sniff: fresh apples and peaches with a pleasant toasty under-currant. The peaches and apples follow through in the mouth along with some pineapple and lemon freshness. Good acidity and great taste makes this a worthy addition to the Fielding stable of Rieslings, and one of Niagara’s best sparklers.