Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cattail Creek Catastrophe - $20.00

This week Cattail Creek finally puts their name to good use by introducing "Catastrophe" ... have a listen to the Podcast to find out what the catastrophe is, or, if you choose the more boring route, you can just read the tasting notes below (the Podcast is always more fun):

This is a Riesling Icewine that has been infused with a blend of chocolate and orange. The nose is exotic, with mango, chocolate and a hint of orange, while what you get on the palate depends on what you’re looking for, some pick up on the orange, while others get the chocolate … on the finish there is definitely a bit of spice that everyone gets.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Strewn 2006 Rogue’s Lot Cabernet Franc / Cabernet Sauvignon - $13.95

This week there's a little mystery in the Weekly Wine Note, that's right, it's off to Strewn to find out what is so Rogue about this Rogue's Lot Cabernets blend ... have a listen to the Podcast to find out why, or, if you choose the more boring route, you can just read the tasting notes below (the Podcast is always more fun):

It has light cranberry, sour cherry and other sweet red fruits on the nose – the palate is pleasant and smooth, following the nose with all those red fruits, but also adds in a bit of white pepper for good measure.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

13th Street 2006 Sandstone Old Vines Gamay - $25.00

This week I once again visit 13th Street winery - who seem to have December all locked up when it comes to new releases ... have a listen to the Podcast to find out why, or, if you choose the more boring route, you can just read the tasting notes below (the Podcast is always more fun):

The nose is earthy with strawberry, sour cherry and cinnamon … but it’s in the mouth where this wine really takes on its full character … it’s all cherry from beginning to end: candied front, big red and juicy in the middle, and sour cherry on the back end, where you’ll also find a little vanilla in the extra long finish.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Stonechurch Vineyards 2007 Merlot - $14.95

This week I welcome back a winery that has been sitting on the fringes of VQA for a couple of years now ... have a listen to the Podcast to find out why, or, if you choose the more boring route, you can just read the tasting notes below (the Podcast is always more fun):

The nose was black fruit dominated, with blueberry, spice and hints of black raspberry in the background. I was originally poured this wine from an earlier-in-the-day opened bottle, the tastes were black fruit, spice, pepper, vanilla, nutmeg and a slight presence of oakiness along with nice firm tannins … when I asked for a new bottle to be opened to compare I found the wine to be even spicier on both the nose and palate.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

13th Street 2006 Sandstone Chardonnay - $18.00

This week it's a Chardonnay for Chardonnay fans from one of Ontario's few "cult wineries" ... haven't heard of 13th Street? Well that's a pity because you should get to know this winery, toot suite (as the French say). Take a listen to the Podcast to hear why this winery fits the "cult" billing and why you should get to know it; or, if you choose the more boring route, you can just read the tasting notes below (the Podcast is always more fun):

This wine has all the smells and tastes Chardonnay fans love. Apple, peach, citrus, vanilla, creamy caramel, touch of toasty oak and a creamy smoothness in the mouth.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Henry of Pelham 2005 Merlot - $19.95

This week we check out a wine that I thought was not longer on the shelves at Henry of Pelham - but luckily I bumped into Paul DeCampo (Key Accounts Representative for HOP), who informed me that indeed it still is available, just in rather limited quantity - so let me advise you to take a take a trip to St. Catharines to pick up a few bottles of this rare (for 2005) beauty. Take a listen to the Podcast to hear why this wine is a rarity, or, if you choose the more boring route, you can just read the tasting notes below (the Podcast is always more fun):

After spending 14 months in French and American oak (1/2 of which was new) the wine has emerged as a real gem. The nose is seemingly simplistic with blackberry, cherry and red fruits. In the mouth, you’ll find a smooth, rich wine with blackberries and black cherries, a nice tannin structure, a touch of cedary-oakiness and a delicious dark chocolate finish. Sit for 5+ years if you like … but drinking now is not a problem.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Thirty Bench 2006 Winemaker’s Red - $22.00

This week we take a trip to the Beamsville Bench to see what's new and exciting at Thirty Bench - and I'll tell you a little story about a fight I had at a tasting over this winery ... take a listen to the Podcast to hear the tale of two wine writers, or, if you choose the more boring route, you can just read the tasting notes below (the Podcast is always more fun):

The nose is chocolate, cherry, blueberry and cinnamon, while the palate has tobacco, spices, black fruit with a predominance towards black cherry along with plenty of the other stuff you found on your sniffer … holding time for this one is about 5 year, my advice, drink this one while you wait for the 05 to come around and for the 07 to come out.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Vineland 1998 St. Urban Chardonnay - $30.00

This week we dive deep into the cellar at Vineland to try a 1998 Chardonnay ... take a listen to the Podcast to hear how I got my hands on a bottle of this, or you can choose to just read the tasting notes below (the Podcast is more fun though):

The nose was hell-bent on giving you pure buttered-caramel and it delivered with each swirl and sniff, it was followed on the palate with the merest hint of celery root. But it was the oak-sweetness, creamy texture, hint of fruits past and luscious lingering finish that stuck around, and hung about and just plain stayed with you long after you swallowed … wow. After 10-years this wine has aged gracefully and has turned into a stunning beauty – a grand dame if you will. Only 4 cases remain at the winery, so get on the horn and get your bottle before their all gone … oh, and did I mention this is a drink now wine – don’t hold it, savour it as soon as it is chilled, forget the food, this one should be enjoyed all by its lonesome.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Reif Estate 2007 Cabernet Merlot - $13.95

This week it's all about simplicity (and tasty) take a listen to the Podcast to see what I mean or just read the tasting notes below:

There are lots of berries on the nose black ones, rasp ones and cherry ones – there’s also a little bit of spiced vanilla in there. On the palate there’s black cherry, cinnamon and a healthy kick of bittersweet chocolate; as the bottle remained open it became a spiced cocoa. The finish lingers with black cherries … cocoa enrobed black cherries – sounds simple but mostly it sounds delicious.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chateau des Charmes 2007 Aligote - $13.45

As we look ahead towards much cooler weather and ... I hate to say it, snow, the desire for wines that are heavier, like heart and cockle warming reds and monster oaky whites, takes hold of most of us. This week I look at a white that could quite easily be mistaken for one of those big whites, but in fact is as unoaked as a Riesling. Check out the Podcast for it's full story or below for just the particulars.

The nose could easily fool you into believing it's an oaked Chardonnay, with lots of vanilla and buttery notes along with a hint of floral, and touch of almond. The palate proves just as interesting, with vanilla-caramel-apple and a dash of cinnamon; there's a mid-mouth citrus sweetness here that gives way to green apple tartness on the finish, yet shows an elegant smoothness and fullness in the mouth - and yes that hint of almond finds it's way to the tongue too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Organized Crime Winery 2006 Pipedown - $18.00

Yet again we're back at The Organized Crime Winery and once again I have a story to tell - so take a listen to the Podcast of this wine ... for details about the wine only see below:

This 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 45% Syrah and 10% Petit Verdot blend, which is one of the first reds off the line at The Crime Boss, has a nose of cranberry, a bit of pepper, and cherries as sour as the offended congregation’s mood … those cherries continue with other red berries in a smooth, soft, easy drinking style of red. This one’s pleasant and enjoyable.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Organized Crime Winery 2006 The Download - $25.00

To find out the best part about celebrity wineries or one’s with a story to tell listen to the Podcast, … to know about this wine only, read below:

A blend of 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Franc this wine exhibits smells of mocha/chocolate, black cherry and tobacco, while the palate doles out coffee bean, black berry, cedar and a drying finish; great for a night of beef and/or organ meet stew.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

D’Angelo Estate Winery 2006 Iced Foch - $15

I wrote about this wine in Newsletters #89 after I had attended the Lake Erie North Shore new vintage tasting … this wine became one of my picks of the bunch that week … but my attraction to this wine didn’t stop there. Listen to my taste trial with some friend, learn how Sal D'Angelo makes this wine and more on this week's Weekly Wine Note Podcast.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Calamus 2007 Gewurztraminer - $13.00

Last year Calamus called this wine “Segitta” and charged $15 for it – the name was silly but the wine in the bottle was serious. This year, they’ve come back to a serious name, “Gew├╝rztraminer” (also the name of the grape – for those who don’t know) for this serious wine, and now it’s the price that’s the big joke here: thirteen bucks for this beauty, someone was asleep at the quality to price ratio button (thank goodness). The nose is spicy, floral, lychee, and exotic with a touch of orange peel and real appeal … the taste is even more enticing with more peachy-lychee goodness, the right amount of spice and even some white pepper. The finish is long with a spiced-orange-peel flavours left behind. This is a seriously good wine that requires you to pick it up by the case load (or half case if you prefer) … especially if you like Asian, Thai or are just serious about good wine at awesome prices.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Coyote’s Run 2007 Cabernet - $16 (for a limited time)

In a perfect world one could raise and lower one’s price based on vintage and quality without any problem. Oh wait, you can do that, unless your wine is listed at the LCBO; which just so happens is the case with this Coyote’s Run offering. In 2005 this 50-50 blend of Cabernet was exquisite and the winery priced the wine at $17 … the LCBO liked it too, so they bought some and put it on their general list. In 2006, owner Jeff Aubry thought the vintage wasn’t as good as the ’05 and lowered the price by a buck, the LCBO said “we can do that”. We are now starting to see wines from the outstanding 2007 vintage and recognizing quality level increase, Jeff wanted to return his wine back to the original $17 – the LCBO isn’t quite sure he should be doing this. Which at this moment is good for you and me, but not so good for Coyote’s Run. So be warned, this wine will raise in price, but for now we are getting one heck of a deal on a wine loaded with black cherry, earthy-cedary nuances, lots of black fruit like cassis and black berry, cinnamon, spice, a full mouth feel with good tannins and a dusting of bittersweet chocolate on the finish. Funny thing is, with all those descriptors this wine is still a bit closed at this time – I’d give it a year to a year and a half before opening and a cellarability of 7-plus years … if you can’t wait then the decanter is your next best option.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Hillebrand 2007 Artist Series Sauvignon Blanc - $11.95; 2007 Artist Series Limited Edition Sauvignon Blanc - $15.95

Here are a couple of wines if you are looking for that last gasp of summer whites. Yes they’re both Sauvignon Blancs and the difference is a whopping $4, but I hear you saying: “there must be more than just the price difference … and to that I answer, “you’re dang straight.” Let’s start off with the $11.95 version. The Kiwis have pretty much dictated how Sauvignon Blanc should taste and smell, they’ve also done a very good job at selling it to us starting at about $17 a bottle. That’s why this Hillebrand Artist Series Sauv Blanc is such a deal at under $12 a bottle. It has the grassy, gooseberry and touch of grapefruit the Kiwis have installed in our collective brains when we see “Sauvignon Blanc” on the label, but this one is a third less the price, has touch of that biting acidity but still retains a pleasant citrus finish. The Limited Edition ($15.95) is sourced from 2 vineyards and only 500 cases were. It shows some real character differences from the first wine … could that also be due to the 30% oak component that was used during fermentation, or the 5 months of barrel age? You bet … this Savvy B. has a grassy minerality with some melon and lemon; smooth and easy on the palate with a good lengthy finish and a hint of peach at the end. It’s your choice, but you can’t go wrong with either wine.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lailey Vineyard 2007 Counterpoint - $25.00

White blends seem to be gaining in popularity in Niagara (think Flat Rock’s Twisted and Hillebrand’s Trius White). Now here’s Lailey’s addition to the fray: “Counterpoint”; the difference between the two previously mentioned white blends and the Lailey version starts with it’s availability, it’s a premium, limited edition (140 cases) wine that is the “counterpoint” to their big gun red Impromptu. This white blend was also developed with a more discerning taste and clientele in mind, one who understands about complex and multi-layered wines. A blend of 100% estate fruit (that will change annually) that consists of 60% Gewurztraminer and the rest being equal parts Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and unoaked Chardonnay. The aromas are floral, spicy, lemony and vanilla. In the mouth it develops in stages: a big fat front that greets the tongue head on, while the finish has biting acidity and good length – a “counterpoint” to the fleshy beginning. Flavours include, but aren’t limited to, spicy-vanilla, sweet/sour apple, floral, mineral and much more. Scheduled for release September 2008.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Puddicombe Estates 2003 Estate Mist - $30.00

When you think about wineries in Niagara I bet Puddicombe Estates isn’t one of the first you think about, heck I bet it doesn’t make your top ten; which is too bad because they are making some excellent and innovative wines there. Their Cabernet Franc did very well in the Cabernet Franc Challenge, held earlier this year, capturing 3rd place in the Reserve category. And who’da thunk that they would be making the very first Champagne knock-off made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, with a full 3 years of bottle ageing, and released in August of 2007. Apples and buttered toast on the nose; slightly honeyed with apples and citrus along with a buttery-toasty taste in the mouth; there’s also good zing on the tongue and a long toasty finish. I pulled this bottle out at a family celebration and somebody said, “this tastes like Champagne” – which I’m sure Lindsay Puddicombe (winemaker) would feel is high praise indeed.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Jackson Triggs 2006 Delaine Vineyard Chardonnay - $19.95

Despite all the bad-mouthing Chardonnay gets it still retains the title of the number one selling white wine in the world – and the most widely planted. The ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) movement started as a backlash to those overly oaky wines from both Australia and the U.S. – but it really is hard to find fault with a well made, gently oaked beauty of a Chardonnay, because, in truth, those are the things about it that made this grape and its wines so popular. Which brings us to this Jackson Triggs Delaine Vineyard Chardonnay. Some say the Delaine Vineyard may be the best in Ontario, I’ll leave that debate in others hands; though I have to admit, I rarely if ever taste a bad bottle of wine with the Delaine designation on it – this Chard is no exception. This is Chardonnay elegance personified with delicious fruit and a great lingering finish. There’s a fantastic citrus component here along with a deft hand in the use of soft oak. One of the nicest Chardonnays I’ve had in a while.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Henry of Pelham 2006 Reserve Pinot Noir - $24.95

Finicky, fickle, fine and fragrant – all defining words for Pinot Noir. This beauty starts with the use of older blocks of vines and the thinning of the crop to 2 tons per acre. Then it is aged for 9 months in 30% new wood. Ron Giesbrecht (winemaker) has really put something special into this bottle of Pinot, bringing out the best fragrances from this fine, finicky and fickle grape. The nose has such sweet raspberries, strawberries and beet root smells; while on the palate you’ll find that telltale-Pinot earthiness followed by sweet oak and a great finish – like raspberries plucked straight from the vine. Good acidity and balanced tannins round this one out perfectly and set it up for a 3-6 year aging potential.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vineland 2007 Elevation Chardonnay - $25.00

I’m looking down the barrel, so to speak, at a $25 unoaked Chardonnay, huh? I have never criticizes Vineland’s pricing policy. I find their pricing to be fair, with a good range of wines in all categories and price ranges, and their $25 Elevation 2005 Cabernet-Merlot is a delicious age-worthy stunner that would be a steal at double the price. The Elevation series of wines are made with the grapes found at the pinnacle of the Vineland property. The story goes that winemaker Brian Schmidt was walking the vineyard one day, stopped, looked around and realized he was at the highest point in the vineyard – thus the name elevation was born. This wine is delicious both for the olfactory and palate-factory. The smells are apple, pear, peach and tangerine blossom; while in the mouth its beautifully smooth and clean with a sweetish note of apples and pears along with a good finish of desirable length. So why the $25 price tag if its unoaked? I guess it takes more manpower to get the grapes off the mountain – that’s my supposition anyway. Great wine – funny price … but I can’t fault Vineland, heck they make a stellar 2007 Cabernet Franc for $12.95 – guess they gotta make up the price somewhere … buy them as a pair and split the difference.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Vineland 2007 Rieslings - Dry ($13.75); Elevation ($25.00); St. Urban ($20.00)

This is the tale of 3 Rieslings, each with its own story to tell, and each with a different status in life.

Take the seemingly-lowly $13.75 general list Dry Riesling, who’s grapes make-up and origin could be considered as bastardized; its floral, citrus and honeydew melon nose is followed by melon and candied orange-rind flavours. A fantastic wine for the price – throw in that racy acidity along with that fruitiness and you’ve got yourself one fine Riesling.

The single vineyard St. Urban Riesling is made from some of the oldest vines in Niagara and have a celebrity-storied past. More mineral-driven with lime and peach on the nose, big citrus, big acidity and a touch of peachy sweetness in the mouth.

Finally, we move from the past to the future: the Elevation Riesling is the newest addition to the Vineland family. These vines grow at the highest point on the Vineland property, hence the Elevation name. The nose smells of talc and lemonade sweetness; there’s a big tart bite on the tongue, that’s when the green apple tartness come in along with peach and some emerging petrol notes – sweeter than the other two Rieslings, but what do you expect from the baby of the clan.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Henry of Pelham 2006 Gamay - $14.95

Gamay is such an under-rated grape … in fact it just might be the Rodney Dangerfield of grapes … it gets no respect at all. Most people think of it as a light, fruity, simple wine for drinking now thru the end of next week. But that’s not always the case, especially for those who decide to make a serious Gamay wine. I have tasted some wonderful Beaujolais-Village from France and Gamays from Ontario that have shown potential for longevity and also had real depth and character. Speaking of depth and character this Henry of Pelhem Gamay seems to have plenty of both, in fact my notes say “intense” on both the nose and taste. Earthy-strawberry on the nose; pleasant earthy raspberry-strawberry mixture in the mouth, all culminate in a black licorice finish. For added enjoyment I would suggest chilling this one down in the fridge for half or even a full hour … you’ll end up making a completely different wine out of it, and I bet you find yourself liking it both ways.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pillitteri Estates 2007 Pinot Grigio - $15.00

To me “Grigio” should be light, refreshing, crisp and citrus-like … this grigio doesn’t have all those characteristics, but it just might be one of the nicest Gris/Grigio’s you’ll try this season – at a very reasonable price. The nose is simply delightful, delivering up peach, pear, apricot and pineapple … the palate has less fruit than the nose suggests, but I believe that keeps your tongue from being over-taxed with an overload of fruitiness. In the mouth, you’ll get the peachiness and on the finish you’ll pick up some refreshing lemon zest. In my opinion it’s too tropical to be Grigio, but too good to pass up on a technicality – in one word this one wonderful ... now go find a patio and enjoy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Southbrook Vineyard 2006 Whimsy Syrah (Lot 19) - $32.75

This is a barrel selection wine, meaning that during a routine tasting of the barrels the folks at Southbrook found this wine to be different, more unique or special in some way over the other barrels – thus they decided it needed a special bottling so you too could experience its uniqueness. Black raspberry, strawberry and pepper greet the nose, whilst in the mouth you’ll find a good tannins backbone holding up the black pepper and black fruit notes … good longevity for a 2006, you should be enjoying this one for the next 5-7 years.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Coyote’s Run 2006 Red / Black Paw Cabernet Franc - $20.00

Two Cabernet Francs, vinted the exact same way, just one grows on red clay soil the other on black, the difference this subtlety makes will astound you. I speak of course about the Coyote’s Run red and black science experiment they did, rather successfully, with Pinot Noir – now they turn their attention to Cabernet Franc. You find that smells are similarly red fruit dominated: the “black” is soft red fruit, while the “red” has earthy and cherry tobacco, which mixes in with the red fruit. Colour-wise the black paw is lighter that the red. And taste-wise, “red” is earthy, raspberry, strawberry and herby with fine tannins; “black” is softer, more supple with juicy berry sweetness along with herbs and red fruit, nice spice and a fantastic finish. Whether you like the red soiled or black soiled wine is completely up to your personal taste – but a side by side tasting is a must, hence a visit to Coyote’s Run should be on your list for your next visit to Niagara.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Lailey Vineyard 2007 Vidal - $12.00

“Really Michael, I don’t want to be known for making the best Vidal, I just wanted you to try this.” Winemaker Derek Barnett began pleading with me when he saw my eyes light up after my first sip of this wine. “Not another Riesling?” I inquired; Derek has so far made two outstanding versions in ’07 – Niagara Peninsula and Niagara River. “No,” he said, “it’s Vidal … I’d really like to be known for the Rieslings.”

“It’s wonderful,” I said totally ignoring him, “juicy, delicious. How much?” He told me, my eyes lit up again, “Best I’ve ever tasted,” I said … which is the point when he started pleading with me. “Besides,” he said, “It’ll be gone in a few weeks, I only made 110 cases, of which only 80 are left … and I just released it yesterday.”

My lovely blonde companion, whose eyes were also aglow over this wine, leaned over to me as we left the winery (with our own 6 bottle-allotment tucked comfortably under my arm) and said, “You have to let people know about this one, it’s so lovely, it reminded me of the Romeo Peach festival in Michigan – taking a bit of a fresh juicy peach with the juices dripping down your chin … it’s heaven.” She said it with such passion.

Okay, so now you know … Derek didn’t want you to, Erica did, Erica was more convincing than Derek, so she wins. So now what you do with this information is completely up to you.

Update: 07/02/2008 - Only 25 cases left ... told you this wine was too good to be true - soon all that will be left is this review, the podcast and summer memories.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Jackson-Triggs 2006 Delaine Vineyard Pinot Noir - $26.95

In 2005 there wasn’t enough of this single vineyard wine to go around, in fact the LCBO, being the greedy little Guses that they are took all 200 cases that were made; which meant there was not even a drop to drink for the winery. A year later we have a different story – a more ample vintage in 2006 gave the Delaine Vineyard a better crop, thus more wine – so the LCBO can take their share and you and I can sample it at the winery. Loaded with lots of strawberry, raspberry and earthy goodness, surrounded by layers of tannins, acidity and the goodness of red fruit. This one’s ready now or over the next 3-4 years.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Vineland 2006 Cabernet Franc - $12.95

This week I’m combining the weekly wine note with the Taste it Again Grape Guy section; we’ll call this little piece – and the wines they are a changin’ (cue the music).

When I first met this Vineland 2006 Cabernet Franc (general list $12.95) it was May of 2007 – one month after bottling – and it was a real disappointment in comparison to the 2005 model: reedy and weedy, green as hell – I saw some potential here, enough to give it a plug back in Newsletter #70 (Cabernet Franc Preview). 2005 had been such a holdable-beauty and this one …

Fast-forward a year and I am on a tour of Vineland (a group I organized), winemaker Brian Schmidt appears at my left shoulder (he moves pretty stealthfully for a big man); touching my elbow he says: “have you tried the 2006 general list Cabernet Franc lately?” I respond with a bit of a shudder. “No”. “It’s a different wine from what you remember,” he pauses before saying, “I remember you said you didn’t like it”. Now, it’s my policy never to write a bad review – if I don’t like a wine than I just leave it alone – there’s no need to trash it, there are so many good wines out there from Ontario that telling you about the bad ones seems like a waste of space and ink. So how on G-d’s green earth did Brian find out about my initial reaction to the 2006; which is exactly what I’m thinking as he stands there smiling at me and says, “Come with me.”

I follow him down the stairs to the tasting room, all the way looking at my thumbs and wondering if I am going to miss them. We get downstairs and he pulls a fresh bottle off the shelf, shows it to me for verification purposes, pulls the cork, pours a glass and places it in front of me, again with that smile.

“Okay,” I tell myself, “humour the man, after all he’s bigger than you – smile politely, nod, tell him it’s good and be on your way.” I reach for the glass, give it a swirl and hold it up my nose – ready for that head snapping greenness to take hold of my olfactories … I inhale, and … I inhale again … and inhale again. I look at the bottle Brian has placed on the counter: it definitely says 2006 Cabernet Franc. Un-frickin’-believable! The reedy-weedy-greeny is gone, replaced by blackberries, cassis, touch of tobacco; the palate follows suit with black fruit and tobacco notes … well, well, well …

With a year in bottle and 56 cases left in inventory it would seem that Vineland has a hit on its hands. The LCBO is running low, the ’07 is on deck (set for Mid- June release) and the ’06 has turned into a bona-fide great wine.

So I hear you asking, what’s your point Grape Guy? It’s further proof (as if you needed any – though with some people you would be surprised) that wine changes in the bottle. I tried this one three times over the past year: once just after bottling, once a few months later, and again in November at the Cabernet Franc Challenge (the wine placed 31 out of 31) and each time I believed the wine to have been no more that average. But here we are, a year later, and this wine has finally come into its own.

Now. I’m not saying this kind of ugly-duckling-to-swan transformation happens all the time, some wines are the same kind of bad on day 365 as they are on day 35 …but always be open to re-trying something. If you’re at a winery you’ve visited before and the same wine is being offered to you, don’t be afraid to retry, the worst that happens is you still don’t like it; the best thing … you’ll find a new drinking buddy – so to speak.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Niagara College 2007 Riesling - $11.95

Those of you who are of an observant nature (and have trundled down to Niagara) have probably noticed that the ‘07 Rieslings are hitting the shelves and I know that you Riesling fans will be thrilled with these wines: the acidity and flavours are amazing (in the ones I’ve tried anyway). As you may or may not know, the Niagara College Teaching Winery is producing our winemakers of the future (as well as their own wines) and they seem to be teaching these, for lack of a better term, “kids”, good technique, if this Riesling is any indication of what is being taught there. This wine can best be described in three words: floral, fresh and lemony – and of course, I shouldn’t fail to mention the great zing of acidity. The price is also something to crow about, making this an even better bargain. I can only hope they’re teaching about pricing wines too.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Marynissen 2003 Cabernet - $14.50

If you hang around Marynissen long enough you’ll hear words and phrases like “best red wines”, “known for our reds”, “old world winemaking style”, “Oldest red vines in Niagara” and my personal favourite, “don’t touch the cat”. A recent stop into Marynissen elicited all those phrases plus, “the dog is tired from sleeping all day” – but I digress … The ’03 Cabernet is a “found wine”: a wine they thought they had sold out of but “found” a skid of – so after popping the cork on a bottle they determined it was doing quite well. It’s a 50/50 blend of Cabernets Franc and Sauv. The wine is showing well right now with leathery-black fruit, good firm tannins, good acidity level and quite a dry finish. This wine is good now and over the next 2-3 years. It’s also well priced from something they found in the “basement”, so to speak.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Henry of Pelham 2006 Sauvignon Blanc - $15.00

Here’s a wine destined to help curb the heat of summer, when and if, we finally get there. Reviewed back in the summer of 2007 here's what I said: On July 7, 2007 Vintages will be releasing the 2006 Henry of Pelham Sauvignon Blanc (if they already haven’t), this wine is part of the Vintages Essentials Collection. VEC wines are always available in Vintages stores year round, although not necessarily the same vintage year. This is one of Ontario’s liveliest Sauvs, crisp and minerally with lots of grapefruit and grass smells - good enough to rival any from New Zealand. A good zingy stream of acidity runs right down the center of the tongue, while the citrus apple notes caress your tastebuds … there’s also hints of hay and grass thrown in for good measure. This is one of those lazy days wines … you know the kind of day where the sun is beating down on you and all you have to do is lie there and take it … with a glass of this in your hand, it’ll make it even easier to take that kind of punishment. To know how it is drinking now listen to the podcast.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Vineland Alsatian Three: 2005 Pinot Gris - $16.95, 2005 Pinot Blanc - $18.95, 2006 Gewurztraminer - $14.95

Tasted in conjunction with each other these wines make up what Vineland lovingly calls the Alsatian three – because all three wines have their roots in the Alsace region of France, and make for an interesting comparison when tasted side by each. The Pinot Gris is the floral and fruity member of the grouping, great acidity, lemony and extremely fresh this bottle is an ideal hot weather wine. The Pinot Blanc is the more memorable because of its extremely aromatic nature – it exhibits a mineral freshness along with citrus and floral. The mineral comes through on the palate with pineapple and lemon along for the ride. There are very few Pinot Blancs made in Niagara, so not only is it delicious, it’s a rarity. Finally we have old reliable, Gewurztraminer, with its floral and a spicy aromas, while in the mouth it develops in 3 stages: spicy at first, floral second, and a rose petal finish … this one’s light, enjoyable and immensely sippable with a lengthy pronounced finish.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Downey’s Estate Winery Strawberry Rhubarb unfiltered - $12.95

I’m not sure when I bought this, I’d have to check my records, but the Downey’s Estate Winery non-vintage unfiltered strawberry-rhubarb fruit wine is fantastic. What’s more to say about a fruit wine that tastes exactly like what it claims on the label. Smells are exactly what you’d get from a strawberry-rhubarb pie baking in the oven whafting out into the living room. The taste is pure strawberry with a touch of rhubarb and good sweetness (5). The wine is left unfiltered so you do get a few of those floaty bits but then in a strawberry-rhubarb pie you’d have to contend with stringy bits stuff from the rhubarb – I’ll take floaty over stringy any day. The 14.4 percent alcohol brings the heat, especially on the nose, but a good chill softens this warming effect and makes this one palatable and delicious; and it’s got a taste that just lingers and lingers - I’m still digging out strawberry pockets from the crevasses in my mouth. Worth the drive to Brampton for this baby.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Lailey Vineyard 2006 Niagara River Pinot Noir - $24.95

Is it too early to point you in the direction of a Thanksgiving wine? Well, even if it is I think you should get a jump on things; plus it never hurts to store a good wine. This Pinot is 100% Lailey fruit grown along the Niagara River, and it spends eleven months in a combination of new, one-year-old and two-to-three-year-old French wood. On the nose, it has cranberry, cinnamon, sour cherries, and fresh vanilla-leaf tea. The taste is loaded with those cranberries and sour cherries you smelled, along with rhubarb and fine tannins. Good finish, excellent length and definitely in need of food to complete the ensemble. It still needs some time to fully integrate and mellow which is why I think here in early May (2008), Thanksgiving would be a perfect time to pop the cork on this one. This is one you’ll be enjoying over the next 3-5 years.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Rosehall Run 2006 Pinot Noir (Rosehall Vineyard) - $29.95

Dan Sullivan, owner and winemaker of Rosehall Run in Prince Edward County, continues his impressive run as a pioneering winemaker in the county. I found this Pinot to be pure heaven, from the snout clean on down to the gullet; even the light red colour is enticing. Beautiful smoky-vanilla-red fruit greet the nose – nothing overpowering, just sweet and subtle. In the mouth there are cherries of all varieties (black, red, sweet, sour) and they just kick right in, there’s also a slight tart cranberry background and a steady seam of vanilla oak. I shouldn’t fail to mention the sour cherry finish that lingers for quite a-piece after you swallow; and the just-right amount of tannins; no shaving your tongue after this one. I’d say it’s one of my favourite Pinots I’ve ever had, it had great throw-your-head-backability as you take sip after sip, and drink glass after glass.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Stoney Ridge 2004 Forte - $14.95 (375ml)

The buzz over at the Ridge, besides the new winemaker I mean, is that they have made a “Port”. Now before ya’ll go running out to Stoney Ridge to buy Canadian “port” let me quickly point out that what they are calling ‘port’ is a bit of a misnomer – it’s a fortified; and as we all know, not all fortified wine is Port. Port is usually dense, very sweet and very luscious … this wine lacks the density and a high sweetness level (I’d say it is about a 4 or a 5), the luscious is up to you. What I can tell you is that the smells are plumy, pruney and raisiny, while in the mouth it’s sweet black cherry, very smooth with a little tannin bite on the finish … there’s even a kick from some spices. It’s a wine made from Baco Noir and Cabernet Franc – as a quick aside, when I was in New York State this past summer I had the pleasure of trying a 100% Baco Noir port that had all the port-like characteristics; but this effort from Stoney Ridge is not “port” in the traditional sense. Don’t get me wrong, this fortified wine (19% alcohol) is very tasty, well made and great for dessert (especially for those not into the intensity or sweetness of icewine or real port) and I can say without a doubt it is priced very well. But I can’t stress enough: it is not “Port”, which is Portuguese for sweet and luscious. But the name of this wine, if taken literally, says it all – it’s “Forte” (French for “strong”), which rhymes with “Porte” – French for “carry” – meaning you’ll want to take some with you once you try it.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Konzelmann Estate Winery 2006 Shiraz - $12.95

If you haven’t been to Konzelmann lately might I suggest you get out there this summer. They have been very busy over the last little while with the building and now completion of their new look wine store, a huge step up from its predecessor. Because of this their wines have to reflect their more modern surroundings, and they do … starting with this beauty right here. A nose that has pepper, black cherry and spice, and when sipped produces the same tastes in the mouth; but it’s not just the smell and taste that’ll get you – check out that $12.95 price tag – now that’s something to celebrate, so grab a glass and start pouring.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Chateau des Charmes 2006 St. David’s Bench Viognier - $25.00

Viognier seems to be the grape of the day everywhere … you look high and you look low and you’ll find yourself a Viognier – they say it’s the perfect substitute for Chardonnay – and furthermore the names of the grapes rhyme, what more could you want.? I think many are picking up this grape in the hopes it becomes the next big thing. Chateau des Charmes can’t be considered bandwagon jumpers on this one, they have been making Viognier for about 13 years or more. This 2006 edition has a wonderfully ripe nose of green apple and peach. The taste follows the nose, but adds traces of citrus and tart pineapple core to this delicate unoaked wine. Best described as steely with a good mouthfilling finish, this wine will see Vintages shelves shortly, if it’s not already there … or you could trek down to the winery and pick yourself up some for summer.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Hillebrand Winery 2006 Artist Series Pinot Gris, Limited Edition - $16.95

Here’s a complex summer sipper that also has a softer more simple side to it. It’s a wine that’ll make you long for a patio, pool, or lake … a wine that makes you think of summertime the moment you put it to your lips; but first let’s take a sniff, a lively nose of green apple and citrus. Then there’s the mouth watering, thirst quenching taste that follows from the nose with the added bonus of a dry finish and a seemingly butter-toffee aftertaste that shows up and lingers long after you swallow. A touch of sweetness shows up mid-palate and you’ll notice a deeper golden hue, which suggests a little bit of extended skin contact. That’s why I say, it’s a simple sipper that can be something more complex … but only if you want it to be, otherwise it’s a pleasant, thirst quenching white made for the heat of summer.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Thirty Bench Wine Makers 2006 Family of Rieslings ... $18.00 - $32.00

Thirty Bench is at it again. They did this same experiment last year with great success, so again this year they are making four different Rieslings, each with its own specific flavour profile … 3 are single vineyard versions and one is a 3-vineyard blend. ‘Triangle Vineyard’ ($32) has a bright minerality, lemon drop and petrol nose; with wet stone, lemon peel, white peach and minerally in the mouth and a lingering Granny Smith finish. ‘Steel Post’ ($28) limeade and white peach aromas; mineral, peachy, appley tastes culminates in a medium finish. ‘Wood Post’ ($28) a sweeter version with its apple, peach smells, Germanic style, tropical fruit slightly sweet flavours (2) – an easy sipper with a short finish. And finally, the ‘Riesling’ ($18) a blend of all three vineyard’s grapes (those not selected for the top tier single vineyard versions), a little bit of everything from everybody: peach, lemon, lime, minerality and a crisp citrus finish. Depending on your palate and your budget. One of these 4 bottles is for you.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Lakeview Cellars 2005 Reserve Syrah - $29.95

Talk about running a tight ship, head winemaker Tom Green of Lakeview (amongst other wineries under the Diamond Estates flag) has crafted a Syrah that has a little Canadians in it, besides just the grapes I mean. Sure you'll get black fruit, pepper and chocolate on the nose and tastes of white pepper, dark fruit and spices ... but it's the wood that makes this one good. And that’s my first reference to a ship (wood) – the second is in reference to the tightness of this wine, it’s a prom queen (circa 1950’s or 60’s) because there's tannin, plenty of woodsy-cedary-like tannins, so this one should sit a few years before drinking; but before lying this one down, make a note somewhere on your bottle that the wine was aged thirteen months in new French and Canadian oak - then when you open it in a few years see if you can spot some Canadian flavours. In wines I’ve tried coconut seems to be a trademark of Canadian wood – strange but true.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lailey Vineyard 2006 Merlot - $24.95

I have a friend that travels around to the wineries with me, and although she isn’t much into the reds she does love a good Riesling. I just seem to have a hard time convincing her about the deliciousness of reds, but in those Rieslings she can pick out white peach, green apple or citrus like there’s nobody’s business. So, while I’m tasting the reds she sips on her Riesling or wanders about the winery. During a recent visit to Lailey she hung around during my red sampling (I have a sneaking suspicions it’s due to winemaker Derek Barnett’s English brogue – or whatever you call it – chicks dig those accents). She wasn’t interested in the Pinot or the Syrah he poured but she did want to try this Merlot which Derek sheepishly placed on the counter. I was immediately suspicious because Derek isn’t sheepish about anything, “just wanted you to try this,’ he said quietly. I did, then I said “wow, that‘s really good” (to hear our conversation click here). For now know that this wine has a wonderful black fruit nose with black raspberries and gentle wondsiness eminating coming from the glass. On the palate there’s a soft, fruity mouthfeel, red fruit forwardness, sweet vanilla oak with great sippability.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Konzelmann Estate 2006 Riesling - $11.00

I tasted this one during my visit around the time of the Icewine festival … I wanted to compare it to Konzelmann’s newest Riesling addition “The White Moose”, a $15 riesling that is said to undergo better treatment: hand-harvesting and such. I guess you could say it’s a reserve (if you want to use that terminology). But I wasn’t convinced about the $4 jump – the White Moose was .5 higher in residual sugar and lacked the complexity of the regular 11 dollar Riesling. My server informed me that the winery wanted to raise the price, but because it is an LCBO general list product the boys at the Lick-Bo said “no” (score one for the government monopoly) … when asked why my server told me point-blank “because we’ll sell it no matter what the price, so why not get a few more dollars out of it.” Not exactly the answer I thought I’d get, but there is something to be said for honesty. So why pick the $11 Riesling over the $15, besides the price … simple: a nose of peach, apple, tropical fruit and lemon drop proves to be more than just a little inviting – it’s downright delicious smelling – as for the palate, you’ll find a tart apple middle with a lemon crisp finish – and that’s downright delicious in the mouth … as it turns out the 11 dollar Riesling is very appealing to both your sense of taste and smell, as well as to your sense of frugality.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Mountain Road Wine Company 2005 Unoaked Chardonnay – $14.95

The king’s reign continues! It seems like it was only a months ago I proclaimed Mountain Road’s owner and winemaker, Steve Koscic, the King of Chardonnay (after an impressive run of medal for his then newly released Chards) … this prompted his daughter to run out to the local Burger King to get him a crown (probably getting it from one of the kiddie high-chairs). Well Steve is at it again, so best you bust out that crown and slip it back on your head. Mountain Road’s newly released 2005 unoaked is the perfect blend of what unoaked and oaked fans love about Chardonnay: the fruit forwardness with oaks flavouring (although no oak was used in the making of this wine). The nose starts out rather simple with its peaches and cream aromas, but in the mouth its something all together different. There is apple and lemon zest, a bit of white butter (not an overly heavy yellow butter) and a touch of vanilla – which suggests to me some extended lees contact (which gives oak flavours, like vanilla, without that heavy “chewing on a stave” feeling). Good acidity leads to a mouthwatering finish that clears the palate … ready for either the next sip or the next bite.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Lakeview Cellars 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon - $14.95

A recent release from Lakeview (Fall 2007) this Cabernet Sauvignon shows real promise for mid-term cellaring (3-5 years) – maybe more. The nose is loaded with chocolate and cherry notes that invite you into the glass, I was thinking of going for a swim myself, but then I decided to taste it instead; full of black cherries, cinnamon and plenty of cedar notes. Now usually too much cedar would leave splinters behind, but instead this wine is smooth and silky coursing through the mouth leaving only a hint of tannin on the finish. Lovely.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Huff Estates 2006 Lighthall Vineyard Chardonnay - $29.95

Huff continues its impressive run of wines coming out of the county (Prince Edward County – Ontario’s newest Designated Viticultural Area). The other good news is their price points continue to be right on the money, for what you’re getting in the bottle. This one may seem a little higher priced, but if you consider this is a single vineyard, reserve quality wine you'll realize the price tag is very reasonable. This Chard is 50% oak aged and 50% stainless steel with ten months of lees contact. Sure there's good fruit here, but what really stands out is the barrel and leesy qualities: the nose is vanilla, oak and butterscotch ... the taste is where the fruit comes out, with white peach and semi-dried apple flavours mixing in with those barrel/lees components of vanilla and toffee. It all ends with the flavours of a vanilla-caramel-apple, sounds sweet, but it’s dry with some zip and zing from the acidity - lovely.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Lailey Vineyard 2006 Impromptu - $39.95

If it wasn’t for the Cabernet Sauvignon in this wine, Lailey’s first proprietors’ blend, they could have called it PMS for the Petit Verdot, Malbec and Syrah that makes up the majority of the blend (and because it’s a ballsy wine with a feminine side) … but instead they opted for the name Impromtu. The nose is strawberry and dark fruit with a touch of earthiness. In the mouth, you’ll find really good flavours that fight for supremacy, and they’ll keep fighting it out over the next 4 to 7 years. But while you’ll definitely pick up on the black fruit throughout and the earth-laden finish, the most surprising part of this wine is the perfumey mid-section; I’ll call it lilac or Chanel No. 5. That might prove to be a strange description, but no matter how I describe it, this wine remains a delicious addition to the Lailey portfolio. And just for the record, this PMS-CS blend can be quite a bitch, if you let it, so I recommend some decanting, which will help smooth out her edges. Lailey also tried to pretty her up by wrapping her in tissue paper and giving her a necklace (tag) to explain the wine.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Hernder Estate Wines 2006 Riesling (Pachereva Vineyard) - $10.95

Hernder is one of many wineries that are offering a plethora of Rieslings to choose from: sweet, dry, semi-sweet, blue-bottled, green-bottled, mockingbird … but because the Riesling phenomenon is taking over the Niagara area they have to find someway to separate themselves from the pack by offering up something memorable and different … they found a way to do just that by bringing out two vineyard specific Rieslings; one with its origins on the Beamsvillle Bench the other in Niagara-on-the-Lake … and what a difference between the two. My favourite is this one from the Bench, with its peach, apple, mango and pineapple nose followed by peaches and apples in the mouth. It’s a two on the sugar code but with its vibrant acidity it sure doesn’t taste that sweet. As my father is apt to say, “the most important thing in business is location, location, location” – the same can be said for grapes.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Organized Crime Winery 2006 Gewurztraminer - $22.00

Back in 2007 I was on the panel of judges for Tony Aspler’s Ontario Wine Awards; we awarded at bronze medal to a new winery called Pointer’s Hill for this very Gewurztraminer made by Andrzej Lipinski ... nobody knew who or what Pointer’s Hill was, but they were a new winery helmed by a reputable winemaker. Well, as Pointer’s Hill tells it, Konrad Ejbich (a fellow wine writer – and not one to keep his opinions to himself) told them that their name was boring and would not make them standout ... so their next step was to acquire a better, catchier name; Organized Crime was born. Now there's a story here about two churches and a stolen organ which is best told by them ... there is no connection to Tony Soprano (as far as I know) – and nobody will break your leg for not buying a bottle before you leave. As for the Gewurztraminer, I finally got a chance to retry it, and yes it's very good: the nose is pure Gewurzt with full on floral, apricot, rose petal and perfume aromas. The taste is complex with good floral and spicy qualities with a touch of sweetness (1). The lengthy finish is loaded with citrus, Mac apple, and something tropical. Only 300 cases were made and they're going fast, so better get on this one quick. If sold out other good choices would be the 2006 Riesling ($17.00); Chardonnay Musque ($15.00) and/or the Unoaked Chardonnay ($18.00). Reds are due out in February 2008.