Eighteen Canadian wines that rocked in 2018

2017 Aldé Rosé, Interloper and As Is

The inaugural year-end summary of Canadian wine excitement posted to godello.ca was in 2013 and this sixth instalment naturally includes five more than the first. The necessity begs of the process to expand because five years later even the paltry number 18 is but a fraction of what could or should be noted, publicized and celebrated. This exercise is one of the most arduous writing assignments of the calendar year, difficult to pin down, even harder to leave wonder out in omission. As I’ve said before “it’s biased, exclusive and decisive but it is meant to celebrate a select few with a mandate to elevate and exult the rest. It’s also a proclamation read to many who remain ignorant to an ideal of great wine being made in Canada, to tell the insolent they are not welcome here anyway. The winemakers in this country are in full command of their acumen, craft and future. They own it.”

Related – 17 Canadian wines that rocked in 2017

Another year of tasting Canadian wine, another year of thousands of examples shared my way. Even more international travel made it difficult to keep up the pace but I’m sure I tasted more than 1000 wines once again. We are relentless in our attention paid to Canadian wines at the WineAlign office. The WineAlign National Wine Awards of Canada convened in June at the convention centre in Penticton B.C. and judging Ontario wines happened with David Lawrason at The Great Canadian Kitchen Party, the artist formerly known as Gold Medal Plates.

Related – 16 Canadian wines that rocked in 2016

Over the past 12 months my partner Scott Zebarth and I have upped our little négoce game with the fine folks at Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery. With the help of Marty Werner, Ben Minaker and Eden Garry we managed to crush, ferment, blend and bottle three new wines. In April there were 594 magnums of Aldé Rosé 2017, a 100 per cent VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake cabernet franc. Then in September we released the second vintage of Interloper Cabernet Franc 2017, VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake and our newest wine, As Is Field Blend 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore.

As Is Field Blend 2017, VQA Niagara Lakeshore, Ontario ($19.95)

The third wine in the little project with partner Scott Zebarth and Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery’s Marty Werner, Ben Minaker and Eden Garry A dream of fields, single-vineyard one-third each blend of pinot noir, merlot and cabernet franc, co-fermented with ambient yeasts. As Is.  scottzebarth  marty_werner  benminaker23  ravinevineyard  @Scottsomm  @marty_werner  @BMinaker23  @RavineVineyard  Scott Zebarth  Martin Werner  Ben Minaker  @RavineVineyardEstateWinery

In 2016 there were 16 wines noted. In 2015 I counted 15 on the filtered list. In 2014 the highlights numbered 14, just as in 2013 the number chosen to cant, recant and decant excellence in Canadian wine was 13. Last year you are correct, the list held 17 spots. Roll out the 2018 red carpet. Here are the 18 most exciting Canadian wines of 2018.

Back up the truck, glug glug Gamay Rosé Flipping the Bird by @hatchwines and where’s J-do?

The Hatch Wines Gobsmacked Flipping The Bird Pink 2017, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $21.99, WineAlign)

We pulled this Rosé from the ice and were utterly astonished and astounded at this particular bird. It was Jason Parkes, “he named you the bird. It’s how you were generally referred. We never really understood, never really thought about much.” So we tasted again and we raised a brow, got excited and then were utterly gobsmacked. Sometimes, there’s a wine. And I’m talkin’ about the Bird here. Sometimes, there’s a wine, well, he’s the Rosé for his time and place. Mostly go gamay go with some cabernet sauvignon, utterly fresh at the peak of perfect natural volatility, red berries and grapefruit. No salve texture nor trans fat feeling left in mouth behind neither. Crushable by any amount desired. A portion of the profits from the sale of this wine are donated to Parrot Island, a non-profit sanctuary for abandoned and abused exotic birds in Peachland BC. “With time, it only made more sense, As time went by, it just made more sense. You are the bird. You are the bird.” Thank you Jason, thank you Dude. Thank you Gord. Drink 2018-2019.  Tasted June 2018  hatchwines  @HatchWines  @hatchwines

Two years in a row. Well-deserved and just because.

Malivoire Rosé Moira 2017, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Agent, $24.95, WineAlign)

Malivoire’s most important and benchmark Ontario Rosé is one of the first to the table from the 2017 vintage and why not because its quick soak and lightness of being takes no time at all to get ready. This is the antithetical beauty of Rosé and how it must be approached for best results. Malivoire does not take a step forward from the most perfect ’15 and ’16 wines but there is more fruit in this ’17. You can actually nose and taste strawberry plus a hint of tart raspberry. This will appeal to more of the general Rosé loving populace without any compromise for the provincial, provençal geeks everywhere else. It’s ostensibly a better wine in 2017 because it will attract that growing audience without having made any concessions or dis to authenticity. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted February 2018  malivoire  noble_estates  @MalivoireWine  @Noble_Estates  Malivoire Wine  Noble Estates Wine & Spirits

Fitzpatrick Fitz Rosé 2014, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $48.98, WineAlign)

Long lasting flavours of impression. Candied ginger, dried strawberry, every fruit shade of red, for redheads everywhere.  Last tasted December 2018  fitzwine  @FitzWine  @FitzWine

This pinot noir is lovely, quiet and mild, a lemon-strawberry aromatic blush of the faintest noir. Fine spun, wild yeasty, truly wound tight, so focused and persistent. Drink 2018-2022.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Trail Estate Riesling Foxcroft Vineyard Unfiltered 2016, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Ontario (Winery, $35.00, WineAlign)

In 2016 the next wrinkle is a wild ferment (as opposed to the inoculated ’15), unfined and unfiltered, because as time progressed “I liked it more and more,” says winemaker Mackenzie Brisbois. No coarse filtration means some minor sediment will settle in the bottle. Smashed layers of tote-filled grapes are brought to the crushpad, in lieu of the crusher, to extract from the skins and stems, making use of the punchdown tool, while waiting before pressing. Recently bottled in December 2017 the BFR is something completely other and if 2015 was considered not, this follow-up is markedly fruity now, because it always was, all the way through during just more than a year in really old barrels. It’s a blonde riesling as per M. Gustave, if you will. “Why blonde? Because they all were.” This is the wisest of Mack Brisbois’ rieslings, calm, confident, collected and shining brightly from the word go. You don’t have to wait on this one, it’s riper, it’s unfiltered, made with a lot less sulphur than the skin contacts and those “dirty” 15s. “I like to see how little (sulphur) I can get away with,” notes Brisbois. The most accomplished riesling that she has made to date, the 16’s balance is spot on now and you will not have to wait for it to come into its cinematic stage. Drink it now and keep it longer. Drink 2018-2024. Tasted April 2018  trailestatewine  mackbrisbois  @TrailEstateWine  @MackBrisbois  Trail Estate Winery  Mackenzie Brisbois

Hard not to put the 1991 Cave Spring on the list but is there any good reason to not place the CSV on the list every single year?

Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2016, Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (566026, $29.95, WineAlign)

The CSV from a warm 2016 really expresses the vintage on the nose with a heavy dose of wet stone and every part of a ripe peach. You have to get past the early sulphur but once you do you take a good bite into the flesh of this riesling and the juices will run with accents and angles fit by tonic, pith, tangy, nervy acidity and a hidden sweetness. The sugars are surely more elevated than realized or will ever be felt because the combination of acidity and pith are covers that will never peel back. Size matters and this CSV is built with great Escarpment architecture, stepping out of the paradigmatic 2015 shadow and into another age. This 2016 begins an epoch of structural expressionism and should easily carry its construct through to the next decade. That consequently, is when this CSV will really be ready to rock and roll for a full decade more. Drink 2020-2030.  Tasted March 2018  cavespringcellars  thevineagency  @CaveSpring  @TheVine_RobGroh  Cave Spring Cellars  The Vine

Godello and Paul Pender of Tawse
PHOTO: Steven Elphick & Associates

Tawse South Bay Vineyard Chardonnay 2015, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $35.15, WineAlign)

The South Bay Prince Edward County fruit from Huff Estates lands is simply exceptional produce, from where winds blow-dry leaning vines perched aboard a passel of solid limestone sliding into Lake Ontario. Tawse has always coveted this fruit and when Paul Pender is allowed to play with it he does so with great mindfulness in search of greater apogee. Methinks Pender both picked a few days to a week earlier and also worked the most mineral meets Ceres toast his barrels can afford. There is a deep, sonorous and resounding regard about this chardonnay. It’s both sumptuous and serious, with a flinty-mineral meets toasted hazelnut interplay. It is perhaps an Ontario nod to Les Caillerets, or just a far away coincidence, but regardless you just have to know that it’s a very special wine. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted December 2018  tawsewinery  @Tawse_Winery  @tawsewines

Domaine Queylus Chardonnay Réserve Du Domaine 2016, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Agent, $37.95, WineAlign)

Still in the vein of the Queylus chardonnay tradition where a winemaker is always on the watch, meaning you never take your eyes off the child or the prize. The Réserve is a matter gathered from the best barrel selections but says Kelly Mason “the treatment and the worry are the same.” Slides easily away from the tropical and sidles up the the rocky places from whence it came. Chardonnay is often round and liked that way but Queylus is direct, linear, angled and also far from angular. When the Escarpment rule is followed and traced along the lines of a malolactic ruler marked by clones (in this case 76 as opposed to 95) then structure is assured. The ambition is real, the intention serious and there is no roaming far to the west or the east. All that and richness is found through every bright sip. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted July 2018  queylus  @Queylus  Domaine Queylus Winery

Hidden Bench Chardonnay Tête De Cuvée 2011, VQA Beamsville Bench, Ontario (278812, $45.20, WineAlign)

Still so youthful, now noted by smoked quince with a shot of peppermint schnapps where no sugar lives save for the sweetness of nature.  Last tasted December 2018  hiddenbench  markanthonyon  @HiddenBench @MarkAnthonyWine  Hidden Bench Estate Winery  Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits

Tête De Cuvée by Hidden Bench, like a Champagne best of the best abstraction, makes an appeal to self-esteem and esteem for others, to consumers who have come to recognize Niagara and even more specifically, the Beamsville Bench for head of the class, cool climate Chardonnay. That mouthful congregates and works in congruence with the quality in the Tête’s composition; full-on freshness, density, weeping cerate texture, toasted and popping kernel, fine-grained localization, utterly integrated barrel. There was scant quantity (32.5 hL/h) from some very old and wise vines, pronounced like others but louder than most, from the bullhorn of a stentorian vintage. What is felt and spoken about the quality inherent from out of the finest parcels in the Locust Lane and Rosomel Vineyards Chardonnay fruit is more than a patent observation. The ability to take on toast cuts to the nougat and the synoptic rises to the ethereal ozone. Not to mention gross minerality. On the shortlist for best Niagara Chardonnay to date. Drink now and beyond 2025. Tasted twice, September and October 2014

Roche Wines Pinot Noir 2016, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $24.90, WineAlign)

The 2016 is purchased pinot noir fruit by Dylan and Pénélope Roche from Kozier organic vineyard on the Naramata Bench. Hand harvested and fermented in stainless steel tanks with regular pumping over and pressed after three weeks on skins. The press wine was separated from the free run and aged for 10 months in stainless steel and neutral French oak. Knowing what I know after the first blind assessment it now turns this love of love into inspiration, away from the soulless, blind pinot noir love and to something real. If there is a more honest and crushable one I’d be shocked. So exciting and new.  Also tasted at Bench 1775, June 2018  rochewines  @RocheWines  @rochewines

Really ripe, I mean really ripe, a hematic liqueur that few others in the flight can match. From a warm site to be sure, full and thick as pinot nor  thieves. Not as structured but so very, bloody and reasonably drinkable. Drink 2018-2021.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir JCR Rosehall Vineyard 2016, VQA Prince Edward County, Ontario (Winery, $39.00, WineAlign)

Though statements of monadical hyperbole should very much be avoided, a taste of Dan Sullivan’s ’16 JCR makes one think it has all come to this. The glycerin fruit endowed with so much natural sweetness and magnificently low alcohol feels like an impossibility. In a way it is but it’s also a County reality. This may just be the least astringent PEC pinot noir ever produced and at the same time seems entirely void of tension. Yet there is structure and cohesion, two functors so very necessary to see it drink well for 10 years, with great charm and further curiosity for five more after that. Drink 2018-2028.  Last tasted July 2018  rosehall_run  sullywine  profilewinegroup  @Rosehall_Run  @sullywine  @ProfileWineGrp  @RosehallRun  Dan Sullivan  @ProfileWineGroup

Bright, red raspberry, light and effusive with a simple, liquid chalky feel. Really drinkable. The tart is part of a delight in composition. A good chew.  Tasted blind at NWAC18, June 2018

Lightfoot & Wolfville Ancienne Pinot Noir 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $40.00, WineAlign)

Driest year on record with nary a moment of disease pressure. Spent 18 months in older French oak, less one barrel. This is the richest Ancienne and Nova Scotian pinot noir to date, with firm grip, structure and outright intensity. Welcome to the pinnacle of the first L & W pinot wave, the culmination of the first epoch, after which nothing will be the same and so much learning will have been achieved. Begs the question of what happens next? The vines get better is what, in fact I walked the 2018 pinot noir vines today. Their maturity and contiguous consistency will be the answer to future questions and debate. They will speak for and on behalf of themselves. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted October 2018  lwwines  rachhlightfoot  jhortonns  korilightfoot  @rachel_hope  @lwwines  @lightfootandwolfvillewines  Rachel Lightfoot  

Two Sisters Cabernet Franc 2014, VQA Niagara River, Ontario (Winery, $54.80, WineAlign)

Released on Monday July 16th and now a Platinum Award winner at NWAC18. “This has everything that ’13 had but just a bit more weight, structure and complexity, plus volume, those last three meaning on the palate,” explains winemaker Adam Pearce. Down in volumes (30 per cent), beautifully aromatic, low-cropped, (1.25 tonnes per acre), 15 per cent new wood, 32 months in barrel, in bottle for an additional 10 months. The focus, presence and confidence of this wine stand apart, all worked specific to place and the uniqueness of the appellation. Benefits from a double-lake effect and different soils. Chalk and river stone liquidity running as a river of its own right through. Drives the point of patience, to allow a vineyard the chance to speak of its singular phraseology. The 2014 Niagara River cabernet franc may still be a ways from reaching its full potential but it has certainly hit its stride. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted July 2018  twosisters_vineyards  apearcevino  @TwoSisters_wine  @apearcevino  Two Sisters Vineyards  Adam Pearce  

Benjamin Bridge Cabernet Franc Small Lot 2016, Nova Scotia, Canada (Winery, $57.95, WineAlign)

Still from the Kingsport farm fruit, a whole cluster ferment, no messing with stems, fully oxygenated, no carbonic maceration, 30-40 per cent whole bunch. Total output is “a barrel and a bit.” An infused aromatic ferment, green spice and a char of tobacco, utter intensity, compelling and a phenolic reality. “A myth buster incarnate,” says Jean-Benoit Deslauriers, ripened beyond the sensory borders, miles away from other territories, with generosity and juicy ripe legs. From a warm vintage, nine months in neutral oak plus nine in the bottle. Then a decant and oh how the florals open up, furthered, blooming and intoxicating. More than just a fun little experiment so please wake up and smell the Gaspereau Valley. So lively, a wee salty and all energy. Drink 2018-2024.  Tasted October 2018  benjaminbridge  caveman__jones  scott.savoy  @Benjamin_Bridge  @benjaminbridgevineyards  Jean-Benoit Deslauriers  Scott Savoy  

Vineland Estates Cabernet Franc Reserve 2015, VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario (Winery, $50.00, WineAlign)

Winemaker Brian Schmidt’s investigations into cabernet franc border on obsession but truth be told it’s not rocket science that makes so many fine varietal tiers. There are the six growers combed from six Niagara sub-appellations that add up to one entry-level, over-delivering cabernet franc. Then there is Bo Teek, the large estate vineyard planted in 1996 to clone 327 in the south and in 2006, to clone 214 in the north. Not to be forgotten in the cabernet franc make-up is the limestone substratum, highly significant for the trace mineral, elemental push up into these vines ensuring that no over-the top make up is required for varietal elevation, explanation and consummation. Vineland’s Reserve spends 16 months in barrel, none of which are any newer than from 2009. Fermentation, barrel, bottle, repeat. That’s it. No racking. This Reserve is the marriage of north and south, 60 and 40 per cent respectively, a combinative attack both phenolic and aromatic. The northern fruit sings some blues with crooning volatility whilst in delivery of sweet blackberry fruit. The south is all about stretched, nimble and elastic tones, elegant, more fragrance, black to red berries and less brooding. As one it’s a deeper and more intense wine than Bo Teek or Elevation, bottled in November, with higher acidity. The corollary variegation expands above what Bo Teek seems capable of executing solo. The structure here tells us it will not switch gears as early and live longer. Look for some secondary notes in the vein of black truffle, sweet balsam and dried lavender to show up after the turn of the decade. Drink 2020-2027.  Tasted April 2018  vinelanestates  benchwineguy  @VinelandEstates  @benchwineguy  @winery.vinelandestates  Brian Schmidt


Mission Hill Terroir Series Vista’s Edge Cabernet Franc 2015, Okanagan Valley, British Columbia (Winery, $50,00, WineAlign)

You have to wonder why Mission Hill had not kicked at the can before because the Vista’s Edge is one of British Columbia’s brightest cabernet francs. It’s an important and exciting first effort from East Osoyoos fruit pulled from one of the Okanagan Valley’s farthest southern plantings. It’s a top three per cent single-vineyard, special terroir series edition that smells, tastes, feels and acts like cabernet franc. Nothing about this, not by barrel nor like varietal reminds of cabernet sauvignon. There are currant and peppery reductive meets pyrazine notes as red, bright and fresh as you’d hope they would be. The pitchy darkness of structure and hue falls because night must always follow the day and that’s what happens when cabernet franc is made this way. A long life ahead is conformed by the diphthong finish. Drink 2019-2026.  Tasted June 2018  missionhillwinery  @MissionHillWine  @MissionHillWine

Leaning Post Syrah Keczan Vineyard 2016, VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Ontario (Agent, $45.00, WineAlign)

The eureka moment for syrah, Lincoln Lakeshore, Keczan and Leaning Post came years ago, for it, that, they, them and I. Not together mind you but passion knows no limits and opens doors to transcend time and space. This pinpointed farm on that flat expanse so perfectly proximate to the lake is where syrah can express itself without hindrance or opposition. Here the lake is like the Mediterranean and the river like the Rhône. Together they address the clay, create a moisture gathering effect, ship out the cold fronts and usher in the warm. They make syrah like this, rich in humus, hummus and hubris, olive tapenade and sweet brine. Fruit is fruit, also sweet, but savoury, acidulated and fine. Acidity is perfect in this vintage. Length is exceptional. A new benchmark, bred from passion with the intendment to inspire commitment. One of Ontario’s best red wines. Drink 2020-2032.  Tasted September 2018  leaningpostwine  nicholaspearcewines  @LeaningPostWine  @Nicholaspearce_  Leaning Post Wines  Nicholas Pearce

Kacaba Signature Series Reserve Syrah 2015, VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario (Winery, $44.95, WineAlign)

It’s about time we get something straight. Kacaba knows Syrah, in fact they should receive serious consideration for the title of Ontario’s top Syrah specialist. Two vineyards (with plantings that date back to 1997) provide fruit for several tiers, including the syrah from Terrace and Silver Bridge Vineyards and the highest quality chosen, hand-harvested fruit for this Signature Series Reserve. An escarpment’s dolomite limestone effect plays into these hands from fruit that arrives into glass through the body of arguably Ontario’s finest current syrah. The aromatic waft of a warm pastry crust is laden with red and blue berries that also fill the cool flavour centre of a pastille. The savoury candy gives way to a peppery kick before featuring a cure of salumi and a return full circle to that serious fruit. The apposite and complimentary smells and tastes are only intensified with a bottle’s decant so just imagine the possibilities that age will bestow. This is special work from Michael Kacaba with winemakers John Tummon and Vadim Chelekhov.  Last tasted February 2018  kacabavineyards  vadimwineguy  @KacabaVineyards    Kacaba Vineyards and Winery  Vadim Chelekhov

Oh what a beautiful peppery syrah, ripe and floral, all of its aspects, angles and components agreed upon, all in. When Canadian (and in this case, somewhere in Ontario) syrah gets down to business, gets straight to the meaty and smoky point it does so tart, tight and coiled around your tongue and finger. This, right here just nails it. It is the best of times. This is the man. Drink 2019-2027.  Tasted blind at #NWAC17, June 2017

Stratus Vineyards Sémillon Botrytis Affected 2016, VQA Niagara On The Lake, Ontario (Winery, $38.00, WineAlign)

One of the most unique dessert wines in Ontario this is neither late-harvest nor Icewine in origin. Only the third time it has been made, the 2016 sémillon launches with a smoky beginning, as expected and yet, is always appreciated. Some of the fruit is harvested early, but other bunches in the same vineyard are some of the last to be harvested. This low alcohol anti-sticky is from the warm vintage and from the same spot in the vineyard, vintage in vintage out. Most interesting is how these pristine botrytis affected grapes are picked ahead of the rest of the clean fruit used for the dry sémillon. It’s a very vinous sém with distinct apricot and longan notes. Great acids in 2016. Has still retained some waxiness and found some tropical fruit despite the early pick. All of the counterintuitive ideals tell us that the warm vintages can make for top quality dessert wine. This is the masquerade party wine made by the Way Outs band. “That’s where the fun is, way out, WAY OUT!” Drink 2019-2028.  Tasted October 2018   stratuswines  @StratusWines  @StratusWines

Good to go!

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2017 Aldé Rosé, Interloper and As Is

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WineAlign

Wine: It’s a matter of tasting notes

Message in a bottle PHOTO: VIPERAGP/FOTOLIA.COM

as seen on canada.com

There’s a new message in the bottle. A growing, grumbling movement suggests that wine consumers have little use and perhaps even less tolerance for wine tasting notes. The concept of keeping score to endorse a wine’s value is always one that sparks hot debate but trending now is a derision towards what some see as a gross abuse of language, as it pertains to writing about wine. In a sudden and dramatic shift, writers are voicing their strong and in many instances, indignant opinions. Scribes are up in arms, mad, barking, “We’re not going to take it anymore.” Critiquing the critic is the new hot, and bothered. So much for the high road.

So, what’s the big deal? What’s the real problem here? Are we to be convinced that the average wine drinker has really become turned off by a heinous and excess use of speech? Are “thrown nouns” disrupting the ability to experience a more “nuanced understanding” in your wine? Has wine writing gone over the top and into the arena of the absurd? The Wine Diarist wants to know if you Care For A Word Salad With Your Wine? His take, “in general, tasting notes suck.” Have a lesser breed of wine writers confused, ostracized and alienated the wine buying public? Should the notions of professionalism and credibility seriously be brought into question?

Eric Azimov of the New York Times has gone so far as to distill wine into two words, sweet and savoury. He writes, “it’s one or the other.” Azimov feels that tasting notes are turning people off wine. My fellow Postmedia Chats colleague Rod Phillips is one who believes that tasting notes should be void of nouns, such as apples, sedimentary rock or bull’s blood. Phillips is adamant that notes be restricted to the concepts of balance, terroir, intensity, weight, sweetness and tannins. Others cringe at the overuse of adjectives, like supple, scrumptious or generous.

Should tasting notes stick to the direct and simple, like “the wine is flawed,” or “the wine is correct?” Is the sole purpose to describe a wine as light, medium or full-bodied? Is the balance between sweetness and acidity all that really matters? A well-respected writer, David Schildknecht comments, “The ubiquity of the descriptor does not make it inappropriate.” Jamie Goode writes that, “Tasting notes are the stock in trade of wine writers and critics.” So much of it may be crap but you’ve got to write about something. There’s the rub. Writers and critics. Perhaps it’s time to decide who you are, to choose who to follow and who to ignore. Many wine writers have been hurled onto the quadrae like slabs of meat, or cadavers, to be cut, dissected, broken apart. Why the schadenfreude? Why the sudden and furious need to chastise and belittle? It must be those useless, verbose and ridiculous tasting notes. Total bullshit. Utter poppycock.

Michael Godel Photo: Marc Rochette/www.marcrochette.com

Michael Godel
Photo: Marc Rochette/www.marcrochette.com

What about that high road less taken? Decanter Magazine’s Andrew Jefford writes, “Tasting notes are the kerosene of wine criticism: they have powered its ascent, and keep it aloft.” In his article Whither Tasting Notes? he also concedes that “A well-written tasting note has practical worth, in that it communicates a sensual experience via metaphorical and analytical means, and puts that experience in its appropriate context.” And yet, Ron Washam the Hosemaster of Wine so rightly reminds us that “In real life, wine ‘experts’ never ever talk about wine the way tasting notes do. Try describing a wine in (Robert) Parkerese at a wine judging and you’re likely to get waterboarded with Prosecco.” From Alder Yarrow, Is the Wine Writing World Out of Touch?, “Of course, most people writing about wine aren’t writing for the average wine drinker.”

Look, an astronaut can cover and alter the lyrics to David Bowie’s A Space Oddity aboard the International Space Station. Writers have forever been stepping beyond the comfort zone, like Hunter Thompson making a mockery of the Kentucky Derby, or George Plimpton playing Quarterback for the Detroit Lions. A wine writer can’t have a little fun?

I have no pretensions that my tasting notes might move, enlighten or teach and it’s no secret that I do not take myself seriously, especially when I write about wine. My M.O. is a lighthearted one but it is built upon a work ethic of incessant tasting, a burrowing tour of language and a whole a lot of pop culture. Music, especially lyrics that elicit word associations when tasting wine, are infused into my tasting notes. Why bother, you ask? What can anyone learn from that? The answers are simple. Read between the lines. Seek some entertainment value. Appreciate the written word, enjoy the wine. Wine makes me think, my brain forms associations and I put them to paper. I like the exercise, literally. My writing strikes a chord with some, hatred with others. That’s life. The variety helps to add colour and spice to rooms anointed with 100 wines.

Wine Tasting Photo: Michael Godel

Wine Tasting
Photo: Michael Godel

When 33 Ontarians (and two ringers) were poured at the Brock University Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute’s Expert’s Tasting back in March, I wrote, “Right in my wheelhouse and on so many levels.” This was because the tasting was orchestrated alongside the songs and lyrics of music, my music. Everyone enjoyed the cross-cultural referencing that day. The tasting was humbling, educational and a whole lot of fun.

The art of transcribing sensory experiences is natural, base, cathartic and necessary. Writing, whether it be about sculpture, painting, movies, sports or wine, aims to tell a story. I am careful to credit where a wine comes from, its history, its land and its maker. I am always cognizant that it has been given life at the hands of someone who cares deeply about the natural and living process. These necessary and critical points are never taken for granted.

I was fortunate to have been properly and ritually immersed into wine during the summer of 1987. Three weeks ago the Art History department and University of Toronto community lost a great mind and teacher. Prof. Jens T. Wollesen passed away on April 22, 2013. I have Professor Wollesen to thank for introducing me to the world of Chianti Classico, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano and Brunello di Montalcino. The 1982 Tuscan vintage was very good, not the classic that was 1985, but I had little to complain about while sipping them in the Enoteca La Fortezza di Montalcino with Prof. Wollesen. Professor’s tutelage laid down a foundation for wine discovery and the dizzying setting overlooking the Val d’Orcia opened up my pen to a world of thoughts. The next 25 years are history.

Good to go!

A Stanley Cup for house league hockey

Former Toronto Maple Leaf Wendel Clark and a happy George Bell Titan

Former Toronto Maple Leaf Wendel Clark and a happy George Bell Titan

This is what hockey is supposed to be about

as seen on canada.com

They do give back. If your son or daughter was born in 2000 or 2001 and loves playing minor hockey, the 2012-2013 season would more than likely have been a good one.  Regardless of ability or what level they played, kids in the Toronto-area had a chance to experience the competitive thrill of playoff atmosphere, tournament hockey, just like the prodigies and the professionals.

It’s not the way house league players normally get treated.

The 2013 Canadian Tire Cup was held from April 5-7, 2013 at Iceland Arena and The Hershey Centre in Mississauga, ON. The free, three-day tournament was an end-of-season gift resulting out of a partnership between Canadian Tire and the GTHL. Together they provided 103 Peewee-level house league hockey teams in the GTHL with $500 in funding over the course of the 2012/2013 season to help pay for the costs associated with playing hockey.

Canadian Tire Cup Photo: Connie Riga

Canadian Tire Cup
Photo: Connie Riga

The GTHL is the largest minor hockey organization in the world and predates the NHL. Parents invest tens and in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars in their child’s minor hockey career to chase the NHL dream. Only a select few get there. Injuries and especially concussions are rampant and are today the centre of endless controversy. Don Gilmor asked, “is minor hockey worth it?”

On a weekend like this, absolutely. Yes, there were some spirited games, a few mismatched teams and some bruises, but when all is said and done, so many kids benefited from the experience.

Jeff Stewart, GTHL’s manager of membership services and events said 85 of a possible 103 eligible teams participated in the tournament. Those that did not enter did so because of conflicts with their league playoffs.

Candian Tire Cup Photo: Nana Wall

Candian Tire Cup
Photo: Nana Wall

Canadian Tire is the exclusive sweater sponsor of the GTHL but their support goes well beyond the elite levels of AAA, AA, A and Select minor hockey.

“This is really the culmination of their season for these teams,” said Kevin Kloostra, Canadian Tire’s sponsorship and events advisor. “Many of these players have never been to a full tournament before.”

Each participant was given a loot bag with a Canadian Tire baseball cap and toque, NHL hockeycards and mini sticks.

Some NHL alumni – dressed in vintage-style, Canadian Tire hockey jerseys – spent quality time with the kids. They signed autographs, posed for photos and held court inside dressing rooms. The ambassadors (primarily former Toronto Maple Leafs players) included Lanny McDonald, Wendel Clark, Tiger Williams, Curtis Joseph, Brad May, Tom Fergus, Jeff O’Neill, Kris King, Todd Warriner and Bob McGill.

Good to go!

Ultimate cooking for 800 is no E3 Expo or Chelsea Bun party

Ultimate Firsbee Layout. Photo: Nick Cheng

My alter ego cooks for a living.  Every year since 1995, on the first weekend of June in Fergus, Ontario, I assume my position as caterer to upwards of 800 Ultimate Frisbee players. Fergus is a quaint and upscale hamlet in Wellington County on the picturesque Grand River, just upstream from the Elora Gorge.

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/06/05/ultimate-cooking-for-800-is-no-e3-expo-or-chelsea-bun-party/

This past weekend my catering team set up shop in the Fergus Sportsplex Community Centre kitchen to serve two breakfasts, one banquet supper and many snacks to 600. Do you remember two Chelsea FC players engaged in a cook-off this time last year? This cooking is not that. This is no Chelsea bun party. It’s no E3 video game simulation. Ultimate cooking is trench warfare. Good thing I’ve a few War Horses to see me through the barb.

Fergus

The Gender Blender Co-ed Ultimate Frisbee Tournament was realized by two former teammates, Dan Berman and Mark Evans. They brought me on board to feed the masses and coincidentally, one week before that first event back in ’95, I tore my ACL, effectively ending my Ultimate playing days. Let’s hope Chelsea FC’s Mr.’s Barry, Lampard and Cahill will heal better than I did and grace their pitch once again next season. I cooked that first Gender Blender for 125 on crutches. Here is my team from 1997.

Zoydz at Gender Blender 1997

In 2004 Karen Hood, Dilhan Kuru and Giles Deshon took the reigns and we grew the event to 600. In 2008 a man named Blue took the helm with his company, The Ultimate Experience. Two years ago we catered to 800 players. This year the number was 600 because many teams did not return after the rain deluge of 2011. In 2013 we could be cooking for 1000. Blue will soon announce that the 19th Gender Blender will be the last. Great teams from the past will come out of the woodwork to participate. It will be a special weekend.

Gender Blender 2012

This year’s dinner menu:

Warm Barque Smokehouse Brisket and Pulled Chicken Sandwiches
Cole Slaw, two ways
Stuffed, Roasted Peppers, brown rice, chick peas, feta, carrot, oven-dried tomato, greek oregano
Due Penne, italian sausage, chicken/brisket bbq demi-glacé and tomato, caramelized onion
Hearts of Romaine Salad, green beans, broccoli, carrot, cucumber, balsamic vinaigrette
Green and Red Lentil Salad, tofu, corn, peppers, italian parsley

Not unlike that other great Canadian outdoor sports gathering, the Taylor Cup Pond Hockey Championship, Gender Blender is a beer fest. So, what does a caterer pop open after 14 hours at the stoves? Rosé of course!

Delas Frères Saint Esprit Côtes Du Rhône Rosé 2011 (224964, $12.95) shows consistent with last week’s note. “Offers up strawberry, rhubarb and cream with a savoury accent. Subtle pale, pink, see-through hue and warming humidity. Great value here. Rosie you’re all right. “Looks like it’s me and you again tonight.”  88

 

Good to go!

Triassic Tasting at Pangaea

Pangaea Upstairs Dining Room

Pangaea Upstairs Dining Room

 April 24, 2012

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/04/27/triassic-tasting-at-pangaea/

Pangaea Restaurant, 1221 Bay Street, (416) 920-2323

Chef du Cuisine: Derek Bendig, Sommelier and Manager: Benjamin Hardy

 

The group of seven. Sorry. Not THE Group of Seven. This group of seven. Our new format is really taking shape. We no longer each bring wine from cellar to share. Now one leader, one cellar, nine wines. Plenty to share with Mr.’s Hardy, Bendig and crew. Seamless sally forth through five courses. Godspeed to Pangaea for an all out effort in syncopated rhythm. This tasting the high water mark (of the new era) to date, with no disrespect to what came before, but the senescence has reached the early stages of maturity. Laud and applaud to AZ for coordinating food and wine synergy. A coup de foudre from the get go.  

Nine Wine Night

Nine Wine Night

 

Amuse Bouche, radish ‘ravioli’ stuffed with chèvre, tomato, basil

Chef’s Creek (Fanny’s Bay, Vancouver Island) Oysters, on the half shell, horseradish, lemon, shallot mignonette

  1. Peninsula Ridge Fumé Blanc 2008 wants to be 1er Cru Chablis in my universe but sweats heat and spice, “green cardamom pod and roasted salsify,” adds AM. Nutty lemon custard and did someone say Boxwood? Not quite Sauvignon Blanc but PR brings out enough mineral to do this style proud up on the Bench.  88
  2. Domaine De Congy Cuvée Les Galfins Pouilly Fumé 2009 tasted blind is undoubtedly old world but the lack of grass and oak leads me to Muscadet. Wrong! Oh the marl and fossilized oysters of it all! More Sauvignon Blanc to confront my tasting demons. Solid, if not as cursive as the PR.  87

 

Ahi Tuna Tataki, seared tuna, blood orange and fennel salad, avocado pureé

  1. See Ya Later Ranch Brut NV strikes a match from the outset and never wavers. The other MG senses After Eights but for me that possibility is smothered by a leesy, cheesy lard maigre et fromage. Gismondi calls this BC bubbly “a Champagne ringer.” Not so much. Flat finish so s’ya later, “s’alright ma’, i’m only sighing.” Just tasting.  85

 

Intermezzo, grapefruit and tarragon flavoured ice

 

Quebec Duck Breast, pan-roasted, seasonal vegetables, potato rösti, game jus

  1. Fontanabianca Barbaresco Sori Burdin 2004 the blessed and confounded queen Nebbiolo is the totipotent master of the moment. Italianate yet without animale, rosy cheeked and impossibly elegant, it still manages to anesthetize the mouth. So pretty it hurts. Along with the Sori Paitin, easily the best value in Barbaresco. On this night my allegiance is to the queen.  92
  2. Renatto Ratti Barolo Marcenasco 2004 of the famiglie Pola e Ferro is polar as compared to the non of the Burdin. AM and D nose “car exhaust.” I am tricked by its charm and think New World Syrah, but am reminded that the colour lacks gloom. Hugely muscular, girded by plastron and decades ahead of itself. “Leave it open all night and it’ll be amazing” says Dr. C.  91
  3. D’arenberg Ironstone Pressings 2001 holds the title of GSM pop star of the Mclaren Vale. Eponymous iron filings and pressed fruit roll up. A mixed bag of Grenache, Syrah and Mataro, the IP’s warm, berry and balsamwood address is veiled by a touch of oxidation. “Stinky feet” corrects AM. Good integration of fruit, acidity and tannin present proper balance.  90
  4. Mas Doix Salanques 2006 is a revelation. A Pegau-esque perfume aux gasseuse leans Rhône but an amazing (65%) Garnacha sweetness veers Priorat. Iodine (Syrah and Carignan) of black slate soil, tar, smoked meat and bacon. A Parker and Galloni thesaurus of descriptors must be bequeathed on this candied (Merlot) wine loaded with acidity in magnums.  CVR** WOTN.  93

 

House Made Cheeses, goat camembert, blue haze, cloth bound cheddar, truffle tomme

  1. Château de Beaucastel Châteauneuf du Pape 1998 would be my wine of choice walking a boulder strewn vineyard on a misty morning in the Southern Rhône. Expressions are hurled around the table, “candified Pinot nose” and “tutti frutti.” For Beaucastel? I can’t believe the tripartite fruit freshness, ambient funk immersion and pencil lead sharpness. This ’98 is “light as a feather, heavy as lead.” The Beaucastel will brighten up your tomorrow. WOTN  96
  2. Tablas Creek Espit de Beaucastel 2008 the worthy adversary is just a dude from California. A honey pot of stewed prunes and “Seville oranges” notes the quote machine. A sinkhole of 38% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 26% Syrah and 6% Cunoise, the Esprit does admirable expatriate yeoman’s work and I wouldn’t even think of marking it zero.  88
Tasting Table

Tasting Table

 

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

CVR** – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-Value Ratio

 

 

Good to go!

Eight Under $28 From The April 28th VINTAGES Release

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 24, 2012

VINTAGES

http://blogs.canada.com/2012/04/24/eight-under-28-from-the-april-28th-vintages-release/

 

Vinea Garganega 2010 (230656, $13.95) sugars great Veronese IVR* promise out of the Veneto. Hyperglycemic green-eyed lady bass line and Hammond organ finger roll plum and honey-dew in a state of barm loaf. Glycerin of Amaretto and snappy Salak. Sour apple martini with candy swizzle stick, “soothing every wave that comes.”  88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canonica a Cerreto Chianti Classico Reserva 2007 (275867, $17.00) was surely not decanted from a straw flask into this sleek and marketable bottle. A precocious and gregarious ruffle of polish and cask modernity speak of the Cerreto’s new worldliness. Splashes of Cabernet and Merlot lean IGT and yet just enough Chianti brightness remains to keep it honest.  Scales (“never heard of him“) on the label are indicative of this balanced effort. Easy money.  88

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hogue Genesis Syrah 2009 (687822, $19.95) is a steadfast and decent wine so my exegesis begins at its central core. Black colour of a world still unformed. Heady like a stand of old growth forest; black oak, ash and walnut. B’reishit Washington Syrah where the bifurcation of quality and cost collide. Big wall of Syrah sound, perfect for headphones playing “no need to hide. Keep it dark.”  88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vincent Girardin Vieilles Vignes MâconFuissé 2009 (264515, $19.95) the vibrant fresh maker, with crisp, apple taut fragrance and void of oak annoyance. Just a touch of baby fat and some mineral too. Well-balanced for under $20. Girardin’s (940825, $39) Santenay on this release is not to be missed.  88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Arnoux & Fils Vacqueyras 2009 (264663, $19.95) is as modern as it gets for the appellation, right down to “The Vac” label. Sweet Kirsch, lifted raspberry jam, soft, fleshy and forward. Has just enough funk to keep it real. Will have broad appeal and represents excellent Dogg value, if you like the plush style. Betcha Snoop drinks it.   89

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leasingham Winemakers Selection Bin 61 Shiraz 2008 (448241, $24.95) the Kitty of Clare Valley is back in town. A loyal and trusted friend, reminiscent of the ’99. Burns no rubber and “goes runnin’ nightly, lightly through the jungle.” Less power, more strength. Less jam, more brakes. This Highway 61 should not be accused of having put its “bleachers out in the sun.”  90

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saltram of Mamre Brook Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (48579, $24.95) may inexplicably enjoy cult status but for the money no other Barossa Cabernet can demand such respect. I would pay $25 for this over almost any $50+ peer within the appellation. Opulent, ruddy, bursting, pickled berries.  88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isole E Olena Chainti Classico 2008 (704346, $26.95) the beguiler welcomes with cinnamon, cherry spice and award winning roses. Poised, confident, simply phenomenal CC issue. Delicious now and will be perfect in five.  Better than when tasted in November 2011.  91

TN from Nov. 29, 2011,“…a mouthful of black fruit, bourbon cask aromas, dark and stormy. The barque of a ship’s ocean misted, wooden planks and of a smoked beef rib. Hard lines but hard to resist. Bloody good CC but certainly not traditional.  89

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other Wines Tasted

Two Rivers of Marlborough Convergence Sauvignon Blanc 2011 (277707, $29.95) carries heavy alcohol bandwidth, tomato leaf pesto and band-aid across a frame of sweet lime concentrate. Hot for SB, over processed and heavy with silicone and collagen. Their will be superficial fans.  86

Chavet & Fils La Dame De Jacques Coeur Menetou-Salon Blanc 2010 (525048, $19.95) offers a rare VINTAGES sighting and would excite were it more Loire and less Marlborough. Salmagundi of pâté, gooseberry and kiwi, swathed by an alkaline grapefruit finish.  85

Torres Viña Esmerelda 2010 (113696, $13.95) zests halitious of ReaLemon and petroleum wax. Can’t help but hear the “smell of wine and cheap perfume” lyric played by a wedding band while the cast of Jersey Shore watch their drapery clad mothers put back the Esmeralda. Like Torrontoes with bad make-up. Won’t be tagging along on this Moscatel journey.  80

Colchester Ridge Crew Meritage 2007 (280990, $19.95) noses Ontario from the get go with burning campfire then wafts exotic towards Masala spice, brown derby dressing and horseradish root. Flavour of earth demi-glace, composted apple and black licorice.  84

Frei Brothers Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (38075, $23.95) the “melody softly soaring through my atmosphere” is cute, sweet, lyrical and precocious. Gallo incarnate in the AlexanderValley. A death Cab for some but what’s not to like?  87

Stag’s Leap Winery Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 (996405, $49.95) the model of consistency vintage to vintage and head to foot. Runs black cherry in its veins with nary a cut, scrape or bruise. Napa varietal profiling in its poised, beating heart.  89

Andrew Rich Cuvée B Pinot Noir 2008 (127043, $29.95) carries currant, candied pomegranate and the rocky crush of clove studded juniper berry. Well made, on the elegant side of Pinot life, even Burgundian if that can even be articulated.  88

Mendel Malbec 2009 (108225, $24.95) typifies Mendoza replete with old vines fruit adding canorous body. Infundibular midriff slows the smouldering, swelling berry pleasure. Crucial minerals carry red grape fluid away from the viscera and out of the body.  87

Susana Balbo Signature Malbec 2009 (79798, $21.95) at the outset teases TCA, then VA. Paulliac nez of tabac et peau danimaux. That and a whack of new French Oak where vanilla, chocolate and coffee lambaste and pummel the senses.  NR

Majella Shiraz 2008 (269308, $29.95) is a vitrified, mined vine of depth and power but short on finesse. Heavy extract with a touch of soap and mired in the details of oak. “The wheels are spinning but the car, neutral.”  86

Esprit de Pavie 2008 (244020, $32.95) shows good spirit as it amalgamates 2nd wine fruit from iconic Pavie, Monbousquet, Clos L’eglise and St. Columbe. Spiced coffee cake and soft yet pretty purple fruit. Obdurate push back indicates three years of cellaring will help. Would have been a CVR** steal at $20-25.  89

Brancaia Tre 2009 (164715, $22.95) the SGM speaks of identity theft and lack of spirit. Once upon a Tuscan, now a global commodity playing on MOR radio stations. This bottling recently rushed to great success but there is now “a question of your honesty, yeah your honesty.” Sure it’s delicious but what’s with “all this machinery making modern music?”  Pair not with pasta asciuta normale87

StefanoAccordini Acinatico Ripasso Valpolicella Classico Superiore 2009 (85159, $19.95) is pitchy for a valpo with splendiferous up front fruit. Cimmerian red plum joined by buff vanillan cocoa and velveteen in the mouth. So far so good but ultimately flaccid and void of oomph.  86

Allende 2006 (954560, $24.95) in extant cantillates oak, oak, oak. What happened to my Rioja? Tempered Tempranillo so no fear that it may seize. Pendulous and potent, well-mannered, ready to please. Go Condado de Haza over this for sure.  87

Perrin Réserve Rosé 2011 (719062, $15.95) is warm and balanced, all strawberry, all the time. Nutty for its ilk.  86

 

 

IVR* – Vintage Direct Intrigue-to-Value Ratio

CVR* – Vintage Direct Curiosity-to-Value Ratio

 

 

Good to go!